The end of the Satavahana period and the end of the Sangam age nearly coincided; and the following age saw the petty rule of the successors of the Satavahanas in Eastern Deccan and the Kalabhra interference in the Tamil country. It is very difficult to say what happened to religion in the Deccan and the Tamilnad during this period.
Two forces were at work; and they both had a bearing on the development of religion in South India; The first was a renewed spurt in a southward movement of the Jainas and Bauddhas caused by the Hindu renaissance in North India initiated and supported by the imperial Guptas; the second was a direct consequence of a reviving Hindu classicism-the spread of brahmanical Sanskrit culture all over.
In fact this was the second occasion on which such a socio-religious phenomenon was caused in the history of India, the first being during Asoka’s reign. Asoka was an ardent Buddhist-whatever be the sophistication put on it-the Guptas were equally ardent Hindus.
They therefore, not only generated southward spread of the religions they supported but also of others they denigrated. It will be seen that for opposite reasons during these two periods, Jaina-Buddha groups as well as brahmanical elements spread over peninsular India.
It is true that till the 3rd or even the 4th century AD there was an atmosphere of tolerance or indifference towards other faiths in South India; but from the 5th or at the latest the sixth century downwards this tendency was reversed and the attitude towards religion bordering on fanaticism became prominent not only among the ruling elite but among the governed masses too.
It may be said that the bhakti movement had its beginning in South India under these circumstances. This does not mean that Buddhism and Jainism were not in vogue earlier; we see from the Manimekalai that there was a respectable centre in Kanchi for teaching Buddhist wisdom and the heroine of that epic took refuge in Aravana Adigal a great Buddhist scholar and ascetic.
In fact Kanchi and Madurai were centres of multifarious religious scholastic effort, but these efforts did not create socio-religious frictions. It was during and after the 5th century AD that sharp differences came to the fore and a struggle for survival among these religious groups started.