The Neolithic CHALCOLITHIC amalgam which seems to have been round about 200 B. C. is continued up to about the middle of the first millennium B. C. It was then overlapped by the Megalithic culture inhabited by the Megalithic burials.
The Cholos, Pandyas, Cheras and Satyaputras mentioned in Ashok’s inscription were probably in the Megalithic phase of material culture.
a) Sangam were societies of learned men. As per tradition there were three Sangam under the patronage of the Pandyan kings. The Sangam age in Tamil Literature was a period of great literary glory. It saw the production of a colossal volume of Tamil literature consisting of a collection of odes, lyrics and idylls.
b) The earliest inscriptions that mention of the Tamil country are the Asoka inscriptions and the Hanthigumpha inscriptions.
c) Asakan Major Rock Edict IInd and XIIIth mention the southern kingdom of Chola, Pandya, Satyputra, Kiralputra, and Tambapani.
d) First historical reference of Tamil comes from Megasthenese.
e) The first detailed description of Tamilham is found in the Sangam literature.
Three Early Kingdom
1. The land south of the Krishna river was divided into three kingdom – Chola, Pandya and Chera or Kerala.
2. The Pandyas are first mentioned by a Megasthenes who speaks of the Pandya kingdom being resulted by a women and that seven year old mothers were found in the Pandyan country; this way suggest some matriarchal influence in the Pandya society.
- Its royal emblem was Bow. They were also known as Keralputras. The Cheras capital was Vanji or Karur.
- The history of the Cheras was marked by continuous fight with the Cholas and the Pandyas.
- Nedunjeral Adan is the first known Chera king. He is said to have fed both the armies at Kurukshetra war and so had earned the title of Udiyanjiral.
- Senguttuvan the Red or God Chera, according to the Chera poets, was the greatest Chera king. It is said that he invaded the north and crossed the Ganga. He is remembered for building a temple of Kannagi, the hodders of Chartity.
- The worship of Kannagi is known as the Pattini cult which was stablized by him. After the 2nd century A. D. the Chera power declined and we have nothing of its history until the 8th century A. D.
- Its royal emblem was Tiger. Its capital was Uronyur later Puhar (identical with Kaveripattam).
- Its first ruler was Uruvappertiare-iulanjeltani. The pre eminent ruler of early Cholas was Karikala (man with Charred leg). His dramatic capture of throne is portroyed in a poem in Pattuppattu. The poem also established that he was a follower of Vedic religion. His greatest achievements were –
- His victory over a confederacy of about dozen rulers under the Chera and Pandyan kings at Venni, near Tanjore.
Karikala’s areas resulted in establishment of hegemony among the crown kings of the Tamil country and some extension of Cholas territory.
- Rajendra maintained a powerful navy and conquered Sri Lanka.
- Karikala also promoted the reclamation and settlement of forest land and multiplied its irrigational tanks. He initiated construction of Kaviri(Cauvery) canal. He is also attributed with construction of flood banks on Kaveri.
- He was a master of seven musical nodes.
- Navy legends in the silppadikaram centre on Karikala and he is attributed with conquest of whole of India up to Himalayas. After Karikala the Cholas power suffered decline.
- Its royal emblem was corps/fish.
- Its capital was Madurai.
- It was first mentioned by Megasthenese who stated that Pandyas were famous for Rule of women and Pearls.
- According to poet Bhangudi Marudan the first ruler of this dynasty was Nediyan. But the history of this ruler is in doubt. He is accredited with bringing into existence the river Pahrulli and starting sea worship Mudukudumee (second ruler) is known for being harsh with defeated rulers and performing a number of Yagyavhalas. He was caleld Palashalai. The third ruler of the dynasty was Nedunjeliyan. He is accredited with defeating an aryan army.