Can the Chola unite India as a Maritime Empire?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by M79, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. M79 Well-Known Member

    Jan 8, 2007
    Can the Chola unify India?

    Do they make a successful maritime Empire out of it?

    What are the consequences if they can?
  2. The Merovingian To whom the Capets aspire.

    Mar 11, 2017
    Austrasia today, Burgundy tomorrow.
    Interesting question. All I know of them is that they ended the Sirijiwayan "Empire" and were one of the relatively few Indian countries that actively strove to be a Maritime power. I think it heavily depends on where they position the capital of their unified India. If it's in the north heart of India I think we'll eventually see the decline of this India's navy. If they stay 'Relatively' close to the ocean and can keep control of the subcontinent we may see Indian explorers try to round Africa, and travel as far as Europe depending on how far they go through the red sea.
    SeaCambrian likes this.
  3. Hegemon of words and thoughts

    Sep 4, 2017
    Ribeirao Preto, World State
    If it’s possible, it’d be difficult. There’s little precedent for a southern power unifying all of India, especially the north. They’d also have to get over the internal issues that led to their downfall to the Pandyas IOTL.

    If you want them to survive for a reasonable amount of time, you’d also have to find a way to resist the invasions and raids from the northwest (Timur, Mughals, Afghans, maybe Persians)

    I think if you limit the prompt to southern India, or even to their otl greatest extent, it becomes a lot easier to achieve
    kholieken likes this.
  4. SeaCambrian Alien Space Bat Gone Fishin'

    May 28, 2018
    Looking at other maritime powers across history, it seems like they rarely ever try to conquer large swathes of territory on their own landmass. Past empires that united India tended to originate from the north.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
  5. Kishan Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    The Cholas had to firmly establish their power in South India first defeating the other Southern kingdoms like Pandyas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Kalingas etc. If they wanted to become a maritime power they had to limit their imperial dreams to the south of the Vindhyas. In OTL the Cholas were the only Indian dynasty that tried to spread their power beyond the ocean towards the Southeast Asia. It was their failure to destroy their permanent enemy, the Pandyas, who had fought them on and off for more than thousand years that led to their terminal fall. The Cholas and the Pandyas were rivals for most of the period and allies at rare occasions. Though the Pandyas outlasted the Cholas they never rose to the heights of Cholas who created a maritime empire. The Cholas also had to deal with the Cheras and the Lankan kingdoms in the South and the Kadambas, Chalukyas, Kalingas etc. to the North.
    markus meecham and kholieken like this.
  6. Kishan Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    The Cholas maintained a strong navy and the contribution of the naval forces were important in the Chola conquests of Ceylon(Sri Lanka), the Arakan coast of Burma(Myanmar), Malay Peninsula, Islands of Sumatra, Java, Borneo (then Sri Vijaya and and present day Indonesia).
    The Chola navy had around 1000 ships and a million sailors. The Chola navy had a complex classification of classes of vessels and their utility. Dharani was equivalent of modern day destroyers designed to take combat to high seas. Loola was the equivalent of modern day corvettes, designed to perform light combat and escort duties. Vajra was equivalent of modern frigates, fast attack, lightly armoured crafts. Thirisadai was equivalent to modern battle cruisers or battleships. They had extensive warfighting capabilities and endurance with a dedicated marine force of around 400 marines to board enemy vessels. There were also large vessels called Kalam, large barge type vessels called Patri, medium type boats called Ambi, small boats called Oodam and small boats for rocky terrains called Toni.There were also royal yachts called Akramandham, Neelamandham, Sarpamugam etc.
    The Emperor was the Supreme Commander. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy(Kadalpadai) was called Jaladhipathi, equivalent to the modern day Admiral of the Navy.The Navy had many fleets called Pirivu. The Fleet was commanded by Pirivu Adhipathi, equivalent to the modern day Admiral. Below the Fleet was the Fleet Division called Ani, composed of 300-500 ships. It was commanded by an Anipathi, equivalent to a Vice Admiral. An Ani was formed by three ganams. A Ganam had 100-150 ships in it and was commanded by a Ganathipathi equivalent to a Rear Admiral. A Ganam was composed of three Mandalams. A Mandalam had about 50 ships and was commanded by a Mandaladhipathi, equivalent to modern day Commodore. The smallest self sufficient unit was called Jalathalam, commanded by a Jalathalathipathi with around 15 ships. The officer who commanded a ship was called Kalapathi, equal to the modern day Captain in the Navy. There were other junior officers called Kaapu, Seevai, Eeitimaar etc.
    Besides the standing navy, the Customs Department had their own naval force called Sungu. There were also State agencies like Thirvai(Customs and Excise), Aaivu(Inspection and Enforcement), Ottru(Intelligence Corps) etc. As the Navy was more engaged in far away lands, a separate Coast Guard called Karaipirivu was formed to protect the territorial waters, home ports and coastal cities.
    Tanc49, M79, Taloc13 and 1 other person like this.
  7. NinenineBFive Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2018
    It would be harder to unify India and have a a maritime/colonial empire at the same time as the Chola, maritime empire would be relatively easy to do given some changes to OTL, but unifying all of India is improbable.

    The Chola could take the Malay Peninsula, establish colonies as far as Zanzibar and Java. If they don’t get invaded and collapse they could even discover Australia and establish some trading posts/colonies. Basically a more Indianized Indies.
    Kishan and kholieken like this.
  8. RogueTraderEnthusiast Winner: WillamOfOckham "Most Title" 2018

    Jun 15, 2016
    I'd say the Chola can, but it comes down to (IMO) whether they can create a state and a culture that spreads from the coasts into the heart of the Deccan Plateau - and I think that is key. A little bit of me thinks that you could pull a Persia and have two capitals - one on the coast, and one on the northern border in Deccan. Primarily because for the Chola to really dominate India, they need to control the Deccan as it is their 'Hinterland', and potentially a ripe location to recruit soldiers from, and would require a completely different style of campaign to coastal wars.

    Basically, if a coastal nation like Britain can take over India, I see no reason why the Chola, given time, couldn't do the same.

    My main suggestion however, would be to transition from the Dynastic system, to a true Tamilakhan Empire, where the Three Crowned Kings can either rule as successor dynasties, an oligarchy, or a final victory for at least one of them. That way the Tamil are stronger together. It'd probably be best under the Chola with their widespread economic power to integrate the other two dynasties by some means.

    The biggest advantage for them is that as long as they can defend the Deccan, they're in a strong position. Each of their coasts are defended by strong navies, and are narrow enough to ensure a campaigning invader can be stopped by regular fortifications - and at the same time their navy can cut off supply lines to that army. Additionally their naval power means that if they can take control of coast cities of the Ganges and Indus Deltas, they can basically control every export from India, and whilst that doesn't give them instant rule - it means they can leverage that for diplomatic power and become Hegemonic.

    Oddly enough, if Tamilakhan can truly unite, and establish Hegemony over just the Indus Valley, and trade control over the Ganges, in addition to the Chola, they're well placed to funnel huge sums of money into settling and consolidating rule over the Indus Valley/Hindu Kush - which means they can effectively defend India.

    TL;DR - yes, if the Deccan is safe, and they can successfully project force throughout India.
    Kishan likes this.
  9. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2011
    An interesting scenario would be for a maritime Chola Empire that unified India surviving long enough to interact with the Ming, particularly the Ming naval voyages under Zheng He and the potential clashes over Southeast Asia.