Ancient Bharat
The Kings

Almost all the works of the Sangam mention three important dynasties namely the Cheras, Cholas and the Pandyas. They are usually mentioned in a particular order. Accordingly, the Cheras might have been the oldest of all followed by the Cholas and the Pandyas. Other than these three, there were a large number other independent chieftains as well. These chieftains shared the government of the country.

The Cheras were known by many other titles like Vanavar, Kudavarand so on. The Cholas were also known as Sennis, Sembiyas, Valavan and Killi.
Minavar, Kavuriyar, Panchavar, Tennar, Seliyar, Marar, Valudi were the other names used by the Pandyas.

There were a large number of more or less independent chieftains who shared the government of the country.

The Sangam poets did not describe the political history of their patrons. Even if some instances are discussed, they are exaggerated. On the basis of the available sources, a brief account of these dynasties can be given.

The Cheras

The Cheras ruled over parts of Kerala and Tamilham. One of the earliest known Chera rulers was Udiyanjeral, (130 A.D.) It is noted by the poets that he freely distributed food to the people. His son, Imayavaramaban Nedunjeral Adan, (155 A.D.) succeeded him. He is said to have captured several Yavanas. He did not release them until he received a heavy ransom in the form of diamonds and many utensils of fine workmanship.

The greatest of the early Chera king was Pirakottiya Senaguttuvan. Paranar describes a number of conquests of Senaguttuvan, including a campaign to North India. Senaguttuvan was succeeded by his half-brother Perunjeral Adan, (180 A.D.)

The later Chera rulers were continuously at war with the Cholas. The Chera dynasty declined at the beginning of the third century A.D.The fame of this dynasty lies in liberal patronage to Tamil poets and promotion of trade with the Romans.

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The Cholas

The Chola dominion was known as Cholamandalam. The Cholas had their capital was at Uraiyur in Tiruchirapalli district. Karikala was the most distinguished king amongst the Sangam Cholas. He was a contemporary of the Chera king Perunjeral Adan.

Karikala was a very competent ruler and a great warrior. He maintained a powerful navy, which he used to conquer Sri Lanka. He made Puhar or Kaveripumpattinam an important port and an alternative capital of the Chola kingdom. After the death of Karikala there was utter confusion in the state. Two sons of Karikala ruled from different capitals- the elder from Uraiyar and the younger one from Puhar.

The last great Chola ruler after Karikala was Nedunjelian. He successfully fought against the Pandyas and the Cheras both. Many Tamil poems describe his heroism and refer to the Vedic sacrifice performed by him. After the third century A.D. the Chola dominion rapidly declined as a result of repeated attacks by the Pandyas and the Cheras.

The Pandyas

The Pandyas are mentioned in the Asokan edicts, in the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. The Pandyas were most famous for patronizing the poets and scholars of the Tamil Sangams. The earliest known Pandyan ruler was Palyagasalai Mudukudumi. In the Sangam literature, he is mentioned as a great conqueror, a patron of poets and performer of many sacrifices.

Aryappadaikadanda Nedunjhelian was another important ruler of the Pandyas. He ruled from Madura and was himself a poet. Many later Pandyan rulers are found mentioned in the Sangam literature, but it is not possible to fix either their chronology or verify their exploits.

Under the Pandyas their capital Madura and the Pandyan port Korkai were great centers of trade and commerce. The Pandyan dominion was very wealthy and prosperous on account of the brisk Indo-Roman trade. To further promote this trade, the Pandyan kings sent embassies to the Roman emperor Augustus and Trojan.


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