Economy of Imperial Chola

  • Principally agrarian, landholding was prime determinant of social status.
  • Brahmins landholders were given tax exemptions as brahmadeya. Temples were gifted tax-exempt land known as devadana.
  • There was an elaborate department of revenue known as puravuvari-tinaikkalam. For assessing tax, Cholas undertook extensive land surveys and revenue settlements. Surveyors of land were naduvagaiseykira. Taxes were fixed depending on fertility of the soil and status of landholder.
  • Units of land measurement were kuli, veli, patti etc.
  • Important taxes:

(1) Kudimai: Paid by cultivating tenants to government and landlords.

(2) Opati: They were taxes levied by the king and local chiefs.

(3) Iraikattina-nellu: Tax paid in kind.

  • Due to large geographical area, surplus production and artisanal activity, trade and commerce flourished during Chola rule. Two guild like formations known as Anju-vannattar and Mani-gramattar came into prominence. Guilds are trade associations.
  • Anju-vanamattar comprised of West Asians (Jews, Christians, Muslims) and indulged in maritime trade. They were settled in port towns of west coast.
  • Mani-gramattar looked after trade in the hinterland. They settled in interior towns.
  • With time both groups merged under the banner of Ainutruvar functioning through the head guild in Ayyavole in Karnataka. This guild controlled both maritime and inland trade.
  • Prominent items of exports from Chola territory were sandalwood, ebony, condiments, gems, spices, grains and salt.

Types of Land During Chola Era

VellanvagaiLand for non-Brahmana, peasant proprietors
Brahmadeya Land gifted to Brahmanas
Shalabhoga Land for the maintenance of a school
Devadana / Tirunamattukkani Land gifted to temples
Pallichchhandam Land donated to Jain institutions

Irrigation & Water Management During Chola Era

  • Vativaykkal, a criss-cross channel, is a traditional way of harnessing rainwater in Kaveri Delta. Vati runs in the north-south direction while vaykkal runs in the east-west direction. Technically, vati is a drainage channel and a vaykkal is a supply channel.
  • Canals were named after kings, queens and gods. Ur-Vaykkal was owned jointly by the landowners. Nadu level vaykkal was referred to nattu-vaykkal.
  • Turn system was used for distributing water. There was an extensive system of water rights to enforce prudential use of water which was enforced by local communities.
  • For the periodical maintenance and repair of irrigation works, conscripted labour was used.
  • Eriayam tax was utilised for repairing irrigation tanks.
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