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The Pandyas and the Cholas

The Pandyas

The early Pandyan Kingdom comprised the greater part of modern Madura and Tinnevelly district during the 1st century AD. Their original capital was at Kolkoi (on the Thambraparny river in Tinnevelly) and later at Madura.

The Ashokan edicts of the 3rd century BC mention of the Pandyas. The Kongu Ratta inscription of early 5th century AD recorded the conflict of Pandyas with Kongu Rattas. Not much is known about the Pandyas then onwards until the 7th century AD.

The Cheras possibly remained as allies of Pandyas for a larger period than the Cholas. The dependence with the Cholas and Cheras allowed them to continue free movement and trade along the coast of Sri Lanka.

Around 940 AD, Rajaraja Chola reduced the Pandyas to a condition of tributary dependence and the position continued for the next two centuries. After the Chola dominance the Pandyas were restricted to the unimportant areas of Tinnevelly. And at the end of the 16th century, the Pandya dynasty disappeared once and for all.

Madhurapuri grew and prospered to become the capital of the Pandyan Kingdom. It is referred to in the Ramayana and Kautily`s Arthashastra. Megasthenes (302 BC), Pliny (77 AD) and Ptolemy (140 AD) wrote of “Madura, the kingdom of the Pandian`.

The dynasty extended its power into Kerala and Sri Lanka during the reigns of kings Kadungon (ruled 590-620), Arikesar Maravarman (670-700), Varagunamaharaja I (765-815), and Srimara Srivallabha (815-862).

The Pandya influence peaked in Jatavarman Sundara’s reign of 1251-1268. After Madurai was invaded by forces from the Delhi sultanate in 1311, the Pandyas declined into merely local rulers.

The Cholas

 Raja Raja Chola I was one of the greatest monarchs in Tamil history. He rose to prominence by bringing glory to the Chola Empire and building it as a powerful and strong kingdom.

Right after his accession, he began a series of conquests in South India to conquer the kingdoms of the Pandyas and the Cheras. By proceeding further south, he invaded Ceylon, with which began a century-long control of the Chola Empire over the entire island.

The southern military wars were followed by conquests in the north and northeast, namely the capturing of Gangapadi, Nolambapadi, Tadigaipadi, Vengi, and Kalinga, and defeating the Western Chalukyas in particular.

His empire extended from Kalinga in the northeast to Sri Lanka in the south. Most importantly, he played a major role in establishing a just administrative system and permitted autonomy to his local princes and lords.

Besides wars and conquests, he is also remembered for building one of the finest and most magnificent architectural monuments in South Indian history. The Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur, also known as Rajarajeswaram or ‘Big Temple’, is famous for its delicate sculptures and supreme craftsmanship.

He was succeeded by his son, Rajendra I, who further glorified the Chola Empire, by invading Maldives, Malabar Coast, and the remaining regions of Sri Lanka. Rajendra’s territories extended to coastal Burma, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Maldives, conquering the kings of Srivijaya and the Pegu islands with his fleet of ships.

He defeated Mahipala, the Pala king of Bengal and Bihar. To commemorate his victory, he built a new capital called Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The Tamil Chola armies exacted tributes from Thailand and the Khmer kingdom of Cambodia.

Rajendra stood as the first Indian king to take his armies overseas. He also built a temple for Siva at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, similar in design to the Tanjore Brihadisvara temple built by Rajaraja Chola. He assumed the titles of Parakesari and Yuddhamalla.

Kulothunga Chola II was another great king. During his time major development work at the Natarajar Temple at Thillai (Chidambaram) was carried out. Rangaraja Nambi rebeled against the king and he was chained and thrown into sea by the the king.

Rajendra Chola III was Held hostage by the Kadava chieftain, Kopperunchinga, his own feudatory. The Pandyas seized his capital. With the help of the Hoysalas, the Chola king defeated the Pandyas. But the Kakatiya king, Ganpati occupied Kanchi in 1250 and weakened the Cholas decisively.

Later the Pandyas underJatavarman Sundara Pandya,marched northwards and defeated the Hoysalas, the Kakatiyas and also dealt a final crushing blow to the Chola empire.

The Chola king Rajendra III henceforth ruled as a vassal of the Pandyas until the Mohammedan invasion of Malik Naib Kafur, the general of Aladin Khilji in 1310. Thus the last vestige of the Chola empire was swept off.

About 70% of the irrigation structures of Tamil Nadu were constructed during the age of the Cholas, such as the Grand Anaicut(Kalanai) and the Veeranarayanapuram Yeri (Veeranam Yeri). And the concept of rain water harvesting was first introduced by them.  For which they employed a certain group of people and they were known as ‘Kaarkathaar’ (‘Kaar’- Rain, ‘Kathaar’- Protectors).  The concept of ‘Flood Water Management’ was handled with intense knowledge.

In general, the Cholas professed Hinduism. Throughout their history, the rise of Buddhism and Jainism left them unswayed, as also the kings of the Pallava and Pandya dynasties. Even the early Cholas followed a version of the classical Hindu faith.

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