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Thursday, July 7, 2011


The ancietn history of Tamil Nadu dates back about 6000 years and the origin of its people is topic debate related to the Aryan invasion theory. Those who believe in this theory support the view that the Tamils belong to the Dravidian race and were part of the early Indus Valley settlers. Later with the advent of the Aryan invasion, the Dravidians were forced to remain back into the deep south, where they ultimately settled. The present day states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh constitute the Dravidian culture.

¤ Ancient History (1st to 9th centuries)
Tamil Nadu was ruled by the early Cholas between 1st and 4th centuries CE. Karikalan was the first and the most famous king, who built the Kallanai (kall - stone, anai - bund), a dam across the Cauvery River, which is considered to be an engineering wonder of that time. The Cholas ruled the present Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli districts and were excellent in military expertise. At the peak of their glory, the Chola kings expanded their influence as far as Cylon (SriLanka) in the south and hundreds of kilometers across the northern region. Cholas comprises the major part of ancient history of Tamil Nadu. Almost all the Chola Kings build magnificent temples. Brahadeswarer's Temple or more popularly called as the Big temple in Tanjore (Thanjavur)is a classical example of the magnificent architecture of the Chola kingdom.

During the later half of 4th century, Pallavas the great temple builders emerged into prominence and dominated the south for another 400 years. A large portion of Tamil Nadu was ruled by then with Kanchipuram as their base. In the 6th century they defeated the Cholas and ruled as far as Sri Lanka. Among the greatest Pallava rulers were Mahendravarman-l and his son Narasimhavarman. Dravidian architecture reached its epitome during Pallava rule. The last Pallava King was Aparajitha. He was defeated by Aditya Chola towards the end of the 9th century.

¤ Medieval History (9th to 14th centuries)

Under Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, the Cholas again rose as a notable power in 9th century in South India. The Chola empire extended to the central Indian states like, Orissa and parts of West Bengal. Rajaraja Chola conquered the eastern Chalukya kingdom by defeating the Cheras, and also occupied parts of Ceylon by defeating the Pandyas. Rajendra Chola went beyond, occupying the islands of andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Sumatra, Java, Malaya and the islands of Pegu with his fleet of ships. He defeated Mahipala, the king of Bihar and Bengal, and to mark his victory he built a new capital called Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The Cholas started loosing their power around the 13th century.

As Cholas declined, the Pandyas once again emerged as a power, in the early 14th century. But this was short lived and soon they were subdued by Muslim Khilji invaders from the north in 1316. The city of Madurai was plundered and completely destroyed. The invasion destroyed the Chola and Pandya dynasties and led to the establishment of Bahmani Kingdom in the northern Deccan.

Due to the 14th century invasion, the Hindus retaliated in reaction and rallied to build a strong new kingdom, called the Vijayanagara empire. This empire included all the strongholds of Cholas and other local Hindu rulers to check the Muslims. Governors called Nayaks were employed to run different territories of the empire. Vijayanagar Empire was the most prosperous dynasty in the south, with Hampi as the Capital. But by 1564 the empire came to an end at the hands of Deccan sultans in the battle of Talikota. The empire, dismantled into many parts and was given to the Nayaks to rule. Tamil Country under the Telugu Nayaks was peaceful and prosperous. The Nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavur were most prominent of them all, who reconstructed some of the oldest temples in the country.

¤ Modern History (17th century)

The Dutch accomplished a settlement in Pulicat around 1609. The British, under the British East India Company, established a settlement further south, in present day Chennai, in the year 1639. The British took advantage of the petty quarrels among the provincial rulers (divide and rule) to expand their area of power.

The British fought with the various European powers, notably the French at Vandavasi (Wandiwash) in 1760, and the Dutch at Tharangambadi (Tranquebar), driving the Dutch away entirely, and reducing the French dominions in India to Pondicherry. The British also fought four wars with the Kingdom of Mysore under Hyder Ali and later his son Tipu Sultan, which led to their eventual domination of India's south. They consolidated southern India into the Madras Presidency.

The nationalist movement in Tamil Nadu was a movement of historical depth. Its starting point is the late eighteenth century. Early manifestations of anti-colonial feeling in Tamil Nadu were the rebellions led by the Poligars of Tirunelveli and Shivagana, and the sepoy revolt at Vellore in 1806.

Some important Chieftains or Poligars of Tamil Nadu, who fought the British East India Company as it was expanding, were Veerapandya Kattabomman, Maruthus and Pulithevan.

¤ Tamil Nadu After Independence

After India gained independence in 1947, Madras Presidency became Madras State, comprising of present day Tamil Nadu, coastal andhra Pradesh, northern Kerala, and the southwest coast of Karnataka.

The state was later divided on the basis of linguistic lines. In 1953 the northern districts formed Andhra Pradesh. Under the States Reorganization Act, 1956, Madras State lost its western coastal districts. The Bellary and South Kanara districts were given to Mysore state, and Kerala was formed from the Malabar district, the former princely states of Travancore and Cochin. Finally, in 1968, when the Central Government imposed Hindi as the national language, the state of Madras was renamed Tamil Nadu, to reduce the resistance against this decision of the government.

Today, Tamil Nadu is one of the most prominent states of India, famous for its tourist attractions and drawing innumerable visitor's to the state.

Pre Historic age in Tamil Nadu

The origin of human race on the planet earth took place several thousands of years ago. The early history of human beings is called the pre-historic age, Written records are not available for the pre-Historic period. However, the pre-historic people had left many things such as pieces of pottery, stone and metal tools, simple drawings, bones and skeletons. These materials provide some clue to know the history of the pre-historic period. Material remains belonging to the pre-historic period have also been unearthed in many places of Tamil Nadu.

The pre-historic period in Tamil Nadu may be classified into

         1.  Old Stone Age
         2.  New Stone Age
         3.  Metal Age
         4.  Megalithic Age

Sangam Age in Tamil Kingdoms
The history of the Tamil country becomes clear only from the Sangam period. The word Sangam means an association. Here, it refers to the Tamil Sangam, an association of Tamil poets, which flourished in ancient Tamil Nadu. These Tamil poets had composed the Sangam literature. The period in which these literatures were composed is called the Sangam Age in the history of Tamil Nadu. During this age there were three Tamil Kingdoms, namely the Chera, Chola and Pandy kingdoms in the Tamil country. They were popularly known as Moovendar.
The historical sources for the Sangam Age may classified into
        1. Literary Sources
        2. Archaeological sources and
        3. Foreign Accounts.
Tamil Kingdoms
There were three important kingdoms, namely Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms in the Tamil country during the Sangam Age. In addition to these three kingdoms, there were also local chieftains. The most famous among the local chieftains were the Seven Patrons, popularly known as Kadaiyelu Vallalgal.
They are
1. Chera
2. Chola
3. Pandya

Old Stone Age

The first stage of human life is called the Old Stone Age. The people of this period used crude and rough stone implements for hunting the animals. These implements were made of quartzite or hard rock. Therefore, this period is named as the Old Stone Age. The implements of this period are found in several parts of Tamil Nadu. Robert Bruce Foote had first discovered the Old Stone Age implements at Pallavaram near Chennai. Later, similar discoveries were made in the districts of Kanchipuram, Vellore and Thiruvallur.

Simple hand axes and pieces of stone tools were found in the valley of river Koratalayar near Chennai and in Vada Madurai. Thus it is clearly evident that the Old Stone Age people lived in different parts of Tamil Nadu. It is generally believed that the Old Stone Age lasted up to B.C. 10.000.

Old Stone Age Life Style:
The Old Stone Age people led a nomadic life wandering in search of food. Therefore, they are called as food gatherers. Fruits, vegetables, roots and animal flesh constitute their chief food. They had no idea of cultivation. They did not know the art of making pottery. They took shelter in caves in order to protect themselves from wild animals as well as from harsh climates.
Old Stone Age Dress
In the beginning, the Old Stone Age people did not wear any dress. Subsequently, they began to use animal skins, leaves and barks to cover their bodies. In this way they protected themselves from bitter cold and burning heat.
Old Stone Age Fire:
The Old Stone Age people produced fire by rubbing two flint stones. They used fire to scare away animals and also to roast the flesh of animals to eat. They also used fire to warm themselves during the cold weather.
Old Stone Age Paintings:
We find paintings in the caves in which the Old Stone Age people lived. The most popular among them are the paintings, which portray the hunting of animals like elephant, bear, and deer.
Old Stone Age Beliefs:
The Old Stone Age people had no idea of God or religion. They did not know how to dispose off the dead and therefore, they left the dead bodies as a prey to animals and birds.

New Stone Age
The New Stone Age followed the Old Stone Age. It is to he noted that the transition from Old Stone Age to New Stone Age was only gradual. The New Stone Age people had improved their life in all respects. The tile in the New Stone Age was not only more progressive than that of the Old Stone Age hut also varied. The New Stone Age people used trap rock instead of hard rock to make their stone implements Their stone weapons and tools were also more polished and sharpened The began to lead a settled life instead of wandering from place to place. These people abandoned caves and began to build clay huts and thatched houses for living. The New Stone Age people lived and worked in groups. It is important to know that this kind of group-life had subsequently led to the formation of villages.

The most important features of the New Stone Age include he beginning of agriculture domestication of animals and pottery ‘flaking, In short, the New Stone Age witnessed an all round development in the human life. This development indicates the, gradual evolution of human life in different stages. It had also resulted in enormous changes in human life. It took a long period for those changes to happen.
In the New Stone Age, people had learnt the art of cultivation. Therefore, they began to live in the river valleys since agriculture had become their primary occupation. They produced rice, millet, Vegetable and fruits. It is to be noted that the food gatherers of the Old Stone Age had become the food producers in the New Stone Age.
Domestication of Animals
During the New Stone Age, people started domesticating animals such as dog, sheep, cow and buffalo, Dog was helpful to them while going for hunting. Other animals such as cattle were used for transportation and also as food.
Wheel and Pottery
The discovery of wheel was a remarkable event in the life of man. The New Stone Age people used wheels to carry goods from one place to another. They also used the wheel for making pottery. In Tamil Nadu, the New Stone Age potteries have been discovered in the districts of Tirunelveli, Salem, Pudhukottai and Tiruchirapalli. Burial urn, water pots, lamps and other vessels of this period have also been found in these places.
Dress and Ornaments
The New Stone Age people knew the art of weaving. In Tamil Nadu, cotton was grown in plenty and it was used for weaving clothes. Cotton clothes were widely used by the New Stone Age people. Later, they developed the art of dyeing the clothes and wore colored clothes. The New Stone Age people used ornaments like necklace, beads and bangles. These ornaments were made of shells and bones.
The custom of burial developed during the New Stone Age. Burial have been unearthed in several parts of Tamil Nadu.

Sangam Age Sources
Literary Sources

The Sangam literature chiefly consists of Tholkappiyam, Ettuthogal and Pathuppattu. These works provide valuable information to know the history of the Sangam Age. Among these Tholkappiyam was the earliest.
During the post-Sangam period, the Pathinen Kilkanakku or the Eighteen Works was composed. The twin epics - Silappathigaram and Manimegalai - also belonged to the post- Sangam period. All these literature help us to know the society, economy and culture of the ancient Tamils.
The archaeological sources for the sangam period are limited. They may be classified into
(a) Epigraphy
(b) Excavations and
(c) Coins.

Epigraphical information for the Sangam period is scanty. The Asokan Edicts refer to the Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms. The Hathikumba Inscriptions of the Kalinga king , Kharavela also mentions the three Tamil Kingdoms. The Kalugumalai inscriptions help us to know about ancient Tamil scripts called Tamil Brahms. The Tirukkovalur inscriptions refer to the local chieftains and the tragic end of the Tamil Poet, Kapilar. The inscriptions at Thirupparankundrum mention the gift of cave beds to the Jam monks. The inscriptions found at Arnattar hills, near Pugalur belonged to the First Century A.D. and these inscriptions furnish information regarding the Chera kings.
Several monuments of this period have been brought to light by the excavations conducted at various places in Tamil Nadu. Robert Bruce Foote conducted excavations at Adhichanallur where he had found a large number of articles made of iron, bronze and gold. They depict the life of the ancient Tamils. Dubreuil and Mortimer Wheeler also made excavations at Arikkamedu near Pondicherry. Roman pottery, glass howls, gems and coins have been found there. These findings confirm the commercial contacts between the Roman Empire and Tamil country during the Sangam Age. A Buddhist Vihara was found at Kilaivur near kaveripoompattinam. It belonged to the post-Sangam period. Other Important sites of excavations are Uraiyur, Kanchipuram and Kodumanal.
The under-water archaeology has also developed recently and excavations have been made under the sea near Poompuhar. A shipwreck has been found there. These findings focus much light on the history of the Sangam period.
The study of coins is called numismatics, We get useful historical information from the study of ancient coins. The Tamil Kings of the Sangam period issued gold and silver coins but they are not found in large numbers. However, Roman coins made of gold and silver are found all over Tamil Nadu. These coins further confirm the trade relations between Tamil country and Rome during the Sangam Age.
Foreign Accounts
In addition to the Sangam literature, foreign literary accounts remain useful sources for the study of the Sangam Age. Greek and Roman writers had mentioned about the society and economy of the Sangam Tamils in their accounts. Megasthanes in his book Indica also referred to the three Tamil Kingdoms. Other authors such as Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy provide valuable information regarding the Sangam Age. The Ceylonese books - Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa - help us to fix the date of the Sangam.
Chronology of the Sangam Age
Chronology means the arranging of the historical events on the basis of the date of happenings. It remains very difficult to find out the exact date of the Sangam period. There are different opinions in fixing the date of the Sangam. It is believed that there existed three Sangams. The First Sangam had flourished at Then Madurai and the Second Sangam at Kapadapuram. Since these two places were eroded into the Indian Ocean, the Pandyan kings had established the Third Sangam at Madurai. Many scholars did not believe the existence of Three Sangams. However, the Sangam literature, which we possess now, might have been composed during the period of the Third Sangam. Hence, the Sangam Age that we come to know denotes only the Third Sangam. Based on the literary, epigraphic and archaeological sources, it is established by scholars that the Sangam Age flourished from Third Century B.C. to Third Century A.D.

Status of Women in Sangam Age

The Sangam literature describes the position of women in ancient Tamil society. In the Sangam Age, women were treated with special consideration. The natural feminine qualities such as Achcham, Madam and Naanam were insisted in the Sangam literature. Their most important virtue was chastity. The heroine of Silappathigaram. Kannagi had been hailed for her chastity and worshipped by the people. The women were given freedom to choose their life partners during the Sangam period. The concept of love had been elaborately discussed in Agananuru.

Women treated their husbands as equivalent to God during the Sangam period. They were not permitted to remarry and inherit property Sati or the custom of self-immolation at the death of one’s husband was not generally prevalent during this period. However, some women from the royal family indulged in the practice of Sati. According to the Sangam literature, a woman had to play different roles in the family such as a dutiful wife, responsible mother and an ideal hostess to guests. Women’s education was also insisted during the Sangam Age. We come to know a few women poets like Avvaiyar, Kakkai Padiniyar and Nachchellaiyar, whose verses are found in the Sangam literature. Sangam women were also known for their courage. However, from the post-Sangam period, there was a decline in the status of women.

Chera Kingdom

The Chera kings of the Sangam Age were known by many titles such as Vanavar, Villavar and Malaiyar. There were two important lines of Chera Kings. The first one started from Odiyan Cheralathan and the second from Irumporai. The kings belonging to these two lines ruled the Chera kingdom. Their capital was Vanji and their chief port Thondi, Their symbol in the flag was bow and arrow.

Cheran Senguttuvan was the most popular king of the Sangam Cheras. The Sangam works, Padhithrupaththu and Ahananuru provide a lot of information about him. The Tamil Epic Silappathigaram also tells about his military achievements. Senguttuvan led an expedition up to the Himalayas. He crossed the river Ganges and defeated his enemies, He reached the Himalayas and hoisted the Chera flag. He brought stones from there and built a temple in memory of Kannagi. His brother Elango Adigal composed Silappathigaram.

  •  Kongu Chera Coins

  • The kingdoms of the Cheras were located to the south of the great Mauryan Dynasty and Keralaputra and Cheraputra were first mentioned in the inscriptions of Ashoka the Great. However we come to know many details about the Chera Dynasty from the poems of the Sangam literature.
    The Chera dynasty was one of the ancient Tamil dynasties who reigned over south India from early times until the fifteenth century. Their kingdom extended over the Malabar Coast, Karur, Coimbatore and Salem Districts in South India, which now is a part of present day Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Chera kings were constantly into conflicts with their neighboring kingdoms to established political associations they sometimes inter- married with the families of the adversary kings.

    The first Chera ruler was Perumchottu Utiyan Cheralatan who founded the Chera dynasty. He was succeeded by his son Imayavaramban Nedum Cheralatan who converted the Chera dynasty into a powerful one and extended and enriched his kingdom from all aspects. Imayavaramban’s reign was also very important for the development of art and Literature as he patronized art and culture greatly. His poet laureate was Kannanar.
    However, the greatest ruler of the Chera Dynasty was Kadalpirakottiya Vel Kelu Kuttuvan, whose reference has been made in the great Tamil epic- Silappadigaram.

    Trade and Commerce flourished during the reign of the Cheras. The Cheras traded in ivory, timber, spices and exported precious gems and pearls to the Middle East and these trade contacts with the Middle East established Judaism.

    Though the Cheras had their personal religion, a large number of other religious traditions also existed during their rule. Buddhism and Jainism both were introduced in Kerala by the second century BC. 

    chola kingdom

    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.  Nedumudikilliseems to have been the successor of Karikala, whose capital town was set to fire by the sea pirates.  The frequent attacks of PallavasCheras andPandyas declined the Chola power and it was in the 8th century AD, Cholas glory began to shine when the Pallavas power declined.

    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 alsoParantaka Viranarayana, the Kongu ruler.
    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.

    Thanjavur was the capital city of Chola kingdom
    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 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 (1070 - 1120 AD)
    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 - theVikramaditya 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.


    In the later part of the tenth century, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Sri Lanka kingdoms adopted coinage once again after a brief break of four centuries.  But this time, it triggered off with the gold coinage to initiate major transactions.  Soon silver and copper coinage were minted in plenty to meet the day to day needs of commodities.
    Raja raja Chola struck coins both in Sri Lanka and India.  They differed much in fabric, style and in the gold purity.  The monetary economy was well defined with the Imperial Cholan conquest.  In Tamilnadu, Cholas introduced coinage much prior to Raja raja's campaign in Sri Lanka.  They adopted 'Tiger facing two fishes' as their emblem on the coinage.  Having developed a strong navy, they traded with Sri Lanka and soon conquered them too.  They also set voyages as far as the islands of Indonesia and Maldives through ocean.  Subsequently they felt the need to mint coins to trade!
    Chola's coinage issues were in all the three metals Gold, Silver and Copper.  Though the coinage was mainly destined for general currency, very few commemoratives could be observed.  Uttama Chola struck silver with the royal emblem of "Tiger facing two fishes" on the obverse and the Nagari legend "Uttama Chola".  Raja Raja struck gld fanams bearing the legend Yuddha Malla" on the obverse and the usual insignia on the reverse.  He also struck silver and gold kahavanus with the standing king on the obverse and the seated king on the reverse.  Nagari legend "Raja Raja" surrounded him on the obverse of some types, and the reverse image of some types.
    Rajendra Chola struck coins with the legend "Sri Rajendrah" beneath the usual insignia on both reverse and obverse.  The copper Kasu of Chola started off with the reign of Raja Raja, which passed onto next generations (even Kulottunga) with the same standard "Standing King on the obverse" and "Seated King on the reverse". Sometime legend "Raja Raja" and sometime the legend "Ku appears on the coinage surroundig the image.  These coins can be seen abundantly as the same type of coins with little deformed images were circulated till the Cholas ceased to exist. 

    pandya kingdom

    The Pändyas / Pandyas
    The Pandyas ruled regions in southern India which now lie in the state of Tamil Nadu, existing there alongside other dynasties such as the Cholas, the Cheras, the Pallavas, etc. The early Pandyas were reduced to obscurity by the Kalabhras, until their revival in the sixth century AD. They were again subdued by the Cholas in the ninth century, only to rise once more in the twelfth century.
    During their long existence as a recognisable people, the Pandyas enjoyed diplomatic ties with the Roman republic and empire (apparently dating as far back as 550 BC, when Rome was still an occupied Etruscan kingdom), the Greeks, the Chinese, the PtolemyEgyptians, etc. The Pandyan kingdom was also independent during the Mauryan rule of northern India, and had friendly ties with them. Marco Polo made mention of the Pandyan kingdom as one of the richest he had ever seen, as did Megasthenes in his work the Indika, and the Chinese traveller Yu Huan.
    In the fourteenth century, the kingdom met its end after an invasion by the Islamic Delhi sultanate. The Pandyas subsequently became a part of the Vijayanagar empire. The word Pandya is derived from the Tamil word, ‘Pandi’ which means the ‘bull', and considered a symbol of masculinity , strength and valour by the early Tamils. The early Pandyas are also said to have taken part in the Kurukshetra war, on the side of the victorious Pandavas.
    (Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)
    Kulashekharan Pandya
    First-known Pandya king.
    Kulashekharan is said to be as strong as a bull. He is apparently killed by Lord Krishna, but although his son wants to avenge his father's death, he is dissuaded from doing so by his well wishers.
    fl c.1300? BC
    c.1300? BC
    One of the contemporaries of Jarasandha of the Brhadratha dynasty of Magadha is Jayatsena of Magadha. He takes part in the Kurukshetra War in the Mahabharata as one of the leaders on the side of Kauravas, along with Srutayus of Kalinga, Paundraka Vasudeva of Pundra, Karna of Anga, and Malayadwaja of the Pandyas. Bhagadatta of the Naraka kings is also involved in the war.
    During the battle, Malayadwaja apparently wounds the mighty Dronacharya, the teacher of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas, and who fights on the side of the Kauravas. Malayadwaja goes further and takes on Drona's son, Ashwathama, in a duel.
    Malayadwaja's daughter is Meenakshi, after whom the famous temple of Meenakshi Amman is built in Madurai. The city of Madurai is built around this temple. After this, the Pandyas fall back into obscurity for seven centuries.
    Meenakshi Temple
    The Meenakshi Temple is a centrepiece of the city of Madurai
    Pandya Sangam Period
    c.600 BC - c.460 BC
    Although the period of the Kurukshetra War is semi-legendary in Indian history, the oral and written sources do seem to be remembering real events and leaders, however hazy the view might be. There is nothing more on the Pandyas until they emerge properly into history in the sixth century BC.
    By this time they are a recognisable people whose leaders are credited for constructing many beautiful temples in their kingdom (the Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai, and the Nellaiappar temple in Tirunelveli, for example) and who apparently rule a very prosperous state. Their kingdom is famous for its involvement in the pearl trade, and the arts, poetry and literature all progress under them.
    The early Pandya list here is from the Sangam literature and poems.
    fl c.600 BC
    Nedunj Cheliyan I
    Nedunj Cheliyan is also known as Aariyap Padai Kadantha Nedunj Cheliyan. The capital of the early Pandyan kingdom is at Korkai, around 600 BC, but is moved to Kudal (now Madurai) during the reign of Nedunj Cheliyan I.
    Mudukudumi Paruvaludhi in the Sangam literature.
    Nedunj Cheliyan II
    Nan Maran
    Nedunj Cheliyan III
    Also known as Talaiyaalanganathu Seruvendra Nedunj Cheliyan, this king finds mention in a Meenakshiuram record when he gifts a rock-cut bed to a Jain ascetic. He is also described in the Sangam literature as the victor of Talaiyalanganam.
    Maran Valudi
    Musiri Mutriya Cheliyan
    Ukkirap Peruvaludi
    c.460? BC
    The Sangam age ends when the Kalabhras take over the Pandyan regions, relegating them to obscurity for the next eleven hundred years.
    During this period, especially in the third century BC, the Pandyas are in a state of regular conflict with the emerging Cholas.
    Pandya First Empire
    AD 580 - 960
    The Sangam age of Pandyan kings ended when the Kalabhras took over the Pandyan regions. It took eleven centuries, but the Pandyas eventually bounced back, retook their territories and established what is now known as the first empire. Kadungon was the king who achieved this, reviving the Pandyas in southern India at the very start of the seventh century AD (alongside a similar Pallavaresurgence under King Simhavishnu), marking the beginning of a new era in the Tamil-speaking region. He assumed the title Pandyadhiraja.
    AD 580 - 590
    c.590 - 620
    Maravarman Avaniculamani
    c.620 - 640
    Cezhian Cendan
    c.640 - 670
    c.670 - 710
    Arikesari Maravarman Nindraseer Nedumaran
    Son. Rules from Madurai.
    The Pallava king, Mahendravarman II, is killed in a collective attack by the Chalukyas, the Gangas and the Pandyas.
    Arikesari Maravarman later conquers Kerala, and makes common cause with the Chalukya king, Vikramaditya, against the Pallavas (Paramesvaravarman). He is credited with defeating the Chera king in multiple battles. He also subjugates the recalcitrant Parathavar of the coastal areas and the inhabitants of the Kurunadu.
    c.710 - 735
    Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran
    Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran conquers the greater part of Kongu country (Coimbatore, Salem). He subdues the Cholas and the Cheras, and his campaigns against the Chalukya kings and Ay chieftains (the latter eventually become his vassals) are also recorded.
    c.735 - 765
    Maravarman Rajasimha I
    Maravarman Rajasimha subdues the Pallavas (with help from Chalukyan king Vikramaditya II), and the Western Gangas (King Sripurusha). (The Chalukyan king Kirtivarman II subsequently gives his daughter in marriage to Maravarman's son, Jatila Parantaka.) He defeats the ruler of Kongu Nadu and crosses the Cauvery to bring about the subjugation of Malakongam, which was situated between Trichy and Thanjavur districts. The Malava chieftain who suffers defeat at his hands gives his daughter in marriage to Rajasimha.
    c.765 - 790
    Parantaka Nedujadaiyan
    Son. Rules in Madurai. Defeated Pallavas on Kaveri's south bank.
    c.790 - 800
    Rasasingan II
    c.800 - 830
    Varagunavarman I
    Varagunavarman extends his empire to Tiruchirapalli by defeating the Pallava King Dandivarman, critically weakening his kingdom.
    c.830 - 862
    Srimara Srivallabha
    Srimara invades Lanka and captures the northern provinces of the Lanka King Sena I . He defeats the Pallavas at a battle at Kumbakonam. His son, Varagunavarman, later rebels against him and invites the Sinhalese forces under Sena II and the Pallava king Nripatunga to invade Pandya territory and sack Madurai. Srimara dies soon afterwards. His successor attempts to throw off Pallava overlordship but suffers a massive defeat at the hands of Pallava King Nandivarman III.
    c.862 - 880
    Varagunavarman II
    Son. Pallava vassal.
    c.880 - 900
    Sri Parantaka Viranarayana Sadaiyan
    Younger brother.
    Aparajita of the Pallavas tries to revive the fortunes of his kingdom by defeating the Pandyas again, with the help of the Cholas who are his vassals. In 891 the Chola king, Aditya, breaks the yoke of his Pallava overlords and completely defeats them, paving the way for Chola supremacy in southern India.
    c.900 - 920
    Maravarman Rajsimha II
    c.900 - 910
    Maravarman Rajsimha II opposes the Chola king of Thanjavur at Kodumbalur and plunders the Chera capital at Vanchi in Kongu Nadu.
    c.910 - 920
    The Pandyas suffer defeat at the hands of Parantaka Chola I, the son of Aditya Chola. Parantaka invades the Pandyan kingdom and earns himself the title Maduraikonda (the one who captured Madurai). Rajasimha appeals to Kassapa V, the Lanka king, for assistance, but even the combined forces of the Pandyas and the Sinhalese are not able to keep the Cholas at bay and they suffer a huge defeat in Vellur near Madurai.
    After these successive defeats, Rajasimha II flees to Ceylon but, unable to secure refuge there, he proceeds to Kerala, as he himself is descended in part from a Chera king. There he spends the remainder of his days in obscurity.
    c.920 - ?
    Sundara Pandya I
    fl c.960
    Vira Pandya I
    The Chola domination of the Tamil country begins in earnest during the reign of Parantaka Chola II. Chola armies led by Aditya Karikala, son of Parantaka Chola II, defeat Vira Pandya in battle. The Pandyas are assisted by the Sinhalese (Sri Lankan) forces of Mahinda IV. The Pandyas are driven out of their territories and have to seek refuge on the island of Sri Lanka. This is the start of their long exile.
    Pandya Second Empire
    AD 1251 - 1345
    The Chola domination of former Pandyan territory remained in place for over two centuries, until 1210. The Pandyas were driven into exile and replaced by Chola viceroys known as the Chola Pandyas. While the following list concentrates mainly on the revival of Pandya power under the second empire, it also gives the names of the Pandya kings who were active during the tenth century and the first half of the eleventh century and who built the foundations for that revival. It is difficult to give their dates of accession and the duration of their rule but nevertheless, their presence in the southern country requires recognition.
    fl c.980
    Vira Pandya II
    First of the true exile kings.
    Amarabhujanga Tivrakopa
    Jatavarman Sundara Chola Pandya
    Maravarman Vikrama Chola Pandya
    Maravarman Parakrama Chola Pandya
    ? - 1101
    Jatavarman Chola Pandya
    Taila II of the Kadambas of Hangal assists the Hoysalas against the Pandyas, defeating the latter. However, this defeat probably marks the start of the Pandyas' attempts to reclaim their former lands.
    The Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli, one of the ancestral glories that the Pandyas wished to regain
    1101 - 1124
    Srivallabha Manakulachala
    1132 - 1161
    Maaravaramban Seervallaban
    1161 - 1162
    Parakrama Pandiyan
    1162 - ?
    Kulasekara Pandyan III
    ? - 1175
    Vira Pandyan III
    Led a failed rebellion against Kulothunga Chola III.
    1175 - 1180
    Jatavarman Srivallaban
    Chola vassal.
    1180? - 1190
    Vikkikarma Pandyan
    Chola vassal.
    Vikkirama Pandyan gains the throne of Madurai with the help of Kulothunga Chola III. It had been Kulothunga who had defeated a rebellion by Vira Pandyan III and his Sinhalese allies and on this occasion he rewards Pandyan cooperation by awarding the throne to Vikkirama Pandyan. The Tamil country is divided between the Pandyas and the Pallavas, with the River Kaveri being established as the frontier between them.
    However, the Pandyas are again undone by a Hoysala king, this time Vir Ballala II, consequently eclipsing the rule of their vassals, the Kadambas of Uchchangi.
    1190 - 1216
    Jatavarman Kulasekharan I
    Son. Chola vassal.
    Jatavarman Kulasekharan is a brother-in-law of the Chera Prince Kothai Ravivarman. Remaining a Chola vassal, he resents this humbling position and rebels against his overlords. He is defeated, and is forced once again to accept the Chola yoke, regaining his throne as a result.
    1216 - 1238
    Maravarman Sundara Pandyan I
    Younger brother.
    Maravarman avenges his brother's defeat at the hands of the Cholas. He leads a revival of Pandya fortunes, sacks the Chola cities of Thanjavur and Uraiyur and sends the Chola crown prince, Rajaraja Chola III, into exile. Kulothunga Chola III appeals for aid for his son-in-law, approaching the Hoysala monarch, Veera Ballala II. Ballala sends an army under his son, the Crown Prince Vira Narasimha II. Under pressure from the Hoysala threat, Sundara Pandyan agrees to restore the Chola kingdom to Kulothunga, but only after the Cholas acknowledge his suzerainty. Maravaram subsequently rules over extensive territory including Trichinopoly and Pudukottai.
    1238 - 1251
    Maravaram Sundara Pandya II
    Son. Defeated by Rajendra Chola III.
    1251 - 1268
    Jatavarman Sundara Pandya III
    Son. Established the Second Pandyan Empire.
    Jatavarman avenges the defeat of his father by completely destroying the Chola empire and establishing the second powerful Pandyan empire. He also defeats the Cheras, Hoysalas (in 1279), and the Kakatiyas.
    During his reign he provides a golden roof for the temples of Chidambaram and Srirangam from the wealth acquired in his conquests. He also gives many grants to temples in Trichy, Thanjavur and Kanchipuram. He builds a temple at Aragalur (Magadai Mandalam) for the merit of Kulasekara around 1259. He acknowledges the contributors of other dynasties to Tamil Nadu by building a gate at the Sri Ranganathaswami Temple at Srirangam in which he engraves the names of all four great empires of Tamil Nadu, the Cholas, Pallavas, Pandyas and Cheras. He also builds the east tower of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple.
    1268 - 1308
    Maravaramban Kulasekhara Pandya I
    The Pandyas drive out Ramanatha of the divided Hoysala kingdom, seizing his territory.
    Kulasekhara Pandya has two sons, one of whom, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, is legitimate, while Jatavarman Vira Pandya is illegitimate. The latter is chosen as the heir apparent, so the former kills his father. This leads to a civil war between the brothers.
    1309 - 1327
    Jatavarman Sundara Pandya
    1309 - 1345
    Jatavarman Vira Pandya
    Illegitimate brother and official heir.
    1327 - 1345
    Jatavarman Sundara Pandya appeals to Alladin Khiljis, the Deccan viceroy, and General Mallik Kafur for help. Kafur invades and destroys the Pandyan kingdom over the course of two decades, ending Hindu Pandya rule and starting a Mahomedan overlordship from Delhi.
    However, Delhi loses power in the Deccan in the fourteenth century and a patchwork of kingdoms and principalities emerges, one of the biggest of which is the Vijaynagar empire, which lies immediately north of the Madurai region. In 1334, Madurai itself becomes an Islamic sultanate which is initially independent.