History of Chola Dynasty and List of Important Facts:

Chola Dynasty:
The Cholas were a dynasty of ancient India. The Tamil Chola rulers in South India and other nearby countries built a very powerful Hindu kingdom between the 9th century and the 13th century. The Chola Empire emerged in the 9th century and controlled most of the southern peninsula. The Chola rulers had also conquered Sri Lanka and they also had rights over the Maldive islands. For some time their influence was also on Kalinga and Tungabhadra doab.

They had a powerful navy and were able to establish their influence in South East Asia. The Chola Empire was undoubtedly the most powerful empire in South India. After overcoming their initial difficulties, the Chola rulers not only provided a stable administration, but also gave great encouragement to art and literature, for nearly two centuries, i.e. till the middle of 12th AD. Some historians are of the opinion that the Chola period was the 'Golden Age' of South India.

History of Chola Dynasty (Empire):
The Chola Empire was founded by Vijayalaya, who was initially a feudal chieftain of the Pallavas. He captured Tanjore in 850 AD and attacked the Pandya kingdom. The Cholas had become so powerful by 897 that they defeated the Pallava ruler and killed him and took control of the entire Taund Mandal. After this the Pallavas merged with the pages of history, but the Chola rulers had to fight a terrible struggle against the Rashtrakutas.

Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna III defeated the Chola emperor Parantaka I in 949 AD and took control of the northern region of the Chola Empire. This shocked the Chola dynasty, but after the death of Krishna III in 965 AD and the fall of the Rashtrakutas, they once again stood up.

List of rulers of the dynasty:

  • Urvappahre Ilan Jet Chenni
  • Karikaal
  • Vijayalaya (850 to 875 AD)
  • Aditya (Chol dynasty) (from 875 to 907 AD)
  • Parantaka I (from 908 to 949 AD)
  • Parantaka II (from 956 to 983 AD)
  • Rajaraja I (from 985 to 1014 AD)
  • Rajendra I (from 1014 to 1044 AD)
  • Rajadhiraja (from 1044 to 1052 AD)
  • Rajendra II (from 1052 to 1064 AD)
  • Veer Rajendra (from 1064 to 1070 AD)
  • Adhirajendra (till 1070 AD)
  • Kulottunga I (from 1070 to 1120 AD)
  • Vikram Chola (from 1120 to 1133 AD)
  • Kulottunga II (from 1133 to 1150 AD)

Urvappahre Ilan Jet Chenni:
Urvappahre Ilan Jet was the first ruler of the Chenni Chola dynasty. He had established his capital at 'Uraipur'. He had marital relations with the Valir dynasty. He was famous for his beautiful chariots used in battle.

Karikala was an important ruler among the Chola rulers. It has been called 'the one with burnt feet'. This imperial expansionist ruler gained fame in the early years of his rule by defeating the combined army of 'Bellari' and eleven other rulers at a place called 'Vani'. His second important success was defeating the combined army of nine small rulers of 'Vahapparnalai'. Thus Karikala had subdued the entire Tamil region by the might of his arms. During his reign the rulers of the Pandya Empire and the Chera dynasty became insignificant. According to Sangam literature - Karikala established 'Puhar Pattan' (Kaveripatnam) at the mouth of river Kaveri.

Vijayalaya (850-875 AD) built it around 850 AD in the middle of the 9th century. revived the Chola power. Vijayalaya is also considered the second founder of the Chola dynasty. Initially the Cholas were feudatories of the Pallavas. Vijayalaya freed the Chola Mandal from the subjugation of the Pallavas and began to rule independently. He snatched Tanjore (Thanjavur) from the rulers of the Pandya Empire and made it the capital of his kingdom in place of 'Uraiyur'. Vijayalaya assumed the title of 'Narkesari' to commemorate the victory of Tanjore.

Aditya I (Chola Dynasty):
Aditya I (875-907 AD) was the son and successor of Chodaraja Vijayalaya. After Vijayalaya, Aditya I ascended the throne of the Chola dynasty in about 875 AD. Around 890 AD, he defeated Pallavaraj Aparajitvarman and annexed Tondamandalam to his kingdom. He gave military assistance to the Pallava king Aparajit in the struggle against the Pandya king 'Vargun'.

On the strength of this military support, King Aparajita emerged victorious in this struggle, but in the course of time, Aditya I, under his empire's expansionist ambition, defeated Aparajita in a battle and killed him and thus the Pallava kingdom became the possession of the Cholas. Till the death of Aditya I, the entire district of Kalahasti and Madra in the north and Kaveri in the south had come under the rule of the Cholas.

Parantaka first:
Parantaka I (907-953 AD), ascended the throne of the Chola dynasty after the death of Aditya I. He attacked the Pandya king Raj Singh II and captured Madurai, the capital of the Pandyas. To avenge this defeat, the Pandya king fought against Parantaka after receiving military assistance from the ruler of Sri Lanka. At the time when Parantaka was engulfed in the war of the far south, the Pallava clan of Kanchi tried to restore its lost glory. But the Cholaraj crushed him badly and in future the Pallavas never tried to rise again.

Rashtrakuta king Krishna III (940–968) embarked on a victorious journey to face this new enemy of the south and brought Kanchi once again under the Rashtrakuta Empire. But Krishna III was not only satisfied with the conquest of Kanchi, he also proceeded to the south and attacked Tanjore, which was at this time the capital of the Chola kingdom. After Parantaka I, 'Gandaraditya' (953 to 956 AD), Parantaka II (956 to 973 AD) and 'Uttam' were the rulers of the Chola dynasty respectively. Parantak was the second best among them.

Parantaka II:
Parantaka II (956-973 AD) was also known as 'Sundarachola', the ruler of the Chola dynasty. He defeated the then Pandya ruler 'Veer Pandya' in the field of Chebur.

Rajaraja I:
The son and successor of Rajaraja I (985–1014 AD) or Arimolivarman Parantaka II, succeeded Parantaka II on the throne of the Chola dynasty. The 30 years of his rule were the most glorious years of the Chola Empire. Following the 'policy of iron and blood' of his grandfather Parantaka I, he assumed the title of 'Rajaraj'.

Rajendra I:
Rajendra I (1014-1044 AD) The son and successor of Rajaraja I ascended the throne of the Chola dynasty in 1014 AD. Rajendra, like his father, was of imperialistic tendencies. The correct information about his achievements comes from 'Tiruvalangadu' and 'Karandai inscriptions'. In the beginning of his conquest, he defeated the Western Chalukyas, Pandyas and Cheras. After this, in a campaign against the Sinhala (Sri Lanka) state in about 1017 AD, he defeated the ruler Mahendra V and took the entire Sinhala state under his control. The Sinhalese king Mahendra V was kept as a prisoner in the Chola kingdom. This is where he died in 1029 AD.

After the Sinhala conquest, Rajendra Chola used a huge Hasti army to conquer the North East Indian territories. An important feat of Rajendra I's strategic campaigns was the crossing of the Ganges river to reach Kalinga and Bengal. The Chola armies defeated the Eastern Ganga ruler Madhukamanava in Kalinga. Probably this campaign was led by Vikram Chola in 1022 AD. On the success of the campaign of Ganga valley, Rajendra I assumed the title of 'Gangaikondachola' and in memory of this victory built a new capital named 'Gangaikondachola' near the Kaveri bank.

Rajadhiraja I (1044–1052 AD), was the son of Rajendra I and the de facto heir to the kingdom thereafter. His power was mainly used to quell the rebellions that took place from time to time in his vast empire. In particular, the kingdoms of the Padya, Chera dynasty and Sinhala (Sri Lanka) tried to become independent during the reign of Rajadhiraja, but were severely crushed by the Cholarajas. His first conflict was with the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani. Rajadhiraja defeated the then Chalukya king Someshwar I Ahavamalla and captured the Chalukya capital Kalyani. On the occasion of this victory, Rajadhiraja took the title of 'Vijay Rajendra' by getting his 'Veerbhishek' done.

Rajendra II:
Rajendra II (1052–1064 AD) was the second son of the Chola emperor Rajendra I (1014–1044 AD) and the younger brother of Rajadhiraja (1044–1052 AD). In the battle of Koppam, when Rajendra II's elder brother was killed by Rajadhiraja Kalyani's ruler Someshwar Ahavamalla, Rajendra II took his brother's crown on his head on the battlefield and continued the war. The title of Rajendra II was 'Prakesari'. The Chola-Chalukya conflict was at its peak even during his time. Rajendra II defeated the Chalukya army at Kundalasangam. Someswara I committed suicide by drowning in the river after being defeated in the battle of Kundalasangam. He married his daughter to the Eastern Chalukya king Rajendra.

Veer Rajendra:
After the death of Rajendra II, his younger brother Veer Rajendra ascended the throne. In about 1060 AD, he defeated his traditional enemy Western Chalukyas in the field of 'Kudalsangamam'. To commemorate this victory, Veer Rajendra got a Vijaystambh established on the banks of Tungabhadra river. In another campaign against the Western Chalukya Empire, another Vijayastambha was erected at 'Kardig Village' to commemorate the victory of Kampilnagar. Veera Rajendra started a new chapter of relations with the Western Chalukyas by marrying his daughter to Vikramaditya VI, the younger brother of Someswara II, who was against Someswara II.

After the death of Veer Rajendra, Adhirajendra (1070 AD) ascended the throne of Chola. Adhirajendra was the descendant of Parantaka. He was unable to keep the power of the Chola Empire intact. Adhirajendra was a follower of Shaivism and used to hate the famous Vaishnava teacher Ramanuja so much that Ramanuja had to leave Srirangam and go elsewhere during his reign. During his reign, rebellions started everywhere and fighting against these, he died in the first year of his reign. With his death the Chola dynasty founded by Vijayalaya came to an end. Taking advantage of this turbulent situation, Kulottunga I sat on the Chola throne. The later Chola history is known as Chola-Chalukya dynasty history.

Kulottunga I:
Kulottunga I (1070–1120 AD) was one of the most powerful rulers of the Chola dynasty. He had displayed amazing valor in the task of establishing order in the Chola Empire. Before this, the ruler Adhirajendra had no children, so the Chalukya king Kulottunga I of Vengi was placed on the throne of the Chola kingdom. He was the son of a Chola princess. But during the reign of Kulottunga, the power of the state remained largely intact. He defeated the Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI of the south. It is mentioned in the 'Vikramankadevcharita' of Villana. In 1075-76 AD, Kulottang defeated the Kalachuri ruler Yashkarnadev and in 1100 AD the Kalinga king Anantvarma Chodagan.

Vikram Chola:
Vikram Chola (1120–1133 AD) was the son of Kulottunga I. After the death of his father, he ascended the throne of the Chalukya Empire. After the death of Vikramaditya VI, Vikram Chola again took control of Vengi. Around 1133 AD, he defeated the Western Chalukya king Someshvara III. Vikram Chola was of a completely opposite tendency to the principles and ideals of his father. He was a religiously intolerant person. Vikram Chola had given immense donations to the Nataraja temple of Chidambaram. He had assumed the titles of 'Aklak' and 'Tyag Samudra'.

Kulottunga II:
Kulottunga II (1133–1150 AD) was the son of Vikram Chola. He was appointed the next king of the Chola dynasty after his father. Kulottunga continued the work of expanding the Chidambaram temple and gilding the Pradakshinapatha. This ruler of the Chola dynasty threw the idol of Govindaraja located in the Chidambaram temple in the sea. This ruler had no political achievements. Kulottanga II and his feudatories patronized 'ottakuttan', 'shekkilar' and 'kambala'. Kulottanga had built the 'Kamporesvara Temple' at 'Tirubhuvan' near Kumbakonam.

Major taxes levied during the Chola period:

Ayam Revenue tax
Marmajjadi Tree tax
Kadmai Betel nut tax
Manairai House tax
Kadaiirai Tax on business establishments
Pevir Oil tax
Kidakashu Male livestock tax
Kadimae Tax
Padikaval Village security tax
Vasalpiramam Door tax
Engrossed Business tax
livelihood livelihood tax

Characteristics of Chola Period Temples:

The specialty of Chola temples is visible in their vimanas and courtyards. Their shikharastambhs are small, but the gopurams are highly ornamented. The early Chola temples are works of simple plan but with the increase in the power and resources of the empire, the size and influence of the temples also changed. The most famous and influential of these temples is the Rajarajeshwara temple built in Tanjore by Rajaraja I, the Gangaikondacholeswara temple built by Rajendra I at Gangaikondacholapuram. The Chola era is also famous for the beauty of its bronze statues.

Among them the idols of Nataraja are the best. Apart from this many other forms of Shiva, Brahma, Saptamatrika, Vishnu with Lakshmi and Bhudevi, Rama and Sita with his acolytes, Shaiva saints and Krishna performing Kaliyadaman are also notable.

Important facts about the Chola Dynasty (9th to 12th century):

  • The first information about the Cholas comes from the Ashtadhyayi by Panini.
  • Other sources of information about the Chola dynasty are - Katyayana's 'Vartika', 'Mahabharata', 'Sangam Sahitya', 'Periplus of the Erythrian Sea' and mention of Ptolemy etc.
  • The Chola kingdom extended up to the modern Kaveri river valley, Coromandel, Trichanapali and Tanjore.
  • This area kept on increasing and decreasing according to the power of its king.
  • This state did not have a single permanent capital.
  • Based on the evidence, it is believed that their first capital was 'North Manlur'.
  • Later on, Uraiyur and Thanjavur became the capital of the Cholas.
  • The official symbol of the Cholas was the tiger.
  • The Chola kingdom is also famous by names like 'Killi', 'Balavan', 'Sogbidas' and 'Nenai'.
  • Various kings ruled it at different times by making 'Uragpur' (present 'Uraiyur', 'Trichanapali' near 'Tanjore' and 'Gangakonda', 'Cholpuram' (Puhar) as their capital).
  • The ancient history of Cholamandal is not clearly known.
  • It was frequently attacked by the kings of the Pallava dynasty, and considered it a suitable area for expansion of their kingdom.
  • The Chalukya kings of Vatapi also continued to invade it while traveling in the south direction.
  • This is the reason, till the middle of the ninth century, the history of Cholamandal is not of special importance, and there has not been any such majestic king, who was particularly capable in the flourishing of his kingdom.
  • The salient feature of the Chola rule is the beautiful and successful amalgamation of highly efficient local autonomous institutions with a well-organized bureaucracy.
  • There were various collective organizations for different parts of local life which worked in collaboration with each other.
  • The Chola emperors were worshipers of Shiva but their policy was of religious tolerance. He also donated to Buddhists. Jains also practiced and propagated their religion peacefully. The Tamil religious texts of the bygone era began to be worshiped like the Vedas and their creators came to be considered as gods. Nambi Andar Nambi first compiled the Shaiva scriptures during the reign of Rajaraja I.
  • The Chola kings dug wells and ponds to facilitate irrigation and built reservoirs (dams) surrounded by stone dams to stop the flow of rivers. Karikala Chola built a dam on the river Kaveri. Rajendra I dug a lake near Gangaikonda-Cholpuram whose dam was 16 miles long. Arrangements were made to fill it with water from two rivers and stone systems and canals were built to use it for irrigation. For the convenience of traffic, paved Rajpaths and Ghats were also built on the rivers.
  • It is known from the inscriptions of the Chola dynasty that the Chola kings established schools (Brahmapuri, Ghatika) for the study of Sanskrit literature and language and made appropriate donations for their arrangement. But in Sanskrit literature, from the point of view of creation, the reign of the Cholas is of little importance. Some of his inscriptions, which are in Sanskrit, are below the Tamil inscriptions in style. Nevertheless, Venkata Madhava's famous commentary on the Rigveda is a creation of the reign of Parantaka I. Keshavaswamin had created a dictionary named Nanartarnava Samsamsha on the orders of Rajaraja II.

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History of Chola Dynasty FAQs:

The Chola kings patronized Shaivism, a major sect of Hinduism devoted to the worship of the god Shiva. The Chola dynasty was known for its strong association with Shaivism and the Chola kings played an important role in the promotion and development of Shaiva traditions, temples and religious practices.

The capital of the Chola Empire remained at Thanjavur for several centuries, where notable rulers such as Rajendra Chola I and Rajendra Chola II ruled.

The most glorious king of the Chola dynasty who conquered Sri Lanka was Rajendra Chola I. He was the son of Rajaraja Chola I and ascended the throne in the 11th century CE. Rajendra Chola I was an ambitious and successful ruler who expanded the Chola Empire to its zenith.

The Chola Empire was founded on the ruins of the Pallava dynasty of Kanchi.

Chola ruler Rajaraja I first conquered Sri Lanka. Rajaraja I defeated the Sinhala king and destroyed Anuradhapura and got control over the northern part of the Sinhala island.

  Last update :  Sun 22 Jan 2023
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