After the decline of the Sangam period, the Cholas became feudatories in Uraiyur. They became prominent in the ninth century and established an empire comprising the major portion of South India. Their capital was Tanjore. They also extended their sway in Sri Lanka and the Malay Peninsula. Therefore, they are called as the Imperial Cholas. Thousands of inscriptions found in the temples provide detailed information regarding the administration, society, economy and culture of the Chola period. The founder of the Imperial Chola line was Vijayalaya. He captured Tanjore from Muttaraiyars in 815 A.D. and built a temple for Durga. His son Aditya put an end to the Pallava kingdom by defeating Aparajita and annexed Tondaimandalam. Parantaka I was one of the important early Chola rulers. He defeated the Pandyas and the ruler of Ceylon. But he suffered a defeat at the hands of the Rashtrakutas in the famous battle of Takkolam. Parantaka I was a great builder of temples. He also provided the vimana of the famous temple at Chidambaram with a golden roof. The two famous Uttiramerur inscriptions that give a detailed account of the village administration under the Cholas belong to his reign. After a gap of thirty years, the Cholas regained their supremacy under Rajaraja I.
Rajaraja I (985 – 1014 A.D.)
It was under Rajaraja I and his son Rajendra I that the Chola power reached its highest point of glory. His military conquests were:
1. The defeat of the Chera ruler Bhaskararavivarman in the naval battle of Kandalursalai and the destruction of the Chera navy.
2. The defeat of the Pandya ruler, Amarabhujanga and establishment of Chola authority in the Pandya country.
3. The conquest of Gangavadi, Tadigaipadi and Nolambapadi located in the Mysore region.
4. The invasion of Sri Lanka which was entrusted to his son Rajendra I. As the Sri Lankan king Mahinda V fled away from his country, the Cholas annexed the northern Sri Lanka. The capital was shifted from Anuradhapura to Polanaruva where a Shiva temple was built
5. The Chola victory over the growing power of the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani. Satyasraya was defeated and Rajaraja
I captured the Raichur Doab, Banavasi and other places. Hence the Chola power extended up to the river Tungabadhra.
6. The restoration of Vengi throne to its rulers Saktivarman and Vimaladitya by defeating the Telugu Chodas. Rajaraja gave
his daughter Kundavai in marriage to Vimaladitya.
7. Rajaraja’s last military achievement was a naval expedition against the Maldive Islands which were conquered.
By these conquests, the extent of the Chola empire under Rajaraja I included the Pandya, Chera and the Tondaimandalam
regions of Tamil Nadu and the Gangavadi, Nolambapadi and the Telugu Choda territories in the Deccan and the northern part of Ceylon and the Maldive Islands beyond India. Rajaraja assumed a number of titles like Mummidi Chola, Jayankonda and
Sivapadasekara. He was a devout follower of Saivism. He completed the construction of the famous Rajarajeswara temple or
Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjore in 1010 A.D. He also helped in the construction of a Buddhist monastery at Nagapattinam.