Tamil Nadu's history dates back to pre-historic times. Archaeological evidence points to this area being one of the longest continuous habitations in India. InAdichanallur, 24 km (15 mi) 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, 3800 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% of the total epigraphical inscriptions found by ASI in India are from Tamil Nadu and most of which are in Tamil language.
There have been more discoveries of the evidence of prehistoric creatures inhabiting the landscape of what is now modern Tamil Nadu in the shape of eggs of dinosaurs and other animals of their kind. Geologists in Tamil Nadu have stumbled upon a Jurassic treasure trove buried in the sands of a river bed. Sheer luck led them to hundreds of fossilized dinosaur eggs, perhaps 65 million years old, underneath a stream in a tiny village in Ariyalur district. Researchers from the Salem-based Periyar University found clusters of eggs of what they believe to be the most aggressive Carnosaur and the docile, leaf-eating Sauropod at Sendurai village. While Carnosaurs were large predatory dinosaurs, Sauropods were long-necked, herbivores which grew to enormous heights and sizes.
Medieval Period (600–1300)
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. The Cholas went on to becoming a great power. Their decline saw the brief resurgence of the Pandyas. This period was also that of the re-invigorated Hinduism during which temple building and religious literature were at their best. The Cheras ruled in southern India from before the Sangam era (300 BCE – 250 CE) over the Coimbatore, Karur, Salem Districts in present day Tamil Nadu and present day Kerala from the capital of Vanchi Muthur in the west, (thought to be modern Karur). They traded extensively from nearby Muziris, in spices, ivory, timber, pearls and gems, with the ancient kingdoms of Egypt, Rome, Greece, Ceylon,Phoenicia, Arabia, Mesopotamia and Persia. 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 sixth century.
There is considerable evidence to show that under the Kalabhras' rule Jainism 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 Jain ascetic, according to tradition. Following in the tradition of Jainism, Naaladiyar emphasizes virtues such as control of the senses, asceticism, renunciation, and other desirable social qualities. Because the Kalabhras gave protection to Jains and perhaps Buddhists, too, some have concluded that they were anti-Hindu, although this latter view is not undisputed.
During the sixth to eighth centuries century CE, Tamil Nadu saw the rise of the Pallavas under Mahendravarman I and his son Mamalla Narasimhavarman I. The Pallavas were originally executive officers under the Satavahana Empire. After the fall of the Satavahanas, around 550 CE under King Simhavishnu they emerged into prominence. They subjugated the Cholas and reigned as far south as the Kaveri River. Pallavas ruled a large portion of South India with Kanchipuram as their capital.Dravidian architecture reached its peak during the Pallava rule. Narasimhavarman II built the Shore Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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 Southeast 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 Indian coast, between Sri Lanka and India, which produced some of the finest pearls in the known ancient world.
By the 9th century, during the times of the second Chola monarch Aditya I, his son Parantaka I, Parantaka Chola II itself the Chola empire had expanded into what is now interior Andhra Pradesh and coastal Karnataka, while under the great Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, the Cholas rose as a notable power in south Asia. TheChola Empire stretched as far as Bengal. At its peak, the empire spanned almost 3,600,000 km² (1,389,968 sq mi). Rajaraja Chola conquered all of peninsular South Indiaand parts of the Sri Lanka. Rajendra Chola's navies 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 the Bengal, and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital and named it Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
The Cholas excelled in building magnificent temples. Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur is a classical example of the magnificent architecture of the Chola kingdom. Brihadshwara temple is an UNESCO Heritage Site under "Great Living Chola Temples."Another example is Annamalaiyar Temple located at the city of Tiruvannamalaiand the Chidambaram Temple in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram. Raja Raja Chola and Rajendra Chola period is said to be the golden period of Tamil Nadu, and under them the Chola empire rose to be the most powerful empire in all of South-India. With the decline of the Cholas between 1230 and 1280 CE, the Pandyas rose to prominence once again, under Maravarman Sundara Pandya and his younger brother, the celebrated Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan.
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)
These Muslim invasions triggered the establishment of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire in the Deccan. It eventually conquered the entire Tamil country (c. 1370 CE). This empire lasted for almost two centuries till the defeat of Vijayanagara in the Battle of Talikota in 1565. Subsequent to this defeat, many incompetent kings succeeded to the throne of Vijayanagara with the result that its grip loosened over its feudatories among whom the Nayaks of Madurai and Tanjore were among the first to declare their independence, despite initially maintaining loose links with the Vijayanagara kingdom." As the Vijayanagara Empire went into decline after mid-16th century, the Nayakgovernors, who were appointed by the Vijayanagar kingdom to administer various territories of the empire, declared their independence. The Nayaks of Madurai andNayaks of Thanjavur were most prominent of them all in the 17th century. They reconstructed some of the oldest temples in the country such as the Meenakshi Temple.
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 Sahib was supported by the French by the middle of the 18th century. In the late 18th century, the western parts of Tamil Nadu, encompassing Kongu Nadu, came under the dominions of Hyder Ali and later Tipu Sultan, particularly with their victory in the Second Anglo-Mysore War.
Tamil Nadu under European rule (1801–1947)
Around 1609, the Dutch established a settlement in Pulicat, while the Danish had their establishment in Tranquebar (Tharangambadi). In 1639, the British, under the British 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
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 Country of Tamil.