The earliest Chola kings for whom there is tangible evidence are mentioned in the Sangam literature. Scholars generally agree that this literature belongs to the second or first few centuries of the common era. The internal chronology of this literature is still far from settled, and at present a connected account of the history of the period cannot be derived. The Sangam literature records the names of the kings and the princes, and of the poets who extolled them. Despite a rich literature that depicts the life and work of these people, these cannot be worked into connected history.
The Sangam literature also records legends about mythical Chola kings. These myths speak of the Chola king Kantaman, a supposed contemporary of the sage Agastya, whose devotion brought the river Kaveri into existence.
Two names stand out prominently from among those Chola kings known to have existed, who feature in Sangam literature: Karikala Chola and Kocengannan. There is no sure means of settling the order of succession, of fixing their relations with one another and with many other princelings of about the same period. Urayur (now in/part-of Thiruchirapalli) was their oldest capital. Kaveripattinam also served as an early Chola capital. The Mahavamsa mentions that an ethnic Tamil adventurer, a Chola prince known as Elara, invaded the island around 235 BCE and that King Gajabahu visited Chera Cenguttuvan around 108 CE.
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... complete and true picture of the social and economic conditions during the early chola period ... The claim that Shibi, who gave his own flesh to save a dove, as a Chola is obviously influenced by northern legends ... The land of the Cholas was fertile and there was ample food ...
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