Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu, ("Land of the Tamils") is a state at the southern tip of India. The bordering states/territories are Pondicherry, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The nation of Sri Lanka, which has a significant Tamil minority, lies off the southeast coast.

Tamil Nadu was formerly called Madras State. Upon India's independence, Madras state was much larger than the present state; In 1953, the Telugu-speaking northeastern part of the state became the new state of Andhra Pradesh. In 1956, the state acquired its present borders when the western portion of Madras state, on the Arabian Sea, was divided between Mysore state (later Karnataka) and the new state of Kerala. In August 1968 Madras state was re-named Tamil Nadu. State politics continue to have a lot to do with protecting and celebrating the Tamil (and Dravidian) language and culture.

Capital Chennai
Language Tamil
Governor PS Rammohan Rao
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa
Area 130, 058sq.km
 - Total
 - Density

62,110,839 (2001)
Literacy rate :
 - Total
 - Male
 - Female


Unlike most other parts of the country, Tamil Nadu gets its rainfall largely from the "North-East monsoon" in the months of October-December. Farmers are very dependent on the fickle handful of cyclonic storms that are formed in this season in the Bay of Bengal.

There is a long standing dispute with Karnataka over the matter of Cauvery river water. The river flows south from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu. The contention is over whether or not the upper riparian Karnataka has released its fair share of river water to the lower riparian Tamil Nadu.

Chennai, which was known until 1996 as Madras, is the largest city and the state capital. Chennai is the home of Marina Beach, the second largest beach in the world. Coimbatore,Cuddalore, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Salem and Tirunelveli are other large cities of Tamil Nadu. Silver Beach in Cuddalore is the largest beach next only to Marina and is of tourist importance.

Tamil Nadu is known for its rich tradition of literature, music and dance which are continuing to flourish today. It is one of the most industrialized states in India. Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu (as well as one of the official languages of India).

Some of the prominent personalities from the state are Subramanya Bharathy, C.V. Raman, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, R K Narayan, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Abdul Kalam and Vilayanur Ramachandran. Other mythological and/or ancient personalities include Kannagi, Thiruvalluvar, Kambar and Manuneedhi Chozan. Alan Turing, the theoretical computer scientist, spent his early childhood in the then Madras presidency. Tamil Nadu is also home to India's second largest film industry after Bollywood, producing a huge number of Tamil films each year.


Tamil Nadu has a very ancient history that dates back to some 6000 years and the origin of its people is closely tied to the debates of the Aryan invasion theory. Those who uphold this theory favour the view that the Tamils belong to the Dravidian race and were part of the early Indus Valley settlers. Later with the advent of the Aryans, the Dravidians were pushed back into the deep south where they ultimately settled. The present day states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh constitute the Dravidian culture. Whatever be the historical truth, the identity of the Tamils has largely been forged on this ground.

The Dravida Nadu of which modern Tamil Nadu formed a part was constituted by various kingdoms such as that of the Pallava, the Chera, the Chola, the Pandya, the Chalukya and the Vijayanagara.

The history of Pandyan kingdom dates as early as 6th Century B.C. Madurai was founded by the first Pandyan king Kulasekara.The Pandyas excelled in trade and learning. They controlled the present districts of Madurai and Tirunelveli and part of South Kerala. The Pandyas had trading contacts with Greece and Rome and were powerful in their own right, though they were subjugated during various periods by the Pallavas and Cholas.

4th to 9th Century

The early Cholas reigned between 1st and 4th century AD. The first and the most famous king of this period was Karikalan, who built the kallanai (kall - stone, anai - bund), a dam across the river Cauvery considered to be an engineering marvel of that time.The Cholas occupied the present Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli Districts and excelled in military exploits.

During the later half of 4th century AD, Pallavas the great temple builders emerged into prominence dominated the south for another 400 years. They ruled a large portion of Tamil Nadu with Kanchipuram as their base. In the 6th century they defeated the Cholas and reigned as far as Ceylon(Sri Lanka).Among the greatest Pallava rulers were Mahendravarman-l and his son Narasimhavarman. Dravidian architecture reached its epitome during Pallava rule. The last Pallava King was Aparajitha. He was defeated by Aditya Chola towards the end of the 9th century AD.

9th to 13th Century

The Cholas again rose to power by 9th century AD. Under Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, the Cholas rose as a supreme power in South India. The Chola empire stretched as far as central India, Orissa and parts of West Bengal. Rajaraja Chola conquered the eastern Chalukya kingdom, defeated the Cheras, annexed parts of Ceylon by defeating the Pandyas. Rajendra Chola went beyond and occupied the islands of Andaman Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Sumatra, Java, Malaya and the islands of Pegu with his fleet of ships. He defeated Mahipala the king of Bihar and Bengal and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital called 'Gangaikonda Cholapuram'.The power of the Cholas declined around the 13th century.

14th Century

With the decline of the Cholas, the Pandyas rose to prominence once again in the early 14th century. But it was short lived, when the they were subdued by the Khilji invaders from the North in 1316.The city of Madurai was completely destroyed and ransacked. The Muslim invasion weakened both the Cholas and Pandyas and led to the establishment of Bahmani Kingdom.

The Muslim invasion of the South in the 14th century caused a retaliatory reaction from the Hindus, who rallied to build a strong new kingdom, called the Vijayanagara empire. It absorbed all strongholds of Cholas and other local Hindu rulers to check the Muslims. Governors called Nayaks were engaged to run different territories of the empire. With Hampi as the Capital, Vijayanagar Empire was the most prosperous dynasty in the south. But by 1564 the empire came to an end at the hands of Deccan Sultans in the battle of Talikota. The empire was split into many parts and was given to the Nayaks to rule. Tamil Country under Nayaks was peaceful and prosperous. The Nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavur were most prominent of them all. They reconstructed some of the oldest temples in the country.

The kingdom of the Cheras comprised of the modern state of Kerala and parts of the Malabar. Their proximity to the sea favoured trade with Romans. This small territory never experienced the conquest of the Muslims and remained independent till the British period.

17th century

With the establishment of the British East India Company at Madras in 1639, a new chapter was opened in the history of Tamil Nadu. Petty quarrels among provincial rulers helped the British to gain administrative control over them. Slowly but steadily, the whole of Tamil Nadu and most of South India came under the British. Under the British colonial rule, most of the south India was integrated into the region called Madras Presidency.

Tamil Nadu had its share of Chieftains or Poligars who fought British East India Company while it was laying out its designs in bringing entire region under its rule, chief among them being Veerapandya Kattabomman, Maruthus and Pulithevan.

20th century

When India became independent in 1947, Madras Presidency became Madras State, comprising Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh, northern Kerala, and the southwest coast of Karnataka.

In 1953 Madras State was bifurcated into two states: Andhra Pradesh, comprising the northern Telugu speaking areas, and Madras State, comprising the southern Tamil-speaking areas. Under the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, Madras State lost its western coastal districts to the states of Kerala and Mysore. In 1968, Madras State adopted a new name - Tamil Nadu. The capital city Madras was renamed Chennai in 1996.


Tamil Nadu had a bicameral legislature until 1986, when it was replaced with a unicameral legislature, like most other states in India.

  • Number of Lok Sabha Constituencies : 39
  • Number of Assembly Constituencies : 234

Regional parties have dominated state politics since 1967.

One of the earliest regional parties was the South Indian Welfare Association, which was founded in 1916. It came to be known as the "Justice Party" after the name of its English-language daily, Justice. E.V. Ramaswamy, popularly known as "Periyar", renamed the party Dravidar Kazhagam in 1944. DK was a non-political party which demanded the establishment of an independent state called Dravida Nadu. However, due to the differences between its two leaders Periyar and C.N. Annadurai, the party was split.

Annadurai left the party to form the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The DMK decided to enter into politics in 1956. The Anti-Hindi agitations in mid-1960s made the DMK more popular and more powerful in the state. The DMK routed the Congress Party in the 1967 elections and took control of the state government, ending Congress's stronghold in Tamil Nadu. M. Karunanidi became the party's leader after the death of Annadurai in 1969.

Karunanidhi's leadership was soon challenged by M.G. Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR. in 1972, he split from DMK and formed the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). He was the Chief Minister of the state from 1977 until his death in 1987. After the death of MGR, the party split again into two factions, one lead by Janaki Ramachandran, wife of MGR, and the other lead by J. Jayalalithaa. After the defeat of AIADMK in 1989 assembly polls, both factions were merged and Jayalalithaa took control of the party. She was elected as the General Secretary of the unified AIADMK.

There have been splits in both the DMK and the AIADMK, but since 1967 one of those two parties has held power in the state. Currently, the leader of the AIADMK, J. Jayalilathaa, is the Chief Minister of the state.


Tamil Nadu is one of the most industrialised states in India. It also has a large proportion of the population engaged in agricultural activities. The district of Coimbatore is known for its textile trade. The city of Tirupur is the largest garment exporter in India. Salem is known for its steel plants and mango agriculture. The cauvery delta of Tanjore is known for its rice fields. Chennai is also known as the Detroit of India because of its automotive industry. The Tidel Park is a modern IT park which aims at promoting IT in the state.

Social development

The Dravidian movement, which began in Tamil Nadu, aimed at providing opportunities to all irrespective his or her caste or religion. Educating the people and eradicating the superstition which plagued society was one of their objectives. They had a commitment to social justice led to an education revolution in the state. Today many of India's premiere colleges are located in the state. One of the biggest achievements of the Dravidian parties and the earlier Kamaraj regime was their dedication to providing primary education. Schemes such as "Mid-day meals", by Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, ensured children went to school and leading to a tremendous increase in the literacy rates in the state.


There are 30 Districts in Tamil Nadu, with Krishnagiri District being the 30th with headquarters at Krishnagiri, by bifurcating the Dharmapuri district


Pongal, a four day harvest festival, is the most celebrated festival of Tamilnadu, followed in importance by Diwali. Tamil New year, which generally falls on April 14 or 15 of the english calendar, is another event of celebration. The first month in the tamil calendar is Chittirai. Apart from these, the other national festivals like Dasara, Holy and Vinayaka Chathurthi are also celebrated.


Tamil Nadu is a land of varied beauty. It is mostly famous for its numerous Hindu temples based on the Dravidian architecture. The temples are of distinct style which is famous for its towering Gopuram. The cities famous for its temples are Madurai, Trichy, Tanjore, Kancheepuram, Palani and Mahabalipuram. Kanyakumari is the southern most tip of peninsular India. It has the famous Thiruvalluvar statue. The Nilgiris is called the "Queen of Mountains" and has some of the most stunning landscapes in India. Nilgiris also has one of the two mountain Railways in India. And it is been evaluated for the UNESCO's prestigious heritage status.