The following points highlight the top three powerful rulers of south India. The epic rulers are: 1. The Cheras 2. The Cholas 3. The Pandyas.
Ruler # 1. The Cheras:
The first known ruler among the Chera-rulers was Udiyanajerala. His son, Napulajerala Adana proved more renowned than his father and extended the territory of his kingdom. He adopted the title of Adhiraja. It has been described about him that he led an expedition upto the Himalayas. However, it was an exaggeration. He, however, was killed in a battle by his contemporary Chola ruler.
He was succeeded by his brother, Kattuvana. Kattuvana extended further the territory of his kingdom and assumed the title of Adhiraja. It has been described about him that his empire extended from the western sea-coast to eastern sea-coast. The second son of Napulajerala Adana, Setgutduvana who ascended the throne after his uncle, became a famous ruler.
He was not only chivalrous but also a great patron of fine arts and literature. He built up a strong navy as well. The practice of the worship of wife (Pattini-worship) started during his reign in the society of the Cheras because of which it is assumed that, by that time, the Aryan culture had penetrated the far South.
The cultivation of sugarcane was also introduced in the South during this period. The last Chera- rulers referred to in the Sangama literature were Elanjerala Iramporai and Manderanjerala Iramporai who fought against the contemporary Chola and Pandya rulers respectively.
Ruler # 2. The Cholas:
Among early Chola-rulers referred to in the Sangama literature, the most prominent is Karikala. He ruled around 190 A.D. His deeds have been described in several poems. In a long series of poems named Pattupattu, it has been described that he was made prisoner in the beginning but managed to escape and, finally, captured his throne again. He fought many battles.
In one of his battles he defeated a confederacy of eleven kings and captured a place called Venni and, yet, in another battle he defeated the combined army of nine kings. He conquered the entire Tamil Pradesh though he did not annex the entire territory to his kingdom. At several places, he permitted local rulers or chiefs to rule their territories on the condition that they would owe allegiance to him.
He encouraged agriculture and trade, improved means of irrigation, undertook several other public welfare works and. thus, enhanced the prosperity and power of his kingdom. Many poets recited his glory in their poems. Several legendary stories were woven concerning his achievements which were referred to in the literature of even the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It has been expressed that Karikala performed several Vedic Yajnas. It is an indication that, by the third century A.D., the Aryan culture had become quite popular in south India.
Ruler # 3. The Pandyas:
Among the early Pandya rulers, the Sangama literature refers to Nediyon, Palshalha-Mudukudumi and Nedunjeliyana. It has been described that Nediyon brought into existence the river Pahruli. He was also the first Pandya king who started the worship of ocean. Palshalaha-Mudukudumi was also a renowned ruler who performed several Yajnas.
However, Nedunjeliyana became a more famous ruler than his predecessors. He defeated all his enemies, imprisoned his contemporary Chera-ruler and extended the territory of his kingdom. He was a good administrator also and succeeded in enhancing trade and agriculture and. thereby, the prosperity of his state. The Sangama literature has described his achievements in great detail.
One among the Pattupattu series of poems had been titled Nattattnara. Its hero is king Nalliyakkodana He ruled around 275 A.D. and he was the last ruler who has been referred to in the Sangama literature. From the poem we learn that by his time the period of glorious rulers of the extreme South was over and the political decadence of the Tamil Pradesh had started.