The Cholas are the earliest and the most ancient among the South Indian royal houses. The artifacts of the period found in South India mention Mahabharata as well as Ashokan edicts.
The CholaKingdom is very ancient, there has been references made in Mahabharatha and even in Ashokan inscriptions. It is known that Karikala was the Chola ruler who reigned in the 2nd century AD. During Karikala's reign, the capital city was moved to Kaveripattanam from Uraiyur. Nedumudikilli seems to have been the successor of Karikala, whose capital town was set to fire by the sea pirates. The frequent attacks of Pallavas, Cheras and Pandyas declined the Chola power and it was in the 8th century AD, Cholas glory began to shine when the Pallavas power declined.
Vijayalaya: In around 850 AD, Vijayalaya founded the dynasty probably by starting off as a vassal of the Pallava king. With the conflict between Pallavas and Pandyas, Vijayalaya occupied Tanjore and made his capital. He was succeeded by his son Aditya-I. Aditya-I defeated Pallava king Aparajita and also Parantaka Viranarayana, the Kongu ruler.
Aditya-I: Aditya-I was soon succeeded by his son Parantaka-I and ruled between 907 to 955 AD. Cholas power reached supremacy under his reign. He annexed territory of Pandya King and soon conquered the Vadumbas. He swept away all the traces of Pallavas power, but received a set back at the hands of Rashtrakutas.
Raja Raja Chola: The powerful ruler of the Chola kingdom was Raja Raja - the Great. He ruled from 985 - 1014 AD. His army conquered Venginadu, Gangapadi, Tadigaipadi, Nolambavadi, Kudamalai-nadu, Kollam, Kalingam, Ilamandalam of the Singalas. His first triumph was achieved early in his reign by destroying the Navy of Cheras at Trivendrum. He annexed north part of Ceylon to his kingdom and sacked Anuradhapuram. Polonnaruva was made his capital of the Chola province of Ceylon. Political divisions of the Western Ganga's Gangavadi, Tadigaivadi and Nolambavadi were conquered in 991 AD and it remained under them for the next century. Union of Eastern and Western Chalukyas was stopped by helping Eastern Chalukya ruler . Towards the end of the reign, the Cholas was attacked by the Western Chalukyas, but Raja-raja Chola won the war.
Rajendra-I: Rajendra-I founded his new capital at Gangaikonda Cholapuram. He set up Vaishnava centre and the Vedic college for teaching Vedas. He had a friendly relationship with the China emperor, and had a peaceful reign of 32 years. He extended the territory inherited from his father, and subdued the power of Pandyas and Keralas. He performed Asvamedha sacrifice too. He was very successful in the beginning but later on he lost his life in the famous battle of Koppam on the Tungabhadra. The next ruler Rajendra-II (1052-1064 AD) just managed to maintain the Chola empire though he had to struggle with the troubling Chalukyas.
Vira Rajendra: Vira Rajendra (1064 - 1070 AD) was the elder brother of Rajendra-II. He succeeded his brother to reign for the next seven years. He met the invasion of Chalukya King and defeated the Chalukya ruler. He reconquered Vengi and foiled the efforts of Vijayabahu of Ceylon who was trying to drive the Cholas out of Ceylon. When Someswara-II succeeded the Chalukyas throne, Rajendra made some incursions but later on built a friendly ties by giving his daughter to Vikramaditya. Soon after the death of Vira Rajendra in 1070 AD, there was a contest for the throne and Adhi-Rajendra, the heir apparent took the throne. He had a short uneventful reign, Vijayabahu assumed independence in Ceylon.
Kulottunga - I: Rajendra-II succeeded Adhirajendra under the title Kulottunga Chola. In about 1073, Kalachuri King Yasahkarana invaded Vengi but did not gain anything. Pandyas and Chera's attack were put down by Kulottunga. The southern Kalinga revolt were put down too. In about 1118 AD, the Viceroy of Vengi - the Vikramaditya VI took control of Vengi from Chola and thus succeeded in separating the Cholas from the Eastern Chalukyas. Gangavadi and Nolambavadi were lost to Hoysala's Vishnuvardhana.
Vikrama Chola (1120 - 1135 AD): The next successor, the son of Kulottunga-I restored the Chola power by reconquering Vengi and by taking control of part of Gangavadi. His reign was somewhat peaceful to his subjects though there were floods and famines in the South Arcot. The Hoysala expansion took control of Chola power slowly and subsequently. The last rulers namely Kulottunga - II, Rajaraja - II, Rajadhiraja - III could not stop the Hoysalas annexation of Chola Kingdom. Cholas hold on Pandyan kingdom had already weakened. In about 1243, the Pallava chief declared independence. The Kakatiyas and Hoysalas partitioned among themselves the territory of the Chola empire and Chola empire ceased to exist for ever.