Chola Dynasty UPSC: Administration, Rulers, Chola Empire Notes PDF

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Chola Dynasty was one of the dynasties with the longest reigns in the southern parts of India. During the first two centuries CE, the Cholas were one of the three dominant families in Tamil-speaking South India. The Chola family arrived in the middle of the ninth century, taking control of the area and creating an empire that would span more than 400 years. 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 most of South India and Sri Lanka, and the Maldives Islands.

Chola Dynasty is an important topic in UPSC exams due to its historical significance and contributions to Indian civilization. Studying the Chola Dynasty provides valuable insights into the political, cultural, and economic aspects of ancient South India. The topic of the Chola Dynasty falls under the section of Ancient Indian History in the UPSC syllabus. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the Chola Dynasty is essential for aspirants preparing for UPSC exams to grasp the dynamics of ancient Indian history and its impact on the development of the subcontinent.

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.

  • 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 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.

Chola Dynasty Rulers

Chola Dynasty was one of the most influential dynasties in South Indian history, known for its powerful rulers and significant contributions to art, architecture, and governance. Here is a brief introduction and some key points about the rulers of the Chola Dynasty:

  • Vijayalaya Chola: He was the founder of the Chola Dynasty and laid the foundation of Chola power in the 9th century CE. Vijayalaya Chola emerged victorious in various battles and established the Chola capital at Thanjavur.
  • Aditya I: Aditya, I was the successor of Vijayalaya to become the empire’s ruler. He conquered king Aparajita, and 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.
  • Rajaraja Chola I: Known as Rajaraja the Great, he ascended the throne in the 10th century CE. Rajaraja Chola was a formidable ruler who undertook ambitious architectural projects, most notably the construction of the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Rajendra Chola I: The son of Rajaraja Chola, Rajendra Chola I succeeded his father and expanded the Chola Empire to its greatest extent. He conducted successful military campaigns, including naval expeditions to Southeast Asia, establishing Chola suzerainty over various kingdoms.
  • Rajadhiraja Chola: He was the son of Rajendra Chola I and followed in his father’s footsteps as a skilled military commander. Rajadhiraja Chola continued the Chola Empire’s expansion and brought several regions under Chola control.
  • Rajendra Chola II: Also known as Rajendra the Restorer, he ruled during the 12th century CE and faced significant challenges from external invasions. Rajendra Chola II managed to restore the Chola Empire’s power and undertook efforts to revive the dynasty’s cultural and religious practices.

Culture and Temples During the Chola Empire

Chola Empire was not only renowned for its political and military achievements but also for its rich cultural and artistic heritage. The empire’s culture was deeply intertwined with religion, and temples served as the epicenters of religious and social life. Here are some key points about the culture and temples during the Chola Empire:

  • Temples as Community Centers: Temples held immense importance in the Chola society, serving as venues for religious rituals, social gatherings, and cultural events. The areas around temples often transformed into community schools, where children received education on the Holy Scriptures and ancient Vedas.
  • Devotion to Deities: The Chola society had a strong devotion to various deities, with Shiva being revered as a prominent source of strength. Many temples were dedicated to Shiva, and the primary deity at the Sri Venkateshwara Temple held significant connections to the Chola Dynasty. The Srirangam temple was particularly noteworthy, as it was submerged in water for years but later restored to its former glory.
  • Architectural Marvels: Chola Empire witnessed the construction of magnificent temples along the banks of the Kaveri River. The Brihadeeswara temple in Thanjavur stood out as the tallest and largest temple in India during that time. These temples showcased exquisite architecture, adorned with natural-colored murals that are still appreciated today. Several Chola temples, including Airavatesvara, Gangaikondacholisvaram, and Brihadisvara, have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Sculpture and Artistry: The Chola Empire reached its zenith in the fields of arts and sculpture. Bronze statues of deities such as Lakshmi, Vishnu, and Shiva stand as shining examples of the era’s artistic excellence. The intricate craftsmanship and attention to detail in these sculptures are highly regarded.
  • Literary Contributions: The Chola period also witnessed significant contributions to literature. Religious literature flourished, and Jain and Buddhist writings gained recognition. The Nalayira Divya Prabandham, a collection of 4000 Tamil poems, emerged as a prominent literary work of the time, cherished by literary historians even today.

Chola Administration

Chola Administration was a well-structured and efficient system that encompassed various levels of governance and management. The administrative structure of the Cholas was more extensive compared to other contemporary dynasties like the Cheras, Pandyas, and Pallavas. Under the rule of the Cholas, the government functioned through a hierarchical system with provinces, districts, and villages. Check some of the key points about the Chola Administration below:

  • Provinces: The Chola kingdom was divided into eight provinces called Mandalams, each governed by a prince or viceroy. These provinces were further divided into Valanadus or Kottams, and within them were Nadus or districts.
  • Villages: There were two types of villages in the Chola kingdom. The first type was known as “ur,” where people from different castes resided. The second type was “agrahara” villages, primarily occupied by Brahmins, where land was exempted from rent.
  • Local Governance: The agrahara villages had assemblies called “Sabha” or “Mahasabha,” consisting of adult men, which played a significant role in decision-making and local governance. The committees for these villages were selected as per the instructions given in the Uttarameruru inscription.
  • Land Administration: The Cholas conducted comprehensive land surveys and revenue settlements for tax assessment purposes. Different land measurement units such as kuli, ma, veli, Patti, and padagam were used. Tax rates were based on the fertility of the land and the social status of the owner. The revenue division was known as puravuvari-tinaikkalam.
  • Trade and Commerce: Various guilds and gatherings of merchants, known as Nagaram, played a vital role in trade and commerce. Different guilds were associated with specific industries and professions, such as textile, ghee and oil production, and other skilled groups. These guilds had significant influence and gradually gained independence.
  • Military Strength: The Cholas maintained a well-equipped military force consisting of infantry, cavalry, and elephants. The king’s bodyguards were reputed to have sacrificed themselves in the funeral pyre of a deceased king, according to Marco Polo’s account.

Religion and Society during the Chola Dynasty

The Chola kings were devout Saivas. For the Cholas, Shiva was the most important deity, and he had two manifestations. Lingodhbhava, the most recognisable manifestation of Siva, was the Nataraja idol’s human form. Saiva Siddhanta, a highly developed philosophical philosophy, was established at this time.

Sanskritization, or the lower-class imitation of upper-class heritage, dates back to the Chola era. The Chola kingdom was characterised by a pervasive caste system, divided into “Idangai” and “Vadangai” in the Chola Dynasty. Between the Shaivites and the Vaishnavites, violent conflicts broke out. Sati practice evolved into a religious practice, and the “Devadasi” system, a new social ill, became prevalent.

Fall of the Chola Empire

Internal Pandya strife that eventually resulted in the decline of the Chola dynasty is what caused the Chola empire to fall. The Chola dynasty ended when the Pandyan Empire overthrew it. From the beginning, the Cholas and the Pandyas were bitter foes.

The Pandyas initially conquered the Cholas in 1217, which progressively caused the Chola Dynasty to continue to deteriorate until their ultimate demise in 1279. Rajendra Chola III, the final Chola king, was overthrown by Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I, the Pandya king. The Chola Empire was brought to an end for the following reasons:

  • Corruption
  • Inadequate resources
  • Internal conflicts
  • Dishonesty and infiltration within the armed forces

Chola Dynasty UPSC

Chola Dynasty, a prominent ruling dynasty in South India, left a lasting impact on various aspects including governance, culture, and religion. It is covered under the section of Ancient Indian History in the UPSC Syllabus. Candidates can also refer the Indian History Notes for better understanding of this topic.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the Chola Dynasty, candidates should study the rulers, administration, culture, religion, and the rise and fall of this influential dynasty. Additionally, solving UPSC previous year’s question papers will provide insights into the type of questions that may be asked in the exam, enabling better preparation.

Chola Dynasty UPSC Questions

Chola Dynasty holds significant relevance for UPSC exam aspirants. Solving sample questions or reviewing previous year’s questions related to the Chola Dynasty will provide valuable insights into the question patterns and help candidates familiarize themselves with the type of questions asked in exams on this topic.

Question: Which of the following was the capital of the Chola dynasty? (A) Madurai, (B) Karur, (C) Uraiyaur, (D) Kaveripattnam

Answer: (C) Uraiyaur

Question: Which among the following was the royal emblem of the Chola Dynasty? (A) Bow, (B) Tiger, (C) Carp, (D) Fish

Answer: (B) Tiger

For UPSC Mains

Question: Discuss the significant contributions of the Chola Dynasty to the political, cultural, and economic landscape of ancient South India.

Question: Analyze the maritime achievements of the Chola Dynasty and their impact on regional trade and cultural exchanges in the Indian Ocean during their reign

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