The Patterns of the Cholas, Part 2 (with a little side trip to Angkor Wat)

In part 1 of this series, I revealed that I’m seeking design and pattern inspiration from South India for our apartment there. The Chola era is first up for inspiration. Let’s get onto this journey into history!

So, who were the Cholas? They were a dynasty that ruled parts of India and beyond for many centuries during the Middle Ages. They spoke Tamil, a language with lyrical-looking letters that lives on today. They were a literate, educated society that connected with other cultures through overseas trade. Roman and Chinese coins can be found in the Indian earth they ruled.

Chola Parvati
Chola Parvati (Photo credit: Peter L Barker)

They were builders of massive temples and lovers of many arts: sculpture, dance, music, theater and architecture. I’m sure they had their own versions of Michelangelo and DaVinci in their time; we just don’t know today who the Chola creative geniuses were.

The Cholas left a legacy of temple architecture and bronze sculptures that extends beyond India, into Southeast Asia. In fact there’s some resemblance between the architecture of South India temples and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat! This connection, you will see, will pop up a few times while I explore Chola patterns.

Here are temples from the Chola period in India:

A temple from the Chola period. The Cholas uni...
A temple from the Chola period. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: This is the architectural marvel buil...
Temple built by Raja Raja Chola. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Rajarajesvaram Temple, Chola Dynasty,...
Rajarajesvaram Temple, Chola Dynasty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Compare with Angkor Wat photos from Cambodia, taken during our trip there:

Most Chola pattern inspiration for the India apartment will come from the stone temples built by the Cholas. To find patterns, you have to step up close. Because the profiles of many temples are so iconic, rather than repeating those photos, I like to stand close to get the details you don’t often see. I like to imagine while standing there, photographing a carved column, that a person stood in the same spot so many centuries ago. Carving. And carving, and carving some more. Seeming endless carving.

How long were they there working? How old were they? Did they have children or were they still children themselves? What were they wearing? Did they enjoy their work here? Or were they under duress? Did they get injuries? Was their blood and sweat on this same stone? What did they think about while carving? What did they talk about with their fellow craftsmen? Did they sing while working?

Yes, I close my eyes for a moment and try to see the people who were here in this same spot, making this place possible. Imagining who made sights like this possible at Angkor Wat:

When I think of patterns from India Chola temples that I’d like to weave into the India apartment, it is carvings like these from Angkor that I had in mind.

And, I have found some! To be shared in the next post …

4 Replies to “The Patterns of the Cholas, Part 2 (with a little side trip to Angkor Wat)”

  1. This is fascinating. I’m looking forward to seeing the how you use these designs in your apartment!

Do you have comments? A question? I'm happy to help and give answers!