Cholas


Chola Government

The Chola kings ruled their kingdom with the help of a council of ministers and of officers who were in charge of various branches of administration. Local self-govt was a remarkable feature of Chola administration. The village was the basic unit of administration.Chola officials participated more as advisors and observers. The villages had a village assembly or council known as the Ur or Sabha.Villagers who owned land or belonged to the upper castes were chosen by lot to the councils.
The council was often divided into a number of small committees and each committee would look after an aspect of the village administration. The revenue of the Chola kingdom came from two sources-taxes on land and taxes on trade. Land tax was generally assessed at one –third of the produce. The actual collection of revenue was done by the village assembly. The intermediary or sometimes a govt officer collected the taxes and passed on the govt’ share. Often a part of revenue was assigned to a temple.
Chola Trade -
Commerce flourished under the Cholas. Trade was carried on with West Asia and China and South-east Asia. Trade with China reached unprecedented volume during these centuries. Foreign trade provided an additional incentive to an already developing local market.

Controlled by merchant guilds the high volume of trade led to the rapid growth of towns from the 11th century onwards. There was also a marked increase in the number of Chola coins that were minted as compared to those of earlier dynasties in this region.
Social and cultural life
The society was divided into Brahmans and non-Brahmans. Among the non-Brahmans there is as compared to north India, little mention of Kshatriyas and Vaishyas but the Shudras are prominent.
The temple was the cultural and social centre. The village and towns all had temples where people used to gather not only for worship but also to discuss various things of common interest. The courtyard of the temple was often used as a school.
During this period several regional languages branched off from Sanskrit throughout the peninsula. Marathi evolved from the local Prakrit, while Tamil, Telugu and Kannada stemmed from a Dravidian root but had a vocabulary which owed much to Sanskrit. The first writing in these languages was largely adaptations from Sanskrit works. Saints also composed hymns in popular languages.
Tamil literature of this period shows great liveliness and vigor as in Kamban’s version of the Ramayan or the works of the court poets Kuttan,Pugalendi,Jayangondour and Kallaadanar.
A number of popular religious movements flourished in the Tamil area. Some of them were continuing the teaching of the Alvars and Nayanars.Others like the Lingayats in the 12 century preached devotion to a theistic God and actively attacked religious hypocrisy. They questioned the authority of the Vedas and the theory of re-birth. Shiva was worshipped in the form of a lingam or phallic emblem.
In the 11th century, Ramanuja disagreed with Shankara’s theory that knowledge was the primary means of salvation. He insisted on pure devotion, giving oneself up entirely to God. He also pleaded for the throwing open of temples to Shudras but without much success.

Art and Architecture
Under the Cholas the Dravida style of temple architecture exclusive to the south, attained its most magnificent form. The main feature of this style was the building of between five to seven storeys above the chief deity room. A large elaborately carved pillared hall with flat roof was placed in front of the Sanctum. This mandap acted as an audience hall and a place for various other ceremonies. Sometimes a passage was added around the sanctum for devotees to walk around it where images of many other Gods were placed. The entire structure was enclosed by high walls with very lofty gateways called gopurams.The Brihadiswara temple at Tanjore built by Rajendra I is an example of the Dravida style. Another is the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple.
Temple building activity continued even after the fall of the Cholas. The Hoysalesvara temple at Halebid is the most magnificent example of the Chalukyan style. The temple contained finely sculptured panels which show a busy panorama of life. The ground plan was not rectangular but was star shaped or polygonal within which was accommodated the temple built on a raised platform. The giant statue of Gomteswar at Shravana Belagola is a fine example of the standards attained in sculpture in this period.Chola craftsmen excelled in making bronze figurines. The Nataraja, the dancing figure of Shiva is considered a masterpiece.

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