The Southern Kingdoms

While kingdoms rose and fell in the north of India, the south remained generally unaffected by these upheavals. Religions like Jainism and Buddhism gradually became popular in the centre and north of India, but Hinduism continued to flourish in the south.

The prosperity in the southern parts of the country was based upon the long-established trade links of India with other civilisations. The Egyptians and Romans had trade relations with southern India through sea routes and later, links were also established with South-East Asia. Other outside influences in the south included the arrival of Saint Thomas in Kerala in 52 AD, who brought Christianity to India.

TempleGreat dynasties that rose in the south were the Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Chalukyas and Pallavas. These empires constantly vied with each other for supremacy. The Chalukyas ruled mainly over the Deccan region of central India, although at times, their reign extended further north. Further south, the Pallavas pioneered Dravidian architecture with its exuberant, almost baroque style. They also took Indian art forms and Hinduism to Java in Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia.

In 850 AD, the Cholas rose to power and gradually superseded the Pallavas. They too were great builders, and their architectural styles can be witnessed at the temples in Thanjavur. Under the rule of Raja Raja Chola, the Chola empire spread all over southern India, the Deccan, Sri Lanka, parts of the Malay peninsula and Sumatra.

In Kerala, the Cheras acted host to an influx of Arab traders who had discovered a fast sea route to India using the monsoon winds. Some of them settled here permanently, and were allowed to freely practice their religion.