The Cholas are known as one of India’s longest governing dynasties. A new civilization emerges throughout this period of the timeline, and art reaches new heights. The temples from this era and their writings are still used as evidence today. The Cholas were one of the dynasties with the longest reigns in world history, governing for more than 1,500 years. The Chola Dynasty, one of the greatest to rule Southern India, made a significant amount of contributions to both Tamil culture and Indian history.
Chola Dynasty – Origin
The Cholas’ rule began in the ninth century after they overthrew the Pallavas and gained control of the region. Up to the 13th century, this norm persisted for more than five lengthy centuries. The state of Andhra did, however, have a Chola kingdom that flourished all over the world about the second century. The Sangam literature first appeared in the early years of Chola reign. One of the important kings of this time was Kantaman. The Cholas experienced unprecedented growth and power during the Middle Ages. Kings like Aditya I and Parantaka I ruled during this time. Rajaraj and Rajendra Chola continued to extend the dominion into the Tamil region beyond this point. Later, Kulothunga Chola seized control of Kalinga to impose a strict regime. This splendor persisted till the Pandyas arrived in the early 13th century.
Chola Dynasty – Rulers & their contribution
The Chola Dynasty was founded by Vijayalaya Chola. He established one of the most illustrious empires in Indian history after conquering the Tanjore Kingdom in the eighth century. Thus, Tanjore was chosen to serve as the legendary Chola Empire’s first capital.
Aditya I and his successor took control of the Chola Empire after Vijayalaya Chola’s rule. It was referred to as the Medieval Chola period and was renowned in particular as the era of Chola dominance and growth.
|Name of Chola Rulers (Kings)||Period of Rule||Contributions|
|Vijayalaya Chola||848–891 AD||Establisher of the Chola Empire. Earned the name Parakesarivarman
He constructed the Narttamalai, Pudukkottai, solesvara temple.
|Aditya I||870 – 907 AD||He was the Vijayalaya’s son, who expanded Chola dominions by eradicating the Pallavas and taking over the Western Ganga Kingdom. Along the banks of the Kaveri, 108 Shiva temples were constructed by him.|
|Parantaka Chola I||907-950 AD||Took the name Parakesarivarman, who conquered Sri Lanka and Madurai, Maduraiyum Elamum Konda Parakesarivarman. The most prosperous period of his rule was characterized by rising success and wealth.|
|Gandaraditya Chola||950-957 AD||The monarch referred to as “Merkey elundarulina devar” or “the king who was glad to move west” He had composed a Tamil hymn about the Chidambaram Temple’s Siva.
He was a reluctant ruler who placed more of his attention on his religious activities than on expanding his realm.
|Arinjaya Chola||956-957 AD||He was also known as Arikulakesari, Arikesari, and Arindama. Whether Arinjaya genuinely succeeded Gandaraditya or whether Arinjaya governed in his own right is a subject of some controversy among historians. We don’t have a lot of epigraphic information on Arinjaya’s rule at our disposal.|
|Sundara Chola||957-970 AD||Known as Parantaka Chola II and Madhurantakan Sundara Chola. Both Tamil and Sanskrit literature were promoted under his rule. He is praised as a parton of letters and of Buddhism in the Buddhist treatise on Tamil grammar known as Virasoliyam.|
|Uttama Chola||970-985 AD||He was the cousin of Parantaka II and the legendary Sembiyan Mahadevi’s son.|
|Rajaraja Chola I||985-1014 AD||One of the biggest Hindu temples was built by him: the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur. Thirumurai, a compilation of the writings of the Tamil poets Appar, Sambandar, and Sundarar, was assembled and edited during his rule.|
|Rajendra Chola I||1012-1044 AD||In honor of his triumph over Mahipala, the Pala monarch of Bengal and Bihar, he constructed a new capital city called Gangaikonda Cholapuram. One of India’s largest man-made lakes, measuring sixteen miles long and three miles wide, was created by him.|
|Rajadhiraja Chola||1044-1054 AD||He retained Chola sovereignty over most of Lanka, including Vengi and Kalinga. He sacrificed a horse, earning the title Jayamkonda Cholan (The Victorious Cholan). He also went by the name Vijaya Rajendra Cholan (the victorious Rajendra Cholan). Additionally, he adopted the name Jayangonda Chola.|
|Rajendra Chola II||1054-1063 AD||He is most known for his involvement in the Battle of Koppam with his elder brother, when following his brother’s death in 1052, he made a dramatic shift toward the Chalukyan King Someshvara I.|
|Virarajendra Chola||1063-1070 AD||He was one of the most underappreciated Chola rulers, largely because he spent the majority of his life serving as Rajadhiraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola II’s underling. Buddhamitra wrote the renowned Tamil grammar book Virasoliyam around this time.|
|Athirajendra Chola||1070-1070 AD||His reign was characterized by civic instability, possibly religious in nature.|
|Kulothunga Chola I||1070-1122 AD||He was given the name Kulottunga, which means “exalter of his race” in literal terms. Famous poet Jayamkondar Jayamkondar, who composed the poem Kalingattu parani to honor Kulottunga’s military successes One of his court’s treasures was Chola. He established Chola rule over Malaysia’s Sri Vijaya province of Kedah.|
|Vikrama Chola||1118-1135 AD||He was a passionate follower of Siva and gave generously to the Chidambaram temple. Tyagasamudra, also known as the ocean of sacrifice, adopted the title of Vikrama Chola.|
|Kulothunga Chola II||1133-1150 AD||His rule was characterized by widespread peace and sound administration. He also went by the name Tirunirruchola.|
|Rajaraja Chola II||1146-1173 AD||He started work on the renowned Airavateswarar Temple at Darasuram, close to Kumbakonam. The chola navies did continue to command both the eastern and western seas under his reign.|
|Rajadhiraja Chola II||1166-1178 AD||He had raised flower beds all over the place, as was well known. Witnessed the local chieftains and feudatories during his reign.|
|Kulothunga Chola III||1178–1218 AD||He defeated the Hoysalas, the Pandyas of Madurai, the Cheras of Venad, the Sinhala kings of Eelam (Ceylon), as well as the Chodas of Velanadu and Nellore. He took the initiative to commission the Tribhuvanam, close to Kumbakonam, Sarabeswara or Kampahareswara temple, which is regarded as a fine example of Dravidian architecture. In the Chidambaram Siva Temple, he constructed the verandah surrounding the enclosure (prakara harmya), the gopura of Goddess Girindraja (Sivakami), and the mukha-mandapa of Sabhapati.|
|Rajaraja Chola III||1216–1256 AD||During his rule, the Chola had largely lost control of the areas south of the Kaveri River, and their hold on the Vengi territories in the north was eroding as the Hoysala empire began to develop.|
|Rajendra Chola III||1246–1279 AD||Pandyas demolished the fort and the temple’s outer wall at Gangaikonda Cholapuram during his rule.|
Prominent Pillars of the Chola Empire
Vijayalaya established the Chola Empire. Taking control of the Tanjore kingdom in the eighth century, he defeated the Pallavas to pave the way for the great Cholas to ascend. As a result, Tanjore became the founding capital of the illustrious Chola Empire.
Aditya I took over as the empire’s emperor after Vijayalaya. He overthrew King Aparajita, and during his rule, the empire grew very powerful. Along with the Vadumbas, he subdued the Pandya Kings, establishing authority over the Pallavas’ dominance in the area.
He succeeded Rajaraja Chola, a powerful ruler. The first person to visit the Ganges riverbanks was Rajendra I. He was referred to as the Ganges Victor in popular culture. He was given the title “Gangaikonda” and his new empire’s capital was known as Gangaikondacholapuram. The Cholas’ “golden age” is thought to have occurred at this time. The kingdom saw a widespread collapse after his reign.
Chola Dynasty – Culture & Roots
During the Cholas’ rule, society and culture underwent significant transformations. The temple served as the primary location for all social and religious gatherings throughout this time. Holy Scriptures and the ancient Vedas were taught to students in this area’s surrounds, which served as a community school for the local population. Additionally, during periods of conflict and political unrest, this location was safe. At this period, Brahmins and Non-Brahmins had separate social strata. Many gods and goddesses were revered, with Shiva being a well-liked symbol of steadfastness for the devout. The Trimula deity in the Sri Venkateshwara temple has connections to the Chola Empire. The Chola Empire’s religious foundations date all the way back to this period. The Srirangam temple is considered to be a high point of this time period. It spent ages submerged in water before being restored to its former splendor.
During this time, literature, religion, and the arts all profited significantly. A number of Shiva temples were constructed along the Kaveri river’s banks. Among all the temples in India at the time, Thanjavur continues to be the largest and tallest. Even now, the natural color paintings that adorn the Tajore Brihadeeswara temple are a visual feast. UNESCO has designated some of these locations as World Heritage Sites. These consist of the Airavatesvara, Gangaikondacholisvaram, and Brihadisvara temples. During this era, sculpture and artistic creation reached their pinnacles. Bronze statues of gods and goddesses like Shiva, Vishnu, and Lakshmi serve as a shining reminder of this time period. Another significant high point of this time period was literature. Not only did devotional literature develop during this time, but Jain and Buddhist texts also received notice and acclaim. Even today, literary experts enjoy the well-known Nalayira Divya Prabandham, a collection of 4000 Tamil poetry from this time.
Chola Dynasty – Administration and Governance
The Cholas brought the entire southern region under the control of a single governing body while they were in power. A stable monarchy was maintained by the Cholas. The Tiruchirapalli, Tiruvarur, Perambalur, Ariyalur, Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai, Vridhachalam, Pichvaram, and Thanjavur districts of Tamil Nadu made up the Chola Empire. Here, the enormous kingdom was divided into mandalams, or provinces. For each mandalam, separate governors were in control. These were further divided into tehsil-based districts known as nadus. During the Chola era, the political structure was such that each village functioned as a self-contained political entity. The Cholas were fervent supporters of poetry, literature, drama, and art; the government was seen funding the building of several temples and complexes that featured sculptures and paintings. The king continued to serve as the principal decision-maker and executor of rule.
As a result, the Cholas and their rule represent a spectacular era in medieval history that witnessed a significant cultural explosion as well as an expansion of civilization and its meaning. It represents not just a time of rapid development but also a wonderful period to reflect on and learn from.