Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chola Dynasty

The Chola dynasty was one of the powerful dynasties who ruled some parts of South India for a long period. The most popular Chola king was Rajaraja Chola who became famous not only due to his rule spread across the entire South India and even beyond India, but also due to the magnificent Brahadeeswarar temple he built in Tanjore.

The period of the Chola dynasty can be majorly classified into four parts:
1) Tamil Sangam period
2) The period between Sangam age and the beginning of Vijayalaya Chola's rule
3) The period of Vijayalaya Chola and his successors (9th century AD onwards)
4) The period of Chalukya-Chola king Kulothunga Chola and his successors (the later part of 11th century AD to mid of 13th century AD)

Apart from the four major classifications mentioned above, there were many princes who claimed that they belonged to Karikala Chola's dynasty. However, there is no proper historical proof for those claims. Even two centuries before Vijayalaya Chola's rule, there were Telugu Cholas who ruled the regions of Kadappa, Karnool and Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh state.

Since Sangam period, the Cholas claimed that they belonged to the Sun dynasty. They continued to claim this in their stone inscriptions in the later period also.

Apart from the old Tamil poems, the references about Cholas are found in many old books and ancient inscriptions of other regions too. Asoka's rock edicts have references to Cholas. As per the ancient book named 'Periplus' authored by Greek merchant of Alexandria (81-96 AD), the Cholas had Puhar and Uraiyur as their capital cities. The 2nd century historian Talami has written about various Chola cities and ports. The 1st century AD book 'The questions of Milind King' and several other ancient Buddhist books have references to Chola cities and ports.

As per the Sangam literature, the Chola kings used to wear Aththi (Bauhinia) flowers. It is considered as the symbolic garland for Chola kings.

The Sangam period Chola kings ruled the country from Uraiyur and Kaveripoompattinam. During the period between Sangam age and the beginning of Vijayalaya Chola's era (the dark age of Tamil Nadu), when the Cholas were merely small princes under the rules of Pallavas and others, Pazhaiyarai was their capital. It had a prominent position even during the period of later Cholas. Tanjore and Gangai Konda Cholapuram served as the capital cities for later Chola kings.