routes at that time. The Cholas and the South-East Asian rulers in particular
vied with each other for shares of the market. The inscriptions of Rajendra I
indicate that Chola relations with Sri Vijaya and Cambodia were quite
friendly in the period from 1014 to 1019. Yet in 1025 he sent his fleet on the
famous expedition to Sumatra and Malaya where his army defeated the
mighty Sri Vijaya empire and all its tributary princes. The exact reasons for
this Chola expedition against Sri Vijaya can, therefore, only be explained if
more relevant sources are discovered. But this military venture was certainly
the climax of a period of intense competition for establishing a monopoly of
Rajendra Chola’s exploits in South-East Asia did not lead to permanent
annexations of territory there. But the influence of the Cholas and of south
Indian merchants was definitely felt in South-East Asia throughout the 11th
century. In 1068–69 the Chola fleet intervened once more in the affairs of the
island empire. A Chola inscription recorded that their troops conquered a
large part of Malaya at the behest of the king who had asked for help to
whom the country was returned. It seems that the Cholas had taken sides in a
dynastic struggle, supporting the claims of the legitimate ruler. Besides, the
Tamil inscription of 1088, as mentioned earlier, provides evidence of the
presence of a south Indian merchants’ guild in Sumatra at that time.
The expanding maritime activities must also be seen in the context of
increasing diplomatic activities at that time. The Chinese had sent envoys to
the ‘Countries of the South’ in the late 10th century indicating their interest in
an increase of trade. Sri Vijaya, on its part, had responded by sending six
delegations to the emperor of China in the brief period from 1003 to 1018.
The South-East Asian states were eager to have good relations with the
Cholas as with the emperor of China. Around 1005 the Sailendra king of Sri
Vijaya endowed a Buddhist monastery at Nagapattinam for which Rajaraja I
provided some land grants. When Rajendra I inherited his father’s throne, he
immediately confirmed the grant made to the monastery.
Cambodia also established diplomatic relations with the Cholas in 1012.
King Suryavarman I who expanded the kingdom of Angkor so as to encroach