web counter













THE great peninsula of India, from the Vindhya mountains southward to Comorin, is the home of the 'Dravidian' peoples. And here at the outset we are faced by a difficulty of terms. The word 'Dravidian' comes from an ethnic name Dravida or Dramida, in Pali Damila, which is apparently identical in origin with the adjective Tamil; and thus a title which is strictly applicable only to a single branch, the Tamils, is extended to a whole family. Again, not only is the term 'Dravidian' used sometimes to denote all the members of the one ethnic family, but it is also often employed to designate all the cognate languages spoken by that family - the Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada (Kanarese), and various minor dialects - without regard to the possible differences of race among the groups speaking these tongues; and furthermore, by a still more deplorable looseness of terminology, it has been applied by anthropologists to a group
of races characterised by common physical features, who are chiefly inhabitants of the peninsula, and for the most part, but by no means entirely, use languages which are variants of Dravidian speech.
Lastly, we must note that an ancient Tamil tradition speaks of a pancha-dravidam or five Dravidian regions, understanding thereby the Tamil, Andhra or Telugu, and Kanarese countries, the Maharashtra or Maratha provinces, and Gujarat. The conclusion which is suggested by a review of all the available data is as follows.

At some very early date, several millennia before the Christian era, the greater part of India was inhabited by a dark negroid race of low culture characterized more or less by the physical features now known as 'Dravidian' (very dark hue; long head; broad nose; abundant and sometimes curly hair; and dark eyes). This early people however should more properly be termed pre-Dravidian. In course of time another race, higher in culture and speaking a language of 'Scythian' affinities, from which are derived the tongues now known as 'Dravidian', gradually made its way from the north or north-west probably through Baluchistan into the plain of the Indus, and thence ultimately passed down into the regions south of the Vindhya. This race may be called the proto-Dravidian. Wherever it came, it mixed its blood to a greater or less degree with that of the earlier inhabitants. From this combination have arisen the Dravidians of history, who have preserved few traces of the physical characteristics of the proto-Dravidians, whatever those may have been. Most of the pre-Dravidian tribes in the countries south of the Vindhya adopted the speech of the proto-Dravidians, while they absorbed their blood, notably in the centre and south of the peninsula, the Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu regions. In Gujarat the waves of Aryan immigration gradually submerged Dravidian blood and speech; in Maharashtra the same influences obliterated the language, and the same has happened in Kalinga (now Orissa and part of the Circars), where a Dravidian language, the Telugu, survives only in the southern districts.

Long before the beginning of the Christian era the Dravidian South had developed a considerable culture of its own, and its inhabitants had consolidated themselves into powerful kingdoms, some of which carried on a thriving trade with Western Asia, Egypt, and later with the Greek and Roman empires. The chief of these were the three Tamil kingdoms, the Andhras, Kalingas, and Maharashtra.



The Tamils have retained more tenaciously than any of their kindred the ancient traditions of the proto-Dravidian race. True, they have written no histories until modern times; but they have preserved a large number of ancient poems relating to the exploits and administration of kings and princes in an age far earlier than the oldest existing literature of their Dravidian neighbours.

In the earliest time of which we have any record the Tamil-agam or Tamil realm extended over the greater part of the modern Madras Presidency, its boundaries being on the north a line running approximately from Pulicat on the coast to Venkatagiri (Tirupati), on the east the Bay of Bengal, on the south Cape Comorin, and on the west the Arabian Sea as far north as the 'White Rock' near Badagara, to the south of Mahé. Malabar was included in it; the Malayalam language had not yet branched off as a separate tongue from the parent Tamil. It consisted of three kingdoms, those of the Pandyas, Cholas or Sholas, and Cheras or Keralas. The Pandya kingdom comprised the greater part of the modern Madura and Tinnevelly Districts, and in the first century also Southern Travancore, and had its capital originally at Kolkai (on the Tambraparni river in Tinnevelly), and later at Madura.

The Chola region extended along the eastern coast, from the river Penner to the Vellar, and on the west reaching to about the borders of Coorg. Its capital was Uraiyur (Old Trichinopoly), arid it had a great port at Kaviri-pattinam or Pugar, on the northern bank of the river Cauvery (Kaveri). Another of its chief towns was Kanchi, now Conjeeveram.

The Chera or Kerala territory comprised Travancore, Cochin, and the Malabar District; the Kongu-desha (corresponding to the Coimbatore District and the southern part of Salem District), which at one time was separate from it, was afterwards annexed to it. Its capital was originally Vanji (now Tiru-karur, on the Periyar river, near Cochin), and later Tiru-vanjikkalam (near the mouth of the Periyar). It had important trading centres on the western coast at Tondi (on the Agalappulai, about five miles north of Quilandi), Muchiri (near the mouth of the Periyar), Palaiyur (near Chowghat), and Vaikkarai (close to Kottayam).

The races within these bounds were various. To the oldest stratum of pre-Dravidian blood probably belonged the savages termed by the ancient poets Villavar ('bowmen') and Minavar ('fishers'), of whom the former may possibly be identical with the modern Bhils, while the latter may have descendants in the Minas. Another group is that termed by the poets Nagas, a word which in Hindu literature commonly denotes a class of semi-divine beings, half men and half snakes, but is often applied by Tamil writers to a warlike race armed with bows and nooses and famous as freebooters. Several tribes mentioned in early literature are known with more or less certainty to have belonged to the Nagas, among them being the Aruvalar (in the Aruva-nadu and Aruva-vadatalai around Conjeeveram), Eyinar, Maravar, Oliyar, and Paradavar (a fisher tribe). A race of uncertain affinity was that of the Ayar, who in many respects resembled the Abhiras of Northern India, and seem to have brought into the south the worship of the herdsman-god Krishna.

The overlords of the Tamil-agam were the descendants of the proto-Dravidian invaders, the Tamils in the strict sense of the term. They with the races subject to them formed the three kingdoms of the Pandyas, Cholas, and Cheras, where the ruling element was the land-tilling class or Vellalar, at the head of whom were the kings. The Paindya king claimed descent from a tribe styled Marar, which however had for many years another important representative in the princes bearing the title Palaiyan Maran, 'the Ancient Maran', whose capital was Mogur, near the Podiya Hill, not far from Comorin. The Chola kings were alleged to belong to the tribe of Tiraiyar or 'Men of the Sea'; another Tiraiyan dynasty was reigning at Conjeeveram in the time of Karikal Chola. The Chera kings in their turn were said to be of the Vanavar tribe. Lastly we may mention a tribe called
Koshar, who may possibly belong to the Tamil race. From the references of the poets to them it would seem that they once made an unsuccessful attack on Mogur, and found allies in the Vamba-Moriyar or 'Bastard Mauryas' (possibly a branch of the Konkani Mauryas). At one time - possibly in the first century A.D. - they seem to have wielded considerable authority in the Pandyan regions and Kongu-desha, and to have given some trouble to the Cholas.

Even in the first century of the Christian era the south seems to have felt little influence from the Aryan culture of Northern India. Some Brahman colonies had made their way into the south, and in a few cases Brahmans had gained there a certain position in literature and religion; but on the whole they counted for little in the life of the people, especially as their teachings were counterbalanced by the influence of the powerful Buddhist and Jain churches, and Dravidian society was still free from the yoke of the Brahman caste-system. (The tradition that the Brahman sage Agastya led the first Aryan colony to the Podiya Hill and created Tamil literature probably arose in a later age, after Brahman influences had gained the ascendant in the south, on the basis of the legends in the Sanskrit epics.). Next to the arivar or sages, the highest place among the Tamils was held by the land-owning class, after whom ranked herdsmen, hunters, artisans, soldiers, and at the bottom of the social scale fishers and scavengers. Government was under the supreme control of the kings; but they were considerably influenced by the 'Five Great Assemblies', bodies representative of five classes of society. Probably there was also some organization of the provinces for local administration, as we find in historical times that each shire or nadu was divided into village communities and its representatives met in a shire-mote of several hundred men representing the families of the nadu, which possessed considerable power in the control of local affairs.

Before the first century of the Christian era there are very few allusions in the literature and historical records of other nations that testify to the vigorous life of these southern kingdoms. Of the evidence of their commerce with the west we have already spoken. Megasthenes, who visited the court of Chandragupta the Maurya towards the end of the 4th century BC, has left on record some rumours concerning them, including a legend that Heracles (i.e. the god Shiva) put the south under the rule of his daughter Tandaia. The Sanskrit epics mention them vaguely, as foreign lands outside their purview, though the legendary connection of the Pandyan kings of Madura with the Pandava heroes of the Mahabharata seems to have been acknowledged in the north as early as the second century BC, if any reliance is to be placed on the scholion to Panini. Ashoka in his inscriptions speaks of them among the foreign nations who have accepted the teachings of Buddhism. Lastly, Strabo makes mention of an embassy sent to Augustus Caesar about the year 22 BC by a king 'Pandion', possibly a Pandya of the Tamil country. Even in the next century the history of the Tamils is sadly obscure. Ancient Tamil poems and the commentaries upon them, supplemented by meagre notices in Pliny and other western writers, are almost the only sources of information, and their data are very uncertain. It seems however fairly probable that the course of events was as follows.

About the beginning of the Christian era the Chola king was Peru-nar-killi and the Chera Neduñ-jeral-adan. They went to war with one another, and both perished in the same battle. Peru-nar-killi was succeeded by his son Ilañ-jetcenni, the latter by his son Karikal, a vigorous ruler under whom the Cholas became the leading power of the south. Karikal at Vennil (possibly the modern Koyilvenni, in Tanjore District) defeated an allied army of Cheras under Adan I and Pandyas, and made a successful expedition to the north. At home he suppressed the turbulent Ayar, Aravalar, Kurumbar, and Oliyar, and made his capital at Kaviri-pattinam or Pugar, which he secured against floods by raising the banks of the Cauvery and constructing canals.

After his death the Chola kingdom suffered grievously from rebellion within and attack from without. The course of events is obscure; apparently Nedu-mudu-killi, who was reigning some time after him, gained a victory over the allied Cheras and Pandyas by the river Kari, but later was reduced to sore straits by a flood which destroyed Kaviri-pattinam and by an insurrection. He was however released from his difficulties by the aid of his kinsman the Chera Shen-guttuvan, the son of Adan II by a daughter of Karikal, who defeated the rebellious Cholas at Nerivayil and restored Nedu-mudu-killi. By Shen-guttuvan the Chera kingdom was raised to the hegemony of the south, and this position it maintained as long as he lived. The defeat of his successor Shey (Yanai-katshey) at Talaiy-alanganam by the Pandya king Neduñ-jeliyan II made the Pandyas the premier power until the rise of the Pallavas. Neduñ-jeliyan II was the son of Verri-ver-sheliyan or Ilañ-jeliyan, and grandson of Neduñ-jeliyan I, who is reputed to have defeated an Aryan army of unknown provenance.





The tribe of the Andhras, now known by the name of Telugus, appears early in Sanskrit literature. But these references are very vague, and only tell us that the Andhras were a non-Aryan people of some importance in the north-east of the Deccan. It may be inferred that their home then, as now, included the modern Telingana the provinces along the eastern coast between the deltas of the rivers Godavari and Kistna - together with as much of the Circars as they could hold against the rival kingdom of Kalinga on the north. More light is thrown upon them by the statements recorded by Pliny, from which it would appear that some time before the first century AD, perhaps in the age of Chandragupta the Maurya, they formed an independent kingdom and that they possessed 30 fortified towns and an army estimated at 100,000 infantry, 2000 horsemen, and 1000 elephants. Their earliest capital, according to the current view, was Shri-kakulam (now probably Sreewacolum on the Kistna, some nineteen miles west from Masulipatam). Somewhat later we find them with a capital at Dhanya-kataka (Dharanikota or Amaravati on the Kistna, in the Guntur District), and in the first century AD again with the centre of their western provinces at Pratishthana (Paithan on the Godavari, in North-western
Hyderabad). How far their territories in the earlier period stretched westward into Central India and the Deccan is unknown; their extent probably varied from time to time. Ashoka mentions them in his catalogues of the foreign countries which, according to him, had espoused his doctrine; but there is nothing to show that the Andhras were in any sense subject to him. Soon after his death however their history entered upon a new phase, on which considerable light is thrown by coins, inscriptions, and literature.

After the death of Ashoka the Maurya empire rapidly decayed, and neighbouring rulers were left free to indulge their ambitions and enlarge their boundaries. Among these was a certain Simuka, who in the last quarter of the third century BC established the powerful Satavahana or Shatakarni dynasty, which ruled the Telugu country for nearly five centuries. In his reign or in the reign of his immediate successor, his younger brother Krishna (vernacularly Kanha), the Andhra empire spread westward to at least 74' long., and possibly even to the Arabian Sea. Under these early Satavahana kings the boundaries of the Andhra dominions were enlarged so as to include a great part, if not the whole, of Vidarbha (Berar), the Central Provinces, and Hyderabad. A conflict between this formidable power and the declining Shunga empire of Magadha was inevitable; and about 170 BC war broke out between Agnimitra, ruling as viceroy of his father Pushyamitra at Vidisha (Bhilsa), and the king of Vidarbha, who at this period must almost certainly have been a feudatory of the Andhras. The campaign against Vidarbha is the only event in the struggle which is mentioned in literature; and in this the Shungas were successful. There can, however, be no doubt that the Andhras were ultimately victorious. Although no detailed records have been preserved, coins seem to show that the Andhras were in possession of Ujjain (W. Malwa) in about the middle of the second century BC, and an inscription bearing the name of a king Shatakarni proves that they had superseded the Shungas in the kingdom of Vidisha (E. Malwa) about a hundred years later.

But the Shungas and the Andhras were not the only powers which at this period were contending for the mastery in the region now known as Central India. The Hathigumpha inscription shows that, c. 150 BC, Kharavela, king of Kalinga, appeared in the field as a new combatant. We find here mention of a Shatakarni, who is supposed to be the successor of Krishna and the third monarch of the Andhra dynasty; and, according to the interpretation most commonly accepted of two passages in the inscription, Kharavela in the second year of his reign sent a large army to the West 'disregarding Shatakarni', and in his fourth year humbled the Rashtrikas (of the Maratha districts) and the Bhojakas (of Berar), who were no doubt subjects of the Andhra suzerain.

In his twelfth year Kharavela marched into Magadha, and there seems to have forced its king to sue for peace. Whether that king was still Pushyamitra, or indeed any member of the Shunga dynasty, is at present uncertain. In any case this humiliation of the once powerful kingdom of Magadha was doubtless to the advantage of the Andhras.

The Nanaghat inscriptions of this period record the names of a king Shatakarni, who may be identified with the rival of Kharavela, of his wife Naganika or Nayanika, and of their young sons Vedi-siri and Sati Sirimanta; but it is not clear whether either Vedi-siri or Sati ever attained to manhood and a throne.

For many years after this date Andhra history lies in darkness, faintly lighted only by the uncertain records of the Puranas. Trustworthy data fail us at this point, and the Andhras disappear from sight until the period to which the second volume of this History will be devoted.




The boundaries of Kalinga, the territory under the Eastern Ghats lying along the coast of the Bay of Bengal on the north of Telingana, seem to have been uncertain. On the north it may at one time have reached up to the delta of the Ganges, if reliance can be placed on the statements of Pliny, and thus included Odra-desha, now Orissa; but usually its northern limit was somewhat lower. South of this it comprised Utkala (Ganjam) and the Northern Circars down to the basin of the Godavari, or thereabouts. Early literature however distinguishes the Kalingas from the Odras or natives of Orissa. A somewhat unedifying epic legend makes the races of Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundra, and Suhma to be descendants of the saint Dirghatamas by Sudeshna, wife of king Bali; and similarly the grammar of Panini groups together Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundra, etc. The Odras also appear very early in Sanskrit literature (Taittiriya, Aranyaka, and the epics); and the law-book of 'Manu' wrongly classes them, with the natives of Pundra and the Dravidas, as degraded Kshatriyas. How far Kalinga is to be regarded as a Dravidian province is not clear. The name Pertalis, which is given by Pliny, as that of the capital of Kalinga, has a Dravidian sound, and Dravidian etymologies for it readily suggest themselves. At the present day the Circars and southern Ganjam are mainly Telugu in speech, and 'Dravidian' physical features are found in their populations, as well as in Orissa.

The only data of the early history of Kalinga, apart from unenlighteniug references in literature, are those that are supplied by the inscriptions of Ashoka and the Hathigumpha cave in Orissa. The edicts of Ashoka tell us that early in his reign about 262 BC he conquered Kalinga and ravaged it pitilessly. The sight of the horrors which he had brought upon the wretched land caused a revulsion of feeling in the king, and inclined him towards the Buddhist faith. When after his death the Maurya empire began to decay, Kalinga asserted its independence, and rose again to prosperity.

The most important of the Hathigumpha inscriptions is the record of Kharavela or Bhikshuraja, to whom reference has already been made. From this we learn that Kharavela of the Cheta family succeeded to the throne in the 24th year of his age. He claims to have had a population of 350,000 men in his capital, and to have increased the power of Kalinga by triumphs gained over his western and northern neighbours. He seems to have been a magnificent ruler of liberal tendencies, and styles himself 'a worshipper of men of all sects'. Other inscriptions record the names of king Vakradeva, probably his son, and of a prince Vadukha. For the rest, all is dark.





On the western side of the peninsula, south of the Vindhya, and forming approximately the southern half of what is now the Bombay Presidency, lies a group of provinces, which in ancient times were inhabited by a population of more or less Dravidian blood, upon which were superimposed successive strata of Aryan immigrants entering apparently from Vidarbha (Berar). The term Dakshina-patha, 'southern region'' whence comes the modern Deccan, is often applied to the greater part of this country, but not very accurately, for strictly it denotes only the region around the upper waters of the Godavari and the lands between it and the Kistna, which were also known by the names of Dandakaranya and Maharashtra, and were the home of the race which in later times became famous in history under the name of Maharashtras or Marathas. With the latter were probably connected the tribes of Rattas and Rashtrakutas who some centuries later played an important part in the history of the Deccan, as well as the Rathikas whom Ashoka mentions as having accepted his doctrine.

West of the Maharashtra lay the realm of Aparanta (the Northern Konkan), with a capital at Shurparaka (now Sopara), also included by Ashoka in his list of believers. The Petenikas, mentioned by him in the same connection , have been plausibly identified with the Paithanikas or natives of Paithan. Another tribe to whom he alludes is that of the Satiya-putas. Possibly they may represent the region around Mangalore; but it is at least equally likely that they were the forefathers of the Satavahana dynasty of the Andhra-desha. It is recorded in the Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa that Buddhist missions were sent by Moggali-putta Tissa to Maharashtra, Aparanta, Vanavasa (Banavasi, in the extreme south of North Kanara), and Mahisa-mandala (probably Mahishmant or the country of the Mahishakas, who in the Puranas are associated with the Maharashtras and are said to have had a capital Mahishmati on the Narbada), and hence it would appear that these regions were fairly civilized; but no trustworthy details of their history in this period have been preserved.