The contacts of the South Indians with countries overseas have been commercial and cultural to a large extent and political only marginally.
In very ancient times the maritime commerce of the West flowed into the Far East and South East Asia through the ports of South India.
The Periplus’ and Ptolemy’s ” Geography’ attest to the important role played by the South Indian ports and marts in this commerce of the ancient world.
The Dravidian speaking people whose origin we have traced to the Eastern Mediterranian region could have inherited their commercial and sea faring habits from the Phoenicians. In Soloman’s times the teak of the Tamil country was sought after for the building of palaces.
There are numberous Tamil words which are found in Hebrew and later in Greek. The earliest references to sea-faring traits among the South Indians are to be found in the Sangam literature and also in the Satavahana coinage.
It has been said that Indian colonisation and overseas expansion were always peaceful and never with a view to political conquest.
The history of Hindu expansion in South East Asia does not bear out this view for we know that in the heyday of Chola imperialism there was a Tamilian invasion of South East Asia and the conquest of the Sri Vijaya Empire.
From the days of Rajendra I to the days of Kulottunga I there is reason to believe that the Cholas held political sovereignty over at least parts of the territories which now constitute Malaysia and Indonesia.
But politically and militarily Ceylon was the most constant target of Tamilian attention. It is undeniable however that as far as South East Asia was concerned the South Indian overseas adventures were dominantly cultural and to a large extent commercial.