The Cholas had a superb system of administration. The emperor or king was at the highest of the administration. The extent and resources of the Chola Empire increased the facility and prestige of the monarchy.
The large capital cities like Tanjore and Gangaikondacholapuram, the massive royal courts and extensive grants to the temples reveal the authority of the king.
They undertook royal tours to extend the efficiency of the administration. There was elaborate administrative machinery comprising various officials called perundanam and sirudanam.
The land revenue department was well organized. It had been called puravuvarithinaikkalam.
All lands were carefully surveyed and classified for assessment of revenue. The residential portion of the village was called ur nattam. These and other lands like the lands belonging to temples were exempted from tax.
Besides land revenue, there have been tolls and customs on goods taken from one place to different, various sorts of professional taxes, dues levied on ceremonial occasions like marriages, and judicial fines.
During the adversity, there has been remission of taxes, and Kulottunga I became famous by abolishing tolls and earned the title – Sungam Tavirtta Cholan.
The main items of state expenditure were the king and his court, army and navy, roads, irrigation tanks, and canals.
Chola Military and Administration
Cholas maintained an army of elephants, cavalry, infantry, and navy. Also, Cholas maintained seventy regiments.
The Royal troops were called Kaikkolaperumpadai. Velaikkarar, were private troops to defend the king. For the training of the army and military cantonment called Kadagams existed. The imperial Chola paid special attention to its Navy.
The navy of Tamils as well as ancient Indians reached its peak under the Cholas. The Cholas controlled the Malabar and Coromandal coast. In fact, the Bay of Bengal looks like a Lake for the Cholas.
The Chola Empire was divided into mandalams and every mandalam into valanadus and nadus. In each nadu there have been a variety of autonomous villages.
The royal princes or officers were responsible for mandalams. The valanadu was under periyanattar and nadu under nattar. The town was referred to as nagaram and it had been under the administration of a council called nagarattar.
The Village governance with Sabha’s and committees developed and reached a zenith during the Cholas. Uttiramerur inscription that belongs to the Parantaka-I, gives the account of the function and formation of Village councils.
As per Uttiramerur inscription, the village was divided into thirty wards. Each ward has to nominate its member to the village council.
The qualification of the Ward Member mentioned in the Uttiramerur inscription is:
He should own a minimum of one-fourth Veli of land. He should own residence. He should be aged above 30 years and should be below 70 years. He should possess knowledge of Vedas.
Disqualification rules mentioned in the Uttiramerur inscription:
Should not be a member of the committee for the past three years. The one who does not have submitted his accounts as committee members.The one who committed sins. The one who stole the property of others.
The nominated person, from every ward, is chosen by Kudavolai System for a year. In Kudavolai system, the name of the person is written on Palm-leaves and put into the pot.
The small boy or girl is asked to take thirty names each for each ward. Then they were divided into six Variyams (Departments).
The six different variyams are Village administration are Samvatsara Variyam, Eri Variyam, Thotta Variyam, Pancha Variyam, Pon Variyam, and Puravuvari Variyam. On the whole, the committee members were called Variyapperumakkal. Variyapperumakkal met in temples or under the tree and passed the resolution. The number of committees and ward members varied from village or village.
Socio-economic Life in the Chola country
The evil caste system was widely prevalent during Chola’s rule. The special privileges were enjoyed by the Brahmins and Kshatriyas. The inscription of later Cholas, mentions Valangai and Idangai castes which were two major divisions among the castes.
However, there was cooperation between caste and sub-castes in social and non-secular life. The position of girls in Chola rule was poor. The practice of ‘Sati’ is prevalent, especially among the Royal families.
Another evil practice, the devadasi system or dancing girls dedicated to the temples emerged during the Cholas. Both Saivism and Vaishnavism existed and flourished. Different temples were built with the patronage of Cholas Kings and Queens.
The temples remained as centers of economic activity in the Chola country. The mathas had a great influence during this era. Both agriculture and industry flourished during the Cholas. The forest land used for the construction and maintenance of irrigation tanks led to agricultural development.
The weaving industry flourished, especially the silk weaving at Kanchi. The metal industry flourished as a result of the demand for temple deities and utensils. Trade and commerce flourished with the construction of trunk roads or ‘peruvazhis’ and merchant guilds.
Several denominations of coins issued in Gold, Silver, and Copper. Cholas has trade contracts with China, Sumatra, Java, and Arabia. Also, Cholas imported horses from Arabia to strengthen its cavalry.
Education and Literature
Education was also given importance. Besides the temples and mathas as educational centres, several educational institutions also flourished. The inscription at Ennayiram, Thirumukkudal, and Thirubhuvanai provide details of the universities that existed in these places.
Apart from the Vedas and Epics, subjects like mathematics and medicine were taught in these institutions, An endowment of lands was made to run these institutions. The development of Tamil literature reached its peak during the Chola period. Sivakasintamani written by Thiruthakkadevar and Kundalakesi belonged to the 10thcentury.
The Ramayana composed by Kamban and therefore the Periyapuranam or Tiruttondarpuranam by Sekkilar are the 2 masterpieces of this age. Jayankondar’s Kalingattupparani describes the Kalinga war fought by Kulotunga I. The Moovarula written by Ottakuthar depicts the lifetime of three Chola kings.
The Nalavenba was written by Pugalendi. The works on Tamil grammar like Kalladam by Kalladanar, Yapperungalam by Amirthasagarar, a Jain, Nannul by Pavanandhi, and Virasoliyam by Buddhamitra were the products of the Chola age.