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The ancient history of Tamil Nadu dates back about 6000 years and the origin of its people is topic debate related to the Aryan invasion theory. Those who believe in this theory support the view that the Tamils belong to the Dravidian race and were part of the early Indus Valley settlers. Later with the advent of the Aryan invasion, the Dravidians were forced to remain back into the deep south, where they ultimately settled. The present day states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh constitute the Dravidian culture.
¤ Ancient History (1st to 9th centuries)
Tamil Nadu was ruled by the early Cholas between 1st and 4th centuries CE. Karikalan was the first and the most famous king, who built the Kallanai (kall – stone, anai – bund), a dam across the Cauvery River, which is considered to be an engineering wonder of that time. The Cholas ruled the present Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli districts and were excellent in military expertise. At the peak of their glory, the Chola kings expanded their influence as far as Cylon (SriLanka) in the south and hundreds of kilometers across the northern region. Cholas comprises the major part of ancient history of Tamil Nadu. Almost all the Chola Kings build magnificent temples. Brahadeswarer’s Temple or more popularly called as the Big temple in Tanjore (Thanjavur)is a classical example of the magnificent architecture of the Chola kingdom.
During the later half of 4th century, Pallavas the great temple builders emerged into prominence and dominated the south for another 400 years. A large portion of Tamil Nadu was ruled by then with Kanchipuram as their base. In the 6th century they defeated the Cholas and ruled as far as Sri Lanka. Among the greatest Pallava rulers were Mahendravarman-l and his son Narasimhavarman. Dravidian architecture reached its epitome during Pallava rule. The last Pallava King was Aparajitha. He was defeated by Aditya Chola towards the end of the 9th century.
¤ Medieval History (9th to 14th centuries)
Under Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, the Cholas again rose as a notable power in 9th century in South India. The Chola empire extended to the central Indian states like, Orissa and parts of West Bengal. Rajaraja Chola conquered the eastern Chalukya kingdom by defeating the Cheras, and also occupied parts of Ceylon by defeating the Pandyas. Rajendra Chola went beyond, occupying the islands of andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Sumatra, Java, Malaya and the islands of Pegu with his fleet of ships. He defeated Mahipala, the king of Bihar and Bengal, and to mark his victory he built a new capital called Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The Cholas started loosing their power around the 13th century.
As Cholas declined, the Pandyas once again emerged as a power, in the early 14th century. But this was short lived and soon they were subdued by Muslim Khilji invaders from the north in 1316. The city of Madurai was plundered and completely destroyed. The invasion destroyed the Chola and Pandya dynasties and led to the establishment of Bahmani Kingdom in the northern Deccan.
Due to the 14th century invasion, the Hindus retaliated in reaction and rallied to build a strong new kingdom, called the Vijayanagara empire. This empire included all the strongholds of Cholas and other local Hindu rulers to check the Muslims. Governors called Nayaks were employed to run different territories of the empire. Vijayanagar Empire was the most prosperous dynasty in the south, with Hampi as the Capital. But by 1564 the empire came to an end at the hands of Deccan sultans in the battle of Talikota. The empire, dismantled into many parts and was given to the Nayaks to rule. Tamil Country under the Telugu Nayaks was peaceful and prosperous. The Nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavur were most prominent of them all, who reconstructed some of the oldest temples in the country.
¤ Modern History (17th century)
The Dutch accomplished a settlement in Pulicat around 1609. The British, under the British East India Company, established a settlement further south, in present day Chennai, in the year 1639. The British took advantage of the petty quarrels among the provincial rulers (divide and rule) to expand their area of power.
The British fought with the various European powers, notably the French at Vandavasi (Wandiwash) in 1760, and the Dutch at Tharangambadi (Tranquebar), driving the Dutch away entirely, and reducing the French dominions in India to Pondicherry. The British also fought four wars with the Kingdom of Mysore under Hyder Ali and later his son Tipu Sultan, which led to their eventual domination of India’s south. They consolidated southern India into the Madras Presidency.
The nationalist movement in Tamil Nadu was a movement of historical depth. Its starting point is the late eighteenth century. Early manifestations of anti-colonial feeling in Tamil Nadu were the rebellions led by the Poligars of Tirunelveli and Shivagana, and the sepoy revolt at Vellore in 1806.
Some important Chieftains or Poligars of Tamil Nadu, who fought the British East India Company as it was expanding, were Veerapandya Kattabomman, Maruthus and Pulithevan.
¤ Tamil Nadu After Independence
After India gained independence in 1947, Madras Presidency became Madras State, comprising of present day Tamil Nadu, coastal andhra Pradesh, northern Kerala, and the southwest coast of Karnataka.
The state was later divided on the basis of linguistic lines. In 1953 the northern districts formed Andhra Pradesh. Under the States Reorganization Act, 1956, Madras State lost its western coastal districts. The Bellary and South Kanara districts were given to Mysore state, and Kerala was formed from the Malabar district, the former princely states of Travancore and Cochin. Finally, in 1968, when the Central Government imposed Hindi as the national language, the state of Madras was renamed Tamil Nadu, to reduce the resistance against this decision of the government.
Today, Tamil Nadu is one of the most prominent states of India, famous for its tourist attractions and drawing innumerable visitor’s to the state.