This section is from the book "Some Contributions Of South India To Indian Culture", by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Also available from Amazon: Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture.
During the period extending from the first quarter of the seventh century onwards, a new influence began to be felt in the rise and expansion of Islam in Arabia. The fall of Persia as a result of the successful war conducted by Khalif Omar introduced a new political element in mid-Western Asia which was likely to exercise a considerable influence upon Indian Ocean navigation. We hear of descents of Arab Muham-madan fleets on the coasts of the northern Konkan and the region of Sindh in the reign of Omar himself. But the Persians under the Sassanids seem to have established themselves so well on the Indian Ocean, that even this conquest did not displace Persian nautical enterprise in the eastern arm of the Indian Ocean. Late in the seventh century, the Persians so far maintained themselves as to carry on a regular trade, as far east as the Shantung Peninsula. That I-tsing travelled in a Persian ship from the Shantung Peninsula to Sri-Bhoja in the island of Sumatra is the clearest possible evidence of it. At the same time the fact that I-tsing performed the rest of his journey to Tamralipti in a ship provided by the Maharaja of Sri-Bhoja is equally a clear indication of the rising sea-power of this enterprising state of Sumatra. While therefore the Arab and Persian had to carry on eastern trade in a friendly rivalry, this new element of a native power in Sumatra was somewhat disconcerting to the rivals themselves. It cannot be stated that during this period the Hindus of South India and Bengal, and the inhabitants of Ceylon necessarily ceased their maritime activities. The Takopa inscription already adverted to, is evidence of some enterprise, as it happens, on the part of the colonists from the region of the Malabar coast; but more than that, this was the age of Buddhistic outspread from South India, and all this expansion, it would be difficult to assert, took place by means of available foreign shipping. The fact that an invasion set out from the coasts of the Pallava country against Ceylon consisting of a fleet of 300 ships is certain indication that nautical efforts on the Tamil coasts had not come to an end. A Tamil poet could still speak in the eighth century of ships bringing elephants and gold and lying in harbour at Mahabalipu-ram (the Seven-Pagodas of Anglo-India). There are records of several invasions of Ceylon and the West-Coast by the Cholas; what is more, of a greater invasion fitted out and sent against Ramanna, the ruler of Pegu by the great Ceylon Buddhist King Parakramabahu. The sounder conclusion from the available evidence therefore is that these had all traded together in peaceful rivalry during this period.
The rise of the kingdom of Sri-Bhoja and the prominent position that it occupied when I-tsing was on his travels in India, that is, in the latter half of the seventh century A. D., was the beginning of a career of expansion for this kingdom. The number of references that we get to missions sent from this kingdom to China and the early references in Muhammadan Arab travellers, gives us clearly to understand that the kingdom of Sri-Bhoja beginning as a small state was fast advancing to what might be described as a sort of imperial position in the Eastern Seas. Sulaiman (A. D. 851) speaking of Zabej says "that the entire region obeys a single king." Both Ibn-Khurda-dbih (A. D. 864) and Abu-Zaid of the later ninth century have much the same thing to say of the Maharaja of Zabej. He is said to rule over a large number of islands stretching for a distance of a thousand parasangas (2,400 miles). Among his possessions are counted (1) Sarbaza or Serboza both of them alike standing for Sri-Bhoja (modern Palembang), (2) Rami producing camphor (this Rami is the same as Lambri or Lameri including in it Fansur or Barus (camphor forests) and (3) Kalah on the Malay Peninsula. According to Ibn Khurda-dbih, it was ruled over by the Jaba prince of India (ruler of Pegu). But Abu-zaid includes it in the territory of the Maharaja of Sri-Bhoja. This position given to it in the ninth century is confirmed by later writers, those that obtained their information from previous writers, as well as those who wrote from first-hand information of their own. What we learn therefore from Arab writers would justify the inference that in the centuries of Chola ascendancy in South India, Sri-Bhoja was the dominant power in the Archipelago. It is apparently of one of these rulers that Renaudot records a somewhat legendary story of invasion of what seems the Pandya country for the purpose of punishing the contemporary Pandya ruler for having spoken ill of the great Maharaja.
To the Tamilian rulers however, across the Bay of Bengal, the Maharajas of Sri-Bhoja were rulers of Kadaram; as such they are brought to our notice in a few records relating to them. In regard to the identification of the rulers of Kadaram with the Maharaja of Sri-Bhoja, the evidence has been discussed elsewhere.1
A ruler of Kadaram by name Chudamani Varman applied for permission and obtained a license from the great Chola Raja raja for the building of a vihara in Negapatam which is called in the record Chudamani Vihara. About the same time an embassy went from him to China, asked for the blessings of "His Celestial Majesty" for a new vihara that he built and obtained from him approval of the name and the presentation of bells. The vihara perhaps was not completed in the time of Chudamani Varma. His son Mara Vijayottunga Varma purchased and made over to this vihara two villages, the record conveying which is known to epigraphists by the name, "the large Leydon Grant." This is a Chola charter on copper-plates licensing or ratifying this transaction. This relationship apparently continued for about twenty years, when for some reason or other a cause of war had arisen. An expedition was fitted out against this Raja of Kadaram, known this time Sangrama Vijaya-uttunga Varma, probably the son and successor of Mara Vijaya-uttunga Varma. As is explained in the article quoted above, Rajendra had, as a necessary preliminary to conquer Orissa, as the royal families of Orissa and Sri-Bhoja appear to have been related to each other, both of them belonging to Sri Sailendra Vamsa. The war which Rajendra carried on as far as the banks of the Ganges, and the thorough-going way that he carried it to bring the Kalinga rulers to submission to him were both necessitated for the safety of his own flank. One possible cause of this invasion oversea seems to be that the Tamil states in the east were being absorbed by the ruler of Sri-Bhoja in his imperial expansion. The several embassies referred to in the record of the Chinese trade superintendent Chau-Ju-Kua,1 and the one in particular of date A. D. 1033 from a Lo-Cha-Into-Lo Chulo is from Sri-Rajendra Deva Chola, that is, Rajendra the Gangaigonda had probably the same object in view. This distant embassy was apparently sent by Rajendra with a view to putting matters on a permanent footing in respect of his eastern territory across the seas. The last mission we hear of, is of date A.D. 1077 from the Chola country belonging to the reign of the great Chola ruler Kulottunga, A.D. 1070 to 1118. The Sung history relating to this mission states that Chu-lien (the Chola country) had become tributary to San-fo ch'i (Sri Vijaya of the time) which seems to be the name that Sri-Bhoja assumed at that time. The Sung reference cannot therefore be to the Chola country on the peninsula of India. It is apparently to the Chola possessions on the East coast and the islands of the Bay of Bengal. We do not hear of any relation between the Chola country and the east after this period, and therefore the inference seems safe that the Chola overseas dominance was thenceforward as good as given up. The century following is a century of the decline of the Chola power and a revival of that of the Pandyas. The great Pandya king who ruled from A.D. 1268 to 1310-11 had considerable maritime trade both with the west, as far as, at any rate, the Persian Gulf, if not Arabia, and as far east as China. But this vast trade which was the cause of the prosperity of the vast Pandya kingdom seems to have been in the hands of a chief of Aral) Muhammadans whose head-quarters were in the Persian Gulf in the island of Kis or Kais. He was known by the title Malik-ul-Islam Jamalu-d-din and had not only the monopoly of the horse trade of the Pandya kingdom, but seemed also to have enjoyed the control of the eastern trade. His first agent Abdur-Rahiman-ut-Thaibi had his head-quarters at Kayal, the chief port in the southeast of the Pandya country, and had control of the whole coasting trade. It was a cousin of this agent, a Jamalu-d-din (Chamalatang), who went on a mission to China on behalf of the great Pandya king Kulasekhara. This transformation, the trade passing from the hands of the natives of South India into the hands of the Arab agents of the local monarchs, seems to have come about in the course of the decline of the Chola power. The inference then is that the Cholas were the chief maritime power of the Coromandal coast, and that their decline meant the decline of the maritime activity of the Tamils.