This is the story about the Chola Dynasty which is believed to have originated from the fertile valley of the river Kaveri. By the turn of the 8th century, there were three prominent kingdoms of the South, the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Cholas who were considered to be the most powerful of the three.
The History of Chola Empire
The year 985 saw one of the greatest kings of Southern India ascend the throne, Rajaraja Chola I also known as Rajaraja, the Great, who defeated the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi, the Pandyas of Madurai and the Gangas of Mysore. His campaign of expansion included the capture of Sri Lanka, which remained under the Chola rule for 75 years. He also conquered the islands of the Maldives and even sent missions to Indonesia.
Being an able administrator and a great lover of architecture, he commissioned the building of the magnificent temple of Tanjore. The temple is named ‘Rajarajeshwar’ after him.
Rajendra Chola, the heir and son of Rajaraja Chola I, took over the kingdom after his father’s death and was an able ruler, just like him. His greatest achievement included the conquest of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Rajendra Chola then later attacked the Western Chalukyas and their allies. He conquered lands right upto the banks of the river Ganga. From the holy river, he collected the sacred water in golden pots and poured it into a tank he called Chola Ganga. He then adopted the title of Gangaikonda, which means Victor of the Ganga.
The period under his reign came to be known as the Golden Age of the Cholas. Art, music, dance, poetry, drama, sculpture, painting, philosophy and religion, all reached new heights. Temples were the center of all activities where the courtyard served as a school for students who were taught ancient Vedas and scriptures. It was also built to be used as a shelter by the people in case of an emergency.
This was also a time of religion and the worship of Lord Shiva increased in popularity. The Tamil language received great encouragement and many beautiful works of Tamil literature came about during this period. The famous poet Kamban lived during this period and his work ‘Ramavatharam’ is one of the greatest epics of Tamil literature.
The Cholas continued to lay much emphasis on architecture. Magnificent temples were built, the Brihadiswara temple at Tanjore is a prime example. Another famed art form of the time, were the carved bronze statues. The Natraja and the Ardhanarishwara are famous examples of this art form.
Following Rajendra’s rule, three of his sons and one grandson succeeded him. Thereafter, a new line of Chalukya-Cholas ascended the throne. The Eastern Chalukyas and the Cholas had inter-married through the generations and thus a new clan was born. Rajendra Chola’s daughter was married to the Chalukya Prince, Vimaladitya.
One of the Chalukya-Chola rulers was Rajendra II, an Eastern Chalukyan prince, who called himself ‘Kulottunga’ or ‘Star of the Dynasty.’ Under his rule, Sri Lanka gained independence from the Chola Rule. His reign was of peace and prosperity. Trade with Southeast Asia flourised, with many diplomatic missions sent to China.
Around the year 1118 however, the Chalukya-Chola rulers lost control of Vengi to the Western Chalukya king, Vikramaditya VI. The future Chola kings all faced trouble in one way or the other. They were constantly assaulted. By the thirteenth century, the Pandyan monarchs were gaining strength. The Chola Dynasty shrank to the region around Tanjore and soon came to an end when the last Chola King, Rajaraja III died.
- The earliest of the Cholas date back to which time period?
- Apart from capturing foreign lands such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia, which other countries did the Cholas have a hold on?
- The history of the Cholas falls into four periods. What are those four periods called?
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