Ancient History of South India

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 7, 2022, 11:39

The history of South India is a record spanning more than 4000 years, marking the rise and fall of several dynasties. The Ancient History of South India is set from the 6th century BC to the 3rd century CE and is also known as the Sangam Age. While there are three Sangam stages, the Third Age is often considered by historians as the Sangam period because the former two stages are believed to be legendary.

Here is everything you need to know about ancient South Indian History, including the ruling dynasties, culture, and people.

Ancient History of South India - Overview

Ancient South Indian History, i.e., the Sangam period, is named after the Sangam academies of poets and scholars established in Madurai. South India comprises the present-day states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and some parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Sri Lanka.

Dynasties of Ancient South Indian History

Three prominent dynasties prevalent in South India in the Sangam Age were the Pandyan Dynasty, Chola Dynasty, and Chera Dynasty.

1. Pandyan Dynasty - The Pandyan Dynasty finds its mention in Sangam literature from 400 BC to 300 CE and Greek and Roman literature.

  • The Dynasty originated in the seaport of Korkai, but the capital was Madurai.
  • The Dynasty Emblem was a carp.
  • The kingdom of ancient Pandyas extended across the modern districts of Tirunelveli, Ramnad, and Madurai.
  • The prominent Pandyan Kings in ancient history were Nedunjeliyan I and Nedunjeliyan II.

2. Chola Dynasty - The Chola Dynasty is considered one of the greatest in the Ancient History of South India.

  • The Chola kingdom was called Cholamandalam or Coromandel. It had its capitals at Kaveripattanam (Puhar) and Uraiyur.
  • The Chola emblem was a tiger.
  • The rule of the Cholas extended to the north-eastern Pandyan territory. The Cholas had a strong naval force, and therefore, their territory included some parts of the Maldives Islands and Sri Lanka as well.
  • The Cholas gained ascendency over the Pandyas and the Cheras but began to decline from the 4th century CE due to the Kalabhras.
  • Some notable rulers include Elara, Karikala, and Tondaiman Ilandiraiyan.

3. Chera Dynasty - The Cheras were a predominant kingdom in Kerala.

  • The capital of the Chera Empire was Vanji and Karuvur.
  • The Chera emblem was a bow.
  • The Cheras ruled between the 4th century BC to the 5th century AD.
  • Some of the important rulers of Cheras were Udiyanjeral, Nedunjeral Adan, Senguttuvan, and Kudakko Ilanjeral Irumporai.
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Economy in Ancient South Indian History

Sangam literature has depicted South Indian kingdoms as prosperous. People were mainly engaged in agriculture and trade. Muslin, pearls, sandalwood, black pepper, perfume, and tortoiseshell were commonly exported items. The rulers also imported vast amounts of gold and silver from Rome.

Society in Ancient South Indian History

The society was divided into four social classes—Arasars (ruling class), Aanthanars (priests), Vanigar (merchants), Vellalar (agriculturists), and Kadasiyar (lower class). Women were highly respected, but sati was prevalent. Women poets like Avvaiyar, Kakkaipadiniyar, and Nachchellaiyar made a tremendous contribution to Tamil literature.

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Religion in Ancient History of South India

The most important deity during the Sangam age was Murugan. There were also five kinds of land, each associated with a different God, i.e., Murugan, Vishnu, Indra, Varunan, and Korravai, that were worshipped. Jainism and Buddhism also flourished in this period.

The Ancient History of South India is rich with culture. The Sangam period is known for its literature and art and its prosperous kingdoms. A vast majority of the information about ancient South Indian History has been derived from narrative and didactic Sangam literature and the writings of Ashoka and the Romans.

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FAQs on Ancient History of South India

Q.1 Which were the prominent dynasties in the Ancient History of South India?

Ans. The three prominent dynasties in the Ancient History of South India are the Pandyan, Chola, and Chera Dynasty.

Q.2 What is the period of the Ancient History of South India?

Ans. The Ancient History of South India is set from the 6th century BC to the 3rd century CE.

Q.3 Which states is the Ancient History of South India set in?

Ans. The Ancient History of South India is set in the present-day states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and some parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Sri Lanka.

Q.4 What is the Sangam period in the Ancient History of South India?

Ans. The Ancient History of South India from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century CE is called the Sangam period.