History of South India

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The history of South India covers a span of over two thousand years during which the region saw the rise and fall of a number of dynasties and empires. The period of known history of the region begins with the ancient period during which the great king Asoka ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent. The dynasties of Satavahana, Chalukya, Pallava, Rashtrakuta, Chera, Chola, Pandya, Kakatiya and Hoysala were at their peak during various periods of history. These kingdoms constantly fought amongst each other and against external forces when Muslim armies invaded south India. Vijayanagara empire rose in response to the Muslim intervention and covered the most of south India and acted as a bulwark against Mughal expansion into the south. When the European powers arrived during the 16th century CE, the southern kingdoms were not powerful enough to resist the new threat and eventually succumbed to British occupation. The British created the Madras Presidency which covered most of south India directly administered by the British Raj, and divided the rest into a number of dependent princely states. After Indian independence South India was linguistically divided into the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

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Ancient history

Evidence in the forms of documents and inscriptions are rare in the history of ancient South India. Although there are signs that the history dates back to several centuries CE, we only have any authentic archeological evidence from the early centuries of the common era. The Kingdom of Pratipalapura (5th century BCE), identified with Bhattiprolu, in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh appears to be the earliest known kingdom in South India. We also have an inscriptional evidence to show that king Kubera was ruling over Bhattiprolu around 230 BC followed by Sala Kings. The script of Bhattiprolu inscriptions was the progentor of Brahmi Lipi that diversified later into modern Telugu and Tamil scripts. During the reign of Asoka (304 BCE - 232 BCE) the three Tamil dynasties of Chola, Chera and Pandya were running in the south. These kingdoms, while not part of Asoka's empire, were in friendly terms with the Maurya Empire. The area of these kingdoms was known as Tamilagam "Land of Tamils"

Satavahanas

Variously known as the Andhras, Andhrabhrityas, Satakarnis and Satavahanas, this dynasty ruled large portions of Central and South India spanning modern day Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. The Satavahanas started out as feudatories to the Mauryan Empire, and declared independence soon after the death of Ashoka (232 BCE) of the Ikshvaku dynasty. They were the first native Indian rulers to issue their own coins with portraits of their rulers, starting with king Vashishtiputra Shri Pulumavi (130-158 CE), a habit borrowed from the Indo-Greek kings to the northwest. The Satavahana kings are also remarkable for their contributions to Buddhist art and architecture. The great stupas in the Krishna River Valley were built by them, including the stupas at Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh. A great Buddhist university flourished at Nagarjunakonda where Acharya Nagarjuna taught. The Satavahana Empire used Prakrit as their official language. The empire started to decline by the 3rd century CE and was supplanted by a number of dynasties including the Chutus, Ikshvakus and Pallavas in South India and Kadambas in Karnataka.

Pandyas

Pandyas were one of the three ancient Tamil kingdoms (Chola and Chera being the other two) who ruled the Tamil country from pre-historic times until end of the 15th century. They ruled initially from Korkai, a sea port on the southern most tip of the Indian peninsula, and in later times moved to Madurai. Pandyas are mentioned in Sangam Literature (c. 100 - 200 CE) as well as by Greek and Roman sources during this period.

The early Pandyan dynasty of the Sangam literature went into obscurity during the invasion of the Kalabhras. The dynasty revived under Kadungon in the early 6th century, pushed the Kalabhras out of the Tamil country and ruled from Madurai. They again went into decline with the rise of the Cholas in the 9th century and were in constant conflict with them. Pandyas allied themselves with the Sinhalese and the Keralas in harassing the Chola empire until they found an opportunity for reviving their fortunes during the late 13th century. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan (c. 1251) expanded their empire in to the Telugu country and invaded Sri Lanka to conquer the northern half of the island. They also had extensive trade links with the Southeast Asian maritime empires of Srivijaya and their successors. During their history Pandyas were repeatedly in conflict with the Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas and finally the Muslim invaders from the Delhi Sultanate. The Pandyan Kingdom finally became extinct after the establishment of the Madurai Sultanate in the 16th century. 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 one of the finest pearls known in the ancient world.

Cholas

The Cholas were one the three main dynasties to rule south India from ancient times. Karikala Chola was the famous king during the early centuries of the common era and managed to gain ascendency over the Pandyas and Cheras. The Chola dynasty however went into a period of decline from c. fourth century C.E. This period coincided with the ascendency of Kalabhras who moved down from the Andhra country displacing the established kingdoms and ruled over most of south India for almost 300 years. Vijayalaya Chola revived the Chola dynasty in 850 C.E. by conquering Thanjavur and made it his capital. His son Aditya I defeated the Pallava king Aparajita and extended the Chola territories to Tondaimandalam. The centers of the Chola Kingdom were at Kanchi (Kanchipuram) and Thanjavur. One of the most powerful rulers of the Chola kingdom was Raja Raja Chola. He ruled from 985 - 1014 C.E. His army conquered the Navy of the Cheras at Thiruvananthapuram, and annexed Anuradhapura and the northern province of Ceylon. Rajendra Chola I completed the conquest of Sri Lanka, invaded Bengal, and undertook a great naval campaign that occupied parts of Malaya, Burma, and Sumatra. The Chola dynasty began declining by the 13th century and ended in 1279. Cholas were great builders and have left some of the most beautiful examples of early Dravidian temple architecture. Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur is a fine example and has been listed as one of the United Nation's World Heritage sites.

Cheras

The Chera dynasty were one of the ancient Tamil dynasties who ruled the southern India from ancient times until around the fifteenth century C.E. The Early Cheras ruled over the Malabar Coast, Coimbatore, Namakkal, Karur and Salem Districts in South India, which now forms part of the modern day Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Throughout the reign of the Cheras, trade continued to bring prosperity to Kerala, with spices, ivory, timber, pearls and gems being exported to the Middle East and to southern Europe. Evidence of extensive foreign trade from ancient times can be seen throughout the Malabar coast, Karur and Coimabtore districts.

Pallavas

The Pallavas were a great south Indian dynasty who ruled between the third century CE until their final decline in the ninth century CE. Their capital was Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. Their origins are not clearly known. However, it is surmised that they were of Aryan (Pahlava / Kambhoja) origin and they probably were feudatories of Satavahanas. Pallavas started their rule from Krishna river valley, known today as Palnadu, and subsequently spread to southern Andhra Pradesh and north Tamil Nadu. Mahendravarman I was a prominent Pallava king who began work on the rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram. His son Narasimhavarman I came to throne in 630 CE. He defeated the Chalukya king Pulakesi II in 632 CE and burned the Chalukyan capital Vatapi. Pallavas and Pandyas dominmated the souther regions of South India between the sixth and the ninth centuries CE.

Kadambas of Banavasi

Kadambas ruled during 345-525 CE. Their kingdom spanned the presnet day Karnataka state. Banavasi was their capital. They expanded their territories to cover Goa, Hanagal. The dynasty was founded by Mayura Sharma c. 345 CE. They built fine temples in Banavasi, Belgaum, Halsi and Goa. Kadambas were the first rulers to use Kannada as an administrative language as proven by the Halmidi inscription (450 CE) and Banavasi copper coin. With the rise of the Chalukya dynasty of Badami, the Kadambas ruled as their feudatory from 525 CE for another five hundred years.

Ganga Dynasty of Talkad

The Ganga dynasty ruled southern Karnataka region during 350 - 550 CE. They continued to rule until the 10th century as feudatories of Rashtrakutas and Chalukyas. They rose from the region after the fall of the Satavahana empire and created a kingdom for themselves in Gangavadi (south Karnataka) while the Kadambas, their contemporaries, did the same in north Karnataka. The area they controlled was called Gangavadi which included the present day districts of Mysore, Chamrajanagar, Tumkur, Kolar, Mandya and Bangalore. They continued to rule until the 10th century as feudatories of Rashtrakutas and Chalukyas. Gangas initially had their capital at Kolar, before moving it to Talakad near Mysore. They made a significant contribution to Kannada literature with such noted writers as King Durvinita, King Shivamara II and Chavundaraya. The famous Jain monuments at Shravanabelagola were built by them.

Chalukyas of Badami

One of the first kings of the Chalukyan dynasty was Pulakesi I. He ruled from Badami, the present day Bijapur, Karnataka, in Karnataka. His son Pulakesi II became the king of the Chalukyan empire in 610 CE and ruled until 642 CE. Pulakesi II is most remembered for the battle he fought and won against Emperor Harshavardhana in 637 AD. He also defeated the Pallava king Mahendravarman I. The Chalukya empire existed from 543 CE - 757 CE and an area stretching from Kaveri to Narmada rivers. The Chalukyas created the Chalukyan style of architecture. Great monuments were built in Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami. These temples exhibit evolution of the Vesara style of architecture.

The Chalukyas of Vengi, also known as the Eastern Chalukyas, who were related to the Badami Chalukyas ruled along the east coast of South India around the present-day Vijayawada. The Eastern Chalukya dynasty was created by Kubja Vishnuvardhana, a brother of Pulakesi II. The Eastern Chalukyas continued to rule for over five hundred years and were in close alliance with the Cholas.

Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta

The Rashtrakuta Empire ruled from Manyaketha in Gulbarga from 735 CE until 982 CE and reached its peak under Amoghavarsha I (814 - 878 CE), considered Ashoka of South India. The Rashtrakutas came to power at the decline of the Badami Chalukyas and were involved in a three-way power struggle for control of the Gangetic plains with the Prathihara of Gujarat and Palas of Bengal. The Rashtrakutas were responsible for building some of the beautiful rock-cut temples of Ellora including the Kailasa temple. Kannada language literature flourished during this period of Adikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna and Shivakotiacharya. King Amoghavarsha I wrote the earliest extant Kannada classic Kavirajamarga.

Chalukyas of Kalyani

The Western Chalukya Empire was created by the descendants of the Badami Chalukya clan and ruled from 973 - 1195 CE. Their capital was Kalyani, present day Basava Kalyana in Karnataka. They came to power at the decline of the Rashtrakutas. They ruled from the Kaveri in the South to Gujarath in the north. The empire reached its peak under Vikramaditya VI. The Kalyani Chalukyas promoted the Gadag style of architecture, excellent examples of which are present in Gadag, Dharwad, Koppal and Haveri districts of Karnataka. They patronised great Kannada poets such as Ranna and Nagavarma II and is considered as a golden age of Kannada literature. The Vachana Sahitya style of native Kannada poetry flourished during these times.

Hoysalas

Hoysalas began their rule as subordinates of the Chalukyas of Kalyani and gradually established their own empire. Nripa Kama Hoysala who ruled in the western region of Gangavadi, founded the Hoysala dynasty. His later successor Ballala I reigned from his capital at Belur. Vishnuvardhana Hoysala (1106 - 1152 CE) conquered the Nolamba region earning the title Nolambavadi Gonda. Some of the most magnificent specimens of South Indian temples are those attributed to the Hoysala dynasty of Karnataka. Vesara style reached its peak in their period. Hoysalas period is remembered today as one of the brightest periods in the history of Karnataka. They ruled Karnataka for over three centuries from c. 1000 to 1342 CE. The most famous kings among the Hoysalas were Vishnuvardhana, Veera Ballala II and Veera Ballala III. Jainism flourished during the Hoysala period. Ramanuja the founder of Shri Vaishnavism, came to Hoysala kingdom to spread his religion. Hoysalas encouraged both Kannada and Sanskrit literature and earned a great name as builders of temples at Belur, Halebidu, Somanathapura, Belavadi and Amrithapura. Such famous poets as Rudrabhatta, Janna, Raghavanka and Harihara wrote many classics in Kannada during this time.

Kakatiya

The Kakatiya dynasty rose to prominence in the eleventh century with the decline of the Chalukyas. By the early 12th century, the Kakatiya clan of the western Chalukyas declared independence and began expanding their kingdom. By the end of the century, their kingdom had reached the Bay of Bengal and it stretched between the Godavari and the Krishna rivers. The empire reached its zenith under Ganapati who was its greatest ruler. At its largest, the empire included most of modern day Andhra Pradesh and parts of Orissa, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh and Karnataka. Ganapati was succeeded by his daughter Rudramamba. The Kakatiya dynasty lasted for three centuries. Warangal was their capital. By the early 14th century, the Kakatiya dynasty attracted the attention of the Delhi Sultanate under Allauddin Khilji. It paid tribute to Delhi for a few years, but was eventually conquered by the forces of Muhammad bin Tughluq in 1323.

Musunuri

After the downfall of Kakatiya empire, two cousins known as Musunuri Nayaks rebelled against Delhi Sultanate and recaptured Warangal and brought the whole of Telugu-speaking areas under their control. Although short lived (50 years), the Nayak rule is considered a watershed in the history of South India. Their rule inspired the establishment of Vijayanagar empire to defend Hindu dharma for the next five centuries.

Medieval history

Rise of Muslim kingdoms

The early medieval period saw the rise of Muslim power in South India. The defeat of the Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal by the forces of the Delhi Sultanate in 1323 CE. and the defeat of the Hoysalas in 1333 CE. heralded a new chapter in South Indian history. The grand struggle of the period was between the Bahmani Sultanate based in Gulbarga and the Vijayanagara Empire with its capital in Vijayanagara in modern Hampi. By the early sixteenth century, the Bahmani empire fragmented into five different kingdoms based in Ahmednagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda, together called the Deccan Sultanates.

Vijayanagara Empire

The Vijayanagara Empire, founded in the early 14th century with the purpose of stemming the tide of Muslim power overrunning South India, lasted for almost 200 years. It was visited and recorded by the Persian scholar Abdur Razzaq (traveller). The empire reached its zenith of its power and prosperity during the reign of Tuluva king, Krishnadevaraya. Krishnadevaraya was a great patron of art, music, dance and literature and an accomplished poet himself in Telugu. The empire maintained active trade relations with the Portuguese. Domingo Paes, the Portuguese trader who lived in the capital in the 1520s wrote of its prosperity, splendor and bazaars full of with precious stones. Vijayanagara was conquered by the combined forces of the Deccan sultanates in 1565 in the Battle of Tallikota. The Hampi ruins are scattered today over an area of fourteen square miles. Telugu literature peaked during this time. The Kannada Haridasa movement and Sahitya fostered strong Hindu traditions.

With the fall of Vijayanagara and the breakup of the Bahmani Sultanate, the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda and Hyderabad became the dominant power in the region. Qutb Shahi dominance of the region continued until the middle of the 17th century, when the Mughals under Aurangzeb made determined inroads into the Deccan. Golconda was conquered in 1687.

Nayak kingdoms

Vijayangara empire had established Military and administrative governors called Nayakas to rule in the various territories of the empire. After the demise of the Vijayanagara empire, the local governors declared their independence and started their rule. The Nayak of Madurai, Thanjavur Nayak, Ginjee (Senji) Nayak, Keladi Nayakas of Shimoga, Nayakas of Chitradurga and Kingdom of Mysore were the most prominent of them. Raghunatha Nayak (1600-1645) was the greatest of the Tanjavur Nayaks. Raghunatha Nayak encouraged trade and permitted a Danish settlement in 1620 at Danesborg at Tarangambadi. This laid the foundation of future European involvement in the affairs of the country. The success of the Dutch inspired the English to seek trade with Thanjavur, which was to lead to far-reaching repercussions. Vijaya Raghava (1631-1675 CE) was the last of the Thanjavur Nayaks. Nayaks reconstructed some of the oldest temples in the country and their contributions can be seen even today. Nayaks expanded the existing temples with large pillared halls, and tall gateway towers was a striking feature in the religious architecture of this period. Kantheerava Narasaraja Wodeyar and Tipu Sultan from the Kingdom of Mysore, Madhukari Nayaka of Chitradurga Nayaka clan and Venkatappa Nayaka of Keladi dynasty are the most famous among the post Vijayanagar rulers from Kannada country.

In Madurai, Thirumalai Nayak was the most famous Nayak ruler. He patronised art and architecture creating new structures and expanding the existing landmarks in and around Madurai. His landmark buildings are the Meenakshi Temple Gopurams and Thirumalai Nayak Palace in Madurai. On Thirumalai Nayak's death in 1659 CE, other notable ruler was Rani Mangammal. Shivaji Bhonsle, the great Maratha Ruler, invaded the south, as did Chikka Deva Raya of Mysore and other Muslim Rulers, resulting in chaos and instabilityand the Madurai Nayak Kingdom collapsed in 1736 following internal strife.

The Tanjavur Nayaks ruled till late 17th century until their dynasty was put to an end by Madurai Rulers, and the Marathas grabbing the opportunity to install their ruler. The Tanjavur Nayak kings were notable for their contribution to Arts and Telugu literature.

Rise of the Marathas

The rise of Maratha military power under Shivaji and his heirs in the immediate north of what is today considered South India had a profound influence on the political situation of South India, with Maratha control quickly extending as far west as Ganjam and as far south as Thanjavur. Following the death of Aurangzeb, Mughal power withered, and South Indian rulers gained autonomy from Delhi. The Wodeyar kingdom of Mysore, which was originally in tribute to Vijayanagara and gained in strength over the next few decades, subsequently emerging as the dominant power in the southern part of South India. The Asaf Jahis of Hyderabad controlled the territory north and east of Mysore, while the Marathas controlled portions of what is today Karnataka. By the close of the "medieval" period, most of South India was either ruled directly from, or under tribute to Mysore, Hyderabad or Pune.

In 1675, a column of Bijapur army came to Thanjavur to help the Nayak rular Vijayaraghava Nayak to retrieve Vallam from the Madurai Nayak. However, the same army subsequently killed Vijayaraghava Nayak and Ekoji managed to ascend the throne of Thanjavur kingdom. Thus began the Maratha rule of Thanjavur. After Ekoji, his three sons namely Shaji, Serfoji I, Thukkoji alias Thulaja I ruled Thanjavur. The greatest of the Maratha rulers was Serfoji II (1798-1832 CE). Serfoji devoted his life to the pursuit of culture and Thanjavur became renowned as a seat of learning. Serfoji's patronised art and literature and built the Saraswati Mahal Library at his palace.

Modern history

Colonial period

In the middle of the 18th century, the French and the British initiated a protracted struggle for military control of South India. The period was marked by shifting alliances between the two European powers and the local powers, mercenary armies employed by all sides, and general anarchy in South India. Cities and forts changed hands many times, and soldiers were primarily remunerated through loot. The four Anglo-Mysore wars and the three Anglo-Maratha wars saw Mysore, the Marathas and Hyderabad aligning themselves in turns with either the British or the French. Eventually, British power in alliance with Hyderabad prevailed and Mysore was absorbed as a princely state within British India. The Nizam of Hyderabad sought to retain his autonomy through diplomacy rather than open war with the British. The Maratha Empire that stretched across large swathes of central and northern India was broken up, with most of it annexed by the British.

British South India

South India during the British colonial rule was divided into the Madras Presidency and Hyderabad, Mysore, Thiruvithamcoore (also known as Travancore), Cochin, Vizianagaram and a number of other minor princely states. The Madras Presidency was ruled directly by the British, while the rulers of the princely states enjoyed considerable internal autonomy. British Residents were stationed in the capitals of the important states to supervise and report on the activities of the rulers. British troops were stationed in cantonments near the capitals to curb the potential of rebellion. The rulers of these states accepted the principle of paramountcy of the British Crown. The larger princely states issued their own currency and built their own railroads -- with non-standard gauges which would be incompatible with their neighbors. The cultivation of coffee and tea was introduced to the mountainous regions of South India during the British period, and both remain important cash crops.

After Independence

On August 15, 1947, the former British India achieved independence as the new dominions of India and Pakistan. The rulers of India's princely states acceded to the government of India between 1947 and 1950, and South India was organized into a number of new states. Most of South India was included in Madras state, which included the territory of the former Madras Presidency together with the princely states of Banganapalle, Pudukkottai, and Sandur. The other states in South India were Coorg (the erstwhile Coorg province of British India), Mysore State (the former princely state of Mysore) and Travancore-Cochin, formed from the merger of the princely states of Travancore and Cochin. The former princely state of Hyderabad became Hyderabad State, and erstwhile Bombay Presidency became Bombay State.

In 1953, the Nehru government yielded to intense pressure from the northern Telugu-speaking districts of Madras State, and allowed them to vote to create India's first linguistic state. Andhra State was created on October 1, 1953 from the northern districts of Madras State, with its capital in Kurnool. Increasing demands for reorganisation of the patchwork of India's states resulted in the formation of a national States Reorganisation Commission. Based on the commission's recommendations, Parliament of India enacted the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, which reorganized the boundaries of India's states along linguistic lines. Andhra State was renamed Andhra Pradesh, and enlarged by the addition of Telugu-speaking region of Telingana, formerly part of Hyderabad State. Mysore State was enlarged by the addition of Coorg and the Kannada-speaking districts of southwestern Hyderabad State and southern Bombay State. The new Malayalam-speaking state of Kerala was created by the merger of Travancore-Cochin with Malabar and Kasargod districts of Madras State. Madras State, which after 1956 included the Tamil-majority regions of South India, changed its name to Tamil Nadu in 1968, and Mysore State was renamed Karnataka in 1972. Portuguese India, which included Goa, was annexed by India in 1961, and Goa became a state in 1987. The enclaves of French India were ceded to India in the 1950s, and the southern four were organised into the union territory of Pondicherry.