Tamil Nadu ( ; ; , literally "Tamil Country") is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital is Chennai, the largest city. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Puducherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. It is bound by the Eastern Ghats in the north, the Nilgiri, the Anamalai Hills, and Kerala on the west, by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Gulf of Mannar, the Palk Strait in the south east, and by the Indian Ocean in the south.
Tamil Nadu is the eleventh largest state in India by area and the seventh most populous state. It is the second largest state economy in India as of 2012. The state ranked 6th among states in India according to the Human Development Index as of 2011. Tamil Nadu is also the most urbanised state in India. The state has the highest number (10.56 per cent) of business enterprises and stands second in total employment (9.97 per cent) in India, compared to the population share of about 6 per cent.
The region has been the home of the Tamil people since at least 500 BCE. Its official language Tamil has been in use in inscriptions and literature for over 2000 years. Tamil Nadu is home to many natural resources, Hindu temples of Dravidian architecture, hill stations, beach resorts, multi-religious pilgrimage sites and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Archaeological evidence points to this area (In places like Adhichanallur,Tirunelveli) being one of the longest continuous habitations in India. In Adichanallur, from Tirunelveli, archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India unearthed 169 clay urns containing human skulls, skeletons and bones, plus husks and grains of rice, charred rice and Neolithic celts, giving evidence confirming them to be of the Neolithic period, 3,800 years ago. The ASI archaeologists have proposed that the script used at that site is "very rudimentary" Tamil Brahmi. Adichanallur has been announced as an archaeological site for further excavation and studies. About 60 per cent of the total epigraphical inscriptions found by ASI in India are from Tamil Nadu and most of which are in Tamil language.
Early history (Sangam Period 300 BCE - 300 CE)
The early history of the people and rulers of Tamil Nadu is spotlighted by Tamil literature known as Sangam literature. Numismatic, archaeological and literature sources corroborate that the Sangam period lasted for about six centuries spanning 300 BCE – 300 CE. Three dynasties, namely Chera, Chola and Pandya, ruled the whole of present-day Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Chera ruled the whole of present day Kerala and parts of western Tamil Nadu comprising Coimbatore, Karur, Salem and Erode districts from the capital of Vanchi Muthur (thought to be modern day Karur). The Chola dynasty ruled the northern and central parts of Tamil Nadu from Uraiyur as capital, and the Pandya dynasty ruled southern Tamil Nadu from Korkai and Madurai as capital. All three dynasties had extensive trade relationships with then known ancient kingdoms of Rome, Greece, Egypt, Ceylon, Phoenicia, Arabia, Mesopotamia and Persia. Trade flourished in commodities like spices, ivory, pearls, beads and gems. Chera traded extensively from Muziris on the west coast, Chola from Arikamedu and Puhar and Pandya through Korkai port. The Greco-Roman trade and travel document Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (c. 60–100 CE) gives an elaborate description of the Tamil country and its ports. The Kalabhras invaded and displaced the three Tamil kingdoms and ruled between the third and the seventh centuries CE of the Sangam period. This is referred to as the Dark Age in Tamil history. They were expelled by the Pallavas and the Pandyas in the sixth century.
Medieval Period (600–1300)
During the Kalabhras' rule Buddhism flourished in the land of the Tamils. The didactic work 'Naaladiyar' was composed during their reign. It consists of moral sayings in the venpa meter, 400 in number in 40 chapters, each by one Buddhist ascetic, according to tradition. Following the tradition of Tamil Buddhism, Naaladiyar emphasises virtues such as control of the senses, Dhamma (Lord Buddha's teaching), renunciation, and other desirable social qualities. Pali was the court language of the Kalabhras who were also called Kalapara or Kalaparaya according to the Koramangalam inscription.
During the fourth to eighth centuries C.E., Tamil Nadu saw the rise of the Pallavas under Mahendravarman I and his son Mamalla Narasimhavarman I and his uncle Bodhidharma. The Pallavas ruled a parts of South India with Kanchipuram as their capital. Dravidian architecture reached its peak during Pallava rule. Narasimhavarman II built the Shore Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They came into conflict with the Kannada Chalukyas of Badami. During this period, The great Badami Chalukya King Pulakesi II extended the Chalukya Empire up to the northern extents of the Pallava kingdom and defeated the Pallavas in several battles. Pallava Narasimhavarman however reversed this victory in 642 by attacking and occupying Badami temporarily. However a later Chalukya King Vikramaditya II took revenge by repeated invasions of the territory of Tondaimandalam and his subsequent victories over Pallava Nandivarman II and the annexation of Kanchipuram.
The Pallava dynasty was overthrown in the 9th century by the imperial Rashtrakutas who ruled from Gulbarga. King Krishna III, the last great Rashtrakuta king consolidated the empire so that it stretched from the Narmada River to Kaveri River and included the northern Tamil country (Tondaimandalam) while levying tribute on the king of Ceylon. Much later, the Pallavas were replaced by the Cholas as the dominant kingdom in the 10th century C.E. and they in turn were replaced by Pandyas in the 13th century C.E. The Pandyan capital Madurai was in the deep south away from the coast. They had extensive trade links with the south east Asian maritime empires of Srivijaya and their successors, as well as contacts, even formal diplomatic contacts, reaching as far as the Roman Empire. During the 13th century C.E. Marco Polo mentioned the Pandyas as the richest empire in existence. Temples such as the Meenakshi Amman Temple at Madurai and Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunelveli are the best examples of Pandyan temple architecture. The Pandyas excelled in both trade and literature. They controlled the pearl fisheries along the south coast of India coast, between Sri Lanka and India, which produced some of the finest pearls in the known ancient world.
The Cholas, who were very active during the Sangam age, were entirely absent during the first few centuries. The period started with the rivalry between the Pandyas and the Pallavas, which in turn caused the revival of the Cholas.
During the ninth century, the Chola dynasty was once again revived by Vijayalaya Chola, who established Thanjavur as Chola's new capital by conquering central Tamil Nadu from the local clans of Mutharayar and the Pandya king Varagunavarman II. Aditya I and his son Parantaka I expanded the kingdom to the northern parts of Tamil Nadu by defeating the last Pallava king, Aparajitavarman.
Parantaka Chola II expanded the Chola empire into what is now interior Andhra Pradesh and coastal Karnataka, while under the great Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, the Cholas rose to a notable power in south east Asia. Now the Chola Empire stretched as far as Bengal and Sir Lanka. At its peak, the empire spanned almost . Rajaraja Chola conquered all of peninsular south India and parts of Sri Lanka. Rajendra Chola's navy went even further, occupying coasts from Burma (now Myanmar) to Vietnam, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Sumatra, Java, Malaya in south east Asia and Pegu islands. He defeated Mahipala, the king of Bengal, and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital and named it Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
The Cholas were prolific temple builders right from the times of the first medieval king Vijayalaya Chola. These are the earliest specimen of Dravidian temples under the Cholas. His son Aditya I built several temples around the Kanchi and Kumbakonam regions. The Cholas went on to becoming a great power and built some of the most imposing religious structures in their lifetime and they also renovated temples and buildings of the Pallavas, acknowledging their common socio-religious and cultural heritage. The celebrated Nataraja temple at Chidambaram and the Sri Ranganathaswami Temple at Srirangam held special significance for the Cholas which have been mentioned in their inscriptions as their tutelary deities.
Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola, who built temples such as the Brihadeshvara Temple of Thanjavur and Brihadeshvara Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram and the Sarabeswara (Shiva) Temple, also called the Kampahareswarar Temple at Thirubhuvanam, the last two temples being located near Kumbakonam. The first three of the above four temples are titled Great Living Chola Temples among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes all over the world. Among the existing specimens in museums around the world and in the temples of southern India the fine figures of Siva in various forms, Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, and the Siva saints are the examples of Chola bronze. Though conforming generally to the iconographic conventions established by long tradition, the sculptors worked with great freedom in the 11th and the 12th centuries to achieve a classic grace and grandeur. The best example of this can be seen in the form of Nataraja the Divine Dancer.
During the rule of the great Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI, in the late eleventh to early twelfth century, the Western Chalukyas convincingly defeated the Cholas on several occasions, weakening their empire. With the decline of the Chola dynasty between 1116 and 1185 C.E., the Hoysalas of Kannada country rose to prominence, under King Vishnuvardhana and his grandson, the celebrated Veera Ballala II. The Hoysalas extended their foothold in Tamil Nadu around 1225, making the city of Kannanur Kuppam near Srirangam a provincial capital that give them control over South Indian politics that began a period of Hoysala hegemony in the southern Deccan. Hoysala Vira Narasimha II's son Vira Someshwara earned the honorific "uncle" (Mamadi) from the Pandyas and Cholas. The Hoysala influence spread over Pandya kingdom from who they gained tribute. This revival was short-lived as the Pandya capital of Madurai itself was sacked by Alauddin Khilji's troops under General Malik Kafur in 1316. The Muslim invasion led to the establishment of the short-lived Madurai Sultanate.
Vijayanagar and Nayak period (1336–1646)
The Muslim invasions of southern India triggered the establishment of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire with Vijayanagara in modern Karnataka as it's capital. The Vijayanagara empire eventually conquered the entire Tamil country by c. 1370 C.E. and ruled for almost two centuries until its defeat in the Battle of Talikota in 1565 by a confederacy of Deccan sultanates.
Subsequently, as the Vijayanagara Empire went into decline after the mid-16th century, many local rulers, called Nayaks, succeeded in gaining the trappings of independence. This eventually resulted in the further weakening of the empire; many Nayaks declared themselves independent, among whom the Nayaks of Madurai and Tanjore were the first to declare their independence, despite initially maintaining loose links with the Vijayanagara kingdom.
Rule of Nawabs and Nizams (1692–1801)
In the early 18th century, the eastern parts of Tamil Nadu came under the dominions of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Nawab of the Carnatic. While Wallajah was supported by the English, Chanda Shahib was supported by the French by the middle of the 18th century. In the late 18th century, the western parts of Tamil Nadu came under the dominions of Hyder Ali and later Tipu Sultan, particularly with their victory in the Second Anglo-Mysore War.
European rule (1801–1947)
Around 1609, the Dutch established a settlement in Pulicat, while the Danes had their establishment in Tharangambadi also known as Tranquebar. In 1639, the British, under the East India Company, established a settlement further south of Pulicat, in present day Chennai. In the late 18th century, the British fought and reduced the French dominions in India to Puducherry. Nizams of Hyderabad and the Nawabs of the Carnatic bestowed tax revenue collection rights on the East India Company for defeating the Kingdom of Mysore. After winning the Polygar wars, the East India Company consolidated most of southern India into the Madras Presidency coterminous with the dominions of Nizam of Hyderabad. Pudukkottai remained as a princely state.
Tamil Nadu in independent India (1947 -)
When India became independent in 1947, Madras Presidency became Madras State, comprising present day Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh up to Ganjam district in Orissa, South Canara district Karnataka, and parts of Kerala. The state was subsequently split up along linguistic lines. In 1969, Madras State was renamed Tamil Nadu, meaning "Tamil country".