It is believed the Chola dynasty started some time in 300 B.C.E (300 B.C). The earliest references to this tamil dynasty are available in inscriptions from the third century B.C.E left by Ashoka, the Maurya emperor. The empire is known as one of the “three crowned kings” referring to Cheras and Pandyas as well.
Geographical Spread of the dynasty
The heartland of the cholas was spread mainly in the fertile valley of the river Kaveri.
From the later half of the ninth century till the beginning of the thirteenth century the Cholas were at the height of their power. During this period they ruled over areas significantly larger than just the Kaveri river valley. This period under King Rajraja Chola I and his successors witnessed growing power of their empire militarily, economically, and culturally. From the tenth to the twelfth century B.C.E the Chola territories stretched from the islands of the Maldives in the south to as far as north as the banks of the Godavari River in Andra Pradesh.
The chola army was much like the Roman army. It was well-organized and was the true power of the empire. King Rajraja I was dependent on this army which consisted of infantry, calvary, elephant mounted soldiers, and a navy. The army had almost every weapon of the time imaginable, including darts and swords. A Chinese geographer Chau Ju-Kua gave us an insight into this army’s elephants. He wrote that the army had 60,000
elephants. Around eight feet tall they had structures on their backs, on which soldiers used bows and spears. The whole army had about 2 million soldiers at its highest power. The Chola empire also had a very strong navy and this proved to be proved to be a major aspect in many of the invasions the Cholas conducted. The navy was in possession of many huge ships.
Chola Art and Culture
The Cholas built their culture mainly around the temples they built. Most of these temples were made of brick or stone. Earlier they used mainly bricks and later they progressed stone. The Cholas took the traditional Pallava design and merged it with their designs to make outstanding temples which can be found all around the land of the Cholas. Art and architecture also flourished during this period, particularly bronze statues and unique
styles of temples constructed at several places within the empire.
Economy during the Chola empire
Under the Chola Dynasty the economy was prosperous and people were able to meet all their needs. The villages had a lot of autonomy and this enabled them to become self-reliant. This prevented the feudal chiefs from interfering in the affairs of the villages, a feature unique to the empire. The villages grew their own food and weaved their own clothes. They also had their own craftsmen and other experts to fulfill their various needs such as metalwork and pottery etc. Whatever was needed was made within the village itself and they used to be no surplus. The villagers were thus self-sufficient.
Decline of the Empire
The decline of the Cholas started when resources started to fall low in comparison to the long and arduous military adventures. As a result the army grew weaker and more disorganized and most of the high commanders either left or joined another armies. Soon the Chola army was just a small group of soldiers. This left the Chola empire weak. Also many of the great kings had died so the empire naturally started to shrink. As the kings grew weaker more problems grew. Other kingdoms invaded the Chola empire and conquered their territory. By the year 1279 A.D the empire virtually ceased to exist.