Chola Empire: Cholas ruled the south, mainly the Tamil region, from the 8th–9th century to the 13th century. They continued to face challenges with the Pallavas, Cheras, and Kakatiyas of the north. So did his struggles with the Rashtrakutas, Gangas, and Chalukyas of the west. Although there was a winning-lose streak in these struggles, no one was able to conquer the heartland of the Chola Empire, that is, the far southern region.
The Cholas were one of the most outstanding Indian dynasties. They were superior to others not only for their ability to fight wars and expand empires but also for their sensitivity, governance, patronage of art and architecture, mainly temple architecture and literature. The magnificent Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur and the Gangaikondachola Puram and Airateshwara Temple in Darasuram are unmatched examples of the dozens of temples built by him.
They arose in the ninth century after the defeat of the Pallava kings, and the Chola dynasty remained at the height of its glory for the next three centuries. Karikala Chola was one of the earliest Chola kings. After this, his successors Rajaraja Chola, Rajendra Chola, and Kulothunga Chola carried on this dynasty.
At its height, the Chola Empire captured the whole of South India. In the north, this empire extended up to the Tungabhadra River challenging the Kakatiyas, and in the far south, they briefly conquered Sri Lanka as well.
Magnificent period of the Cholas
The Tamil cultural movement started by the Pallavas under the Cholas reached its zenith and reached the pinnacle of art excellence in this empire. Shaivite kings built many Shiva temples all over South India. The breathtakingly beautiful temples of Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The tall buildings, intricate sculpture, mesmerizing beauty, wonders of engineering and mathematics amaze.
The bronze sculptures in Chola temples, which are removed during festivals, represent anonymous art. The famous Nataraja statue, one of the cultural treasures of India, is one of the splendid gifts of the Chola Empire. It was during the Chola period that Kadamba Ramayana was written. Which is a variant of Valmiki Ramayana. This empire patronized dance, music and other arts generously.
Administration of Chola Empir
The Chola dynasty introduced a system of governance that was unknown at that time. The king was a benevolent ruler. He had a system of council of ministers and bureaucracy to follow written instructions. He ensured that feudal chiefs and feudatories did not get involved in the administration. His job was only to collect taxes and to give a share to the king. The king worked for the farmer through his bureaucracy rather than for the zamindars or feudatories.
The Chola kings were proud of their sense of justice, they did not discriminate among their subjects on the basis of social status. Justice was decentralized. For this, arrangements were made for village courts, royal courts, and caste panchayats. Local and petty disputes were settled at the village level. Fines or donations were taking for charitable purposes. The king used to pronounce judgments on crimes such as treason. And such convicts were givens the death penalty and their property is confiscates.
What is much talked about today, that is, local self-government, was startes by the Cholas. The villages had administrative autonomy, in which the role of the officials was purely advisory. This devolution of powers ensured that the village administration remained unaffected even during political upheavals. The Gram Sabha was classified into tax-paying villagers, Brahmins, and merchants. The king’s officers used to check the accounts and supervise the work of the villagers who paid taxes. The Gram Sabhas received money from the king or his wealthy citizens.
ruler of the distant sea
The Cholas had an efficient army and navy, led by the king or prince himself. The chieftains also helped in times of war. The Chola army consisted of elephants, cavalry, and infantry. The army was dividing into 70 regiments. The Chola Empire started naval history in India. The Cholas controlled both the eastern and western coasts of the southern peninsula and unquestioningly ruled the Bay of Bengal.
The Navy protected merchant ships. These ships carried goods to trade with people from distant lands in Southeast Asia. These areas included the Malay Peninsula, the Indonesian archipelago, and even the South China Sea. Association with the peoples of those countries influenced Hindu culture. Also helped to spread The remains of which can be seens in Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. During the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries, the political and cultural influence of the Cholas dominated Southeast Asia.
Governments in India started the policies of ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ after the colonial period, but the Cholas had started this work a millennium ago. A sad note about our understanding of history.