Cholas by Dr K A Nilakanta Sastri (1935)

The Cholas by Dr K A Nilakanta Sastri is a classic that you must read if you are interested in the history of South India and the great empire-builders.

Published in 1935, it is perhaps the earliest systematic study of the Cholas and the period in which they dominated. When Sastri wrote this book, the information on India’s early history (not just the South) was just being put together, amid active research and excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India, epigraphists, numismatists and literary historians. It is a testament to the detailed work done then, that this book remains accurate, enlightening and relevant.

Sastri’s book traces the story of the Cholas to early references in Sangam literature, and it talks of the legendary Karakela, probably a local chieftain, who started the line in the 1st to 2nd centuries CE. It covers the reign of Vijayalaya Chola (850 CE – 870 CE), credited with founding the Imperial Chola dynasty, and ends with the end of the Empire in the 13th century CE. 

Before The Cholas, in 1929, Sastri had written a book on the Pandyas – The Pāṇḍyan Kingdom From The Earliest Times To The Sixteenth Century – another dominant dynasty in South India. The author wrote over a dozen such books, his most well-known being A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar (1955). K A Nilakanta Sastri was an authority on South Indian history, teaching the subject at universities in Madras, Mysore and at the Banaras Hindu University too.