Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 87


Chola Empire under Rajendra Chola c. 1030 CE

Sep 17, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Cholas

Today we begin the final dynasty in our Middle Kingdoms series -- the Cholas.

'The Early Cholas of the pre- and post-Sangam period (300 B.C. – 200 A.D.) were one of the three main kingdoms of ancient Tamil. Their early capitals were Urayur and Kaveripattinam. Along with the Pandyas and Cheras, Chola history goes back through great ages of time.

Ancient Tamil Nadu contained three monarchical states, headed by kings called Vendhar and several tribal chieftaincies, headed by the chiefs called by the general denomination Vel or Velir. The names of the three dynasties – Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras – are mentioned in the Ashoka Pillar inscriptions, among the kingdoms, which though not subject to Ashoka, were on friendly terms with him.

The king of Kalinga, Kharavela, who ruled around 150 B.C., mentioned in the famous Hathigumpha inscription of the confederacy of the Tamil kingdoms that had existed for over 100 years. Karikala Chola was the most famous early Chola. He is mentioned in a number of poems in the Tamil Sangam literature.

The Medieval Cholas rose to prominence during the middle of the 9th century A.D. and established the greatest empire South India had yet seen in the Middle Kingdoms era. By the 9th Century, under Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, the Cholas rose as a notable power in south Asia. The Chola Empire stretched as far as Bengal, spanning at its peak almost 3,600,000 km2 (1,389,968 sq mi).

Rajaraja Chola conquered all of peninsular South India and parts of the Sri Lanka. He navies went even further, occupying coasts from Burma (now Myanmar) to Vietnam, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Sumatra, Java, Malaya in South East Asia, and the Pegu islands.

He defeated Mahipala, the king of Bengal, and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital and named it Gangaikonda Cholapuram.

Brihadeshwara Temple - Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

The Cholas excelled in building magnificent temples. Two of the most magnificent examples of Chola architecture are the Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur and the great Chidambaram Temple in the heart of the temple town by that name.

The Medieval Cholas and Chalukyas, the other major power of that time, were continuously in conflict over the control of the Vengi kingdom, and this conflict eventually exhausted both empires and brought about their decline. The Chola dynasty merged into the Eastern Chalukyan dynasty of Vengi, through decades of alliances, and at the end of this period came under one ruler – Kulothunga Chola I.

Chidambaram Temple - Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu

The Later Chola dynasty ruled the Chola Empire from 1070 A.D. until the demise of the empire in 1279. This dynasty was the product of decades of alliances based on marriages between the Cholas and the Eastern Chalukyas based in Vengi and produced some of the greatest Chola emperors, such as Kulothunga Chola I (1070–1120 A.D.).

The extent of the Chola Empire during this period stretched from the island of Lanka to Kalinga in the northeast. The Empire also had active political and trade contacts with the maritime kingdoms of the Malay Archipelago and China.'


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