Chola Navy - History - Imperial Navy With Blue-water Capabilities

Imperial Navy With Blue-water Capabilities

This phase of the history is the most well documented one, partly due the survival of the edicts and inscriptions from the time along with reliable foreign narratives. This has enabled historians to interpolate various accounts and come up with a clear account of Chola Naval activities of the time.

The Imperial Chola navy took its shape in the aftermath of the resurgence of Chola power, with the rise of Vijalaya dynasty. During the Pallavas rule, the Cholas took control of not only the territories, but the cultural and socio-economic mantle. Thus, the Medieval Cholas inherited the will to dominate trade and control seas from the Pallavas.

The evolution of combat ships and naval-architecture elsewhere played an important part in the development of the Pallava Navy. There were serious effort in the period of the Pallava king Simavishnu to control the piracy in South East Asia and to establish a Tamil friendly regime in the Malay peninsula. However, this effort was accomplished only three centuries later by the new Naval power of the Cholas.

The three decades of conflict with the Sinhala King Mahinda V came to a swift end, after Raja Raja Chola I's (985-1014) ascent to the throne and his decisive use of the naval flotilla to subdue the Sinhalese.

This period also marked the departure in thinking from the age-old traditions. Rajaraja commissioned various foreigners (Prominently, the Arabs and Chinese) in the naval building program. These effort were continued and the benefits were reaped by his successor, Rajendra Chola I. Rajendra led a successful expedition against the Sri Vijaya kingdom (present day Indonesia) and subdued Sailendra. Though there were friendly exchanges between the Sri Vijaya empire and the Chola Empire in preceding times (including the construction of chudamani Pagoda in Nagapattinam), the raid seems to have been motivated by the commercial interests rather than any political motives.

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