The rule of the Cholas forms an important part in the history of South India. Chola rule saw remarkable progress in almost all spheres of life such as polity, culture and economy. During the 9th century, the Cholas gained control and overthrew the Pallavas. They primarily ruled in the south of India from the 9th to 13th Century.
The Indian Chola Empire conquered not just the south of India but also extended their empire over the sea and ruled parts of the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The founder of the kingdom of Cholas was known by the name of Vijayalaya who conquered the kingdom of Tanjore during mid 8th century.
By the end of the 9th century, the Cholas firmly established their empire and exercised control over the south of India. This was during the reign of Rajaraja and his son Rajendra l. They had trade relations with west Asia, China and Southeast Asia that aided in enormous development of cities during the 11th century.
Architecture and art was at its peak during the reign of the Cholas. The local administration system of the Cholas was amazing and reminds us of the modern day Pahchayati raj.[divider]
The Cholas had ruled as chieftains in Tamilnadu since the first century A.D.towards the middle of the 9th century, Vijayalaya (846-871) conquered Tanjore and declared himself the ruler of an independent state. Even more important was Parantaka I (907-955) who conquered the land of the Pandyas but suffered defeat at the hands of a Rashtrakuta King.Chola power became solidly established in the reign of Rajaraja I (985-1014) and his son and successor
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Rajindra I (1014-1044).
Rajaraja‘s policy of annexation was influenced by the consideration of trade. He began by attacking the alliance between Kerala, Ceylon and the Pandayas in order to break their monopoly of western trade. To eliminate Arab competition in trade particularly in South-east Asia he tried to bring Malabar under his control.
He later led a naval expedition against the Maldive islands which had assumed importance in the Arab trade. The Cholas although unable to strike directly at the Arab trade caused havoc in Ceylon with a devastating campaign when the existing capital Anuradhapura was destroyed and the Cholas moved the capital to Pollonnarua. The conflict over the rich province Vengi resumed between the Cholas and the later Chalukyas.
Rajendra’s Most impressive work was the overseas campaign against the kingdom of Shri Vijaya on order to protect Indian commercial interests in south-east Asia and southern China. The campaign was successful and for a while Indian ships and goods passed without interference through Shri Vijaya territory. This permitted a steady improvement in the commerce of south India and better communications with the Chinese to whom Kulottunga (1070-1118) sent an embassy of 72 merchants in 1077.
The Chola Kingdom had exhausted its resources and was on the decline in the 13th century when it succumbed to an attack by the Hoysalas from the west and the Pandyas from the south. The new kingdoms were to last till the Turkish sultans overthrew the existing dynasties in the Deccan in the 14th century.[/box]
The Chola kings ruled their kingdom with the help of a council of ministers and of officers who were in charge of various branches of administration. Local self-govt was a remarkable feature of Chola administration.
The village was the basic unit of administration. Chola officials participated more as advisors and observers. The villages had a village assembly or council known as the Ur or Sabha. Villagers who owned land or belonged to the upper castes were chosen by lot to the councils.
The council was often divided into a number of small committees and each committee would look after an aspect of the village administration. The revenue of the Chola kingdom came from two sources-taxes on land and taxes on trade. Land tax was generally assessed at one –third of the produce. The actual collection of revenue was done by the village assembly. The intermediary or sometimes a govt officer collected the taxes and passed on the govt’ share. Often a part of revenue was assigned to a temple.[divider]
Commerce flourished under the Cholas. Trade was carried on with West Asia and China and South-east Asia. Trade with China reached unprecedented volume during these centuries. Foreign trade provided an additional incentive to an already developing local market.
Controlled by merchant guilds the high volume of trade led to the rapid growth of towns from the 11th century onwards. There was also a marked increase in the number of Chola coins that were minted as compared to those of earlier dynasties in this region.[divider]