Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Ponniyin Selvan and the Cholas


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ponniyin Selvan

Mains level: Not Much

In all the buzz around the Tamil film Ponniyin Selvan: 1 or PS1, a fictional period drama, a point of focus has been the Chola dynasty that the film is based on.

Why in news?

  • A notable actor has spoke about the progressiveness of the Chola era.
  • He mentioned the architectural marvels and temples, the social setup of the time, and how cities were named after women.

Behind the name- PS1

  • The fictional account of the Chola kingdom appeared in a weekly journal in the early 1950s and garnered popularity.
  • These were later compiled into a novel called ‘Ponniyin Selvan’, which became the inspiration for the movie, whose second part is due for release in 2023.

Who were the Cholas?

  • The Chola kingdom stretched across present-day Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka around 9th to 12th century AD.
  • The dynasty was founded by the king Vijaylaya, described as a “feudatory” of the Pallavas.
  • Despite being a relatively minor player in the region among giants, Vijaylaya laid the foundation for a dynasty that would rule a major part of southern India.

Might of the Cholas

(1) Defense

  • One of the biggest achievements of the Chola dynasty was its naval power, allowing them to go as far as Malaysia and the Sumatra islands of Indonesia in their conquests.
  • The domination was such that the Bay of Bengal was converted into a “Chola lake” for some time.

(2) Economy

  • While the extent of this domination is disputed, the Cholas had strong ties with merchant groups and this allowed them to undertake impressive naval expeditions.
  • In general, even merchant guilds, which had close ties to the court, had to hire their own guards because roads could be dangerous.

(3) Culture

  • Another feature is how the practice of building grand temples, common to the dynasties of the region around this time, was ramped up in an unprecedented way by the Cholas, according to Kanisetti.
  • The grand Brihadeeswara temple of Thanjavur, built by the Cholas, was the largest building in India in that period.
  • Additionally, artworks and sculptures were commissioned by Chola kings and queens, including the famous bronze Nataraja idols.

Women under the Cholas

  • The role of women in the royal family is being brought to focus given their impact on public life.
  • But that is not to suggest that ordinary women wielded equal power as men.
  • The royal women’s proximity to male power was valued, rather than women in general.

Local annexations

  • When the Chola King Rajadhiraja came to power in 1044, he was able to “subdue” Pandyan and Kerala kings, and presumably to celebrate these victories performed the Ashvamedha sacrifice.
  • The Chola rulers sacked and plundered Chalukyan cities including Kalyani and massacred the people, including Brahmans and children.
  • They destroyed Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of the rulers of Sri Lanka.



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