The land of Tamils, temples and Dravidian culture, Tamil Nadu is one of the most ancient regions in India. Flanked by Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Bay of Bengal, Pondicherry and the Indian Ocean, it is the 11th largest state in India.
|Area||130, 058 sq.km.|
|Population||72,138,958 (2011 census)|
|Climate||Summer (43 degree C max.) Winter (18 degree C. Min) Monsoon (October-December)|
|Best Time to Visit||October through February|
|Airports||Chennai, Thiruchirapally, Madurai, Coimbatore, Thoothukudi|
|Major Towns||Chennai, Thiruchirapally, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tanjavur, Udakamandalam, Thirunelveli, Kanchipuram|
The history of Tamil Nadu is very ancient and it is believed that human activity in this area began as early as 300, 000 years ago. It is also suggested that the first Dravidians of Tamil country were part of the early Indus Valley settlers and moved south during the advent of Aryans around 1500BC. However the documented history goes back only to the 4th century BC. There are references in the early Sangham literature to the social, economic and cultural life of people. The proximity to the sea established the Tamil Country on the maritime map of the world even before the dawn of Christian era. The Tamils had trade links with ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Prior to the Christian era, the Cheras, Cholas and Pandias ruled Tamil Country. This was the classical period of Tamil literature, the Sangham Age that continued three centuries after Christ. The domains of these three dynasties changed many times over the centuries. At times other dynasties like Pallavas and Chalukyas came into power. All these dynasties engaged in continual skirmishes; but their steady patronage of arts served the expansion of Dravidian culture.
The Cholas took several measures to the welfare of the people. Karikala Chola constructed a barrage across the river Cauvery. Tanjavur and Kumbakonam were prominent Chola centers.
Kapaleswarar Temple, Chennai During the later half of 4th century AD, Pallavas the great temple builders emerged into prominence. Dravidian architecture reached its epitome during Pallava rule. The monuments at Mamallapuram, Kailasanathar Temple at Kanchipuram and the Kapaleswarar temple at Chennai are only a few examples. The Pallavas were constantly in war with Chalukyas.
By the end of 11th century AD, Chalukyas rose into power together with the Cholas and Pandyas. Eventually Cholas became prominent and ruled Tamil Country for the next two centuries. Under Rajaraja Chola and Rajendra Chola Sumatra, Java, Lakshadweep and Sri Lanka became part of Chola Empire.
In the 14th century Muslim invasion weakened Cholas and led to the establishment of Bahmani Kingdom. An alternate Power in the south during this period was Vijayanagar Empire that absorbed all strongholds of Cholas and other local Hindu rulers to check the Muslims. Governors called Nayaks were engaged to run different territories of the empire. With capital at Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire was the most prosperous dynasty in the south. But by 1564 the empire came to an end at the hands of Deccan Sultans in the battle of Talikota. The empire was split into many parts and was given to the Nayaks to rule.
Tamil Country under Nayaks was peaceful and prosperous. The Nayaks of Madurai and Tanjavur were most prominent of them all. The reconstructed some of the oldest temples in the country.
East India Company established itself in Tamil Nadu and in 1640 they negotiated the use of Madraspatnam (Chennai) as a trading post. Petty quarrels among provincial rulers helped the British to gain administrative control over them. Under the British colonial rule, most of the south India was integrated into the region called Madras Presidency.
With the formation of Indian National Congress in 1885, the freedom movement gained momentum in Tamil Nadu. Many Tamils played a significant role in the freedom struggle. When India became independent in 1947, Madras Presidency became Madras State. In 1956 the Madras State was re-formed to present day Tamil Nadu on linguistic lines.