Pandya Dynasty: Kingdoms of South India
One of the three ancient kingdoms in the south of India was the Pandyan Kingdom who ruled over Tamil Nadu until the end of the fifteenth century.
Korkai, a seaport on the southernmost tip of India was initially their capital, but then later the capital was moved to Madurai.
The Pandyan Empire was established by the Emperor Kadungon in the sixth century. He ascended the throne after defeating the clan of Kalabhras.
The Pandyas grew in strength and expanded their kingdom. Tamil Nadu was divided between the Pallavas and the Pandyas. The river Kaveri acted as a boundary between the two kingdoms.
The Pandyas controlled the districts which are known as Madurai and Tirunalveli today as well as parts of Southern Kerala.
The Pandyas were best known for their extensive trade network which spread as far as Rome and Greece. They excelled in trading though the seas from Dhanushkodi, the sea shore of Ramanathapuram, and Poompuhar, a city which was used to trade with China, Malaysia, Maldives and other. The Pandyas controlled the pearl fisheries along the South Indian coast between Sri Lanka and India, producing some of the finest pearls known.
The Pandyan Kingdom was a powerful kingdom, but were often subdued during clashes with the Pallavas and the Cholas. This happened because as their kingdom expanded, their neighbors, feeling threatened by them, attacked.
The Pandyas were soon overshadowed by the Cholas during the rule of Parantaka Chola II. His son, Aditya Karikala and his army went to war with Vira Pandya, defeating him in battle. Sinhalese forces (Sri Lankan) came to the Pandyas’ rescue, but even with their help, the Pandyas were defeated. The Pandyan Kings were driven out of their strongholds, and sent to Sri Lanka, where they sought refuge. This was the beginning of a long period in exile for the Pandyas.
Their kingdoms were taken over by Chola Viceroys who called themselves Chola Pandyas and they ruled from Madurai from 1020 AD.
In the thirteenth century, the Cholas had become very weak and were fast losing control of their lands. The Pandyas in the meantime emerged from hiding and expanded their territory from the Telegu lands by the Godavari to the northern half of Sri Lanka.
The two kings who revived Pandyan glory were Maravarman Sundara Pandya and his successor, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya. Jatavarman was a brave and ambitious king. His main goal was to subdue the Cholas completely. He fought many battles and managed to consolidate his hold over Trichi, Srirangam, Tanjore and Kumbakonam.
Maravarman Kulasekara Pandya I, was another Pandyan king who tried to revive Pandyan glory. But after his death, his two sons, Sundara Pandya and Vira Pandya fought against each other for the throne. A general of the Delhi Sultanate took advantage of this chaos and raided the kingdom, which brought an abrupt end to Pandyan rule.
Later on, the Pandyas were nothing more than local chieftains who owned some land around Tirunalveli.