Tamil Nadu

Posted on : 17-12-2015


Tamil Nadu, situated on the southernmost part of India, is the eleventh largest state among the 29 states in the country. The state is named after the people and the language spoken (Tamil Nadu – “Tamil” language and Nadu meaning country”. Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh are the neighbouring states and Pondicherry or Puducherry is the nearest union territory to the state on the Indian Mainland. The state is bordered by two seas namely Bay of Bengal in the east and Indian Ocean in the south. Eastern Ghats on the northern side and the state of Kerala on the west mark the land boundaries of the state. Kanyakumari, a district in Tamil Nadu, is the southernmost tip of the Indian Mainland.

According to the 2011 census, Tamil Nadu was ranked as the sixth most populous state in the country and sixth according to the Human Development Index. The state is also the third most developed state of the country with an employment percentage share of 9.97% of India, while the population of the state constituting 6% of the country’s population. Tamil Nadu has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has a wide range of flora and fauna, beaches, and pilgrimage sites. Marina beach located on the seashore of Bay of Bengal in the state capital Chennai is the second longest urban beach in the world, with a length of 13km. The state is well known for the South Indian Classical (Carnatic) Music and Bharatanatyam is the dance form of Tamil Nadu that originated in the 19th-20th century in the temples of Tamil Nadu. The official language of the state, Tamil is one of the oldest languages in the world and it has rich literary works over a period of more than 2500 years and thus holding the status of classical language.



Tamil Nadu belongs to one of the oldest civilizations. It has been continuously inhabited over more than 3800 years (Neolithic age). The bones and skulls of human beings, grains of rice, and celts excavated near Adichanallur (Tirunelveli district), 24km from Tirunelvi are evidences to the early civilizations. The place is also marked as a site for excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It is said that the classical language Tamil has been taught to Sage Agastya by the Hindu God Shiva and the first Tamil grammar, Agathiyam was written by him in the 7th or 6th century BCE. He was also a master in spirituality and medicine and today about 96 books authored by him are available. The state has a good record of its history, written in Tamil and it contributes to about 60 percent of inscriptions found in India. The Genographic Project identified Virumandi Andithevar, of Piramalai Kallar community as the direct descendants of the first human settlers from African coast, who migrated around 60,000 years ago.

Indus valley script between 2000 and 1500 BC:

The Neolithic stone celt, with Indus script discovered by Iruvatham Mahadevan near Mayiladuthurai (Tamil Nadu) is the first evidence to the Indus Valley civilization and its script which dates back to around 1500 BC. Dravidian language was spoken by the Neolithic people of the state.

Early history (Sangam Period 300 BC – AD 300):

Sangam Tamil literature speaks about the Sangam period and the literary works between 300 BC to AD 300, ruled by the three prominent empires of the region – Cheras, Cholas, and Pandyas. The three Tamil Sangams (Meeting of great Tamil scholars) were held in the city of Madurai, which was the then capital of Pandyian Empire. The Pandyas ruled the Southern part of today’s Tamil Nadu and the Cherans ruled the whole of today’s Kerala and western parts of Tamil Nadu and the Cholas ruled the central part of today’s Tamil Nadu. The three kingdoms had trade exchanges of commodities such as rice, spices, ivory, pearls, and beads with the Greek, Romans, Egyptians, Persians, and Arabians. During the Sangam age, based on the socio-cultural differences, the Tamil Nadu (Tamil Country) was divided into Kongu Nadu, Thondai Nadu, Puzhinadu, Nanjilnadu, Venadu and Ay Nadu.

Medieval Period (600–1300):

The Dravidians were great architects and engineers. The Kallanai or Grand Anicut dam constructed by Karikala Chola, Chola King of 2nd century AD, over River Kaveri in Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu) is one of the oldest water division structures used even today.

Between 3rd and 7th century, Kalabhras ruled the land of Tamils under whom Buddhism flourished and Naaladiyar was composed in meters of 400 and in 40 chapters. The control of the six senses, the epicentre of Buddhism philosophy is described in Naaladiyar.

Between 4th and 8th century AD, the Pallavas ruled Tamil Nadu and magnificent structures were built during that period. Mahabalipuram Shore Temple is declared as one of the World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. This temple was built by Narasimha Varman II, Pallava king.

Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to Hindu Goddess Parvati (Meenakshi) and Lord Shiva (Sundareswarar) is one among the top 30 nominees of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” and this temple was built by the Cholas in the 10th century AD. Later in the 13th century AD, the Pandyas took over the region and Nellaiappar temple in Tirunelvi shows the architectural marvel of their dynasty.

Chola Empire:

The Cholas reigned for about three centuries between 9th century and early 13th century AD. The kingdom was at its peak during the great rule of King Raja Raja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola. The empire conquered over 3,600,000 square kilometres of land extending from today’s state of West Bengal to Sri Lanka, including the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands. Raja Raja Chola also conquered Burma, Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, Malaya, Philippines and he operated from Thanjavur, his capital city. He named the city of Bengal as Gangaikonda Cholapuram after ousting the king Mahipala. Raja Raja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola built many temples such as Brihadeshwara Temple in Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur, and Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram which are titled by UNESCO as the Great Living Chola Temples among the World Heritage Sites. The Cholas also built Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam and Sarabeswara Temple at Thirubhuvanam. Cholas also mastered bronze sculpting and the Nataraja sculpture depicting the dance form of Lord Shiva is a classic example. Cholas in the 12th century were attacked continuously by the Chalukyas, Hoysalas of Kannada (Karnataka) and the Sultanate of Delhi and eventually they were ousted by the Vijayanagar Empire.

Vijayanagar and Nayak Empire (1336-1646)

Vijayanagar Empire took over Tamil Country in 1370 AD, ruled over two centuries, and they operated from today’s Karnataka, their capital. Subsequently, the Nayaks defeated them and took over and they were responsible for the renovation of Madurai Meenakshi Temple and the Nayaks of Madurai were popular and the Tirumalai Nayakkar Mahal built during their period, is maintained by the Archaeological Department of Tamil Nadu.

Rule of Palaiyakkarars (1692-1801)

Palaiyakkarars or the poligars as pronounced by British were the first to revolt against the British. They ruled over the southern part of Tamil Country in small areas of land called Palayams. Nawab of Carnatic granted British to collect taxes and this led to wedges between the Nawabs and the Palaiyakkarars. Puli Thevar (1715-1767) was the first to raise voice against British and he was also instrumental in creating an armed force called Puli Thevar Force against British. He was ditched by Marudhanayagam who later rebelled against the British in 1750s-1760s. Rani Velu Nachiyar, Queen of Sivagangai, was the first women to revolt against British, who wanted to avenge the murder of her husband and king of Sivagangai, Vaduganatha Thevar (1750–1772) by the British officials Benjour and Joseph Smith. She was succeeded by Marudhu Brothers. Kattabomman (1760–1799), king of Panchalakurichi, fought the First Poligar War against British for ruthless tax collection by the East India Company and he was captured by the British and hanged to death. His General Veeran Sundaralingam lost his life while saving the palace of Kattabomman by blowing himself in order to demolish the British ammunition dump. Kattabomman’s younger brother, Oomaithurai took refuge under the Marudhu Brothers and they formed a coalition army with the Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja and Dheeran Chinnamalai and fought the Second Poligar War.

European Rule (1801-1947):

The Dutch established themselves near Pulicat around 1609 and the Danes in Tharangambadi or Tranquebar. The British East India Company established themselves in today’s Chennai (South of the then Pulicat) in 1639 and they restricted the French within Puducherry. Nizams of Hyderabad and the Nawabs of the Carnatic sought help from the British to defeat the Kingdom of Mysore and the help was rendered with an agreement of rendering tax to the British East India Company. Subsequently, the Company invaded the whole of Southern India and ruled under Madras Presidency.

The Vellore Mutiny in 1806 predating the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 (First War of Independence), was the first revolt against the British that took place in Vellore (Tamil Nadu) which though lasted for only a day was severe enough to kill 200 British troops.

India (1947-present):

Post independence, Madras Presidency constituted of present day Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and up to Ganjam district of Orissa and it also included parts of Kerala and South Canara. The region was then divided into states based on the language spoken in the different parts and on that basis the name Tamil Nadu (Land of Tamils) was coined in 1969. The temple tower of Srivilliputhur Andal Temple, tallest temple tower in the state, is the Emblem of Tamil Nadu.


Tamil Nadu spans over 130,058 square kilometres and it is bordered by a coastline of 910 kms along the seashore of Bay of Bengal. The southernmost tip of Indian Penninsula, Kanyakumari is the meeting point of Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea. The state is surrounded by Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh states. Puducherry is the union territory to the east of the state. Tamil Nadu falls in seismic Zone II and Zone III. The eastern part of the state is fertile and an important agriculture belt of the country while the Eastern Ghats are rich in flora and fauna and the hilly terrains in these areas allow them to be good land for cultivation of plantations such as Tea, potatoes, etc. The Western Ghats bordering Kerala and Tamil Nadu act as a barrier to southwest monsoon rains to enter the state. Nilgiri Hills, fondly called as the Queen of Hills is the meeting point of the Eastern and Western Ghats. In the year 2004, the state suffered a huge natural calamity of Tsunami on the coast of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean that led to a death toll of around 8000 people.