Tamil Nadu, the southern state of India, is famous for its unique culture, tradition and language. The state has a history dating back to pre-historical era and it had remained mostly immune to foreign invasions. This gave way for the Tamil people to safeguard their language and cultural values. From the ancient Tamil texts and monuments, historians specify three rulers as the most powerful in the region for several centuries. In Tamil, they are called “Moovendar”, which means three great kings. They are Chera, Chozha and Pandya. All these three rulers had co-existed along the same time-line, ruling various parts of Tamil Nadu. They had different capitals, emblems and flags, and all of them are best known from various architectural and literary works.
The Chera rulers ruled most of the portions of current Kerala. Their reign covered a small portion of Tamil Nadu along the modern Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. Their existence in south India is proved since 4th century B.C. There is a lack of information regarding their reign from 5th to 8th century A.D. Then, they came back to power and ruled south-west India till 12th century A.D.
There is lack of information for few centuries regarding the rule of all three moovendars. This darkness in history leads to a break within the history of Tamil Nadu. Among the Cheras, Senguttuvan is the most famous king who is mentioned in the Tamil epic, Silappathigaaram.
The Chozha dynasty ruled Tamil Nadu and other parts of south India, and also Maldives and parts of Sri Lanka. The beginning of their reign is unknown but from the inscriptions of Asoka, they had existed as a powerful empire around 4th century B.C. This means that their origin may be older than that.
The Chozha kingdom flourished along the fertile banks of river Kaveri. They excelled in art, architecture and literature. Of all the contributions from the side of Chozhas, their architectural masterpieces stand apart. The dam of Kallanai, one of the oldest dams of the world, was built by Karikala Chozhan.
The Chozhas used Tiger as their symbol, which was inscribed on their flags and emblems. They had many conflicts with neighbouring countries, but they ruled their kingdom with organized rules and regulations. Their power was overthrown by the rising Pandya kingdom around 13th century.
The Pandya dynasty is believed to have existed several centuries even prior to historical evidences. Earliest archaeological findings belonging to the Pandyan dynasty is assumed to be from 4th century B.C. But the Pandyan kingdom might have existed even before that.
The Pandyan kings ruled parts of south India and Sri Lanka. Their reign covered most of the present Tamil Nadu, extending southward from Madurai. Their emblem was Fish and their coins had elephant images. They were one of the powerful rulers of India and their reign is believed to be one of the longest in the history of India.
Pandyan kings were legends in marine trade. They excelled in pearl fishing and shipping. They had extensive trade contacts with the Romans. Information about Pandyan kings are available as short notes in ancient Tamil literatures. Their capital was Madurai and they established Tamil sangam to produce a huge volume of Tamil literary works.
From time to time, they remained dormant due to other dominating kingdoms such as Chozhas. But they often came back with vengeance and defeated their enemies. During the later periods of their rule, they shifted their capital to Tenkasi and Tirunelveli. The era of Pandyas came to an end around 17th century, submitting their province to Delhi sultanate.
The moovendar, as mentioned in Tamil literary works, are highly responsible for shaping the cultural and socio-economic facets of Tamil Nadu. They were intelligent in agricultural science, water management and politics. This led to the formation of a highly developed society with a strong economic background.