Tamil Nadu’s history dates back topre-his-torictimes and archaeological evidencepoints to this area being one of the longestcontinuous habitations in India. InAdichanal-lur, 24 km fromTirunelveli, archaeologistsfrom theArchaeological Survey of Indiaun-earthed 169 clay urns containing humanskulls, skeletons and bones, plus husks andgrains of rice, charred rice andNeolithiccelts, giving evidence confirming them to beof the Neolithic period, 3800 years ago.
From early pre-historic times, Tamil Naduwas the home of the four Tamil kingdoms of theChera,Chola,PandyaandPallavas. Theoldest extantliterature, dated between 300BC and 600 BC mentions the exploits of thekings and the princes, and of the poets whoextolled them. Cherans, who spoke Tamil lan-guage ruled from the capital of Karurin thewest and traded extensively with West Asiankingdoms. An unknown dynasty calledKalabhrasinvaded and displaced the threeTamilkingdoms between the fourth and theseventh centuries CE. This is referred to asthe Dark Age inTamilhistory. They wereeventually expelled by thePallavasand thePandyas.
Around 580 CE, the Pallavas, greattemplebuilders, emerged into prominence and dom-inated the south for another 150 years. Theyruled a vast portion of Tamil Nadu withKan-chipuramas their capital. They subjugatedthe Cholas and reigned as far south as theKaveri River. Among the greatest Pallavarulers wereMahendravarman Iand his sonNarasimhavarman I.Dravidian architecturereached its peak during the Pallava rule.
Pallavas were replaced by the Pandyas in the8th century. Their capitalMaduraiwas in thedeep south away from the coast.Tirunelveliwas their another important city which is theSouth India’s second largest producer of Riceafter Thanajavur.Nellaiappar temple,Tirunelveli andMeenakshi Amman Temple,Madurai are some of the best examples of Pandyan Temple architecture. NellaiapparTemple, Tirunelveli is the first largest Shivatemple in Tamil Nadu.
These northern invasions triggered the estab-lishment of Vijayanagara Empirein the Dec-can. It eventually conquered the entire Tamilcountry (c. 1370 CE). This empire lasted al-most three centuries.
Rule of Nayaks
As theVijayanagara Empirewent into declineafter mid-16th century, theNayak governors,who were appointed by the Vijayanagar king-dom to administer various territories of theempire, declared their independence. TheNayaks of MaduraiandNayaks of Thanjavurwere most prominent of them all in the 17thcentury. They reconstructed some of the old-est temples in the country such as theMeenakshi Temple.
Rule of Nizams and Nawabs
Around 1609, theDutchestablished a settle-ment inPulicat. In 1639, the British, underthe British East India Company, established asettlement further south, in present dayChennai.