Tamilakam refers to the geographical region inhabited by the ancient
Tamilakam covered today's Tamil Nadu, Kerala,
Lakshadweep and southern parts of
Andhra Pradesh and
Karnataka. Traditional accounts and Tholkāppiyam referred these
territories as a single cultural area, where Tamil was the natural
language [note 1] and culture of all people.[note 2] The ancient Tamil
country was divided into kingdoms. The best known among them were the
Cheras, Cholas, Pandyans and Pallavas. During the Sangam period, Tamil
culture began to spread outside Tamilakam. Ancient Tamil
settlements were also found in
Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan Tamils) and the
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3.3 Nadus outside Tamiḻakam
4 Geocultural unity
5 Cultural influence
7 See also
10.1 Printed sources
"Tamiḻakam" is a portmanteau of a word and suffix from the Tamil
language, namely Tamiḻ and -akam. It can be roughly translated as
the "homeland of the Tamils". According to Kamil Zvelebil, the term
seems to be the most ancient term used to designate Tamil territory in
the Indian subcontinent.
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, as well as Ptolemy's writings,
mention the term "Limyrike" which corresponds to the
Malabar Coast of
south-western India. Based on a misinterpretation of the Roman map
Tabula Peutingeriana and the possible phonetic connection between the
words "Damir-" and "Tamil", some modern scholars have wrongly
Limyrike as "Damirica" (or "Damirice"), considering it as a
synonym of "Tamilakam". The "Damirice" mentioned in the Tabula
Peutingeriana actually refers to an area between the
Himalayas and the
The term "Tamilakam" appears to be the most ancient term used for
designating the Tamil territory. The earliest sources to mention it
Purananuru 168.18 and
Patikam 2.5. The
Specific Preface (cirappuppayiram) of the more ancient text
Tolkāppiyam mentions the terms tamil-kuru nal-lulakam ("the beautiful
world [where] Tamil is spoken") and centamil ... nilam ("the territory
... of refined Tamil"). However, this preface, which is of uncertain
date, is definitely a later addition to the original Tolkāppiyam.
According to the
Tolkāppiyam preface, "the virtuous land in which
Tamil is spoken as the mother tongue lies between the northern Venkata
hill and the southern Kumari."
Silappadikaram (c. 5th-6th century CE) defines the
The Tamil region extends from the hills of Vishnu [Tirupati] in the
north to the oceans at the cape in the south. In this region of cool
waters were the four great cities of:
Madurai with its towers; Uraiyur
which was famous; tumultuous Kanchi; and
Puhar with the roaring waters
Kaveri and the ocean].
While these ancient texts do not clearly define the eastern and
western boundaries of the Tamilakam, scholars assume that these
boundaries were the seas, which may explain their omission from the
ancient definition. The ancient
Tamilakam thus included the
present-day Kerala. However, it excluded the present-day
Tamil-inhabited territory in the
Jaffna Peninsula of Sri Lanka.
Main article: History of Tamil Nadu
Approximately during the period between 350 BCE to 200 CE,
Tamiḻakam was ruled by the three Tamil dynasties: the
Satyaputra dynasty and the
Chera dynasty. There
were also a few independent chieftains, the Velirs. During the time of
Maurya Empire in North India (c. 4th century BCE – 3rd
century BCE) the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Cholas were in a late
megalithic phase on the western coast of Tamiḻakam. The earliest
datable references to the Tamil kingdoms are in inscriptions from the
3rd century BCE during the time of the Maurya Empire.
Pandyan dynasty ruled parts of
South India until the early 17th
century. The heartland of the Pandyas was the fertile valley of the
Vaigai River. They initially ruled their country from Korkai, a
seaport on the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula, and in later
times moved to Madurai. The
Chola dynasty ruled from before the Sangam
period (3rd century BCE) until the 13th century in central Tamil Nadu.
The heartland of the Cholas was the fertile valley of the Kaveri. The
Chera dynasty ruled from before the
Sangam period (3rd century) until
the 12th century over an area corresponding to modern-day western
Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The Vealirs (Vēḷir) were minor dynastic kings and aristocratic
Tamiḻakam in the early historic period of South
Tamiḻakam was divided into political regions called Perunadu or
"Great country", "nadu" means country.
There were three important political regions which were Chera
Chola Nadu and Pandya Nadu. Along these three
there were two more political regions of Athiyaman Nadu (Sathyaputha)
and Thamirabharani Nadu (Then Paandi) which were later on absorbed
Chera resp. Pandya Nadu by 3rd century BCE. Thondai Nadu which
Chola Nadu, later emerged as independent
Pallava Nadu by 6th
Tamilakam resp. Perunadus was resp. were divided into 12
socio-geographical regions called Nadu or "country". Each of this Nadu
had their own dialect of Tamil.
Aruva Vadathalai nadu
Nadus outside Tamiḻakam
Some other Nadus were also mentioned in Tamil literatures which
weren't part of Tamilakam, but the countries traded with
Tamil speaking lands:
Eela Nadu (Eelam)
Naga Nadu or Yazh Kuthanadu (Jaffna Peninsula)
Vanni Nadu (Vanni region)
Chavaka Nadu (Java)
Kadara Nadu (Kedah)
Singhala Nadu 
Tulu Nadu (Land of the Tulu people)
Vadugu Nadu 
Kannada Nadu  (Land of Kannada people)
Erumai Nadu 
Telunka Nadu  (Land of Telugu people)
Kolla Nadu 
Vanka Nadu 
Magadha Nadu 
Kucala Nadu 
Konkana Nadu 
Kampocha Nadu (Cambodia) 
Palantivu Nadu (Maldives) 
Kupaka Nadu 
Marattha Nadu 
Vatuka Nadu 
Tinmaitivu (Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
Although the area covered by the term "Tamilakam" was divided among
multiple kingdoms, its occurrence in the ancient literature implies
that the region's inhabitants shared a cultural or ethnic identity, or
at least regarded themselves as distinct from their neighbours.
The ancient Tamil inscriptions, ranging from 3rd or 2nd century BCE to
2nd or 3rd century CE, are also conisdered as linguistic evidence for
Tamilakam from the rest of South India. The ancient
non-Tamil inscriptions, such as those of the northern kings
Kharavela, also allude to the distinct identity of the region. For
example, Ashoka's inscriptions refer to the independent states lying
beyond the southern boundary of his kingdom, and Kharavdela's
Hathigumpha inscription refers to the destruction of a "confederacy of
However, the archaeological evidence does not support the existence of
"Tamilakam" as a distinct cultural region: the material culture and
habitations discovered in present-day
Tamil Nadu and
Kerala are also
found elsewhere in peninsular India and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Tamils
Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Civil War
With the advent of the early historical period in South India and
the ascent of the three Tamil kingdoms in
South India in the 3rd
Tamil culture began to spread outside Tamiḻakam. In
the 3rd century BCE, more Tamil settlers arrived in Sri Lanka. The
Annaicoddai seal, dated to the 3rd century BCE, contains a bilingual
inscription in Tamil-Brahmi.Though
Tamils have been living in Sri
Lanka since the Ancient era at least with universally accepted
dates of at least the 10th century BCE showing signs of Tamil
civilization in Sri Lanka[note 3] Excavations in the area of
Tissamaharama in southern
Sri Lanka have unearthed locally issued
coins produced between the second century BCE and the second century
CE, some of which carry local Tamil personal names written in early
Tamil letters, which suggest that local Tamil merchants were
present and actively involved in trade along the southern coast of Sri
Lanka by the late classical period. Around 237 BCE, "two
adventurers from southern India" established the first Tamil rule
at Sri Lanka. In 145 BCE Elara, a
Chola general or prince
known as Ellāḷaṉ[non-primary source needed] took over the
Anuradhapura and ruled for forty-four years. Dutugamunu,
a Sinhalese, started a war against him, defeated him, and took over
the throne. Tamil Kings have been dated in
Sri Lanka to at
least the 3rd century BCE  with great accuracy and older ones
were being excavated throguh archaeological means before the Civil War
lead to widespread destruction of historically Tamil Lands in Sri
Jains, Buddhists and Hindus have coexisted in Tamil country for at
least as early as the second century BCE.
History of Kerala
History of Tamil Nadu
^ Thapar mentions the existence of a common language of the Dravidian
Ashoka in his inscription refers to the peoples of South India
as the Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas and Satiyaputras - the crucible of the
Tamilakam - called thus from the predominant language of
the Dravidian group at the time, Tamil".
^ See, for example, Kanakasabhai.
^ An archaeological team led by K.Indrapala of the University of
Jaffna excavated a megalithic burial complex at Anaikoddai in Jaffna
District, Sri Lanka. In one of the burials, a metal seal was found
assigned by the excavators to c. the 3rd century BCE.
^ Thapar 2004, p. 229.
^ Kanakasabhai 1904, p. 10.
^ a b c Singh 2009, p. 384.
^ a b Zvelebil 1992, p. xi.
^ Lionel Casson (2012). The Periplus Maris Erythraei: Text with
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pp. 213–214. ISBN 1-4008-4320-0.
^ Peter Schalk; A. Veluppillai; Irāmaccantiran̲ Nākacāmi (2002).
Tamils in pre-colonial
Tamilakam and Īlam. Almqvist
& Wiksell. p. 56. ISBN 978-91-554-5357-2.
^ Zvelebil 1992, p. x.
^ a b Shu Hikosaka (1989).
Buddhism in Tamilnadu: A New Perspective.
Institute of Asian Studies. p. 3.
^ Kanakalatha Mukund (2015). The World of the Tamil Merchant: Pioneers
of International Trade. Penguin Books. p. 27.
^ P. C. Alexander (1949).
Buddhism in Kerala. Annamalai University.
^ K. P. K. Pillay (1963).
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Madras. p. 40.
^ Mahadevan, Iravatham (2009). "Meluhha and Agastya : Alpha and
Omega of the Indus Script" (PDF). Chennai, India. p. 16. The
Ventar - Velir - Vellalar groups constituted the ruling and
land-owning classes in the Tamil country since the beginning of
^ Fairservis, Walter Ashlin (1992) . The Harappan civilization
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Oxford & IBH. pp. 52–53. ISBN 978-81-204-0491-5.
^ a b Iyengar, P. T. Srinivasa (1929-01-01). History of the Tamils
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^ Ponnumuthan, Sylvister (1996). The Spirituality of Basic Ecclesial
Communities in the Socio-Religious Context of Trivandrum/Kerala,
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^ S. Soundararajan (1991). Ancient Tamil country: its social and
economic structure. Navrang. p. 30.
^ K. Lakshminarasimhan; Muthuswamy Hariharan; Sharada Gopalam (1991).
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^ Kanakasabhai 1904.
^ History of the
Tamils from the Earliest Times to 600 A.D., P. T.
Srinivasa Iyengar, Asian Educational Services 1929, p.151
^ Sri Varadarajaswami Temple, Kanchi: A Study of Its History, Art and
Architecture, K.V. Raman Abhinav Publications, 01.06.2003, p.17
^ Census of India, 1961: India, India. Office of the Registrar General
Manager of Publications.
^ a b The
Sri Lanka Reader: History, Culture, Politics, By John Holt,
Duke University Press, 13 April 2011 see (Tamil Nadus in Rajarata
^ Ancient India: Collected Essays on the Literary and Political
History of Southern India, By Sakkottai Krishnaswami Aiyangar, Asian
Educational Services 1911, p.121.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r International Journal of
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^ Seminar on Social and Cultural History of Salem District, Institute
of Kongu Studies, 1982, p.7
^ Government of India (1908). "The Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Local
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of the naked people.
^ Abraham 2003, p. 211.
^ Abraham 2003, pp. 211-212.
^ Abraham 2003, p. 212.
^ Abraham 2003, p. 208,217.
^ Wenzlhuemer 2008, p. 19-20.
^ de Silva 2005, p. 129.
^ Indrapala 2007, p. 91.
^ Subramanian, T. S. (27 January 2006). "Reading the past in a more
inclusive way:Interview with Dr. Sudharshan Seneviratne". Frontline.
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^ a b Mahadevan 2002.
^ Mahadevan, I. "Ancient Tamil coins from Sri Lanka", pp. 152–154
^ Bopearachchi, O. "Ancient
Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu", pp. 546–549
^ a b c d Reddy 2003, p. 45.
^ "The Five Kings - Mahasiva, Suratissa, Elara, Asela, Sena, and
Guttika". mahavamsa.org. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
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^ Indrapala 2007, p. 324.
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