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Tamil Magnificence :
Developments in South India
|by Ashish Nangia|
In the 10th and 11th centuries, the south too witnessed the construction of massive temples, great cathedrals in their own right. With the passage of time, the Chola dynasty came to dominate politics in south India. With their progression to power, the small scale of the Pallava masterpieces - the rathas and the Shore temple at Mahabalipuram - was not sufficient as a showpiece of Chola power. The craftsmen were soon to be put to a greater test.
The Great Temple at Thanjavur
Today Thanjavur or Tanjore is an ordinary little town in Tamil Nadu. However, as the capital city of the Cholas, nothing surpassed it in wealth and power in the 11th century. In 1000 A.D. the Chola king Rajarajeshwara the Great commissioned a temple, which was revolutionary by its sheer size, dwarfing all efforts made so far in the south. So the Rajaraja temple at Tanjore was 180 feet high from the ground, with a spire of 130 feet, fully 70 feet higher than the tallest spire so far attempted. This soaring height was capped by an enormous domical monolith, weighing at least 80 tons.
The Temple at Gangaikondacholapuram
Growing chola power in the south was accompanied by a corresponding increase in patronage for the arts, the building of new cities and improvement in material life of the city-states as a whole. Rajendra I, the successor to Rajaraja the Great, in a bid to assert his own kingly identity, took the bold step of shifting his capital from Tanjore to Gangaikondacholapuram. As was common, the city needed to be built around its own mighty cathedral, the seat of all spiritual power.
The Decline of the Cholas - the Pandyas Come to Power
After the death of Rajendra I in 1050 A.D., the power of the Cholas slowly waned from incessant disputes with the other powers of the south - the Chalukyas, Pandyas and Kerala. Eventually the Chola Empire was usurped by the Pandya dynasty, which inherited all of its considerable wealth and trade agreements with foreign powers. By this time, i.e. the 14th Century A.D., considerable political changes were taking place. The most threatening was evidence of a new, irresistible force from the north - the all-conquering hordes of Islam.
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