Chola Kingdom - History - Medieval Cholas

Medieval Cholas

While there is little reliable information on the Cholas during the period between the early Cholas and Vijayalaya dynasties, there is an abundance of materials from diverse sources on the Vijayalaya and the Later Chola dynasties. A large number of stone inscriptions by the Cholas themselves and by their rival kings, Pandyas and Chalukyas, and copper-plate grants, have been instrumental in constructing the history of Cholas of that period. Around 850, Vijayalaya rose from obscurity to take an opportunity arising out of a conflict between Pandyas and Pallavas, captured Thanjavur from Muttarayar and eventually established the imperial line of the medieval Cholas.

The Chola dynasty was at the peak of its influence and power during the medieval period. Through their leadership and vision, kings such as the second Chola King Aditya I who caused the demise of the Pallavas, defeated the Pandyas of Madurai and occupied very large parts of the Kannada country and had marital ties with the Gangas, way back in 885 AD, his son Parantaka I, who conquered Sri Lanka known as Ilangai way back in 925 AD, Sundara Chola, also known as Parantaka Chola II who regained territories from the Rashtrakutas and expanded the Chola dominions up to Bhatkal in Kannada country, Rajaraja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I extended the Chola kingdom beyond the traditional limits of a Tamil kingdom. At its peak, the Chola Empire stretched from the island of Sri Lanka in the south to the Godavari-Krishna basin in the north, up to the Konkan coast in Bhatkal, the entire Malabar Coast in addition to Lakshadweep, Maldives and vast areas of Chera country. The kingdoms of Deccan and the eastern coast were subordinates, feudatories of the Cholas or other kingdoms like the Chalukyas between 1000–1075 AD paid tribute to the Cholas. Rajendra Chola I completed the conquest of the island of Sri Lanka and captured the Sinhala king Mahinda V prisoner, in addition to his conquests of Rattapadi (territories of the Rashtrakutas, Chalukya country, Talakkad, Kolar (where the Kolaramma temple still has his portrait statue) in Kannada country . According to Tamil historian K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, in addition Rajendra's territories included the area falling on the Ganges-Hooghly-Damodar basin, large parts of Burma, Thailand, Indo-China Laos, Kambodia, the Malay peninsula and The kingdoms along the east coast of India up to the river Ganges acknowledged Chola suzerainty. Chola navies invaded and conquered Srivijaya in the Malayan archipelago.

The Western Chalukyas under Satyasraya and Somesvara I tried to wriggle out of Chola domination from time to time, primarily due to the Chola influence in the Vengi kingdom. The Western Chalukyas mounted several unsuccessful attempts to engage the Chola emperors in war and except for a brief occupation of Vengi territories between 1118–1126, all their other attempts ended in failure with successive Chola emperors routing the armies of the Chalukyas at various places in many wars. Cholas always successfully controlled the Chalukyas in the western Deccan by routing them in war constantly and levying tribute on them. It is also pertinent to note that even under the not so strong emperors of the Cholas like Kulothunga I, Vikrama Chola etc. the wars against the Chalukyas were mainly fought in Chalukya territories in Karnataka or in the Telugu country like Vengi, Kakinada or Anantapur or Gutti. In any case, in the internecine wars among the small Kannada kingdoms of the Kadambas, Hoysalas, Vaidumbas or Kalachuris, the Chalukya interference was to cause them dearly with these Kingdoms steadily increasing their stock and ultimately the Hoysalas, the Kakatiyas, the Kalachuris and the Seunas consuming the Chalukyas and sending them into oblivion. With the occupation of Dharwar in North Central Karnataka by the Hoysalas under Vishnuvardhana where he based himself with his son Narasimha I in-charge at the Hoysala capital Dwarasamudra around AD 1149, and with the Kalachuris occupying the Chalukyan capital for over 35 years from around 1150–1151 AD, the Chalukya kingdom was already starting to dissolve due to incompetency of its rulers after 1126 AD.

The Cholas under Kulothunga Chola III even collaborated to the herald the dissolution of the Chalukyas by aiding Hoysalas under Veera Ballala II, the son-in-law of the Chola monarch, and sounded the death-knell of the Western Chalukyas in a series of wars with Somesvara IV between 1185–1190 AD, the last Chalukya king whose territories did not even include the erstwhile Chalukyan capitals Badami, Manyakheta or Kalyani. That was the final dissolution of Chalukyan power though the Chalukyas existed only in name since 1135–1140. In contrast, the Cholas would be stable till 1215 AD, and finally getting consumed by the Pandiyan empire and ceasing to exist by 1280 AD.

On the other hand, throughout the period from 1150–1280 AD, the staunchest opponents of the Cholas were Pandya princes who tried to win independence for their traditional territories. This period saw constant warfare between the Cholas and these antagonists. The Cholas also fought regular wars with the Eastern Gangas of Kalinga, protected Vengi though it remained largely independent under Chola control, and had domination of the entire eastern coast with their feudatories the Telugu Chodas, Velananti Cholas, Renandu Cholas etc. who also always aided the Cholas in their successful campaigns against the Chalukyas and levying tribute on the Kannada kingdoms and fought constantly with the Sinhalas, who attempted to overthrow the Chola occupation of Lanka, but till the time of the Later Chola king Kulottunga I the Cholas had firm control over Lanka. In fact, a Later Chola king Rajadhiraja Chola II was strong enough to prevail over a confederation of five Pandya princes who were aided by their traditional friend, the king of Lanka, this once again gave control of Lanka to the Cholas despite the fact that they were not strong under the resolute Rajadhiraja Chola II. However, Rajadhiraja Chola II's successor, the last great Chola monarch Kulottunga Chola III reinforced the hold of the Cholas by quelling rebellion and disturbances in Lanka and Madurai, defeated Hoysala generals under Veera Ballala II in Karuvur, in addition to holding on to his traditional territories in Tamil country, Eastern Gangavadi, Draksharama, Vengi and Kalinga. After this, he entered into a marital alliance with Veera Ballala II (with Ballala's marriage to a Chola princess) and his relationship with Hoysalas seems to have become friendlier.

Read more about this topic:  Chola Kingdom, History

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