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Chola Dynasty [ 850 -1279 CE] | History of Chola Dynasty| Notes Ruler and Time Period

Table of Contents:

  • About Chola Dynasty
  • Chola Rulers
  • Important Terminology of the Chola Empire
  • The Administration of the Empire
  • Art and Culture
  • Descriptive Questions
    • Discuss the main contributions of the Gupta period and the Chola period to Indian Heritage and Culture. 
    • What were the qualifications necessary to become a member of a committee of the sabha in the Chola empire?
    • What kind of irrigation works were developed in the Tamil region?
  • What were the activities associated with Chola temples? 

About Chola Dynasty ( 850 CE to 1279 CE):

  • The Chola dynasty was from the time of the Sangam period (300 BCE to 300 CE), although at the end of 300 CE, he lost his region in other states, and became feudal of Pallavas.
  • About 300 CEs, early Cholas completely disappeared from their original land, present northern Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh.
  • Chola kingdom was re-established around 848 CE by Vijayalaya Chola. Therefore, Vijayalay Chola was considered the founder of the Chola empire.
  • The capital of the Chola Kingdom was Tanjore.
  • The great kings of Cholas were Rajaraja and his son Rajendra-I.
  • Chola rulers used Agrahatta ( Persian wheel), which facilitated the smooth irrigation networks of tanks, canals, and wells. 
  • Chola empire was divided into many regions and regions were further divided into Kottams, Nadu, Tehsil, and Village.
  • The Chola dynasty was known for local self-government. Uttiramerur inscriptions provide us a detailed account of the village administration.  
  • Chola was also known for Naval power. They had large standing naval armies. 

Chola Rulers:

The following are Chola rulers :

  • Vijayalaya Chola ( 850 - 870 CE)
  • Aditya I ( 870-907 CE)
  • Parantaka ( 907- 950 CE)
  • Sundara Chola (950 -985 CE):
  • Rajaraja I ( 985-1014 CE)
  • Rajendra I ( 1014-1044 CE)
  • Rajadhiraja ( 1044-1054 CE)
  • Rajendra II ( 1054-1063 CE)
  • Vijarajendra (1063- 1070 CE)
  • Kulottunga I ( 1070-1122)
  • Rajaraja II ( 1146-1173 CE)
  • Rajendra III ( 1256-1279 CE)

Vijayalaya Chola ( 848-870 CE) :

Vijayalaya Chola was the founder of the Chola dynasty. He captured Tanjavur city with the help of Muttaraiyar king, Sattan Paliyilli. It was mentioned in the Tiruvalangadu plates or Tamil Copper-plate inscription. 

He defeated Elango Mutharaiyar, the final ruler of the Mutharaiyar dynasty, and captured Thanjavur. 

Vijayalaya Chola established the Chola dynasty's power by defeating the Pallavas and the Pandyas.

Aditya I ( 870 - 907 CE):

Aditya was the son of Vijayalaya Chola. He expanded the Chola kingdom and consolidated the dynasty's authority.

Parantaka I ( (907-950 CE):

Parantaka defeated the Pandya and Pallava kingdoms and extended Chola's influence over a vast area.

Sundara Chola (950 -985 CE):

Sundara Chola was also known as Parantaka Chola II.

He also encouraged Tamil and Sanskrit literature.

Rajaraja Chola I ( 985-1014 CE):

Rajaraja I also known as Rajaraja the Great.

Rajaraja Chola I expanded Chola territories beyond South India stretching from Kalinda ( Odisha) in the north to Ceylon ( Sri Lanka) in the south. He conquered the Northern part of Ceylon ( Sri Lanka).

Brihadishwara temple in Thanjavur was built by Rajaraja Chola I. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

He helped in the construction of a Buddhist monastery at Nagapattinam.

Rajendra Chola I ( 1014-1044 CE):

Rajendra Chola I was the son of Rajaraja Chola I. He is also known as Napoleon of South India due to his military conquest. 

Rajendra Chola assumed many titles like Gangaikondan, Pandita Cholan, Kadaram Kondan, and Mudikondan. 

He defeated the King of Ceylon ( Sri Lanka), Maldives, Sumatra ( Indonesia), Chalukyas,  and Trans-Ganga kingdoms. 

Rajendra Chola assumed the title of Gangaikonda Chola after the conquest of Ganga Valley. 

He founded the city Gangaikondacholapuram and Constructed the Rameshwaram temple in the city. The Rameshwaram temple of Gangaikondacholapuram was built by Rajendra Chola, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

He built Cholagangam ( a large irrigation tank) on the western side of the city.

The Chola dynasty reached its Zenith during the reign of Rajendra Chola.

Rajadhiraja ( 1044-1054 CE):

Rajadhiraja was the younger brother of Rajendra-I. He served the kingdom with his brother and later ruled as the sole monarch. 

Virarajendra ( 1054-1070 CE):

Virarajendra was the son of Rajendra I. His reign witnessed conflicts with the western Chalukyas and the Chalukyas of Kalyani.

Kulottunga-I ( 1070-1122 CE):

Chola King Kulottunga-I sent a goodwill mission of 72 traders to China in 1077 CE.

Kulottunga I gave complete freedom to Sri Lanka and got his daughter married to the Sinhala prince.

He successfully faced challenges from western Chalukyas, Chalukyas of Kalyani, and Hoysallas.

Rajaraja II ( 1218-1256 CE):

Rajaraja II faced many internal conflicts during his reign. He ruled during a period of decline for the Chola Empire.

Rajendra III ( 1256 -1279 CE):

Rajendra III was the last significant ruler of the Chola dynasty. His reign was marked by continuous conflict and struggles with the Pandyas, Hoysalas, and Chalukyas.

Chola Dynasty continued to rule until the early 14th century.

The following are important terminology of the Chola Empire:

Vetti:  One type of tax, it is a form of forced labor.

Kadamai:  Land revenue

Ur:  Ur was the small settlement of peasants, it is also known as a village; Ur was the general assembly of the village.

Agrahara: It is rent--free village with autonomy. 

Ur Nattam: Ur Nattam was a residential portion of the city.

Kottams:  Group of Nadu

Nadu: Group of village

Movendavelans:  Rich landlord

The Administration of the Empire:

The Chola dynasty was one of the longest-ruling and most influential dynasties in the history of South India.

The administration of the Chola dynasty was well-organized and efficient, and it played a crucial role in the dynasty's success and prosperity.

The following are some aspects of administration in the Chola Dynasty:


The Chola dynasty had a hereditary monarchy, where power was passed down from one generation to the next. The king was considered the supreme ruler and he had absolute authority in all affairs of the kingdom.

Administrative Divisions : 

The Chola kingdom was divided into several regions known as "Mandalams", which were ruled by royal princes.

Mandalas were further divided into smaller administrative units in either Vallanadus or Nadus. 

Each "nadu" were ruled by Nattar. Rich peasants of the Vellala caste exercised considerable control over the affairs of Nadu under the supervision of the central Chola government. The Chola kings gave some rich landowners tiles like "muvendavelan" ( peasant serving three kings) and araiyar ( chief), as markkers of respect, and entrusted them with important offices of the state at the centre.

Each Vallanadu was ruled by a local administrator known as the Valanadu Kariyan or Periyanattar. They were responsible for maintaining law and order, collecting taxes, and overseeing local affairs. 

Nadu was further divided into basic units of administration which was called " Ur" ( Village).

Settlements of peasants were known as "Ur". The "Ur" or village was the basic unit of administration. Due to the spread of irrigation agriculture, ur became prosperous.

The village council and nadu had several administrative functions including dispensing justice and collecting taxes. 

Chola kingdoms had also separate towns or Nagaram administration. It was under the administration of a council called Nagarattar.

Local Administration:

Brahmanas often received land grants or "Brahmadeya", as a result, a large number of Brahmana settlements emerged in the Kaveri valley.

Each "Brahmadeya" was looked after by an assembly or sabha of prominent Brahmana landholders.

Inscription from Uttaramerur in Chingleput district, Tamil Nadu, provides details of the way in which the sabha ( local assembly ) was organized.  The sabha has separate committees to look after irrigation works, gardens, temples, etc. 

Inscription of Uttaramerur provides us workings of Sabha. The following are the eligibilities criteria for members of the Sabha:

  • To become a member of the Sabha, members should be owners of the land from which land revenue is collected.
  • They should have their own homes.
  • They should be between 35 and 70 years of age.
  • They should have knowledge of the Vedas.
  • They should be well-versed in administrative matters and honest.
  • If anyone has been a member of any committee in the last three years, he cannot become a member of another committee.
  • Anyone who has not submitted his accounts, as well as those of his relatives, cannot contest the elections.

Infrastructure and Public Works:

The Chola dynasty invested in the development of infrastructure and public works. They built and maintained a vast network of roads, bridges, irrigation canals, and temples. Many wells were dug and huge tanks were constructed to collect rainwater. 

Revenue Administration: 

The Chola dynasty had a well-organized revenue administration system. The land was classified into different categories based on its fertility and productivity. The revenue officials, known as Amarams or Perumakkal, were responsible for assessing and collecting taxes from landowners. They maintained details records and land and revenue, and their reports were submitted to the central administration.

The following are types of land during the Chola dynasty:

Vellanvagai: Land of Non-Brahman peasant properties.

Brahmadeva: Lands gifted to Brahmanas.

Shalabhoga:  Lands for the maintenance of a school.

Devadana, Tirunamattukheni:  Land gifted to the temple.

Pallichchhandam: Land donated to Jainism.

Military Administration:

The Chola dynasty had a strong military system. The king maintained a well-trained and disciplined army, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and navy. 

The army was under the direct control of the king and was headed by a general known as the Senapati. 

The Navy played a crucial role in maritime trade and defense. 

Judicial Administration: 

The Chola dynasty had an efficient judicial system. The King was the ultimate authority on delivering justice, and he was assisted by a council of ministers and advisors. 

The king appointed judges known as Perumpudavai to administer justice in different regions.

The legal system was based on ancient Tamil Law and customs, and punishment varied based on the severity of the offense. 

Descriptive Questions on the Chola period;


Discuss the main contributions of the Gupta period and the Chola period to Indian Heritage and Culture. ( UPSC General Studies -I, 2022)


The Gupta period and the Chola period were two significant periods in Indian history that made substantial contributions to Indian heritage and culture. Here are the main contributions of each period:

Gupta Period (4th-6th century CE):

Art and Architecture: 

The Gupta period is considered a high point for Indian art and architecture. The Gupta style of sculpture, characterized by its naturalism and grace, reached its peak during this time. The exquisite sculptures found at sites like the Ajanta and Ellora Caves showcase the artistic excellence of the Gupta period.

Literature and Language: 

Sanskrit literature flourished during the Gupta period. Notable literary works, such as Kalidasa's plays and poetry, including "Shakuntala" and "Meghaduta," were composed. This period witnessed the refinement and codification of the Sanskrit language, which played a vital role in the development of Indian literature.

Science and Mathematics: 

The Gupta period saw remarkable advancements in the fields of science and mathematics. The mathematician Aryabhata made significant contributions to mathematics, including the concept of zero, the decimal system, and trigonometry. Astronomy and medicine also witnessed advancements during this period.

Religious and Philosophical Thought: 

The Gupta period was marked by religious tolerance and patronage of various faiths. While Hinduism was prominent, Buddhism and Jainism also received support. Scholars and philosophers flourished, and philosophical schools like Nyaya and Vaisheshika gained prominence.

Chola Period (9th-13th century CE):

Architecture and Temple Building: 

The Chola period is renowned for its magnificent temple architecture. The Chola rulers constructed grand temples, such as the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. These temples exemplify the Dravidian architectural style and are characterized by their towering gopurams (gateways) and intricate carvings.

Maritime Trade and Economy: 

The Chola dynasty had a robust maritime trade network, which extended to Southeast Asia and beyond. The Chola period witnessed extensive trade, particularly in spices, textiles, and precious gems. This maritime trade contributed to economic prosperity and cultural exchange.

Literature and Tamil Language: 

The Chola period saw significant developments in Tamil literature. The Sangam literature, which originated during earlier periods but was curated and expanded upon during the Chola era, reflects the rich cultural heritage and literary excellence of Tamil society.

Music, Dance, and Fine Arts: 

The Chola period nurtured the growth of music, dance, and fine arts. The Devadasi system, where women were dedicated to temples and performed dances, flourished during this period. The bronze sculptures of the Chola era are renowned for their exquisite craftsmanship and are considered masterpieces of Indian art.

Administration and Governance: 

The Chola dynasty established a well-organized and efficient administrative system. The rulers implemented effective governance, including irrigation projects, land reforms, and revenue administration, which contributed to the prosperity and stability of the empire.

Both the Gupta period and the Chola period made significant contributions to Indian heritage and culture. The Gupta period left a lasting impact on art, literature, science, and philosophy, while the Chola period's architectural marvels, maritime trade, and cultural advancements continue to shape the cultural landscape of South India. Together, these periods exemplify the rich diversity and excellence of Indian civilization.


What were the qualifications necessary to become a member of a committee of the sabha in the Chola empire? ( NCERT)


Chola Empire was known for its local administration, which was governed by Sabha. To become a member of a committee of the Sabha in the Chola empire, there was certain qualification, which may be varied depending on the specific context and purpose of the committee. 

However, there were certain general qualifications and criteria that were commonly considered during the selection process. 

The following are some key qualifications necessary to become a member of a committee of the Sabha in the Chola empire:

Caste and Social Status: 

The Chola Empire, like other ancient Indian societies, had a strong caste system. The social status and caste of individuals were important factors in determining their eligibility to hold positions of power and authority. Members of higher castes, such as Brahmins and Kshatriyas, were generally preferred for important administrative roles.


Member age should be between 35 and 70 years of age.

Land and Home: 

All those who wish to become members of the sabha should be owners of the land from which land revenue is collected. They should have their own homes.

Education and Knowledge: 

Members of the Sabha were expected to have knowledge of Veda. They were expected to possess a deep understanding of matters related to governance, law, economy, and other relevant areas. They should be well-versed in administrative matters.

Experience and Expertise: 

Prior experience in administrative or governance roles was considered an asset. Individuals who had served in lower administrative positions or had demonstrated their capabilities in local governance were often considered for committee membership. Expertise in specific fields, such as agriculture, trade, finance, or warfare, could also be valuable depending on the committee's purpose.

Morality, Loyalty, and Trustworthiness: 

Loyalty to the Chola rulers and the empire was an essential requirement. Individuals who had proven their loyalty and demonstrated their commitment to the empire's well-being were more likely to be chosen. Trustworthiness, honesty, and a good reputation were highly valued qualities.

Recommendation and Patronage:

Recommendations from influential individuals, including higher-ranking officials, nobles, or members of the royal family, could significantly influence the selection process. Patronage from powerful figures within the empire often played a crucial role in securing a position on a committee.

Personal Character and Conduct: 

Moral character, integrity, and ethical conduct were expected from committee members. Those with a reputation for fairness, justice, and upholding the law were given preference. Personal conduct and behavior were closely scrutinized, as they were seen as a reflection of an individual's suitability for the position.

It's important to note that these qualifications and criteria may have varied in different periods of the Chola Empire and could also differ based on the specific nature and purpose of the committee.


What kind of irrigation works were developed in the Tamil region? ( NCERT)


During the Chola dynasty, several significant irrigation works were developed in the Tamil region to support agriculture and ensure efficient water management. The Chola rulers were known for their emphasis on irrigation infrastructure, and they undertook extensive projects to enhance agricultural productivity.

The following are some notable irrigation works that were developed during the Chola dynasty:

Grand Anicut (Kallanai): 

The Grand Anicut, also known as Kallanai, is one of the most remarkable irrigation structures built by the Cholas. Constructed across the Kaveri River near Thanjavur, it is considered one of the oldest water-diversion or dam-like structures in the world. River Kaveri branches off into several small channels before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. These channels overflow frequently, depositing fertile soil on their banks. Water from the channels also provides the necessary moisture for agriculture, particularly for the cultivation of rice.

Veeranam System: 

The Veeranam system was another important irrigation work developed during the Chola dynasty. It involved the construction of an embankment across the Veeranam River, near modern-day Chidambaram, to create a reservoir. The water from the reservoir was then distributed through a network of channels to irrigate nearby agricultural lands.

Perumpallam Anicut: 

The Perumpallam Anicut was built across the River Kollidam (a tributary of the Kaveri River) in the present-day Ariyalur district. It was designed to control the river's flow and divert water into irrigation channels. It ensured a regulated water supply for the surrounding agricultural areas.

Uyyakondan Canal: 

The Uyyakondan Canal was a significant irrigation channel developed by the Cholas in Tiruchirappalli. It was designed to divert water from the Kaveri River and distribute it across the fertile lands of the region, ensuring the availability of water for agriculture.

Vennar System: 

The Vennar system comprised a network of tanks, channels, and weirs built along the Vennar River in the present-day Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts. These structures facilitated water storage, regulated the river's flow, and channeled water for irrigation purposes.

These irrigation works demonstrate the Chola dynasty's commitment to agriculture and their advanced engineering skills in harnessing water resources. The development of such extensive irrigation infrastructure significantly contributed to the prosperity and agricultural productivity of the Tamil region during the Chola period.


What were the activities associated with Chola temples? ( NCERT)


Chola temples were not just places of worship but also served as important centers for various activities that encompassed religious, cultural, social, and economic aspects of the society.

The following are some of the activities associated with Chola temples:

Religious Worship: 

The primary purpose of Chola temples was to serve as sacred spaces for religious worship. Devotees visited the temples to offer prayers, perform rituals, and seek the blessings of the deities. Priests and temple staff conducted daily worship ceremonies, known as puja, and performed elaborate rituals on special occasions and festivals.

Festivals and Processions: 

Chola temples were known for hosting vibrant festivals and processions that attracted large gatherings of devotees. These festivals often included religious rituals, music, dance performances, processions of deities on chariots or palanquins, and other cultural celebrations. The most famous temple festivals included the annual Brahmotsavam at the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur and the Natyanjali Dance Festival at the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram.

Cultural Performances: 

Chola temples were patronized as centers of art and culture. They supported various forms of artistic expression, including music, dance, and drama. Musicians, dancers, and actors performed devotional songs, classical dances (such as Bharatanatyam), and theatrical plays within the temple premises. Temple sculptures and murals also depicted scenes from mythology, serving as visual expressions of artistic and cultural heritage.

Education and Learning: 

Chola temples played a significant role in education and learning. Temples established and maintained schools and centers of learning known as "gurukuls" or "Madams." These institutions imparted knowledge in subjects like Vedas, scriptures, philosophy, music, dance, and other traditional arts. Scholars and teachers associated with the temples provided educational guidance to students.

Economic Activities: 

Chola temples had large lands, which generated income for temple maintenance and the welfare of devotees. These lands were often cultivated by tenant farmers, and the temple administration managed agricultural activities. Temples also received donations of wealth, jewelry, and livestock from devotees, further contributing to their economic resources.

Social Welfare: 

Chola temples played a role in social welfare activities. They provided food and accommodation to pilgrims and travelers, especially during festivals and religious gatherings. Temples also served as centers for charitable activities, distributing alms to the poor, supporting education, and providing healthcare services to the community.

Administrative and Judicial Functions: 

Temples had their own administrative systems. They appointed officials to manage temple affairs, maintain records, and handle financial matters. Some larger temples even had their own courts to address disputes related to land, property, and temple administration.

These activities associated with Chola temples highlight their significance beyond religious practices. They were vibrant cultural and social hubs that fostered art, learning, and community welfare, contributing to the overall prosperity and cultural heritage of the Chola Empire

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