The people who settled along the fertile swathes of land along the river banks and in the valleys – the Marudam – graduated from hunting and gathering to sowing and harvesting. They planted sugarcane, plantain, and mango. In time, they ploughed the land and grew crops such as rice. These Ulavar – ploughmen – cut channels to irrigate the land. 

The people also grew cotton instead of merely plucking wild cotton. They spun cotton thread and weaved cloth. In ancient times, cotton cloth was a much sought after luxury preferred by the wealthy. It wasn’t long before they discovered indigo – used for dyeing – which became another important commodity.

People cleared land for farming; and wood from felled trees became a ready fuel for cooking. As in the pastoral regions, the evening fireside became a venue for feasting and community.

The wealthier Ulavar built wooden houses for themselves and for storing their wealth—mostly grain and cotton bales—while the ordinary people erected huts using the ready availability of mud from the river banks.

The patriarchal family structure became entrenched and there was a permanent role reversal: instead of strong women having multiple partners (a practise that continued among the hunters of the Kurinji hills and wanderers of the Paalai deserts) the wealthy men of the Mullai (herdsmen), Neydal (merchants), and Marudam (farmers) had large families with multiple wives.

As the clans grew, their society became complex and led to the founding of states.

The five regions – Kurinji, Mullai, Paalai, Neydal and Marudam – did not develop in a straight timeline. Their growth into statehood overlapped, the people interacted and traded, and intermarriage was common.

The politics of caste and division came much later.

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***

(Note: Treat these posts on Ancient Indian history as highly simplified introductions to a complex, often conflicting, and vague period mired in the mists of antiquity.)



  1. I am a Telugu speaker hailing from the town of Nellore. It is located just north of Tamil country (whose history you have outlined in the post above), across a great lagoon – Pulicat. Unfortunately for us Dravidian speakers, little research has been done with regard to South Indian prehistory and linguistics (most of the European scholarship focused on Indo-Aryan languages, because they themselves spoke kindred tongues – English, German or French). This policy that has continued in independent India, with universities focusing on the history and languages of the northern half of the subcontinent. The Finns and the Japanese have done some great work (you must have heard of the great Asko Parpola and Noburu Karashima). Hope that scholars in North America and Western Europe take up the study of Dravidian cultures. There is so much to be investigated and written about. Indian governments and centers of learning have no interest at all in the liberal humanities.

    1. Hello Vivek (I hope I got your name right),

      First comment on my blog – welcome aboard.

      I agree that when the world speaks of “Indian” history, they rarely refer to South India. I’ve not heard or read Asko Parpola and Noburu Karashima. Thank you for the heads-up. I’ll look up these writers.

      My grandfather came from the south. It is for us to explore and write about our shared history. This is one reason my focus went to Tamilakam’s history and culture.

      I’m finalising my next novel Song of the Ankle Rings, based on Silappatikaram one of the five ancient classics of our shared history. Look out for the post tomorrow, Friday 30 November 2018.


      1. Wonderful! Wishing you all the best. I am guessing that the ‘Alagan’ in your name is of Tamil provenance. Yes, my name is Vivek. Looking forward to your posts. Do read Noburu Karashima’s ‘Concise History of South India’. It’s a wonderful book. Karashima was Professor Emeritus in the University of Tokya. He passed away in 2015.

  2. The Stansfelds trace back to 1066 when our ancestor Wyon Maryons arrived with William the Norman conqueror. Most Brits see this as the beginning of ‘true’ English history. .
    You don’t give dates but I’d be interested to be able to chart these events with the little which I know of European history and pre-history. I assume that the dates are in the millennia of the BC era. which makes me think that, at the time of the Ulavar of the Marudam, very little was going on the British Isles. I was fascinated to read that they were cultivating cotton and had ‘found’ indigo, cultivating, spinning ,dying and making cloth carries a high degree of sophistication.
    Thank you for this ongoing history lesson – it certainly stimulates my grey matter.

    1. Hello Jane,

      All the way back to 1066, and you even have a name – Wyon Maryons. Now, that’s something to be proud of and treasure. It’s also interesting when you say most Brits see this as ‘true’ English history. Norman (French) invaders who trace their ancestry to Scandinavia, if my memory serves me right.

      So what about King Harold, the Saxons, and the Roman heritage? Not to mention Queen Boudicca? Just asking.

      I know these things because in my secondary school days I devoured European history – that was the (British) school curriculum. Only in my adulthood, I’ve discovered my own Asian roots.

      Regarding Indian history though the Indus Valley civilisation is well documented, only lately are historians looking into South Indian history – and discovering fascinating facts. Some historians claim Tamil is the oldest living language. This is yet to be conclusively proven and accepted by their peers.


  3. Our ancestry is such a fascinating study isn’t it Eric. We can only go back to 1590 on my Mother’s side of the family and there is a suggestion her Maiden name could go back to a family name in ancient Rome. I suppose we will never know that. On my Dad’s side we can only go back to late 16 hundreds as fires wiped out records. So I presume people of the same name are related though we can’t prove it. I love ancient history speculations and could waster hours going from link to link in Wikipedia.

    1. Hello Ian,

      Very true. The history of our ancestry is fascinating.

      I believe your family history is pretty much intact as most of us can only trace back a couple of hundred years or so. And like you, I spend many hours devouring material on ancient history.


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