CHAPTER-22 : The Dawn of History in the Deep South

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 

The Deccan Before the Satavahanas

Megalithic Builders (until 2nd century BC):

  • Upland dwellers known for their stone burial structures (megaliths).
  • Graves contained skeletons, pottery, and iron objects.
  • Concentrated in eastern Andhra and Tamil Nadu.
  • Culture began around 1000 BC.

Rise of Southern Kingdoms (from 4th century BC)

  • Increased cultural and economic contact between north and south India (Tamizhakam).
  • South exported gold, pearls, and precious stones via Dakshinapatha trade route.
  • Pandya kingdom known to Megasthenes in Pataliputra.
  • Early Sangam texts familiar with north Indian places (Ganges, Son rivers, Pataliputra).
  • Trade with Roman Empire helped establish Chola, Chera, and Pandya kingdoms.

Three South Indian Kingdoms

  1. The Pandyas:
  • First mentioned by Megasthenes (known for pearls).
  • Territory: Southernmost tip of India (modern Tirunelveli, Ramnad, Madurai districts, Tamil Nadu).
  • Capital: Madurai.
  1. The Cholas (Cholamandalam):
  • Northeast of Pandyas, between Pennar and Velar rivers.
  • Famous king: Karikala (2nd century AD)
    • Founded Puhar (capital)
    • Built 160km Kaveri river embankment with war captives.
  • Main center: Uraiyur (cotton trade).
  1. The Cheras (Kerala):
  • West and north of Pandyas (coastal Kerala and some Tamil Nadu).
  • Romans had regiments and possibly a temple in Muziris (Cranganore).
  • History marked by conflicts with Cholas and Pandyas.
  • Famous king: Senguttuvan.


  • Tamils traded with Greeks/Egyptians/Arabs to the west and Southeast Asia to the east.

Social Structure in the Tamil Kingdoms

Royal Income:

  • Spoils of war added to royal coffers.

Social Classes:

  • Brahmins: Newcomers in the Sangam Age.
  • Ruling Class (Arasar):
    • Intermarried with Vellalas (cultivators).
    • Rich Vellalas employed laborers.
  • Kadaisiyar (Lowest Class):
    • Agricultural laborers, similar to slaves.
  • Pariyars:
    • Agricultural laborers who worked with animal skins.

Comparison with North India:

  • Tamil Land:
    • Vellalar (landowners)
    • Uzhavar (ploughmen)
    • Kadaisiyar/Adimai (landless laborers/slaves)
  • North India:
    • Grama Bhojaka (village headman, often largest landowner)
    • Grihapatis (independent farmers, smaller landowners)
    • Dasakarmakaras (landless laborers)

Economic Roles:

  • Shrenis: Associations of artisans and merchants.
    • Provided training, raw materials, and product distribution (artisans).
    • Organized trade and acted as banks (merchants).

Sangam Literature and Brahmanical Influence

Sangam: Assembly of Tamil Poets

  • Patronage: Possibly by Pandya kings (according to an 8th-century commentary).
  • Literature: Divided into narrative and didactic works.
    • Narrative (Melkannakku): 18 major works (8 anthologies, 10 idylls).
    • Didactic (Kilkanakku): 18 minor works.

Social Life in Sangam Texts

  • War booty as a source of income.
  • Hero stones (virarkal) linked to megalithic burial practices.

Brahmanical Influence

  • Authorship: Many texts by Brahmin scholars of Prakrit or Sanskrit.
  • Tolkkappium: Early Tamil grammar and poetics text.
  • Tirukkural: Philosophy and wise maxims.
  • Silappadikaram and Manimekalai (6th century epics):
    • Love story and adventures influenced by Brahminical values.
  • Ashokan inscriptions (3rd century BC) and later Brahmi inscriptions (2nd-1st century BC) show interaction with North Indian languages and possibly Jain/Buddhist missionaries.

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