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Territorial Expansion

The Cholas had ruled as chieftains in Tamilnadu since the first century A.D.towards the middle of the 9th century, Vijayalaya (846-871) conquered Tanjore and declared himself the ruler of an independent state. Even more important was Parantaka I (907-955) who conquered the land of the Pandyas but suffered defeat at the hands of a Rashtrakuta King.Chola power became solidly established in the reign of Rajaraja I (985-1014) and his son and successor Rajindra I (1014-1044).

Rajaraja's policy of annexation was influenced by the consideration of trade. He began by attacking the alliance between Kerala, Ceylon and the Pandayas in order to break their monopoly of western trade. The Pandyas had already been subjugated. The Arab traders were well settled on the west coast and enjoyed the support of the Cheras.To eliminate Arab competition in trade particularly in South-east Asia he tried to bring Malabar under his control.

He later led a naval expedition against the Maldive islands which had assumed importance in the Arab trade. The Cholas although unable to strike directly at the Arab trade caused havoc in Ceylon with a devastating campaign when the existing capital Anuradhapura was destroyed and the Cholas moved the capital to Pollonnarua.The conflict over the rich province Vengi resumed between the Cholas and the later Chalukyas.

The annexationist ambitions of Rajendra I turned northwards as far as Ganges Valley. He marched up to the east coast of India through Orissa and up the river Ganga.There he threatened the Pala king ruling in Bengal before returning to the south.Even more daring was Rajendra's overseas campaign against the kingdom of Shri Vijaya on order to protect Indian commercial interests in south-east Asia and southern China. The campaign was successful and for a while Indian ships and goods passed without interference through Shri Vijaya territory. This permitted a steady improvement in the commerce of south India and better communications with the Chinese to whom Kulottunga (1070-1118) sent an embassy of 72 merchants in 1077.

The successors of Rajendra I turned their attention to conflicts within the peninsula and the struggle with the later Chalukayas for the province of Vengi was revived. The old enemies of the far south the Pandyas, Kerala and Ceylon remained at war.

The Chola Kingdom had exhausted its resources and was on the decline in the 13th century when it succumbed to an attack by the Hoysalas from the west and the Pandyas from the south. The new kingdoms were to last till the Turkish sultans overthrew the existing dynasties in the Deccan in the 14th century.