[Sangam-Age] Chola: Architecture, administration, Conquests & 1000th year of Rajendra-1 Chola’s Coronation

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  1. 3-Southern Kingdoms: Chola, Chera, Pandya
  2. Imperial Chola
  3. Rajendra-1 (1000th Year of coronation, 2014)
  4. Chola Architecture
  5. Chola society and administration
  6. Chola patronized Buddhism
  7. Mock Questions

Chola, Chera, Pandya

On 3rd Nov 2014, Indian navy celebrated the 1000th Anniversary of Rajendra Chola’s coronation, hence topic becomes important for CSAT-2015.

Main Dynasties of Sangam Age
Dynasty Territory Features
  • Capital: Uraiyur and later Tanjor
  • Southern Andhra Pradesh to Northern Tamilnadu
  • Emblem: Tiger
  • Karikala defeated Chera, Pandyas and other chillar kingdoms.
  • Capital: Vanji
  • Modern Kerala
  • Emblem: Bow
  • Began Pattini Cult for worshipping Kannagi.
  • Capital: Madurai
  • Southern Tamilnadu
  • Emblem: Carp
  • King Neduncheliyan has executed Kovalan. The Curse of Kovalan’s wife Kannagi- destroyed Madurai in fire.

Map Chola Empire Chera Pandya kingdoms

Imperial Chola

“Sangam Chola” became weak at the end of Sangam Age. But King Vijayala captured Tanjore, and began the new line of “Imperial Chola”. Notable Imperial Chola Kings were Rajaraja-1 and his son Rajendra-1.


  • He Defeated Chera and Pandya Kings.
  • He Extended Chola empire all the way to Tungabadhra river.
  • He built the famous Brihadeshwara Temple at Tanjore (Saivism) and patronized a Buddhist monetary at Nagapattinam.

Rajendra-1 (1000th Year of coronation, 2014)

  • Rajendra-1 took away Madurai from Pandya Kings and Keral territories from Chera Kings, and appointed his son as Viceroy of this region.
  • He annexed Northern Sri Lanka and Maldives using his mighty navy, and even abducted Sri Lankan King Mahinda V.
  • He sent a naval expedition to Malay Archipelago – to teach a lesson to Sri Vijaya Empire because they were obstructing Chola trade with Chinese.
  • He sent a military expedition towards Northern India, defeated many chillar kings above Ganges river Odisha and Bengal, and updated his facebook profile status to “Gangai Kondan”.
  • To further celebrate these victories and upload its photos on twitter, he built a city “Gangai-Konda-Cholapuram city” and Rajesvaram temple (Saivism) in it.
  • His successors were weak, ultimately Cholas were reduced from “Kings” To “local Chieftains”

Chola Temple Architecture

Chola Architecture

Cholas followed the architecture style of Pallavas and constructed numerous temples throughout their territory. Nagaesh-wvara, Brihadesh-wvara and Airavatesh-wara temples in Tanjore-Thanjavur region represent the zenith of Chola architectural style.

Notable features of Chola Temple Architecture
Material Started using stones instead of bricks.
Walls & Passages have neatly detailed frescoes, sculptures and paintings- including birds, dancing figures, pictorial stories from Puranas
Portraits Some of the Chola temples contain beautiful life-sized portraits of kings and queens. e.g. Rajaraja I and his queen lok-mahadevi, Rajendra I and his queen Chol-mahadevi.
Garbhagriha chief deity room
Vimana the 5-7 storeys above chief deity room. In Brihadeshwahra temple- 13 successive storeys.
Shikhara above the Vimana (Storeys). Rajarajeshwara temple has Shikhara stone weighing almost 90 tonnes. Since they didn’t have cranes to lift it, architects built a 4 km long inclined path to drag the stone over the top.
.Vs Pallavas
  • Although Chola continued the art tradition of Pallavas, but abandoned the lion motifs from temple walls.
  • Chola temple pillars were constructed with greater refinement than Pallavas.
  • During Chola period, metal art showed remarkable development and was used for further decoration of temples.
  • e.g Nataraja or dancing shiva at Chiadambaram temple- described as the ‘cultural epitome’ of the Chola period.
Mandap Audience hall, for various ceremonies. Elaborate carvings and pillars.
Gopuram Temple gateways, which enclosed the entire temple structure with high walls.
  • Brihadeshwara temple by Rajaraja –I at Tanjore. It was the tallest of all Indian temple at that period.
  • Other kingdoms in South India- and even in Sri Lanka, adopted the architectural style of Chola temples.

Chola society and administration

  1. More centralized than other dynasties. Chola provinces were headed by Naval chiefs.
  2. Entire kingdom was divided into Mandal=>Vanlandu=>Nadu (villages).
  3. Both towns and villages had autonomous assemblies.
  4. Assembly members had tenure limit of 3 years.
  5. Emergence of Kanchi-Silk, Bronze Idol of Nataraja, Caste rigidity, Sati and Devdasi system.
  6. They worshipped dead king and built temples in their honor.
  7. Trade flourished with China, Sumatra, Java and Arabia.
  8. Land owned by temples and artisans were exempted from tax.
  9. They made “predatory naval raids” to fill treasury every once in a while. They also sent naval expedition for setting up trade-posts in foreign harbors as well.

Chola patronized Buddhism

  • Sailendra kings were Mahayan Buddist and ruled over Sumatra, Bali, Cambodia and Malaya.
  • Sailendra Kings had constructed a Buddhist Vihara at Nagapattinam, Tamilnadu. (area under Chola control)
  • Name of this Vihara: Chula-mani-varma-vihara.
  • Chola King Rajaraja Chola 1 had issued a Charter to provide money to this Vihara
  • This charter was inscribed on a copper plate and preserved at Leiden University of Netherlands, and proves that Chola patronized Buddhism as well.

Mock Questions

Q1.Which of the following pairs are matched incorrectly?

  1. Chola: Madurai
  2. Chera: Kerala
  3. Pandya: Andhra Pradesh

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. All of them

Q2.Which of the following empire vs emblem pairs are matched correctly?

  1. Chola: Ship
  2. Chera: Tiger
  3. Pandya: Bow

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them

Q3. Chola King Rajendra-1 had annexed:

  1. Madurai from Chera kings
  2. Andhra from Satvahan kings
  3. Gangai-Konda-Puram from Pandya Kings

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them

Q4. Chola king Rajaraja-1

  1. Had ordered the execution Kolavan.
  2. had Patronized Saivism and Buddhism.
  3. Built Brihadeshwara temple at Tanjore.

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them

Q5. King ____ of ___ dynasty called himself Gangai-Kondan.

  1. Rajaraja-1, Chola
  2. Rajendra-1, Chera
  3. Rajaraja-1, Chera
  4. Rajendra-1,Chola

Q6. In Chola empire

  1. Sati system was prohibited
  2. Dev-Dasi system was prohibited
  3. Village Assembly membership was hereditary in nature.

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them

Q7. Chola temples

  1. have lion motifs on walls
  2. have Gopuram without walls
  3. use bricks instead of stones

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them

(Mains-2013) Q. Chola architecture represents a high watermark in the evolution of temple architecture. Discuss. (5 Marks, 100 words)

Visit Mrunal.org/HISTORY for entire Archive of History-Culture related articles published so far.

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41 Comments on “[Sangam-Age] Chola: Architecture, administration, Conquests & 1000th year of Rajendra-1 Chola’s Coronation”

  1. Mrunal, knowledge, facts and analysis apart, but we really like your sarcastic / funny way of presentation of every topic. “Fracture Pandya” ha ha ha :-). ROFL.

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  5. U are doing a great job sir

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