Chola Dynasty


    In News

    • A recently released film has focused on a fictional account of the 10th-century Chola dynasty.
      • Cholas are known for their progressiveness, the architectural marvels and temples, the social setup of the time, and how cities were named after women.

    The era of the Cholas

    • Region of power:
      • The Chola kingdom stretched across present-day Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
        • It is one of the longest-ruling dynasties in world history. 
        • Geographical extent:
          • The heartland of the Cholas was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River. 
          • They unified peninsular India, south of the Tungabhadra, and held it as one state for three centuries.
          • The Chola territories stretched from the Maldives in the south to the banks of the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh as the northern limit.
        • Capital and important centres:
          • Their early capital was at Thanjavur and later on at Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
          • Kanchipuram and Madurai were considered to be regional capitals in which occasional courts were held.
    • Foundation of the dynasty:
      • The dynasty was founded by king Vijaylaya, described as a “feudatory” of the Pallavas. 
      • Despite being a relatively minor player in the region among giants, Vijaylaya laid the foundation for a dynasty that would rule a major part of southern India.
      • Under Rajaraja I and his successors Rajendra I, Rajadhiraja I, Rajendra II, Virarajendra, and Kulothunga Chola I, the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural powerhouse.
    • Contemporaries:
      • As one of the Three Crowned Kings of Tamilakam, along with the Chera and Pandya, the dynasty continued to govern over varying territories until the 13th century CE
      • During the period of the Cholas (around the 9th to 12th century AD), other powerful dynasties of the region would also come and go, such as 
        • The Rashtrakutas of the Deccan who defeated the Cholas, and 
        • The Chalukyas of the Andhra Pradesh region whom the Cholas frequently battled.
    • Society under the Cholas:
      • Agriculture & canals:
        • There was tremendous agrarian expansion during the rule of the imperial Chola Dynasty all over Tamil Nadu and particularly in the Kaveri Basin. 
        • Most of the canals of the Kaveri River belong to this period.
      • Trade:
        • While the extent of this domination is disputed, the Cholas had strong ties with merchant groups and this allowed them to undertake impressive naval expeditions.
      • A strong army and navy: 
        • One of the biggest achievements of the Chola dynasty was its naval power, allowing them to go as far as Malaysia and the Sumatra islands of Indonesia in their conquests. 
          • The domination was such that the Bay of Bengal was converted into a “Chola lake” for some time.
        • The dynasty became a military, economic and cultural powerhouse in South Asia and South-East Asia.
        • Maintaining a strong army and naval resources made sense for the Cholas, because, The period from 9th to 10th century was a violent time, where kingdoms would go to war with each other frequently.
    • Art & Culture:
      • Temple architecture:
        • The Cholas built their temples in the traditional way of the Pallava dynasty, who were themselves influenced by the Amaravati school of architecture. 
        • The maturity and grandeur to which the Chola architecture had evolved found expression in the two magnificent temples of Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram.
        • Brihadeeswara temple:
          • The grand Brihadeeswara temple of Thanjavur, built by the Cholas, was the largest building in India in that period.
          • This temple carries on its walls the engraved evidence of the elaborate administrative and financial procedures concerning the day-to-day administration of the temple.
        • Airavateswara temple:
          • The Airavateswara temple at Darasuram near Thanjavur built during the reign of Rajaraja II is a magnificent structure typical of the stage of architectural development reached in the 12th century CE. 
      • Sculptures: 
        • The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes.
        • Artworks and sculptures were commissioned by Chola kings and queens, including the famous bronze Nataraja idols
        • Chola period bronzes were created using the lost wax technique.
          • [Earlier, the Rashtrakutas had built the Kailasanatha temple in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad — the largest monolith structure (carved from a single rock) of its time.]
    • Blots in the Chola history:
      • The Chola rulers sacked and plundered Chalukyan cities including Kalyani and massacred the people, including Brahmans and children.
      • They destroyed Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of the rulers of Sri Lanka.

    Source: TH