Tamil Nadu has had continuous human habitation since pre-historic times. Its long history and cultural traditions are among the oldest in the world. The ancient Tamil kingdoms of Chera, Chola, Pallava and Pandya are of very ancient origins. They patronised a mature culture which produced some of the oldest surviving literature in India.
Colonised by the East India Company, Tamil Nadu was eventually incorporated into the Madras Presidency. After the independence of India, the Madras State was created in 1956 based on linguistic boundaries. The name of the Madras State was changed to Tamil Nadu in the year 1969. The politics of Tamil Nadu has been dominated by DMK and AIADMK, who are of the Dravidian movement which agitated demanding concessions for the 'Dravidian' population of Tamil Nadu.
Lying on a low plain along the southeastern coast of the Indian peninsula, Tamil Nadu is bounded by the Eastern Ghats in the north and Nilgiri, Annamalai Hills, and Palakkad on the west. The state has large fertile areas along the Coromandel coast, the Palk strait, and the Gulf of Mannar. The fertile plains of Tamil Nadu are fed by rivers such as Kaveri, Palar, and Vaigai, and by the northeast monsoon. Traditionally a manufacturing state, Tamil Nadu is also a leading producer of agricultural products.
The trauma of the partition did not impact Tamil Nadu when India was granted Independence in 1947. There was no sectarian violence against various religions. There had always been an atmosphere of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence between all religions in Tamil Nadu. Congress formed the first ministry in the Madras Presidency. C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) was the first Chief Minister. Madras Presidency was eventually reconstituted as Madras State. Following agitations for a separate Andhra state comprising of the Telugu speaking regions of the Madras state by Potti Sriramalu and others, the Indian Government decided to partition the Madras state. In 1953 Rayalaseema and the coastal Andhra regions became the new state of Andhra Pradesh and the Bellary district became part of the Mysore state. In 1956 south Kanara district was transferred to Mysore, the Malabar coastal districts became part of the new state of Kerala, and the Madras state assumed its present shape. The Madras state was named Tamil Nadu (the land of the Tamils) in 1968.
Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka during the 1970s and the 80s saw large numbers of Sri Lankan Tamils fleeing to Tamil Nadu. The plight of Tamil refugees caused a surge of support from most of the Tamil political parties. They exerted pressure on the Indian government to intercede with the Sri Lankan government on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tamilians. However, LTTE lost much of its support from Tamil Nadu following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on 21 May 1991 by an operative from Sri Lanka for the former Prime Minister's role in sending Indian peacekeepers to Sri Lanka to disarm the LTTE.
The east coast of Tamil Nadu was one of the areas affected by the Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004, during which almost 8000 people died in the disaster. The sixth most populous state in the Indian Union, Tamil Nadu was the seventh largest economy in 2005 among the states of India. The growing demands for skilled labour has caused increased number of educational institutions in Tamil Nadu. The widespread application of caste based affirmative action caused the state to have 69% of all educational and employment vacancies to be reserved to the backward castes. Such caste-based reservations have huge public support in Tamil Nadu, with no popular protests organised against its implementation.