Most medieval dynasties combined elements of imperialism, regionalism,
and localism. Many expanded like empires. All formed regions of
competition and overlapping sovereignty. Early dynasties thrived on local
support from core constituencies. Tamil Nadu elucidates the kind of
shifting cultural territory they formed.
• Beginning in the sixth century and running through the
seventeenth, overlapping sovereignties among Pallava, Chola,
Pandya, Chera, Vijayanagar and Nayaka dynasties described a
broadly shared Tamil language and textual geography of territorial
authority that extended into the adjacent regions in Karnataka,
Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and northern Sri Lanka.
• The largest dynasty to embrace the Tamil territory arose at
Vijayanagar, in Karnataka, in the fourteenth century, and featured
rulers who spoke Telugu and Kannada.
• All the dynasties that ruled Tamil-speaking people were attached
primarily to localities in their own home regions. Inscriptions from
the Pandya country (around Madurai) treat Chola conquests as
imperial domination and Chola inscriptions in Tanjavur treat
Pandya conquests the same way. In medieval terms, Chola and
Pandya kings ruled separate countries that were defined by
personal loyalties rather than by territorial boundaries.
• The most resilient medieval early territory was called a nadu and
included a small circle of villages. There were thirty nadus south
of Madurai, in the Pandya country alone. A medieval nadu was a
local domain around which were woven extensive networks of
personal loyalty and alliance. However, local domains were
defined in wider networks of culture, as revealed by the fact that
the term nadu appears all across overlapping domains of
sovereignty that encompassed the present-day Tamil Nadu.
South Indian and Deccan Warrior Dynasties
As the first millennium of the Christian era gave way to the second, the
contours of political geography shifted substantially. In the peninsula, after
Chola imperial expansion reached its limit, the weight of dynastic power