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"Chola" redirects here. For other uses, see Chola (disambiguation).

Chola Empire ??? ????

300s BC 1279 ?

Chola's empire and influence at the height of its power (c. 1050) Capital Early Cholas: Poompuhar, Urayur, Medieval Cholas: Pazhaiyaarai, Thanjavur Gangaikonda Cholapuram

Language(s) Tamil

Religion Hinduism

Government Monarchy


- 848 871 Vijayalaya Chola

- 1246 1279 Rajendra Chola III

Historical era Middle Ages

- Established 300s BC

- Rise of the medieval Cholas 848

- Disestablished 1279


- 1050 est. 3,600,000 km2 (1,389,968 sq mi)

Today part of India Sri Lanka Bangladesh Burma Thailand Malaysia Cambodia Indonesia Vietnam Singapore Maldives

List of Chola kings

Early Cholas

Elara Chola

235 BC - 161 BC


Karikala Chola






Interregnum (c.200 848)

Medieval Cholas

Vijayalaya Chola 848 871(?)

Aditya I 871 907

Parantaka Chola I

907 950

Gandaraditya 950 957

Arinjaya Chola 956 957

Sundara Chola 957 970

Uttama Chola 970 985

Rajaraja Chola I 985 1014

Rajendra Chola I 1012 1044

Rajadhiraja Chola 1018 1054

Rajendra Chola II 1051 1063

Virarajendra Chola 1063 1070

Athirajendra Chola

1067 1070

Later Cholas

Kulothunga Chola I 1070 1120

Vikrama Chola 1118 1135

Kulothunga Chola II 1133 1150

Rajaraja Chola II 1146 1173

Rajadhiraja Chola II 1166 1178

Kulothunga Chola III 1178 1218

Rajaraja Chola III 1216 1256

Rajendra Chola III 1246 1279

Chola society

Chola government

Chola military

Chola Navy

Chola art

Chola literature

Solesvara Temples




Gangaikonda Cholapuram


Telugu Cholas


Part of a series on

History of Tamil Nadu

Chronology of Tamil history

Sangam period


Government Economy

Society Religion Music

Early Cholas Early Pandyans

Medieval history

Pallava Empire


Pandyan Empire

Chola Empire

Chera Empire

Vijayanagara Empire

Madurai Nayaks

Tanjore Nayaks

Kalahasti Nayaks

Gingee Nayaks

Kandy Nayaks

Sethupathy of Ramnad

Thondaiman Kingdom

This box: view talk edit The Chola dynasty (Tamil: ????? ????? ['t??o???]) was a Tamil dynasty which was one of the longest-ruling in some parts of southern India. The earliest datable references to this Tamil dynasty are in inscriptions from the 3rd century BC lef t by Asoka, of Maurya Empire; the dynasty continued to govern over varying terri tory until the 13th century AD. The heartland of the Cholas was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River, but they ruled a significantly larger area at the height of their power from the later h alf of the 9th century till the beginning of the 13th century.[1] The whole coun try south of the Tungabhadra was united and held as one state for a period of tw o centuries and more.[2] Under Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola I, th e dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South -east Asia.[3][4] The power of the new empire was proclaimed to the eastern worl d by the celebrated expedition to the Ganges which Rajendra Chola I undertook an d by the overthrow after an unprecedented naval war of the maritime empire of Sr ivijaya, as well as by the repeated embassies to China.[5] During the period 101 0 1200, the Chola territories stretched from the islands of the Maldives in the so uth to as far north as the banks of the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh.[6] Raj

araja Chola conquered peninsular South India, annexed parts of what is now Sri L anka and occupied the islands of the Maldives.[4] Rajendra Chola sent a victorio us expedition to North India that touched the river Ganges and defeated the Pala ruler of Pataliputra, Mahipala. He also successfully invaded kingdoms of the Ma lay Archipelago.[7][8] The Chola dynasty went into decline at the beginning of t he 13th century with the rise of the Pandyas, who ultimately caused their downfa ll.[9][10][11] The Cholas left a lasting legacy. Their patronage of Tamil literature and their zeal in building temples have resulted in some great works of Tamil literature a nd architecture.[4] The Chola kings were avid builders and envisioned the temple s in their kingdoms not only as places of worship but also as centres of economi c activity.[12][13] They pioneered a centralised form of government and establis hed a disciplined bureaucracy.

Contents [hide] 1 Origins 2 History 2.1 Early Cholas 2.2 Interregnum 2.3 Medieval Cholas 2.4 Later Cholas (1070 1279 AD) 3 Government and society 3.1 Chola country 3.2 Nature of government 3.3 Local government 3.4 Foreign trade 3.5 Chola society 4 Cultural contributions 4.1 Art 4.2 Literature 4.3 Religion 5 In popular culture 6 See also 7 Notes 8 References 9 External links [edit] Origins There is very little information available regarding the origin of the Chola Dyn asty. The antiquity of this dynasty is evident from the mentions in ancient Tami l literature and in inscriptions. Later medieval Cholas also claimed a long and ancient lineage to their dynasty. Mentions in the early Sangam literature (c. 15 0 CE)[14] indicate that the earliest kings of the dynasty antedated 100 CE. Pari melalagar, the annotator of the Tamil classic Tirukkural, mentions that this cou ld be the name of an ancient king. The most commonly held view is that this is, like Cheras and Pandyas, the name o f the ruling family or clan of immemorial antiquity.[15] The annotator Parimelaz hagar writes "The charity of people with ancient lineage (such as the Cholas, th e Pandyas and the Cheras) are forever generous in spite of their reduced means". Other names in common use for the Cholas are Killi (??????), Valavan (?????) an d Sembiyan (?????????). Killi perhaps comes from the Tamil kil (????) meaning di g or cleave and conveys the idea of a digger or a worker of the land. This word

often forms an integral part of early Chola names like Nedunkilli, Nalankilli an d so on, but almost drops out of use in later times. Valavan is most probably co nnected with 'valam' (????) fertility and means owner or ruler of a fertile coun try. Sembiyan is generally taken to mean a descendant of Shibi a legendary hero whose self-sacrifice in saving a dove from the pursuit of a falcon figures among the early Chola legends and forms the subject matter of the Sibi Jataka among t he Jataka stories of Buddhism.[16] In Tamil lexicon Chola means Soazhi or Saei d enoting a newly formed kingdom, in the lines of Pandya or the old country.[17] S ora or Chozha in Tamil becomes Chola in Sanskrit and Chola or Choda in Telugu.[1 8] On the history of the early Cholas there is very little authentic written eviden ce available. Historians during the past 150 years have gleaned a lot of knowled ge on the subject from a variety of sources such as ancient Tamil Sangam literat ure, oral traditions, religious texts, temple and copperplate inscriptions. The main source for the available information of the early Cholas is the early Tamil literature of the Sangam Period.[19] There are also brief notices on the Chola country and its towns, ports and commerce furnished by the Periplus of the Eryth raean Sea (Periplus Maris Erythraei).[20] Periplus is a work by an anonymous Ale xandrian merchant, written in the time of Domitian (81 96) and contains very littl e information of the Chola country.[21] Writing half a century later, the geogra pher Ptolemy gives more detail about the Chola country, its port and its inland cities.[22] Mahavamsa, a Buddhist text written down during the 5th century CE, r ecounts a number of conflicts between the inhabitants of Ceylon and Cholas in th e 1st century BCE.[23] Cholas are mentioned in the Pillars of Ashoka (inscribed 273 BCE 232 BCE) inscriptions, where they are mentioned among the kingdoms which, though not subject to Ashoka, were on friendly terms with him.[24][25][26] [edit] History The history of the Cholas falls into four periods: the early Cholas of the Sanga m literature, the interregnum between the fall of the Sangam Cholas and the rise of the medieval Cholas under Vijayalaya (c. 848), the dynasty of Vijayalaya, an d finally the Later Chola dynasty of Kulothunga Chola I from the third quarter o f the 11th century.[27] [edit] Early Cholas Main article: Early Cholas The earliest Chola kings for whom there is tangible evidence are mentioned in th e Sangam literature. Scholars generally agree that this literature belongs to th e first few centuries of the common era.[14] The internal chronology of this lit erature is still far from settled, and at present a connected account of the his tory of the period cannot be derived. The Sangam literature records the names of the kings and the princes, and of the poets who extolled them. Despite a rich l iterature that depicts the life and work of these people, these cannot be worked into connected history.[28]

An early silver coin of Uttama Chola found in Sri Lanka showing the Tiger emblem of the Cholas.In Grantha Tamil.[29][30] The Sangam literature also records legends about mythical Chola kings.[31][32][3 3][34] These myths speak of the Chola king Kantaman, a supposed contemporary of the sage Agastya, whose devotion brought the river Kaveri into existence.[35][36 ]

Two names stand out prominently from among those Chola kings known to have exist ed, who feature in Sangam literature: Karikala Chola[37][38][39] and Kocengannan .[40] There is no sure means of settling the order of succession, of fixing thei r relations with one another and with many other princelings of about the same p eriod.[41][42] Urayur (now in/part-of Thiruchirapalli) was their oldest capital. [33] Kaveripattinam also served as an early Chola capital.[43] The Mahavamsa men tions that an ethnic Tamil adventurer, a Chola prince known as Elara, invaded th e island around 235 BCE and that King Gajabahu visited Chera Cenguttuvan around 108 CE.[33][44] [edit] Interregnum There is not much information about the transition period of around three centur ies from the end of the Sangam age (c. 300) to that in which the Pandyas and Pal lavas dominate the Tamil country.[45] An obscure dynasty, the Kalabhras, invaded the Tamil country, displaced the existing kingdoms and ruled for around three c enturies.[46][47][48] They were displaced by the Pallavas and the Pandyas in the 6th century.[38][49] Little is known of the fate of the Cholas during the succe eding three centuries until the accession of Vijayalaya in the second quarter of the 9th century.[50] Epigraphy and literature provide a few faint glimpses of the transformations tha t came over this ancient line of kings during this long interval. What is certai n is that when the power of the Cholas fell to its lowest ebb and that of the Pa ndyas and Pallavas rose to the north and south of them,[39][51] this dynasty was compelled to seek refuge and patronage under their more successful rivals.[3][5 2] The Cholas continued to rule over a diminished territory in the neighbourhood of Uraiyur, but only in a minor capacity. In spite of their reduced powers, the Pandayas and Pallavas accepted Chola princesses in marriage, possibly out of re gard for their reputation.[53] Numerous inscriptions of Pallavas of this period mention their having fought rulers of 'the Chola country'.[54][55] Despite this loss in influence and power, it is unlikely that the Cholas lost total grip of t he territory around Uraiyur, their old capital, as Vijayalaya, when he rose to p rominence hailed from this geographical area.[56][57] Around the 7th century, a Chola kingdom flourished in present-day Andhra Pradesh .[56] These Telugu Cholas (or Chodas) traced their descent to the early Sangam C holas. However, it is not known if they had any relation to the early Cholas.[58 ] It is possible that a branch of the Tamil Cholas migrated north during the tim e of the Pallavas to establish a kingdom of their own, away from the dominating influences of the Pandyas and Pallavas.[59] The Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang, who sp ent several months in Kanchipuram during 639 640 writes about the 'kingdom of Culi -ya', in an apparent reference to the Telugu Chodas.[50][51][60] [edit] Medieval Cholas Main article: Medieval Cholas

Detail of the statue of Rajaraja Chola at Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur.

Portrait of Rajaraja Chola and his guru Karuvurar at Brihadeeswarar Temple While there is little reliable information on the Cholas during the period betwe en the early Cholas and Vijayalaya dynasties, there is an abundance of materials

from diverse sources on the Vijayalaya and the Later Chola dynasties. A large n umber of stone inscriptions by the Cholas themselves and by their rival kings, P andyas and Chalukyas, and copper-plate grants, have been instrumental in constru cting the history of Cholas of that period.[61][62] Around 850, Vijayalaya rose from obscurity to take an opportunity arising out of a conflict between Pandyas and Pallavas,[63] captured Thanjavur and eventually established the imperial lin e of the medieval Cholas.[64][65] The Chola dynasty was at the peak of its influence and power during the medieval period.[2] Through their leadership and vision, kings such as the second Chola King Aditya I who caused the demise of the Pallavas, defeated the Pandyas of Mad urai and occupied very large parts of the Kannada country and had marital ties w ith the Gangas, way back in 885 AD, his son Parantaka I, who conquered Sri Lanka known as Ilangai way back in 925 AD, Sundara Chola, also known as Parantaka Cho la II who regained territories from the Rashtrakutas and expanded the Chola domi nions up to Bhatkal in Kannada country, Rajaraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I ex tended the Chola kingdom beyond the traditional limits of a Tamil kingdom.[3][4] At its peak, the Chola Empire stretched from the island of Sri Lanka in the sou th to the Godavari-Krishna basin in the north, up to the Konkan coast in Bhatkal , the entire Malabar Coast in addition to Lakshadweep, Maldives and vast areas o f Chera country. The kingdoms of Deccan and the eastern coast were subordinates, feudatories of the Cholas or other kingdoms like the Chalukyas between 1000 1075 AD paid tribute to the Cholas.[66] Rajendra Chola I completed the conquest of th e island of Sri Lanka and captured the Sinhala king Mahinda V prisoner, in addit ion to his conquests of Rattapadi (territories of the Rashtrakutas, Chalukya cou ntry, Talakkad, Kolar (where the Kolaramma temple still has his portrait statue) in Kannada country .[67] In addition Rajendra's territories included the area f alling on the Ganges-Hooghly-Damodar basin, large parts of Burma, Thailand, Indo -China Laos, Kambodia, the Malay peninsula and Indonesia.[68] The kingdoms along the east coast of India up to the river Ganges acknowledged Chola suzerainty.[6 ] Chola navies invaded and conquered Srivijaya in the Malayan archipelago.[7][8] [69] The Western Chalukyas under Satyasraya and Somesvara I tried to wriggle out of C hola domination from time to time, primarily due to the Chola influence in the V engi kingdom.[5] The Western Chalukyas mounted several unsuccessful attempts to engage the Chola emperors in war and except for a brief occupation of Vengi terr itories between 1118 1126, all their other attempts ended in failure with successi ve Chola emperors routing the armies of the Chalukyas at various places in many wars. Cholas always successfully controlled the Chalukyas in the western Deccan by routing them in war constantly and levying tribute on them.[70] It is also pe rtinent to note that even under the not so strong emperors of the Cholas like Ku lothunga I, Vikrama Chola etc. the wars against the Chalukyas were mainly fought in Chalukya territories in Karnataka or in the Telugu country like Vengi, Kakin ada or Anantapur or Gutti. In any case, in the internecine wars among the small Kannada kingdoms of the Kadambas, Hoysalas, Vaidumbas or Kalachuris, the Chaluky a interference was to cause them dearly with these Kingdoms steadily increasing their stock and ultimately the Hoysalas, the Kakatiyas, the Kalachuris and the S eunas consuming the Chalukyas and sending them into oblivion.[71] With the occup ation of Dharwar in North Central Karnataka by the Hoysalas under Vishnuvardhana where he based himself with his son Narasimha I in-charge at the Hoysala capita l Dwarasamudra around AD 1149, and with the Kalachuris occupying the Chalukyan c apital for over 35 years from around 1150 1151 AD, the Chalukya kingdom was alread y starting to dissolve[72] due to incompetency of its rulers after 1126 AD. The Cholas under Kulothunga Chola III even collaborated to the herald the dissol ution of the Chalukyas by aiding Hoysalas under Veera Ballala II, the son-in-law of the Chola monarch, and sounded the death-knell of the Western Chalukyas in a series of wars with Somesvara IV between 1185 1190 AD, the last Chalukya king who se territories did not even include the erstwhile Chalukyan capitals Badami, Man

yakheta or Kalyani. That was the final dissolution of Chalukyan power[73] though the Chalukyas existed only in name since 1135 1140. In contrast, the Cholas would be stable till 1215 AD, and finally getting consumed by the Pandiyan empire and ceasing to exist by 1280 AD.[74] On the other hand, throughout the period from 1150 1280 AD, the staunchest opponen ts of the Cholas were Pandya princes who tried to win independence for their tra ditional territories. This period saw constant warfare between the Cholas and th ese antagonists. The Cholas also fought regular wars with the Easter Gangas of K alinga, protected Vengi though it remained largely independent under Chola contr ol, and had domination of the entire eastern coast with their feudatories the Te lugu Chodas, Velananti Cholas, Renandu Cholas etc. who also always aided the Cho las in their successful campaigns against the Chalukyas and levying tribute on t he Kannada kingdoms and fought constantly with the Sinhalas, who attempted to ov erthrow the Chola occupation of Lanka, but till the time of the Later Chola king Kulottunga I the Cholas had firm control over Lanka. In fact, a Later Chola kin g Rajadhiraja Chola II was strong enough to prevail over a confederation of five Pandya princes who were aided by their traditional friend, the king of Lanka, t his once again gave control of Lanka to the Cholas despite the fact that they we re not strong under the resolute Rajadhiraja Chola II. However, Rajadhiraja Chol a II's successor, the last great Chola monarch Kulottunga Chola III reinforced t he hold of the Cholas by quelling rebellion and disturbances in Lanka and Madura i, defeated Hoysala generals under Veera Ballala II in Karuvur, in addition to h olding on to his traditional territories in Tamil country, Eastern Gangavadi, Dr aksharama, Vengi and Kalinga. After this, he entered into a marital alliance wit h Veera Ballala II (with Ballala's marriage to a Chola princess) and his relatio nship with Hoysalas seems to have become friendlier.[75][76][77][78] [edit] Later Cholas (1070 1279 AD) Main article: Later Cholas

Chola territories during Kulothunga Chola I c. 1120 Marital and political alliances between the Eastern Chalukyas began during the r eign of Rajaraja following his invasion of Vengi.[79] Rajaraja Chola's daughter married Chalukya prince Vimaladitya.[80] Rajendra Chola's daughter was also marr ied to an eastern Chalukya prince Rajaraja Narendra.[81] Virarajendra Chola's son Athirajendra Chola was assassinated in a civil disturba nce in 1070, and Kulothunga Chola I, the son of Rajaraja Narendra, ascended the Chola throne starting the Later Chola dynasty.[71][81][82] The Later Chola dynasty saw capable rulers in Kulothunga Chola I, his son Vikram a Chola, other successors like Rajaraja Chola II, Rajadhiraja Chola II and the g reat Kulothunga Chola III, who conquered Kalinga, Ilam and Kataha. However, the rule of the later Cholas between 1218 AD, starting with Rajaraja Chola II to the last emperor Rajendra Chola III was not as strong as those of the emperors betw een 850 1215 AD. Around 1118, they lost control of Vengi to the Western Chalukya a nd Gangavadi (southern Mysore districts) to the Hoysalas. However, these were on ly temporary setbacks, because immediately following the accession of king Vikra ma Chola, the son and successor of Kulothunga Chola I, the Cholas lost no time i n recovering the province of Vengi by defeating Chalukya Somesvara III and also recovering Gangavadi from the Hoysalas. The Chola Empire, though not as strong a s between 850 1150, was still largely territorially intact under Raja Raja Chola I I (1146 1175 AD) a fact attested by the construction and completion of the third g rand Chola architectural marvel, the chariot-shaped Airavatesvara Temple at Dhar

asuram on the outskirts of modern Kumbakonam. This temple is part of the World H eritage Sites trinity of the Great Living Chola Temples, along with the Brihadee swarar Temples of Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram, built by his predecessor s Raja Raja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I, respectively. Chola administration and territorial integrity till the rule of Kulothunga Chola III was stable and very prosperous up to 1215 AD, but during his rule itself, the decline of the Chola power started following his defeat by Maravarman Sundara Pandiyan II in 1215 16 AD .[83] Subsequently, the Cholas also lost control of the island of Lanka and were driven out by the revival of Sinhala power. In continuation of the decline, also marked by the resurgence of the Pandyas as the most powerful rulers in South India, a lack of a controlling central adminis tration in its erstwhile-Pandyan territories prompted a number of claimants to t he Pandya throne to cause a civil war in which the Sinhalas and the Cholas were involved by proxy. Details of the Pandyan civil war and the role played by the C holas and Sinhalas, are present in the Mahavamsa as well as the Pallavarayanpett ai Inscriptions.[84][85] The Cholas, under Rajaraja Chola III and later, his successor Rajendra Chola III , were quite weak and therefore, experienced continuous trouble. One feudatory, the Kadava chieftain Kopperunchinga I, even held Rajaraja Chola III as hostage f or sometime.[86][87] At the close of the 12th century, the growing influence of the Hoysalas replaced the declining Chalukyas as the main player in the Kannada country, but they too faced constant trouble from the Seunas and the Kalachuris who were occupying Chalukya capital for those empires were their new rivals. So naturally, the Hoysalas found it convenient to have friendly relations with the Cholas from the time of Kulothunga Chola III, who had defeated Hoysala Veera Bal lala II, who had subsequent marital relations with the Chola monarch. This conti nued during the time of Rajaraja Chola III the son and successor of Kulothunga C hola III[83][88] The Pandyas in the south had risen to the rank of a great power who ultimately b anished the Hoysalas who were allies of the Cholas from Tamil country and subseq uently causing the demise of the Cholas themselves in AD 1279. They first steadi ly gained control of the Tamil country as well as territories in Sri Lanka, Cher a country, Telugu country under Maravarman Sundara Pandiyan II and his able succ essor Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan before inflicting several defeats on the joint forces of the Cholas under Rajaraja Chola III, his successor Rajendra Chola III and the Hoysalas under Someshwara, his son Ramanatha[83] Rajendra III tried to s urvive by aligning with the Kadava Pallavas and the Hoysalas in turn in order to counter the constantly rising power of the Pandyans who were the major players in the Tamil country from AD 1215 and had intelligently consolidated their posit ion in Madurai-Rameswaram-Ilam-Cheranadu and Kanniyakumari belt, and had been st eadily increasing their territories in the Kaveri belt between Dindigul-TiruchyKarur-Satyamangalam as well as in the Kaveri Delta i.e. Thanjavur-Mayuram-Chidam baram-Vriddhachalam-Kanchi, finally marching all the way up to Arcot Tirumalai-Nel lore-Visayawadai-Vengi-Kalingam belt by 1250 AD. The Pandyas steadily routed both the Hoysalas and the Cholas.[10] They also disp ossessed the Hoysalas, who had been overestimating their power by interfering in the politics of Tamil country by routing them under Jatavarman Sundara Pandiyan at Kannanur Kuppam and chased the Hoysalas back to the Mysore plateau and stopp ed the war only thereafter.[11] At the close of Rajendra's reign, the Pandyan em pire was at the height of prosperity and had taken the place of the Chola empire in the eyes of the foreign observers.[89] The last recorded date of Rajendra II I is 1279. There is no evidence that Rajendra was followed immediately by anothe r Chola prince.[90][91] The Hoysalas were routed from Kannanur Kuppam around 127 9 by Kulasekhara Pandiyan and in the same war the last Chola emperor Rajendra II I was routed and the Chola empire ceased to exist thereafter. Thus the Chola emp ire was completely overshadowed by the Pandyan empire and sank into obscurity an

d ceased to exist by the end of the 13th century.[87][91] [edit] Government and society Main article: Chola Government [edit] Chola country See also: Chola Nadu According to Tamil tradition, the old Chola country comprised the region that in cludes the modern-day Tiruchirapalli District, Tiruvarur District, Nagapattinam District, Ariyalur District, Perambalur district, Pudukkottai district, Pichavar am Taluk and the Thanjavur District in Tamil Nadu and Karaikal District in Karai kal. The river Kaveri and its tributaries dominate this landscape of generally f lat country that gradually slopes towards the sea, unbroken by major hills or va lleys. The river Kaveri, also known as Ponni (golden) river, had a special place in the culture of Cholas. The annual floods in the Kaveri marked an occasion fo r celebration, Adiperukku, in which the whole nation took part. Kaveripoompattinam on the coast near the Kaveri delta was a major port town.[33] Ptolemy knew of this and the other port town of Nagappattinam as the most impor tant centres of Cholas.[22] These two towns became hubs of trade and commerce an d attracted many religious faiths, including Buddhism.[92] Roman ships found the ir way into these ports. Roman coins dating from the early centuries of the comm on era have been found near the Kaveri delta.[93][94] The other major towns were Thanjavur, Uraiyur and Kudanthai, now known as Kumbak onam.[33] After Rajendra Chola moved his capital to Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Than javur lost its importance.[95] The later Chola kings moved around their capitals frequently and made cities such as Chidambaram, Madurai and Kanchipuram their r egional capitals. [edit] Nature of government In the age of the Cholas, the whole of South India was, for the first time, brou ght under a single government,[96] when a serious attempt was made to face and s olve the problems of public administration. The Cholas' system of government was monarchical, as in the Sangam age.[38] However, there was little in common betw een the local chiefdoms of the earlier time and the imperial-like states of Raja raja Chola and his successors.[97] Between 980, and c. 1150, the Chola Empire comprised the entire south Indian pen insula, extending east to west from coast to coast, and bounded to the north by an irregular line along the Tungabhadra river and the Vengi frontier.[3][6] Alth ough Vengi had a separate political existence, it was closely connected to the C hola Empire and, for all practical purposes, the Chola dominion extended up to t he banks of the Godavari river.[98] Thanjavur, and later, Gangaikonda Cholapuram were the imperial capitals. However both Kanchipuram and Madurai were considered to be regional capitals, in which occasional courts were held. The king was the supreme commander and a benevolent dictator.[99] His administrative role consisted of issuing oral commands to res ponsible officers when representations were made to him.[100] A powerful bureauc racy assisted the king in the tasks of administration and in executing his order s. Due to the lack of a legislature or a legislative system in the modern sense, the fairness of king's orders dependent on the goodness of the man and in his b elief in Dharma a sense of fairness and justice. The Chola kings built temples and endowed them with great wealth.[12][101] The t

emples acted not only as places of worship but also as centres of economic activ ity, benefiting their entire community.[12][102] [edit] Local government Every village was a self-governing unit.[103] A number of villages constituted a larger entity known as a Kurram, Nadu or Kottram, depending on the area.[103][1 04][104][105] A number of Kurrams constituted a valanadu.[106] These structures underwent constant change and refinement throughout the Chola period.[107] Justice was mostly a local matter in the Chola Empire; minor disputes were settl ed at the village level.[105] Punishment for minor crimes were in the form of fi nes or a direction for the offender to donate to some charitable endowment. Even crimes such as manslaughter or murder were punished with fines. Crimes of the s tate, such as treason, were heard and decided by the king himself; the typical p unishment in these cases was either execution or the confiscation of property.[1 08] [edit] Foreign trade See also: Chola Navy

Hindu temple complex at Prambanan in Java clearly showing Dravidian architectura l influences [109] The Cholas excelled in foreign trade and maritime activity, extending their infl uence overseas to China and Southeast Asia.[110] Towards the end of the 9th cent ury, southern India had developed extensive maritime and commercial activity.[11 1][112] The Cholas, being in possession of parts of both the west and the east c oasts of peninsular India, were at the forefront of these ventures.[113][114][11 5] The Tang dynasty of China, the Srivijaya empire in the Malayan archipelago un der the Sailendras, and the Abbasid Kalifat at Baghdad were the main trading par tners.[116] Chinese Song Dynasty reports record that an embassy from Chulian (Chola) reached the Chinese court in the year 1077,[117][118][119] and that the king of the Chu lien at the time was called Ti-hua-kia-lo.[120] It is possible that these syllab les denote "Deva Kulo[tunga]" (Kulothunga Chola I). This embassy was a trading v enture and was highly profitable to the visitors, who returned with '81,800 stri ngs of copper coins in exchange for articles of tributes, including glass articl es, and spices'.[121] A fragmentary Tamil inscription found in Sumatra cites the name of a merchant gu ild Nanadesa Tisaiyayirattu Ainnutruvar (literally, "the five hundred from the f our countries and the thousand directions"), a famous merchant guild in the Chol a country.[112] The inscription is dated 1088, indicating that there was an acti ve overseas trade during the Chola period.[118] [edit] Chola society There is little information on the size and the density of the population during the Chola reign.[122] The stability in the core Chola region enabled the people to lead a productive and contented life. There is only one recorded instance of civil disturbance during the entire period of Chola reign.[123] However, there were reports of widespread famine caused by natural calamities.[124][125]

The quality of the inscriptions of the regime indicates a presence of high level of literacy and education in the society. The text in these inscriptions was wr itten by court poets and engraved by talented artisans. Education in the contemp orary sense was not considered important; there is circumstantial evidence to su ggest that some village councils organised schools to teach the basics of readin g and writing to children,[126] although there is no evidence of systematic educ ational system for the masses.[127] Vocational education was through hereditary training in which the father passed on his skills to his sons. Tamil was the med ium of education for the masses; Religious monasteries (matha or gatika) were ce ntres of learning, which were supported by the government.[128][129][130] [edit] Cultural contributions

Detail of the main vimanam (tower) of the Thanjavur Temple Under the Cholas, the Tamil country reached new heights of excellence in art, re ligion and literature.[131] In all of these spheres, the Chola period marked the culmination of movements that had begun in an earlier age under the Pallavas.[1 32][133] Monumental architecture in the form of majestic temples and sculpture i n stone and bronze reached a finesse never before achieved in India.[134] The Chola conquest of Kadaram (Kedah) and Srivijaya, and their continued commerc ial contacts with the Chinese Empire, enabled them to influence the local cultur es.[135] Many of the surviving examples of the Hindu cultural influence found to day throughout the Southeast Asia owe much to the legacy of the Cholas.[136][137 ] [edit] Art Main article: Chola Art The Cholas continued the temple-building traditions of the Pallava dynasty and c ontributed significantly to the Dravidian temple design.[138] They built a numbe r of Siva temples along the banks of the river Kaveri. These temples were not on a large scale until the end of the 10th century.[132][139][140]

With heavily ornamented pillars accurate in detail and richly sculpted walls, th e Airavateswara temple at Darasuram is a classic example of Chola art and archit ecture Temple building received great impetus from the conquests and the genius of Raja raja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola I.[141] The maturity and grandeur to which the Chola architecture had evolved found expression in the two temples of Thanj avur and Gangaikondacholapuram. The magnificent Siva temple of Thanjavur, comple ted around 1009, is a fitting memorial to the material achievements of the time of Rajaraja. The largest and tallest of all Indian temples of its time, it is at the apex of South Indian architecture.[79][142] The temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram at Gangaikondacholapuram, the creation of R ajendra Chola, was intended to excel its predecessor.[143][144] Completed around 1030, only two decades after the temple at Thanjavur and in the same style, the greater elaboration in its appearance attests the more affluent state of the Ch ola Empire under Rajendra.[138][145]

The Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram at Ga ngaikondacholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram were declared as W orld Heritage Sites by the UNESCO, and are referred to as the Great living Chola temples.[146] The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes.[147][148][14 9] Among the existing specimens in museums around the world and in the temples o f South India may be seen many fine figures of Siva in various forms, such as Vi shnu and his consort Lakshmi, and the Saivaite saints.[138] Though conforming ge nerally to the iconographic conventions established by long tradition, the sculp tors worked with great freedom in the 11th and the 12th centuries to achieve a c lassic grace and grandeur. The best example of this can be seen in the form of N ataraja the Divine Dancer.[150][151]

Chola bronze from the Ulster Museum [edit] Literature Main article: Chola literature The age of the Imperial Cholas (850 1200) was the golden age of Tamil culture, mar ked by the importance of literature.[4] Chola inscriptions cite many works, the majority of which have been lost.[152] The revival of Hinduism from its nadir during the Kalabhras spurred the construc tion of numerous temples and these in turn generated Saiva and Vaishnava devotio nal literature.[153] Jain and Buddhist authors flourished as well, although in f ewer numbers than in previous centuries.[154] Jivaka-chintamani by Tirutakkateva r and Sulamani by Tolamoli are among notable by non-Hindu authors.[155][156][157 ] The art of Tirutakkatevar is marked by all the qualities of great poetry.[158] It is considered as the model for Kamban for his masterpiece Ramavataram.[159] Kamban flourished during the reign of Kulothunga Chola III.[160] His Ramavathara m (also referred to as Kambaramayanam) is a great epic in Tamil literature, and although the author states that he followed Valmiki's Ramayana, it is generally accepted that his work is not a simple translation or adaptation of the Sanskrit epic: Kamban imports into his narration the colour and landscape of his own tim e; his description of Kosala is an idealised account of the features of the Chol a country.[157][161][162] Jayamkondar's masterpiece Kalingattuparani is an example of narrative poetry tha t draws a clear boundary between history and fictitious conventions. This descri bes the events during Kulothunga Chola I's war in Kalinga and depicts not only t he pomp and circumstance of war, but the gruesome details of the field.[162][163 ][164] The famous Tamil poet Ottakuttan was a contemporary of Kulothunga Chola I and served at the courts of three of Kulothunga's successors.[159][162][163][16 5] Ottakuttan wrote Kulothunga Cholan Ula, a poem extolling the virtues of the C hola king.[166] The impulse to produce devotional religious literature continued into the Chola period and the arrangement of the Saiva canon into 11 books was the work of Namb i Andar Nambi, who lived close to the end of 10th century.[167][168] However, re latively few Vaishnavite works were composed during the later Chola period, poss ibly because of the apparent animosity towards the Vaishnavites by the Later Cho la monarchs.[169]

[edit] Religion

Bronze Chola Statue of Nataraja at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City In general, Cholas were the adherents of Hinduism. Throughout their history, the y were not swayed by the rise of Buddhism and Jainism as were the kings of the P allava and Pandya dynasties. Even the early Cholas followed a version of the cla ssical Hindu faith. There is evidence in Purananuru for Karikala Chola's faith i n the Vedic Hinduism in the Tamil country.[170] Kocengannan, another early Chola , was celebrated in both Sangam literature and in the Saiva canon as a saint.[40 ] While the Cholas did build their largest and most important temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, it can be by no means concluded that either they were staunch Saivit es or followers of Saivism only or that they were not favourably disposed to oth er faiths. This is borne out by the fact that the second Chola king Aditya I him self built quite a few temples for Siva and for Lord Vishnu. In fact in AD 890, his inscriptions speak of his contributions to the construction of the Ranganath a Temple at Srirangapatnam (now in Mandya district of Karnataka) in the country of Western Gangas who were both his feudatories and also had marital relations w ith him. In fact during the time of Aditya I (871 903 AD) the Gangas of Kannada co untry had recognized his superiority which he acknowledged by marrying into that family and making grant contributions to the construction of the Sri Ranganatha temple at modern Srirangapatnam. Aditya I also regularly gave many endowments t o the Sri Ranganatha Temple at Srirangam around AD 896 and also issued an inscri ptional dictat pronouncing that both the great temples of Siva and the Ranganath a temple at Srirangam to be the 'Kuladhanam' of the Chola emperors.[171] In fact it was Aditya I's dictat which was faithfully carried out by his illustrious so n Parantaka I and his successors wherein it was declared in edicts that the Siva Temple of Chidambaram (at that time the grand Siva temples of Tanjore and Ganga ikonda Cholapuram were not in existence) and the Sri Ranganatha Swami temple of Srirangam were the 'Kuladhanams' i.e. tutelary (deities) treasures of the Chola emperors. In fact this dictat was repeated around 300 years back when the last g reat Chola King, Kulothunga III, the builder of the great Sarabeswarar Temple at Tribhuvanam on the outskirts of Kumbakonam, hails Lord Ranganatha at Srirangam in an inscription in the Srirangam Koil, as his 'tutelary deity'. As per finding s of Dr. Hultzsch, the great epigraphist, in this very inscription acknowledgmen t is made to the earlier great Chola king Parantaka about declaring the Chidamba ram (Siva) Koil and the Srirangam (Vishnu) Koil as 'Kuladhanams' of the Cholas, which is a pointer to the fact that the Cholas were secular and patronized equal ly all religions and sub-sects within the same religion. Another proof of this f act is the existence of as many as 40 Vaishnava Divyadesams out of 108 such temp les in the Chola country, which are functioning and flourishing even today. In f act, Chola king Sundara (Parantaka-II) was a staunch devotee of the reclining Vi shnu (Vadivu Azhagiya Nambi) at Anbil in the banks of Cauvery on the outskirts o f Tiruchy, to whom he gave numerous gifts and embellishments, and prayed before him by keeping his sword before the deity, prior to his proceeding for war for r egaining the territories in and around Kanchi and Arcot from the waning Rashtrak utas and while leading expeditions against both Madurai and Ilam (Sri Lanka).[17 2] Parantaka I and Sundara Chola endowed and built temples for both Siva and Vis hnu.[173] Rajaraja Chola I patronised Buddhists, and provided for the constructi on of the Chudamani Vihara (a Buddhist monastery) in Nagapattinam at the request of the Srivijaya Sailendra king.[32][174][175][176] While it is true that the b iggest and grandest temples of the Cholas were dedicated to Lord Siva, all Chola kings especially from Aditya to Rajendra IV not only built great temples for Lo rd Vishnu but also gave numerous grants and gifts to them.

During the period of Later Cholas, there were supposedly instances of intoleranc e towards Vaishnavites,[177] especially towards Ramanuja, the acharya of the Vai shnavites.[178] Kulothunga Chola II, a staunch Saivite, is said to have removed a statue of Vishnu from the Siva temple at Chidambaram, though there are no epig raphical evidences to support this theory. There is an inscription from 1160 tha t the custodians of Siva temples who had social intercourses with Vaishnavites w ould forfeit their property. However, this is more of a direction to the Saivite community by its religious heads than any kind of dictat by a Chola emperor. Wh ile Chola kings indeed built their largest temples for Siva and even while emper ors like Raja Raja Chola I held titles like 'Sivapadasekharan', in none of their inscriptions however, did the Chola emperors proclaim that their clan only and solely followed Saivism or that Saivism was the state religion during their rule .[179][180][181] [edit] In popular culture

Standing Hanuman, Chola Dynasty, 11thCentury. The history of the Chola dynasty has inspired many Tamil authors to produce lite rary and artistic creations during the last several decades.[182] These works of popular literature have helped continue the memory of the great Cholas in the m inds of the Tamil people. The most important work of this genre is the popular P onniyin Selvan (The son of Ponni), a historical novel in Tamil written by Kalki Krishnamurthy.[183] Written in five volumes, this narrates the story of Rajaraja Chola.[184] Ponniyin Selvan deals with the events leading up to the ascension o f Uttama Chola to the Chola throne. Kalki had utilised the confusion in the succ ession to the Chola throne after the demise of Sundara Chola.[185] This book was serialised in the Tamil periodical Kalki during the mid 1950s.[186] The seriali sation lasted for nearly five years and every week its publication was awaited w ith great interest.[187] Kalki's earlier historical romance Parthiban Kanavu deals with the fortunes of a n imaginary Chola prince Vikraman, who was supposed to have lived as a feudatory of the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I during the 7th century. The period of the story lies within the interregnum during which the Chola in eclipse before Vija yalaya Chola revived their fortunes.[184] Parthiban Kanavu was also serialised i n the Kalki weekly during the early 1950s. Sandilyan, another popular Tamil novelist, wrote Kadal Pura in the 1960s. It was serialised in the Tamil weekly Kumudam. Kadal Pura is set during the period whe n Kulothunga Chola I was in exile from the Vengi kingdom, after he was denied th e throne. Kadal Pura speculates the whereabouts of Kulothunga during this period . Sandilyan's earlier work Yavana Rani written in the early 1960s is based on th e life of Karikala Chola.[188] More recently, Balakumaran wrote the novel Udaiya r based on the circumstances surrounding Rajaraja Chola's construction of the Br ihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur.[189] There were stage productions based on the life of Rajaraja Chola during the 1950 s and in 1973 Shivaji Ganesan acted in a screen adaptation of a play titled Raja raja Cholan. The Cholas are featured in the History of the World board game, pro duced by Avalon Hill.