Chola Dynasty: The Empire that dominated for over 1550 years


The Cholas emerged as a dominant power in South India. They rose to an imperial position. The core region of their control was Cholamandalam, an area around Thanjavur up to the eastern coast of Coromandal. Their earlier conflicts beyond the Tungabhadra were with the declining Rashtrakutas and later its successors, a revived branch of Chalukyas known as Later Chalukyas, from AD 850 to 1200. They were able to rise their power up to Western Deccan.

The Cholas were generally aided in their conflicts by the Eastern Chalukyas. Both the dynasties grew close to each other by marital alliances. Thanjavur was captured by Vijayalaya, who was perhaps a Pallava feudatory at that time. It was conquered at around AD 850 from Muttarayar, an ally of Pandyas. Vijayalaya established a Durga temple. These were the stepping stones of the Chola power. However, the Chola country established by Vijayalaya was invaded by Varagunavarman II who was a subordinate ally of the Pallava. The invasion was up to Idavai on the north bank of Kaveri and a camp was set up on the banks of Pennar.

An-early-silver-coin-of-Uttama-Chola-found-in-Sri-Lanka-showing-the-tiger-emblem-of-the-Cholas.In-Grantha-TamilAditya I was the son and the successor of Vijayalaya Chola. He was defeated by Aparajita, a Pallava and was not allowed to keep what his father has taken from Muttarayar. Hence he planned to overthrow his Pallava overlord and invaded Tondaimandalam. In the battle that followed he killed Aparajita. This was the end of Pallava rule in Tondaidad and the whole of Pallava kingdom became Chola territory which bordered on that of Rashtrakutas. Aditya I is said to have built temples of Shiva on both the baks of the Kaveri River. He died at Tondaimanad near Kalahasti and was succeeded by his son Parantaka I AD 907.

Parantaka I was one of the most prominent ruler of the Chola Dynasty. He ruled for almost half a century. His reign is recognized by the conquest of the Pandyan territory and capital Madurai. Thus he assumed the title ‘Maduraikonda’ (Capturer of Madurai). The campaign against the Pandyas brought him closer to Sri Lanka, as the Pandyan ruler at that time Maravarman Rajasimha II sought for aid from Ceylon ruler Kassapa V. The ensuing hostilities lasted for several decades. Parantaka was successful able to resist the invasion of Krishna II who was assisted by Banas and Vaidumbas.

The later part of Parantaka’s rule saw defeat at the hands of the Rashtrakutas. He was defeated by Krishna III in the battle of Takkolam (AD 949) and the Rashtrakutas succeeded in occupying the northern half of Chola Empire.

After the death of Parantaka I there was a political confusion for about 30 years. There was a series of weak rulers from AD 955 to 985. The immediate successor of Parantaka I was his son Gandaraditya. Gandaraditya’s brother had a short reign from AD 956 to 957 and was succeeded by his son Sundara Chola also known as Parantaka II. Uttama Chola was the son of Gandaraditya. He conspired to murder Aditya II, who was the son of Parantaka II and who was made the yuvraja. This conspiracy of Uttama Chola compelled Paranataka II to recognize Uttama Chola as the heir apparent in preference to his own younger son – Arumolivarman. Uttama Chola was however defeated by Taila II Chalukya at AD 980.

A bronze statue from Chola DynastyThe Cholas were able to reestablish firmly after the accession of Arumolivarman, who later became Rajaraja I in the middle of AD 985. The Chola Empire grew under him into an extensive empire well equipped with army and resources. Rajaraja held a campaign against the Cheras in Kerala, Sri Lanka and the Pandyas. He also conducted a naval attack on the Maldive Islands. The campaigns destroyed the capital Anuradhapura and Polonnaruva became the capital of a Chola province. He also conquered parts of modern Mysore.

Rajaraja installed his son Rajendra I as yuvraja in AD 1012. Rajendra completed the conquest of Ceylon. He led a triumphant march through the territories of Pandya and Kerala and made one of his sons the viceroy of both the territories. He also defeated the Western Chalukya. He led a military expedition to the Ganga Valley and established Gangaikonda Cholapuram as a new capital. Rajendra further sent a naval expedition to Sri Vijaya, a powerful maritime kingdom that ruled over the Malayan peninsula, Sumatra, Java and the neighbouring islands.

Rajadhiraja I, the son of Rajendra I ascended the throne on AD 1044.He suppressed the rebellions in Pandya, Kerala and Ceylon and carried out expeditions to restore Chola power in Vengi. He defeated Western Chalukya at Dannada. He invaded the territory of Western Chalukya and defeated the enemy in Pundur Battle. Rajadhiraja assumed the title of ‘Vijayarajendra’. Rajendradeva II, the younger brother of Rajadhiraja became the king after his death. Rajendradeva faced challenges by Somesvara who tried to invade the Chola territory. Rajendradeva was aided by his son Rajamahendra and his brother Virarajendra. Soon after occurred the deaths of yuvraja Rajamahendra and his father Rajendradeva II and thus Virarajendra ascended the throne and came in negotiations with Vijayaditya Chalukya.

Kolottunga II was the son of Rajaraja Narendra of Vengi and Chola princess Ammangadevi. He united the throne of Vengi with that of Cholas.


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