The Chola Dynasty Of South India: A Time Of Great Artistic And Cultural Flourishing.

The Chola Dynasty Of South India: A Time Of Great Artistic And Cultural Flourishing.

The Chola Dynasty

Until the 13th century, Southern India was ruled by the Chola dynasty. It was the most powerful and effective dynasty, lasting almost 1500 years. The Kaveri River’s rich valley, which stretches from the north banks of the Godavari River to the southern islands of the Maldives, was home to this dynasty. The Chola empire significantly impacted Indian history by leaving behind a vast legacy. During this time, Tamil culture flourished, including incredible works of art, magnificent architecture, extensive inscriptions, literature, and sculpture. Irrigation, rural self-government, and administration were all well-organized during their leadership.

The Cholas were vivacious and courageous warriors who grew their empire through savvy diplomacy, powerful military might, and amicable alliances with regional sultans to establish supremacy and power.

Map of Chola EmpireSource: Wikimedia Commons

Background And History

Inscriptions left by the Maurya empire in the third century BCE contained notable references to the Chola dynasty, which had its beginnings at an unknown time. Inscriptions, religious texts, and literature from the Sangam period all mention authentic proof of the earliest Cholas. The Sangam literature includes names of poets, rulers, princes, and tales in addition to a detailed portrayal of Chola’s life and work. One of the earliest kings, Karikala Chola, engaged in war and triumphed at Venni.

Karikala Chola is well-known for building the magnificent Anaikut dam, which is 330 meters long and 30 meters wide.

There have been many foreign conquests that have benefited the Cholas. They took control of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sumatra, Bali, Java, Sri Lanka, and the Malay Peninsula through many naval operations. The founder of the subsequent Chola dynasty was Kulothunga Chola 1. The Hoysala empire overthrew the later Cholas because their dominance was less significant than its rivals. The demise of the Chola dynasty began when they were beaten by Maravarman Sundara Pandiyan II in 1216. However, they had been recovering from the fall by regaining the provinces of Vengi and Gangavadi from the Hoysalas.

Statue of Karikala CholaSource: Wkimedia Commons

The Chola Dynasty’s Top 8 Cultural Triumphs

The Cholas, one of the greatest dynasties to rule Southern India, significantly impacted Tamil culture and Indian history.

Thanjavur’s Brihadeshwara Temple

One of India’s most outstanding architectural examples is the renowned Brihadeshwara Temple, or Thanjai Periya Kovil or Peruvudaiyar Kovil. The Lord Shiva-dedicated Dravidian-style temple is situated in Thanjavur along the banks of the Kaveri River.

This temple, erected between 1003 and 1010 CE by the great Chola ruler Rajaraja I, exhibits the dynasty’s grandeur, elegance, and culture. The temple’s architecture is brilliantly crafted with minute details, which makes it an impressive achievement considering that it was built more than a thousand years ago.

The temple’s inscriptions state that Kunjara Mallan Raja Rama Perunthachan was the architect. The Brihadeshwara Temple, regarded as one of the most prominent Hindu temples and known as the Great Living Chola Temple, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thanjavurs Brihadeshwara TempleSource: Pixabay

Shiva’s Dancing Figure

The world-famous dancing representation of Shiva, or Nataraja, is thought to have reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Chola empire in South India during the Middle Ages. They were devoted followers of Lord Shiva, and most of their temples were devoted to him. He was shown in a variety of divine capacities. The most well-known was the Shiva Nataraja, or dancing Shiva, which later became a sign of Chola’s dominance.

Today, the National Museum in New Delhi houses this lovely bronze sculpture from the 12th century alongside other Chola bronzes.

Shiva's Dancing FigureSource: Pixabay

Casting In Chola Bronze

The reign of the Cholas is also remembered as a time when art was highly valued and attained new heights. They were renowned for their sculptures and temple construction, particularly bronze sculptures.

The Chola bronzes were created using lost-wax casting, also known as Cire Perdue, which ensured that each sculpture was unique. It involves pouring hot metal into a wax model, which is “lost” throughout the process and is thought to have been practiced for the first time around 5,000 years ago. During the Chola era, this style gained popularity and produced several significant works, like the Nataraja sculpture.

Chola Bronze StatuesSource: Wikimedia Commons

Periyapuranam & Kamba Ramayanam

The Chola kings supported Tamil academics and authors while promoting literature. As most of the works dealt with religion, the time was called the holy period of literature. The Chola era saw the lives of several notable Tamil poets, including Kalladanar, Kambar, Pugalandhi, Ottakoothar, Sekkizhar, Avvaiyar, and Thirutakkadevar
The Periyapuranam by Sekkizhar and the Kamba Ramayanam by Kambar are two of the most renowned works of the time, among many others. Kamba Ramayanam is a version of the Ramayana composed based on Valmiki’s Ramayana. Periyapuranam is a Tamil poetic account describing the lives of the sixty-three Nayanars, the canonical poets of Tamil Shaivism.

KambarSource: Wikimedia Commons

Periyapuranam Chola Temple Jewelry

The temple jewelry started in the Chola kingdom, maybe in the ninth century. As its name implies, it was a decoration for gods and goddesses statues and was often worn by royalty. It is thought that the jewelry became more well-known when temple dancers and followers started donning cheap imitations in the same styles.

These large, artistic pieces of gold jewelry feature representations of gods and goddesses as a way to honor and respect their idols.

The Temple In Gangaikondacholapuram

Between AD 1023 and 1036, in the Tamil Nadu area of Ariyalur, Rajendra oversaw the construction of the Gangaikondacholapuram temple. The hamlet of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, which functioned as the capital for over 250 years, inspired the temple’s name.

Since Rajendra Chola’s rule, the stone temple, which features a stunning example of Chola art and construction, has served as a living history of the empire. Additionally, the temple contains many sculptures that were brought as war trophies from regions like Andhra, Karnataka, and Bengal. The Chandesa Anugraha Murthy and Saraswathy statues are the most exquisite ones in the temple.

The Temple In GangaikondacholapuramSource: Wikimedia Commons

Sarees Made Of Kanjeevaram Silk

The famous Kanjeevaram silk sarees are renowned for their vibrant colors, temple-inspired patterns, and intricate zari work. It is named for the city of Kancheepuram, ruled by numerous empires, including the Pallavas and the British, and is where it is made.

Weavers from Saurashtra were reportedly invited by the great Chola monarch Rajaraja I to reside in Kanchipuram and set up looms. But it was simply a regional, specialized skill before developing into a booming business under Krishna Deva Raya, the Vijayanagara Empire’s emperor.

Kumbakonam’s Airavatesvara Temple

Rajendra II, a Chola emperor, constructed the Airavatesvara temple in Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, in the 12th century. The temple honors Shiva as Airavata, the white elephant that belonged to the ruler of heaven, Indra.

Like the Gangaikondacholapuram temple, Airavatesvara is a work of beautiful stone carving that serves as a gallery of art and architecture. Due to the amount of detail, it is terrific, even though it is smaller than the Brihadeswara or the Gangaikondacholapuram temples.

The Cholas and their rule represent a spectacular era in medieval history that witnessed a significant cultural explosion and an expansion of civilization. It means a time of rapid development and an extraordinary period to reflect on and learn from.

Kumbakonams Airavatesvara TempleSource: Wikimedia Commons

About The Author

Rajika Nanayakkara

My name is Rajika Nanayakkara and I am a passionate writer with a deep love for ancient history. With a keen eye for detail and a natural curiosity, I have dedicated myself to exploring the mysteries and wonders of the past. Through my writing, I seeks to bring the stories of ancient civilizations to life, providing a glimpse into the rich and fascinating world of our ancestors. My writings has been featured through

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