Tamil Nadu General History

The history of the Tamils dates from the 4-century BC, through prehistoric weapons and tools excavated suggest the Dravidians or the Tamils to be one of the earliest races of the world.  The Aryans from 2000 BC to 1500 BC reportedly displaced Dravidians from North Asia.  There are early references of great Tamil Sangam, which records the life, and the history of the Tamils existing in the early centuries of the Christian era.  Tamil is supposedly the oldest living langage and among some of the remarkable compositions of the four centuries of Sangam Age are Tiruvalluvar's Tirukkural, containing numerous literary works, the greatest among these being compositions of the saint poet Avvaiyar and Ettuthogai  (or the 8 anthologies).  The anthologies refer to the social, economic, and religious life of the people in the Sangam Age, supposed to be the golden age of the Dravidians.  Tamil Nadu was under the rule of three dynasties the Cheras, Cholas, and Pandyas prior to the Christian era.  The Madurai, Tirunelveli and part of South Kerala were under the Pandyas while the Cheras ruled much of what is present day Kerala.

The early Cholas ruled during 1-4 century AD and occupied the coastal area east of Thanjavur and inland to the head of the Kaveri Delta at Trichy.  Karikalan, the greatest of chola kings was the one who constructed the Grand Anicut across the Kaveri Rever.  Art, literature and architecture flourished during the reign of the Cholas.  The Brahadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur is an example of architectural grandeur, constructed during the rule of the great Raja Raja Chola.

The Pallavas of Kancheepuram came to power sometime during the second quarter of the 4-century AD and continued to rule over much of the south for four centuries.  Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram0 was an important naval base and major port in the 7-century.  The Pallavas are credited with the advent of rock temples, which were hitherto made of wood, bricks and mud structures. The temple at Mamallapuram, the great Kailasanatha Temple at Kancheepuram built during the reign of the famous Pallava King Rajasimha Narasimha Varman II and the Kapaliswarar and Parthasarthy temples at Chennai in their pristine beauty are some of their major contributions.  The decline in the power of Pallavas in 850, once again saw the alternative rule of the Cholas who remained a dominant force until 1173.  During their reign spanning for about two centuries, at one stage the Chola Empire covered the entire Tamil area, Sri Lanka, the region of the Andhra, Southern Karnataka and the islands, of Lakshadweep and the Maldives. the vast empire of the great Rajendra Chola during the 11-century included Kerala and the Pandyas islands, Orissa, up to the Ganga in Bengal, and controlled the sea trade routes to Java, Sumatra, and China.

The Pandyas ended the domination of the Cholas and in Karnataka; the Hoysalas emerged as a strong power in the beginning of the 11-century. Periodically, the Pandyas became a dominant maritime trading power who had contacts with Greece and Rome.  The Pandya King, Kulasekara, founded Madurai in the 6-century BC.  The Pandyas continued to hold sway over the Tamil area for 1173-1300.  The Muslim invasion led by Khiliji followed in 1316 that destroyed the Pandya capital, Madurai.

At this time when the Bahamani sultanates were pressing for the control of south during the 14-century, the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar was reasserting its political power from its capital Hampi in Karnataka.  The Vijayanagar Empire held sway until its defeat by a confederacy of the Decan Sultans in 1565 at Talikota.  The capital city of Vijayanagar pillaged and the kingdom broke into independent states and given to the direct descendants of the Vijayanagar, the Nayak kings, to rule.

The Nayaks continued to rule into the next century from their centres of power at Madurai, Thanjavur, and Trichy.  They contributed significantly to the temple architecture, renovated, and reconstructed old temples such as Tirumalainayakkar Mahal of Madurai, the thousand-pillared hall of the Meenakshi Amman Temple at Madurai and the Srirangam Temple in Tiruchirapalli (or Trichy).  By the 18-century, the Mughals had emerged as the most powerful force and Tamil Nadu fell to the Muslim rule of the Nawab of Arcot.

After 1639, the history of south changed with the arrival f the British as the East India Company. However, Europeans, in India had arrived long before that.  Fort St.  George on the Coromandel Coast became the seat of power for British in 1641.  The British rule ended when India attained its freedom on 15 August 1947.

Tamilnadu Detailed History

Prehistory in Tamil Nadu

The history of Tamil Nadu stretches far, far back to the shadowy period when humankind was in its earliest stages of development, when the first stirrings of civilization where developing and the story of mankind was still in its infancy.  There is evidence that the area today known as Tamil Nadu has had continuous human habitation since Paleolithic times, making this one of the oldest civilizations in the world.

Old Stone Age 1,000,000 BC to 3,000 BC

In 1863, a British geologist, Robert Bruce, found a rich lode of stone-age implements including spears, axes and blades around the shale gullies near the Attirampakkam Canal, an area that is on the fringes of present-day Chennai.  His discovery triggered the birth of the study of the Paleolithic history of Tamil Nadu.  More recently, an international team led by Dr Shanti Pappu conducted a detailed and lengthy excavation of the site, and found that many of the arte facts date from over a million years ago, an astounding fact that has resulted in the complete re-evaluation and rethinking of everything that was formerly believed to be true about when humans arrived in India.  The Attirampakkam site spans a vast period, making it an invaluable resource to study the life of stone-age humans and how they adapted and evolved over the earliest stages of human life.

Later Stone Age and Iron Age: 3,000 BC to 300BC

Sites from this broad span of time are widespread in Tamil Nadu, from inland to coastal regions, hilly terrain, river basins, and cave and rock shelters, and include Kodumanal, Salem, Periyar, Dharmapuri, North Arcot, Madurai and Tirunelveli. A large number and wide variety of relics have been found, and these show the progress from crude stone tools to well-shaped and decorated objects made from ceramics, clay and a variety of metals.  Archaeological explorations have unearthed agricultural tools, weapons and decorative objects and jewellery. However, the most interesting and significant finds are hundreds of mortuary sites, with burial urns, cairns and pits, underground and above-ground stone chambers and cemeteries.  Graffiti and other markings have been found on some of the artifacts, suggesting the existence of social groups and rituals in those long ago times.  By the end of the prehistoric period of Tamil Nadu's history, people were living in tribal groups, had mastered the rudiments of agriculture and may have conducted trade with nearby tribes and settlements.

1,000,000 BC - 50,000 BC -: Remains found of earliest humans in Attirampakkam Canal.  Paleolithic humans lived near river basins.

50,000 BC - 6,000 BC -: A variety of flake tools and blade like tools found.

6000 BC - 3,000 BC -: The age of Microlithic tools made of jasper, agate, flint and quartz, found in abundance around Tirunelveli District.

2,500 BC - 1,000 BC -: Neolithic period with more finely crafted tools.  The dead were buried in urns or pits.

1,000 BC - 300 BC -: The Iron Age.  Hundreds of Megalithic burial sites found from this period.

Sangam Period: 300 BC to 300 AD

Tamil history and identity, as we conceive of it today, began around the 3C BC.  The 600 years that followed are considered the classical period of Tamil antiquity.  It spanned an area that is referred to as 'Tamilakam' or Tamil Country, that covers today's Tamil Nadu, Kerala, parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Sri Lanka and the Laccadive Islands. As the area emerged out of the prehistoric iron Age, the rudiments of society developed with the establishment of agriculture, particularly around river basins.  Social hierarchies came into being with vellalars, or agricultural landlords, and velalas, or peasants, who worked under them Other specialized professions, like weaving, carpentry and that of the blacksmith, gained in importance as life in the tribal groups settled and expanded.  Slowly, these groups coalesced and village life evolved with a combination of local tribal practices and Brahminical customs that came from further north.

Dravidian Culture

Tamil Nadu is the home of Dravidian culture, a name that evokes many emotions and interpretations.  Historians believe that Dravidians came into India over 6,000 years ago, a branch of a family that had its early roots in the Mediterranean region.  Today, the term Dravidian is used of the part of the country where Tamil is spoken as well as for its inhabitants.  The term is believed to originate from the word Dravida, Dramida or Dramila (or Damila in Pali), from which the word Tamil is derived.  The name Termilai, which is what Herodotus called the inhabitants of ancient Greece, is probably the same as Dramila, lending support to the Mediterranean theory. 

The Dravidians are thought to be the creators of the great Indus Valley civilization. Aryan invasions of northern India pushed the Dravidians far south, where the distance from the Aryans helped them to maintain and develop a distinct culture while also imbibing elements of the ways of the invades.  Also, the people of the south were anything but isolated from the world at large: there is plenty of evidence to show that extensive trade was conducted, as long as 4,000 years ago, with Egypt, Babylon, Arabia and Palestine.  During the years of the first century AD, there was large-scale trade with the Roman Empire, mainly in pearls, pepper and precious stones, and there was a fairly large population of Greeks and Romans in the cities of the time.

Early Kingdoms:  200 BC to 300 AD

While the Maurya Empire ruled large stretches of northern India and parts of the Deccan, Tamilakam in the centuries before and after the second millennium was under the control of three dynasties: The Chola, Chera and Pandya, who between them rued the area stretching from Kanyakumari to the hills of Tirupathi.  This era, called the Sangam Period, is named after the poetic academies, or Sangams, that were important parts of the socio-cultural landscape of the time.  There were three Sangams, each lasting many centuries, and each consisting of large numbers of poets.  The works of the first two Sangams have all but disappeared; one of the oldest extant works of literature in Tamil, the Tolkappiam, dates from 200BC.  Some of the most important works of Tamil literature, the epic poems Silappathikaram and Manimekalai, date from the third Sangam, which ended around 2,000 years ago.  The works of the third Sangam are invaluable resources that provide glimpses into the political, social, economic and cultural ways of the time.

Ample mention is made of the Pandyas, Cheras and Cholas in the literature of the time.  In addition, they are mentioned in the edicts of Emperor Ashoka, the outer borders of whose kingdom adjoined theirs.

Early Pandya Dynasty: C. 500 BCTo AD 300

The Pandyas were the most ancient of the Tamil dynasties.  They ruled over the extreme south of Tamilakam, including the districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Ramnad, and Madurai.  The first Pandyan king that we have any substantial information about was Nedunchezhian I, who, through fighting and conquest expanded his kingdom and moved the capital city from Korkai to Madurai.  The greatest of the early Pandyan kings was Nedunchezhian III of the 3C AD.  He ruled over a considerably larger kingdom than his predecessors, after making sizeable inroads into the territories of his enemies, the Cholas and the Cheras.  His most celebrated victory and crowning achievement was at a fiercely fought battle at Talaialanganam (in present-day Thanjavur).

Early Chera Dynasty:  C. 400 BC To 12C AD

The Chera Dominion was the western part of Tamilakam, in present-day Kerala.  Muziris, a seaport that was well-known in Antiquity, was in the Chera kingdom; from here and other Cheras seaports precious spices, pearls, ivory and timber made their way to the Middle East and beyond, and brought great prosperity to the kingdom.  King Senguttavan, who ruled in the early years of the new millennium, was the best known of the early Chera Kings.  He believed to be the brother of the Jain monk Ilango Adigal, who wrote one of the best-known and most beloved works of Tamil literature, the Silappathikaram.  At this time, the people of the Chera region spoke the same language as the other people of Tamilakam. It was only several centuries later that, with the growing influence of Sanskrit, a new language, Malayalam, began to evolve in that region.

Early Chola Dynasty: C. 300 BC to 13C AD

The Cholas ruled over the eastern parts of Tamilakam, including the delta of the great Kaveri River and the fertile plains between the Kaveri and the Vellar rivers.  Poompuhar was its capital, and Karikala Chola, who ruled in the 3C BC., was its best-known ruler.  Truth and fantastic legend are inextricably mixed together in the retelling of the life of this great king, and many extravagant tales have been told about his exploits, very little of which can be actually substantiated by historical fact.

Towards the end of this period, another dynasty, the Pallavas, who would counquter the northern parts of Tamilakam, began their rise.  Their real efflorescence, however, took place several centuries later.

The three kingdoms were in constant conflict with each other, and this glorious period ended in the third century AD, when the conquering Kalabhras displaced these kingdoms and established their rule.

C. 270 BC : Rule of King Karikala Chola
C. 200 BC : The Tolkappiam, the oldest extant work of Tamil literature, is written
C. 150 AD : rule of King Senguttavan of the early Cheras.
C. 210 AD : Pandya King Nedunchezhian of Madurai victorious in the battle at Talaiarangam.
C. 300 AD : The Kalabhras invade Tamil country.

The Kalabhras Interregnum: AD 300 To 600

Very little is known about this period in Tamil Nadu's history.  The Kalabhras, a group who may have originated in modern-day Karnataka to the immediate north, invaded the lands of the Pandyas, Cheras and Cholas, causing a good deal of political upheaval and turmoil in the region.  This dynasty was more overtly religious than its predecessors were, and Jainism and Buddhism strengthened their roots during their reign, as they were practiced and favored by the rulers.  Literature and education, the latter in good part due to the efforts of Buddhist and Jain monks, flourished.  Towards the end, Saivism emerged as a dominant religion as some of the later Kalabhras rulers embraced it.  Thus, the stage was set for the flowering of the great Bhakti movement of the following centuries.  Three centuries after they came to power, the Pandyas, Chalukyas and Pallavas, who mobilized their forces and overthrew this dynasty, defeated them.  The Kalabhras slipped into history's shadows, with nary a monument or any artifacts to show for their years in power.

The Age of Empire: AD 600 to AD 1300

This period saw the rise and fall of several empires, each of which left behind monuments and even rituals, customs and beliefs that are alive and present to this day.  The three dynasties of the Sangam Period the Pandyas, Cheras and Cholas rose to prominence again, and were now joined by a fourthe one, the Pallavas.  They reached amazing heights, and their beautiful works of art, literature and temples are testament to their achievements.

The Pallava Dynasty: 3C -9C

The Pallavas may have started their reign in the northern reaches of Tamilakam as early as the 3C, but they reached their peak in the 7C-8C.  Their origins are the subject of much controversy, and prevailing theory links them to the Satavahanas of western India (parts of present-day Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh).  their capital was the temple city of Kanchipuram; the seaport of Mahabalipuram was also of vital importance.

King Simhavarman of the late 6C was the first of the great rulers of this dynasty, who made his mark by vanquishing the Kalabhras and subduing the Pandyas, Cheras and Cholas.  His son, Mahendravarman, who ruled in the early 7C, involved himself in both warfare and artistic endeavors.  Alas, his attempt to attack the Chalukyas did not pan out, but where he succeeded magnificently was in the building of the stunning monolithic rock temples and some of the sculpted caves of Mamallapuram.  In addition, he was keen musician and writer.  He converted to Saivism during his reign, and this sparked the renewal of Saivite (and Vaishnavite) Hinduism, and the decline of Jainism and Buddhism in the area.  Another great king of this dynasty was Mahendravarman's son, Narasimhavarman. Where his father had been unable to defeat the Chalukyas, Narasimhavarman succeeded not once but several times.  He captured Badami, the Chalukya capital, and expanded his kingdom to as far as Sri Lanka.  While doing all this, he nurtured his artistic side as well: the lovely monolithic rathas of Mamallapuram are attributed to his time.

The next king of note in the Pallava dynasty was Narasimhavarman II, the great-grandson of the first Narasimhavarman.  During his largely peaceful reign, the beautiful Shore Temple of Mamallapuram and Kailasanatha Temple of Kanchipuram were built. He pioneered the use of stone in architecture, laid, and strengthened the foundations of South Indian temple design and construction.

The Pallava dynasty went into decline after this, as its rulers suffered a string of defeats at the hands of their old enemies, the Chalukyas, as well as the Pandyas and others.  The sunset on this glorious empire in the 9C as the last emperor, Aparajita, suffered total defeat by the reigning Chola ruler.

There was religious tolerance under the Pallavas.  At the same time a Hindu religious movement called the Bhakti movement developed, and the words of the great Saivite and Vaishnavite Saints of this age, the Nayanmars and the Alwars, can be heard to this day.  Cultural and educational institutions thrived.  The great city of Kanchipuram was a major cultural centre.  Their loveliest and most lasting legacy is their stunningly beautiful architecture.

560-580 : King Simhavarman overthrows the Kalabhras at Tondaimandala and re-establishes Pallava dominance.
590-630 : Reign of King Mahendravarma; Several monolithic rock temples and cave temples built in Mamallapuram.
630-668 : Reign of King Narasimhavarman I.
700-728 : Reign of King Narasimhavarman II; Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram and Shore Temple in Mamallapuram built.
903 : King Aprajita, the last of the Pallava emperors, defeated by King Aditya Chola.

Later Chola Dynasty: 9C To 13C

The heartland of the Chola Empire was verdant and fertile plain watered by the Kaveri River, and its capital was Thanjavur, which lay along its banks.  At its height, the Chola empire's power and influence extended overseas to South South-east Asia, and as far north as the River Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. The most famous of the Chola Emperors was Rajaraja Cholan of the 11C.  He inherited an emaciated empire, and expanded it greatly, annexing vast portions of Chera, Pandya and Pallava territory.  His supreme legacy is the magnificent temple to Lord Shiva, the 1,000 year old Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur.  Rajaraja Cholan's son, Rajendra Cholan, was a worthy successor.  He consolidated his father's conquests and pushed the borders of his empire forther north.  His victorious soldiers brought back holy water from the river Ganga, and this was used to consecrate another magnificent Shiva temple, this one at Gangaikondacholapuram.  He was ambitious, rajendra Cholan.  He sent his armies across the sea in a successful quest to conquer Sri Lanka and several kingdoms of South-east Asia.

After Rajendra Cholan, succeeding kings continued to conquer and reign.  However, the later Chola rulers were highly intolerant of non-worshippers of Shiva, and persecuted many Vaishnavites, including the famous philosopher Ramanuja, who had to flee to another state.

There was a well-organized system of government, and local officials were elected into power.  In the Chola kingdom, and elsewhere in Tamilakam as well, the temple was the heart of social, cultural, religious and economic life.  The temple organization was he, in order to cater to all this activity.  Tamil literature thrived in Chola times. Their most exquisite legacy is their bronze sculptures. Their perfect form and symmetry make them among the most beautiful in the world.

The Cholas were responsible for the downfall of the Pallvas; in turn, their demise came at the hands of their archival, the Padyas, in the 13C.

985 : Rajaraja Cholan becomes king.
993 : Invasion of Sri Lanka by Rajaraja Cholan's forces.
1010 : Brihadeeswara Temple completed in Thanjavur during reign of Rajaraja Cholan.
1012 : Rajendra Chola Becomes King.
1023 : Rajendra Chola sends forces to North India, including to the river Ganges.
1025 : Gangaikondacholapuram becomes Rajendra Chola's capital.
1246-1279 : Reign of Rajendra Chola III, last of the Cholas.

Later Pandya Dynasty: 6C to 15C

This most ancient of the Tamil dynasties, celebrated in song and legend, roared back into power after breaking free of the Kalabhras in the 6C under the leadership of King Kadungon.  The Pandya Empire grew in size and prosperity, through conquest and trade, in the centuries that followed, and reports of its wealth and power made their way to the Western world. Marco Polo wrote admiringly of its immense riches, and the Greek geographer Megasthenes wrote about its pearl fisheries, another source of fortune.

In the early years of the re-ascendancy of the Pandyas, the Cholas remained in relative obscurity, and the Pallavas were their main rivals.  The victories and defeats went back and forth between the two powers.  Then, in the 10C the Chola king Parantaka I invaded the Pandya country and the Pandyas were forced to accept Chola domination over their lands.  This state of affairs continued until King Mahavarman Sundara Pandyan reestablished Pandya power in the 13C.  This Pandya resurgence coincided with the decline of the Chola Empire  Mahavarman Sundara Pandyan's successor, the revenge-hungry and war-loving Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan, was determined to wipe out the Cholas as well as another dynasty, the Hoysala, that was attempting to establish a foothold in Pandya territory.  To a large extent, he succeeded.   His actions sounded the death knell for the Chola Empire.

In the 14C, the great Pandya capital of Madurai fell to the invading forces of Alaudin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate. For a short four decades, Madurai became a Sultanate under Muslim rule.  The Vijayanagar rulers from further north in the Andhra region defeated the Sultanate in 1371, and established their rule in Madurai and eventually spread their power over much of Tamilakam.

1216 : Mahavarman Sundara Pandya Becomes king and reignites the glory of the Pandyas.
1251 : Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan becomes king.
1268-1310 : Reign of Kulasekara Pandya.
1311 : Delhi Sultanate forces invade and attack Pandya territory.
1327-1370 : Period of the Madurai Sultanate.

Vijayanagar, Nayaks & Marathas: 14C To 19C

The Vijayanagar Empire:  14C To 16C

As the Islamic invasions of and influence in northern India gained in strength, five brothrs, who had fled the Telugu lands, established the beginnings of an empire on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in modern Karnataka in the early 14C.
Their aim: to protect and defend the Hindu religion and way of life from the Muslims and other ofreign influences.
Their empire grew rapidly, extending its power over the Hoysala lands, ad successfully holding in check the Delhi sultans and the Muslim Bahmani kingdom in Hyderabad to the south.

Its history is one of a succession of wars, and the eminent historian, Nilakanta Sastri, describes the empire as essentially a 'war-stat', with its military needs controlling and guiding its actions.  Many defeats were suffered, but there were also numerous victories , and the Vijayanagar empire spread over most of South India. Local governors, called Nayaks, were appointed to administer the various territories. Tamil country had three 'Nayakships', in Thanjavur, Madurai and Gingee. The empire reached its peak during the early-16C reign of Krishnadevaraya, who enjoyed a great many military victories, and during whose reign the arts and literature blossomed.

Travellers from Italy, Persia and Portugal to the city of Vijayanagara have left wonder-stuck descriptions of the wealth and power of the empire.  Cultural and economic life was lived at the highest standards.  Large numbers of seaports conducted and controlled trade with many nations, both to the east and the west.

The constant warring eventually took its toll; the empire suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Delhi Sultans at the battle of Talikota in 1564.  In Tamil country, the local Nayaks declared their independence, and took over the rule of their territories.

The Nayaks: 16C To 17C

The best known of these were the Thanjavur and the Madurai Nayaks.  The first of the Thanjavur Nayaks was Sevappa Nayak, who had a distinguished career under Krishnadevaraya.  His son was Achyutta Nayak, under Krishnadevaraya.  His son was Achyutta Nayak, under whose reign the Srirangam Temple in Tiruchirapalli, widely regarded as the largest functioning Hindu temple, benefited greatly from his largesse.  The most well-known was well-renowned for his patronage of music and literature.  He established a library in Thanjavur, Saraswathi Bandar, where the works of his court scholars, was stored.  This library went on to become, under a future ruler, the Saraswathi Mahal Library, one of the finest in the world, with its priceless collection of rare and ancient art.  Raghunatha Nayak was instrumental in setting the stage for the European presence in India, by allowing the Danish to establish a settlement in Tarangambadi (Tranquebar).  The Nayak rulers fo Thanjavur and Madurai were not on particularly friendly terms. They had differing opinions on what the terms of their allegiance to their old masters, the now-weakened Vijayanagar rulers, should be. In Madurai, the Nayaks worked hard to restore the temples sacked by the Delhi Sultans, and were also known for their support of art, architecture, literature and music.  There were 13 rulers in this regime, of which Tirumala Nayak was the most eminent.  A good part of his reign (1623-59) was spent fending off the armies of the Delhi Sultanate, in which he was successful.  There was also tension with the rulers of Vijayanagar and Mysore, and there was dissension within his own kingdom. Yet through all this turmoil he saw to the construction of many marvels of architecture in Madurai.  An example is his palace, the Tirumalai Nayak Palace, a stunning building that is a fusion of Dravidian, European and Islamic styles.

The decline of the Madurai Nayaks began after the death of Tirumala Nayak; the end of the Thanjavur Nayas came at the hands of the Madurai Nayak came at the hands of the Maduai Nayak Chokkannatha.  In the chaos and disarray that presided over these crumbling regimes, the Marathas of western India entered and took control over Thanjavur.

The Marathas: 17C To 19C

Eight Maratha kings ruled over Thanjavur and its surrounding areas.  Of these, the best and most admired was Serfoji II, who ruled in the late 18C to early 19C.  His court was renowned for the high quality of the arts it embraced.  Eminent musician and dancers vied for positions in his court.  The reign of Serfoji II coincided with the lives of the most venerated Carnatic music composers: Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshithar and Syama Sastry.  Sanskrit and Telugu were favoured over Tamil, and a lot of the music and literature of the day was composed in these languages.  Serfoji II expanded the Saraswathi Bandar library that had been established by the preceding Nayak dynasty, and developed it into the Saraswathi Mahal Library, a source of awe and wonder to this day.  By this time, the British and other European powers, were establishing themselves all over India, and were part of the mix of powers vying for land and control.  In the chaos of rival rulers and dynasties, one was played against the other, once-powerful empires were weakened, and the stage was set for the foreign domination of the land.  the Maratha Empire in Tamil Nadu came to an end when British annexed their kingdom after the death of the last ruler Shivaji II, a weak and ineffectual man who died childless.

1336 : The Vijayanagar Empire is established.
1370 : Tamil country is captured by the Vijayanagar ruler Bukka RayaII, one the great Vijayanagar emperors
1535-1590 : Sevappa Nayak is appointed and rules as the first independent Nayak of Thanjavur
1600-1645 : Reign of Raghunatha Nayak, the greatest of the Thanjavur Nayaks
1609 AD Dutch settlement established at Pulicat
1623-1659 Reign of Tirumalai Nayak in Madurai
1675 Maratha rule established in Thanjavur
1777-1832 Reign of Serfoji, the greatest of the Thanjavur Marahas
1832-1855 Reign of Shivaji II, the last of the Thanjavur Marathas
1855 Thanjavur annexed by the British

The Colonial Period: 17C to 1947

The English East India Company: 1600 To 1857

When several European nations, starting with Portugal, discovered that they could make their way by sea to India and thus dispense with the middlemen they had been dealing with for several centuries, a new chapter began in the history of India, that of the Colonial era.  In the Tamil lands, the power struggle boiled down to the French and the British, with the Dutch and the Danish left with small settlements that were of minor consequence.

The British presence in India began with the English East India Company, a joint-stock company that was founded in 1600 and whose primary activity was trading with India as well as with China.  It traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo, saltpeter, tea and opium, and gradually, its trading pursuits became secondary to its broader ambitions of acquisition of land, power and administrative authority.  They took advantage of the rivalries between dynasties, playing one side against the other, and thus achieving more domination and influence.

On 22 August 1639, Francis Day, an English East India Company employee working under the guidance of his boss Andrew Cogan, obtained the rights from local leaders to a narrow stretch of land on the Coromandel Coast.  On that day, on that piece of land, began the history of the city of Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu that is today called Chennai.  Until that point the area had been a collection of villages separated by tracts of paddy fields and forests, overseen by a local Nayak.  Soon, the construction of a fort and other buildings was underway; this was British India's first real seaside settlement, built right on the beach.  On 23 April 1640, the first stage of this British outpost was completed.  It was St George's day, and thus, the fort was named Fort St George, a name which stands to this day.  The fort complex grew, and within its walls were stately mansions, army barracks, traders' homes, well-swept streets, a church, a stock exchange.. in short, a fully-functioning, bustling township.

The British were in frequent conflict with the French, who arrived in India in the 1660s.  They established a trading post in Pondicherry, further south along the Coromandel Coast from the British Fort St George.  Events in faraway Europe had their repercussions in these outposts: the War of the Austrian Succession began in 1740, in which Britain and France were soon embroiled.  The navies of these two countries were engaged in numerous battles along the coast, and in 1746 the French in Pondicherry, under the governorship of Joseph Francois Duplex, attacked and occupied Fort St George.  Two years later, when the war in Europe ended, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle restored the fort to the British.  In the decades that followed, the British control over Tamil territories increased rapidly.  After the long and bitterly fought Polygar wars (against the Madurai kingdom) of the late 1700s and early 1800s, the British domination over Tamil territory was nearly complete.  Under the leadership of Lord Wellesley, the Madras Presidency was established so that the territory under the East India Company's control could be better administered.  In the meantime, as the various royal dynasties weakened and crumbled, the city of madras grew in importance as an economic and cultural centre.

British Colonial Rule: 1858 to 1947

After the Sepoy Mutiny or the First Indian War of Independence in 1857, the British Crown took control and established Colonial rule over large parts of India.  As resentment and outrage over this state of affairs grew, the independence movement took root all over India, including in Tamil Nadu.  Many freedom fighters from the state joined hands with others from around the country to fight the British rule.  Prominent among these were C. Rajagopalachari, Tiruppur Kumaran, Kattaboman, V.O.Chidambaram Pillai, Dheeran Chinnamalai, E.V. Ramasamy and S.Subramania Iyer.  The beloved Tamil poet, Subramania Bharati, wrote many stirring songs and poems urging revolution and independence.  Many Tamils joined the Indian National Army, a non-pacifist set-up to fight the British occupation of India.

While many people in Tamil Nadu were involved in issues of national significance, there were also many people active in causes and concerns that were specific to the region.  In 1916, the anti-Brahmin manifesto.  The Justice Party, which came into being in the 1920s, focused on strictly local issues, like reservations for backward classes, and won legislative elections on this platform. At around the same time, E.V. Ramasamy, known popularly as Periyar, started an anti-Brahmin, anti religious movement whose impact on the politics and social life of Tamil Nadu is felt to this day. Leaders like Periyar and his follower C.N. Annadurai inculcated a strong sense of Tamil identity and pride in the population.

1639 : Fort St George established; the birth of the city of Madras.
1746 : The French army captures Fort St George.
1749 : The British regain control of Fort St George thanks to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
1800-1805 : The Polygar Wars.
1909 : The Madras Legislative Council is formed.
1921 : The first regional elections are held in Madras; the victorious newly formed Justice Party forms the Government.
1944 : Periyar and C.N. Annadurai establish the Dravida Kazhagam.