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South Indian History

Gangaikonda Cholapuram Shiva Temple

1. Sangam Age [300 BC – 300 AD]

Sangam Age is earliest known phase of civilized South Indian History. Sangam literature forms important source to reconstruct history of the period. Chola, Chera, Pandyas ruled during Sangam Age. Lates Pallavas established themselves for quiet some time. South Indian rule reached its Zenith under Chola rulers.

2. Sangam Literature

Word Sangam means a group of persons or an association. (Academy of Tamil bards & poets). Sangam literature flourished under Royal patronage of Pandyas. (3rd Cent BC – 3rd Cent AD). It was in 3 different periods and 3 different places.

1stMaduraiAttended by Gods and legendary sages. Unfortunately no literature is left from this period.
2ndKapathapuramOnly TOLAKAPPIAM by Talkappiar is left. It is oldest available Tamil grammar book.
3rdMaduraiAlmost all of the text is available.

The Sangam tradition was started by sage Agastya. It is also called Augustan age of Tamil literature. It reveals to us, how secular minded people engaged in day to day life refusing to yield to religious fanaticism.

Sangam literature is divided into Aham/Agham and Puram.
Agham /Aham (love) – talks about inner feelings, conjugal love, private thoughts, domestic life.
Puram (valour) dealt with public and social activity like government, war, charity, worship, trade, agriculture etc.

3. Literature from 3rd Sangam

1] Ettutogai – Eight anthologies.

2] Pattupattu – A collection of 10 poems. Idylls.
3 of these belong to Aham – Mulaipattu, Kurinjipattu, Pattinapallai.
Rest 7 poems are Puram.

3] 18 Killkkanakku – belong to both Aham and Puram groups.
They are anthologies. (One book, where different writers are writing.)

4] Pathinekilkanakku – 18 works mainly dealing with ethics and moral.
Tirukkural authored by Tiruvalluvar is imp part of it. It  is often compared with Kautilya’s ARTHASHASHRA because it talks about Sangam polity, kings, his qualities, associates, their qualifications and functions, ideal code of behaviour etc.

5] Two epics
SILPPADIKARAM – written by Elango Adigal. It is a love story of Kovalam (ruler) and Madhavi.
MANIMEGALAI– written by Sittalai Sattanar. Manimekalai is sequel to Silppadikaram and talks about love story of daughter of Kovalam and Madhavi.

Murugan was the most favourite God of Tamils during Sangam age.
Goddess Kannagi was worshiped widely in South India and was goddess of Chastity.

Tirukkural by Tiruvalluvar is an important text dealing with morals and ethics.

4. Sangam Age Rulers

4.1 Cholas

They Ruled in the lower Kauveri valley.
Greatest Chola king was Karikala Chola. In the first battle of Veni, near Tanjore, he defeated the kings of Pandyas and Cheras. In 2nd battle of Veni, he established himself as the greatest ruler by defeating federation of 9 kings.
During his rule, the capital was shifted from Uraiyur to Kaveripatanam.
He was the patron of literature and performed many Bramhinical sacrifices.
Please note that these Cholas are different from Imperial Cholas of later period.

4.2 Cheras

Probably the earliest of these three kingdoms.
Their capital was Vanchi (present Karur) and their rule was to the western coastal strip in the modern Malabar district and Travancore and Kochin.
Earliest ruler was Udayan Cheraladan. He said to have defeated Satakarni II.
Greatest Chera ruler was Cheran Senguttuvan. Muziris port (Kerala) developed under him.

4.3 Pandyas

They ruled in extreme south. Their capital was Madurai, on bank of river Vaigai.
The greatest Pandya ruler was Nedumcheliyan. He said to have defeated the combinPallavas of Kanchi [550 AD – 875 AD]ed army of Cheras and Cholas. He also beautified the city of Madurai and encouraged foreign trade and improved agriculture.

Please visit next page for history of Pallavas of Kanchi [550 AD – 875 AD]

5. Pallavas of Kanchi [550 AD – 875 AD]

Pallavas were earlier feudatories of Satavahanas but became independent with fall of Satavahanas in 3rd Century AD.

Early Pallava rulers (1st line of rulers) issued their charters in Prakrit. (250-350 AD).

2nd line of Pallava rulers issued charters in both Prakrit and Sanskrit. (350-550 AD).
Vishnughosa was important ruler of this line, who was defeated by Samudragupta.

3rd line of rulers ruled from 575 AD to ultimate decline in 9th century.
Simhavishnu was first ruler of this line.
Issued charters in Sanskrit and Tamil language.
He also defeated Cholas ande extended territory upto Kaveri.
Mahendravarman I, Narsimhavarman I and Narsimhavarman II belong to same line.

5.1 Mahendravarman I (600-630 AD)

Earlier he was follower of Jainism but later become Saivite. He constructed number of Shiva temples (rock cut architecture).
He was defeated by Chalukyan King Pulakesin II.

5.2 Narsimhavarman I (630-668 AD)

He Defeated Chalykyan King Pulakesin II and took avenge of his father’s defeat, acquired the title of Vatapikonda (Vatapi/Badami was capital of Chalukyas).
Also led naval expedition to SL and throne his friend.
Huan Tsang visited during his tenure. He glorifies city of Kanchi.
He was also called Mamalla (great wrestler). Narsimhavarman founded of Mamallapuram rock cut temples.
Ratha temples started under him. The ratha symbolize procession. It appears that the temples are about to move e.g. Saptapagodas of Mahabalipuram. Durga images would be represented by Draupadi Ratha and Arjuna Ratha would have images of Shiva.

5.3 Narsimha Varman II (695-722 AD)

He was known as Rajasimha.
For first time, Dravidian style of temple architecture flourished under him. For example – shore temple at Mahabalipuram and Kailashnath temple at Kanchipuram were done under him.
Famous Sanskrit scholar Dandin is said to have adorned his court.

5.4 Nandivarman II

During his reign, the power & prosperity of Pallavas started declining which is evident from their temples as well. The temples in this period are small in size, though they have all features of Dravidian architecture e.g. Mukteshwar temple & Vaikuntha Perumul temple at Kanchipuram.
During his rule, Perundevanar translated Mahabharata in Tamil as Bharatavenba.

Towards the end of 9th century, last Pallava ruler Aparajita was defeated by Chola king Aditya I and this marks the end of empire.

5.5 Contribution of Pallavas

1] Bhairavi and Dandin lived under Pallavas. Bhairavi was the author if KIRATARJUNIA and Dandin was author of DASHAKUMAR CHARITA.
2] Pallavas patronized trade and commerce to large scale. Trading places like Nagaram flourished under them.
3] Dravidian style of Architecture began with Pallava rule. It was a gradual evolution from Ratha temples to large structures.
4] The temples became imparter of education under them like Ghatikas (Colleges, generally attached to temples.) and Math. Ghatika of Kanchi was quite famous.
5] Aluwars and Nayanar saints started their Bhakti movement under Pallavas.
DEVARAMAS were composed by Nayanmars and MATTAVAILASAPRAHASANAM composed by Aluwars.

Please visit next page for history of Cholas [850 AD – 1250 AD]

6. Cholas (Imperial Cholas) [850 AD – 1250 AD]

Chola empire at its Zenith

Chola Rulers

6.1 Vijalaya Chola

Founder , earlier vassal (feudatory) of Pallavas. He captured Tanjore from Pandyas and made it Chola capital.

6.2 Parantaka Chola

Imperialism in true spirit is reflected under him.
Uttaramerur inscription – Evidence of local self government. Which was highly advanced feature of Chola empire.

6.3 Rajaraja Chola

He developed naval strength of Cholas, reorganized the administrative system. He was patron of Shaivism and Brihadeshwara temple at Tajore/Thanjavur is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
He started practice of associating Yuvaraj or crown prince with administration.
He began conducting land survey. The practice of inscribing historical inscriptions adopted by him.

6.4 Rajendra I (Gangaikondachola)

Greatest Cholar ruler, known fro imperialism.
He reached till Ganga river and therefore assumed the name Gangaikondachola (one who has conquered Ganga).

Brihadeshwar Shiva temple at Tanjore, built under Rajaraja Chola.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram Shiva Temple

7. Imperialism of Chola

The imperialism was the most remarkable feature of Chola empire. Starting with rulers like Parantaka and reaching the apex level under reign of Rajendra I.

Rajaraja Chola – He destroyed Chera navy, conquered Madurai and captured the Pandya king. He also invaded Sri Lanka and annexed its northern part. He annexed the north western part of Ganga kingdom.

Rajendra I – he carried forward the annexation policy by completely capturing Pandya and Chera kingdoms. Cholas constantly plundered Chalukyan rulers and cities. He overran Ganga Kingdom and defeated two local kings. In this memory, he constructed the capital Gangaikonda Cholapuram and constructed famous Rajeshvaram temple.
Chola navy was the strongest in the region. So much so that Bay of Bengal came to be known as The Chola Lake. Rajendra I conquered whole of Sri Lanka. He led the naval expedition against the Sri Vijaya empire ruling over Malaya peninsula, Java, Sumatra etc.

8. Other Contributions of Cholas

  1. Cholas maintained large standing army. Velaikkarar was the personal troop to defend the king.
  2. Under Chola rule, land was surveyed and taxed accordingly.
  3. Silk weaving industry at Kanchi flourished.
  4. Dravida style of Architecture reached peak of glory under them. Temples got converted into big complexes. Vimanas were massive in size. The temples emerged as important socio-cultural, politico-administrative and economic institution in South India.
  5. Art of sculpture also flourished under them. Images made of stone and metal. Nataraj image, made of Bronze is highly famous. The giant statue of Gomateshwara at Sravanabelagola also constructed under them.
  6. Art of music and dance also flourished under them, with state patronizing devadasis.
  7. Kamban, the classical writer of version of Ramayan in Tamil also lived in Chola court.
MandalamRoyal officer
Valanam / ValanaduPeriyanattar
Village /Autonomous

8.1 Local Self Govt. Developed under them

Sabha was assembly for village. Village was divided into 30 wards and each ward to nominate its members to Sabha for one year. The chief for ward was chosen from amongst ward’s nominated members by lucky draw by some young body/girl. Qualification and disqualifications were mentioned for it and for maximum 3 years person could serve in that position.
Ur was general assembly and Sabha was gathering of adult men in bramhana village (agraharas).

9. Social Life under Chola

ForestMullaiAyarDomestication of animals.
Plane areaMarudamVellalasAgriculture.
Coastal areaNeydalMinavarFishing.
Desert areaPallaiMaravarRobbery.

10. Siddhar (Sittar)

Intellectual people from Tamil region and language. Saints, Doctors, Alchemists, Mystics – all in one. Siddha Medicine originates here.
They were also founders of Varman – martial art for self-defence and medical treatment at same time.
They said to have possesed ashta siddhis and understanding of navagraha.
Tirumantiram was 1st Siddha in South India.
Siddhas worshipped Lord Shiva.

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