Chola Invasion Of Srivijaya Essay Sample Malaysia

The Chola invasion of Srivijaya was one of the most significant events in Southeast Asian history. The Cholas were a powerful people who lived on the island of India during the 10th and 11th centuries AD. The empire established by them extended from Assam to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. This event took place around 1025-1050 CE which is towards the end of this period. During this time, Indian traders used to visit South East Asia for trade purposes but they had never attempted to invade any kingdom there before that time.

This sample briefly discusses the reasons behind their invasion as well as its aftermaths that led to changes in social conditions especially in Malaysia where it has great impacts on the development of society.

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Historical Reason

In their common history, ancient India and Indonesia have maintained friendly and peaceful relations for most of the time. Therefore, the Indian invasion is a unique event in Asian history. In the 9th and 10th centuries, Srivijaya maintained a close relationship with the Pala Empire in Bengal. The Nalanda inscription in 860 records that Srivijaya Maharaja Balaputra was in Nalanda in the Pala Realm. The university dedicated a monastery. During the reign of Raja Raja Chola I, the relationship between Srivijaya and the Chola Dynasty in southern India was friendly. In 1006 AD, Lord Srivijaya from the Sailendra dynasty-King Maravijayattungavarman-built Chudamani Vihara in the port town of Nagapattinam. However, during the rule of Rajendra Chola I, relations deteriorated due to Cholas attacking the city of Srivijayan.

As we all know, the Chola benefited from piracy and foreign trade. Sometimes, Chola’s voyage led to the complete plunder and conquest of Southeast Asia. Srivijaya controlled two main naval throats; Malacca and Sunda Strait; at that time it was a major trading empire with powerful naval power. The northwest opening of the Strait of Malacca is controlled by Kedah on the peninsula side and Bannai on the Sumatra side, while Malaya (Jambi) and Palembang control the southeast opening and the Sunda Strait. They implement a maritime trade monopoly, forcing any trading vessels passing through their waters to dock at their ports or be looted in other ways.

The reason for the naval expedition is not yet clear. Nilakanta Sastri suggested that the attack may have been caused by Srivijaya attempt to set up barriers in the Chola trade with the East (especially China), or, more likely, a simple wish Rajendra extended his Digvijay to the trans-sea country known to his subjects in the country, thus adding luster to his crown. Another theory suggests that the cause of the invasion may be geopolitics and diplomatic relations. King Suyevarman I of the Khmer Empire asked Rajendra Zola I of the Zoro Dynasty for assistance against the Kingdom of Tambulinga. After learning that Suyevarman had formed an alliance with Rajindrodrola, the Kingdom of Tamburlinga asked for assistance from King Sanggrama Vijayatungavarman of the Holy Foz. This eventually led to a conflict between the Chula Empire and the Three Buddhas. This alliance also has religious nuances to some extent, because Chola and the Khmer Empire are both Hindu Shiva, while Tambralinga and Srivijaya are Mahayana Buddhism.


The Chola raid against Srivijaya was a swift campaign that left Srivijaya unprepared. To sail from India to the Indonesian Archipelago, vessels from India sailed eastward across the Bay of Bengal and called at the ports of Samurai in Aceh or Kedah in the Malay Peninsula before entering the Strait of Malacca. But the Chola armada sailed directly to the Sumatran west coast. The port of Barus on the west coast of North Sumatra at that time belonged to Tamil trading guilds and served as a port to replenish after crossing the Indian Ocean. The Chola armada then continued to sail along Sumatra’s west coast southward and sailed into the Strait of Sunda. The Srivijaya navy guarded Kedah and surrounding areas on the northwest opening of the Malacca strait completely unaware that the Chola invasion was coming from the Sunda Strait in the south. The first Srivijayan city being raided was Palembang, the capital of the Srivijaya empire. The unexpected attack led to the Cholas sacking the city and plundering the Kadatuan royal palace and monasteries. A Chola inscription states that Rajendra captured King Sangramavijayottunggavarman of Srivijaya and took a large heap of treasures including the Vidhyadara Torana, the jeweled ‘war gate’ of Srivijaya adorned with great splendor.

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After plundering the royal palace of Palembang, the Cholas launched successive attacks on other Srivijayan ports including Malayu, Tumasik, Pannai, and Kedah. The Chola invasion did not result in the administration over defeated cities as the armies moved fast and plundered the Srivijayan cities. The Chola armada seems to have taken advantage of the Southeast Asian monsoon for moving from one port to another swiftly. The tactic of a fast-moving unexpected attack was probably the secret of Cholan’s success since it did not allow the Srivijayan mandala to prepare the defenses, reorganize themselves, provide assistance or retaliate. The war ended with a victory for the Cholas and major losses for the Srivijaya Empire ending the Srivijaya maritime monopoly in the region.


With the Maharaja Sangrama Vijayottunggavarman imprisoned and most of its cities destroyed, the leaderless Srivijaya mandala entered a period of chaos and confusion. The invasion marked the end of the Sailendra dynasty. According to the 15th-century Malay Annals Sejarah Melayu, Rajendra Chola I after the successful naval raid in 1025 married Onang Kiu, the daughter of Vijayottunggavarman. This invasion forced Srivijaya to make peace with the Javanese kingdom of Kahuripan. The peace deal was brokered by the exiled daughter of Vijayottunggavarman, who managed to escape Palembang and came to the court of King Airlangga in East Java. She also became the queen consort of Airlangga named Dharmaprasadottungadevi and in 1035, Airlangga constructed a Buddhist monastery named Srivijayasrama dedicated to his queen consort.

Despite the devastation, the Srivijaya Mandala still survived as the Chola invasion ultimately failed to install direct administration over Srivijaya, since the invasion was short and only meant to plunder. However, this invasion gravely weakened the Srivijayan hegemony and enabled the formation of regional kingdoms like Kahuripan and its successor, Kediri in Java based on agriculture rather than coastal and long-distance trade. Sri Deva was enthroned as the new king and the trading activities resumed. He sent an embassy to the court of China in 1028 CE. Although the invasion was not followed by direct Cholan occupation and the region was unchanged geographically, there were huge consequences in trade. Tamil traders encroached on the Srivijayan realm traditionally controlled by Malay traders and the Tamil guilds’ influence increased on the Malay Peninsula and north coast of Sumatra.

With the growing presence of Tamil guilds in the region, relations improved between Srivijaya and the Cholas. Chola nobles were accepted in Srivijaya court and in 1067 CE, a Chola prince named Divakara or Devakala was sent as a Srivijayan ambassador to the Imperial Court of China. The prince who was the nephew of Rajendra Chola later was enthroned in 1070 CE as Kulothunga Chola I. Later during the Kedah rebellion, Srivijaya asked the Cholas for help. In 1068 CE, Virarajendra Chola launched a naval raid to help Srivijaya reclaim Kedah. Virarajendra reinstated the Kedah king at the request of the Srivijayan Maharaja and Kedah accepted the Srivijayan sovereignty.

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