broad coastal plain in eastern Tamil Nadu state, southern India. Extending over an area of about 8,800 sq mi (22,800 sq km) and bounded by the Bay of Bengal on the east, the Eastern Ghats on the west, the Cauvery delta on the south, and the Utkal Plains on the north, the region derives its name from the Tamil Cola Mandalam (Land of the Cola, an ancient dynasty that ruled the region from the middle of the 9th century AD to 1279). The coast has an average elevation of 264 ft (80 m) and is backed by the Eastern Ghats, a chain of low, flat-topped hills. The shoreline is relatively straight, with several sandbars and an offshore chain of coral islands. The lower courses of the Palar, Ponnaiyar, and Cheyyar rivers and their tributaries, the Pamban and Ponnai, which rise in the Ghats, remain dry during most of the year. There is little forest cover, but marshes, swamps, scrub woodlands, and thorny thickets are common.
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