History & Culture

The formidable legacy of the Cholas

Learn how the Chola dynasty shaped the State at Tamil Heritage Trust’s two-day ‘Pechchu Kachcheri’

Imagine waking up in 1050 AD in Thanjavur. You step outside your house, and there are tanks, farms with stepwells, and good drainage system in the neighbourhood. Trade is bustling too. The chieftain of your town has been democratically elected, despite you being a subject of a great dynasty’s rule: the Cholas to be precise. Wonder what your life would have been like?

“Oh, it was a glorious time. Rajendra Chola had a long and significant reign,” says historian Chithra Madhavan, who, along with other experts, will be giving talks on the various aspects of the Chola dynasty at a two-day event, ‘Pechchu Kachcheri’ organised by the Tamil Heritage Trust. They will discuss the legacy the Cholas left behind across arts, architecture, literature and culture.

“The Cholas are one of the longest living dynasties in Tamil Nadu; one that is remembered even today for its administrative system and how wide the empire spanned,” says Chithra, who will be talking about Rajendra Chola, the First, in particular, “He was one of the few Tamil kings to advance as far up North as Bengal, and conquer the Pala kingdom. It was him that brought the waters of the Ganga to Tamil Nadu. That’s why the other nerve centre, apart from Thanjavur, was called Gangaikonda Cholapuram,” she informs.

The formidable legacy of the Cholas

Even though Thanjavur is well known for its Chola architecture, a walk through Chennai too, reveals the impact of the Cholas, though more so to the trained eye. “You can see vestiges of their culture in many temples: the Marundeeswarar Temple in Thiruvanmiyur, the Adipureeswarar temple in Tiruvottiyur, and few more in Padi and Thirumullaivoyal. Even though they’re not exclusively Chola.” Discerning that, however, is not that easy, claims Chithra. “It’s like a raga, you can’t learn it overnight. But Chola architecture is so iconic that its presence will scream at you; even though you are not listening.”

In most of the early Chola temples, you can also see miniature sculptures, says P Sivaramakrishnan, Professor, Department of Painting, Government College of Fine Arts, who will be giving a talk on the same, “The Nageswaraswamy Temple in Kumbakonam, said to have been built by Aditya Chola and Pullamangai, or Pasupathikoil on the way to Thanjavur from Kumbakonam, said to have been built by Parantaka Chola I, contains outstanding specimens of Chola miniature art.”

The formidable legacy of the Cholas

It’s not just sculptures and temples, though. R Viswanathan, lecturer at National Arts and Science College, will be talking about the paintings that were created during the Chola reign. “The Cholas bronzes, stone sculptures, and temples are so numerous and fairly good state of repair, that other aspects of Chola heritage have naturally taken a back seat,” he says. “The Cholas became super-powers fairly quickly, and wanted to leave behind a lasting legacy like the Pallavas, whose aesthetic sense they imbibed,” he explains why we find few surviving Chola paintings. Moreover, he adds, some of them, like the Chola paintings in a temple in Thirupulivanam have been lost due to sand-blasting. The ones that have stood the test of time, however, are in the inner perambulatory passage in Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur to which public have no access.

Talks lined up

Tracing the wide arc of Chola History by Rangarathnam Gopu

Rajendra the Great by Chithra Madhavan

Tamil Literature in Chola Period by S Balusamy

Chola Meikeerthis by S Ramachandran

The Three Big Chola Temples by Kudavayil Balasubramanian

The everlasting allure of Chola Bronzes by S Vijay Kumar

Early Chola Miniatures by P Sivaramakrishnan

Chola Paintings by R Viswanathan

Religious practices during the Chola period by Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan

The event will take place on December 15 and 16, from 9 am to 5 pm, at Tamil Virtual Academy, Kotturpuram.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:35:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-formidable-legacy-of-the-cholas-talk-by-tamil-heritage-trust/article25744503.ece

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