whichat more than 74,000 verses is one of the longest poems ever written.Perhaps the best known part of the
which describes the events preceding the battle between the Pandyas andthe Kauravas, when the Pandya leader Arjuna turns to Krishna for spiritualadvice. The second Sanskrit epic isthe
which recounts the manyadventures of Rama, his wife Sita, his brother Lakshmana and the monkeygeneral Hanuman.Hinduism is primarily a devotional religion which means that the presenceof a god or gods is acknowledged by the individual. These gods are usuallyworshipped in structures which can range from very simple man-madebuildings to very elaborate stone-built temples. Sculpture, painting andritualobjects are used in the worship of these gods. Although the spacewhere the god is enshrined in a temple, referred to as the inner sanctum,isnot normally very large, the temple complex can be extensive. Part of thereason for these large temple complexes is the need to provide space forprocessions, essential components of temple activity and Hindu worship.Forthe devotees, participating in processions and annual pilgrimages isavery important aspect of their devotion, as it allows the individual theopportunity to supplicate or offer thanks to the god or gods. The abilitytoparticipate in these activities also allows the devotee to come into directcontact with the gods and allows the individual to make
(offeringssuchas incense, fruit, milk and ghee-fuelled lamps) and, more signiﬁcantly,
, in which the participant communicates with the deity throughdirect eye contact. Hindus also believe in the immortality of the soul andinreincarnation. Two central concepts of Hinduism are
, acomplexterm meaning among many things duty, and
, which determines thequality of present and future lives.There are three main gods in Hinduism: Shiva, Vishnu and Devi reﬂectHinduism’s abilities for multiplicity, variety and unity. The majority of Hindusare either followers of Shiva or Vishnu. Temples, like the followers, devotedto either one of these two principal deities are referred to as ShaiviteorVaishnavite.
A short history of the Chola
Before the middle of the ninth century the Cholas were one of a numberofpowerful independent cultural groups jockeying for position in southernIndia, the region today known as the state of Tamil Nadu. Their rivals wereprincipally the Pallavas, the Pandyas, the Cheras and, further to the north,the Chalukyas. Together these groups vied with each other for controloverthe rich fertile ﬂood plains of southern India centred around thesacredriverKaveri. Little is known about the early Cholas until the riseofVijayalaya(ruled ?848–871), whose exploits are known because theywererecorded instone inscriptions and copper-plate foundation documents.Taking advantage of a conﬂict between the Pallava and the Pandya,Vijayalaya captured the town of Tanjavur where he established a royal courtand founded the dynastic line of the Cholas. Tanjavur became the imperialChola capital which was later moved to Gangaikondacholapuram. Inaddition, Kanchipuram and Madurai both became established as importantregional centres. The Chola dynasty ruled for a further four hundred yearsduring which time they became extremely powerful politically, economicallyand, signiﬁcantly, culturally. Although their fortunes ﬂuctuated over thisperiod, at their height the Cholas ruled over much of southern India,
Shiva as Nataraja(Lord of Dance)
The Cleveland Museum of Art,Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund,1930.331Photo © The Cleveland MuseumofArt, Purchase from the J.H. WadeFund 1930.331
The Chola territories insouthern India,
Cartography by Isambard ThomasMap relief © 1995 Digital Wisdom Inc.