Indian history: The Chola Empire
(9th cent. AD - 13th cent. AD)
the ninth century, the Pallavas gave way to the Cholas. The Cholas are
noteworthy as the one dynasty of India, which, if only for a while,
adopted a maritime policy, expanding their power by sea, conquering Sri
Lanka and the Maldive islands. The Chola Empire may be said to mark a
climax in south Indian history
empire was founded by Vijayalaya , who captured Tanjore in 850 AD. The
Chola power became solidly established in the reign of Rajaraja (985 AD
- 1014 AD) and his son Rajendra I (1014 AD - 1044 AD). Both these kings
led ambitious conquests, overrunning the Pandya and Chera countries,
conquering Sri Lanka as well as crossing the Ganges and marching across
Kalinga to Bengal. The successors of Rajendra I fought constantly with
the later Chalukyas over Vengi. However, by the 13th century, the Chola
kingdom had exhausted its resources and was on the decline. It succumbed
to an attack by the Hoysalas from the west and the Pandyas from the
south. Local self-government was a remarkable feature of the Cholas
administration. The revenue of the Cholas came from 'tax on land' and
'tax on trade'. Trade was carried on with west Asia, China and Southeast
Asia. The high volume of trade led to the rapid development of towns
from the 11th century onwards.
important than the kings and their conquests is the cultural and
artistic record of those times. The temple was the cultural and social
center, where people used to gather. The courtyard of the temple was
often used as a school. Society was divided into Brahmans and
non-Brahmans. Many of the temples in the south, even now, seem to
resemble citadels where people can defend themselves, if attacked. Life
revolved around the temple. As Brahmanism came into contact with firmly
entrenched beliefs in the power of fertility, the Bhakti cult emerged.
Shiva was worshipped in the form of a lingam (phallic) emblem. During
this period, several regional languages branched off from Sanskrit.
Marathi evolved from the local Prakrit, while Tamil, Telugu and Kannada
stemmed from a Dravidian root, but owed much to Sanskrit.
the Cholas, the 'Dravida' style of temple architecture, exclusive to the
south, attained its most magnificent form. An example is the
Brihadiswara temple at Tanjore, built by Rajendra I. The Chola craftsmen
excelled in making bronze figurines. The Nataraja,
the dancing figure of Shiva, is considered a masterpiece.
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