The Chola Empire was the first feudatory of the Pallavas of Kanchi which was founded by Vijayalaya. The Cholas have left behind fantastic architectural pieces and culture. It certainly had left behind a long lasting legacy. It is due to them that we see some great temples and buildings in Tamil Nadu. Also they contributed immensely to the Tamil Literature.The king went on regular tours to ensure efficient administration.

chola-dynasty-map (1)

The Chola Empire was divided into Mandalams (provinces). These Mandalams were further divided into Valanadus (districts). The tax on the land was collected by the village assemblies. The village assemblies were responsible for maintaining tanks used for agricultural prosperity.  There are three types of village assemblies. These were the ur, sabha or mahasabha and nagaram. The ur was the assembly of common villagers. The sabha was the assembly of learned Brahmins. The nagaram was the assembly of merchants, traders and artisans. The Uttarmerur temple inscription gives a detailed description of the functioning of these assemblies. There were provisions of land survey, Classification of various types of lands and assessment of land revenue. Chola rulers built a network of roads for the purpose of trade and communication.

Economy and Society

There were two famous guilds of merchants which flourished for more than 300 yrs. These were Manigramam and Nandadesa. South Indian merchants called Chettis traded with countries of Arabia, Persia, China and the countries of South East Asia. Women were held in great honour and enjoyed freedom. They were imparted education in various branches of learning and fine arts. Each temple had an attached Math, which provided free education, food, clothing and boarding to the students.


Adi shankara was born in Kerala around 788 A.D. He became well versed in Vedas and other religious scriptures at very early age. He kept moving all over the country preaching his philosophy and debating with the learned scholars. The philosophy of him is known as advaita meaning non-dualism. He organised ten branches of advaita philosophy and established four mathas, namely, the Jyotirmatha at Badrinath in the north, saradapitha at Dwarka in the west, Govardhanamatha at puri in the east and shringerimatha at Kerala in the south. Each math is said to have a gotra, presiding deities both male and female and Vedic mahavakya. The location of these maths show that Adi shankara was looking at India as one religious and cultural unit. Ramanuja was born at Tirupati around 1017 A.D. He tried to assimilate Bhakti to the traditions of Vedas. He made the study of Vedas more popular. Madhava preached Bhakti towards Lord Krishna. In south India Nagapattnam and Kanchi were also the famous centres of Buddhist learning.

Art and Architecture
The Chola temples show the culmination of a particular style of temple architecture known as Dravidian style. These are marked by the square vimana in pyramidal shape, mandapa, gopuram and halls with profusely decorated columns. The most famous temple of this period was the Brihadeswara temple at Tanjore, also known as Rajarajeswara temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Starting during the late Pallava period, the Bronze sculpture reached heights of glory during the Chola rule. The image of the Nataraja (the lord of dance) from Tanjore is a masterpiece of the Chola bronze sculpture.


In the southern parts this period saw the flourishing of Sanskrit literature. One of the works is philosophical commentaries of Shankara. Another important Sanskrit work of this period is Bilhana’s Vikramankadevacharita, a biography of the Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI. However, this period is more important for the growth of literature in Dravidian languages. Sanskrit and Tamil were the mediums of expression.

Canada and Telugu also developed during this period and made popular by Bhakti saints. Nripatunga wrote a great work of poetry in Kannada called the Kavirajamarga. For a few centuries, the Kannada literature was deeply influenced by Jainism.  Pampa wrote the Adipurana and the Vikramarjuna-Vijaya, the former dealing with the life of the first Jain Tirthankara and the later based on the Mahabharata. Poona wrote the Shantipurana, a legendary history of the sixteenth tirthankara.

Another great Kannada writer was Ranna, a contemporary of Pampa and Poona. Two of his famous works are the Ajitapurana and the Gadayuddha. So Pampa, Poona and Ranna are known as the three jewels of the early Kannada literature. Kamban wrote the Ramayanam in Tamil. In Tamil, this was the period of composition of the great hymns of the Alvars and the Nayannars. The hymns of the Alvars are collected into the Nalayira-Divya Prabandham. Some of the Nayannar works are the Thiruvasagam, the Thirumanairam and the Thiruttondattogai.

The Mahabharata and the Ramayana were translated into south Indian languages. Silappadikaram and Manimekalai were the epics occupy a high place in Tamil literature and are revered like Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Telugu also produced great religious and secular literature in this period. This included the translations of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, works of grammar, science and other secular literature. Nannaya was among the first Telugu poets, who translated the Mahabharata into Telugu and also wrote on Telugu grammar. Literature in Malayalam also started growing.

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  1. Anand says :

    Sir its very good article. Thanks for this.


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