Carnatic kärnă´tĭk [key], historic region in SE India, comprising roughly the area between the S Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal and the Deccan Plateau. The region comprised the domains of the nawabs of the Carnatic, who governed the territory (16th to early 17th cent.) under the Deccan sultans and (late 17th to early 18th cent.) under the Mughal emperors. The term evolved from Kanara, the Kanarese-speaking southern section of the Deccan Plateau, which was ruled by the Vijayanagar kings. When the Deccan sultans defeated them in 1565, they extended the term to include the country (the plains SE of the Deccan Plateau) to which the Vijayanagars retired. The English restricted the term to the plains area, which became the arena of their 18th-century with the French for supremacy in India, but the name is sometimes used to include the Malabar Coast, where in the 15th cent. the Portuguese established the earliest European outposts in India. The term is also sometimes used to describe all of S India. It is sometimes spelled Karnatic.

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