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The Great Hindu Temple Movement Of Cholas Of Tamil Nadu

The Cholas were an ancient line of rulers of South India who had a long and checkered history from 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. A vigorous Hindu temple movement following the Bhakti movement in the age of the Cholas saw the emergence of stone temples great and small, in almost every town and village of their extensive empire.

In the 7th and 8th centuries CE, Tamil Nadu witnessed the Hindu devotional (bhakti) movement led by Tamil Shaiva and Vaishnava saints. During this period, the Cholas who were marginalized rose up again under the leadership of Vijayalaya with their capital at Thanjavur.

Vijayalaya himself built at temple for Goddess Durga – Nishumbh Sudini – at Thanjavur. His success Aditya (871 – 907 CE) built rows of stone temples on both banks of Kaveri River.

Symbolic to Chola temple movement were the magnificent Brihadishwara Temple at Thanjavur and the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple (Perambalur) built respectively by Rajaraja in 1010 CE and his son Rajendra I; the Airavatesvara Temple, Darasuram (Kumbakonam) by Rajaraja II; the Kampahareswarar temple at Thirubhuvanam (Kumbakonam) by Kulottunga III and the grand expansions at the Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram and the Ranganatha (Vishnu) temple at Srirangam.

The temple came to occupy an important place during Chola rule, not only as a center of religion but also as the hub of social, economic and cultural life in the community.

The concept of dana (charity) for temple purposes assumed greater importance and liberal land and other grants were made by the state, landed gentry, merchant guilds and the common folk.

The land grants by the state were known as the devadanas and were usually exempt from taxes.

Gradually, the temple became a large economic system, agriculture, production, employer, patron of music, dance and fine arts.