Parāntaka I Conquers Pāndya

Parāntaka’s defeat of the powerful neighboring state of Pāṇḍya was part of a remarkable reign of nearly fifty years and provided the basis for Cōla control of southern India for the next two centuries. This golden age in the development of Tamil culture was an era of prosperity derived from extensive trade and successful agriculture.

Summary of Event

In the early tenth century, the lower half of the Indian subcontinent was a loosely organized conglomerate of semifeudal states. These Tamil-speaking states, separated from the Aryan-dominated Sanskrit-speaking north by the mountainous uplands of the Deccan region, preserved ancient Hindu cultural values. Three of the most powerful states, the Pallava (controlling the Madras region), the Pāṇḍyas (dominating Pandi-nadu and the city of Madurai), and the Cōlas (centered around the Kaveri River basin), competed with each other for dominance. Hegemony meant a major share of the rich overseas trade with Southeast Asia. Under Parāntaka I, major steps were taken to establish Cōla supremacy over southern India, ushering in a golden cultural age for the region. [kw]Parāntaka I Conquers Pāṇḍya (915)
[kw]Pāṇḍya, Parāntaka I Conquers (915)
Pāṇḍyas[Pandyas];Cōla conquest of
Parāntaka I
India;915: Parāntaka I Conquers Pāṇḍya[1120]
Expansion and land acquisition;915: Parāntaka I Conquers Pāṇḍya[1120]
Government and politics;915: Parāntaka I Conquers Pāṇḍya[1120]
Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;915: Parāntaka I Conquers Pāṇḍya[1120]
Parāntaka I
Rājasiṃha II
Udaya IV

As a ruling family, the Cōlas dated back to the first century; however, by the third century, their importance had waned. In following centuries, the Cōlas occupied a small territory in the Tanjore and Triconopoly districts. The Cōlas emerged from obscurity in 850 when Parāntaka’s grandfather, Vijayālaya Vijayālaya , after first aiding the Pallavas Pallavas in war to weaken the Pāṇḍyas, seized Tanjore from the Pallavas and made it the capital city of the revived Cōla kingdom. Additional victories against the Pallavas and consolidation of Cōla power took place under the administration of Parāntaka’s father, Āditya I Āditya I (r. 871-907). However, it was Parāntaka who greatly expanded the territory under Cōla control and laid the foundation for Cōla domination of southern India for succeeding centuries.

On coming to power, Parāntaka formed alliances with regional chieftains such as the Gangas and Kerala. He then launched a victorious war against the Pāṇḍyas, winning the decisive Battle of Vellur Vellur, Battle of (915) in 915. Parāntaka captured the Pāṇḍya capital city of Madurai, thus forcing the Pāṇḍya king, Rājasiṃha II Rājasiṃha II , to flee south to Sri Lanka. Consequently, the territory under his control expanded southward toward the island of Sri Lanka. Additional victories against the Pallavas extended Cōla control northward as well. The Pāṇḍyas conspired with the Sinhalese king of Sri Lanka, Kasyapa VI Kasyapa VI , to weaken Parāntaka’s control of the south.

In the war of 917-918, Sinhalese and Pāṇḍyan forces were soundly defeated. Ultimately, Parāntaka invaded Sri Lanka Sri Lanka;Cōla invasion of[Cola invasion of] . In 943, Sri Lankan forces under their new king, Udaya IV Udaya IV , were soundly defeated, and the royal palace sacked. Udaya was forced to flee to Ruhuna in the southern part of Sri Lanka, as Parāntaka occupied the north. Parāntaka’s well-organized army, organized into elephant and cavalry divisions as well as regular infantry and swordsmen, seemed unstoppable. The formation of a powerful naval fleet also allowed Parāntaka to extend his power southward and to protect Cōla merchant ships.

Parāntaka’s success was based not only on a comparatively efficient military but on sound administrative reforms as well. His kingship was used to grant a large degree of autonomy to village assemblies. Decrees were passed to encourage election of capable and relatively honest individuals to village assemblies and committees. Separate assemblies were formed for general tax-paying farmers, merchants, and craftspeople, and tax-exempt Brahmans. The end result was a policy of inclusiveness on the local level. At the same time, Parāntaka greatly increased the number and nature of positions in the central administration, based in the Cōla capital city of Thanjavur, where an elaborate palace was built and run on a lavish scale. His kingdom was divided into nine provinces, each of which was subdivided into districts, which in turn were subdivided into groups of villages. This administrative structure made tax collecting more efficient. It also created a force of central administrative agents who could act as advisers on the local level. These local leaders could act to produce cohesiveness without the outward appearance of intrusion on local decisions.

Agriculture Agriculture;Cōlas[Colas] was improved by government-sponsored projects for irrigation and the turning over of virgin lands for increased agricultural production. Parāntaka also encouraged the growth of port cities and the expansion of merchant guilds to stimulate the extension of trade between the Cōlas, Southeast Asia, and China. Trade not only contributed to general prosperity but also generated significant tax revenues. Trade;Cōlas[Colas]

Parāntaka emphasized patronage of the arts and crafts, pioneering the development of bronze sculpture as an important art form. He catalyzed an extensive program of temple building, using stone instead of brick to guarantee permanency and, perhaps, to symbolize the benevolence of Cōla rule. Architecture;Cōlas[Colas] Many of the historical records are based on inscription stones contained in the newly built temples, many of which were designed as an elaboration of Pallavan styles. By making temple life an important part of village life and building magnificent structures such as Tirumundeeswaram, located near Tiruvenneinallur and dedicated to the god Śiva, Parāntaka undoubtedly sought to stabilize and popularize his regime. Temples were also intended to be educational and literary centers, where Tamil poets and writers were patronized to produce literature of a religious nature. Temples were centers for the planning of religious festivals, the celebration of which were vital for well-functioning village life. Temples, which received large grants of prime lands, were also intended to be productive units aiding in the development of agriculture.


Ultimately, Parāntaka was forced to retire from Sri Lanka because of the invasion of Cōla territory to the north by the Rārakūṭas of the Deccan region. In the ensuing battles, the northern Cōla districts were lost. The final years of Parāntaka’s reign witnessed a rollback of Cōla power, which continued under the reigns of Parāntaka’s immediate successors. However, the foundation of Cōla power had been laid by Parāntaka, and by 985, thirty years after his monarchy ended, Cōla fortunes were on the rise. Capable successors such as Rājarāja I Rājarāja I (r. 985-1014), Rājendracōla Deva I Rājendracōla Deva I (r. 1014-1044), and Rājendra III Rājendra III (r. 1070-1122) recreated the expansive Cōla kingdom that existed under Parāntaka and organized it along administrative lines established by Parāntaka. Support of commerce and the arts as well as efficient central and local government were long-standing trademarks of Cōla rule.

In many areas, Parāntaka’s successors were able to expand Cōla influence. A reinvigorated naval fleet was able to defeat the Śrivijaya Śrivijaya[Srivijaya] fleet in 1025 and to establish dependency states in the Malayan peninsula. Commerce flourished, as did the building of magnificent temples and patronage of the arts. Consequently, the golden age continued for Tamil culture in southern India. Lucrative trade with Southeast Asia expanded, and Cōla trading missions visited China. Cōla trading ventures extended to East Africa and Arabia; however, its highest profits appear to have been reached in trade with Europe. By 1000, the Cōlas were minting their own gold and silver coins.

Unfortunately, given the continual pressure exerted by feudal chieftains, political unity was a fragile commodity in medieval India, where political division and incessant warfare were dominant themes. The rise of the Hoysaḷas in the west and the rebirth of Pāṇḍyan military power caused a serious shrinkage of Cōla dominion during the thirteenth century. The expansion of Islamic rule in northern India also produced additional stresses on southern Indian states. In 1279, the last successor of Parāntaka died, and Cōla territory came under the rule of the Pāṇḍyas.

The architecture of the Cōlas, particularly in the building of temple complexes, is perhaps the single greatest permanent Cōla contribution to Indian civilization. The inscriptions left behind in these temple complexes preserved a large part of the historical record of the commercial and agricultural prosperity that the Cōlas fostered in southern India.

Further Reading

  • Balasubrahmanyam, S. R. Early Chola Temples: Parantaka I to Rajaraja I (A.D. 907-985). Bombay, India: Orient Longman, 1971. Concentrates on temples but reveals Cōla political and cultural involvements as derived from temple inscriptions.
  • Karashma, Noboru. History and Society in South India: The Cholas to Vijayanagar. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2001. A tedious but definitive account, using much statistical data, of Cōla administrative and agricultural policies, and their effects.
  • Nilakanta Sastri, K. A. A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar. Madras, India: Oxford University Press, 1966. An excellent treatment of the development of Southern India.
  • Spencer, George W. The Politics of Expansion: The Chola Conquest of Sri Lanka and Sri Vijaya. Madras, India: New Era, 1983. A study of late Cōla warfare and foreign policy accomplishments.
  • Swaminathan, S. The Early Cholas: History, Art, and Culture. Delhi, India: Sharada Publishing House, 1998. The best overall analysis of the rise and fall of the Cōlas.
  • Thapar, Romila. From the Discovery of India to 1526. Vol. 1 in A History of India. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1991. A readable account of the general development of India to the sixteenth century.
  • Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Provides excellent contextual background for the development of India.