Do You Know – 17


You must have learnt about the CHOLA EMPIRE in the Medieval period but do you retain the relevant information regarding this empire ?

Here we go :

 THE CHOLA EMPIRE ( 900-1200 AD )


Pallavas and Pandyas – Tamilnadu,

Cheras – Kerala,

Chalukyas – Deccan/ Maharashtra

Chalukya king, Pulakeshin II, had defeated Harsha.

The Cholas developed a powerful navy which enabled them to conquer SriLanka and the Maldives.

The founder of the Chola empire was Vijayalaya.

Cholas had defeated the Pallavas and weakened the Pandyas.

Cholas found it hard to defend their position against the Rashtrakutas.

The greatest Chola rulers were Rajaraja and his son Rajendra I.

  • Rajaraja invaded Srilanka and annexed its northern part to his empire.
  • Rajaraja and Rajendra I  marked their victories by erecting a number of Siva and Vishnu temples at various places.
  • The most famous of these was the Brihadishwara temple at Tanjore which was completed in 1010.
  • The Chola rulers adopted the practice of having inscriptions written on the walls of these temples, giving a historical narratives of their victories. That is why we know a great deal more about the Cholas than their predecessors.

Rajendra I marched across Kalinga to Bengal in which Chola armies crossed the river Ganga and defeated two local kings. This expedition followed in reverse the same route which Samudragupta had followed. To commemorate this occasion, Rajendra I assumed the title of Gangaikondachola  (Chola who conquered the Ganga).

Rajendra I carried out naval expeditions against the Sri Vijaya empire. This empire extended over the Malaya peninsula, Sumatra, Java and the neighbouring islands, and controlled the overseas trade route to China.

Sailendra dynasty belonged to the Sri Vijaya kingdom; they were Buddhists and had cordial relation with the Cholas. However, conflict arose between them when Rajendra I wanted to expand trade with China and considered Sailendra dynasty as an obstacle.

  • The Cholas had the strongest navy in the area and because of its influence in Bay of Bengal, it was called ‘ Chola lake ’.
  • The Chola rulers also sent a number of embassies to China. These were partly diplomatic and partly
  • ‘Tribute’ was the word used by Chinese for all articles brought for trade.
  • The Cholas fought constantly with the Chalukyas who had succeeded the Rashtrakutas. These are called the later Chalukyas and their capital was at Kalyani.
  • One of the remarkable features of the Chola administration was their encouragement to local self-government in the villages all over their empire.
  • The Cholas, Chalukyas, Pandyas and other contemporary empires weakened themselves by continually fighting against each other. Ultimately, they were destroyed by the sultans of Delhi at the beginning of the fourteenth century.

All authority rested in the hands of kings in the Chola empire but he had a council of ministers to advise him.

The Venetian traveller, Marco Polo visited Chola empire.

The basic unit of administration in Chola empire was the nadu   which consisted of  number of villages having close ties.

Nadus were grouped into valanadus.

The Chola state was divided into four mandalams or provinces.

The village government in the Chola empire had two assemblies – ur, and the sabha

The ur was a generally assembly of the village.

The sabha or mahasabha was a gathering of the adult men in the Brahman villages which were called These were villages with Brahman setllements in which most of the land was rent-free. These villages enjoyed a large measure of autonomy.

The Chola rule saw the further growth and the climax of the bhakti movement.

  • Temple architecture in the south attained it climax under the Cholas.
  • The style of architecture which came into vogue during this period is called Dravida, because it was confined largely to south India.
  • The main feature of this style was the building of many storeys above the garbhagriha  ( the innermost chamber where the chief deity resides ).
  • The number of storeys varied from five to seven , and they had a typical style which came to be called the
  • A pillared hall called mandap,   with elaborately carved pillars and a flat roof was generally placed in front of the sanctum. It acted as an audience hall and was a place for various other activities such as ceremonial dances which were performed by the devdasis-the women dedicated to the service of the gods.

Sometimes, a passage ran around the sanctum so that the devotees could go round it. Images of many other gods could be put in this passage.

This entire structure was enclosed in a courtyard surrounded by high walls, which were pierced by lofty gates called

In course of temple, the size of temples rose and they became miniature cities or palaces with living-rooms for priests.

The temples generally enjoyed revenue-free grants of lands for their expenses. They also received grants and rich donations from the wealthy merchants.

Some of temples became so rich that they entered business and lent money. They also spent money on improving cultivation, digging tanks, wells, etc. and providing irrigation channels.

An early example of the Dravida style of temple architecture is the eighth century temple of Kailsanath at Kanchipuram.

However, one of the finest and most elaborate examples of the style is provided by the Brihadiswara temple at Tanjore built by Rajaraja I. This is also called Rajaraja temple because the Cholas were in the habit of installing images of kings and queens in the courtyards of the temples.

After the fall of the Cholas, temple building activity continued under the Chalukyas of Kalyani and the Hoysalas.

Dharwar and Hoysala capital, Halebid, had a large number of temples. The most magnificent of these is the Hoysalesvara temple. It is the best example of what is called the Chalukyan style.

  • Apart from the images of gods and their attendants both men and women ( yaksha and yakshini), the temples contain finely sculputured panels which show busy panorama of life includind dance, music and scenes of war and love. Thus, life was closely  integrated with religion.
  • Statue of Gomateswara at Sravan Belgola was built during this period.
  • The dancing figure of the Siva, called Nataraja, was made during this period.
  • A remarkable feature of this period was the growth of local languages.
  • Saints called Nayanmars and Alwars who were devotees of Siva and Vishnu respectively, flourished in the Tamil kingdoms. They composed their works in Tamil.
  • The writings of Nayanmars which were collected under the name Tirumurai are considered sacred and are looked upon as the fifth Veda.
  • Kamban’s Ramayana is considered a classic in Tamil literature. Kamban is believed to have lived at the court of a Chola king.
  • Though younger than Tamil, Kannada also became a literary language during this period.
  • Many Jain scholars also contributed to the growth of Kannada. Pampa, Ponna and Ranna are regarded as the three gems of Kannada poetry. Alhough they were Jains, they also wrote on Ramayana and Mahabharata.
  • Nanniah beagan the Telugu version of the Mahabharata. The work begun by him was completed in the 13th century by Tikanna.


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