Chola Dynasty, one of the biggest dynasties of South India and the longest-ruling dynasties in India till the 13th century. Cholas were famous for there architectural design and temples they built in the South. Here we list out some amazing and lesser-known facts of Chola Empire who have 1500 yrs of legacy.
-The Cholas ruled between 300 BC- 1279 AD almost 1500 years one can find its existence in Ramayana also.
The Cholas History is divided into 4 periods as per the Sangam literature:-
- Early Cholas (300 BCE-200 AD)
- In the interim period of Sangam age between(2nd century -8th Century) where the Chola empire almost disappeared to nil in these 600yrs, but there was the rise of 2 prominent dynasties Pandyas and the Pallavas but later on, The Cholas defeated both the 2 dynasties.
- The Interim Chola Dynasty came to its peak during the reign Vijayalaya between 848 AD-1070 AD when he defeated Pallavas who were indulged in fighting with the Pandyas and made Thanjavur as the capital. This was known as the medieval Cholas.
- The last phase of Chola dynasty was in between 1070 AD-1279 AD which was known to be the Later Cholas.
It said during the medieval period of Cholas(200-800 CE) they were suppressed by the Pandyas and were only ruling in a certain small area. Then came the reign of Vijayalaya and his son Aditya I. When the Chola Dynasty flourished.
Chola’s along with Pallava King Aparajita defeated the Pandyas as both Pallavas and the Pandyas were in the constant war amongst them between the Sangam age as Aditya I took advantage of this situation and later on they went on defeating Pallavas. Which established the rule of Cholas as the biggest dynasty of South India.
Parantaka I son of Aditya I was on of the ravest ruler of the Cholas. He captured Madurai which was the capital of Pandyas from Rajasimha II and declared himself as MaduraiKonda(Captor of Madurai).
Rajaraja Chola I (985 AD -1024 AD) and Rajendra Chola I were the main expansionist of the Chola Kingdom from the Tamil Kingdom to Sri Lanka came during their reign.
Rajaraja Chola I was an extremely good administrator and the economy of the Chola dynasty flourished during his rule. He was also an architectural king and Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur was built during his reign in just 5 years from 1005 AD to 1010 AD, which is now a UNESCO world heritage site
Rajendra Chola I declared himself Gangaikonda (Capture of Ganga) because during his reign the Chola empire stretched to Bengal till the Ganges after capturing Kalinga by defeating Pala Dynasty, he declared a new capital Gangaikonda, Cholapuram and also acquired the Srivijaya Kingdom in Southeast Asia which led to the decline of Chola Dynasty rule after.
At its peak, the Chola Empire stretched from Godavari – Krishna Basin to Konkan coast and Malabar coast along with entire south India. They had their stretches in Sri Lanka by capturing King Sinhala Mahinda V, Lakshadweep and parts of Maldives, Cambodia and even diplomatic expansion were sent to China under Rajendra Chola I.
-The Chalukya Dynasty which raised after the defeat of Pandya and Pallavas, the Cholas also defeated them under the reign of Vira Rajendra Chola. Virarajendra Chola defeated Someshvara II from western Chalukyas and made an alliance with King Vikramaditya VI.
Administration Of Chola
The Chola’s were a very prosperous dynasty and entire South India was India as brought under a Single Government. They followed the monarchial form of government where the King was Authoritarian, most of the decision were made orally which were represented to him.
Thanjavur was the earliest capital, but later on, Gangaikonda and Cholapuram became the capitals which ere situated on the banks of the river Kaveri. However, Madurai and Kanchipuram were said to be the regional capitals
-It as said that the silk business of Kanchipuram which is famous for silk sarees was started by the Cholas.
-In the Chola Dynasty the region was divided into provinces which were known as Mandalams. Mandalams were further divided into Valanadus which were further subdivided into the smallest unit called Kutrams ( These were the villages ).
The villages were also divided into 3 small units:-
–Intercaste:-here people of all community lived together, the tax was imposed on them and collected.
–Bhramadeva and Agrahara:-as the name suggests these villages were given away to the brahmin priests and no tax were collected from them.
-Devdara- The tax collected from these villages were spent on temples and religious activities. Brihadeshwara Temple which was built is one of its kind.
Justice during the Chola empire was settled orally at the village level, no written proceedings were done.
One can say every big dynasty which had ruled for several years can’t succeed without the military. Chola’s had one of the professional militaries of all time. King was the supreme commander of the military.
They had a huge infantry, with highly equipped infantry, the armoured were made of metals with elephant corps and cavalry. The spears, Javelins, shield, bows and arrows used by their soldier were made of steel
They had one of the most powerful Navy of that era. The battleships they had were one of the finest. On the power of their Navy and Military, Rajendra Chola I invaded Srilanka and captured their King Mahinda V. On the basis of their Naval strength, they had their influence and diplomatic relations with China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Burma, and many others.
Land Revenue and taxes imposed on trade was the main source of income. Their economy was based on 3 tier:-
- At the local level which included agriculture which was the foundation of Chola Economy.
- The weaving industry during the reign of Chola was very prosperous. The cotton and silk cloths were renowned everywhere they had their influence, even till China and Baghdad, that’s why Kanchipuram silk sarees are so famous as their history comes from the Chola’s dynasty. Sailyar and Kaikolar are main weaving communities involved in this business.
- The Chola’s introduced a system of Gold, Copper and Silver coins, and the merchants during Chola’s reign hold a very position in their society as they formed the backbone of Chola’s Economy as most of them were involved in the business.
- Agriculture flourished during their era, as water distribution during then was excellent. They created several dams on the river Kaveri and built several channels to distribute the water flow for agriculture. Rajendra Chola I even built an artificial lake which was 16 miles long and 3 miles long known as “Chola Gangam”.
- During Chola’s, one can see excellent metal and Goldwork during their rule.
Brahmin and the merchant enjoyed a very high role in the Societies. However one interesting fact there were no Kshatriyas and there was minimal caste-based discrimination. Even Hospitals were built during and were named after Vir Chola, whose plottings could be found in Tirrumukudal inscription.
As per the inscriptions written by the court poet and artisans, they were highly skilled and educated, as everything they did whether business, weaving and preaching they were excellent.
During Chola’s, they had excellent foreign trade relations with South-East Asia, China their silk clothes were exported to different neighbourhood kingdoms. They even had maritime activities with neighbours of India.
Major trader partners were the Tang Dynasty in China, the Srivijaya Empire and Khalifat in Baghdad.
Architecture During the Chola’s.
Architecture during the Chola Dynasty reign was excellent and magnificent. They built numerous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Some of the finest examples are the Brihadeshwara and Airatveshwara which are the UNESCO world heritage sites.
Temples built during the time of Rajaraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I were known for their architectural brilliance.
Influential rulers of the Chola Dynasty:-
Vijayalaya(848-870 AD) ruled over the north of the river Kaveri and founded the imperial Chola’s. He ruled over the Thanjavur region of South India.
Aditya I(891 CE- 907 CE) son of Vijayalaya was the expansionist of Chola Empire. He defeated the Pallavas which was one of the powerful dynasties during that period. Pandyas and Pallavas were in continuous war amongst themselves and Aditya I and Vijayalaya took and advantage of this.
Aditya, I took the advantage when the Civil war started in Pallava dynasty for the next rule.
Aditya, I made an alliance with the Pallava ruler Aparijita to defeat the Pandya. The Pallavas were very impressive with Aditya I and allowed Chola for their expansionism of their territory. Later on, they defeated Pallavas for their full-on expansion.
Son of Aditya I, he continued his expansion and kept on attacking the Pandyas. Parantaka captured Madurai and declared himself as the Madurai-Konda( Capturer of Madurai). Parantaka attack was so brutal that he fled to Sri Lanka. Tamil Literature flourished during his time, Cholas area expanded to Nellore.
Parantaka I was an excellent administrator his conquests and his administration could be found in the traces of Uttaramerur inscription.
He started local administration and divisions systems started from here.
Rajaraja Chola I(985-1014 C.E)
Rajaraja Chola one of the finest and kings of the Chola dynasty under whom the dynasty legacy flourished. He started the conquest of Sri Lanka and almost captured northern Sri Lanka with his powerful army consisting of Cavalry, infantry along with a powerful navy.
Rajaraja Chola defeated Cheras who were ruling the Travancore region (now Kerala).In the Kandalur war Rajaraja Chola, I defeated Chera King Bhaskara Ravi Varman Thiruvadi who had their allies with Pandyas and Sinhalas.
He declared himself as Mummudi Chola after defeating Pandya king Amarabhujunga captured Virinam Port.
Brihadeshwara temple was built during his reign in merely 5 years which is the tallest temple and UNESCO World Heritage site. This site acted as the capital of Religious activities during the Cholas.
Rajaraja I also conquest the islands of the Maldives with his powerful Navy. The valanadus division of Land system was started during his reign. He set a proper audit and control at the local village level to maintain their autonomy and under him, the first diplomatic mission to China was sent.
Rajendra Chola I(1014-1044)
The mastermind behind the Cholas conquest of South East Asia. He conquested entire Sri Lanka after defeating.
Mahinda V in Ceylon 1017.
In 1019 AD Rajendra Chola defeated Mahipala from Pala kingdom of Bengal and declared him Gangaikonda and declared Gangaikonda Cholapuram as his new capital. He also defeated Govindachandra from Chandra Dynasty in East Bengal.
In 1025 CE the Cholas invaded Indonesia and Maldives and invaded the Srivijaya Kingdom which ended their empire.
Adhirajendra Chola was the last king of the Imperial Chola, he had no successor to his reign, his daughter married to western Chalukya ruler Koluttunga after which the reign of Later Chola started.
Endnote:- Legacy of southern dynasties like Cholas, Pandian’s, Cheras has always been overshadowed by the Mughals and Tughlaqs, but it’s our duty let know our visitors their glory and achievement. The next empire would be describing is the Vijaynagara empire of the south and their legacy.
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