Tamil country, in the southeastern portion of peninsular India, has been an identifiable cultural region for almost two millennia. Tamil literary productions dating from the early centuries of the Christian era to the present time speak of Tamilakam (the land, or the abode, of Tamils)—setting out its boundaries by reference to mountains, rivers, and the sea, but making few distinctions within this macroregion and not specifying what lay beyond it. This paper is an attempt at more precise definition of the nature and development of this cultural region and its changing structure, by means of consulting a variety of evidence and by using the concept of “circulation.”

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