Medical Corps Military Academy Chola Army Details

Ancient Kings of India, though adhered to Dharma, were quite adept in maintaining a well oiled Military force, always ready.

These forces, during peace time were engaged in building of water tanks and other social welfare activities.

Military might of Cholas
Chola Military. Image source.

Apart from the four or defined classes of forces, they had special forces like Velakkarapadai, Apaththudavi padai, which are loyal only to the King and performed the duties of a private army of the king much like the special protection detail of the US President.

They allo had a reserve Navy, especially the  Cholas and Cheras while Pandyan had a Naval Army based on the exigencies.

Chaturangabala for organisation and Sadangabala for Administration, the fourfold force and sixfold control. In its shortened form it is called RathaGajaTuraPadai. In it, Ratha is the Chariot, Gajais the Elephant, Tura is the Horses And finally Padai is the Infantry. It is said that an army with a growing proportionate of the said forces y is a balanced and well composed one.
In Addition to the Divisions, there were other attached units in the Chola Army. Those are NadapuThe Commissariat and PayanamThe Admiralty & Logistics. The addition of these new bureaucratic organisation inside the Army is What revolutionised the Chola Army resulting in victories of such a huge scale.

The regiments of the Chola Army had a corporate life of its own and was free to endow benefactions and build temples in its own name. To some of these regiments, the management of certain minor shrines of the temple was entrusted and they were expected to provide for the requirements of the shrine. Others among them took money from the temple on interest, which they agreed to pay in cash. We are not, however, told to what productive purpose they applied this money. At any rate all these transactions show that the king created in them an interest in the temples he built….

In the organisational structure of the army, they had Medical corps and the Cholas maintained a Military Training Academy…

The ‘Standing’ Army was organised into multiple Senais. The composition of each senai depended on its deployment/Stationed location and role.

Normally, A Chola Senai is the largest Organisational unit. At various times in its existence the army had between 1 and 3 Senais.


Commanding Officer’s Rank : Thalapathi – (this rank is the equivalent of the Naval Rank of Kalapathi)
Modern equivalent Rank  : General
The Senai is divided into various Thalams. A Thalam is a self-sustaining army formation with its own Material resources and inventory. A Thalam Usually contains

  • 3 Yanaipadai – Elephant Corps, each with 300-500 elephants,
  • 3 Kudhiraipadai – Cavalry Corps, each with 500-1000 Horses,
  • 6 Kaalaatpadai – Infantry Corps, Each with 2000-3000 Men,
  • 2 Thalpadai – Auxiliary- A mix of Infantry & Cavalry, Each with 1000–2000 Men and 500-1000 Horses. (they Can be used as Rear-Guard Units as well as a guerilla force in time of withdrawal.
  • 2 Marathuvarani – Medical Corps – About 200–300 doctors with horse-drawn carriages and medical provisions.
  • 1 or 2 Oosipadai – Strike Corps


Commanding Officer’s Rank’ : AnipathiMeaning Lord of Group
Modern equivalent Rank  : Colonel
A Thalam is subdivided into various Anis, from a purely numerical point of view an Ani is 1/3 of a Thalam, with

  • 1 Yanaipadai
  • 1 Kudhiraipadai
  • 2 Kaalatpadai
  • 1 Thalpadai

Military Academy.

The presence of military cantonments called Kadagam in Sangam Tamil indicates that there were regular training and military practice as a part of the Tamil martial tradition which were all forcefully banned and taken away by the British. The Palayam system was based on a feudal class structure of warriors, farmers, artisans and merchants where the distinctions between the caste statuses of the constituent classes were strictly enforced. To symbolize this society, the Tamil warriors wore swords in everyday life because the system was maintained by their military prowess. Martial tradition and practice were systematically outlawed by the British. The modern Indian army has a Madras regiment which being the only one unit for the whole of South India.

There were military colonies known as nilai puram. A nilaipuram contained a number of forts. In Keralasinga Valanadu of the North Pandya country, there were five nilaipurams. These were named after the five coronational names of the Pandyas, namely, Sundara, Kulasekhara, Vikrama, Vira, and Parakrama Pandya.

Reference and citations.



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