Chola Dynasty

By Shivank Goel|Updated : September 14th, 2022

The Cholas are one of the dynasties with the longest reigns in the southern parts of India. During the first two centuries CE, one of the three dominant families in Tamil-speaking South India was the Cholas. The Chola family arrived in the middle of the ninth century, taking control of the area and creating a dynasty that would span more than 400 years.

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Based in the fertile Kaveri River delta in the present-day Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Chola Dynasty, at its highest point in the eleventh century, governed the majority of South India and Sri Lanka, and the Maldives Islands. This segment of the timeline witnesses the inception of a new culture and the flourishing of art like never before. The temples and literature of this time stand as a testimony to this delightful period of history.

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Recent Update on Chola Dynasty

Recently, Six bronze idols from the Chola dynasty that were looted from the Nareeswara Sivan temple in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s and are now on display in several museums in the United States have been located thanks to efforts by the Tamil Nadu Idol Wing CID.

  • With the aid of the pictures held by the Indo-French Institute, Pondicherry, which had chronicled nine bronze sculptures in 1956, the idols were recently successfully traced to the US. Seven of them were taken fifty years ago.
  • Images of ancient Nataraja, Panchaloha idols of Tripuranthakam, Thirupurasundari, Dakshinamurthy, Saint Sundarar, and his wife Paravai Natchiyaar, long with Veenadhara, were made available by the institute.

History of the Chola Dynasty

The Cholas' supremacy began in the 9th century when they conquered the Pallavas to come into power. This rule extended for over five long centuries until the 13th century. However, around the 2nd century, the state of Andhra had a Chola kingdom that succeeded far and wide.

  • In the early periods of the Chola rule, the beginning of the Sangam literature was seen. Kintamani was one of the well-known rulers of this era.
  • The medieval period was the era of outright power and growth for the Cholas. This was the time of kings like Aditya I and Parantaka I.
  • From that point, Rajaraj Chola and Rajendra Chola further extended the kingdom into the Tamil region.
  • Later, Kulothunga Chola acquired Kalinga to establish a solid rule. This glory lasted until the appearance of the Pandyas in the early 13th century.

Famous Rulers of the Chola Dynasty

Below are some of the most famous rulers of the Chola Dynasty;

  • Vijayalaya: Vijayalaya founded the Chola Empire. He acquired the Tanjore kingdom in the 8th century and headed the rise of the mighty Chola dynasty by conquering the Pallavas. Tanjore was made the first capital of the renowned Chola Empire.
  • Aditya I: Aditya, I was the successor of Vijayalaya to become the empire's ruler. He conquered king Aparajita, and then his empire gained enormous power under his reign. He defeated the Pandya Kings and the Vadumbas and formed control over the Pallavas' influence in the region.
  • Rajendra Chola: Rajendra Chola was the successor of the mighty Rajaraja Chola. He was the one who first ventured to the banks of the Ganges. Gangaikondacholapuram was declared as his empire capital, where he was honored with the title of 'Gangaikonda.' This era is mentioned as the Golden Age of the Cholas. After his rule, the kingdom saw an extensive downfall.

Chola Dynasty: Culture and Temples

The temples were the primary venue for all religious and social gatherings throughout this time. The area around this location was transformed into a community school where children were educated about the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Vedas.

  • The societal structure at the period was split between Brahmins and Non-Brahmins. Many Goddesses and Gods were revered, with Shiva serving as the faithful's main source of fortitude.
  • The Primary deity at Sri Venkateshwara Temple has significant connections to the significance of the Chola Empire. The Srirangam temple is undoubtedly the pinnacle of this time. After being immersed in water for many years, it was later brought back to its former splendor.
  • Along the Kaveri River's banks, numerous Shiva temples have been constructed. Among all the temples in India at the time, the Thanjavur temple is still the tallest and largest.
  • Even now, the Tanjore Brihadeeswara temple is adorned with murals in natural colors that are a visual pleasure. Many of these locations have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. These include the Airavatesvara, Gangaikondacholisvaram, and Brihadisvara temples.
  • During this reign, the arts and sculpture reached their highest levels ever. Bronze statues of goddesses and gods like Lakshmi, Vishnu, and Shiva serve as shining reminders of this time.
  • Another significant high point of this time was literature. During this time, religious literature began to take shape, and Jain and Buddhist writings received recognition. Even today, literary historians adore the well-known Nalayira Divya Prabandham, a collection of 4000 Tamil poetry from this era.

As a result, the Chola Dynasty left a significant legacy. Their rule stands for grand buildings, superb artwork, and a golden age of literature.

Chola Dynasty: Administration

The king presided over the government and is referred to in Chola inscriptions as Ko, Perumal Adigal (the great one), and Ko-Konmai Kondan (king of kings). The monarch is portrayed in the Chola inscriptions as a great warrior, conqueror, great patron of the arts, slayer of ills, kind and protective with a charming demeanor. In order to improve the effectiveness of the government, the monarch performed royal travels.

  • In comparison to the Cheras, Pandyas, and Pallavas, the administrative structure was greater. However, it experienced a downturn after Kulottunga I's passing, and local chieftains' influence grew as a result.
  • Eight Mandalams (provinces) made up the Rashtriyam/Rajyam (imperial), and every Mandalam used to have a governor/viceroy (generally a prince). Under Nattar, these provinces were further split into Valanadus or Kottams, and within each Valanadus were Nadus (districts). The Nadus was a collection of numerous independent villages. The guilds and Shrenis were also involved in the management.
  • The gathering of the merchants, known as Nagaram, was tailored to various trades and skilled groups. For instance, the Satsuma Parishatta Nagaram and Saliya Nagaram were connected to the textile industry, as were the Shankarappadi Nagaram, providers of ghee and oil. The Ayyavole (the five hundred) were strong and significant guilds in the Aihole, Karnataka, and Manigramam. These guilds grew in strength and then gained independence.
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FAQs on Chola Dynasty

  • Vijayalaya is known as the founder of the Chola Empire. Vijayalaya emerged from obscurity amid a conflict between the Pandya and Pallava peoples and conquered Thanjavur.

  • At its highest point in the eleventh century, the Chola Dynasty governed most of South India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives Islands.

  • The Chola dynasty is said to have its origins in the 300BCE. However, their traces can only be dated back to the 9th century. They ruled for more than 1500 years, making them one of the longest-ruling families in human history.

  • The Chola Dynasty was supplanted by the Pandyan and Pallava dynasties in the sixth century. Up until Vijayalaya's ascension in the second part of the ninth century, little is known about what happened to the Cholas during the three centuries that followed.

  • The Cholas' primary residence was Thanjavur (Tanjore). The Chola Empire was founded by Vijayalaya. Within the eighth century, he overthrew the Pallavas, seized control of the Tanjore kingdom, and paved the way for the foundation of the powerful Chola kingdom.

  • The last ruler of the Chola dynasty is said to be Rajendra Chola III. He lived in obscurity in Gangaikonda Cholapuram until 1279, beyond which point no inscriptions of the Cholas have been discovered. However, there are no confirmed stories that he was killed in the conflict.

  • Temples were the nuclei of settlements during this period. They were the centres of craft production and also controlled the financial aspects related to them. Hence they were not only religious centres but also the hub of economic, social and cultural life as well.

  • Chola Nadu includes the Kaveri River's lower reaches and its delta and served as the political and cultural centre of the Chola Dynasty, which ruled over much of South India and a portion of Sri Lanka between the 9th and 13th century CE.

  • The Chola dynasty was overthrown by Malik Kafur. Alauddin Khalji's legendary slave-general Malik Kafur served in the Delhi Sultanate. He was taken prisoner by Alauddin's General Nusrat Khan during the conquest of Gujarat in 1299, and he gained notoriety in the 1300s.

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