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The Chola Dynasty

The Chola dynasty was one of the longest-ruling powers in world history which were the Tamil dynasty in southern India. In the third century BCE, the Cholas rose into the power of Tamil territory. This is evident in the inscription of Ashoka the Great (Ashoka Major Rock Editict No. 1) of the third century BC which mentions three crown kings of Tamilakam such as the Cheras, Pandya, and Cholas. The Chola dynasty was able to maintain control over various regions of southern India until the thirteen century AD. The early Cholas have left their real evidence in the Sangam literature. It mentions all the kings and princes of the Chola dynasty since 300 BCE to the medieval Cholas.

There had two type of Cholas existed in the Dynasty; Karikala Cholas and Kocengannan Cholas. They control their kingdom from two capital city; Urayur (now in Thiruchirapalli) and Kaveripattinam. A Chola king was known as Elara. After the Sangam age (after 300 BC) Cholas was beaten by the Pandyas and Pallavas and they captured the Tamil country. An unknown dynasty, Kalabhras, attacked the country and displaced the existing empires and ruled for around three centuries.

Ancient South India, Chola Dynasty Map

(Red Bordered areas were under the Chola Ruler)

After 6th century the Pallavas and the Pandyas regained the century. But there was a little known of Cholas during the succeeding three centuries until the attainment of Vijayalaya in 850 AD. Around 850 AD, Vijayalaya rose in power and he rescued the Chola Dynasty from Pandyas and Pallavas and captured yhe capital city Thanjavur and established the line of the medieval Cholas. After 9th century, Cholas became strongest dynasty of the southern India and they control a wide range of region in total southern India and the surroundings state. Under the king Rajaraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I, the empire became powerful in the field of army, finance and culture in South Asia and South-east Asia. The Pandyas in south India rose to the position of a large power that expelled the Hoysala Dynasty who was partners of the Cholas from Tamil country and subsequently causing the end of the Cholas themselves in 1279 AD.

Chola Rulers

Cholas became most influential and powerful dynasty after 9th century. The great King Aditya I beaten the Pallavas and the Pandyas and captured their kingdoms country in 885 AD, he was succeeded by his son Parantaka I, who dominated the ruler of Sri Lanka, Ilangai, in 925 AD, Parantaka Chola II recovered their lost area from the Rashtrakutas and extended the kingdom up to Bhatkal in Kannada country. After that Rajaraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I the two great king of the dynasty, expanded the kingdom outside the traditional limits of a Tamil State, from the Sri Lankan island in the south to the Godavari-Krishna River basin in the north with the Konkan coast in Bhatkal, the total Malabar Coast including Lakshadweep, Maldives and huge range of Chera Empire. There was a series of battle occurred between The Chola king Kulothunga Chola III and Chalukyan king from 1185 AD to 1190 AD and Chalukyan capitals Badami, Manyakheta or Kalyani were captured by Cholas.

Throughout the reign from 1150 AD to1280 AD, the ruler of Pandya and the ruler of Kalinga who were under the control of Chola Dynasty tried to regain their independent and they jointly attacked the Cholas. The last great ruler of Chola Dynasty Kulottunga Chola III had beaten Hoysalas under Veera Ballala II in Karuvur. After that, he started a marital relationship with Veera Ballala II (Ballala got married with a Chola princess) and made a friendly relationship with Hoysalas. Under Rajaraja Chola III and later his son Rajendra Chola III, were quite weak to control the constant problem in administration system. The Pandyas had risen to a great power and drove out the Hoysalas who were partner of the Cholas and many other local king rose in power and declared himself as independent, thus the Chola Dynasty gradually had loses their control. At least in 1279 AD the Chola Dynasty had lost the total control of south India.

Cholas Architecture and Literature

The Cholas had a good architectural sense and it is found today in different place of south India. They built a number of Siva temples alongside the banks of the river Kaveri. The Airavateswara temple at Darasuram is a traditional example of Chola art and architecture. Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola I had established two temples in Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. The superb Siva temple of Thanjavur was completed around 1009 AD; it was a great achievement of the time of Rajaraja. The largest and tallest of all Indian temples of its time was the temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram which was created by Rajendra Chola in around 1030 AD.

During the reign from 850 AD to 1200 AD was the golden age of Tamil culture basically on literature. Many great Hindu, Jain and Buddhist writers flourished in this time. Jivaka-chintamani by Tirutakkatevar and Sulamani by Tolamoli are two great books by non-Hindu writer. The great Hindu writer Kamban flourished during the reign of Kulothunga Chola III. His Ramavatharam is a great epic in Tamil literature was translating version of the Sanskrit epic Ramayna into Tamil language. Jayamkondar's masterwork Kalingattuparani is an example of narrative poetry. This explains the events during Kulothunga Chola I's war in Kalinga. The famous Tamil poet Ottakuttan served at the courts of three of Kulothunga's successors written by Kulothunga Cholan Ula.