The Tamil country of South India experienced a flowering of political, economic, and cultural forces during the Chola period (849–1279). The environments supporting this expansion were nucleated settlements focused on temples, surrounded by verdant paddy fields with artificial irrigation networks. This article is a study of the sacred sites and nucleated settlements that were the heart of this medieval civilization. The purposes of the study are two: first, to portray the dynamics of early urbanism during a crucial period of regional integration in South Asia, and especially to portray the geography of early centers; second, to provide the basis for a comparative study of early South Indian urbanism and premodern urbanism in other world areas.

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