The Chola empire, which arose in the South in the 10th century AD, was founded by Vijayalya by capturing Tanjore. However, the greatest Chola rulers were Rajaraja Chola (985-1014 AD) and his son Rajendra Chola . Rajendra carried forward the acquisition policy of his father by conquering the Pandays, the Cheras and even Sri Lanka. He assumed the title Gangaikondchola (The Chola Conqueror of the Ganga). The Chola rule was known for a strong navy, village self-government and beautiful temples to commemorate victories. Rajraja I even sent a naval expedition against Malaya to overcome their interference in his trade with China. The Cholas also sent a number of embassies to China.
Temple architecture reached its climax in the South under the Cholas. The main feature of this style called the Dravida, was the building of storey upon storey above the chief deity room (garbhgriha). The entire structure was surrounded by high walls having lofty gates called gopurams. A fine example of this style is the Brihdeeshwara Temple at Tanjore built by Rajaraja I. This is also called the Rajraja Temple.
The art of sculpture attained a high standard during this phase. One befitting example is the Gomteshwara Statue at Shravanbelgola in Karnataka, the highest statue in India. Another aspect was the image-making, which peaked in the dancing figure of the Shiva, called the Natrajaja. Many popular Bhakti saints called the nayanars and alvars, devotees of Shiva, flourished in this area between the 6th - 9th centuries. The writings of these saints called Tirumurai, are considered sacred and are known as the Fifth Veda.