The Pandyas were one of the three small Dhravidian races that occupied the southern extremity of India. Around 700 BC, Dhravidians must have penetrated into S.India and organized themselves into distinguishable communities. Titles such as Solan, Pandiyan, and Keralas proves the existence of such a community. Early Pandyan Kingdom comprised the greater part of modern Madura and Tinnevelly district during 1st century AD. Their original capital was at Kolkoi (on the Thambraparny river in Tinnevelly) and later at Madura. Ashokan edicts of 3rd Century BC mentions of Pandyas. Kongu Ratta inscription of early 5th century AD recorded the conflict of Pandyas with Kongu Rattas. Not much is known about Pandyas then onwards until 7th century AD. Cheras, possibly remained as allies of Pandyas for a larger period than the Cholas. The dependence with Cholas and Cheras allowed them to continue free movement and trade along the coast of SriLanka. Around 940 AD, Rajaraja Chola reduced the Pandyas to a condition of tributary dependence and the position continued for the next two centuries. After Chola dominance, Madura Sultans, Vijayanagara Rayas, Nayakas of Madura, Nawabs of Arcot took turn to rule the once powerful Pandyan Kingdom. Pandyas were restricted to unimportant areas of Tinnevelly district. At the end of 16th century, Pandya dynasty disappeared from Indian scene once for all.
Madhurapuri (Madurai) grew and prospered to become the capital of the Pandyan Kingdom. It is referred to in the Ramayana and Kautily`s Arthashastra. Megasthenes (302 BC), Pliny (77 AD) and Ptolemy (140 AD) wrote of "Madura, the kingdom of the Pandian`. Macro Polo visited Madurai in 1293 AD and Ibn Batuta in 1333 AD. Madurai lies on the banks
The dynasty extended its power into Kerala (southwestern India) and Sri Lanka during the reigns of kings Kadungon (ruled 590–620), Arikesar Maravarman (670–700), Varagunamaharaja I (765–815), and Srimara Srivallabha (815–862). Pandya influence peaked in Jatavarman Sundara's reign 1251–1268. After Madurai was invaded by forces from the Delhi sultanate in 1311, the Pandyas declined into merely local rulers.
The early Pandyan dynasty of the Sangam literature went into obscurity during the invation of the Kalabhras. The dynasty revived under Kadungon in the early 6th century, pushed the Kalabhras out of the Tamil country and ruled from Madurai. They again went into decline with the rise of the Cholas in the 9th century and were in constant conflict with them. Pandyas allied themselves with the Sinhalese and the Keralas in harassing the Chola empire until they found an opportunity for reviving their fortunes during the late 13th century. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan (c. 1251) expanded their empire in to the Telugu country and invaded Sri Lanka to conquer the northern half of the island. They also had extensive trade links with the Southeast Asian maritime empires of Srivijaya and their successors.