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Chola Nadu

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The middle and southern portion of Chola Nadu

Chola Nadu is a cultural region of the Tamil Nadu state in southern India. It encompasses the lower reaches of the Kaveri River and its delta, and formed the cultural homeland and political base of the Chola Dynasty which ruled large parts of South India and parts of Sri Lanka between the 9th and 13th centuries CE. Uraiyur (now part of Tiruchirapalli city) served as the early Chola capital, then medieval Cholas shifted to Thanjavur and later cholas king Rajendra Chola I moved the capital to Gangaikonda Cholapuram in Ariyalur in the 11th century CE.

The boundaries of the region roughly correlates with those of the British India districts of Tanjore and Trichinopoly. Culturally, the region also includes Pudukkottai District, Tanjavur district, Nagapattinam district, Thiruvarur district, Mayiladudhurai district, Ariyalur District, Perambalur District , Tiruchirappalli District the territory of Karaikal.[1][2]


Kallanai / Grand Anicut built by Karikala Cholan, on the River Kaveri, near Tiruchirappalli

The Delta region covers Central Tamil Nadu and East-Central Tamil Nadu. The region is sandwiched between the historical regions of Tondai Nadu in the north, the Madurai region in the south and Kongu Nadu in the west and roughly extends from Chidambaram in north to the southern frontier of the erstwhile Pudukkottai kingdom and from Tiruchirapalli in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the east.

According to the Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly District, Vol II, 1931, p 67, "the traditional meeting place of the three Tamil kingdoms was the temple of Cellānti Amman on the banks of the Kāvēri, twelve miles west of Kulittalai and three miles below the junction of the Amarāvati and the Kāvēri. The temple was the common place of worship for the kings of the three Tamil dynasties; a bund which runs to the south of the river marks the boundary between the Cōla and the Pāntya territories, and the Karaipōttanār on the opposite bank of the river was the boundary between the Cōla and the Cēra kingdoms".[3]

Chola Kings[edit]

List of Chola kings
Early Cholas
Interregnum (c. 200 – c. 848)
Medieval Cholas
Vijayalaya Chola 848–891(?)
Aditya Chola I 891–907
Parantaka Chola I 907–950
Gandaraditya Chola 950–957
Arinjaya Chola 956–957
Sundara Chola 957–970
Aditya Chola II (co-regent)
Uttama Chola 970–985
Rajaraja Chola I 985–1014
Rajendra Chola I 1012–1044
Rajadhiraja Chola 1044–1054
Rajendra Chola II 1054–1063
Virarajendra Chola 1063–1067
Athirajendra Chola 1067–1070
Later Cholas
Kulothunga Chola I 1070–1120
Vikrama Chola 1118–1135
Kulothunga Chola II 1133–1150
Rajaraja Chola II 1146–1173
Rajadhiraja Chola II 1166–1178
Kulothunga Chola III 1178–1218
Rajaraja Chola III 1216–1256
Rajendra Chola III 1246–1279
Related dynasties
Telugu Cholas of Andhra
Chodagangas of Kalinga
Rajahnate of Cebu
Chola society

Chola Empire[edit]

The genealogy of the Chola empire as found in the Tamil literature and in the many inscriptions left by the later Chola kings contains a number of kings recorded for whom there is no verifiable historic evidence. There are as many versions of this lineage as there are sources for them. The main source is the Sangam literature – particularly, religious literature such as Periapuranam, semi-biographical poems of the later Chola period such as the temple and cave inscription and left by medieval Cholas.

Irrespective of the source, no list of the kings has a high level of historic fact and, while they generally are similar to each other, no two lists are exactly the same. Modern historians[who?] consider these lists not as historically reliable sources but as comprehensive conglomerations of various Hindu deities and Puranic characters attributed to local chieftains and invented ancestry of dynasty attempting to re-establish their legitimacy and supremacy in a land they were trying to conquer.


The history of the region begins with the rise of the Early Chola kingdom in the 4th century BC. The Early Cholas ruled from the town of Uraiyur near Tiruchirapalli and their kingdom comprised the whole of the present-day Cauvery Delta. Flourishing centres of Roman trade have been excavated at Poompuhar (Nagapattinam) stand testimony to a prosperous civilization.


The Chola Nadu region is renowned as a hub of Tamil culture and civilization. The region has been continuously inhabited since the 1st millennium BC. Arts, crafts and music flourished under the Cholas whose reign is considered to be the golden age in the history of Tamil Nadu. During the hegemony of the Vijayanagar Empire and its successors, the zThanjavur Nayak kingdom, there were frequent migrations of priests, administrators, soldiers and artists from the Telugu and Kannada districts of the north who brought in their traditions, art and dance forms. Despite its rise and initial success in the northern part of Karnataka, Carnatic music actually flourished in the Cauvery Delta. Kambar (poet) was a renowned medieval Tamil poet and the author of the Ramavataram, popularly known as Kambaramayanam, the Tamil version of Ramayana. Kambar also authored other literary works in Tamil, such as 'Thirukkai Vazakkam',Erezhupathu, Silaiezhupathu, Kangai Puranam, sadagopar anthathi, and Sarasvati Anthati hails from the Cauvery Delta region. The three great Carnatic music composers, Tyagaraja, Syama Sastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar who form the Great Trinity of Carnatic music hailed from the Chola Nadu region as also the music composers Muthu Thandavar, Arunachala Kavi and Marimutthu Pillai who form the Tamil Trinity of Carnatic music.

Apart from music, dance and drama have also flourished in the Cauvery Delta. The Bhagavathar Melas, a series of dance-dramas, written almost entirely in Telugu, were introduced by migrants who sought refuge in the town of Melattur following the collapse of the Vijayanagar kingdom at the Battle of Talikota.

Bharatanatyam, a popular dance form by Bharatha muni, flourished in the dance of sadir which was practised in the temples of Chola Nadu by ritual temple dances or devadasis. Patronized and financed by dharmakarthas and rich mirasidars, sadir was popular until the early years of the 20th century when a strong voiced campaign resulted in the devadasi practised being outlawed. Sadir has, since, purged itself of its erotic symbolism and movements and gradually evolved into the commoners' dance Bharathanatyam.


The Chola Nadu region had a population of over 10 million with a density of above 400 persons per km2 in 2001. Due to fertile soil and favourable climate, the region has been the most densely populated in the Tamil country since ancient times.

More than 90% of the population speak Tamil. There is a significant Telugu speaking minority, who had descended from migrants who had mostly moved in during the Vijayanagar and Thanjavur Nayak periods. There are smaller populations speaking Kannada, Saurashtra and Urdu. There are also a considerable body of Marathi speaking people who are mostly present in the urban areas of Thanjavur District , Tiruchirappalli district the city of Tiruchirappalli and city of Thanjavur.

Important Personalities[edit]

The Chola Nadu region has produced a number of noteworthy personalities in the fields of arts, science, film and politics. Long recognized as a hub of Carnatic music, the region is home to most of India's renowned Carnatic musicians. There have also been important individuals in the field of politics. In British times, civil servants and lawyers from Chola Nadu like Sir T. Madhava Rao, Sir A. Seshayya Sastri, Sir Mohammad Usman, Sir A. T. Panneerselvam, Sir T. Muthuswamy Iyer, Sir P. S. Sivaswami Iyer, T. Ananda Rao, S. Satyamurti, V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, V. P. Madhava Rao and R. Raghunatha Rao dominated the bureaucracy. The maternal ancestors of Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer hailed from Kumbakonam. Tamil writers U. V. Swaminatha Iyer, Samuel Vedanayagam Pillai, V. V. S. Aiyar and Kalki Krishnamurthy, Kalki Sadasivam journalists Kalki Sadasivam, G. A. Natesan and Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, Indian independence activist G. Subramania Iyer who founder The Hindu, politicians M. R. Sethuratnam Iyer and S. Muthiah Mudaliar and Indian media mogul S. S. Vasan and National award-winning film producer Venus T. Govindarajan were some prominent individuals from the Chola Nadu region. Yesteryear film actors Sivaji Ganesan, Manorama, M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Gemini Ganesan, P. U. Chinnappa and T. R. Rajakumari, Papanasam Sivan Indian scientist and Nobel Prize winner Sir C. V. Raman and mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, Muthulakshmi Reddi, Sujatha, Jayendra Saraswathi, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, U. Sagayam, Gopinath Chandran, Madhan, N. Gopalaswami, M. S. Swaminathan, Viswanathan Anand, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan were other important people from the region.

Recent time politicians include the former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa whose ancestors are from Tiruchirapalli and Thanjavur, Former Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu K. Anbazhagan, Former President of India R. Venkataraman, Kaduvetti Guru, PMK, Former Cabinet Minister and Leader of the House R.M.Veerappan and late Veteran Congress leader G.K. Moopanar, Ko. Si. Mani Former minister for local administration of Tamil Nadu, Former Union Minister Andimuthu Raja, VCK Leader Thol. Thirumavalavan, V. K. Sasikala Indian businesswoman turned politician, T. T. V. Dhinakaran, La Ganesan, H. Raja, Karunas, S. Ve. Shekher and Union Ministers G.K. Vasan, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Murasoli Maran, T. R. Baalu, S. S. Palanimanickam, Su. Thirunavukkarasar . Film personalities such as directors K. Balachander, S. Shankar and actors T. Rajendar, Sivakarthikeyan, Ramesh Aravind, Arvind Swamy, Hema Malini, M. S. Bhaskar, Rajesh and Dhivyadharshini are from the Cauvery Delta region.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Madras District Gazetteers: Tiruchirappalli (pt. 1-2). Superintendent, Govt. Press. 1998. p. 172.
  2. ^ "Rainfall Profile of Cauvery Delta Zone of Tamil Nadu". Current World Environment. 11 (2). 31 August 2016.
  3. ^ V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar (1939). The Śilappadikāram. Oxford University Press. p. 52.


Further reading[edit]

  • R. Krishnamurthy (1979). The Saints of the Cauvery Delta. Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.
  • M. S. Ramesh (2000). 108 Vaishnavite Divya Desams: Divya desams in Chola Nadu. Thirumala-Thirupathi Devasthanams.