Chola, Chera and Pandya Dynasties

The Tamil country was ruled by three dynasties namely the Chera, Chola and Pandyas during the Sangam Age. The Chera Dynasty had ruled in two different time-periods. The first Chera Dynasty had ruled in Sangam Era while second Chera Dynasty had ruled from the 9th century AD onwards. The Chola kingdom of the Sangam period extended from modern Tiruchi district to Andhra Pradesh. Pandyan Kingdom was located in Tamil Nadu reigned around 6th century BC and ended around the 15th century AD.
Updated: Jul 18, 2015 10:13 IST

The Three Dynasties of South India have been described below:

Chera Dynasty

The Chera Dynasty had ruled in two different time-periods. The first Chera Dynasty had ruled in Sangam Era while second Chera Dynasty had ruled from the 9th century AD onwards. We get to know about the first Chera Dynasty through Sangam Text. The area ruled by Cheras included Cochin, North Travancore and Southern Malabar. Their capital was Vanchi Muthur in Kizhanthur-Kandallur and Karur Vanchi.The capital of later Cheras was Kulashekarapuram and Mahodayapuram. The insignia of Cheras was bow and arrow. The coins released by them had a bow device engraved on them.

Uthiyan Cheralathan

He has been recorded as the first King of the Cheras. Following his defeat with Cholas, he had committed suicide.

Senguttuvan was the most illustrious ruler of the Dynasty. He was the hero of famous Tamil Epic Silapathikaram. He had sent first embassy to China from South India. Karur was his capital. His navy was the best in the world.

Second Chera Dynasty

Kulashekhara Alwar, established the second Chera Dynasty. His capital was Mahodayapuram. The last Chera King in the second Chera Dynasty was Rama Varma Kulashekhra. He ruled from 1090 to 1102 AD. After him Chera Dynasty ended.

The Chola Dynasty ruled from 300 BC until late 13th century AD, although their territories kept changing. Their ruling span can be divided into 3 parts namely Early Cholas, Medieval Cholas and Later Cholas.

Chola Dynasty

Early Cholas

The most of the information on early Cholas are available in Sangam literature. The other information is available in Mahavamsa, Buddhist text of Ceylon, Pillars of Ashoka and Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

The most famous king of early Cholas is Karikala Chola. He ruled around 270 BC. He had won the famous battle of Venni in which he decisively defeated Pandyas and Cheras. He is also believed to have won the whole of Ceylon.

But the most important work which he did as a king was to build world’ earliest water-regulator structure in stone at Kallanai on River Cauvery. It was built for agricultural purposes.

Medieval Cholas

The Cholas revived their power in 848 AD and their rule was re-established after a long lull from the 3rd century AD to 9th Century AD.

Vijayalaya Chola

The first medieval Chola ruler was Vijayalaya Chola who is credited with re-establishing the Chola rule. He had his capital in Thanjaur. He was a feudatory of Pallavas. He built solesvara temple at Padukottai.

Aditya Chola I

The son of Vijayalaya, Aditya Chola succeeded him after death.  He built several Shiva temples on the banks of river Cauvery since he was a great Shiva devotee.

Parantaka Chola I

He had defeated the Pandya king and he had assumed the title of Madurakonda.

Rajaraja Chola I

After a gap of some lesser known Kings, Rajaraja Chola I ascended the throne. His name at his birth was Arulmozhi varman. He is also known as Arunmozhi udayar Periya Udayar. During his time Chola Empire covered whole of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, parts of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh and whole of Kerala and Sri Lanka.

Rajaraja Chola I built the Rajrajeshwaram temple at Thanjaur, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site now. The temple is known as Peruvudaiyar Kovil or Brihadeeswarar Temple.

Rajendra Chola-I

Rajaraja Chola I was succeeded by his son Rajendra Chola I in 1014 AD who ruled over till 1044 AD.

He was even more ambitious than Rajaraja Chola I. His major conquests and victories are as following:

• He conquered the whole of Sri Lanka and held its king captive for 12 years.

• Defeated Western Chalukyan Emperor Jayasimha in the battle of Maski, also forced eastern chalukyas into submission.

• His forces gained victory over Kalinga, Pala and Gangas and this earned him the title Gangaikonda.

• Significantly, the naval forces of Rajendra-I defeated the Malaya and Sumatra Kingdoms and occupied Kedah.

Rajendra Chola-I also constructed new capital for Chola Empire, called Gangaikonda Cholapuram to commemorate his victories over Kalinga, Pal and Gangas.

Rajadhiraja Chola

Rajendra Chola-I was succeeded by Rajadhiraja Chola. He was killed in the battle of Koppam near Mysore.

Rajendra Chola-II

A great patron of poetry and dance, he extended support to a musical dance drama Rajarajeswara Natakam.

Virarajendra Chola

An illustrious ruler, he ruled from 1063-1070 AD. He was the younger brother of Rajendra Chola II. He was a brave warrior as well as a great patron of arts.

He was succeeded by Athirajendra Chola who was not strong enough to defend the kingdom. There was a civil rebellion during his reign in which he was killed. With his death, the dynasty of Middle Chola came to an end.

Later Cholas

Later Cholas were assigned the period from 1070 AD to 1279 AD. At this time, the Chola Empire achieved its pinnacle & became the "Most Powerful Country" of the world. Cholas occupied South East Asian Countries and had the most powerful army and navy of the world at that time.

Pandyan Empire

Pandyan Kingdom was located in Tamil Nadu, South India.  It started around 6th century BC and ended around the 15th century AD.

Pandyan kingdom extended during the Sangam age comprised the present districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Ramnad in Tamil Nadu. Madurai was the capital city and Korkai the chief Port of the kingdom, which became the great centres of trade and commerce. The Sangam literature provides a long list of Pandyan kings out of which some of them became most popular. Madhukudumi Peruvazhthi performed many sacrifices to celebrate his victories. Therefore, he was given a title Palyagasalai.

Another Pandyan king Bootha Pandiyan was a great warrior and also the patron of Tamil poets. Ariyappadaikadantha Nedunjeliyan was also a famous Pandyan ruler. He gave death sentence to the hero of Silappathigaram (epic), Kovalan, by mistake for which he gave his own life when he came to know the truth.

Another important ruler was Thalaiyalanganathu Nedunjeliyan who was believed to have ruled around 210 A.D, defeated the combined forces of Chera, Chola and five other minor states at a place called Thalaiyalanganam, which is mentioned in a 10th century inscription. He also patronized a number of Tamil poets including Mangudi Maruthanar. The Pandyan kingdom was having trade with Roman Empire which profited traders and made kingdom wealthy and prosperous. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan ruled Pandyan Empire from 1251-61 A.D was known as ‘Second Rama’ for plundering the islands of Sri Lanka.

The Pandyan rule started declining from the early 14th century when dispute arose between the claimants for succession of throne and one of claimant ask for a help from Delhi sultan, Alauddin Khilji, which resulted in an invasion by sultan under the leadership of Malik Kafur. The Muslim invasion led to the disappearance of the Pandyans.


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