Manimekalai or Maṇimekhalai (Tamil: மணிமேகலை), written by the Tamil Buddhist poet Seethalai Saathanar is one of the masterpieces of Tamil literature. It is considered to be one of the five great epics of Tamil literature. Manimekalai is a poem in 30 cantos. Its story is a sequel to Silapathikaram or Sīlappadhikāram and tells the story of the conversion to Buddhism of the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi. It is the only extant Tamil Buddhist literary text.
As a continuation of Silappatikaram (Tamil: சிலப்பதிகாரம்), this epic describes how Manimekalai, the beautiful daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, followers of Jainism, converts to Buddhism. According to the poem, Maṇimekalai studies the six systems of philosophy of Hinduism and other prevalent religions of the time and compares them to the teachings of the Buddha. She is most impressed with Buddhism. Later, upon hearing doctrinal expositions from the Buddhist teacher Bhikshu Aravaṇa Aḍigal, she becomes a dedicated Buddhist nun.
The aim of the author, Sīthalai Sāttanār (or Cīttalai Cāttanār) was to compare Buddhism favourably with the other prevailing religions in South India in order to propagate Buddhism. He criticizes Jainism, the chief opponent and competitor of Buddhism at the time. While exposing the weaknesses of the other contemporary Indian religions, he praises the Buddha’s Teaching, the Dhamma, as the most perfect religion.
The poem Manimekhalai gives much information on the history of [[Tamil Nadu], Buddhism and its place during that period, contemporary arts and culture, and the customs of the times. The exposition of the Buddhist doctrine in the poem deals elegantly with the Four Noble Truths (ārya-satyāni), Dependent Origination (pratītyasamutpāda), mind (citta) and Buddhist practices like virtue (Śīla) and non-violence (ahimsa). 
The poem is set in both the harbour town of Kāveripattinam, the modern town of Puhar in Tamil Nadu, and in Nainatheevu of NākaNadu, a small sandy island off the Jaffna Peninsula in modern Sri Lanka. The story runs as follows: The dancer-courtesan Manimekalai is pursued by the amorous Cholan prince Udyakumāra, but rather wants to dedicate herself to a religious celibate life. he sea goddess Manimegala Theivam or Maṇimekhalai Devī puts her to sleep and takes to the island Maṇipallavam (Nainatheevu). After waking up and wandering about the island Maṇimekhalai comes across the Dharma-seat, the seat on which the Buddha had taught and appeased two warring Naga princes, and placed there by the God Indra. Those who worship it miraculously know their previous life. Manimekalai automatically worships it and recollects what has happened in her previous life. She then meets the guardian goddess of the Dharma seat, Deeva-Teelakai (Dvīpa Tilakā) who explains her the significance of the Dharma seat and lets her acquire the magic never-failing begging bowl (cornucopia) called Amṛta Surabhi (”cow of abundance”), which will always provide food to alleviate hunger. The goddess also predicts that the Bhikshu Aravaṇa Aḍigal in her native town will teach her more. Manimekalai then used the mantra which the sea goddess had given her and returns to Kāveripattinam, where she meets the Bhikshu Aravaṇa Aḍigal, who expounds her the Buddha’s Teaching. She then becomes a Buddhist nun or Bhikshuni and practices to rid herself of the bondage of birth and death and attain Nirvana.
Manimekalai – The daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, who was born with bravery and virtues. Udhayakumaran – The Chola King, who was madly in love with Manimekalai. He was a foolish king, who wanted things done only in the way he wanted them to be done. Sudhamadhi – Manimekalai’s most faithful and trustworthy friend. The sea goddess Manimekalai, who protects the heroine.
Disappearance of Kāveripattinam or Puhar
The poem relates that the town Kāveripattinam or Puhār was swallowed up by the sea (i.e. destroyed by a tsunami or flood) due to the Cholan King not holding the annual Indra festival, causing the wrath of the sea goddess Manimekhalai. This event is supported by archeological finds of submerged ruins off the coast of modern Poompuhar. Ancient ruins of a 4th-5th century Buddhist monastery, a Buddha statue, and a Buddhapada (footprint of the Buddha) were also found in another section of the ancient city, now at Pallavanesvaram. The town of Kāveripattinam is believed to have disappeared in between the 3d and the 6th century. 
Date of Composition
Although there is some controversy about the exact date of this work, it is likely to have been composed in the 6th century CE.
Survival of Text
The Manimekhalai is the only extant Tamil Buddhist literary work of what once was an extensive literature. The reason for it survival is probably its status as the sequel to the Silapathikaram or Sīlappadhikāram. Tamil Nadu produced many Buddhist teachers who made valuable contributions to Tamil, Pali and Sanskrit literature. Reference to their works is found in Tamil literature and other historical records. Lost Tamil Buddhist works are the poem Kuṇḍalakesī by Nāgaguttanār, the grammar Vīrasoliyam, the Abhidhamma work Siddhāntattokai, the panegyric Tiruppadigam, and the biography Bimbisāra Kadai.
Buddhist School Affiliation
The work contains no direct references to Mahayana as propagated by Nagarjuna, etc, and appears to be a work of an early early Buddhist, Sravakayana school such as the Sthavira or Sautrantika school. According to Aiyangar, the emphasis on “the path of the Pitakas of the Great One” (i.e. Tipitaka) and the exposition of Dependent Origination, etc, in Chapter 30, could suggest that it is work of the Sautrantika school. An early Sravakayana Buddhist school affiliation with the emphasis on liberation from the defilements (kilesa), ending the cycle of birth, old age and death (samsara), and becoming an arahant is indicated by the conclusion of the poem, where Aravaṇa Aḍigal encourages full liberation from the three roots of evil—greed, hatred (rāga, dosa, moha). The final sentence of the poem states that Maṇimekhalai strove to rid herself of the bondage of birth (Aiyangar p. 230).
Aiyangar (p.80) suggests that the Buddhist logic as expounded by Aravaṇa Aḍigal in Chapter 29 of the Maṇimekhalai antedates the logic of Dignāga and his school.
The first translation of Manimekalai by R. B. K. Aiyangar, was published in Maṇimekhalai in its Historical Setting. Extracts of this were republished in Hisselle Dhammaratana’s Buddhism in South India  A more recent translation of the poem was done by Alain Daniélou with the collaboration of T.V. Gopala Iyer  There is also a Japanese translation by Shuzo Matsunaga, published in 1991.
- ^ Rao Bahadur Krishnaswāmi Aiyangar, Maṇimekhalai in its Historical Setting, London, 1928, p.185, 201, etc.. Available at http://www.archive.org 
- ^ Paula Richman, ”Cīttalai Cāttanār, Manimekhalai” summary in Karl H. Potter ed.,The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. New Delhi, 2003, pp.457–462.
- ^ Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1964. Available at Buddhist Publication Society Online Library 
- ^ Gaur A. S. and Sundaresh, Underwater Exploration off Poompuhar and possible causes of its Submergence, 1998, Puratattva, 28: 84-90. Available online at 
- ^ Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coast, Rao, S.R.. Journal of Marine Archaeology, Vol. II, July 1991, pp. 5–20. Available online at 
- ^ Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coast., Rao, S.R.. Journal of Marine Archaeology, Vol. II, July 1991, pp. 6. Available online at 
- ^ ”Indian town sees evidence of ancient tsunami”, Associated Press report, Poompuhar,1/14/2005. Available online at 
- ^ Paula Richman, ”Cīttalai Cāttanār, Manimekhalai” summary in Karl H. Potter ed.,The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. New Delhi, 2003, pp.458.
- ^ Paula Richman, ”Cīttalai Cāttanār, Manimekhalai” summary in Karl H. Potter ed.,The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. New Delhi, 2003, pp.458.
- ^ Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Kandy, 1964. Available online at Buddhist Publication Society Online Library Buddhism in South India.
- ^ Rao Bahadur Krishnaswāmi Aiyangar, Maṇimekhalai in its Historical Setting, London, 1928, p.xxvii, p. 85, 104, 188. Available at http://www.archive.org 
- ^ Rao Bahadur Krishnaswāmi Aiyangar, Maṇimekhalai in its Historical Setting, London, 1928. Available at http://www.archive.org 
- ^ Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Kandy, 1964. Available online at Buddhist Publication Society Online Library Buddhism in South India.
- ^ Alain Daniélou & Iyer, Manimekhalai: the Dancer with the Magic Bowl by Shattan, New York, 1989.
- N. Balusamy, Studies in Manimekalai, Madurai, Athirai Pathippakam, 1965.
- Brenda E.F. Beck. The three twins : the telling of a South Indian folk epic, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1982.
- Alain Danielou, translator, with the collaboration of T.V. Gopala Iyer, Manimekhalai : the dancer with the magic bowl,Penguin Books, New Delhi, 1993.
- Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Kandy, 1964. Available online at Buddhist Publication Society Online Library Buddhism in South India
- Gaur A. S. and Sundaresh, Underwater Exploration off Poompuhar and possible causes of its Submergence, 1998, Puratattva, 28: 84-90. Available online at 
- Shu Hikosaka, Buddhism in Tamilnadu : a new perspective, Madras: Institute of Asian Studies, 1989.
- K. Kailasapathy, Tamil Heroic Poetry, Oxford, Clarendon P., 1968.
- S.N. Kandaswamy, Buddhism as expounded in Manimekalai, Annamalainagar : Annamalai University, 1978.
- R. Kasirajan, Evolution and evaluation of epics in Tamil, Madurai : Mathy Pathippakam, 1990.
- Krishnaswami Aiyangar, Manimekhalai in its historical setting, London : Luzac & Co., 1928. Available at 
- R. Natarajan, Manimekalai as an Epic, Madras, 1990.
- P. Pandian (Bacon), Cattanar’s Manimekalai translated from the Tamil, Madras : South India Saiva Siddhanta Works Pub. Society, 1989.
- R. Parthasarathy, The Cilappatikaram of Ilanko Atikal : an epic of South India, New York : Columbia University Press, 1993. Series title: Translations from the Asian classics.
- Rao, S.R. ”Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coast” in Journal of Marine Archaeology, Vol. II, July 1991, pp. 6. Available online at 
- Paula Richman, ”Cīttalai Cāttanār, Manimekhalai” summary in Karl H. Potter ed.,The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., New Delhi, 2003, pp.457–462 and footnotes on p. 609–612. (Partly at Google Books).
- Paula Richman, Women, branch stories, and religious rhetoric in a Tamil Buddhist text, Syracuse, 1988. Series title: Foreign and Comparative Studies. South Asian series no. 12.
- Peter Schalk, editor-in-chief, A Buddhist woman’s path to enlightenment : proceedings of a Workshop on the Tamil Narrative Manimekalai, Uppsala University, May 25-29, 1995. Uppsala, Academiae Ubsaliensis, Stockholm, 1997.Series title: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Historia religionum 13.
- S.V. Subramanian, Descriptive grammar of Cilappatikaram, Madras, 1965.
History of Tamil Nadu
A temple from the Chola period. The Cholas united most of the south Indian peninsula under a single administration during the tenth and the eleventh century CE.
The region of Tamil Nadu in modern India has been under continuous human habitation since prehistoric times, and the history of Tamil Nadu and the civilization of the Tamil people are among the oldest in the world. Throughout its history, spanning the early Paleolithic age to modern times, this region has coexisted with various external cultures. Except for relatively short periods in its history, the Tamil region has remained independent of external occupation.
The four ancient Tamil empires of Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallava were of ancient origins. Together they ruled over this land with a unique culture and language, contributing to the growth of some of the oldest extant literature in the world. They had extensive maritime trade contacts with the Roman empire. These three dynasties were in constant struggle with each other vying for hegemony over the land. Invasion by the Kalabhras during the 3rd century disturbed the traditional order of the land by displacing the three ruling kingdoms. These occupiers were overthrown by the resurgence of the Pandyas and the Pallavas, who restored the traditional kingdoms. The Cholas, who re-emerged from obscurity in the 9th century by defeating the Pallavas and the Pandyas, rose to become a great power and extended their empire over the entire southern peninsula. At its height the Chola empire spanned almost 3,600,000 km² (1,389,968 sq mi) straddling the Bay of Bengal. The Chola navy held sway over the Sri Vijaya kingdom in Southeast Asia.
Rapid changes in the political situation of the rest of India due to incursions of Muslim armies from the northwest marked a turning point in the history of Tamil Nadu. With the decline of the three ancient dynasties during the 14th century, the Tamil country became part of the Vijayanagara Empire. Under this empire the Telugu speaking Nayak governors ruled the Tamil land. The brief appearance of the Marathas gave way to the European trading companies, who began to appear during the 17th century and eventually assumed greater sway over the indigenous rulers of the land. The Madras Presidency, comprising most of southern India, was created in the 18th century and was ruled directly by the British East India Company. After the independence of India, the state of Tamil Nadu was created based on linguistic boundaries.
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The prehistoric period during which Palaeolithic settlements existed in the Tamil Nadu region has been estimated to span the period from about 500,000 BCE until around 3000 BCE. For most part of the lower Palaeolithic stage, humans lived close to river valleys with sparse forest cover or in grassland environments. The population density was very low and so far only two localities of this lower Palaeolithic culture have been found in south India. One of these is in Attirampakkam valley in the northwest of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Archaeological research has uncovered evidence of fossil remains of animals and primitive stone implements around the northern Tamil Nadu that could be dated to belong to around 300,000 BCE. Humans in South India, belonging to the species of Homo erectus, lived in this primitive ‘old stone age’ (Palaeolithic) for quite a long time, using only crude implements such as hand axes and choppers and subsisting as hunter-gatherers.
The ancestor of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) who appeared around 50,000 years ago was more developed and could make thinner flake tools and blade-like tools using a variety of stones. From about 10,000 years ago, humans made still smaller tools called Microlithic tools. The material used by the early humans to make these tools were jasper, agate, flint, quartz, etc. In 1949, researchers found such microliths in Tirunelveli district. Archaeological evidence suggests that the microlithic period lasted between 6000–3000 BCE.
In Tamil Nadu, the Neolithic period had its advent around 2500 BCE. Humans of the Neolithic period made their stone tools in finer shapes by grinding and polishing. A Neolithic axe head with ancient writing on it has been found in Tamil Nadu. The Neolithic humans lived mostly on small flat hills or on the foothills in small, more or less permanent settlements but for periodical migration for grazing purposes. They gave the dead proper burials within urns or pits. They were also starting to use copper for making certain tools or weapons.
During the Iron Age humans started using iron for making tools and weapons. The Iron Age culture in peninsular India is marked by Megalithic burial sites, which are found in several hundreds of places. On the bases of both some excavations and the typology of the burial monuments, it has been suggested that there was a gradual spread of the Iron Age sites from the north to the south. Comparative excavations carried out in Adichanallur in Thirunelveli district and in Northern India have provided evidence of a southward migration of the Megalithic culture.
The earliest clear evidence of the presence of the megalithic urn burials are those dating from around 1000 BCE, which have been discovered at various places in Tamil Nadu, notably at Adichanallur, 24 km from Tirunelveli, where archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India unearthed 157 urns, including 15 containing human skulls, skeletons and bones, plus husks, grains of rice, charred rice and Neolithic celts. One urn has writing inside, which, according to archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India, resembles early Tamil-Brahmi script, confirming it of the Neolithic period 2800 years ago. Adhichanallur has been announced as an archaeological site for further excavation and studies.
Mentions of the political situation of Tamil Nadu before the common era are found in Asoka’s edicts dated c 300 BCE and, vaguely, in the Hathigumpha inscription dated c.150 BCE. The earliest epigraphical evidence in the Tamil country are that of the Pandya king Kadungon (c. 560–590 CE) who displaced the Kalabhras from the Pandyas country. —Nilakanta Sastri, A history of South India, pp 105, 137
Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela
Ancient Tamil Nadu contained three monarchical states, headed by kings called Ventar and several tribal chieftaincies, headed by the chiefs called by the general denomination Vel or Velir. Still lower at the local level there were clan chiefs called kizar or mannar. During the 3rd century BCE, the Deccan was part of the Mauryan kingdom, and from the middle of the 1st century BCE to 2nd century CE the same area was ruled by the Satavahana dynasty. The Tamil area had an independent existence outside the control of these northern empires. The Tamil kings and chiefs were always in conflict with each other mostly over property. The royal courts were mostly places of social gathering rather than places of dispensation of authority; they were centres for distribution of resources. Gradually the rulers came under the spell of north Indian influence and Vedic ideology, which encouraged performance of sacrifices to enhance the status of the ruler.
The names of the three dynasties, Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras are mentioned in the Pillars of Ashoka (inscribed 273–232 BCE) inscriptions, among the kingdoms, which though not subject to Ashoka, were on friendly terms with him. The king of Kalinga, Kharavela, who ruled around 150 BCE, mentioned in the famous Hathigumpha inscription of the confederacy of the Tamil kingdoms that had existed for over 100 years.
Karikala Chola was the most famous early Chola. He is mentioned in a number of poems in the Sangam poetry. In later times Karikala was the subject of many legends found in the Cilappatikaram and in inscriptions and literary works of the 11th and 12th centuries. They attribute to him the conquest of the whole of India up to the Himalayas and the construction of the flood banks of the river Kaveri with the aid of his feudatories. These legends however are conspicuous by their absence in the Sangam poetry. Kocengannan was another famous early Chola king who has been extolled in a number of poems of the Sangam period. He was even made a Saiva saint during the medieval period.
Ancient map of south India created after Ptolemy, probably following his cartography.
Pandyas ruled initially from Korkai, a sea port on the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, and in later times moved to Madurai. Pandyas are also mentioned in Sangam Literature, as well as by Greek and Roman sources during this period. Megasthenes in his Indika mentions the Pandyan kingdom. The Pandyas controlled the present districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, and parts of south Kerala. They had trading contacts with Greece and Rome. With the other kingdoms of Tamilakam, they maintained trading contacts and maritial relationships with Tamil merchants from Eelam. Various Pandya kings find mention in a number of poems in the Sangam literature. Among them Nedunjeliyan, ‘the victor of Talaiyalanganam’, yet another Nedunjeliyan AArand Mudukudimi Peruvaludi ‘of several sacrifices’ deserve special mention. Besides several short poems found in the Akananuru and the Purananuru collections, there are two major works—Mathuraikkanci and the Netunalvatai (in the collection of Pattupattu) that give a glimpse into the society and commercial activities in the Pandyan kingdom during the Sangam age. The early Pandyas went into obscurity at the end of the 3rd century CE during the incursion of the Kalabhras.
The kingdom of the Cheras comprised the modern state of Kerala, along the western or Malabar Coast of southern India. Their proximity to the sea favoured trade with Africa. The people of the current Indian state of Kerala, which constitutes the ancient territories of the Cheras spoke the same language and had extensive interaction with the rest of the Tamil country. It was only towards the 9th or the 10th centuries CE, Due to Sanskrit influences on Tamil their individual identity changed, and a new language began to evolve.
These early kingdoms sponsored the growth of some of the oldest extant literature in Tamil. The classical Tamil literature, referred to as Sangam literature is attributed to the period between 200 BCE and 300 CE. The poems of Sangam literature, which deal with emotional and material topics, were categorised and collected into various anthologies during the medieval period. These Sangam poems paint the picture of a fertile land and of a people who were organised into various occupational groups. The governance of the land was through hereditary monarchies, although the sphere of the state’s activities and the extent of the ruler’s powers were limited through the adherence to the established order (dharma). The people were loyal to their kings and roving bards and musicians and danseuse gathered at the royal courts of the generous kings. The arts of music and dancing were highly developed and popular. Musical instruments of various types find mention in the Sangam poems. The amalgamation of the southern and the northern styles of dancing started during this period and is reflected fully in the epic Cilappatikaram.
Internal and external trade was well organised and active. Evidence from both archaeology and literature speaks of a flourishing foreign trade with the Yavanas (Greeks). The port city of Puhar on the east coast and Muziris on the west coast of south India were emporia of foreign trade, where huge ships moored, offloading precious merchandise. This trade started to decline after the 2nd century CE and the direct contact between the Roman empire and the ancient Tamil country was replaced by trade with the Arabs and the Auxumites of East Africa. Internal trade was also brisk and goods were sold and bartered. Agriculture was the main profession of a vast majority of the populace and Vellalars, the hereditary agriculturalists, owned the bulk of the land.
After the close of the Sangam era, from about 300 to about 600 CE, there is an almost total lack of information regarding occurrences in the Tamil land. Some time about 300 CE, the whole region was upset by the appearance of the Kalabhras. These people are described in later literature as ‘evil rulers’ who overthrew the established Tamil kings and got a strangle hold of the country. Information about their origin and details about their reign is scarce. They did not leave many artefacts or monuments. The only source of information on them is the scattered mentions in Buddhist and Jain literature.
Historians speculate that these people followed Buddhist or Jain faiths and were antagonistic towards the Hindu religions (viz. the Astika schools) adhered by the majority of inhabitants of the Tamil region during the early centuries CE. As a result Hindu scholars and authors who followed their decline in the 7th and 8th century may have expunged any mention of them in their texts and generally tended to paint their rule in a negative light. It is perhaps due to this reason, the period of their rule is known as a ‘Dark Age’—an interregnum. Some of the ruling families migrated northwards and found enclaves for themselves away from the Kalabhras. Jainism and Buddhism, took deep roots in the society, giving birth to a large body of ethical poetry.
Writing became very widespread and vatteluttu evolved from the Tamil-Brahmi became a mature script for writing Tamil. While several anthologies were compiled by collecting bardic poems of earlier centuries, some of the epic poems such as the Cilappatikaram and didactic works such as the Tirukkural were also written during this period. The patronage of the Jain and Buddhist scholars by the Kalabhra kings influenced the nature of the literature of the period, and most of the works that can be attributed to this period were written by the Jain and Buddhist authors. In the field of dance and music, the elite started patronising new polished styles, partly influenced by northern ideas, in the place of the folk styles. A few of the earliest rock-cut temples belong to this period. Brick temples (known as kottam, devakulam, and palli) dedicated to various deities are referred to in literary works. Kalabhras were displaced around the 7th century by the revival of Pallava and Pandya power.
Even with the exit of the Kalabhras, the Jain and Buddhist influence still remained in Tamil Nadu. The early Pandya and the Pallava kings were followers of these faiths. The Hindu reaction to this apparent decline of their religion was growing and reached its peak during the later part of the 7th century. There was a widespread Hindu revival during which a huge body of Saiva and Vaishnava literature was created. Many Saiva Nayanmars and Vaishnava Alvars provided a great stimulus to the growth of popular devotional literature. Karaikkal Ammaiyar who lived in the 6th century CE was the earliest of these Nayanmars. The celebrated Saiva hymnists Sundaramurthi, Thirugnana Sambanthar and Thirunavukkarasar were of this period. Vaishnava Alvars such as Poigai Alvar, Bhoothathalvar and Peyalvar produced devotional hymns for their faith and their songs were collected later into the four thousand poems of Naalayira Divyap Prabhandham.
Age of empires (600–1300)
The medieval period of the history of the Tamil country saw the rise and fall of many kingdoms, some of whom went on to the extent of empires, exerting influences both in India and overseas. The Cholas who were very active during the Sangam age were entirely absent during the first few centuries. The period started with the rivalry between the Pandyas and the Pallavas, which in turn caused the revival of the Cholas. The Cholas went on to becoming a great power. Their decline saw the brief resurgence of the Pandyas. This period was also that of the re-invigorated Hinduism during which temple building and religious literature were at their best.
The Hindu sects Saivism and Vaishnavism became dominant, replacing the prevalence of Jainism and Buddhism of the previous era. Saivism was patronised more by the Chola kings and became more or less a state religion. Some of the earliest temples that are still standing were built during this period by the Pallavas. The rock-cut temples in Mamallapuram and the majestic Kailasanatha and Vaikuntaperumal temples of Kanchipuram stand testament to the Pallava art. The Cholas, utilising their prodigious wealth earned through their extensive conquests, built long-lasting stone temples including the great Brihadisvara temple of Thanjavur and exquisite bronze sculptures. Temples dedicated to Siva and Vishnu received liberal donations of money, jewels, animals, and land, and thereby became powerful economic institutions.
Tamil script replaced the vatteluttu script throughout Tamil Nadu for writing Tamil. Both secular and religious literature flourished during the period. The Tamil epic, Kamban’s Ramavatharam, was written in the 13th century. A contemporary of Kamban was the famous poetess Auvaiyar who found great happiness in writing for young children. The secular literature was mostly court poetry devoted to the eulogy of the rulers. The religious poems of the previous period and the classical literature of the Sangam period were collected and systematised into several anthologies. Sanskrit was patronised by the priestly groups for religious rituals and other ceremonial purposes. Nambi Andar Nambi, who was a contemporary of Rajaraja Chola I, collected and arranged the books on Saivism into eleven books called Tirumurais. The hagiology of Saivism was standardised in Periyapuranam by Sekkilar, who lived during the reign of Kulothunga Chola II (1133–1150 CE). Jayamkondar’s Kalingattupparani, a semi-historical account on the two invasions of Kalinga by Kulothunga Chola I was an early example of a biographical work.
Shore Temple in Mamallapuram built by the Pallavas. (c. eighth century C.E.)
The 7th century Tamil Nadu saw the rise of the Pallavas under Mahendravarman I and his son Mamalla Narasimhavarman I. The Pallavas were not a recognised political power before the 2nd century. It has been widely accepted by scholars that they were originally executive officers under the Satavahana kings. After the fall of the Satavahanas, they began to get control over parts of Andhra and the Tamil country. Later they had marital ties with the Vishnukundina who ruled over the Deccan. It was around 550 AD under King Simhavishnu that the Pallavas emerged into prominence. They subjugated the Cholas and reigned as far south as the Kaveri River. The Pallavas were at their finest during the reigns of Narasimhavarman I and Pallavamalla Nandivarman II. Pallavas ruled a large portion of South India with Kanchipuram as their capital. Dravidian architecture reached its peak during the Pallava rule. Narasimhavarman II built the Shore Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many sources describe Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen school of Buddhism in China, as a prince of the Pallava dynasty.
During the 6th and the 7th centuries, the western Deccan saw the rise of the Chalukyas based in Vatapi. Pulakesi II (c.610–642) invaded the Pallava kingdom in the reign of Mahendravarman I. Narasimhavarman who succeeded Mahendravarman mounted a counter invasion of the Chalukya country and took Vatapi. The rivalry between the Chalukyas and the Pallavas continued for another 100 years until the demise of the Chalukyas around 750. The Chalukyas and Pallavas fought numerous battles and the Pallava capital Kanchipuram was occupied by Vikramaditya II during the reign of Nandivarman II. Nandivarman II had a very long reign (732–796). He led an expedition to the Ganga kingdom (south Mysore) in 760. Pallavas were also in constant conflict with the Pandyas and their frontier shifted along the river Kaveri. The Pallavas had the more difficult existence of the two as they had to fight on two fronts—against the Pandyas as wells as the Chalukyas.
Pandya Kadungon (560–590) is credited with the overthrow of the Kalabhras in the south. Kadungon and his son Maravarman Avanisulamani revived the Pandya power. Pandya Cendan extended their rule to the Chera country. His son Arikesari Parantaka Maravarman (c. 650–700) had a long and prosperous rule. He fought many battles and extended the Pandya power. Pandya was well known since ancient times, with contacts, even diplomatic, reaching the Roman Empire; during the 13th century of the Christian era Marco Polo mentioned it as the richest empire in existence.
After some decades of expansion, the Pandyan Empire was large enough to pose a serious threat to the Pallava power. Pandya Maravarman Rajasimha aligned with the Chalukya Vikramaditya II and attacked the Pallava king Nandivarman II. Varagunan I defeated the Pallavas in a battle on the banks of the Kaveri. The Pallava king Nandivarman sought to restrain the growing power of the Pandyas and went into an alliance with the feudal chieftains of Kongu and Chera countries. The armies met in several battles and the Pandya forces scored decisive victories in them. Pandyas under Srimara Srivallaba also invaded Sri Lanka and devastated the northern provinces in 840.
The Pandya power continued to grow under Srimara and encroached further into the Pallava territories. The Pallavas were now facing a new threat in the form of the Rashtrakutas who had replaced the Chalukyas in the western Deccan. However the Pallavas found an able monarch in Nandivarman III, who with the help of his Ganga and the Chola allies defeated Srimara at the battle of Tellaru. The Pallava kingdom again extended up to the river Vaigai. The Pandyas suffered further defeats in the hands of the Pallava Nripatunga at Arisil (c. 848). From then the Pandyas had to accept the overlordship of the Pallavas.
Around 850, out of obscurity rose Vijayalaya, made use of an opportunity arising out of a conflict between Pandyas and Pallavas, captured Thanjavur and eventually established the imperial line of the medieval Cholas. Vijayalaya revived the Chola dynasty and his son Aditya I helped establish their independence. He invaded Pallava kingdom in 903 and killed the Pallava king Aparajita in battle, ending the Pallava reign. The Chola kingdom under Parantaka I expanded to cover the entire Pandya country. However towards the end of his reign he suffered several reverses by the Rashtrakutas who had extended their territories well into the Chola kingdom.
Chola Empire under Rajendra Chola (c. 1030).
The Cholas went into a temporary decline during the next few years due to weak kings, palace intrigues and succession disputes. Despite a number of attempts the Pandya country could not be completely subdued and the Rashtrakutas were still a powerful enemy in the north. However, the Chola revival began with the accession of Rajaraja Chola I in 985. Cholas rose as a notable military, economic and cultural power in Asia under Rajaraja and his son Rajendra Chola I. The Chola territories stretched from the islands of Maldives in the south to as far north as the banks of the river Ganges in Bengal. Rajaraja Chola conquered peninsular South India, annexed parts of Sri Lanka and occupied the islands of Maldives. Rajendra Chola extended the Chola conquests to the Malayan archipelago by defeating the Srivijaya kingdom. He defeated Mahipala, the king of Bihar and Bengal, and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital called Gangaikonda Cholapuram (the town of Cholas who conquered the Ganges). At its peak the Chola Empire extended from the island of Sri Lanka in the south to the Godavari basin in the north. The kingdoms along the east coast of India up to the river Ganges acknowledged Chola suzerainty. Chola navies invaded and conquered Srivijaya in the Malayan archipelago. Chola armies exacted tribute from Thailand and the Khmer kingdom of Cambodia. During the reign of Rajaraja and Rajendra, the administration of the Chola empire matured considerably. The empire was divided into a number of self-governing local government units, and the officials were selected through a system of popular elections.
Throughout this period, the Cholas were constantly troubled by the ever resilient Sinhalas trying to overthrow the Chola occupation of Lanka, Pandya princes trying to win independence for their traditional territories, and by the growing ambitions of the Chalukyas in the western Deccan. The history of this period was one of constant warfare between the Cholas and of these antagonists. A balance of power existed between the Chalukyas and the Cholas and there was a tacit acceptance of the Tungabhadra river as the boundary between the two empires. However, the bone of contention between these two powers was the growing Chola influence in the Vengi kingdom. The Cholas and Chalukyas fought many battles and both kingdoms were exhausted by the endless battles and a stalemate existed.
Marital and political alliances between the Eastern Chalukya kings based around Vengi located on the south banks of the river Godavari began during the reign of Rajaraja following his invasion of Vengi. Virarajendra Chola’s son Athirajendra Chola was assassinated in a civil disturbance in 1070 and Kulothunga Chola I ascended the Chola throne starting the Chalukya Chola dynasty. Kulothunga was a son of the Vengi king Rajaraja Narendra. The Chalukya Chola dynasty saw very capable rulers in Kulothunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola, however the eventual decline of the Chola power practically started during this period. The Cholas lost control of the island of Lanka and were driven out by the revival of Sinhala power. Around 1118 they also lost the control of Vengi to Western Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI and Gangavadi (southern Mysore districts) to the growing power of Hoysala Vishnuvardhana, a Chalukya feudatory. In the Pandya territories, the lack of a controlling central administration caused a number of claimants to the Pandya throne to cause a civil war in which the Sinhalas and the Cholas were involved by proxy. During the last century of the Chola existence, a permanent Hoysala army was stationed in Kanchipuram to protect them from the growing influence of the Pandyas. Rajendra Chola III was the last Chola king. The Kadava chieftain Kopperunchinga I even captured Rajendra and held him prisoner. At the close of Rajendra’s reign (1279), the Pandyan Empire was at the height of prosperity and had completely absorbed the Chola kingdom.
After being overshadowed by the Pallavas and Cholas for centuries, Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan briefly revived the Pandya glory in 1251 and the Pandya power extended from the Telugu countries on banks of the Godavari river to the northern half of Sri Lanka. When Maaravaramban Kulasekara Pandyan I died in 1308, a conflict stemming from succession disputes arose amongst his sons – the legitimate Sundara Pandya and the illegitimate Vira Pandya (who was favoured by the king) fought each other for the throne. Soon Madurai fell into the hands of the invading armies of the Delhi Sultanate (which initially gave protection to the vanquished Sundara Pandyan).
Malik Kafur, a general of the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji invaded and sacked Madurai in 1311. Pandyas and their descendants where confined to a small region around Thirunelveli for a few more years. Ravivarman Kulasekara (1299–1314), a Chera feudatory of Kulasekara Pandya, staked his claim to the Pandya throne. Ravivarman Kulasekhara, utilising the unsettled nature of the country, quickly overran the southern Tamil Nadu and brought the entire region from Kanyakumari to Kanchipuram, under the Chera kingdom. His inscription was found in Punaamalli, a suburb of Madras.
Vijayanagar and Nayak period (1300–1650)
The Meenakshi temple in the city of Madurai in southern India renovated by the Nayak king.
The 14th century invasion by the Delhi Sultans caused a retaliatory reaction from the Hindus, who rallied to build a new kingdom, called the Vijayanagara Empire. Bukka, with his brother Harihara founded the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire based in the city of Vijayanagara in Karnataka. Under Bukka the empire prospered and continued to expand towards the south. Bukka and his son Kampana conquered most of the kingdoms of southern India. In 1371 the Vijayanagar empire defeated the short lived Madurai Sultanate, which had been established by the remnants of the invading Khilji army. Eventually the empire covered the entire south India. Vijayangara empire established local governors called Nayaks to rule in the various territories of the empire.
Tanjore became a major cultural centre during the 18th and 19th centuries, under Maratha rule. Figure depicts a Tanjore painting from this era.
From the collection of the V&A Museum.
The Vijayanagar Empire declined in 1564 defeated by the Deccan sultans in the battle of Talikota. The local Nayak governors declared their independence and started their rule. The Nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavur were the most prominent of them. Ragunatha Nayak (1600–1645) was the greatest of the Tanjavur Nayaks. Raghunatha Nayak encouraged trade and permitted a Danish settlement in 1620 at Tarangambadi. This laid the foundation of future European involvement in the affairs of the country. The success of the Dutch inspired the English to seek trade with Thanjavur, which was to lead to far-reaching repercussions. Vijaya Raghava (1631–1675) was the last of the Thanjavur Nayaks. Nayaks reconstructed some of the oldest temples in the country and their contributions can be seen even today. Nayaks expanded the existing temples with large pillared halls, and tall gateway towers, which is representative of the religious architecture of this period.
In Madurai, Thirumalai Nayak was the most famous Nayak ruler. He patronised art and architecture creating new structures and expanding the existing landmarks in and around Madurai. On Thirumalai Nayak’s death in 1659, the Madurai Nayak kingdom began to break up. His successors were weak rulers and invasions of Madurai recommenced. Shivaji Bhonsle, the great Maratha Ruler, invaded the south, as did Chikka Deva Raya of Mysore and other Muslim Rulers, resulting in chaos and instability. Rani Mangammal, a local ruler, tried to resist these invasions showing great courage.
Rule of Nizams and Nawabs
European settlements began to appear in the Tamil country during the Vijayanagara Empire. In 1605, the Dutch established trading posts in the Coromandel Coast near Gingee and in Pulicat. The British East India Company built a ‘factory’ (warehouse) at Armagaon (Durgarazpatnam), a village around 35 miles (56 km) North of Pulicat, as the site in 1626. In 1639, Francis Day, one of the officers of the company, secured the rights over a three-mile (5 km) long strip of land a fishing village called Madraspatnam from the Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu, the Nayak of Vandavasi. The East India Company built Fort St George and castle on an approximate five square kilometre sand strip. This was the start of the town of Madras. The coromandel coast was ruled by the Vijayanagara King (Aravidu Dynasty), Peda Venkata Raya, based in Chandragiri and Vellore Fort. With his approval the English began to exercise sovereign rights over their strip of land.
In 1675, a column of Bijapur army came to Thanjavur to help Vijayaraghava and retrieved Vallam from the Madurai Nayak. However the same army subsequently killed Vijayaraghava Nayak and Ekoji managed to ascend the throne of Thanjavur kingdom. Thus began the Maratha rule of Thanjavur. After Ekoji, his three sons namely Shaji, Serfoji I, Thukkoji alias Thulaja I ruled Thanjavur. The greatest of the Maratha rulers was Serfoji II (1798–1832 ). Serfoji devoted his life to the pursuit of culture and Thanjavur became renowned as a seat of learning. Serfoji’s patronised art and literature and built the Saraswati Mahal Library at his palace. The incursion of the Muslim armies from the north forced a southward migration of Hindus from the central Deccan and the Andhra countries to seek shelter under the Nayak and the Maratha kings. The famous Carnatic music composer Tyagaraja (1767–1847), along with the Trinity of Carnatic music flourished in the Thanjavur district during this time.
Fort St.George, Chennai. 18 century sketch.
With the demise of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, his empire dissolved amidst numerous succession wars and the vassals of the empire began to assert their independence. The administration of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu was fragmented with hundreds of Poligars or Palayakkarars governing a few villages each. These local chieftains often fought amongst each other over territory. This turned the political situation in the Tamil country and in South India in general into confusion and chaos. The European traders found themselves in a situation where they could exploit the prevailing confusion to their own advantage.
European colonisation (1750–1850)
Mohamed Ali Khan Wallajah, Nawab of the Carnatic (1717–1795)
The French were relative newcomers to India. The French East India Company was formed in 1664 and in 1666 the French representatives obtained Aurangzeb’s permission to trade in India. The French soon setup trading posts in Pondicherry on the Coromandel coast. They occupied Karaikal in 1739 and Joseph François Dupleix was appointed Governor of Pondicherry. In Europe the War of the Austrian Succession began in 1740 and eventually the British and the French forces in India were caught up in the conflict. There were numerous naval battles between the two navies along the Coromandel coast. The French led by La Bourdonnais attacked the poorly defended Fort St. George in Madras in 1746 and occupied it. Robert Clive was one of the prisoners of war from this battle. The war in Europe ended in 1748 and with the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle Madras was restored to the British.
The conflict between the British and the French continued, this time in political rather than military terms. Both the Nawab of the Carnatic and Nizam of Hyderabad positions were taken by rulers who were strongly sympathetic to the French. Chanda Sahib had been made Nawab of the Carnatic with Dupleix’s assistance, while the British had taken up the cause of the previous incumbent, Mohammed Ali Khan Walajah. In the resultant battle between the rivals, Clive assisted Mohammed Ali by attacking Chanda Sahib’s fort in Arcot and took possession of it in 1751. The French assisted Chanda Sahib in his attempts to drive Clive out of Arcot. However the large Arcot army assisted by the French was defeated by the British. The Treaty of Paris (1763) formally confirmed Mahommed Ali as the Nawab of the Carnatic. It was a result of this action and the increased British influence that in 1765 the Emperor of Delhi issued a firman (decree) recognising the British possessions in southern India.
British Government control
Madras Presidency, 1909
Although the Company was becoming increasingly bold and ambitious in putting down resisting states, it was getting clearer day by day that the Company was incapable of governing the vast expanse of the captured territories. Opinion amongst the members of the British Parliament urged the government to control the activities of the Company. The Company’s financial position was also bad and it had to apply for a loan from Parliament. Seizing this opportunity, the Parliament passed the Regulating Act (also known as East India Company Act) in 1773. The act set down regulations to control the Company Board and created the position of the Governor General. Warren Hastings was appointed the first Governor-General. In 1784 Pitt’s India Act made the Company subordinate to the British Government.
The next few decades were of rapid growth and expansion in the territories controlled by the British. The Anglo-Mysore Wars of 1766 to 1799 and the Anglo-Maratha Wars of 1772 to 1818 put the Company in control of most of India. In a sign of the early resistance against the English control, the Palayakkarar chieftains of the old Madurai Kingdom, who had independent authority over their territories, ran into a conflict with the Company officials over tax collection. Kattabomman, a local Palayakkarar chieftain in the Tirunelveli district, rebelled against the taxes imposed by the Company administration in the 1790s. After the First Polygar War (1799–1802), he was captured and hanged in 1799. A year later, the Second Polygar War was fought by Dheeran Chinnamalai, by winning three wars against British after the fall of tipusultan kingdom at last he and his two brothers was illeagelly hanged and Dheeran Chinnamalai was the last Tamil king died in the war against Britishers and was put down by the Company after a long and expensive campaign. The end of the Polygar Wars gave the British complete control over a major portion of Tamil Nadu.
In 1798 Lord Wellesley became the Governor-General. In the course of the next six years Wellesley made vast conquests and doubled the Company’s territory. He shut out the French from further acquisitions in India, destroyed several ruling powers in the Deccan and the Carnatic, took the Mughal Emperor under the company’s protection and compelled Serfoji, the king of Thanjavur to cede control of his kingdom. The Madras Presidency was established so that the territory under direct Company control could be administered effectively. The direct administration began to cause resentment among the people. In 1806 the soldiers of the Vellore cantonment rebelled when William Bentinck, the Governor of Madras decreed that the native soldiers should abandon all caste marks. Fearing this act to be an attempt of forceful conversion to Christianity, the soldiers mutinied. The rebellion was suppressed but 114 British officers were killed and several hundred mutineers executed. Bentinck was recalled in disgrace.
End of Company rule
The simmering discontent in the various districts of the company territories exploded in 1857 into the Sepoy war. Although the rebellion had a huge impact on the state of the colonial power in India, Tamil Nadu was mostly unaffected by it. In consequence of the war, the British Government enacted the Act of 1858 to abolish the powers of the Company and transfer the government to the Crown.
British rule (1850–1947)
In 1858 the British Crown assumed direct rule in India. During the early years the government was autocratic in many ways. The opinion of Indians in their own affairs was not considered by Britain as important. However, in due course the British Raj began to allow Indians participation in local government. Viceroy Ripon passed a resolution in 1882, which gave a greater and more real share in local government to the people. Further legislation such as the 1892 Indian councils Act and the 1909 “Minto-Morley Reforms” eventually led to the establishment of the Madras Legislative Council. The non-cooperation movement started under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership led the British government to pass the Government of India Act (also known as Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms) of 1919. First elections were held for the local assemblies in 1921.
Madras famine (1877). Distribution of relief. From the Illustrated London News (1877)
Failure of the summer monsoons and administrative shortcomings of the Ryotwari system resulted in a severe famine in the Madras Presidency during 1876–1877. The government and several charitable institutions organised relief work in the city and the suburbs. Funds were also raised from Europeans in India and overseas for the famine relief. Humanitarians such as William Digby wrote angrily about the woeful failure of the British administration to act promptly and adequately in response to the wholesale suffering caused by the famine. When the famine finally ended with the return of the monsoon in 1878, between three and five million people had perished. In response to the devastating effects of the famine, the government organised a Famine Commission in 1880 to define the principles of disaster relief. The government also instituted a famine insurance grant, setting aside 1.5 million Rupees. Other civic works such as canal building and improvements in roads and railway were also undertaken to minimise effects of any future famines.
The growing desire for independence began to gradually gather pace in the country and its influence in Tamil Nadu generated a number of volunteers to the fight against the British colonial power in the struggle for Independence. Notable amongst these are Tiruppur Kumaran, who was born in 1904 in a small village near Erode. Kumaran lost his life during a protest march against the British. The location of the French colony of Pondicherry, offered a place of refuge for the fugitives freedom fighters trying to flee the British Police. Aurobindo was one such living in Pondicherry in 1910. The poet Subramanya Bharathi was a contemporary of Aurobindo. Bharathi wrote numerous poems in Tamil extolling the revolutionary cause. He also published the journal India from Pondicherry. Both Aurobindo and Bharathi were associated with other Tamil revolutionaries such as V.V.S.Aiyar and V. O. Chidambaram Pillai. Tamils formed a significant percentage of the members of the Indian National Army (INA), founded by Netaji to fight the British occupation in India. Lakshmi Sahgal from Tamil Nadu was a prominent leader in the INA.
In 1916 Dr. T.M. Nair and Rao Bahadur Thygaraya Chetty released the Non-Brahmin Manifesto sowing the seeds for the Dravidian movements. During the 1920s, two movements focused mainly on regional politics began in Tamil Nadu. One was the Justice Party, which won the local legislative elections held in 1921. The Justice Party was not focused on the Indian independence movement, rather on the local issues such as affirmative action for socially backward groups. The other main movement was the anti-religious, anti-Brahimin reformist movement led by E.V. Ramasami Naicker. Further steps towards eventual self-rule were taken in 1935 when the British Government passed the All-India Federation Act of 1935. Fresh local elections were held and in Tamil Nadu the Congress party captured power defeating the Justice party. In 1938, Ramasami Naicker with C. N. Annadurai launched an agitation against the Congress ministry’s decision to introduce the teaching of Hindi in schools.
Post Independence period
The political state of Tamil Nadu in India was created in 1969 when erstwhile Madras State was renamed.
The trauma of the partition did not impact Tamil Nadu when India was granted Independence in 1947. There was no sectarian violence against various religions. There had always been an atmosphere of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence between all religions in Tamil Nadu. Congress formed the first ministry in the Madras Presidency. C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) was the first Chief Minister. Madras Presidency was eventually reconstituted as Madras State. Following agitations for a separate Andhra state comprising the Telugu speaking regions of the Madras state by Potti Sriramalu, the Indian Government decided to partition the Madras state. In 1953 Rayalaseema and the coastal Andhra regions became the new state of Andhra Pradesh and the Bellary district became part of the Mysore state. In 1956 south Kanara district was transferred to Mysore, the Malabar coastal districts became part of the new state of Kerala, and the Madras state assumed its present shape. The Madras state was named Tamil Nadu (the land of the Tamils) in 1968.
Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka during the 1970s and the 80s saw large numbers of Sri Lankan Tamils fleeing to Tamil Nadu. The plight of Tamil refugees caused a surge of support from most of the Tamil political parties. They exerted pressure on the Indian government to intercede with the Sri Lankan government on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tamilians. However, LTTE lost much of its support from Tamil Nadu following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on 21 May 1991 by an operative from Sri Lanka for the former Prime Minister’s role in sending Indian peacekeepers to Sri Lanka to disarm the LTTE.
The east coast of Tamil Nadu was one of the areas affected by the Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004, during which almost 8000 people died in the disaster. The sixth most populous state in the Indian Union, Tamil Nadu was the seventh largest economy in 2005 among the states of India. The growing demands for skilled labour has caused increased number of educational institutions in Tamil Nadu. The widespread application of caste based affirmative action caused the state to have 69% of all educational and employment vacancies to be reserved to the backward castes. Such caste-based reservations have huge public support in Tamil Nadu, with no popular protests organised against its implementation.
Evolution of regional politics
The politics of Tamil Nadu have gone through three distinct phases since independence. The domination of the Congress Party after 1947 gave way to the Dravidian populist mobilisation in the 1960s. This phase lasted until towards the end of the 1990s. The most recent phase saw the fragmentation of the Dravidian political parties and led to the advent of political alliances and coalition governments.
Annadurai formed the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1949 after splitting from Dravidar Kazhagam. DMK also decided to oppose the ‘expansion of the Hindi culture’ in Tamil Nadu and started the demand for a separate homeland for the Dravidians in the South. The demand was for an Independent state called Dravida Nadu (country of Dravidians) comprising Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala. The increased involvement of the Indian National Congress party in Madras during the late 1950s and the strong pan-Indian emotions whipped up by the Chinese invasion of India in 1962 led to the demand for Dravida Nadu losing some of its immediacy. Consequently in 1963, when the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution of India, precluded secessionist parties from contesting elections, the DMK chose to formally drop its demand for an independent Dravidistan, focusing instead on securing greater functional autonomy within the framework of the Indian Constitution.
The Congress party, riding on the wave of public support stemming from the independence struggle, formed the first post-independence government in Tamil Nadu and continued to govern until 1967. In 1965 and 1968, DMK led widespread anti-Hindi agitations in the state against the plans of the Union Government to introduce Hindi in the state schools. Affirmative action in employment and educational institutions were pioneered in Tamil Nadu based on the demands of the Dravidian movement. The leadership of the Dravidian movement had very capable authors and literati in Annadurai and Karunanidhi, who assiduously utilised the popular media of stage plays and movies to spread its political messages. MG Ramachandran (MGR) who later became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, was one such stage and movie actor.
In 1967 DMK won the state election. DMK split into two in 1971, with MGR forming the splinter All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Since then these two parties have dominated the politics of Tamil Nadu. AIADMK, under MGR retained control of the State Government over three consecutive assembly elections in 1977, 1980 and 1984. After MGR’s death AIADMK was split over the succession between various contenders. Eventually J. Jayalalithaa took over the leadership of AIADMK.
Several changes to the political balance in Tamil Nadu took place during the later half of the 1990s, eventually leading to the end of the duopoly of DMK and AIADMK in the politics of Tamil Nadu. In 1996, a split in the Congress party in Tamil Nadu eventuated in the formation of Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC). TMC aligned with the DMK, while another party Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), which split from DMK aligned with the AIADMK. These and several smaller political parties began to gain popular support. The first instance of a ‘grand alliance’ was during the 1996 elections for the National parliament, during which the AIADMK formed a large coalition of a number smaller parties to counter the electoral threat posed by the alliance between the DMK and TMC. Since then the formation of alliances of large number of political parties has become an electoral practice in Tamil Nadu. The electoral decline of Congress party at the national level, which started during the early 1990, forced the Congress to seek coalition partners from various states including Tamil Nadu. This paved the way for the Dravidian parties to be part of the Central Government.
- History of India
- History of Bengal
- History of Bihar
- Political history of medieval Karnataka
- ^ “Historical Atlas of South India-Timeline”. French Institute of Pondicherry. Institut Françoise de Pondichéry. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ Pappu et al., Antiquity vol 77 no 297, September 2003
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, OUP, reprinted 2000, p 44.
- ^ Tools of the Madras Industry have been found in the Kaveri and Vaigai beds —K.A.N. Sastri, Srinivasachari, Advanced History of India, p. 14.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, p. 45.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, p. 46.
- ^ “Significance of Mayiladuthurai find”. The Hindu May 1, 2006 (Chennai, India: The Hindu Group). 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ One such was found at Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu—”Steps to preserve megalithic burial site”. The Hindu, Oct 6, 2006 (Chennai, India: The Hindu Group). 2006-10-06. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, pp. 49–51
- ^ Subramanian T.S. (Feb 17, 2005) The Hindu, retrieved 7/31/2007 Rudimentary Tamil-Brahmi script’ unearthed at Adichanallur
- ^ Subramanian T.S. (May 26, 2004 ) The Hindu, retrieved 7/31/2007 Skeletons, script found at ancient burial site in Tamil Nadu
- ^ ‘The most interesting pre-historic remains in Tamil India were discovered at Adichanallur. There is a series of urn burials. seem to be related to the megalithic complex. – Zvelebil, K.A., Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature – pp 21–22, Brill Academic Publishers.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, pp 109–112
- ^ ‘There were three levels of redistribution corresponding to the three categories of chieftains, namely: the Ventar, Velir and Kilar in descending order. Ventar were the chieftains of the three major lineages, viz Cera, Cola and Pandya. Velir were mostly hill chieftains, while Kilar were the headmen of settlements…’ —”Perspectives on Kerala History”. P.J.Cherian (Ed),. Kerala Council for Historical Research. Archived from the original on 2006-08-26. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, p 129
- ^ ‘Everywhere within Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi’s domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni…’ —”Asoka’s second minor rock edict”. Colorado State University. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, The CōĻas, 1935 p 20
- ^ “Hathigumpha Inscription”. Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XX (1929–1930). Delhi, 1933, pp 86–89. Missouri Southern State University. Archived from the original on November 17, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ Pattinappaalai, Porunaraatruppadai and a number of individual poems in Akananuru and Purananuru have been the main source for the information we attribute now to Karikala. See also K.A.N. Sastri, The Colas, 1935
- ^ Cilappatikaram (c. sixth century C.E.) which attributes northern campaigns and conquests to all the three monarchs of the Tamil country, gives a glorious account of the northern expeditions of Karikala, which took him as far north as the Himalayas and gained for him the alliance and subjugation of the kings of Vajra, Magadha and Avanti countries. There is no contemporary evidence either in Sangam literature or from the north Indian source for such an expedition.
- ^ “63 Nayanmars”. Tamilnation.org. Retrieved 2006-11-15.[dead link]
- ^ In Megasthenes’ account (350 BCE – 290 BCE), the Pandya kingdom is ruled by Pandaia, a daughter of Herakles —K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, p 23
- ^ “‘Roman Maps and the Concept of Indian Gems”. The Bead Museum, Inc.. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
- ^ ‘Archaeologists from UCLA and the University of Delaware have unearthed the most extensive remains to date from sea trade between India and Egypt during the Roman Empire, adding to mounting evidence that spices and other exotic cargo travelled into Europe over sea as well as land.’ “Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Maritime Spice Route Between India, Egypt”. Veluppillai, Prof. A.,. dickran.net. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ Archaeological evidence for the maritime contact between the Sangam age Cheras and the Roman empire has been found at Karur near Tiruchi. —R. Nagasami, Roman Karur
- ^ “Malayalam” Manipravalam or Mani+Pavazham Mani=Sanskrit Pavazham= Tamil,.manipravalam called Malayalam . first appeared in writing in the vazhappalli inscription which dates from about 830 AD. “Writing Systems and Languages of the world”. Omniglot. Omniglot.com. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ Kamil Veith Zvelebil, Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature, p 12
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, OUP (1955) p 105
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, OUP (1955) pp 118, 119
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, OUP (1955) p 124
- ^ ‘The vast quantities of gold and silver coins struck by Roman emperors up to Nero (54–68CE) found all over Tamil Nadu testify the extent of the trade, the presence of Roman settlers in the Tamil country’. K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, OUP (1955) pp 125–127
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, OUP (1955) p 128
- ^ ‘Kalabhraas were denounced as ‘evil kings’ (kaliararar) —K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, p 130
- ^ Hermann Kulke, Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, Routledge (UK), p 105
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India p 130
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri postulates that there was a live connection between the early Cholas and the Renandu Cholas of the Andhra country. The northward migration probably took place during the Pallava domination of Simhavishnu. Sastri also categorically rejects the claims that these were the descendants of Karikala Chola —K.A.N. Sastri, The CōĻas, 1935 p 107
- ^ “South Asian Writing Systems”. Lawrence K Lo. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ The identity of the author of Tirukkural is not known with any certainty. This work of 1330 distichs is attributed to Tiruvalluvar, who was probably a Jain with knowledge of the Sanskrit didactic works of the north.
- ^ Pandya Kadungon and Pallava Simhavishnu overthrew the Kalabhras. Acchchutakalaba is likely the last Kalabhra king —K.A.N. Sastri, The CōĻas, 1935 p 102
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 382
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 333–335
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, The CoLas, pp 102
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India p 387
- ^ There is an inscription from 1160 that the custodians of Siva temples who had social intercourses with Vaishnavites would forfeit their property. —K.A.N. Sastri, The CōĻas, 1935 pp 645
- ^ Some of the output of villages throughout the kingdom was given to temples that reinvested some of the wealth accumulated as loans to the settlements. The temple served as a centre for redistribution of wealth and contributed towards the integrity of the kingdom —John Keays, India a History, pp 217–218
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 342–344
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 91–92
- ^ Durga Prasad, History of the Andhras up to 1565 A. D., pp 68
- ^ Kamil V. Zvelebil (1987). “The Sound of the One Hand”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 107, No. 1, p. 125-126.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 140
- ^ “Pandya Dynasty”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ “The Pandyas”. Facts-About-India.com.
- ^ “The Pandyan Kingdom”. The New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2011-1-26.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India p 140
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India p 145
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 144–145
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India p 159
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, The CoLas, 1935. pp 211–215
- ^ The kadaram campaign is first mentioned in Rajendra’s inscriptions dating from his 14th year. The name of the Srivijaya king was Sangrama Vijayatungavarman —K.A.N. Sastri, The CoLas, 1935 pp 211–220
- ^ There is an inscription in the Chidambaram temple dated 1114 mentioning a peculiar stone presented by the king of Kambhoja (Kampuchea)to Rajendra Chola which the Chola king caused to be inserted into the wall of the Chidambaram shrine —K.A.N. Sastri, The CoLas, 1935 p 325
- ^ ‘In the twelfth year of Parantaka I the [Uttaramerur] sabha passed a resolution [...] that the election of local government officials will be carried out through lots (kudavolai)’ —K.A.N. Sastri, The Colas, p 496.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, Srinivasachari, Advanced History of India, pp 294
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, Srinivasachari, Advanced History of India, pp 296–297
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 197
- ^ “Chera Coins – Tamil Coins, a Study”. R. Nagasamy. Tamil Arts Academy, Madras. Archived from the original on 2006-07-18. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 214–217
- ^ Kampana’s wife Ganga Devi wrote an account of this campaign in a Sanskrit poem Madhura Vijayam (Conquest of Madurai) —K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 241
- ^ Rama Raya fought Ali Adil Shah at Talikota on 15 September 1564 —K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India, p 266
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, Srinivasachari Advanced History of India p 428
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, Srinivasachari Advanced History of India p 427
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, Srinivasachari Advanced History of India p 553
- ^ John Keay, India, a History, p 370
- ^ K.A.N. Sastri, Srinivasachari, Advanced History of India, p 583
- ^ “Maratha Kings of Thanjavur”. “Saraswathi Mahal Library. Retrieved 2006-11-18.
- ^ John Keay, India, a History, pp 372–374
- ^ John Keay, India, a History, pp 393–394
- ^ John Keay, India, a History, p 379
- ^ Hermann Kulke, Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India pp 245
- ^ John Keay, India, a History, pp 380
- ^ Nicholas Dirk, The Hollow Crown, pp 19–24
- ^ “The first rebellion”. The Hindu Jun 19, 2006. The Hindu Group. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ Read, Anthony, The Proudest Day—India’s Long Ride to Independence, pp 34–37
- ^ a b “The State Legislature—Origin and Evolution”. Government of Tamil Nadu. Retrieved 2006-10-16.
- ^ a b Romesh Chunder Dutt, Open Letters to Lord Curzon on Famines and Land Assessments in India, p10
- ^ “Victorian Values: Death and Dying in Victorian India”. David Arnold. Fathom Knowledge Network. Retrieved 2006-11-13.
- ^ a b “Political situation in Pondicherry (1910–1915)”. Extract from diary of A.B. Purani (PT MS5 (1924), 86. Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ “Noting that the Tamils formed a large chunk of the strength of the INA, Prof. Pfaff, said it was always a moving experience to interact with the INA members from Tamil Nadu.” “Tamils’ contribution to INA campaigns recalled”. The Hindu Dec 22, 2005 (Chennai, India: The Hindu Group). 2005-12-22. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ “More than 75 per cent of the INA soldiers were Tamils” according to V. Vaidhyalingam, secretary and treasurer, Tamil Nadu Indian National Army League. “The unsung heroes”. The Hindu Aug 02, 2004 (Chennai, India: The Hindu Group). 2004-08-02. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ a b Subramaniyam Swami, Is the Dravidian movement dying?, Frontline, Vol.20, Iss. 12, June 2003
- ^ “Sowing The Seeds Of A Policy For Free India and the Anti-Hindi Agitation in the South 1910–1915″. M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.. languageinindia.com. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ “The battle for Andhra”. The Hindu, Mar 30, 2003. The Hindu Group. Retrieved 2006-11-17.
- ^ Rajesh Venugopal, The Global Dimensions of Conflict in Sri Lanka p 19
- ^ Chris McDowell, A Tamil Asylum Diaspora, p112
- ^ “Tamil Tiger ‘regret’ over Gandhi”. BBC News. 2006-06-27. Retrieved 2006-06-27.
- ^ “Government of India Ministry of Home Affairs Situation Report”. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ “Ranking of states”. India Today Group. India Today Group. Archived from the original on October 28, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ “With the highest rate of reservation already in place, TN stays calm”. The Financial Express, May 28, 2006. The Financial Express, Mumbai. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ John Harriss and Andrew Wyatt, THE CHANGING POLITICS OF TAMIL NADU IN THE 1990s, Conference on State Politics in India in the 1990s: Political Mobilisation and Political Competition, December 2004. p1
- ^ The Justice Party was renamed the Dravidar Kazhagam (Dravidian Association) in September 1944 —Nambi Arooran, K., The Demand for Dravida Nadu
- ^ The geographical region of the proposed Dravida Nadu roughly corresponded to the then Madras Presidency, comprising people speaking Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. —S. Viswanathan, A history of agitational politics
- ^ Hargrave, R.L.: “The DMK and the Politics of Tamil Nationalism”, Pacific Affairs, 37(4):396–411 at 396–397.
- ^ Cynthia Stephen, The History Of Reservations In India From The 1800S To The 1950s
- ^ S. Theodore Baskaran, The Roots of South Indian Cinema, Journal of the International Institute,
- ^ L. R., Jegatheesan. “ஆளும் அரிதாரம் (Reigning filmdom)” (in Tamil). BBC. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- ^ John Harriss and Andrew Wyatt, THE CHANGING POLITICS OF TAMIL NADU IN THE 1990s, Conference on State Politics in India in the 1990s: Political Mobilisation and Political Competition, December 2004. p2
- ^ “The arithmetic of alliance and anti-incumbency”. The Hindu, May 06, 2004 (Chennai, India: The Hindu Group). 2004-05-06. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- ^ John Harriss and Andrew Wyatt, THE CHANGING POLITICS OF TAMIL NADU IN THE 1990s, Conference on State Politics in India in the 1990s: Political Mobilisation and Political Competition, December 2004. p4
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- Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (2000). A History of South India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195660686-8.
- Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1984). The Colas. Madras: University of Madras.
- Prasad, Durga (1988) (PDF). History of the Andhras up to 1565 A. D.. Guntur, India: P. G. Publishers.
- Codrington, Humphrey William (1926). A Short History of Lanka. St Martin’s Street, London: Macmillan and Co., Limited.
- Nagasamy, R (1995). Roman Karur. Madras: Brahadish Publications.
- Nilakanta Sastri, K.A.; Srinivasachari (2000). Advanced History of India. New Delhi: Allied Publishers Ltd. ASIN: B0007ASWQW.
- Read, Anthony (1997). The Proudest Day – India’s Long Ride to Independence. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-393-31898-2.
- Dutt, Romesh Chunder. Open Letters to Lord Curzon on Famines and Land Assessments in India. Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1-4021-5115-2.
- Keay, John (2000). India, a History. London: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-00-638784-5.
- Dirks, Nicholas B. (2000). The Hollow Crown:Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom. USA: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08187-X.
- Chandra, Bipin (1999). The India after Independence. New Delhi: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-027825-7.
- Kulke, Hermann; Dietmar Rothermund (2004). A History of India. Routledge (UK). ISBN 0-415-32919-1.
- McDowell, Chris (1996). A Tamil Asylum Diaspora: Sri Lankan Migration, Settlement and Politics in Switzerland. New York: Berghahn Books. ISBN 1-57181-917-7.
- “Religious Traditions of the Tamils”. Veluppillai, Prof. A.,. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
- “63 Nayanmars”. Sri Swami Sivananda, The Divine Life Trust Society. Retrieved 2006-05-16.[dead link]
- “Maratha Kings of Thanjavur”. Saraswathi Mahal Library. Retrieved 2006-11-18.
- Shanti Pappu, Yanni Gunnell, Maurice Taieb, Jean-Philippe Brugal, K. Anupama, Raman Sukumar & Kumar Akhilesh. “Excavations at the Palaeolithic Site of Attirampakkam, South India”. Antiquity 77 (297).
- “Archaeobotany of Early Historic sites in Southern Tamil Nadu”. Archived from the original on February 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
- “Vellore Revolt 1806″. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
- “Historical Atlas of South India-Timeline”. French Institute of Pondicherry. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
- “Excavations at Arikamedu”. Retrieved 2006-05-16.
- “Roman Maps and the Concept of Indian Gems”. Retrieved 2006-05-16.
- “The State Legislature – Origin and Evolution”. Retrieved 2006-10-16.
- “The Changing Politics Of Tamil Nadu In The 1990s”. John Harriss and Andrew Wyatt, Conference on State Politics in India in the 1990s: Political Mobilisation and Political Competition, December 2004. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2006-06-14.
- “The Roots of South Indian Cinema”. By S. Theodore Baskaran, The Journal of the International Institute. Archived from the original on April 23, 2005. Retrieved 2006-06-14.
- “Passions of the Tongue – Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970″. Sumathi Ramaswamy University Of California Press. Retrieved 2006-06-14.
- “Is the Dravidian movement dying?”. Subramanian Swamy, Frontline, Vol 20, Issue 12, June 2003. Retrieved 2006-06-14.
- “Tamil Coins- a study – Online Book”. R. Nagaswamy. Retrieved 2006-06-16.
- “The Political Situation In Pondicherry 1910–1915″. Retrieved 2006-10-12.
- “Sowing The Seeds Of A Policy For Free India and the Anti-Hindi Agitation in the South 1910–1915″. M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.,. Retrieved 2006-10-16.
- “The Demand for Dravida Nadu”. Nambi Arooran, K. Retrieved 2006-10-16.[dead link]
- “A history of agitational politics”. Viswanathan, S.. Retrieved 2006-10-17.
- “Community, Class and Conservation:Development Politics on the Kanyakumari Coast” (PDF). Ajantha Subramanian. Archived from the original on August 15, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-17.
- “The History Of Reservations In India From The 1800s To The 1950s” (PDF). Cynthia Stephen. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
- “The Global Dimensions of Conflict in Sri Lanka” (PDF). Rajesh Venugopal, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford. Retrieved 2006-10-17.
- L. R., Jegatheesan. “ஆளும் அரிதாரம் (Reigning filmdom)” (in Tamil). BBC. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- “Varalaaru – Online Monthly Magazine” (in Tamil). Dr.R. Kalaikkovan. Retrieved 2007-04-12.
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The Sangam period is the classical period in the history of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and other parts of South India, spanning about the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. It is named for the Tamil Sangams or “assemblies”.
In Old Tamil, the term Tamilakam (Tamiḻakam தமிழகம், Purananuru 168.18) referred to the whole of the “Ancient Tamil country,” as distinct from the many kingdoms that existed within its boundaries, corresponding roughly to the area known as South India today, including the territories of the present-day Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Laccadives, parts of Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Karnataka, as well as the Maldives.
Approximately during the period between 350 BCE to 200 CE, Tamilakam was ruled by the three Tamil dynasties of Chola, Pandya and Chera, and a few independent chieftains, the Velir.
By the medieval period, the Cholas had established a powerful empire that stretched from the Maldives through much of South East Asia, encompassing what is now Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Singapore, Peninsular Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Thailand and Myanmar.
There is a wealth of sources detailing the history, socio-political environment and cultural practices of ancient Tamilakam, including volumes of literature and epigraphy.
Tamilakam’s history is split into three periods; prehistoric, classical (see Sangam period) and medieval. A vast array of literary, epigraphical and inscribed sources from around the world provide insight into the socio-political and cultural occurrences in the Tamil nation.
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The religion of the ancient Tamils closely followed the roots of nature worship and some claim it close to its contemporary in North India, Vedic Hinduism. Tolkappiyam, one of the oldest grammar work in Tamil mentions Kottravai (Mother goddess) Sevvael (Murugan), Thirumaal, Vendhan (Indra) and Varunan .Other ancient works refer to Mayon (Krishna) and Balarama. The influence of Hinduism in Tamil literature rose again during the Bhakti period which documented the people organizing into Saivam(Shiva) and Vaishnavam(Vishnu). The most popular deity was Murugan, who has from a very early date been identified with Karthikeya, the son of Siva. Muruga might have been a different deity originally stemming from a local deity. According to the noted expert on Tamil culture Kamil V. Zvelebil, “Subrahmanya-Murugan is one of the most complicated and baffling deities for analysis”. The later(medieval to present) worship of Amman or Mariamman, thought to have been derived from Kotravai, an ancient mother goddess, also was very common. Kannagi, the heroine of the Cilappatikaram, was worshipped as Pathini by many Tamils, particularly in Sri Lanka. There were also many temples and devotees of Thirumaal, Siva, Ganapathi, and the other common Hindu deities.
In the ancient Sangam literature, the Tamil landscape was classified into five categories, thinais, based on the mood, season and the land. Each of these thinai had an associated deity such as Mayavan, Velavan, etc.
The ancient Tamil calendar was based on the sidereal year similar to the ancient Hindu solar calendar, except that months were from solar calculations, and originally there was no 60 year cycle as seen in Sanskrit calendar. The year was made up of twelve months and every two months constituted a season. With the popularity of Mazhai vizhavu, traditionally commencement of Tamil year was clubbed on April 14, deviating from the astronomical date of vadavazhi vizhavu.
- Pongal,பொங்கல் the festival of harvest and spring, thanking Lord Sevvéļ and Lord El (the sun), comes on January 14/15 (Thai 1).
- PeruVaenil Kadavizha, the festival for wishing quick and easy passage of the mid-summer months, on the day when the Sun or El stands directly above the head at noon (the start of Agni Natchaththiram) at the southern tip of ancient Tamil land. This day comes on April 14/15 (Ootrai 1).
- Mazhai Vizhavu, aka Indhira Vizha, the festival for want of rain, celebrated for one full month starting from the full moon in Ootrai (later name-Cittirai) சித்திரை and completed on the full moon in Puyaazhi (Vaikaasi) (which coincides with Buddhapurnima).
- Puyaazhi(Vaikaasi) visaagam and Thai poosam, தைப்பூசம் the festivals of Tamil God Sevvaell’s birth and accession to the Thirupparankundram Koodal Academy, coming on the day before the full moons of Puyaazhi and Thai respectively.
- Soornavai Vizha, the slaying of legendary Kadamba Asura king Surabadma, by Lord Sevvaell, comes on the sixth day after new moon in Itrai (Kaarthigai).
- Vaadai Vizha or Vadavazhi Vizha, the festival of welcoming the Lord El back to home, as He turns northward, celebrated on December 21/22 (Winter Solstice) (the sixth day of Panmizh[Maargazhi]).
- Semmeen Ezhumin Vizhavu (Aathi-Iřai Darisanam) or Aruthra Darishanam, the occasion of Lord Siva coming down from the ThiruCitrambalam திருச்சிற்றம்பலம் and taking a look at the vaigarai Thiru Aathirai star in the early morning on the day before the full moon in Panmizh. Aathi Irai min means the star of the God (Siva) on the Bull (Nandi).
Musicians, stage artists and performers entertained the kings, the nobility, the rich and the general population. Groups of performers included:
- Thudian, players of the thudi, a small percussion instrument
- Paraiyan, who beat maylam(drums) and performed kooththu, a stage drama in dance form, as well as proclaiming the king’s announcements
- Muzhavan, who blew into a muzhavu, a wind instrument, for the army indicating the start and end of the day and battlefield victories. They also performed in kooththu alongside other artists .
- Kadamban who beat a large bass-like drum, the kadamparai, and blew a long bamboo, kuzhal, the cerioothuthi (similar to the present naagasuram).
- PaaNan, who sang songs in all pann tunes (tunes that are specific for each landscape) and were masters of the yaazh, a stringed instrument with a wide frequency range.
Together with the poets (pulavar) and the academic scholars (saandror), these people of talent appeared to originate from all walks of life, irrespective of their native profession.
The land was divided into five types- Kurinci, Mullai, Marutam, Neithal and Paalai . The ancient Tamil people were divided into five different clans (kudi) based on their profession. They were
- the Vaelir – the farmers,
- the Malavar – the hill people who gather hill products, and the traders,
- the Naagar – people in charge of border security, who guarded the city wall and distant fortresses .
- the Kadambar – people who thrive on forests and
- the Thiraiyar – the seafarers.
All the five kudi constituted a typical settlement, which was called an Ur or Oor. Later each clan spread across the land, formed individual settlements of their own and concentrated into towns, cities and countries. Thus the Vaelir settled in North Tamil Nadu and South Andhra Pradesh, while the Mazhavar came to live in Kerala, West Tamil Nadu, East Andhra Pradesh and South Sri Lanka. The Naagar inhabited South and East Tamil Nadu, and North Sri Lanka, while the Kadambar settled in Central Tamil Nadu first and later moved to West Karnataka. The Thiraiyar inhabitated throughout the coastal regions . Later various subsects were formed based on more specific professions in each of the five landscapes .
- Poruppan (the soldiers), Verpan (the leaders of the tribe/weaponists), Silamban (masters of martial arts/the art of fighting), Kuravar (the hunters and the gatherers, the people of foothills) and Kaanavar (the people of the mountainous forests) in Kurinci,
- KuRumpoRai naadan-Kizhaththi (the landlord of the small towns amidst the forests in the valleys), ThonRal-Manaivi (the ministers and other noble couples), Idaiyar (the milkmaid and family), Aaiyar(the cattle-rearers) in Mullai,
- Paalai is a dry land. The people who lived here were Eyinar,eyitriyar. Their work was robbery.
- Mallar/Pallar (Farmers and Warriors), vendan (chera, chola and pandiya kings were called as Vendan), Uran(small landlords), Magizhnan (successful small scale farmers), Uzhavar(the farm workers), Kadaiyar (the merchants) in Marutham, and
- Saerppan (the seafood vendors and traders), Pulampan (the vegetarians who thrive on coconut and palm products), Parathar Paravas (people who lived near the seas-the rulers, sea warriors, merchants and the pirates), NuLaiyar (the wealthy people who both do fishing and grow palm farms) and ALavar (the salt cultivators) in Neithal .
List of kingdoms and city-states
Empires or large kingdoms were the Cholas, the Pandya and the Cheras. The small kingdoms and city states amidst these were:
Political map of South India, 210 B.C.E.
The Tamil calendar is used in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in India, and by the Tamil population in Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. It is used today for cultural, religious and agricultural events, with the Gregorian calendar largely used for official purposes both within and outside India. The Tamil calendar is based on the classical Hindu solar calendar also used in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Manipur, Nepal, Orissa, Rajasthan and the Punjab.
There are several festivals based on the Tamil Hindu calendar. The Tamil New Year follows the nirayanam vernal equinox and generally falls on 13 or 14 April of the Gregorian year. 13 or 14 April marks the first day of the traditional Tamil calendar and this remains a public holiday in both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. Tropical vernal equinox fall around 22 March, and adding 23 degrees of trepidation or oscillation to it, we get the Hindu sidereal or Nirayana Mesha Sankranti (Sun’s transition into nirayana Aries). Hence, the Tamil calendar begins on the same date in April which is observed by most traditional calendars of the rest of India – Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Orissa, Manipur, Punjab etc. This also coincides with the traditional new year in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka,Bangladesh Nepal and Thailand. The 60-year cycle is also very ancient and is observed by most traditional calendars of India and China, and is related to 5 revolutions of Jupiter according to popular belief, or to 60-year orbit of Nakshatras (stars) as mentioned in Surya Siddhanta.
The traditional Tamil year starts on 14 April 2011, Kaliyuga 5113. Vikrama and Shalivahana Saka eras are also used. There are several references in early Tamil literature to the April new year. Nakkirar, the author of the Nedunalvaadai writes in the 3rd century that the Sun travels from Mesha/Chitterai through 11 successive Raasis or signs of the zodiac. Kūdalūr Kizhaar in the 3rd century refers to Mesha Raasi/Chitterai as the commencement of the year in the Puranaanooru. The Tolkaapiyam is the oldest surviving Tamil grammar that divides the year into six seasons where Chitterai marks the start of the Ilavenil season or summer. The 8th century Silappadikaaram mentions the 12 Raasis or zodiac signs starting with Mesha/Chitterai. The Manimekalai alludes to the Hindu solar calendar as we know it today. Adiyaarkunalaar, an early medieval commentator or Urai-asiriyar, mentions the 12 months of the Tamil Hindu calendar with particular reference to Chitterai. There were subsequent inscriptional references in Pagan, Burma dated to the 11th century CE and in Sukhothai, Thailand dated to the 14th century CE to South Indian, often Vaishnavite, courtiers who were tasked with defining the traditional calendar that began in mid-April.
This list compiles the days of the week in the Tamil calendar:
|No.||Kizhamai (Tamil)||Weekday (English)||Vaasara (Sanskrit)||Lord or Planet||Gregorian Calendar equivalent|
For Tamils the each day begins at the sun set. The evening of Thursday(the meeting point of Thursday and Friday) loans are to be eschewed during this period till Friday wanes off. In this regard Parthimar Kalingar has done extensive research to prove the beginning of a Tamil day
The number of days in a month varies between 29 and 32.
The following list compiles the months of the Tamil Calendar.
|No.||Month (Tamil)||Month (English)||Sanskrit Name *||Gregorian Calendar equivalent|
|01.||சித்திரை||Cittirai||Chaitra||mid-April to mid-May|
|02.||வைகாசி||Vaikāci||Vaisākha||mid-May to mid-June|
|03.||ஆனி||Āni||Jyaishtha||mid-June to mid-July|
|04.||ஆடி||Āṭi||Āshāḍha||mid-July to mid-August|
|05.||ஆவணி||Āvaṇi||Shrāvaṇa||mid-August to mid-September|
|06.||புரட்டாசி||Puraṭṭāci||Bhādrapada/Prauṣṭhapada||mid-September to mid-October|
|07.||ஐப்பசி||Aippaci||Ashwina||mid-October to mid-November|
|08.||கார்த்திகை||Kārttikai||Kārttika||mid-November to mid-December|
|09.||மார்கழி||Mārkazhi||Mārgaṣīrṣa||mid-December to mid-January|
|10.||தை||Tai||Pausha/Taiṣya||mid-January to mid-February|
|11.||மாசி||Māci||Māgha||mid-February to mid-March|
|12.||பங்குனி||Paṅkuni||Phalguna||mid-March to mid-April|
The Tamil year, in keeping with the old Indic calendar, is divided into six seasons, each of which lasts two months:
|Season in Tamil||English Transliteration||English Translation||Season in Sanskrit||Season in English||Tamil Months||Gregorian Months|
|இளவேனில்||ila-venil||Light warmth||Vasanta||Spring||chithirai, vaigāsi||Mid Apr – Mid Jun|
|முதுவேனில்||mutu-venil||Harsh warmth||Grishma||Summer||āni, ādi||Mid Jun – Mid Aug|
|கார்||kār||Dark clouds, Rain||Varsha||Rainy||āvani, puratāci||Mid Aug – Mid Oct|
|குளிர்||kulir||Chill, Cold||Sharada||Autumn||aippasi, kārthigai||Mid Oct – Mid Dec|
|முன்பனி||mun-pani||Early dew||Hemanta||Early winter||mārkazhi, tai||Mid Dec – Mid Feb|
|பின்பனி||pin-pani||Late dew||Sishira||Late winter||māsi, panguni||Mid Feb – Mid Apr|
The 60-year cycle of the Tamil calendar is common to North and South Indian traditional calendars, with the same name and sequence of years. Its earliest reference is to be found in Surya Siddhanta, which Varahamihirar (550 CE) believed to be the most accurate of the then current theories of astronomy. However, in the Surya Siddhantic list, the first year was Vijaya and not Prabhava as currently used. This 60-year cycle is also used in the Chinese calendar.
After the completion of sixty years, the calendar starts anew with the first year. This corresponds to the Hindu “century.” The Vakya or Tirukannitha Panchangam (the traditional Tamil almanac) outlines this sequence.
The following list presents the current 60-year cycle of the Tamil calendar:
|No.||Name||Name (English)||Gregorian Year||No.||Name||Name (English)||Gregorian Year|
The months of the Tamil Calendar have great significance and are deeply rooted in the faith of the Tamil Hindus. Some months are considered very auspicious while a few are considered inauspicious as well.
Some of the celebrations for each month are listed below. Dates in parentheses are not exact and usually vary by a day or two. Underneath (or beside) the months of the Hindu calendar are their Gregorian counterparts.
|சித்திரை – Chithirai(April)||14 April – 14 May||Chitra Pournami & Varusha pirappu are the most important festivals in this month. Famous Chithirai thiruvizha is ceiebrated in Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple.|
|வைகாசி – Vaikaasi(May)||15 May – 14 June||Vaikaasi Visaakam is the most important day in this month.|
|ஆணி – Aani(June)||15 June – 14 July||Aani Thirumanjanam or Aani Uttaram for Lord Nataraja is the most famous day in this month.|
|ஆடி – Aadi(July)||15 July – 14 August||A most important month for women. The most auspicious days are Fridays and Tuesdays in this month, these are called Aadi Velli and Aadi Chevvai and the Aadi Amavasya. Aadi Pooram is also a special day.18th day of adi is the most important day for the farmers (delta region) they prepare paddy seedlings.during this month “kanchi varthal” is famous in amman temples|
|ஆவணி – Aavani(August)||15 August – 15 September||An important month with many rituals. Brahmins change their sacred thread on Aavani Avittam. Each Sunday of the month is dedicated to prayers – Aavani Gnayiru.|
|புரட்டாசி – Purattaasi(September)||15 September – 15 October||An important month for Vaishnavas. Purattaasi Sani(Saturday) is an auspicious day for Lord Vishnu.|
|ஐப்பசி – Aippasi(October)||15 October – 14 November||The monsoonstypically start over Tamil Nadu in this month. Hence the saying, “Aippasi Mazhai, adai mazhai” – meaning “Aippasi rains are persistent rains”.Also Annaabishekam for Lord Shiva is very famous in this month. The most famous Hindu festival “Deepavali” is celebrated in this month. The Fridays of this month – Aipassi velli – are dedicated to religious observance.|
|கார்த்திகை – Karthikai(November)||15 November – 14 December||Another auspicious celebration for Shiva devotees is Thirukaarthigai. The Krithikaa Pournami is the special day of the full moon in the month of Kaarthikai, and the star is Krithikaa.Each Monday of this month is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Every Monday is called “Somavaaram” when 108 or 1008 sangabhishekam are offered to Lord Shiva and Lord Muruga.|
|மார்கழி – Maargazhi(December)||15 December – 14 January||This is another special month in the Tamil Calendar. Temples open earlier in the mornings and Devotees throng the temples early for puja and prasadam – the offering made to the deity which is later distributed to the devotees. Arudra Darisanam (Thiruvaadirai star in Tamil) is the most auspicious day in this month. This is also a very popular festival in Kerala, where it is called Thiruvaadira. The offering made to Lord siva is the Thiruvaadira Kali. Mukkodi Ekathesi is called “Sorgavasal Thirappu” for Lord Vishnu. The Tiruvembaavai fast takes place in this month.|
|தை – Thai(January)
|15 January – 14 February||Pongal, which is the harvest festival, is celebrated on the first day of this month. Thai Friday is a popular day among Telugu speaking peoples settled in Tamil Nadu. Thaipusam is also a special day for Murugan devotees, who carry Kavadis to one of the Aarupadaiveedu (Literally meaning “six abodes”).|
|மாசி – Maasi(February)||15 February – 14 March||Maasi Magam is the special day of which comes in this Month. Shivaratri is an important festival widely celebrated by Hindus in this month.|
|பங்குனி – Panguni(March)||15 March – 13 April||Panguni Uthiram, the last month of the year, is a famous festival and special to Murugan and Siva devotees.|
- The Hindus developed a system of calendrics that encapsulates vast periods of time. For computing the age of the earth and various geological and other epochs, as well as the age of mankind, they still employ a Tamil calendar derived from ancient astronomical data, known as the Tirukkanida Panchanga (cf. The Secret Doctrine, 2:49-51).
- This calendar contains a calculation of something over three hundred million years for the age of the present earth since sedimentation occurred, and a period of somewhat more than eighteen million years since the first appearance of our mankind.
- The 10th Tamil month, called Thai, falls in mid-January each year. It is celebrated with much enthusiasm within the Tamil Community all over the world. Thai is marked by gifts of new clothing for family members and prayers to God for prosperity in the coming year. Thai and the fifth month Aavani are considered very auspicious for marriage and most marriages occur during these months.
- The fourth month Aadi is considered inauspicious, so weddings do not often fall in this month. Aadi is also the month of preparation for the next crop cycle by farmers. Therefore, farming communities avoid major events like weddings in this month. Those members of the Tamil community who don’t actively contribute/participate in farming take advantage by having important functions like wedding in this month. For example, the business community prefers this month for weddings. Asdi is usually the worst month for business, although when businesses recently initiated Aadi discounts, this situation has changed significantly. Each Friday of this month is set aside for prayer and worship.
- Aadi ia an inauspicious month for newlyweds to sleep together because a woman who conceives in this month will have a difficult delivery in May, the hottest month in Tamil Nadu (Agni natchathiram [pinezu] last 7 days of Chitharai and [munezu] first 7 days of Vaigasi).?)
- Purattaasi is when most of the non-vegetarian Tamil people fast from meat for a month. This faith can be considered similar to fasts undertaken by Muslims during Ramadan. Each Saturday of this month is set apart to venerate the planet Saturn.
- Deepavali, is celebrated on the new moon day, in the seventh month Aipassi. The month of Aipassi is usually characterised by the North-East Monsoon in Tamil Nadu, which has given birth to a phrase, Aipassi Adai Mazhai meaning the “Non-stop Downpour”.
- Maargazhi falls in winter in Tamil Nadu, and is considered auspicious for unmarried women to find a groom. The Shaivite fast of Tiru-vembaavai and the Vaishnava fast of Tiru-paavai are also observed in this month.
- The total number of days in a Tamil Calendar is an average 365 days and the days of the week are named similarly to those of the western calendar. The Vakiya Panchangam is employed for both sacred and civil calculations. The Trikanitha Panchangam is employed for astrological calculations.
The Tamil Calendar is so important to the life of Tamil-speaking people that most of the Festivals of Tamil Nadu are based on it. Some of Festivals include Tamil New Year or Puthandu in mid-April, Thai Pongal, Deepavali, Panguni Uthiram, Thirukaarthigai, Aadiperukku, Navaratri etc.
Tamil historical novels
Tamil literature of South India has a long history spanning close to two millennia. Through most of its history, though, it was expressed in the form of poetry. The novel as a mode of Tamil literature is a relatively new phenomenon, appearing on the scene less than two centuries ago.
Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram (“The Life of Prathapa Mudaliar”), written in 1857 and published in 1879, was the first novel in the Tamil language. The novel does not involve historical characters or events but is set in royal times. Penned by Mayuram Vedanayakam Pillai, it was a landmark in Tamil literature, which had hitherto seen writings only in poetry. The book gave birth to a new literary genre and Tamil prose began to be recognized as an increasingly important part of the language. One can see style of any Tamil author in this novel.
Aabathukidamaana Abavadham -or- Kamalaambaal Charithram is wriiten by Rajamyyeer from Vathalakundu in later part of nineteenth century is the first Tamil novel depicting the real life of people living. The author worked in Tamil daily Dinamani and had a very short life – 26 years. Considering the period in which he lived and wrote, he created waves in emancipation of women’s life, incomparable to any social reformist. In this story he conducted marriage to a brahmin widow. Had he lived further and wrote more, the style of moden Tamil prose would have been different.
Authors like Kalki Krishnamurthy , Akilan wrote historical novels during the Indian independence movement to instil patriotic pride in the people. Most historical novels were serialised in Tamil magazines before being published in book form. The advent of netzines has seen new web based historical writers entering the arena.
List of Novels, Authors & Publications
- Kalki R Krishnamurthy – Ponniyin Selvan (பொன்னியின் செல்வன்) (5 Parts) – available online for download
- Kalki R Krishnamurthy – Sivakamiyin Sabhadam (சிவகாமியின் சபதம்) – available online for download
- Kalki R Krishnamurthy – Paarthibhan Kanavu (பார்த்திபன் கனவு) – available online for download
- Sandilyan – Kadal Pura (கடல் புறா) – III parts (1967)
- Sandilyan – Yavana Rani (யவன ராணி) – II parts (Vanathi Pathippagam)
- Sandilyan – Raja Perigai(ராஜ பேரிகை) (Vanathi Pathippagam)
- Sandilyan – Mannan Magal (மன்னன் மகள்) (Vanathi Pathippagam)
- Sandilyan – Kannimadam (கன்னி மாடம்)
- Sandilyan – Rajamuthirai (ராஜமுத்திரை)
- Sandilyan – Alai Arasi (அலை அரசி)
- Sandilyan – Avani Sundari (அவனி சுந்தரி)
- Sandilyan – chandarmathi (சந்திரமதி)
- Sandilyan – chithranjanai (சித்ரஞ்சனை)
- Sandilyan – ilaya rani (இளைய ராணி)
- Sandilyan – indira kumari (இந்திர குமரி)
- Sandilyan – jala deepam (ஜல தீபம்) – III parts (1973)
- Sandilyan – jala mohini (ஜல மோகினி)
- Sandilyan – jeeva boomi (ஜீவ பூமி)
- Sandilyan – kadal rani (கடல் ராணி)
- Sandilyan – kadal vendhan (கடல் வேந்தன்)
- Sandilyan – madhahaviyin manam (மதஹவியின் மனம்)
- Sandilyan – malai arasi (மலை அரசி)
- Sandilyan – malai vasal (மலை வாசல்)
- Sandilyan – mangaladevi (மங்களதேவி)
- Sandilyan – manjal aaru (மஞ்சள் ஆறு)
- Sandilyan – manmalar (மன்மலர்)
- Sandilyan – mohana chilai (மோகன சிலை)
- Sandilyan – mohini vanam (மோகினி வனம்)
- Sandilyan – moongil kottai (மூங்கில் கோட்டை)
- Sandilyan – naaga deepam (நாக தீபம்)
- Sandilyan – naaga devi (நாக தேவி)
- Sandilyan – neel vizhi (நீள்விழி)
- Sandilyan – neela mangai (நீலமங்கை)
- Sandilyan – neela rathi (நீலரதி)
- Sandilyan – neelavalli (நீலவல்லி)
- Sandilyan – pallava peedam (பல்லவ பீடம்)
- Sandilyan – pallava thilagam (பல்லவ திலகம்)
- Sandilyan – pandiyan bhavani (பாண்டியன் பவனி)
- Sandilyan – raaniyin kanavu (ராணியின் கனவு)
- Sandilyan – raja thilagam (ராஜதிலகம்)
- Sandilyan – raja yogam (ராஜயோகம்)
- Sandilyan – rajyasree (ராஜ்யஸ்ரீ)
- Sandilyan – rana hammer (ராணா ஹமீர்)
- Sandilyan – seran chelvi (சேரன் செல்வி)
- Sandilyan – udhayabanu (உதயபானு)
- Sandilyan – vasantha kaalam (வசந்தகாலம்)
- Sandilyan – vijaya mahadevi (விஜய மகாதேவி) – III parts
- Sandilyan – vilai raani (விலை ராணி)
- Akilan – Vengaiyin Mainthan (வேங்கையின் மைந்தன்) – http://www.tamilvu.org/library/libindex.htm
- Akilan – Kayalvizhi (கயல்விழி) – Tamil Puthkalayam
- Akilan – Vetri thirunagar (வெற்றி திருநகர்) – Tamilputhakalayam
- A. Dayanandam – gunavathi kottam
- A. Dayanandam – kaviri chozhan
- A. Dayanandam – madhuraiyai katha maravan
- A. Dayanandam – malarvizhi
- A. Dayanandam – mummudi chozhan
- A. Dayanandam – valvil oori
- Aikan – adhiyaman kadhali
- Aikan – ilaveyini
- Aikan – karikalan kanavu
- Aikan – neiythalil pootha kurinchi
- Aikan – nellik kani
- Aikan – oormilai
- Amudha ganesan – thanjai ilavarasi
- Aringhar anna – irumbaram
- Aringhar anna – irumbu mull veli
- Aringhar anna – kalinga raani
- Arul Nambi – moondram nandhivarman
- Arun – neelamalai ilavarasi
- Sankara Narayanan.R -raja narthagi
- Sankara Narayanan.R -raja neethi
- Sankara Narayanan.R -raja vamsam
- Santhi Meenakshi -indira theevu
- Saroja Rajarathinam -vikraman kadhali
- Savari Raj -paraseega paingili
- Sidharthan -sevvanam
- Sidhubath -chozha vengaigal
- T.P. Perumal -mannan thirumagal
- T.P. Perumal -sirpiyin kanavu
- T.P. Perumal -thalavai veluthambi
- T.P. Perumal -thamizhukku thanneye thandhavan
- T.P. Perumal -vanjikkomagal
- T.P. Perumal -veera theebam
- T.P. Perumal -venattu vendhan
- Thamarai Manalan -andhapuram
- Thamarai Manalan -idhya valli
- Thamarai Manalan -indira vizha
- Thamarai Manalan -then malai kanni
- Thajnai Vanan -kalam kanda kavinghan
- Thajnai Vanan -karikarperuvalathan
- Thiruvasagan -veeramaadhevi
- Vembu Vikiraman – Nandhipurathu Nayaki(III Parts) – Vanathi Pathippagam
- Vembu Vikiraman -abimana valli
- Vembu Vikiraman -alavai arasi
- Vembu Vikiraman -chithravalli
- Vembu Vikiraman -chozha ilavarasan kanavu
- Vembu Vikiraman -chozha magudam
- Vembu Vikiraman -gangapuri kavalan
- Vembu Vikiraman -kadal mallai kadhali
- Vembu Vikiraman -kanji sundari
- Vembu Vikiraman -kannikkottai ilavarasi
- Vembu Vikiraman -klothungan sabatham
- Vembu Vikiraman -kondrai malar kumari
- Vembu Vikiraman -kovur koonan
- Vembu Vikiraman -madhurai magudam
- Vembu Vikiraman -mangalathevan magal
- Vembu Vikiraman -manikka veenai
- Vembu Vikiraman -maravarman kadhali
- Vembu Vikiraman -nachiyar magal
- Vembu Vikiraman -oru vaal oru magudam iru vizhigal
- Vembu Vikiraman -pakaivanin kadhali
- Vembu Vikiraman -pandiya magudam
- Vembu Vikiraman -parandhagan magal
- Vembu Vikiraman -parivathini
- Vembu Vikiraman -periya piratti
- Vembu Vikiraman -raja rajan sabatham
- Vembu Vikiraman -rajathithan sabatham
- Vembu Vikiraman -rathina haram
- Vembu Vikiraman -therkku vasal mohini
- Vembu Vikiraman -thiyaga vallaban
- Vembu Vikiraman -udhaya chandran
- Vembu Vikiraman -vadhapi vijayam
- Vembu Vikiraman -vallathu ilavarasi
- Vembu Vikiraman -vandhiyathevan vaal
- Vembu Vikiraman -vanjinagar vanji
- Vembu Vikiraman -yazh nangai
- Jegasirpiyan – Aalavai Azhagan
- Jegasirpiyan – arulmozhi nangai
- Jegasirpiyan – madhuranthagi
- Jegasirpiyan – magarayazh mangai
- Jegasirpiyan – marampaavai
- Jegasirpiyan – nandhivarman kathali
- Jegasirpiyan – nayagi narchonai
- Jegasirpiyan – pathinik kottam
- Jegasirpiyan – santhana thilagam
- Jegasirpiyan – thiruchitrambalam
- Jayanthi Rajan – chozha nagam
- Jayanthi Rajan – ilaya rani
- Jayanthi Rajan – kanal paravai
- Jegatha – viduthalai vengai
- K A Rajendran – malaiyaman thirumudikari
- K M. Munshi – jaya somnath
- Kabilan – maa mallan kadhali
- Kabilan – madhuranthagi
- Kabilan – maravan magal
- Kabilan – maravar kulathu manipura
- Kabilan – naga nandhini
- Kabilan – nithilavalli
- Kabilan – pallavar komagan
- Kabilan – pandiyan thirumeni
- Kabilan – peeli valai
- Kabilan – perunthurai nayagan
- Kabilan – porchellvi
- Kabilan – raja nangai
- Kabilan – silambu selvi
- Kabilan – villavan gothai
- Kalai Mani – ponnivanathu poonguyil
- Na. Parthasarathy – Manipallavam -Tamilputhakalayam
- M. Karunanidhi – Ponnar Sangar
- M. Karunanidhi – Payum Puli Pandaraga Vanniyan
- Gauthama Neelambaran – Sethu Bandhanam
- Gauthama Neelambaran – Raja Ganganam
- Gauthama Neelambaran – Raja Peedam
- Gauthama Neelambaran – Mohini Kottai
- Gauthama Neelambaran – Pandiyan Ula
- Gauthama Neelambaran – Vettri Magudam
- Gauthama Neelambaran – Marutha Nayagam
- Gauthama Neelambaran -chithira punnagai
- Gauthama Neelambaran -chozha vengai
- Gauthama Neelambaran -ezhavendhan sangili
- Gauthama Neelambaran -kalinga mohini
- Gauthama Neelambaran -mandhira utham
- Gauthama Neelambaran -mannan madathu nilavu
- Gauthama Neelambaran -masidoniya maaveeran
- Gauthama Neelambaran -moongil palam
- Gauthama Neelambaran -nila mutram
- Gauthama Neelambaran -pallava mohini
- Gauthama Neelambaran -pallavan thantha ariyanai
- Gauthama Neelambaran -raja pokkisham
- Gauthama Neelambaran -sanakiyarin kadhal
- Gauthama Neelambaran -seran thandha parisu
- Gauthama Neelambaran -simmak kottai
- Gauthama Neelambaran -udaya boomi
- Gauthama Neelambaran -vasavathathaiyin kadhal
- Gauthama Neelambaran -vengai vijayam
- Gauthama Neelambaran -vetri thilagam
- Gauthama Neelambaran -vijaya nandhini
- P Nedumaran -thenpaandi veeran (Tamil: தென்பாண்டி வீரன்)
- P Nedumaran -cholakulavalli (Tamil: சோழ குல வல்லி)
- Pagai Nadan -kumarathevan
- Pagai Nadan -kundhavaiyin kanavau
- Pagai Nadan -snegavalli
- Pagai Nadan -veeramaadhevi
- Pannan -perunthevi
- Pon Padmanabhan -maveeran shersha
- Pon Paramaguru -magadha magudam
- Poovannan -baranar keeta parisu
- Poovannan -kandarathithan kadhal
- Poovannan -kollimalai selvi
- Poovannan -raja natpu
- R Balasubramanian -pandiya nayagan
- V. Balakumaran – Udaiyar (VI Parts)
- V. Balakumaran – Kadigai
- V. Balakumaran – Nandha Vilakku
- V. Balakumaran – Peikarumbu
- Sujatha Rangarajan – Ratham Ore Niram
- Sujatha Rangarajan – Kaanthaloor Vasanthakumaran Kadhai (Incomplete story)
- Sri Venugopalan – Thiruvarangan Ula (II Parts)
- Sri Venugopalan – Mathura Vijayam (II Parts) – Continuation of Thiruvarangan Ula
- Prapanjan – Maanudam Vellum
- Prapanjan – Vaanam Vasappadum
- Prapanjan – Inbakkeni
- Aru Ramanathan – Veerapandiyan Manaivi
- Indra Soundarrajan
- Indra Soundarrajan – madhurai arasi
- Indra Soundarrajan – pandiya nayagi
- Indra Soundarrajan – sethu nattu vengai
- Indra Soundarrajan – vikrama vikrama
- Indra Subramaniyam – paaraseega perazhagi
- Indra Subramaniyam – rasa simman
- Indra Subramaniyam – veera thirumagan
- Indra Subramaniyam – yadhava raani
- Mu Metha – Chozha Nila
- Mu Metha – Makuda Nila
- Ra.Ki.Rangarajan – Naan Krishnadevarayan
- Kannadasan – Seramaan Kathali
- Venkatram Dhiwakar – Vamsathara
- Venkatram Dhiwakar – Thirumalai Thirudan
- Venkatram Dhiwakar – Vichitra Chittan
- Anusha Venkatesh – Kaaviri Mainthan
- Anusha Venkatesh – Thillayil Oru Kollaikkaran
- Gokul Seshadri – Rajakesari – available online for download
- Gokul Seshadri – Paisaasam- available online for download
- Gokul Seshadri – Cherar Kottai (Rajakesari-II) – available online for download
- Vishwaksenan – Pandyan Magal,
Vishwaksenan - Indra Dhanusu Vishwaksenan - Maguda Vairam Vishwaksenan - Padma Vyugam Vishwaksenan - Jayasree
- Balakrishnan – danayakkan kottai
- Balakrishnan – senjikkottai
- S.Balasubramaniyam – Chandravadhana
- S.Balasubramaniyam – moha malar
- S.Balasubramaniyam – pon andhi
- Baskaradhasan – kalinga rayan kadhai
- Baskaradhasan – maa veeran marutha nayagam
- Baskaradhasan – theeran chinnamalai
- Bharathavan – kanjip paavai
- Bharathavan – neela keysi
- Hasan – sindhu nathik karaiyinile
- Idaipadi amuthan – ezhukarai soorya kangeyan
- Ilangavin – chozha madhevi
- Ilangavin – chozhar kula selvi
- Ilasai manian – vamsamani dheepigai
- Ilavarasan – greakka nayagi
- M. Karunanidhi – romapuri pandiyan
- M. Karunanidhi – thenpandi singam
- Kalki Rajendran – ravikula thilagan
- Kamala Priya – kadal maindhan
- Kamala Priya – kongu thilagam
- Kamala Priya – madhura valli
- Kamala Priya – pokkisha veettai
- Kandeeban – raja nandhi
- Kannadasan -ayiram theevu angayarkannai
- Kannadasan -kadal konda thennadu
- Kannadasan -pari malaikkodi
- Kannadasan -umaiyan kottai
- Kannan Krishnan -kalapirarai vendra kavalan
- Kannan Makesh -gantharva
- Kannan Makesh -neelamathiyin kadhal
- Kaveri Nadan -sengani
- Kavi Azhagan -kalamkanda ilancheran
- Kavi Azhagan -kopperunthevi
- Kavi Azhagan -maaveeran pulithevan
- Kavi Azhagan -marattiya maa veeran
- Kavi Azhagan -vanduvar kuzhali
- Ko Kalaivendhan -selvamani
- Kousigan-adimaiyin thiyagam
- Kousigan-paavai mandram
- Kousigan-pamini paavai
- Kovi Manisegaran – Maanbumigu Mudhalamaichar
- Kovi Manisegaran -adhitha karikalan kolai
- Kovi Manisegaran -agni kobam
- Kovi Manisegaran -ajatha sathru
- Kovi Manisegaran -chithrangi
- Kovi Manisegaran -chozha dheepam
- Kovi Manisegaran -gangai nachiyar
- Kovi Manisegaran -hyder ali
- Kovi Manisegaran -ilavarasi mohanangi
- Kovi Manisegaran -indhira viharai
- Kovi Manisegaran -kalaiyar kovil ratham
- Kovi Manisegaran -kandharva thathai
- Kovi Manisegaran -kanjik kathiravan
- Kovi Manisegaran -kanthaari
- Kovi Manisegaran -kollip pavai
- Kovi Manisegaran -kudavayil kottam
- Kovi Manisegaran -kumari
- Kovi Manisegaran -kutrala kurunji
- Kovi Manisegaran -madhurai mannargal
- Kovi Manisegaran -malaya marutham
- Kovi Manisegaran -mayiliragu
- Kovi Manisegaran -megalai
- Kovi Manisegaran -midhakkum thimingilangal
- Kovi Manisegaran -mudisootu vizha
- Kovi Manisegaran -muhilil mulaitha mugam
- Kovi Manisegaran -naga nandhini
- Kovi Manisegaran -nayakka maadhevikal
- Kovi Manisegaran -peimagal ilaveyini
- Kovi Manisegaran -penmaniyeam
- Kovi Manisegaran -pon veindha perumal
- Kovi Manisegaran -poonkuzhali
- Kovi Manisegaran -porkkala poompavai
- Kovi Manisegaran -raja garjanai
- Kovi Manisegaran -raja mohini
- Kovi Manisegaran -raja ragam
- Kovi Manisegaran -raja tharangani
- Kovi Manisegaran -samrat ashokan
- Kovi Manisegaran -santhrothayam
- Kovi Manisegaran -sembiyan selvi
- Kovi Manisegaran -senji abaranji
- Kovi Manisegaran -senji selvan
- Kovi Manisegaran -sera sooriyan
- Kovi Manisegaran -seran kulakkodi
- Kovi Manisegaran -sudhandhira theevil vellai naaraigal
- Kovi Manisegaran -thendral katru
- Kovi Manisegaran -thogai mayil
- Kovi Manisegaran -thoothu nee sollivaarai
- Kovi Manisegaran -varaga nathikkaraiyil
- Kovi Manisegaran -vengai vanam
- Kurumbur Kuppusamy -pandiya kumaran
- Lakshmi Rajarathninam -pallavap pavai
- Lakshmi Narayanan -ponnakar sellvi
- Lakshmi Narayanan -poondhurai nayagan
- Lakshmi Narayanan -rani vidhyavathi
- Lakshmi Narayanan -theeran thippusulthan
- Lakshmi Narayanan -vijaya nandhini
- Lakshmi Narayanan -villavan dhevi
- Lakshmi Ramanan -anaiya vilakku
- Loorthu Raj -idukkan kalaindha natpu
- M Annamalai -kuruthi chooru
- M V Somu -ravi chandhirika
- Madhavan -thiruma valavan
- Madhura -manjal pura
- Madhura -mannukku oru mutham
- Madhura -panjalankurichi veera vaal
- Madhura -raja kanni
- Magarishi -sanakiya sambrajiyam
- Makizhnan -vanjiyin vanjam
- Maraimalai Adigal -naga nattarasi kumutha valli
- Mayil Vahanan -adallarasi
- Mayil Vahanan -sembiyan selvan
- Moovendhar muthu -natpin vilaiyattu
- Mukilan -kaveri naadan
- Mukilan -raja nandhi
- Mukilan -salukkiyan sabatham
- Mukilan -vaigaiyin maindhan
- Mukilan -vijaya tharangini
- Na Parthasarathy -kabadapuram
- Na Parthasarathy -nithilavalli
- Na Parthasarathy -Manipallavam
- Na Parthasarathy -pandimaa devi
- Na Parthasarathy -rani mangammal
- Na Parthasarathy -vanjima nagaram
- Na Parthasarathy -vetri muzhakkam
- Nachiappan -sanakiyanai vendraval
- Nanjil Mannan -muthazhagi
- Nanrasimma -kalachakkram
- Nanrasimma -ranga ratinam
- Navan -krishna vamsam
- Nazeer -aval anniyamanaval allal
- Ra.Ki.Rangarajan – vaalin mutham
- Ra.Su. Nallaperumal – marukkozhundhu mangai
- Raja Balachandar – nandhik kodi
- Rajarathinam – gangai soozh kaviri nadan
- Rajarathinam – raja nayagi
- Rajaguru – chozha rani
- Rajaguru – mamannan ula
- Ramachandra Takur – raja narthagi
- Aru Ramanathan -vetrivel veerathevan
- RV -adhithan kadhal
- RV -sengamalavalli
- S. Kulasekaran -andhimandharai
- S. Kulasekaran -chozhar kula ponmalargal
- S. Kulasekaran -jambavathi
- S. Kulasekaran -salukkiyan thirumanam
- S. Kulasekaran -theenara kuzhali
- S. Kulasekaran -yazhisai mannan
- S. Velmurugan -kopperunsingan kanavu
- S. A. Vetrichelvan -kural kanda cholan
- S. L.S. -buvana mohini
- S. M. Kamal -sethupathiyin kadhal
- Thivahar -sms emton 22-09-1914
- Udhayanan -aaputhiran
- Udhayanan -chozha kulanthagan
- Udhayanan -maha vamsam
- Udhayanan -mayil kottai
- Udhayanan -mayil nira mangai
- Udhayanan -mouriya puyal
- Udhayanan -pandiya murasu
- Udhayanan -samuthira gosham
- Udhayanan -singala puyal
- Udhayanan -velvithoon
- Udhayanan -vetri vendhan
- V Rajasekaran -ilaya vendhan
- V S Kantekar -yayathi
- V. Ashok Kumar -amoga varshan
- V. Lakshmanan -kannip paavai
- V. Lakshmanan -neelaveni
- Vadivelu -sembiyar thilagam
- Vairamuthu -villodu vaa nilavey
- Veikuzhal Vendhan -vengaiyin peran
- Sri Venugopalan -kallazhagar kadhali
- Sri Venugopalan -kundalakesi
- Sri Venugopalan -kuvai nadhi theeram
- Sri Venugopalan -manmadha pandian
- Sri Venugopalan -mohavalli thoothu
- Sri Venugopalan -mohini thirukkolam
- Sri Venugopalan -swarnamugi
- Vijai -aranmanai ragasiyam
Historic Novels Available Online
|Tamil Wikisourcehas original text related to this article:
- All Works of Kalki-10 Novels and 75 Short stories:chennailibrary.com (Unicode)
- Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan in Tamil Wikisource (Unicode)
- Ponniyinselvan Facts and Fiction – a series that analyzes the historic facts behind the fiction
- Kalki’s Paarthibhan Kanavu
- Rajakesari, a novel written by Gokul Seshadri, happens during the later part of Rajaraja Chola’s life. It is a historic thriller Varalaaru monthly e-magazine’s website
- Paisaasam – a historic novel in http://www.varalaaru.com (Unicode)
- Cherar Kottai (Part-II of Rajakesari), another novel also by Gokul Seshadri happens during the early part of Rajaraja Chola’s life. It fully explains the circumstances under which Rajaraja makes his first and memorable victory over Kanthaloor Chalai – a chera martial arts academy. It is a historic fiction that can be read from Varalaaru monthly e-magazine’s website.To read the novel, Click here
Historic Short Stories Collection
- Kalvettu Sonna Kadaigal Series in Varalaaru.com Magazine
|Original title||பொன்னியின் செல்வன்|
|Genre(s)||Historical, Romance, Spy, Thriller, Novel|
Ponniyin Selvan (Tamil: பொன்னியின் செல்வன், English: The Son of Ponni) is a 2400 page 20th-century Tamil historical novel written by Kalki Krishnamurthy. Written in 5 volumes, this narrates the story of Arulmozhivarman (later crowned as Rajaraja Chola), one of the kings of the Chola Dynasty during the 10th-11th century CE period.
Ponniyin Selvan is widely regarded as one of the greatest novels in Tamil. It deals with the fortunes of the Chola empire during the 10th century. It was serialised in the Tamil periodical Kalki. The serialisation went on for three and a half years and every week its publication was awaited with great interest.
Considering the huge popularity of the book and the author, this novel was nationalized by the Government of Tamil Nadu and is available as an open source for anyone to publish.
Popular Director Maniratnam is making a film based on the story of Ponniyin Selvan.
Ponniyin Selvan is a historic fiction, which has mostly real historical characters and more of real historical incidents.
The oldest evidence that is available on the Chola dynasty is about the famous Chola king Karikal Peruvalathan and then many other famous kings after him such as Killivalavan, Nedunkilli, Perunkilli, etc. After this, the trail runs cold and resurfaces as Vijayalaya Chola once again established the Chola dynasty after defeating the Pandiyas and the Pallavas.
Vijayalaya Chola (848-871 CE) was the founder of the Medieval Chola dynasty. He conquered the country from a vassal chief of the Pallavas, and established Pazhayaarai as the capital of the dynasty which was later shifted to Thanjavur during the rule of Sundara Chola. His son and successor Aditya I conquered the Pallavas and the Kongu country. Later, under the leadership of his son Parantaka I (c 907-955 CE), the Cholas acquired a dominion which foreshadowed the greater empire of Rajaraja and Kulothunga Chola I. Parantaka I won victories over the Banas, the Gangas, the Pandya and the King of Ceylon.
This fact and the extent of his conquest are known from his inscriptions. Towards the end of his reign, or before his death, the Rashtrakutas under Krishna III invaded the Tamil Country, killed the Chola prince Rajaditya at Takkolam (near Arakkonam) in c. 948 CE , and seized Tondainadu which they ruled for about a quarter of a century, confining the sway of the Cholas to their ancestral dominion comprising the modern day Tanjavur and Thiruchirapalli districts.
The names of the next five kings after Rajaditya are known by various historical evidences.
Gandaraditya a great Shaivite, whose son was to become the famous Madhurantaka. Gandaraditya was, however, not a great king and the enemies of the Chola kingdom began to rise again at the end of his reign. Moreover, both of his brothers Rajathitha and Arinjaya could not be crowned after him as the former was already dead and the latter was expecting his end any moment. So Arinjaya’s son Sundara Chola or Paranthaka II as he was formerly known, became the king after Gandaraditya.
Arinjaya Chola died at a young age at battle,he was the father of Paranthaka II who ascended the throne after Gandaraditya.
Parantaka Chola II (son of Arinjaya, also known popularly as Sundara Chola as he was exotically handsome and ruled the kingdom particularly well), though later fell fatally ill as his legs were paralysed. He was the proud father of Rajaraja, Aditya karikala and Kundavai.
Aditya Karikalan or Aditya II was the elder son of Paranthaka II and was the heir apparent of the Chola dynasty after Paranthaka II.But before he could ascend the throne, he was taken by death due to the treachery . He is killed in kadambur Melakadambur sambuvarayar maaligai, and
Madurantaka, officially Uttama Chola, was the son of Gandaraditya and Sembian Mahadevi. Though he did not wish for the crown, it was thrust upon him by Rajaraja and his friend Vanthiyadeva. He ruled for a period of about 12 years, after whose death Rajaraja ascended to the throne.
Aditya Karikalan II re-conquered Tondainadu from the Rashtrakutas a few years later. He was a great warrior. He performed many heroic deeds in the battlefields of Sevur and beheaded the long-elusive Pandiya king -Veerapandiya. On Aditya’s death, the succession was disputed as one community of the Chola empire. Most of the nobles and subjects preferred the popular prince Arulmozhivarman (Rajaraja Chola) ascend the throne, but he himself was in favour of his uncle, Madurantaka Uththama Chola becoming the King. At last, Arulmozhivarman tricked Madhurantaka into accepting the crown. After him, Arulmozhivarman Rajarajan became the King in 985 CE. His reign brought unparalleled glory and greatest fame and prosperity to the Imperial Chola empire.
Ponniyin Selvan was the sobriquet given to Arulmozhi varman. Ponni was another name for the Kaveri and Arulmozhi was the darling of the Kaveri as in Ponniyin Selvan to all his people.
The original title of Arulmozhivarman was Rajakesari Varman, Mummudi-Sola-Deva. He was the second son of the Parantaka Chola II alias Sundara Chola and Queen Vaanamaadevi. Raja Raja Cholan had an elder sister, Kundavai and an elder brother, Aditya Karikalan. He had a high regard for his sister, who spent her later life in Thanjavur with her younger brother, and named his first daughter after her.
Kalki’s other sources were stone inscriptions, copper-plates and other books. There is a stone tablet in the great temple of Thanjavur which has the following inscription: “The revered elder sister of Raja Raja Cholar, the consort of Vandiyadevan, Azwar Paranthakar Kundavaiyar”. The book History of Later Cholas has a five line reference to Vandiyathevan, a Bana prince, a real historical character, who is the hero of this novel. The names of the conspirators also came from a stone inscription.
A lot of the information about the activities of various kings came from inscriptions like these as well as copper plates like the one found at Anbil. The Thiruvalangadu copper-plates state, “The Chola people were very keen that after Sundara Chola, Arulmozhivarman should ascend the throne and rule their country. But Arulmozhivarman respected the right of his Uncle Uttama Chola, the son of his grandfather’s older brother, Gandaraditya, to the throne and crowned him King”.
The story revolves around Vandiyathevan, a charming young man who sets out to the Chola land to deliver a message to the King and the Princess from the Crown Prince Aditya Karikalan. The story shuttles between Vandiyathevan’s travels in Chola country and the young Prince Arulmozhivarman’s travels in Sri Lanka. The narrative deals with attempts by his sister Kundavai to bring back Arulmozhi (as Raja Raja was called before his crowning) to establish political peace in a land seemingly getting besot with unrest and signs of civil war, plotted by vassals and petty chieftains.
Parantaka Chola was succeeded by his second son Gandaraditya as the first son Rajaditya had died in a battle. At the time of Gandaraditya’s death, his son Maduranthaka was a child and hence Gandaraditya’s brother Arinjaya ascended the throne. After Arinjaya’s death, his son Parantaka II, Sundara Chola was coronated. He had two sons, Aditya Karikalan and Arulmozhi Varman and a daughter Kundavai.
When the story starts, the emperor Sundara Chola is ill and bedridden. Aditya Karikalan is the general of the Northern Command and lived in Kanchi and Arulmozhivarman (who would be famous later as Raja Raja Chola I) is in Sri Lanka in battle and their sister Kundavai Piratti lived in Chola royal household at Pazhayarai.
The story is set in motion, when rumor starts that there is a conspiracy against Sundara Chola and his sons. One person who gets a glimpse of the Pandya conspirators is a warrior of the Vana clan Vallavarayan Vandiyathevan. Even though the book is titled Ponniyin Selvan, the hero of the book is Vandiyathevan, a friend of Aditya Karikalan.
It is through Vandiyathevan that we meet most of the characters in the novel such as Arulmozhivarman, the prince whom all the people loved, and Periya Pazhavetturayar, the chancellor who married Nandini when he was sixty. During his youth, Aditya Karikalan had fallen in love with Nandini, but she turned vengeful after Aditya Karikalan killed Veerapandyan (who was probably her lover) and vowed to destroy the Chola dynasty. We also meet Kundavai Devi, who after hearing the news of the conspiracy sends Vandiyathevan to Sri Lanka to give a message to Arulmozhivarman to come back immediately.
Besides these, there are other characters like Maduranthaka Thevar(the man whom the conspirators want to crown king), the son of Gandaraditya and Anirudha Brahmarayar, Sundara Cholar’s Prime Minister and the man who has eyes and ears everywhere. But the most wonderful character in the book is Brahmarayar’s spy Azhwarkadiyan Nambi, a Vaishnavite, who roams around the country challenging Saivaites for debates. He collects information for the Prime Minister and is always around Vandiyathevan, rescuing him during trouble.
There are some lovely women too, like Vanathi, the Kodumbalur princess who is in love with Arulmozhi; Poonkuzhali, the boat woman who rows the future king to Lanka; Mandakini, the deaf and dumb step mother and Rakkammal, the wife of a boatman who supports the Pandya conspirators. Most memorable among these is Nandini, whose beauty is said to have the power to influence any man.
With Poonkuzhali’s help, Vandiyathevan reaches Sri Lanka, meets Arulmozhivarman, and becomes his close friend. In Lanka, Arulmozhivarman realizes that his father had spent some time in an island near Lanka and had been with a girl born deaf and dumb. He meets her and realizes from her drawing that she and his father have had two children. Who are those children and do they have the right to the throne? Later one day in Thirupurambayam forest Vandiyathevan sees Nandini and the Pandya conspirators place a small boy on a throne and take a vow in front of him. Who is this boy and what right does he have to the throne?
While coming back from Lanka, Arulmozhivarman is caught in a cyclone and goes missing. Rumor spreads that he is dead, but he survives and stays at Choodamani Viharam, a Buddhist monastery in Nagapattinam. Then slowly the dispersed family starts assembling. The conspirators meanwhile choose one day in which both the king and both of his sons would be assassinated.
Will the conspirators succeed in killing Sundara Chola and crowning Madhuranthaka as the king or will Arulmozhivarman get crowned the king? That is one of the major questions upon which the story revolves. It ends in a dramatic climax in the fifth part of the book where the truth about Maduranthaka Chola is revealed.
- Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan (Vallavarayan) – The Protagonist. An adventurous, naughty, lucky and attractive young man.
- Arulmozhivarman (Ponniyin Selvan later became Rajaraja Chola I) – His character is as important as vallavarayan
- Sundara Chola – Father of arulmozhivarman
- Kundavai Pirattiyar – Sister of arulmozhivarman. Very clever and beautiful.
- Nandini (Pazhuvur IlayaRani) – The main antagonist. Most beautiful. Most cunning.
- Aditya Karikalar (Veera Pandiyan Thalai Konda Kopara Kesari) – Brother of arulmozhivarman
- Vanathi-wife of arulmozhivarman
- Anirudha Brahmarayar – Chief minister of The king Sundara Chola
- Senthan Amudhan – An young lad who helps the protagonist
- Poonkuzhali (Samudhirakumari) – A beautiful,brave,poor girl who sings well and eventually becomes the queen of chola empire.
- Aazhvaarkadiyan (Thirumalai Appan) – Spy of the Chief minister. A great devotee of Lord Vishnu.
- Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar – A well built man who is the commander of sundara cholar
- Chinna Pazhuvettaraiyar (Kaalandhaga Kandar) – Brother of Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar
- Mandhagini Devi (Oomai Rani)
- Maduranthakar (Parakesari Uthama Cholan)
- Sembian ma devi
- Kandamaran – Son of Sambuvaraiyar.
- Manimekalai – Kandamaran’s sister. She loves Vandiyadevan sincerely
- Ravidasan (Mandhiravadhi) – A negative character.
- Soman Sambhavan
- Devaralan (Parameswaran)
- Kodumbalur Vikrama Poodhi Kesari
- Parthibendhra Pallavan
- Kudanthai Sothidar
- Eesana Sivabattar
Copyright rules and their strict enforcement by the Kalki group dissuaded many writers from attempting a sequel (though Kalki himself broad mindedly suggested other writers to take it up in the book’s afterword). Nandhipuraththu Nayagi by Vembu Vikiraman is one sequel in which the author uses different spellings for all major characters to avoid infringement accusations.
After nationalisation of the works of Kalki Krishnamurthy, the copyright of Ponniyin Selvan ceased to exist. Many publishers now print the same book free of royalty charges.
Balakumaran’s Udayar and Anusha Venkatesh’s Kaviri Mainthan are sequels to Ponniyin Selvan published around 2000 and 2007 respectively.
Balakumaran’s Kadigai runs parallelly to Ponniyin Selvan showing the lives of Ravidasan, Nandhini and ends with the assassination of Adithya Karikalar.
Dr L.Kailasam’s Malar Cholai Mangai published by Vanathai Pathipakam is prequel to the Ponniyin Selvan. In this he elaborately discuss the important incidences happened during the younger age of the various characters of Ponniyin Selvan
Adaptations and cultural references
A feature film adaption of the novel is currently in production (see Ponniyin Selvan (2012 film)). To be directed by ace director Mani Ratnam, the film would star Mahesh Babu, Vijay, Tabu, Anushka Shetty in primary roles. Previously Vikram/Surya were considered for the role played by Vijay. Currently in its pre-production, the film is expected to release by late 2012 and to become Tamil cinema’s costliest production after Enthiran. In 2009, a play based on this novel was staged by San Francisco Bay Area Tamil Manram in San Ramon, CA. The novel is also to be made into a Television serial by Makkal TV, a Tamil language TV channel.
|Thiruvalluvar • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Muttiah Muralitharan
Viswanathan Anand • Rajaraja Chola
Abdul Kalam • A. R. Rahman
C. N. Annadurai • M. S. Subbulakshmi
|Regions with significant populations|
|88% Hindu, 6% Christian, 5.5% Muslim (for Tamil Nadu alone)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Dravidians · Telugus · Kannadigas · Tuluvas · Malayalis · Giraavarus · Sinhalese|
Tamil people (Tamil: தமிழர், tamiḻar ?), also called Tamils or Tamilians, are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 19th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Réunion (France) and the UK. Although most Tamils speak Tamil language, there are self-identifying ethnic Tamils who do not speak Tamil, as well as Tamil speaking people who do not identify themselves as Tamils. Tamil people have a recorded history going back over two millennia. Since the early BCE, urbanization and mercantile activity along the western and eastern coast of what is today Kerala and Tamil Nadu led to the development of three large Tamil political states (Chera, Chola and Pandya) and number small petty states that were warring amongst themselves for dominance. During 2nd century BCE and 6th CE Tamils also produced native literature that came to be called Sangam literature. This was also the period of advent of North Indian religions such as Vedic religion, Buddhism and Jainism that eventually shaped the culture of the Tamils.
Tamils were noted for their military, religious and mercantile activities beyond their native borders. Pandyas and Cholas were historically active in Sri Lanka. Pallava traders and religious leaders travelled to South East Asia and played an important role in the cultural Indianisation of the region. Locally developed scripts such as Grantha and Pallava script induced the development of many native scripts such as Khmer, Javanese and Thai.
Tamil visual art is dominated by stylized Temple architecture in major centers and the productions of images of deities in stone and bronze. Chola bronzes, especially the Nataraja sculpture of the Chola period, have become notable as a symbol of Hinduism. Tamil performing arts are divided into popular and classical. Classical form is Bharatanatyam whereas the popular forms are known as Kuthus and performed by in village temples, and in street corners. Tamil cinema known as Kollywood is an important part of the Indian cinema industry employing a large number of people. Music too is divided into classical Carnatic form and many popular genres. Although most Tamils are Hindus, most practice what is considered to be folk Hinduism, venerating a plethora of village deities. A sizeable number are Christians and Muslims. A small Jain community survives from the classical period as well. Tamil cuisine is informed by varied vegetarian and non vegetarian items usually spiced with locally available spices. The music, the temple architecture and the stylized sculptures favored by the Tamil people as in their ancient nation are still being learnt and practiced. Thus, Tamils have been referred to as the last surviving classical civilisation on Earth.
It is unknown as to whether the term Tamilar and its equivalents in Prakrit such as Damela, Dameda, Dhamila and Damila was a self designation or a term denoted by outsiders. Epigraphic evidence of an ethnic group termed as such is found in ancient Sri Lanka where a number of inscriptions have come to light datable from third to 1st century BCE mentioning Damela or Dameda persons. In the well-known Hathigumpha inscription of the Kalinga ruler Kharavela, refers to a Tramira samghata (Confederacy of Tamil rulers) dated to 150 BCE. It also mentions that the league of Tamil kingdoms had been in existence 113 years before then. In Amaravati in present day Andhra Pradesh there is an inscription referring to a Dhamila-vaniya (Tamil trader) datable to the 3rd century CE. Another inscription of about the same time in Nagarjunakonda seems to refer to a Damila. A third inscription in Kanheri Caves refers to a Dhamila-gharini (Tamil house-holder). In the Buddhist Jataka story known as Akiti Jataka there is a mention to Damila-rattha (Tamil dynasty). Hence it is clear that by at least the 3rd century BCE, the ethnic identity of Tamils has been formed as a distinct group. Tamilar is etymologically related to Tamil, the language spoken by Tamil people. Southworth suggests that the name comes from tam-miz > tam-iz ‘self-speak’, or ‘one’s own speech’. Zvelebil suggests an etymology of tam-iz, with tam meaning “self” or “one’s self”, and “-iz” having the connotation of “unfolding sound”. Alternately, he suggests a derivation of tamiz < tam-iz < *tav-iz < *tak-iz, meaning in origin “the proper process (of speaking).”
Tamils in India
Possible evidence indicating the earliest presence of Tamil people in modern day Tamil Nadu are the megalithic urn burials, dating from around 1500 BC and onwards, which have been discovered at various locations in Tamil Nadu, notably in Adichanallur in Tirunelveli District which conform to the descriptions of funerals in classical Tamil literature.
Various legends became prevalent after the 10th century CE regarding the antiquity of the Tamil people. According to Iraiyanar Agapporul, a 10th/11th century annotation on the Sangam literature, the Tamil country extended southwards beyond the natural boundaries of the Indian peninsula comprising 49 ancient nadus (divisions). The land was supposed to have been destroyed by a deluge. The Sangam legends also added to the antiquity of the Tamil people by claiming tens of thousands of years of continuous literary activity during three Sangams.
Grey pottery with engravings, Arikamedu, 1st century CE.
From around the 3rd century BC onwards, three royal dynasties—the Cholas, the Cheras and the Pandyas—rose to dominate the ancient Tamil country. Each of these dynasties had its own realm within the Tamil-speaking region. Classical literature and inscriptions also describe a number of Velirs, or minor chieftains, who collectively ruled over large parts of central Tamil Nadu. Wars between the kings and the chieftains were frequent, as were conflicts with ancient Sri Lanka. These wars appear to have been fought to assert hegemony and demand tribute, rather than to subjugate and annex those territories. The kings and chieftains were patrons of the arts, and a significant volume of literature exists from this period. The literature shows that many of the cultural practices that are considered peculiarly Tamil date back to the classical period.
Agriculture was important during this period, and there is evidence that irrigation networks were built as early as 2nd century AD. Internal and external trade flourished, and evidence exists of significant contact with Ancient Rome. Large quantities of Roman coins and signs of the presence of Roman traders have been discovered at Karur and Arikamedu. There is also evidence that at least two embassies were sent to the Roman Emperor Augustus by Pandya kings. Potsherds with Tamil writing have also been found in excavations on the Red Sea, suggesting the presence of Tamil merchants there. An anonymous 1st century traveler’s account written in Greek, Periplus Maris Erytraei, describes the ports of the Pandya and Chera kingdoms in Damirica and their commercial activity in great detail. Periplus also indicates that the chief exports of the ancient Tamils were pepper, malabathrum, pearls, ivory, silk, spikenard, diamonds, sapphires, and tortoiseshell.
The classical period ended around the 4th century AD with invasions by the Kalabhra, referred to as the kalappirar in Tamil literature and inscriptions. These invaders are described as evil kings and barbarians coming from lands to the north of the Tamil country. This period, commonly referred to as the Dark Age of the Tamil country, ended with the rise of the Pallava dynasty. According to Clarence Maloney, during the classical period Tamils also settled the Maldive Islands.
Imperial and post-imperial periods
Although the Pallava records can be traced from the 2nd century AD, they did not rise to prominence as an imperial dynasty until the 6th century. The dynasty does not appear to have been Tamil in origin, although they rapidly adopted the local culture and the Tamil language. The Pallavas sought to model themselves after great northern dynasties such as the Mauryas and Guptas. They therefore transformed the institution of the kingship into an imperial one, and sought to bring vast amounts of territory under their direct rule. The Pallavas were followers of the Hinduism, though for a short while one of their kings embraced Jainism and later converted to Hinduism. The Bhakti movement in Hinduism was founded by Tamil saints at this time, and rose along with the growing influence of Jainism and Buddhism. The Pallavas pioneered the building of large, ornate temples in stone which formed the basis of the Dravidian temple architecture.
The Varaha cave bas relief at Mahabalipuram built by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman II in 7th century CE
The Pallava dynasty was overthrown in the 9th century by the resurgent Cholas. The Cholas become dominant in the 10th century and established an empire covering most of southern India and Sri Lanka. The empire had strong trading links with China and Southeast Asia. The Cholas’ navy conquered the South Asian kingdom of Sri Vijaya in Sumatra and continued as far as Thailand and Burma. Chola power declined in the 12th and 13th centuries, and the Pandya dynasty enjoyed a brief period of resurgence thereafter during the rule of Sundara Pandya. However, repeated Muslim invasions from the 15th century onwards placed a huge strain on the empire’s resources, and the dynasty came to an end in the 16th century.
The western Tamil lands became increasingly politically distinct from the rest of the Tamil lands after the Chola and Pandya empires lost control over them in the 13th century. They developed their own distinct language and literature, which increasingly grew apart from Tamil, evolving into the modern Malayalam language by the 15th century.
Tamils in Sri Lanka
There is little scholarly consensus over the presence of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, also known as Eelam in early Tamil literature, prior to the medieval Chola period (c. 10th century AD). One theory states that there was not an organized Tamil presence in Sri Lanka until the invasions from what is now South India in the 10th century AD; another theory contends that Tamil people were the original inhabitants of the island.
The indigenous Veddhas are physically related to Dravidian language-speaking tribal people in South India and early populations of Southeast Asia, although they no longer speak their native languages. It is believed that cultural diffusion, rather than migration of people, spread the Sinhalese and Tamil languages from peninsular India into an existing Mesolithic population, centuries before the Christian era.
Settlements of people culturally similar to those of present-day Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu in modern India were excavated at megalithic burial sites at Pomparippu on the west coast and in Kathiraveli on the east coast of the island, villages established between the 5th century BC and 2nd century AD. Cultural similarities in burial practices in South India and Sri Lanka were dated by archeologists to 10th century BC. However, Indian history and archaeology have pushed the date back to 15th century BC, and in Sri Lanka, there is radiometric evidence from Anuradhapura that the non-Brahmi symbol-bearing black and red ware occur at least around 9th or 10th century BC.
Inscription dated to 1100 AD left by Tamil soldiers in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Potsherds with early Tamil writing from the 2nd century BC have been found in excavations in north of the island in Poonagari, Jaffna, bearing several inscriptions including a clan name – vela, a name related to velir from ancient Tamil country. Tamil Brahmi inscribed potsherds have also been excavated in the south of the island in Tissamaharama. There is epigraphic evidence of people identifying themselves as Damelas or Damedas (the Prakrit word for Tamil people) in Anuradhapura, the capital city of Rajarata, and other areas of Sri Lanka as early as the 2nd century BC. Historical records establish that Tamil kingdoms in modern India were closely involved in the island’s affairs from about the 2nd century BC. In Mahavamsa, a historical poem, ethnic Tamil adventurers such as Elara invaded the island around 145 BC. Tamil soldiers from what is now South India were brought to Anuradhapura between the 7th and 11th centuries AD in such large numbers that local chiefs and kings trying to establish legitimacy came to rely on them. By the 8th century AD there were Tamil villages collectively known as Demel-kaballa (Tamil allotment), Demelat-valademin (Tamil villages), and Demel-gam-bim (Tamil villages and lands).
In the 9th and 10th centuries AD, Pandya and Chola incursions into Sri Lanka culminated in the Chola annexation of the island, which lasted until the latter half of the 11th century CE.
The decline of Chola power in Sri Lanka was followed by the restoration of the Polonnaruwa monarchy in the late 11th century AD. In 1215, following Pandya invasions, the Tamil-dominant Arya Chakaravarthi dynasty established an independent Jaffna kingdom on the Jaffna peninsula and parts of northern Sri Lanka. The Arya Chakaravarthi expansion into the south was halted by Alagakkonara, a man descended from a family of merchants from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. He was the chief minister of the Sinhalese king Parakramabahu V (1344–59 AD). Vira Alakeshwara, a descendant of Alagakkonara, later became king of the Sinhalese, but he was overthrown by the Ming admiral Cheng Ho in 1409 AD. The Arya Chakaravarthi dynasty ruled over large parts of northeast Sri Lanka until the Portuguese conquest of the Jaffna Kingdom in 1619 AD. The coastal areas of the island were taken over by the Dutch and then became part of the British Empire in 1796 AD. The English sailor Robert Knox described walking into the island’s Tamil country in the publication An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, annotating some kingdoms within it on a map in 1681 CE. Upon arrival of European powers from the 17th century CE, the Tamils’ separate nation was described in their areas of habitation in the northeast of the island.
The caste structure of the majority Sinhalese has also accommodated Hindu immigrants from South India since the 13th century AD. This led to the emergence of three new Sinhalese caste groups: the Salagama, the Durava and the Karava. The Hindu migration and assimilation continued until the 18th century AD.
British colonists consolidated the Tamil territory in southern India into the Madras Presidency, which was integrated into British India. Similarly, the Tamil parts of Sri Lanka joined with the other regions of the island in 1802 to form the Ceylon colony. They remained in political union with India and Sri Lanka after their independence, in 1947 and 1948 respectively.
When India became independent in 1947, Madras Presidency became the Madras State, comprising present-day Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh, northern Kerala, and the southwest coast of Karnataka. The state was subsequently split along linguistic lines. In 1953, the northern districts formed Andhra Pradesh. Under the States Reorganization Act in 1956, Madras State lost its western coastal districts. The Bellary and South Kanara districts were ceded to Mysore state, and Kerala was formed from the Malabar district and the former princely states of Travancore and Cochin. In 1968, Madras State was renamed Tamil Nadu.
There was some initial demand for an independent Tamil state following the adoption of the federal system. In Sri Lanka, however, the unitary arrangement led to legislative discrimination of Tamils by the Sinhalese majority. This resulted in a demand for federalism, which in the 1970s grew into a movement for an autonomous Tamil country. The situation deteriorated into civil war in the early 1980s. A ceasefire in effect since 2002 broke down in August 2006 amid shelling and bombing from both sides; in 2009 the Tamil Tigers were defeated amid accusations of war crimes committed against the Tamil populace. Today Tamils make up 18% of Sri Lanka’s population (3.8 Million).
Most Indian Tamils live in the state of Tamil Nadu. Tamils are the majority in the union territory of Puducherry, a former French colony. Puducherry is a subnational enclave situated within Tamil Nadu. Tamils account for at least one-sixth of the population in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
There are also Tamil communities in other parts of India. Most of these have emerged fairly recently, dating to the colonial and post-colonial periods, but some—particularly the Hebbar and Mandyam Tamils of southern Karnataka (2.9 million), Pune, Maharashtra (1.4 million), Andhra Pradesh (1.2 million), Palakkad in Kerala (0.6 million), and Delhi (0.1 million) — date back to at least the medieval period.
 Sri Lankan Tamils
Distribution of Tamil speakers in South India and Sri Lanka (1961).
There are two groups of Tamils in Sri Lanka: the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Indian Tamils. The Sri Lankan Tamils (or Ceylon Tamils) are descendants of the Tamils of the old Jaffna Kingdom and east coast chieftaincies called Vannimais. The Indian Tamils (or Hill Country Tamils) are descendants of bonded laborers sent from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka in the 19th century to work on tea plantations. Furthermore, there is a significant Tamil-speaking Muslim population in Sri Lanka; however, unlike Tamil Muslims from India, they are not ethnic Tamils and are therefore listed as a separate ethnic group in official statistics.
Most Sri Lankan Tamils live in the Northern and Eastern provinces and in the capital Colombo, whereas most Indian Tamils live in the central highlands. Historically both groups have seen themselves as separate communities, although there is a greater sense of unity since 1980s.
Under the terms of an agreement reached between the Sri Lankan and Indian governments in the 1960s, about 40 percent of the Indian Tamils were granted Sri Lankan citizenship, and many of the remainder were repatriated to India. By the 1990s, most Indian Tamils had received Sri Lankan citizenship.
Kavadi dancers in Hamm, Germany in 2007
Significant Tamil emigration began in the 18th century, when the British colonial government sent many poor Tamils as indentured labourers to far-off parts of the Empire, especially Malaya, South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius and the Caribbean. At about the same time, many Tamil businessmen also immigrated to other parts of the British Empire, particularly to Burma and East Africa.
Batu Caves temple built by Tamil Malaysians in circa 1880s
Many Tamils still live in these countries, and the Tamil communities in Singapore, Reunion Island, Malaysia and South Africa have retained much of their culture and language. Many Malaysian children attend Tamil schools, and a significant portion of Tamil children in Mauritius and Reunion are brought up with Tamil as their first language. In Singapore, Tamil students learn Tamil as their second language in school, with English as the first. To preserve the Tamil language, the Singapore government has made it an official language despite Tamils comprising only about 5% of the population, and has also introduced compulsory instruction of the language for Tamils. Other Tamil communities, such as those in South Africa and Fiji, no longer speak Tamil as a first language, but still retain a strong Tamil identity, and are able to understand the language, while most elders speak it as a first language.
A large emigration also began in the 1980s, as Sri Lankan Tamils sought to escape the ethnic conflict there. These recent emigrants have most often fled to Australia, Europe, North America and Southeast Asia. Today, the largest concentration of Tamils outside southern Asia is in Toronto, Canada.
Language and literature
An idol in Madurai representing the Tamil language as a goddess; The caption on the pedestal reads Tamil Annai (“Mother Tamil”).
Tamils have strong feelings towards the Tamil language, which is often venerated in literature as “Tamil̲an̲n̲ai“, “the Tamil mother”. It has historically been, and to large extent still is, central to the Tamil identity. Like the other languages of South India, it is a Dravidian language, unrelated to the Indo-European languages of northern India. The language has been far less influenced by Sanskrit than the other Dravidian languages, and preserves many features of Proto-Dravidian, though modern-day spoken Tamil in Tamil Nadu, freely uses loanwords from Sanskrit and English. Tamil literature is of considerable antiquity, and is recognised as a classical language by the government of India. Classical Tamil literature, which ranges from lyric poetry to works on poetics and ethical philosophy, is remarkably different from contemporary and later literature in other Indian languages, and represents the oldest body of secular literature in South Asia.
Visual art and architecture
Most traditional Tamil art is religious in some form and usually centres on Hinduism, although the religious element is often only a means to represent universal—and, occasionally, humanist—themes.
Dancing Siva or Nataraja is a typical example of Chola bronze
The most important form of Tamil painting is Tanjore painting, which originated in Thanjavur in the 9th century. The painting’s base is made of cloth and coated with zinc oxide, over which the image is painted using dyes; it is then decorated with semi-precious stones, as well as silver or gold thread. A style which is related in origin, but which exhibits significant differences in execution, is used for painting murals on temple walls; the most notable example are the murals on the Kutal Azhakar and Meenakshi temples of Madurai, the Brihadeeswarar temple of Tanjore. Tamil art, in general, is known for its stylistic elegance, rich colours, and attention to small details.
Tamil sculpture ranges from elegant stone sculptures in temples, to bronze icons with exquisite details. The medieval Chola bronzes are considered to be one of India’s greatest contributions to the world art. Unlike most Western art, the material in Tamil sculpture does not influence the form taken by the sculpture; instead, the artist imposes his/her vision of the form on the material. As a result, one often sees in stone sculptures flowing forms that are usually reserved for metal.
The Brihadeshswara Temple at Thanjavur, also known as the Great Temple, built by Rajaraja Chola I
Folk artists performing at a funeral
Ancient Tamil works, such as the Cilappatikaram, describe a system of music, and a 7th-century Pallava inscription at Kudimiyamalai contains one of the earliest surviving examples of Indian music in notation. Contemporary dance forms such as Bharatanatyam have recent origins but are based older temple dance forms known as Catir Kacceri as practiced by courtesans and a class of women known as Devadasis
Young Bharatanatyam dancer
One of the Tamil folk dances is karakattam. In its religious form, the dance is performed in front of an image of the goddess Mariamma. The kuravanci is a type of dance-drama, performed by four to eight women. The drama is opened by a woman playing the part of a female soothsayer of the kurava tribe(people of hills and mountains), who tells the story of a lady pining for her lover. The therukoothu, literally meaning “street play”, is a form of village theater or folk opera. It is traditionally performed in village squares, with no sets and very simple props. The performances involve songs and dances, and the stories can be either religious or secular. The performances are not formal, and performers often interact with the audience, mocking them, or involving them in the dialogue. Therukkūthu has, in recent times, been very successfully adapted to convey social messages, such as abstinence and anti-caste criticism, as well as information about legal rights, and has spread to other parts of India. Tamil Nadu also has a well developed stage theater tradition, which has been influenced by western theatre. A number of theatrical companies exist, with repertoires including absurdist, realist, and humorous plays.
The Tamil film industry, commonly dubbed Kollywood, is the second-largest film industry in India. Several Tamil actresses such as Vyjayanthimala, Hema Malini, Rekha Ganesan, Sridevi, Meenakshi Sheshadri, and Vidya Balan have acted in Bollywood and dominated the cinema over the years.
A village shrine dedicated to Ayyanar, c.a. 1911
About 88% of the population of Tamil Nadu are Hindus. Muslims and Christians account for 5.5% and 6% respectively. Most of the Christians are Roman Catholics. The majority of Muslims in Tamil Nadu speak Tamil, with less than 40% reporting Urdu as their mother tongue. Tamil Jains number only a few thousand now. Atheist, rationalist, and humanist philosophies are also adhered by sizable minorities, as a result of Tamil cultural revivalism in the 20th century, and its antipathy to what it saw as Brahminical Hinduism.
The most popular deity is Murugan, also known as Karthikeya, the son of Siva. The worship of Amman, also called Mariamman, is thought to have been derived from an ancient mother goddess, is also very common. Kan̲n̲agi, the heroine of the Cilappatikār̲am, is worshipped as Pattin̲i by many Tamils, particularly in Sri Lanka. There are also many followers of Ayyavazhi in Tamil Nadu, mainly in the southern districts. In addition, there are many temples and devotees of Vishnu, Siva, Ganapathi, and the other Hindu deities.
Grave of Sulthan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed in Erwadi who first brought Islam to Tamil Nadu.
The most important Tamil festivals are Pongal, a harvest festival that occurs in mid-January, and Varudapirappu, the Tamil New Year, which occurs around mid-April. Both are celebrated by almost all Tamils, regardless of religion. The Hindu festival Deepavali is celebrated with fanfare; other local Hindu festivals include Thaipusam, Panguni Uttiram, and Adiperukku. While Adiperukku is celebrated with more pomp in the Cauvery region than in others, the Ayyavazhi Festival, Ayya Vaikunda Avataram, is predominantly celebrated in the southern districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, and Thoothukudi.
In rural Tamil Nadu, many local deities, called aiyyan̲ārs, are thought to be the spirits of local heroes who protect the village from harm. Their worship often centers around nadukkal, stones erected in memory of heroes who died in battle. This form of worship is mentioned frequently in classical literature and appears to be the surviving remnants of an ancient Tamil tradition.
Velankanni Our Lady of Good Health Church, a Marian church popular with adherents across all religions
The Saivist sect of Hinduism is significantly represented amongst Tamils, more so among Sri Lankan Tamils, although most of the Saivist places of religious significance are in northern India. The Alvars and Nayanars, who were predominantly Tamils, played a key role in the renaissance of Bhakti tradition in India. In the 10th century, the philosopher Ramanuja, who propagated the theory of Visishtadvaitam, brought many changes to worshiping practices, creating new regulations on temple worship, and accepted lower-caste Hindus as his prime disciples.
Various martial arts including Kuttu Varisai, Varma Kalai, Silambam Nillaikalakki, Maankombukkalai (Madhu) and Kalarippayattu, are practised in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The weapons used include Silambam, Maankombukkalai, Yeratthai Mulangkol (double stick), Surul Pattai (spring sword), Val Vitchi (single sword), and Yeretthai Val (double sword).
The ancient Tamil art of unarmed bullfighting, popular amongst warriors in the classical period, has also survived in parts of Tamil Nadu, notably Alanganallur near Madurai, where it is known as Jallikaṭṭu or mañcuviraṭṭu and is held once a year around the time of the Pongal festival.