processes. Temples and their histories were studied, but not as a part of the
larger processes of their institutional development and role in the evolution of
society and polity. Failure to identify and appreciate these linkages is also
illustrated in their treatment of polity from the Sangam age to the Vijayanagar
period as undifferentiated. The merit of the conventional approach, however,
lies in the fact that it has provided a sound chronological framework of
political history and information base.
Modern Approach The new approaches have used this base for their take
off and have attempted to give new insights through fresh interpretations and
new methods of analysis of the same data. Consequently, visions of the past
have changed substantially. Better perspectives in understanding the
evolution of regional polities and cultures have appeared. In this background,
the importance of studying the processes of state formation and state
structures has been emphasised. The new perspectives may be dealt with
under two chronological phases, which are:
    • the post-Sangam transition to a new socio-economic formation
         (fourth-sixth centuries), and
    • the period of the Pallava-Pandya monarchies.
Transition to a New Socio-Economic Formation In the post-Sangam
phase of transition, the Tamil region was in a state of fluid condition. The
Sangam or early historic period was characterised by a vigorous material
culture and a multiplicity of social, economic and cultural forms, as reflected
in the distinctive concept of tinai or eco-types, dominated by the three tribal
chiefdoms in the river valleys. The transition towards a new socio-economic
structure led to the domination of peasant agriculture even before the rise of
the Pallava-Pandya monarchies. Interestingly, in the Deccan and Andhra
regions, the same period is marked by the emergence of small lineage polities
supported by a brahmanical ideology and institutional forms, such as the
brahmadeya (landgrants to brahmins) and the temple of the Puranic religion,
an environment in which the Pallavas began their political career.
    The post-Sangam period was characterised in conventional history as a
‘dark age’ and as an ‘inter-regnum’ caused by the subversion of the
traditional Tamil society and polity by a tribe called the Kalabhras, who were
evil kings (Kali arasar). The notion of the ‘dark age’ is a recurring theme in
the traditional approach, which