Tamil History  - தமிழ் வரலாறு, சரித்திரம்

தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 


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A Video Essay on Tamil
M. V. Bhaskar and K. T. Gandhirajan, 19 June 2006

Milestones in Tamil History UNESCO Courier, March, 1984
Chronology of Tamil History
Who is a Tamil - C.Sivaratnam, 1968

Writing Tamil History:Post National Perspectives - Ponnampalam Ragupathy, 11 May 2006

Sources of ancient Tamil history
Tamil Civilization - the Origins, J.M.Rajaratnam
On Constructing the History of Tamils - N.Nandhivarman
History of Tamil Nadu
Early History
The Indus Valley Decipherment Hoax - Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer, 13 October 2000
The direction of Harappan writing - Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer, 13 October 2000
Towards a scientific study of the Indus Script - Iravatham Mahadevan 4 February 2007
3,500 Year Old Indus Script Found in Tamil Nadu, May 2006
Ancient rock art dating back to 1500 B.C. found in Tamil Nadu, 27 May 2007 
Rewriting Indian History - Hindu Timeline
Sarasvati-Sindhu civilisation (c. 3000 B.C.) - S.Kalyanaraman
Harappa Civilisation
Harappa: Basic Signs - Clyde Winters

The Scientific Dating of the Mahabharat War by Dr.P.V.Vartak

Pre Historic Age of Tamil Nadu

Tsunami Disaster & the Tamil People - Catastrophes of the past in Tamil Aham : poetic exaggeration or scientific facts?, 7 January 2005

Aryan/Dravidian Question

The Dravidian Problem -M.D.Raghavan
Demise of Aryan Invasion Theory - Dinesh Agrawal
Vedic "Aryans" and the Origins of Civilization: A Literary and Scientific Perspective - Navaratna S. Rajaram and Davis Frawley1995
The Myth of Aryan Invasion of India - Dr. David Frawley
Hindutva and history - Romila Thapar, 13 October 2000
Aryans & Tamils - Swami Vivekananda
Sikhs and Tamils: The Indus Connection - Dr.N.Muthu Mohan
Hinduism: Native or Alien to India? - Shan Ranjit, 2000


Tamil Language Inscriptions in Thailand
Tamil Language Inscriptions in China - Dr.S.Jayabarathi
Three granite pillars with inscriptions of Pallava and Chola kings
Pondicherry Stone Inscriptions - N.Nandivarman
Epigraphy - Tamil inscriptions from the Tambaram area, 1973 - Gift Siromoney
Dolmens, Hero Stones and the Dravidian People - Dr.R.Nagaswamy
Tamil Coins - Sangam Age
From Indus Valley to coastal Tamil Nadu
Strong resemblances between graffiti symbols in Tamil Nadu and the Indus script


Sangam Age Dynasties
Dynasties of the South
Sangam Age Culture

Kappal Oddiya Thamilan

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century - W.H. Schoff (tr. & ed.), 1912

Kappal Oddiya Thamilan
- The Overseas Exploits of the Thamils & the Tragedy of Sri Lanka - G.K.Rajasuriyar, 2002

Tamils in South East Asia And Far East - Dr. S. Arasaratnam, 1981
Some aspects of South Indian cultural contacts with Thailand – Historical Background. - S.Singaravelu, 1966  
Early Tamil Cultural Influences in South East Asia - S.J.Gunasegaram, 1985
Tiru-p-pavai, Tiruvempavai in South East Asia - T.P.Meenakshisundaram, 1966
Tamil Studies: Research in South East Asia and in the Far East - Jean Filliozat, 1966
Ancient Ports and Maritime  Trade Centres in Tamilnadu and their Significance
Presentation by
T.S.Sridhar, IAS
Special Commissioner,
Department of Archaeology,
Government of Tamil Nadu - 6 October 2005
Ancient anchors off Tamil Nadu coast and
ship tonnage analysis
N. Athiyaman and P. Jayakumar,
10 May 2004

Literary History

Literary History in Tamil - Karthigesu Sivathamby, 1986 "Literature... creates the mode of consciousness and this can in a historical perspective become an indicator of national consciousness... In fact consciousness of the literary heritage was a cause and an index of Tamilian nationality consciousness... "
Antiquity and Sacred Writing: Tamil Literary Histories in the late 19th - early 20th centuries - Srilata Müller, 1998
Religious Traditions of Tamils - Professor Velupillai, 1995

Gingee - the Fort with a 1000 Year History -  

N.Nandhivarman, General Secretary Dravida Peravai

Tamil Renaissance

Veerapandiya Kattabomman
U.V.Swaminatha Iyer - S.Thangavelu, 1996
Subramaniam Sivam
V.O.Chidambaram Pillai
Elite Formation in 19th Century South India - An Interpretative Analysis - Robert Eric Frykenberg
National Movement in Tamil Nadu, 1905-1914 - Agitational Politics and State Coercion, N.Rajendran
Caste & the Tamil Nation
The Origin of the Non-Brahmin Movement, 1905-1920 - K.Nambi Arooran in Tamil Renaissance and Dravidian Nationalism
Demand for Dravida Nadu - K.Nambi Arooran, 1980
Tamil Renaissance and Dravidian Nationalism - K.Nambi Arooran, 1980
Constitution of Self Respect League
Periyar E.V.Ramaswamy
Dravida Munetra Kalagam
Decaying of the Dravidian Movement - Shan Ranjit, 2000

Towards a Re-Appraisal
of the Dravidian/Non-Brahmin Movement
V.Geetha and S.V.Rajadurai

Interrogating India - a Dravidian Viewpoint - V.Geetha and S.V.Rajadurai, 1991

Eelam Tamils

Tamils in Sri Lanka - A Comprehensive History (C.300 B.C. - 2000 A.D.)
by Murugar Gunasingham Ph.D. in English and in Tamil
History of Tamil Eelam Flag - Video Presentation
Ancestry of the Ceylon Tamil - M.D.Raghavan
The Vijayan Legend and the Aryan Myth - C.J.Gunasegaram, 1963
Elara (Elalan) and the Chronicles of Ceylon -
Tamil Kings in Early Ceylon - C.J.Gunasegaram
History of the Tamils in Eelam and The Jaffna Kingdom - Dr Mathi Chandrakumar
The Tamils in Early Ceylon, C.Sivaratnam, 1968
On the Traditional Tamil Homeland: The Facts  - Sachi Sri Kantha
Tamils & the Meaning of History - Dr Hellmann-Rajanayagam, 1996 "..And that leads us to the final question, whether, if this was the case, the Tamils in Ceylon were not really somewhat unique, different from those in India, the close proximity notwithstanding, whether the undoubted fact of their political autonomy had not generated a degree of cultural, religious and linguistic independence as well, but an independence which has become, in the late 20th century, extremely limiting and downright dangerous. There have been attempts to reverse this trend: Followers of Arumuka Nċvalar's religious tradition always saw India and Jaffna as one and unseparated and stressed the unity. The dilemma of being torn between South India and Jaffna is most evident in the writings and ideology of the militants for whom India again became the vanishing point when things in Jaffna got too hot, in the good old tradition, but who now have changed their song again and consider themselves as primarily belonging to Sri Lanka. That is the dilemma of the Jaffna Tamils..."
Pandara Vannian
Sri Lankan Tamil Society & Politics - Karthigesu Sivathamby, 1995
Sri Lanka Tamils - Brian Pfaffenberger, 1991

The Tomb of Elara at Anuradhapura - Dr.James Rutnam, 1981

The Vallipuram Buddha Image - Peter Schalk
புராதன இலங்கை சரித்திரம் - ப. கணபதிப்பிள்ளை

Tamil Rulers of the Kandyan Kingdom - G.Amirthalingam, 4 March 2006

Beginnings of Tamil Rule in Eelam (Ceylon, Sri Lanka) - Nallur Swami S. Gnana Prakasar O.M.I.
Arya Chakravarties of Tamil Eelam - M.D.Raghavan
Matrimonial Alliances between Tamilnad and the Sinhalese Royal Family in the 18th Century and the Establishment of a Madurai Dynasty in Kandy - Lorna Srimathie Dewaraja, 1974
The Tamil Kingdom in Jaffna - Early Beginnings to the Court of the Ariya Chakravartis - Dr.H.W.Tambiah, 1968
A Critical Study of Tamil Documents Pertaining to the History of Jaffna - K.S.Nadarajah, 1966
Tamil Consciousness in Eelam - K.Kailasapathy, 1979
The Five Ishwarams in Eelam - Shruthi Laya Shangam, London and Shri S. Arumugam, 1999
Dondra (Tennavan-Thurai) - C.J.Gunasegaram
Munnicuvaram (Munnesvaram) Kovil: Its History, Ceremonies and Layout - Professor A. Velupillai, 1995
Our Temple: Thirukoneswaram
Welcome to Thirukoneswaram
Trincomalee - Holy Hill of Siva - S.J.Gunasegaram, 1985

Contribution of some leading Ceylon Tamils to the Constitutional and Political Development of Ceylon during the 19th and 20th centuries -A. Jeyaratnam Wilson, 1966

Boundaries of Tamil Eelam

Ceylon Tamils

Work on ancient history of Batticaloa released, April 2005

“We should write the people’s history of the northeast. It is important to discover and publish old palm leaf manuscripts such as ‘Mattakkalappu Poorva Sariththiram’ (Ancient History of Batticaloa) to bring out the history of the communities that live in this region. We have to search and preserve valuable primary sources of our history”,  Prof. S. Mounaguru, former Dean of Fine Arts, Eastern University, Tamil Eelam

யாழ்பாணப் பாரம்பரியம்
Jaffna Heritage - Traditional Buildings of Jaffna
- R.Mayuranathan -  "On studying the various civilizations of the world we come to know their architectural heritage their temples, tombs, palaces, and other public buildings which can be considered as the products of high civilizations. Although these buildings reflect the technological developments and the economic and social power of the ruling elite of the respective periods, they rarely have any relevance to the culture and the economic realities of the majority common masses. Domestic houses and other smaller buildings of the ordinary people reflect the soul of the common man's culture, as these building types had evolved in the respective communities for longer periods through trial and error and generally retain the basic characteristics unchanged for longer time . The above characteristics make these buildings as potential sources for information relevant to longer period back in history...Traditional buildings of Jaffna are potential sources of essential information about the life and history of the community in which these were evolving for several hundreds of years..."


History of Nattukottai Chettiars

War & Martial Arts

Thamizhar Martial Arts - Alex Doss
Valari - An Unique Weapon of the Tamils - Dr.S.Jayabharathi
Self-Sacrifice or NavaKantam - Dr.S.Jayabharathi "Self-sacrifice or Navakantam was an ancient practice among the Tamils in which a person sacrifices his own self with his own hands. It is a form of ritualistic suicide. Though outwardly resembling the Japanese Hara-Kiri, it differs in several ways from it. In Hara-Kiri, sometimes, the best friend cuts the head off, while the Samurai warrior slices his abdomen with his dagger. But the Tamils did it absolutely unassisted...The warriors are usually honoured with a Hero-stone called  'Viirak Kal..'"

Varalaaru - A Monthly Magazine on Tamil History

Tamil Nadu in Word IQ
S..J.Gunasegaram - Selected Writings
Tamil Heritage Centre, Auroville
Itihaas:Chronology Ancient India
Maps of Tamil Nadu
World History Archives Tamil History
The East India Company
History of Madurai
Tamil Iyers of Kerala
The Dravidian Connections of Japanese


'I Remember...'  I.P.Thurairatnam
Journey Down Memory Lane - R.Shanmugalingam

Mauritius Tamils

Brief History of Tamils in Mauritius


History Section
of Tamil Nation Library


the Tamils are an ancient people







Nadesan Satyendra
 1998, 2007

"When the past no longer illuminates the future,
the spirit walks in darkness."
 de Tocqueville  quoted in the Left Curve

"..The History of Tamil Nadu begins with the 3 kingdoms, Chera, Chola and Pandya, which are referred to in documents of the 3rd century BC. Some of the kings of these dynasties are mentioned in Sangam Literature and the age between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD is called the Sangam Age. At the beginning of the 4th century AD the Pallavas established their rule with Kanchipuram as their capital...In the middle of the 9th century a Chola ruler established what was to become one of India's most outstanding empires on account of its administrative achievements (irrigation, village development) and its contributions to art and literature. The Age of the Cholas is considered the golden age of Tamil history." Milestones in Tamil History UNESCO Courier, March, 1984

bullet Indus Civilisation
bullet Tamils were a sea faring people
bullet British conquest & Tamil renaissance
bullet Bharathy, Periyar E.V. Ramasamy & Tamil nationalism
bullet Growth of Tamil consciousness in Sri Lanka
bullet Indian Union & the Tamil Nation

Indus Civilisation

The Tamils are an ancient people. Their history had its beginnings in the rich alluvial plains near the southern extremity of peninsular India which included the land mass known as the island of Sri Lanka today. The island's plant and animal life (including the presence of elephants) evidence the earlier land connection with the Indian sub continent. So too do satellite photographs which show the submerged 'land bridge' between Dhanuskodi on the south east of the Indian sub-continent and Mannar in the north west of the island.

Some researchers have concluded that it was during the period 6000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. that the island separated from the Indian sub continent and the narrow strip of shallow water known today as the Palk Straits came into existence. Many Tamils trace their origins to the people of Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley around 6000 years before the birth of Christ.  There is, however, a need for further systematic study of the history of the early Tamils and proto Tamils.

"Dravidians, whose descendents still live in Southern India, established the first city communities, in the Indus valley, introduced irrigation schemes, developed pottery and evolved a well ordered system of government." (Reader's Digest Great World Atlas, 1970)

Clyde Ahmad Winters, who has written extensively on Dravidian origins commented:

"Archaeological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Dravidians were the founders of the Harappan culture which extended from the Indus Valley through northeastern Afghanistan, on into Turkestan. The Harappan civilization existed from 2600-1700 BC. The Harappan civilization was twice the size the Old Kingdom of Egypt. In addition to trade relations with Mesopotamia and Iran, the Harappan city states also had active trade relations with the Central Asian peoples."

He has also explored the question whether the Dravidians were of African origin. (Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "Are Dravidians of African Origin", P.Second ISAS,1980 - Hong Kong:Asian Research Service, 1981 -  pages 789- 807)

Other useful web pages on the Indus civilisation (suggested by Dr.Jude Sooriyajeevan  of the National Research Council, Canada)  include the Indus Dictionary.

At the same time, the Aryan/Dravidian divide in India and the 'Aryan Invasion Theory' itself has come under  attack by some modern day historians. (see also Sarasvati-Sindhu civilisation; 'Hinduism: Native or Alien to India') 

Professor Klaus Klostermaier in 'Questioning the Aryan Invasion Theory and Revising Ancient Indian History' commented: 

"India had a tradition of learning and scholarship much older and vaster than the European countries that, from the sixteenth century onwards, became its political masters. Indian scholars are rewriting the history of India today. One of the major points of revision concerns the so called 'Aryan invasion theory', often referred to as 'colonial-missionary', implying that it was the brainchild of conquerors of foreign colonies who could not but imagine that all higher culture had to come from outside 'backward' India, and who likewise assumed that a religion could only spread through a politically supported missionary effort.

While not buying into the more sinister version of this revision, which accuses the inventors of the Aryan invasion theory of malice and cynicism, there is no doubt that early European attempts to explain the presence of Indians in India had much to with the commonly held Biblical belief that humankind originated from one pair of humans- Adam and Eve to be precise ..."

Hinduism Today concluded in Rewriting Indian History - Hindu Timeline:

"Although lacking supporting scientific evidence, this (Aryan Invasion) theory, and the alleged Aryan-Dravidian racial split, was accepted and promulgated as fact for three main reasons. It provided a convenient precedent for Christian British subjugation of India. It reconciled ancient Indian civilisation and religious scripture with the 4000 bce Biblical date of Creation. It created division and conflict between the peoples of India, making them vulnerable to conversion by Christian missionaries."

"Scholars today of both East and West believe the Rig Veda people who called themselves Aryan were indigenous to India, and there never was an Aryan invasion. The languages of India have been shown to share common ancestry in ancient Sanskrit and Tamil. Even these two apparently unrelated languages, according to current "super-family" research, have a common origin: an ancient language dubbed Nostratic." 


Tamils were a sea faring people

Robert Caldwell wrote in 1875:

"... From the evidence of words in use amongst the early Tamils, we learn the following items of information. They had 'kings' who dwelt in 'strong houses' and ruled over 'small districts of country'. They had 'minstrels', who recited 'songs' at 'festivals', and they seem to have had alphabetical 'characters' written with a style on palmyra leaves. A bundle of those leaves was called 'a book'; they acknowledged the existence of God, whom they styled as ko, or King.... They erected to his honour a 'temple', which they called Ko-il, God's-house.

They had 'laws' and 'customs'... Marriage existed among them. They were acquainted with the ordinary metals... They had 'medicines', 'hamlets' and 'towns', 'canoes', 'boats' and even 'ships' (small 'decked' coasting vessels), no acquaintance with any people beyond the sea, except in Ceylon, which was then, perhaps, accessible on foot at low water.. They were well acquainted with agriculture.... All the ordinary or necessary arts of life, including 'spinning', 'weaving' and 'dyeing' existed amongst them. They excelled in pottery..." (Robert Caldwell: Comparative Grammar of Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages   - Second Edition 1875 - Reprinted by the University of Madras, 1961)

The Tamils were a sea faring people. They traded with Rome in the days of Emperor Augustus. They sent ships to many lands bordering the Indian Ocean and with the ships went traders, scholars, and a way of life. Tamil inscriptions in Indonesia go back some two thousand years. The oldest Sanskrit inscriptions belonging to the third century in Indo China bear testimony to Tamil influence and until recent times Tamil texts were used by priests in Thailand and Cambodia. The scattered elements of ruined temples of the time of Marco Polo's visit to China in the 13th century give evidence of purely Tamil structure and include Tamil inscriptions.

"Tamil Nadu, the home land of the Tamils, occupies the southern most region of India. Traditionally, Thiruvenkatam - the abode of Sri Venkatewara and a range of hills of the Eastern Ghats - formed the northern boundary of the country and the Arabian sea line the western boundary. However as a result of infiltrations, made by peoples from other territories, Tamil lost its ground in the west as well as in the north.  In medieval times, the country west of the mountains, became Kerala and that in the north turned part of Andhra Desa. Bounded by the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Desa, the Tamil Nadu of the present day extends from Kanyakumari in the south to Tiruttani in the North....

Chola EmpireIn early times the Pandyas, the Cheras and the Cholas  held their pioneering sway over the country and extended their authority beyond the traditional frontiers. As a result the Tamil Country served as the homeland of extensive empires. It was during this period that the Tamil bards composed the masterpieces in Tamil literature.....

"In the first decade of the 14th century the rising tide of Afghan imperialism swept over South India. The Tughlugs created a new province in the Tamil Country called Mabar, with its capital at Madurai which in 1335 asserted independence as the Sultanate of Madurai. After a short period of stormy existence, it gave way to the Vijayanagar Empire... Since then, the Telegus, the Brahminis, the Marathas and the Kannadins wrested possession of the territory. Between 1798 and 1801, the country passed under the direct administration of the English East India Company." (History of Tamil Nadu 1565 - 1982:  Professor K.Rajayyan, Head of the School of Historical Studies, M.K.University, Madurai - Raj Publishers, Madurai, 1982)

The East India Company website contains interesting information about the efforts of the early English rulers.

Today an estimated 70 million Tamils live in many lands - more than 50 million Tamils live in Tamil Nadu in South India and around 3 million reside in the island of Sri Lanka.

up British conquest & Tamil renaissance

The response of a people to invasion by aliens from a foreign land is a measure of the depth of their roots and the strength of their identity. It was under British conquest that the Tamil renaissance of the second half of the 19th century gathered momentum.

It was a renaissance which had its cultural beginnings in the discovery and the subsequent editing and printing of the Tamil classics of the Sangam period. These had existed earlier only as palm leaf manuscripts. Arumuga Navalar in Jaffna, in the island of Sri Lanka, published the Thirukural in 1860 and Thirukovaiyar in 1861. Thamotherampillai, who was born in Jaffna but who served in Madras, published the grammatical treatise Tolkapiyam by collating material from several original ola leaf manuscripts.

It was on the foundations laid by Arumuga Navalar and Thamotherampillai that Swaminatha Aiyar, who was born in Tanjore, in South India, put together the classics of Tamil literature of the Sangam period. Swaminatha Aiyar spent a lifetime researching and collecting many of the palm leaf manuscripts of the classical period and it is to him that we owe the publication of Cilapathikaram, Manimekali, Puranuru, Civakachintamani and many other treatises which are a part of the rich literary heritage of the Tamil people.

Another Tamil from Jaffna, Kanagasabaipillai served at Madras University and his book 'Tamils - Eighteen Hundred Years Ago' reinforced the historical togetherness of the Tamil people and was a valuable source book for researchers in Tamil studies in the succeeding years. It was a Tamil cultural renaissance in which the contributions of the scholars of Jaffna and those of South India are difficult to separate.

Again, not surprisingly, it was a renaissance which was also linked with a revived interest in Saivaism and a growing recognition that Saivaism was the original religion of the Tamil people. Arumuga Navalar established schools in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka and in Chidambaram, in South India and his work led to the formation of the Saiva Paripalana Sabai in Jaffna in 1888, the publication of the Jaffna Hindu Organ in 1889 and the founding of the Jaffna Hindu College in 1890.

In South India, J.M.Nallaswami Pillai, who was born in Trichinopoly, published Meykandar's Sivajnana Bodham in English in 1895 and in 1897, he started a monthly called Siddhanta Deepika which was regar