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The Deccan and South India         [65 BC - 250 AD]

India, south of the Vindhya mountains and the Narmada river, was known as Deccan. Further south was the land of the Dravidas (or Tamils). From ancient times, these lands were home to Indians of non-Aryan origin.


The Satavahanas (28 BC - 250 AD), also known as the Andhras, emerged as an independent power in the Deccan in the first century BC. It was founded by Simuka (65 BC - 25 BC). His son, Satakarni (25 BC - 20 AD), succeeded him. Under the Satavahanas, many Buddhist worshipping halls (Chaityas) and monasteries (Viharas) were cut out from rocks. Some famous examples are Amravati and Nagarjuna Konda. Buddhist cave temples were also cut at the now-famous sites of Ajanta and Ellora.

With the Satavahanas providing lines of communication between the north and the south, the isolation of the southern kingdoms ended. Significantly, trade and exchange of ideas increased.

Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas

South of the Deccan plateau and of the Satavahana kingdom, three dynasties emerged. These were the Cholas in the area of Tanjore; the Pandyas centred in Madurai and the Cheras along the Malabar coast. The Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas appear to have been continually at war with each other. Cultural interaction between these kingdoms and the north, exposed the rest of India to the rich Sangam literature of south. Sangams were assemblies of Tamil poets held in Madurai, probably under the royal patronage of the Pandya kings.

Religious ideas from the north, such as the worship of the Vedic gods and the doctrines of Buddhism and Jainism were known to the people of the south. Some of them followed these religions, but most people still worshipped their gods and goddesses and practiced their own religious ceremonies.

This was also the time when most of the Vedic gods passed into oblivion. Their place was taken by the trinity of gods, with Brahma as the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. It is believed that when evil is rampant, various incarnations of Vishnu enter the world of men to save them. Krishna is one such 'avatar'. It is also said that Shiva evolved from the Tamil god of Fertility, Murugan.

St. Thomas is said to have come to India to spread Christianity in the first century AD. It first spread among the people of the Malabar coast and in areas near present-day Madras.