Chola Kingdom: Administration, Art and Architecture

The Chola Dynasty was a prominent Tamil Dynasty that ruled primarily in the south of India until the 13th century. Among the rulers, Karikala Chola was the most famous among the early Chola kings. The Chola Dynasty has some of the best specimens in bronze and other sculptures i.e. Dancing Nataraj statue Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjaur (Tamil Nadu) are good example of the same.
Updated: Jul 18, 2015 10:13 IST

Chola Administration

The capital of the Cholas was Tanjore (Thanjavur.). The Chola Empire was divided into three major administrative units called Central Government, Provincial government and local government. Uttaramerur inscriptions throw light on the administration of the Cholas.

The administration was headed by the king. The Chola kingship was hereditary in nature. As per the Chola royal family tradition, the eldest son succeeded the king to the Chola throne. The heir apparent was called Yuvaraja. The tiger was the royal emblem of Chola kings. The king was assisted in his work by a council of ministers. The lower officials were called Siruntaram while higher officials were called Peruntaram.

The whole Empire had been divided into nine provinces called mandalams. Each province was headed by a viceroy who received orders from the king.

Each Mandalam was divided into number of Kottams or Valanadus which was further sub-divided into Nadu. Each Nadu was further divided into villages called Urs.

Chola government depended mainly on the land revenue as the main source of income. 1/6 of the land produce was collected as tax. Besides land revenue, customs and tolls were the other source of income for the empire. Moreover, taxes on ports, forests and mines contributed to the treasure of the king.

The Cholas possessed an efficient army and navy. The army was made of 70 regiments. Chola kings imported highly efficient Arabian horses at a very high price.

The Chola king acted as the chief justice, as the trial in major cases were conducted by the king himself. The minor disputes at the village level were heard by the village assembly.

One of the most important administrative units of the Cholas was Nadu. Each Nadu was headed by a Nattar while the council of Nadu was named Nattavai. The responsibility of the village administration was entrusted to the village assembly called Grama Sabha, the lowest unit of the Chola administration. It was involved in the maintenance of roads, tanks, temples and public ponds. The village assembly was also in charge of payment of taxes due from the villages to the King’s treasure.

The village administration was carried on effectively by Variyams who used to be the male members of the society. There were types of Variams. For example the justice was administered by Niyaya Variyam while temples were looked after by the Dharma variyan. The control of the finance was given to the Pon Variyam.

Chola Architecture

The architecture in Chola Empire flourished and reached its culmination post 850 AD. The most sophisticated buildings in the form of temples were built during this era.

The main features of the Chola architecture are as following:-

• The Shiva Temple of Thanjore/Thanjavur, the largest and tallest of all Indian temples was built during Chola period.
• The Chola Temples had the Dvarapalas or guardian figures at the entrance to the Mandapa (hall).
• The temples had fully developed Dravidian Style.
• Ganas were the most memorable figures made in the temples.

Some of the famous temples built during Vijayalaya Cholisvara Temple are as following:

The Vijayalaya Cholisvara temple at Narthamalai was built during Vijayalaya Chola’s reign was dedicated to lord Shiva.

Koranganatha Temple, Srinivasanallur was built by Parantaka Chola-I on the banks of river Cauvery. It is located at Srinivasanallur. The mythical animal Yazhi, unique and recurring feature of Chola architecture has been sculpted at the base of the temple. Brihadeeswarar Temple or Peruvudaiyar Kovil or Rajrajeshwaram temple is built completely from granite. Built by Rajaraja Chola-I, it is world’s first complete granite temple as well as a part of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. It is located at Thanjavur.

Gangaikondacholapuram was built by Rajaraja’s son Rajendra I. Gangaikondacholapuram was erected as the new capital for Cholas to commemorate the victories of Rajendra I over the Chalukyas, Gangas, Palas and Kalinga.


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