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Sangam Literature - UPSC Ancient Indian History (Art & Culture)
Sangam literature is the name given to the earliest available Tamil literature. The Sangam age roughly extends between 300 BC and 300 AD*, although most of the work is believed to have been composed between 100 CE and 250 CE.
The word ‘Sangam’ literally means association. Here, it implies an association of Tamil poets that flourished in ancient southern India. The Ancient Tamil Siddhar Agastyar is traditionally believed to have chaired the first Tamil Sangam in Madurai. This period is known as the Sangam Period . The three chief Tamil kingdoms of this period were the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas.
The term Sangam was coined by later scholars. In this article, you can read relevant information about Sangam Literature for the IAS Exam . In total, there are about 2300 poems that are attributable to 473 poets.
Sangam Literature – UPSC Ancient Indian History Notes (Art & Culture):- Download PDF Here
Sangam Literature Classification
There were mainly three Sangams called Muchchangam. The chief sources of information for this age are archaeological sources, literary sources and foreign accounts.
Sangam Literature – Three Sangams
As mentioned before, Tamil legends talk about three Sangams:
All the works of the first two Sangams except Tolkappiyam (2nd Sangam work) are lost. Only the works of the third Sangam survives.
Sangam Literature – Tolkappiyam
- Composed by Tolkappiyar.
- Oldest extant Tamil work till date.
- Dated between 4th and 5th century CE.
- Offers information on social life, human psychology, political and economic conditions during the Sangam Age.
- Also discusses Tamil grammar.
- The work is divided into three sections, each section further divided into nine chapters.
- Contains a total of 1612 sutras which are extensive in their range.
- Sanskrit influence on this work is peripheral and very little.
Third Tamil Sangam
The compositions of the third Sangam are classified into eight anthologies known as Ettuttokoi /Ettuthokai and ten idylls known as Pattuppattu .
It consists of the following works:
- Ainkurunuru (composed by Gudalur Mar)
- Ahanuru (compiled by Rudrasarman)
- Thiru Murugatrupadai (composed by Nakkirar)
The third Sangam saw the Patinenkilkanakku. They mainly deal with moral values. The most important among them is the Thirukkural, also simply called the Kural. Other important works are Palamoli (by Munrurai Araiyar) and Acharakkovai (contains a description of the daily life of an orthodox Hindu, shows the influence of the Sanskrit Shastras).
Sangam & Thirukkural
- First Dravidian work for ethics.
- Comprises of 1330 couplets.
- It has been translated into many languages including foreign languages.
- It discusses epics, love, and polity and governance.
- Authored by Thiruvalluvar.
This period lasted from 200 to 600 CE. This age saw the composition of five great epics in Tamil:
- Jivaka Chintamani
- Valaiyapati and
There are also five minor works authored by Jain writers.
Sangam & Silappadikaram
- Composed by Ilango Adigal.
- The story revolves around an anklet. The name literally means the tale of an anklet.
- Author Ilango Adikal is supposed to be an ascetic-prince and the younger brother of Cheran king Senguttuvan.
- A chief character is Kannagi, who seeks revenge on the Pandya kingdom for her husband who was wrongly put to death.
- The poem gives a lot of insight into contemporary Tamil society, polity, values and social life of the people.
Sangam & Manimekalai
- Composed by Chithalai Chathanar, also spelt Sattanar.
- It is a sequel to Silappadikaram.
- The author’s aim was to propagate Buddhism in South India as the work espouses the values of Buddhism over other religions of the time.
To know the political history of the Sangam Period , aspirants can follow the linked article.
Important Facts about Sangam Age for UPSC
There are important facts stated in Tamil Nadu state board books of class 11th & 12th which aspirants sometimes miss. Read the table below to get those facts:
There are a few topics important from ancient Indian history perspective, which are linked in the table below:
Frequently Asked Questions on Sangam Literature
Q 1. what are the types of sangam literature, q 2. what is sangam literature, q 3. when was sangam literature composed, q 4. how is sangam literature important.
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Sangam Literature, History, Major Works and Significance
Sangam Literature was historically known as 'the poetry of the noble ones'. Read all about Sangam Literature, History, Major Works & Significance for UPSC Exam.
Table of Contents
Sangam Literature, also known as “the poetry of the noble ones,” refers to the ancient Tamil language and is the earliest known literature from South India. The oldest available Tamil literature is Sangam literature. The Sangam Period is roughly between 300 BC and 300 AD, with the majority of the work produced between 100 CE and 250 CE. This article will explain the Sangam Literature, which will be useful in preparing for the important Ancient History section of the UPSC Syllabus .
Read about: Rashtrakuta Dynasty
Sangam Literature History
Sangam literally translates to ‘association.’ It is a term that describes a group of Tamil poets who flourished in ancient southern India. The Ancient Tamil Siddhar Agastyar is thought to have presided over the first Tamil Sangam at Madurai from the first to fourth centuries CE. Sangam texts are unusual in early Indian literature, which is almost entirely religious.
Sangam Literature was contributed by 473 poets, 102 of whom were anonymous. The poets came from a variety of backgrounds, including royalty, businessmen, and farmers. Women made up at least 27 of the poets. These poets emerged in a context in which Tamil (Dravidian) civilization had previously engaged and inextricably fused with north Indians (Indo-Aryans), and both sides shared mythology, morals, and literary norms.
Many of the poems, particularly those about heroism, have a great deal of freshness and vitality and are strikingly devoid of the literary conceits that pervade most of India’s other early and mediaeval literature. They deal almost entirely with nonreligious issues, and they lack the rich legendary references that distinguish most Indian art forms. Nonetheless, religious compositions can be found in Sangam poetry. Poems about Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, and Murugan, for example, may be found in Sangam Literature.
Read about: Later Vedic Period
Sangam literature is classified into two types: akam and puram. Emotions and sentiments in the context of romantic love, sexual connection, and sensuality are central to Akam poetry. Puram poetry is concerned with exploits and heroic achievements in battle and public life settings. Three-fourths of Sangam poetry is akam-themed, with the remaining one-fourth puram-themed.
Sangam literature is divided into seven minor genres known as tinai, which include akam and puram. This minor genre focuses on the poetry’s setting or scenery. Kurinci denotes mountainous regions, mullai pastoral woods, marutam riverine agricultural land, neytal coastal regions, and palai arid regions.
For akam poetry, in addition to landscape-based tinais, ain-tinai (well-matched, mutual love), kaikilai (ill-matched, one-sided), and perunthinai (unsuited, big genre) categories are used. An example of reciprocal love poetry is the Ainkurunuru, a collection of 500 short poems. Vetchi (cattle raid), vanchi (invasion, preparation for war), kanchi (tragedy), ulinai (siege), tumpai (battle), vakai (victory), paataan (elegy and acclaim), karanthai, and pothuval are examples of tinais used in puram poetry.
The akam poetry uses metaphors and images to create atmosphere; it never contains names of people or places, and it frequently omits context, which the community would fill in and understand given their oral history. Puram poetry is more direct, employing names and locations.
Read about: Rig Vedic Period
Sangam Literature Major Works
The period of Sangam literature is still debated because the three major epics of the time, Silappathigaram, Dipavamsa, and Mahavamsa, show that Gajabhagu II of Sri Lanka and Cheran Senguttuvan of the Chera dynasty were contemporaries. In addition, coins struck by the Roman Emperor in the first century can be found in large quantities in various parts of Tamil Nadu.
Furthermore, Greek authors like Megasthenes, Strabo, and Pliny claimed trade routes between the West and South India. Inscriptions from the Ashokan Empire described the Cheras, Chola, and Pandya monarchs to the south of the Mauryan Empire. The Sangam literature has been dated between the third century B.C. and the third century A.D. based on literary, archaeological, and foreign evidence.
Tolkappiyam, Ettutogai, Pattuppattu, Pathinenkilkanakku, and the two epics Silappathikaram and Manimegalai are among the Sangam literature. During the postmodern era, Elango Adigal’s Silappathigaram and Sittalai Sattanar’s Manimegalai were both published. These works contain critical information about the Sangam political system and society.
The Kalugumalai inscription contains information about Tamil Brahmi writing from the 15th century. The Tirukkovalur inscription mentions both local chieftains and the tragic fate of Tamil poets. The first of these works, written by Tolkappiyar, contains information about the social, economic, and political situations of the Sangam Age, as well as Tamil grammar. The eight Anthologies, each with eight pieces, were Ettutogai. Ettutogai and Pattuppattu were divided into two major groups: Aham (love) and Puram (valour).
Silappatikaram is the first Tamil epic. It’s a 5,730-line poem almost entirely written in akaval (aciriyam) metre. In Tamil tradition, Ilango Adigal is credited with creating Silappatikaram. He is said to be a Jain monk and the younger brother of Chera king Senguttuvan, the family and rule of whom is described in the Fifth Ten of the Patiuppattu, a Sangam poem.
The epic’s protagonists are Kannaki and her husband Kovalan, who tell the sad love story of an ordinary couple. Kannaki and other characters from the story appear in Sangam literature such as the Naiai and later works such as the Kovalam Katai, implying that the Silappathikaram has deeper roots in the Tamil bardic tradition. It is said to have been written by Iak Aika, a prince-turned-monk, in the 5th or 6th century CE.
Manimekalai, also known as Manimekhalai or Manimekalai, is a Tamil-Buddhist epic written most likely in the sixth century by Kulavika Seethalai Sataar. It’s a “anti-love narrative,” a sequel to the “love story” in the first Tamil epic Silappadikaram, with some of the same characters and descendants. The epic is divided into 30 cantos and has 4,861 akaval lines. Manimekalai is also the name of Kovalan and Madhavi’s daughter, who is a Buddhist nun and dancer like her mother. The story is told in epic manner.
Tolkappiyam is the oldest extant Tamil grammar text as well as the oldest extant lengthy work of Tamil literature. Some believe Tholkapiyam was written by a single author named Tholkappiyar, a disciple of the Rigvedic sage Agastya. In the extant manuscripts, the Tolkappiyam is divided into three volumes (athikaram), each with nine chapters (iyal), for a total of 1,610 sutras in the nurpa metre.
This comprehensive grammar work includes sutras on spelling, phonology, etymology, morphology, semantics, prosody, sentence structure, and the importance of context in language. It is impossible to date the Tolkappiyam. According to some Tamil scholars, the passage is from the mythological second sangam, which dates from the first millennium BCE or earlier.
The Eight Anthologies, also known as Ettuttokai or “Eight Collections,” is a great Tamil literary work that is part of the Eighteen Greater Texts (Patinen-melkanakku) anthology series published by Sangam Literature. The earliest Tamil works are the Eight Anthologies (Pattuppattu) and its companion anthology, the Ten Idylls (Pattuppattu). Ettuthogai consists of eight works: Aingurunooru, Narrinai, Aganaooru, Purananooru, Kuruntogai, Kalittogai, Paripadal, and Padirruppatu (Eight Anthologies).
The Ten Idylls, also known as Pattupattu or Ten Lays, is a collection of ten longer poems from the Sangam period of Tamil literature. They range in length from 100 to 800 lines, and the collection includes Nakkirar’s well-known Tirumurukarruppaai. The Pattupattu collection dates from the second to third centuries CE, the middle layer from the second to fourth centuries CE, and the last layer from the third to fifth centuries CE.
The Pattupattu (Ten Idylls) consists of ten works: Thirumurugarruppadai, Porunarruppadai, Sirupanarruppadai, Perumpanarruppadai, Mullaippattu, Nedunalvadai, Madurai Kanji, Kurinjippatttu, Pattinappalai, and Malaipadukadam.
The Pathinenkilkanakku, also known as the Eighteen Lesser Texts in literature, is a collection of eighteen poetry compositions, the majority of which were composed after the Sangam period (between 100 and 500 CE). Pathinenkilkanakku contains eighteen texts on ethics and morality. The most important of these texts is Tirukkural, written by Thiruvalluvar, a well-known Tamil poet and philosopher.
The poems in this collection differ from those in the Eighteen Greater Texts, the oldest known Tamil poetry collection, in that they are written in venpa metre and are very brief. Naladiyar, a single anthology in this collection, has been sung by 400 poets.
Read about: Gupta Empire
Sangam Literature Significance
There were three major Tamil kingdoms during this time period: the Cheras, the Cholas, and the Pandyas. The Sangam literature documents the indigenous literary growth in South India parallel to Sanskrit, as well as the classical rank of Tamil. While there is little evidence for the first and second mythological Sangams, the surviving literature attests to a group of intellectuals based in ancient Madurai (Maturai) who influenced the “literary, academic, cultural, and linguistic life of ancient Tamil Nadu.”
The Sangam literature reveals details about ancient Tamil society, secular and religious ideas, and individuals. Sanskrit loan words are found in the Sangam literature, implying ongoing linguistic and literary collaboration between ancient Tamil Nadu and other areas of the Indian subcontinent. Sangam poetry is about culture and people. Except for the occasional reference to Hindu gods and more significant allusions to numerous gods in the shorter poems, it is almost entirely non-religious.
Read about: Maurya Empire
Sangam Literature UPSC
Sangam is a Sanskrit word that means “association.” It refers to Tamil Sangam, a Tamil poets’ organisation in ancient South India. From the first to fourth centuries CE, the Ancient Tamil Siddhar Agastyar is thought to have presided over the first Tamil Sangam in Madurai. Sangam writings are possibly unique in early Indian literature, which is almost entirely religious in nature. This article has all the details related to Sangam Literature, for more details related to UPSC Examination; students can visit the official website of StudyIQ UPSC Online Coaching .
Read about: Tripartite Struggle
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What is Sangam literature?
The Sangam literature was historically known as 'the poetry of the noble ones'. Sangam literally means 'association,' and Sangam literature is literature that refers to ancient Tamil literature. It is the earliest known literature from South India.
What were the main features of Sangam literature?
Sangam writings may be unique among early Indian literature, which is almost entirely religious. The poems are divided into two collections: the first five are about love (akam), and the next two are about heroism (puram), including praise for kings and their deeds.
What are the three Sangam literature?
Tolkappiyam, Ettutogai, Pattuppattu, Pathinenkilkanakku, and two epics named Silappathikaram and Manimegalai are among the Sangam literature.
Who is the founder of Sangam literature?
Sangam is a Sanskrit word that means "association." It refers to Tamil Sangam, a Tamil poets' organisation that existed in ancient South India. From the first to fourth centuries CE, the Ancient Tamil Siddhar Agastyar is thought to have presided over the first Tamil Sangam in Madurai.
What is the importance of Sangam literature?
One of the primary sources for documenting the early history of the ancient Tamil country is Sangam literature. Numerous kings, princes, and poets are mentioned in the ancient Sangam poems, the existence of some of whom has been confirmed by archaeological evidence.
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An Overview of Sangam Literature சங்க இலக்கியம்
by R Shanmugananthan, Sydney, September 2, 2022
Flags of Cheras Cholas and Pandyas
When I was reading about Arumuganavalar and C W Thomotharam Pillai, I found that they have done pioneering work in rediscovering Sangam Poetry even before U Ve Saminatha Iyer. Their work appears not to have been given credit. That led me write this overview. — by the author
Sangam Literature is the earliest available Tamil literature. Earliest of these poems are more than two thousand years old. Most scholars suggest that the creation of these Sangam poems spanned from about 300 BCE to 300 CE . But the well known scholar of Tamil literature and history Kamal Zvelebil suggests that the most acceptable period for creation of Sangam poems is between 100 BCE to 250 CE.
Sangam means gathering or academy of noble poets. Legends say that there were three such academies and all were held in the Pandian kingdom. Earliest gathering was the first Sangam, then the second Sangam and the last academy was the third Sangam. Post Sangam period followed Sangam period. All the Sangam literature available to us now belong to the third Sangam period and Post Sangam period.
Preservation, Discovery and Printing
Sangam literature fell into oblivion during the second millennium CE. Fortunately, the poems and other works were preserved mostly in Saiva Aatheenams near Kumbakonam and Tamil scholarly families as palm leaf manuscripts. The palm leaves which decay in about fifty years must be replaced before they decay. It was done by writing them down on new palm leaves.
All that changed in the nineteenth century. In 1812 Thirukural was edited and printed from manuscripts by Francis Whyte Ellis. He was working as a Collector in the Madras Presidency when he published the Thirukural .
In 1851 Arumuganavalar edited and printed – from palm leaf manuscripts – the Sangam literature Thirumurugatrupadai . He published a commentary on Tholkapiyam in 1868
W. Thamotharampillai printed edited band published the following literatures which include Sangam literature.
- Viracoliyam in 1881
- Iraiyanar Ahapporul in 1883
- Tolkapiam – Porulatikaram in 1885
- Kalittohai – the first of the Eight Anthologies ( Ettuttohai ) in 1887
Together with U Ve Saminatha Iyer he printed and published with scholarly commentaries the following ancient Tamil works.
- Tholkappiyam Senavariyar urai (1868),
- Cilappatikaram (1889),
- Pattupattu (1889),
- Purananuru (1894),
- Tholkapiam (1895),
- Nachinarkiniyar urai (1895),
- Manimekalai (1898),
Tamil people must thank U Ve Saminatha Iyer for editing and publishing the rest of the classical Tamil literature we now have. He edited and published (from manuscripts) over 90 classical Tamil literary works starting with Ceevaka Cintamani in 1887 followed by Sangam literature Pattupattu . With Pillai he edited and published Pattupaattu in 1889. U Ve Sa dedicated his life for this work and collected over 3,000 manuscripts, and notes related to the classical Tamil literature. It should be emphasised that without his dedication we would not have recovered many of the classical Tamil literature available to us now.
Thiruvavaduthurai Aadheenam – The repository of ancient manuscripts
During his visit to the Thiruvavaduthurai Aadheenam (twenty kilometers northeast of Kumbhakonam,) in 1883, U Ve Sa requested the monastery head Subrahmanya Desikar for access to its large library of preserved manuscripts. Desikar granted him permission to study and publish any manuscripts he wanted. He discovered a major source of palm-leaf manuscripts of Sangam literature there. Together with other Tamil scholars he collected and catalogued these manuscripts. Many of them were edited and printed during the next few years.
Sangam writings are broadly divided into those on love (Akam), and those on heroism (Puram), including the praise of kings and their deeds. They are predominantly Akam themed. Most of the Sangam poems are free from literary conceits. They generally dealt with nonreligious subjects.
Sangam poems can also be subdivided into genres based on landscape and location. These are: Kurici – mountainous regions; Mullaitivu – pastoral forests; Marutam – riverine agricultural land; Neythal – coastal regions; and Palai – arid region.
The following is yet another classification by Tamil scholars; It is the division based on Iyal, Isai and Nadagam. Iyal, is the creation of poetry by poets (Pulavar), Isai is the music added to the poetry by musicians (Paanar), and Nadagam (Drama -play) was created for the poems by Koothar (actors)
Classification of Sangam poems have also been done based on kinds of love and war.
Some Sangam poetry are about the Gods. For example Thirumurugatrupadai and Paripaatal contains poems about Muruga, Vishnu, Siva and Durga. Post Sangam works generally deal with morals and ethics. They don’t generally fall into the above classification.
Compilation and Categorisation
Sangam literature was categorised and compiled during the 10th century CE. Available earliest Sangam poetry Tolkapiyam deals with Tamil grammar. It appears to have been revised periodically over the years. Rest of the Sangam poetry is generally divided into two groups; Eighteen Greater Texts, known as Patiṉeṇmēlkaṇakku (பதினெண்மேல்கணக்கு) created during third Sangam period and Eighteen Lesser Texts, known as Patiṉeṇkeelkanakku (பதினெண்கீழ்கணக்கு) which were created during post Sangam period.
Eighteen Greater Texts ( Patiṉeṇmēlkaṇakku )
The Eighteen Greater Texts contain 2381 poems. Most poems in Eighteen Greater Texts are divided into two groups; Eight anthologies ( Ettutohai ) and Ten Idylls ( Pattupaatu )
Ettutokai (Eight Anthologies ) comprises of the following:
- Naṟṟiṇai (a text on musicology),
- Kuṟuntokai (an anthology of 402 Tamil stanzas),
- Aiṅkuṟunūṟu (an anthology of love lyrics),
- Kalittokai (an anthology of 150 stanzas in kali metre describing the erotic emotions and five tracts of land),
- Akanānūṟu (an anthology of 400 love lyrics belonged to the 3rd or the 2nd century BC).
- Puṟanānūṟu (an anthology on the external world),
- Patiṟṟuppattu (an anthology of ten sections, each of them in praise of a Chera king),
- Paripāṭal (an anthology of 70 stanzas of songs).
Pattup āṭṭu (the Ten Idylls) comprises:
- Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai (a poem in honour of Murukan by Nakkirar),
- Porunarāṟṟuppaṭai (a guide poem for war-bards to Chola king Karikāla by Mudattama Kanniar),
- Ciṟupāṇāṟṟuppaṭai (an idyll by Nallur Nattattanar on the chief Nalliyakōtan of Oymānāṭu),
- Perumpāṇāṟṟupaṭai (a guide poem for bards with large lutes praising Toṇṭaimān Ilantiraiyan by Rudran Kannanar),
- Mullaippāṭṭu (anthology on the jasmine country and the theme of a woman by Nappūtanār)
- Maturaikkāñci (Mankuti Marutanar praises the valour of the Pandya king Netunceliyan)
- Neṭunalvāṭai (a blend of love & war poem about Pandian Kingby Nakeerar ),
- Kuṟiñcippāṭṭu (the song of the mountains: the tactful conversation of the confidant by Kapilar),
- Paṭṭinappālai (a poem on Chola king Karikāla by Rudran Kannanar),
- Malaipaṭukaṭām (a poem on the theme of a dancer also called Kuttarāṟṟuppaṭai by Peruṅkunṟūr Peruṅ kaucikanār).
Eighteen Lesser Texts ( Patiṉeṇkeelkanakku )
The Eighteen Lesser Texts ( Patiṉeṇkeelkanakku )contains the following works. (Eighteen Lesser Texts were created during post Sangam period (100 CE – 500 CE)). These works generally deal with morals and ethics.
- Inna Naatpatu
- Iniyavai Naatpatu
- Kar Naatpatu
- Kalavali Naatpatu
- Aintinai Aimpatu
- Tinaimoli Aimpatu
- Aintinai Elupatu
- Tinaimoli Nootru Aimpatu
- Palamoli Naanuru
Great Epics and Bakti literature
Five great epics: Silappathikaram, Manimekalai, Civaka Cintamani, Valayapathi and Kundalakeci and Devotional (Bakti) literatures Thevaram, Divya Prabantham and Thirumurai are not part of Sangam literature.
Sangam works are two thousand years old. It is the historic evidence of literary developments of Tamil in parallel to Sanskrit. The surviving literature attests to a group of scholars belonging to an academy gathered in ancient Madurai who shaped the literary, academic, cultural and linguistic life of ancient Tamil Nadu.
The people and rulers of a geographic area roughly encompassing modern day Tamil Nadu and Kerala are covered in the Sangam literature. It mentions Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas as the main rulers. Cheras were in control of an area which covers large part of today’s Kerala State. Cholas controlled northwestern parts of Tamil Nadu and Pandyas controlled the Middle and Southern parts of Tamil Nadu. Maturaikkāñci and Neṭunalvāṭai praises the Pandyan king Netunceliyan. Paṭṭinappālai praises the Chola king Karikal Valavan. Patiṟṟuppattu has ten chapters each with ten poems and talks about ten Chera rulers. The first chapter and the last chapter are not available now. Glory of Senguttuvan’s father Neduncheralathan is covered in one of these chapters. Many other chieftains were praised for their bravery and kindness in the Sangam literature. These chieftains ruled under the suzerainty of Cheras, Cholas or Pandyas.
Sanskrit and North Indian religions had already made inroads into Sangam era regions. Sanskrit words had made inroads into Tamil language. Patiṟṟuppattu has the minimum infusion of Sanskrit with twelve words. Others have more. Some of the Sangam poets were Brahmins. Poems like Thirumurugattrupadai indicate that North Indian religious practices had made inroads into Tamil area.
There is evidence that Jainism and Buddhism were being patronised by all three kings. Given that the five epics were written by Buddhist and Jain authors during post Sangam period, it’s reasonable to assume that these religions may have made inroad into Tamil Nadu during Sangam era.
In general Sangam poetry was little affected by the external religious thoughts. Most people still prayed to local gods Seyon, Maayon, Kottravai, Venthan, and Varunan (Kadalon).
Most of the Sangam poetry was about love and heroism. That Tamils were able to produce beautiful literature shows that Tamil had already become a well developed language during Sangam era.
Sangam Tamil was able to be read by the current Tamil scholars indicating that literary Tamil had not changed much over the last two millennia.
Chera Nadu of Sangam literature roughly covers present day Kerala State where the people now read, write and speak Malayalam. Though Malayalam and Tamil are sister languages, the Malayalam language scholars generally don’t have the ability to read and understand the Sangam literature.
Sangam literature has described the valour of many Chera rulers including Nedum Cheralathan father of ‘ Silapathikaram ’ fame Senguttuvan and Ilango Adikal. He patronised Buddhism and Jainism. People of Kerala can be proud of the valour of their ancient kings. Ancestry of present day Malayalis is a complicated one because of the ethnic mingling that occurred in Kerala. Though ethnic mingling had occurred in all linguistic groups in South Asia, it probably happened on a larger scale in Kerala. Only the scholars in Kerala will be able to clarify this matter.
The earliest known reference to Onam is found in ‘ Maturaikkañci ’. It mentions that Onam festival was being celebrated in Madurai temples. It is now an important festival for the Malayalis.
Sangam literature offers a window into the ancient Tamil culture, people and their beliefs. These poems also allude to historical incidents, ancient Tamil kings, the effect of war on loved ones and households. It is generally nonreligious except for occasional mention of Gods.
From Wikipedia: “On their significance, Zvelebil quotes A K Ramanujan, “In their antiquity and in their contemporaneity, there is not much else in any Indian literature equal to these quiet and dramatic Tamil poems. In their values and stances, they represent a mature classical poetry: passion is balanced by courtesy, transparency by ironies and nuances of design, impersonality by vivid detail, austerity of line by richness of implication. These poems are not just the earliest evidence of the Tamil genius. The Tamils, in all their 2,000 years of literary effort, wrote nothing better.”
- Downloadable classical Tamil literatures – TamProject Madurai – https://www.projectmadurai.org/pmworks.html
- Introducing Tamil Literature, Kamil Zvelebil. 1968
- Prehistory of Tamil literature,Kamil Zvelebil. 2010
- The Pandyan Kingdom, K N Neelakanda Sastri. 1929
- Studies in Cola History and Administration, K N Neelakanda Sastri.1932
- Ettu Thohai – The Eight Anthologies of Sangam literature – an introduction in Tamil by M Narayanan Velupillai – 2000
- Pattupaatu – The Ten Idylls of Sangam literature – an introduction in Tamil by M Narayanan Velupillai – 2000
- Pattinapaalai – poems and descriptions in Tamil by K A Gunasekaran – 2015
- History of Chera Kings in Tamil by Auvai Thuraisamipillai – 2020
- SANGAM LITERATURE- that Brings the Spotlight on the CHOLA KINGS, Dr Uday Dokras -2020
- Tha:Mo:Tharam, A collection of prefaces, C W Thamotherampillai 1971
- Wikipedia – Sangam Literature. [Accessed presumably August 2022 – ed]
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Sangam Literature: These Tantalizing Tales Offer a Window into Ancient Tamil Life
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“In their antiquity and in their contemporaneity, there is not much else in any Indian literature equal to these quiet and dramatic Tamil poems. In their values and stances, they represent a mature classical poetry: passion is balanced by courtesy, transparency by ironies and nuances of design, impersonality by vivid detail, austerity of line by richness of implication. These poems are not just the earliest evidence of the Tamil genius.”
- Indologist Kamil Zvelebil quoting A. K. Ramanujan discussing the Sangam Literature
Sangam (spelled also as cankam, chankam, or shangam) literature is the earliest corpus of texts written in Tamil, one of the major languages of southern India. This collection of Tamil writings is believed by some to have been produced between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. Others, however, are of the opinion that it was created at an earlier date, i.e. between the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD. In any case, the significance of Sangam literature lies in the fact that it provides us with a picture of everyday life in Tamilakam (the geographical region inhabited by the ancient Tamil people) during that time. Sangam literature is also one of the main sources employed for the documentation of the early history of that region.
Three Groups of Works
The word ‘sangam’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘sangha’, which may be translated to mean ‘a group of persons’, or ‘an association’. As a matter of fact, the ‘sangam’ in Sangam literature is a reference to the literary academies (in particular the third one) that produced these works. It is believed that there were three different academies, each flourishing at a different place and time. It has also been claimed that these academies were patronized by the kings of the Pandyan Dynasty, one of the three Tamil dynasties (the other two being the Chola and the Chera Dynasties).
Manikkavacakar, Minister of Pandya king Varagunavarman II (c. 862 – 885). ( Public Domain )
The first Sangam had its seat in Thenmadurai, a mythological city, and is believed to have been attended by the gods and legendary sages. No works produced by this Sangam are known to have survived. The next Sangam was located in Kapatpuram, another legendary city. Although this Sangam produced a large volume of works, only the Tolkappiyam has survived till today. This is a work that dealt with early Tamil grammar and rhetoric. The last Sangam was hosted in Madurai, a city in the modern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and a capital of the Pandyan Dynasty. This Sangam was responsible for almost the entire body of Sangam literature that we have today. Be that as it may, it has been claimed that the extant works are but a fraction of that produced by this Sangam.
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Apart from the Tolkappiyam that was mentioned earlier, the other works that make up the corpus of Sangam literature are eight anthologies of poetry collectively known as Ettutogai (Ainkurunuru , Kuruntokai , Narrinai , Akananuru , Kalittokai , Patirruppattu , Purananuru , and Paripatal ), another anthology of 10 idylls ( Pattupattu ), 18 minor works ( PadinenkilkanakkuI ), and two epics ( Silappadikaram and Manimekalai ).
Ilango Adigal, author of ‘ Silappadikaram.’ (Kasiarunachalam/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
What is Sangam Literature About?
Sangam literature deals mainly with secular topics, such as government and war, and therefore provides the reader with a picture of everyday life in Tamilakam during the time when these works were being created. Nevertheless, religious themes may be found in Sangam literature as well, as the Paripatal , for instance, contains poems about the gods.
Sangam literature has also been used as a source of information for the early history of Tamilakam. Diverse aspects of that age, including the trade and commerce, society, and administration are known through these writings.
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A page of a palm leaf manuscript held at the U.V. Swaminatha Iyer Libary in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. It contains the Ciṟupañcamūlam, a work of late-classical Tamil literature. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )
A Sangam Story
This may be seen, for example, in the Silappadikaram (which translates as ‘The Tale of an Anklet’ or ‘The Jeweled Anklet’). This tale is about Kannagi, the wife of Kovalan, the son of a wealthy merchant from Puhar. After Kovalan falls in love with Madhavi, a dancer, Kannagi is neglected. Eventually, Kovalan realizes his mistake, and returns to his wife. The couple then start their life afresh in Madurai. One day, Kovalan enters the city to sell one of his wife’s ruby anklets, so that they could start a business. At the same time, the royal goldsmith had stolen one of the queen’s pearl anklets and used Kovalan as a scapegoat. The merchant’s son is executed by the king, and his wife, bent on proving her husband’s innocence, goes to the king’s palace, avenges her husband, and becomes a goddess.
Although the main characters of the epic are Kovalan and Kannagi, many historical figures and places are mentioned, which provide information about Tamilakam during that time.
Kannagi statue in Marina Beach, Chennai. (Balamurugan Srinivasan/ CC BY 2.0 )
Top Image: Agastyar, Father and Chairman of first Tamil Sangams, Madurai, Pandiya Kingdom . ( CC BY SA 2.5 ) Detail of ancient Tamil script found on the temple walls of the Tanjore Bragadeeshwara temple. (Symphoney Symphoney/ CC BY 2.0 )
By: Wu Mingren
Aggarwal, M., 2018. Sangam Period: Literature, Administration and Economic Condition. [Online] Available at: http://www.historydiscussion.net/history-of-india/sangam-period-literature-administration-and-economic-condition-during-sangam-period/739
Drishti IAS, 2015. Sangam Literature. [Online] Available at: http://www.drishtiias.com/upsc-exam-gs-resources-SANGAM-LITERATURE
Josh, J., 2014. The Sangam Literature. [Online] Available at: https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/the-sangam-literature-1398238526-1
Priyadarshin, S., 2018. Sangam Literature of the Ancient Kingdoms of South India. [Online] Available at: http://www.historydiscussion.net/history-of-india/sangam-literature-of-the-ancient-kingdoms-of-south-india/2539
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2016. Sangam literature. [Online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/shangam-literature
Thanks for this post.
<a href=" https://www.ramanasriias.com/manipuri-literature">Manipuri Literature Syllabus</a>
I have photographed a Sangam temple (no doubt, it has a bronze plaque so stating it’s name “Sangam”) in Thailand’s Kamphaeng Phet: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g775407-d2715847-Reviews-Kamphaeng_Phet_Historical_Park-Kamphaeng_Phet_Kamphaeng_Phet_Province.html#photos;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=157728797
I don’t recall any information in the adjacent museum about these being of Tamil culture...not that I doubt it...these folks sailed up the rivers, speading their culture.
Another excellent article. I’m impressed by the depth of your knowledge. Your articles are always well researched and you provide excellent references. I’ve never heard of Sangam but I plan to research it. Hope some of your references provide English translations
Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More
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Sangam Period: Literature, Administration and Economic Condition
Till the second century B.C., the upland portions of the peninsula with the Kaveri delta as the nuclear zone were inhabited by people who are called megalith builders.
They are known not from their actual settlements which are rare, but from their graves called megaliths.
These are called megaliths because they were encircled by big pieces of stone which contained not only skeletons of the buried people but also pottery and iron objects.
Image Source: 3.bp.blogspot.com/-3tGTUD_XCXA/UoY7nQxCwxI/AAAAAAAABqU/4A5r5UmjCw4/s1600/IMG_0440.JPG
Tridents, which later came to be associated with Shiva, have also found in the megaliths. However compared to the number of agricultural tools that were buried, those meant for fighting and hunting is larger in number.
It shows that megalithic people did not practice an advanced type of agriculture. The megaliths are found in all upland areas of the peninsula, but their concentration seems to be in eastern Andhra and in Tamil Nadu.
Their beginnings can be traced to circa 1000 B.C., but in many cases the megalithic phase lasted from about the fifth to the first century B.C. The Cholas, Pandyas and Keralaputras (Cheras) mentioned in the Asokan inscriptions were probably in the late megalithic phase of material culture. By the third century B.C., the megalithic people had moved from the uplands into fertile river basins and reclaimed marshy deltaic areas.
Under the stimulus of contact with the elements of material culture brought from the north to the extreme end of the peninsula by traders, conquerors and Jaina, Buddhist and some Brahmana missionaries, they came to have social classes, they came to practice wet paddy cultivation and founded numerous villages and towns.
Cultural and economic contacts between the north and the Deep South known as Tamilakam or Tamizhakam became extremely important from the fourth century B.C. The route to the south called the Dakshinapatha was valued by the northeners because the south supplied gold, pearls and various precious stones.
Flourishing trade with the Roman Empire contributed to the formation of the three states respectively under the Cholas, Cheras and the Pandyas. These southern kingdoms would not have developed without the spread of iron technology which promoted forest clearing and plough cultivation.
The Sangam Period:
The Sangam Age in South India is a landmark in her history. The word sangam is the Tamil form of the Sanskrit word Sangha which means a group of persons or an association. The Tamil Sangam was an academy of poets and bards who flourished in three different periods and in different places under the patronage of the Pandyan kings. It is believed that the first Sangam was attended by gods and legendary sages, and its seat was Ten Madurai. All the works of the first Sangam have perished.
The seat of the second Sangam was Kapatpuram, another capital of the Pandyas. It was attended by several poets and produced a large mass of literature, but only Tolkappiyam (the early Tamil grammar) has survived.
The seat of the third Sangam was the present Madurai. It has also produced vast literature, but only a fraction of it has survived. It is this fraction which constitutes the extant body of Sangam literature. The Age of the Sangam is the age to which the Sangam literature belonged. The Sangam literature constitutes a mine of information on conditions of life around the beginning of the Christian era.
According to Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, the Sangam literature which combines idealism with realism and classic grace with indigenous industry and strength is rightly regarded as constituting the Augustan age of Tamil literature. It deals with secular matter relating to public and social activity like government, war charity, trade, worship, agriculture etc.
Among the poets and thinkers of the Sangam age Tolkappiyar, Tiruvalluvar, lllango Adigal, Sittalai Sattanar, Nakkirar, Kapilar, Paranar, Auvaiyar, Mangudi Marudanar and a few others are outstanding. Sangam literature consists of the earliest Tamil works (such as the Tolkappiyam), the ten poems (Pattupattu), the eight anthologies (Ettutogai) and the eighteen minor works (Padinenkilkanakku), and the three epics. The chief merits of the sangam works is their absolute devotion to standards and adherence to literary conventions.
Earliest Tamil Works:
Tolkappiyam is the oldest extant Tamil grammar written by Tokkappiyar (one of the 12 disciples of Saint Agastya.) It is divided into three major parts, each consisting of nine iyals (sub-parts) and has a total of 1612 sutras. Other earliest Tamil works were the Agattiyam (a work on grammar of letters and life) by Saint Agattiyar, Pannirupadalam and the Kakkipadiniyam.
Ten Poems Pattupattu:
Murugarruppadai (by Nakkirar), Sirupanarruppadai (by Nattattanar), Perumbanarruppadai, Maduraikkanji (by Mangudi Marudam), Pattinappalai (by Kannan), and other works, come in this category.
The poetry in the Pattupattu was divided into two main groups: Aham (deals with matters strictly limited to one aspect of subjective experience viz., love) and Puram (deals with matters capable of externalization or objectification).
Eight Anthologies Ettutogai:
1. Aingurunuru, compiled by Gudalur Kilar, consists of 500 erotic poems.
2. Agananuru, compiled by Rudrasarman, consists of love poems.
3. Narrinai comprises 400 short poems on love.
4. Kurunttogai has 400 love poems.
5. Purananuru consists of 400 poems in praise of kings. The Nandas and Mauryas are referred in one of the poems.
6. Kalittogaicomprises love poems.
7. Paripadal has 24 poems in praise of gods.
8. Padirrupattu is a short collection of 8 poems in praise of the Chera Kings.
The eight anthologies (Ettutogai) also are in two groups, the Aham and the Puram.
Eighteen Minor Works Padinenkilkanakku:
These works are called ‘minor works’ because the poems in these are shorter in form than those in the Ettutogai and Pattuppattu. The most important among these are the Tirukkural by Tiruvalluvar (known as the Bible of Tamil Land’, it is a compound of the Dharmasastra, the Arthasastra and the Kamasutra), the Naladiyar, the Palamoliby Munnururai Araiyar, the Acharakkovaietc.
The epics Silappadikaram (The Jewelled Anklet) and Manimekalai belong to the early centuries of the Christian era.
1. Silappadikaram was written by Mango Adigal (grandson of Karikala, the great Chola King) in the second century A.D. It is a tragic story of a merchant, Kovalan of Puhar who falls in love with a dancer Madhavi, neglecting his own wife, Kannagi, who in the end revenges the death of her husband at the hands of the Pandyan King and becomes a goddess.
It marks the beginning of Kannagi cult or Pattini cult that is worship of Kannagi as the ideal wife. There is also a reference to the Ceylonese king Gajabahu being present on the occasion of the installation of a Kannagi temple, the Goddess of Chastity, by Chera king Senguttuvan.
2. Manimekalaiwas written by poet Sattanar. It is the story of Manimekalai, the daughter of Kovalan, and Madhavi of the earlier epic. The main aim of this epic seems to be to expound the excellence of the Buddhist religion through the medium of the travails of Manimekalai consequent on the loss of the city of Puhar when the sea eroded into the coast. This epic is the only important ancient work which gives glimpse of the development of the fine arts in the Sangam age.
In both these epics, a good deal of social and historical information is found
3. Sivaga Sindamani, written by Tiruttakkadevar a Jaina ascetic, is the story of Sivaga or Jivaka
Period of Sangam literature:
The earliest script that the Tamils used was the Brahmi script. It was only from the late ancient and early medieval period, that they started evolving a new angular script, called the Grantha script, from which the modern Tamil is derived.
Some of the contents of the Sangam literature are corroborated by the writings of some Greek and Roman classical writers of the first and second century A. D, leading us to fix the period of Sangam age roughly between third century B.C. to third century A.D. So most of the Sangam literature also must have been produced during this period. The Sangam literature was finally compiled in its present form in circa A.D. 300-600.
Sangam Polity :
From the earliest times Tamilham had known only three major kingdoms – the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas. The Pandyas were first mentioned by Megasthenes, who says that their kingdom was celebrated for pearls.
He also speaks of its being ruled by a woman, which may suggest some matriarchal influence in the Pandya society. In the Major Rock Edict II Asoka mentions of the three kingdoms – Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras as neighbours.
The Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavelea contains the early epigraphic reference to the kingdoms of the Tamil country, where he is said to have destroyed a confederacy of Tamil states – Tramiradesa Sanghatam. However, the chief source for the Sangam period is the Sangam literature.
The Pandya territory occupied the southern-most and the south-eastern portion of the Indian peninsula, and it roughly included the modern districts of Tinnevelly, Ramnad and Madurai in Tamilnadu. It had its capital at Madurai. The Pandyas are rightly famous for patronising the poets and scholars of the Tamil Sangams.
The earliest known Pandyan ruler was Mudukudumi who is mentioned in the Sangam text as a great conqueror. The most reputed Pandyan ruler was Nedunjhelian, who ruled from Madurai and was a great poet.
According to Silappadikaram, Nedunjhelian, in a fit of passion, ordered without judicial enquiry the execution of Kovalan who was accused of theft of the queen’s anklet. When Kovalan’s wife proved her husband’s innocence, the king was struck with remorse and died of shock on the throne.
The Pandyan kings profited from trade with the Roman Empire and sent embassies to the Roman emperor Augustus. The Pandyan port Korkai was a great centres of trade and commerce, another port was Saliyur. The brahmanas enjoyed considerable influence, and the Pandya kings performed Vedic sacrifices in the early centuries of the Christian era.
The Chola kingdom which came to be called Cholamandalam (Coromandel) in early medieval times was situated to the north-east of the Pandyan territory, between the Pennar and the Velar Rivers. Their capital was first at Uraiyur, a place famous for cotton trade and later shifted to Puhar or Kaveripattiram.
It seems that in the middle of the second century B.C. a Chola king named Elara conquered Sri Lanka and ruled over it for nearly 50 years. A firmer history of the Cholas begins in the second century A. D. with their famous king Karikala which means, ‘The man with the charred leg.’ He was a contemporary of the Chera king Perunjeral Adan. Karikala was a very competent ruler and a great warrior.
He defeated the Chera king Perunjeral. One of his early achievements was the victory at Venni, 15 miles to the east of Tanjore; his victory meant the breakup of the widespread confederacy that had been formed against him.
He founded Puhar and constructed 160 km of embankment along the Kaveri River. This was built with the labour of 12,000 slaves who were brought as capitves from Sri Lanka. Puhar was a great centre of trade and commerce, and excavations show that it had a large dock. The Cholas maintained an efficient navy.
Under Karikala’s successors the Chola power rapidly declined. Two sons of Karikala ruled from two different capitals – the elder from Uraiyur and the younger one from Puhar. The last great Chola ruler after Karikala was Nedunjelian who successfully fought against the Pandyas and the Cheras both, but was ultimately killed in battle.
Their two neighbouring powers, the Cheras and the Pandyas, extended at the cost of the Cholas. What remained of the Cholas power was almost wiped out by the attacks of the Pallavas from the north.
The fortunes of the Cholas suffered a serious setback, when, according to a tradition recorded in Manimekalaia good part of the port town of Puhar was engulfed by the sea in terrific tidal waves, during the reign of the later Chola king Killivalavan.
The Chera or the Kerala country was situated to the west and north of the land of the Pandyas. It included the narrow strip of land between the sea and the mountains and covered portions of both Kerala and Tamilnadu.
In the early centuries of the Christrian era, the Chera country was as important as the country of the Cholas and the Pandyas. It owed its importance to trade with the Romans. The Romans set up two regiments at Muziris identical with Cranganore in the Chera country to protect their interests. It is said that they also built there a temple of Augustus.
The history of the Cheras was marked by continuous fight with the Cholas and the Pandyas. One of the earliest and better known Chera rulers was Udiyanjeral (A.D. 130). The titles Vanavaramban and Perunjaran Udiyan are applied to him by the poet Mudinagarayar in Puram.
The son of Udiyanjeral was Nedunjeral Adan who won a naval victory against some local enemy on the Malabar Coast, and took captive several Yavana traders. He won victories against seven crowned kings, and thus reached the superior rank of the adhiraja.
He was called “Imayavaramban”, he who had the Himalayas as his boundary’. He fought a war with the contemporary Chola king in which both the monarchs lost their lives and their queens performed Sati.
According to the Chera poets their greatest king was Senguttuvan, the Red or Good Chera. He routed his rivals and established his cousin securely on the throne. It is said that he invaded the north and crossed the Ganga. But all this seems to be exaggerated. Pattini cult, that is the worship of Kannagi as the ideal wife, was started by him.
Senguttuvan was succeeded by his half-brother Perunjeral Adan (180 A.D.), who was a contemporary of the great Chola monarch Karikala. We learn from the poems Puram and Aham, that while fighting against the Cholas in the battle of Venni, Perunjeral Adan received a wound in the back and expiated the disgrace by starving himself to death on the battlefield.
After the second century A.D. the Chera power declined, and we have nothing of its history until the eighth century A. D. The fame of the Cheras lies in the liberal patronage to Tamil poets and promotion of trade with Romans. The Chera had a number of good ports along the western coast such as Tondi and Musiri or Muziris (Muziris was a great centre of Indo-Roman trade). The capital of the Cheras was Vanji.
Sangam Administration :
The king was the very centre and embodiment of administration. He was called Ko, Mannam, Vendan, Korravan or Iraivan. Though hereditary monarch was the prevailing form of government, disputed successions and civil wars were not unknown. The court of the crowned monarch was called avai.
The ideal of the ‘conquering king’ (Vijigishu) was accepted and acted on. The King’s birthday (Perunal) was celebrated every year. Kings assumed several titles. For example, the Pandyas were known as Minavar, Kavuriyar, Panchavar, Tennar, Seliyar, Marar, Valudi.etc the Cholas called themselves Sennis, Sembiyas, Valavan and Killi, and the Cheras had titles like Vanavar, Villavar, Kudavar, Kuttuvar, Poraiyar and so on.
The royal emblem of the Pandyas was the carp (fish), the bow of the Cheras and of the Cholas was the tiger. The sabha or manram of the king in the capital was the highest court of justice. The king was assisted by a large body of officials, who were divided into five assemblies:
(1) Amaichchar or ministers,
(2) Purohitas or priests,
(3) Senapati or military commanders,
(4) Dutar or envoys and
(5) Arrar or spies.
Provincial and Local Administration:
The entire kingdom was called mandalam. The Chola mandalam, Pandya mandalam and the Chera mandalam were the original major mandalam. Below the mandalam was a major division, nadu (province). The ur was a town which was variously described as a big village (perar), a small village (sirur) or an old village (mudur). Pattinam was the name for a coastal town and Puharwas the harbour area.
The administration of nadus was generally carried on by hereditary chiefs. The village was the fundamental unit of administration which was administered by local assemblies called manrams.
Revenue administration :
The commonest and possibly the largest source of revenue was land-tax called Karai, but the share of the agricultural proudce, claimed and collected by the king,is not specified. The ma and veli was the measure of land and kalam as measure of grain. A well-known unit of territory yielding tax was a variyam (Vari meant tax) and an officer in-charge of collecting the tax from that unit of land was called a Variyar.
Tributes paid by the feudatories and war booty (irai) constituted a considerable part of royal resources. Trade local and long-distance, constituted a very important source of royal revenue. Tolls and custom duties were ulgu or sungum. The duties to be paid to the king were generally known as Kadamai or Paduvadu.
Military Administration :
Apparently out of the taxes collected from the peasantry, the state maintained a rudimentary army and it consisted of chariots drawn by oxen, of elephants, cavalry and infantry. Elephants played an important part in war. Horses were imported by sea into the Pandyan kingdom.
The institution of virakkal or nadukul (hero-stone), which was a practice of erecting monuments for the dead soldiers and worshiping them, was prevalent at that time. The institution of Kavalmaram or Kadimaram was also prevalent. Under it, each ruler had a great tree in his palace as a symbol of power.
Sangam Economy :
The Sangam economy was simple and mostly self-sufficient. Agriculture was the main occupation and the chief crops were rice, cotton, ragi, sugarcane pepper, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon etc. Weaving, ship-building, metal working, carpentry, rope-making, ornament-making, making of ivory products, tanning etc were some of the handicrafts, which were widely practiced.
The market place was known as avanam. This period also witnessed the emergence of various towns like Puhar, Uraiyur, Vanji, Tondi, Muzuris, Madurai, Kanchi, etc. Industry and crafts was given a fillip by a rising demand in the foreign markets.
Trade, both inland and foreign, was well organised and briskly carried our throughout the period Internal trade was brisk, caravans of merchants with carts and pack-animals carried their merchandise from place to place, Barter played a large part in all transactions and salt was an important commodity of trade. The Sangam period witnessed the rise of maritime activity.
External trade was carried on between South India and Hellenistic kingdom of Egypt and Arabia as well as the Malay Archipelago. The author of the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea (75 A.D.) gives the most valuable information about the trade between India and the Roman Empire. He mentions the port of Naura (Cannanore) Tyndis (Tondi), Muzuris (Musiri, Cranganore), and Nelcynda as the leading ones on the west coast.
Other ports of South India were Balita (Varkalai), Comari, Colchi, Puhar (Khaberis of Ptolemy), Saliyur, Poduca (Arikamedu) and Sopatma (Markanam). A landmark in the development of communications was the discovery of the monsoon winds by the Greek sailor Hippalus in around A.D. 46-47.
This led to increase in volume of trade. Large vessels made up of single logs called Sangara and very large vessels, called Colondia made voyages. The Periplus of the Erythraen Sea, written by an anonymous Greek navigator, gives details of Indian exports to the Roman Empire. The main exports were: pepper, pearls, ivory, silk, spike-nard, malabathrum, diamonds, saffron, precious stone and tortoise shell.
It also mentions Argaru (Uraiyur) as the place to which were sent all the pearls gathered on the coast and from which were exported muslins called agraritic. Silk, which was supplied by Indian merchants to the Roman Empire, was considered so important that the Roman emperor Aurelian declared it to be worth its weight in gold.
The Roman need for spices could not be met entirely by local supply; this brought Indian traders into contact with south-east Asia. In return for her exports, India imported from the Roman empire such commodities as topaz, tin cloth, linen, antimony, crude glass, copper, tin, lead, wine, orpiment and wheat. The Romans also exported to India wine amphorae and red glazed Arretine ware which have been found at Arikamedu near Pondicherry. They also sent to India a large number of gold and silver coins.
Connected with the phenomenon of trade was the growth of money economy in the early centuries. The imported coins were mostly used as bullions. The large quantities of gold and silver coins struck by all the Roman emperors beginning from the reign of Augustus (and that of Tiberius) down to Nero (54-58 A. D.) found in the interior of Tamil land, testify to the extent of the trade and the presence of Roman settlers in the Tamil country.
Sangam Society and Religion :
The society in the southern kingdoms chiefly consisted of agriculturists or those who depended indirectly on the land. Besides, the peasants there were landless labourers, carpenters, gold-smiths, hunters and fishermen.
The Brahmanas came there much later form the northern India. But in the ancient times, they followed neither the Varna system nor the Ashram system. Broadly speaking, there were chiefly two classes of people in the early Tamil society – those who tilled the land themselves and those who got it tilled by others. The latter were wealthier and this very fact introduced inequalities in the social system. Gradually, the Varna System also started.
The people lived chiefly in villages. Mostly they were poor who lived in huts and humbler structures. The forest tribal were very poor. The rich lived in houses of bricks and mortar. The town-people were generally rich and they led happy and prosperous life. The towns were surrounded by a wall for protection from invaders. Forts were also built.
The women in the Tamil society were free. Polygamy was practiced, though on a limited scale. Prostitutes and dancing girls lived in towns. Dhoti and turban were the chief attire. Women were fond of ornaments. The chief diet consisted of meat and rice. They also drank wine.
In the beginning, Brahamanism grew popular in these kingdoms, though its influence was limited. The kings performed Vedic Yajnas and the Brahmanas held discourses with the Jain and the Buddhist scholars. The four chief deities worshipped by them were Shiva, Vishnu, Balram and Krishna. Marugan was the local God.
During Chandragupta’s reign Jainism spread in the South. In this period, the Buddhism was on the decline. The growing popularity of Shaivism and Vaishnavism, however, caused a setback to Jainism. The people were tolerant and the followers of the various religions lived together peacefully. The practice of cremating the dead had started.
- Sangam Literature of the Ancient Kingdoms of South India
- Top 3 Powerful Rulers of South India | Indian History
- The Sangam Society of South India
- The Sangam Age during the Evolution of Indian History
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Home » Ancient Indian History » Sangam Age
- It was named after the famous Sangam academies of poets and scholars centred in the city of
- However, the most probable date of the Sangam literature has been fixed between third century B.C. to third century A.D., on the basis of literary, archaeological and numismatic evidences.
- Historians and Ideologists regard the Sangam period as the ‘classical age’ of the Tamils analogous to the age of the classics in Greece and Rome and to that of the Renaissance of later period in Europe.
- However, in the context of early South Indian history, this term can be rendered into English as an assembly, a college or an academy of learned people , held under the patronage of the Pandyan kings , who were great lovers of literature and the fine arts.
- It was similar to a Round Table Conference, which allowed sitting room only to an authentic poet.
- The first Sangam , held at then Madurai, was attended by gods and legendary sages but no literary work of this Sangam was available.
- The second Sangam was held at Kapadapuram, but the all the literary works had perished except Tolkappiyam .
- The third Sangam at Madurai was founded by Mudathirumaran . It was attended by a large number of poets who produced voluminous literature, but only a few had survived.
- As mentioned earlier, the Sangam works contain mines of information for the study of early history of Tamilakam .
- They reflect the matter of great historical importance.
- Tolkappiyam , a treatise on Tamil grammar and poetics, composed probably during the second Sangam, is the oldest extant literary work in Tamil.
- Paripadal and
- Pattinappalai and
- Pathinenkilkanakku contains eighteen works mostly dealing with ethics and morals. The most important among them is Tirukkural authored by
- Ilango Adigal was the author of Silappadikaram
- Manimekalai was written by Sathanar mainly to propound the Buddhist doctrine among Tamils
- These poetical works describe about the social, religious, economic and political conditions of Tamilakam with the focus on the cities like Madurai, Puhar (Poompuhar/ Kaveripattinam), Vanji (Karur) and
- Also, the ‘Eighteen Minor Works ’ include the ethical and didactic literature. The didactic literature, which includes the world famous Tirukkural is mostly in stanza form.
- The political history of these dynasties can be traced from the literary references.
- The Cheras ruled over parts of modern Kerala.
- Their capital was Vanji and their important seaports were Tondi and Musiri
- Cheran Senguttuvan belonged to 2nd century A.D. His younger brother was Elango Adigal, the author of Silappathigaram
- The Chola kingdom of the Sangam period extended from modern Tiruchi district to southern Andhra Pradesh
- Their capital was first located at Uraiyur and then shifted to Puhar.
- The Pandyas ruled over the present day southern Tamil Nadu. Their capital was Madurai.
- Maduraikkanji written by Mangudi Maruthanar describes the socioeconomic condition of the Pandya country including the flourishing seaport of Korkai
- The Pandyan rule during the Sangam Age began to decline due to the invasion of the Kalabhras.
- The minor chieftains played a significant role in the Sangam period.
- Although they were subordinate to the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers, they were powerful and popular in their respective regions.
- The king had to take the advice of his minister, court-poet and the imperial court or avai .
- The Chola kings assumed titles like Senni, Valavan and Killi
- The Pandya kings assumed titles like Thennavar and Minavar.
- Carp for the Pandyas
- Tiger for the Cholas
- Bow for the Cheras.
- The imperial court or Avai was attended by a number of chiefs and officials.
- They were ministers (amaichar), priests (anthanar), military commanders (senapathi), envoys (thuthar) and spies (orrar).
- Silappadikaram refers to the two types of councils — Aimperunkulu and Enperayam.
- The aimperunkulu or the council of five members was the council of the ministers.
- The enperayam or the great assembly (perayam) consisted of 8 members (government officers).
- This worked as an administrative machinery of the state. These two assemblies that of the Five and that of the Eight functioned as administrative bodies, though their function was generally advisory in character. However, their advice was rarely rejected by the king.
- Each ruler had a regular army and their respective Kodimaram (tutelary tree).
- The Pattinappalai refers to the custom officials employed in the seaport of Puhar.
- Roads and highways were well maintained and guarded night and day to prevent robbery and smuggling
- Also, of the three muventars (three crowned monarch) the Cholas controlled the fully irrigated fertile Cauvery (Kaveri) basin with their capital at Uraiyur , the Pandyas ruled over the pastoral and littoral part s with the capital at Madurai , and the Cheras had their sway over the hilly countr y in the west with Vanji (Karur) as the capital
- Tolkappiyam refers to the fivefold division of lands.
- The people living in these five divisions had their respective chief occupations, as well as their Gods as follows:
- Arasar , which was the ruling class
- Anthanars ., which played a significant role in the Sangam polity and religion.
- Vanigars carried on trade and commerce
- Vellalas were agriculturists.
- Ancient primitive tribes like Thodas, Irulas, Nagas and Vedars lived in this period.
- The worship of Murugan has an ancient origin and the festivals relating to God Murugan was mentioned in the Sangam literature.
- Other gods worshipped during the Sangam period were Mayon (Vishnu), Vendan (Indiran), Varunan and Korravai.
- The Hero Stone was erected in memory of the bravery shown by the warrior in battle
Position of Women
- There is plenty of information in the Sangam literature to trace the position of women during the Sangam age.
- The courage of women was also appreciated in many poems.
- Karpu or Chaste life was considered the highest virtue of women.
- Love marriage was a common practice.
- Women were allowed to choose their life partners.
- The practice of Sati was also prevalent in the higher strata of society.
- Also, the class of dancers was patronized by the kings and nobles
- Poetry, music and dancing were popular among the people of the Sangam age.
- Liberal donations were given to poets by the kings, chieftains and nobles.
- They were experts in folk songs and folk dances.
- A variety of Yazhs and drums are referred to in the Sangam literature
- Dancing was performed by Kanigaiyar .
- Koothu was the most popular entertainment of the people.
Economy of the Sangam Age
- Rice was the common crop.
- Ragi, Sugarcane, Cotton, Pepper, Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon and a variety of fruits were the other crops.
- Jack fruit and pepper were famous in the Chera country.
- Paddy was the chief crop in the Chola and Pandya country.
- They include weaving, metal works and carpentry, ship building and making of ornaments using beads, stones and ivory.
- There was a great demand for these products, as the internal and external trade was at its peak during the Sangam period.
- Spinning and weaving of cotton and silk clothes attained a high quality.
- There was a great demand in the western world for the cotton clothes woven at Uraiyur.
- Merchants carried the goods on the carts and on animal-back from place to place.
- Internal trade was mostly based on the barter system.
- External trade was carried between South India and the Greek kingdoms.
- The port city of Puhar became an emporium of foreign trade, as big ships entered this port with precious goods.
- Other ports of commercial activity include Tondi, Musiri, Korkai, Arikkamedu and Marakkanam.
- Plenty of gold and silver coins issued by the Roman Emperors like Augustus, Tiberius and Nero were found in all parts of TamilNadu.
- They reveal the extent of the trade and the presence of Roman traders in the Tamil country.
- While Gold, horses and sweet wine were the chief imports.
Analysis of the Sangam Age
- Thus, the picture that emerges from the study of Sangam literature reflects that the period witnessed the conception of state for the first time in South India. However, it was still in the process of crystallization.
- Sangam polity was characterized by the patriarchal and patrimonial systems in which the administrative staff system and various offices were directly controlled by the rulers.
- But the acute class distinction , which appeared in later times, were lacking in Sangam age.
- Agriculture was the backbone of Sangam economy .
- The trading activities , especially trade relations with the Mediterranean World enriched their economy.
- The foreign elements also influenced the socio-economic and cultural life of people.
- Both, animism and idol worship, were followed during the Sangam age.
End of the Sangam Age
- Toward the end of the third century A. , the Sangam period slowly witnessed its decline .
- The Kalabhras occupied the Tamil country for about two and a half centuries.
- We have little information about the Kalabhra rule.
- Jainism and Buddhism became prominent during this period.
- Later, the Pallavas in the northern Tamil Nadu and Pandyas in southern Tamil Nadu drove the Kalabhras out of the Tamil country and established their rule.
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What is sangam literature indian history - sangam age - class 9.
Sangam literature is one of the main sources used for documenting the early history of the ancient Tamil country.
The Sangam literature is one of the earliest works of Tamil literature. It refers to a body of classical Tamil literature collected and composed between the years 600 BCE to 300 CE. Sangam was an association or academy of Tamil poets held under the patronage of the kings or the feudal gods. These Sangams were established by the Pandya kings.
Sangam literature is primarily secular dealing with everyday themes in a Tamilakam context. These works deal in subjects ranging from love, war, governance, and trade. The literature contains a corpus of poems and songs praising the achievements of numerous kings and princes. The Tamil language reached a level of maturity and began to serve as a powerful medium of literary expression.
Do you know, that the Sangam literature is divided into two groups? Well, the Sangam literature can be roughly divided into groups, and these groups are: Melkannakku or the Eighteen Major Works, which are essentially narrative. Kilkanakku or the Eighteen Minor Works, which are essentially didactic.
The poems belonging to the Sangam literature were composed by the Dravidian Tamil poets. The poets of this period used the grammar composed by scholars like Agastya and Tolkappiyar. These poems also throw light on the history of Tamil Nadu, Buddhism, its position during that period, contemporary arts and culture, and the customs of that time.
Besides these texts, the following literary works of the period have also survived:
Tolkappiyam � a work on phonetics and Tamil grammar Tirukkural � A work on philosophy, written by Thiruvalluvar Silapadikaram and Manimekalai � two Tamil epics written by Adigal and Saathanar respectively.
Tolkappiyam is one of the earliest works in Tamil and it is a book on phonology, grammar, and poetics. It is the most ancient Tamil grammar text and the oldest surviving work of Tamil literature. The surviving manuscripts of the Tolkappiyam consist of three books, each with nine chapters with a cumulative total of 1612 sutras.
Tirukkural was perhaps written during the late Sangam period. It consists of 1330 couplets (kurals) organized into 133 chapters. Each chapter contains 10 couplets. The text has been translated into many other languages.
Silapadikaram is considered the brightest gem of early Tamil literature. It has wealth of information about various art forms such as music and dance of that period. It also provides great details of the lifestyle of the people, landscape, religious practices, and myths.
The other epic Manimekalai is a continuation of Silapadikaram, with the central character Manimekalai being the daughter of Kovalan, who later renounces the world and becomes a Buddhist. Both these epics tell us a lot about the social and economic life of the people of the times.
One summarizes we find that Sangam literature gives details regarding the nature of polity, economy, society, and the physical features of Tamilagam. According to Sangam literature there existed five ecozones which consisted of forest, hills, deserts, coastal regions, and fertile plains.
All these regions had a different pattern of economic and social life are there existed uneven development. The poems were based on different contexts such as love and wars which were the most prominent. What do these love poems indicate? Well, these love poems actually indicate the primitive marriage and family system in South India.
The Sangam literature gives the picture of primitive society and the transformation of this primitive society into a developed one.
1. Melkannakkuis also known as the : a. Eighteen Minor Works b. Nineteen Major Works c. Nineteen Minor Works d. Eighteen Major Works
2. Which of the following is considered the brightest gem of early Tamil literature? a. Tolkappiyam b. Tirukkural c. Manimekalai d. Silapadikaram
3. Tirukkural consists of _____ couplets organized into ____ chapters. a. 1333,130 b. 1300,113 c. 1331,131 d. 1330,133
4. The Sangam literature is divided into how many groups? a. Three b. Four c. Five d. Two
5. Which of the following was written during the late Sangam period? a. Tolkappiyam b. Silapadikaram c. Manimekalai d. Tirukkural
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- Apr 06, 2023
The notes are good, i really love them. They help me very much in my revisions. Thank you.
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- Mar 24, 2023
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Last updated on October 7, 2023 by ClearIAS Team
Sangam age refers to the period between the 3 rd century BC to the 3 rd century AD in South India especially the area between the river Krishna and Tungabhadra.
It bears the name ‘Sangam’ because the kingdom of Pandya organized assemblies where poets, bards, and writers joined from various parts of South India and these assemblies were called ‘Sangamas’.
Eminent academics gathered at the sangams to serve as the board of censors, and the best writing was produced in the form of anthologies. The earliest examples of Dravidian literature can be found in these writings.
Table of Contents
Have you heard about “Silapathikaram” , the epic love story of Kannaki and Kovalan?
Silapathikaram is one of the masterpieces of Sangam literature .
Yes, Sangam literature is an introduction to Dravidian literature. And it reveals all the ancient roots of south Indian tradition.
This literature is a collection of works that contain approximately 2381 poems that have been attributed to 473 poets and there is a corpus of literature written by 102 poets that remains anonymous.
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The poets included men and women from different classes of society.
2 Major Schools
There are two major schools of Sangam literature:
- Aham/Agam:- The ‘inner field’ concentrates on the abstract discussion of human aspects like love, sexual relations, etc.
- Puram:- The ‘outer field’ which discusses human experiences like social life, ethics, valour, customs, etc
According to the Tamil legends, there were three Sangams held in ancient South India popularly called Muchchangam .
There were three Sangams organized over a period of 600-700 years. However, a conclusive historical account of the first two Sangams is not available. The first and second Sangams are considered legends and myths by many scholars
Corpus of Sangam literature: Major Works
Famous works included in Sangam literature are Tholkappiyum, Ettutogai, Pattupattu, Pathinenkil kanakku, Thirukkural, and two epics called Silapathigaram and Manimeghalai.
- Tolkkappiyum:- Tolkkapiyum was written by Tholkkappiyar and is considered the earliest Tamil literary work. It is a work on Tamil grammar and it also provides information about the socio-economic condition of that time.
- Ettutogai: Eight Anthologies consist of eight works, includes Aingurunooru, Narrinai, Aganaooru, Purananooru, Kuruntogai, Kalittogai, Paripadal and Padirruppatu.
- The Pattuppattu :-Ten Idylls consists of ten works – Thirumurugarruppadai, Porunararruppadai, Sirupanarruppadai, Perumpanarruppadai, Mullaippattu, Nedunalvadai, Maduraikkanji, Kurinjippatttu,Pattinappalai and Malaipadukadam.
- Pathinenkilkanakku : contains eighteen works dealing with ethics and morals .
- Thirukkural: Written by Thiruvalluvar .It is one of the greatest works of morality. This book is famous for its universality and secular nature.
- There are two epics called Silappathikaram and Manimeghalai written by Elango Adigal and Sittalai Sattanar . They also provide important information about the Sangam society and polity.
Other major Sources that give information about the Sangam Period are :
- The Greek authors Megasthenes, Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy highlight the commercial trade links between West and South India as additional sources for information regarding the Sangam Period.
- The Ashokan inscriptions mention Chera, Chola, and Pandya monarchs in South India.
- Tamil kingdoms are also mentioned in Kharavela of Kalinga’s Hathigumpha inscription mentioned about Tamil kingdoms.
How Sangam Literature Reflects The Society And Economy of The Sangam Age?
The Sangam literature reflect the polity, society, and economy of the period.
Political History of the Sangam Age
- South India was ruled by 3 dynasties– Chera, Chola , and Pandya during the Sangam age.
- Patiruppattu provides the information of Chera Kings -Perumsorru Udhiyan Cheralathan,Imayavaramban Nedum Cheralathan and Cheran Senguttavan
- Elango Adigal, author of silapatikaram was brother of Cheran Senguttavan
- Pattinappalai portrays the life and military conquests of Chola king Karikala
- Battle of venni -Kariakala defeated Cheras, Pandyas, and minor chieftains, this event mentioned in many sangam poems
- Maduraikanji describes the socio-economic condition of the Pandya country including the flourishing seaport of korkai
- The hereditary monarchy was the form of govt during the sangam age
- Land revenue served as the state’s primary source of income, and a customs levy was also imposed on international trade.
- To deter robberies and smuggling, the roads and highways were protected by guards.
- Land revenue was the chief source of the state s income
- custom duty was also imposed on foreign trade
- custom officials employed in the seaport of Puhar
- Booty captured in war, and also major income of royal treasury
Ruled over the central and northern portions of Kerala as well as the Kongu region of Tamil Nadu. Vanji as their capital and Musiri and Tondi as their ports on the west coast
- Royal emblem: Bow and arrow
- Pugalur inscription from the first century AD mentions about three generations of Cheras.
- Trade with the Romans was crucial to the Cheras’ development. There was also an Augustus temple constructed.
Senguttuvan, often known as the Red Chera or the Good Chera, was the greatest king of the Cheras who reigned during the second century A D.
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- Royal emblem: Tiger
- Chola also had an efficient navy
- King Karikala was one of the well-known rulers of Chola dynasty
- Pattinappalai depicts his personal history and military victories.
- Central and northern parts of Tamilnadu were controlled by the Chola empire
- The Kaveri delta, later called Cholamandalam serves as the core area of their kingdom
- Uraiyur was their capital city, Puhar or Kaveripattanam was the primary port city and their alternative royal palace.
- Karikala’s military prowess at the time made him the region’s supreme ruler in the Tamil language.
- Trade and business grew significantly under his rule.
- He built a 160-kilometer embankment along the Kaveri River and developed the port city of Puhar, which is identical to Kaveripattinam
The Pandyas were in power at Madurai.
- Their principal port, Korkai, It was well-known for its diving and pearl fishing.
- The “Fish” served as their symbol.
- They patronized the Tamil Sangams and made it easier to compile the Sangam poems.
- Rulers maintained a standing army.
- Trade was thriving, and their pearls were well-known.
- Sati, caste, and idolatry were widespread. Widows received poor treatment.
- They embraced the sacrifice-based religion of the Vedas and supported Brahmin priests.
- Invasion by the Kalabhra tribe led to a decrease in their dominance.
- This dynasty declined after the Sangam Age for more than a century.
Social Structure of Sangam Age
- Tholkapiyam refers to the 5 fold division of lands
- Arasar-ruling class
- Anthanar-significant role in sangam polity and religion
- Vanigar-trade and commerce
- Ancient primitive tribes like Thodas, Irulas, Nagas, and Vedars also lived in this period
Position Of Women in Sangam Age
There is plenty of information in sangam literature to trace the position of women during the sangam age
- Women poets like Avvaiyar, Nachchellaiyar, and Kakkaipadiniyar flourished in this period and contributed to Tamil literature
- The courage of women also appreciated in many poems
- Karpu or chaste life was considered the highest virtue of women
- Love marriage was common practice
- Women were allowed to choose their life partners
- However, the life of a widow was miserable
- Practices of sati were prevalent in higher strata of society
- Class of dancers was patronized by kings and nobles
The Economy of Sangam Age
- Rice cultivation was the primary occupation, and the most popular handicrafts were weaving, metalworking, shipbuilding, and adornment-making using beads, stones, and ivory.
- When trade between India and the rest of the world peaked during the Sangam period, these were in high demand.
- The spinning and weaving of cotton and silk clothing were highly skilled. Particularly for the cotton clothing woven at Uraiyur, these were in high demand in the western world.
- Numerous gold and silver coins from the reigns of Roman emperors such as Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero have been discovered around Tamil Nadu, showing a thriving economy.
- Cotton garments, spices including pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric, as well as items made of ivory, pearls, and precious stones, were among the main exports of the Sangam era.
- Horses, gold, and sweet wine were the main imports for the traders.
End of Sangam Age
- The Sangam period slowly witnessed its decline towards the end of the 3 rd century A.D.
- The Kalabhras occupied the Tamil country post-Sangam period between 300 AD to 600 AD, whose period was called an interregnum or ‘dark age’ by earlier historians.
Article Written by: Aryadevi E S
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Home » Literature » Sangam Literature: What it is?, 3 Categories, Features, Works and Importance
Sangam Literature: What it is?, 3 Categories, Features, Works and Importance
What is sangam literature.
Sangam literature is a body of ancient Tamil literature that was produced in the Tamil-speaking region of South India during the Sangam period. This period, which is also known as the Sangam age, is generally considered to have lasted from about 300 BCE to 300 CE.
The Sangam period is named after the Tamil Sangams , or academies, which were said to have been established by the Pandya kings to preserve and promote Tamil culture. According to tradition, there were three Sangams, and each one was said to have lasted for thousands of years. The first Sangam was said to have been held in the city of Madurai, and the second and third Sangams were said to have been held in the cities of Kapatapuram and Madurai, respectively.
During the Sangam period, the Tamil-speaking region of South India was an important center of trade and culture. The region was home to a number of powerful kingdoms, and the Sangam literature of the time reflects the political, social, and cultural life of these kingdoms. The literature of the Sangam period is divided into three categories: the Pathinenkilkanakku , or “Eighteen Minor Works”; the Ettuthokai , or “Eight Anthologies”; and the Pattuppattu , or “Ten Idylls”. The Pathinenkilkanakku consists of short ethical and didactic works, while the Ettuthokai and Pattuppattu contain longer poems and epics.
Three Categories of Sangam Literature
The three categories of Sangam literature are the Pathinenkilkanakku , the Ettuthokai , and the Pattuppattu .
First Category: Pathinenkilkanakku
The Pathinenkilkanakku, or “Eighteen Minor Works”, is a collection of short ethical and didactic works that were composed during the Sangam period. This category includes works such as the Tirukkural, a work on ethics and morality that is considered one of the greatest works of Tamil literature, as well as other works on subjects such as grammar, medicine, and astrology. The Pathinenkilkanakku is significant because it provides insight into the ethical and moral values of the ancient Tamil people, as well as their knowledge and understanding of various subjects.
Second Category: Ettuthokai
The Ettuthokai, or “Eight Anthologies” , is a collection of eight anthologies of Tamil poetry that were compiled by the poet Nakkeerar. These anthologies include the Kurunthogai, the Akananuru, the Purananuru, the Kurral, the Ainkurunuru, the Padirruppattu, the Pattinappalai, and the Kalittokai. The Ettuthokai is the most important of the three categories of Sangam literature, and it contains a wide range of poems on various subjects. The Kurunthogai and the Akananuru contain love poems, while the Purananuru and the Kurral contain political poems. The Ainkurunuru and the Padirruppattu contain moral and ethical poems, and the Pattinappalai and the Kalittokai contain poems about everyday life. The Ettuthokai is significant because it provides a comprehensive overview of the poetry of the Sangam period and contains many of the most famous and influential works of this period.
Third Category: Pattuppattu
The Pattuppattu, or “Ten Idylls”, is a collection of ten long poems that were written by the poet Pugalendi. These poems include the Iraiyanar Ahaporul, the Puram, the Sirupanarruppatai, the Perumpanarruppatai, the Kodunthogai, the Natrinai, the Kurincippattu, the Pattinappalai, the Malaipadukadam, and the Paripadal. The Pattuppattu is significant because it contains some of the longest and most complex poems of the Sangam period, and it covers a wide range of subjects and themes. The Iraiyanar Ahaporul is a mythological poem about the heroes of the Tamil country, while the Puram and the Sirupanarruppatai are poems about the king and his court. The Perumpanarruppatai is a poem about the life of the common people, and the Kodunthogai and the Natrinai are collections of love poems. The Kurincippattu is a poem about the beauty of nature, and the Pattinappalai and the Malaipadukadam are poems about everyday life. The Paripadal is a poem about the end of the world.
Features of Sangam Literature
Sangam literature is known for its three notable features. It includes –
- Depiction of Everyday Life
- Portrayal of Women
- Themes of Love and War
1. Depiction of Everyday Life
One of the most notable features of Sangam literature is its depiction of everyday life in ancient South India. The poems of the Sangam period provide a detailed and vivid picture of the social, cultural, and economic life of the time. They describe the occupations, customs, and habits of the people, as well as the natural beauty of the Tamil landscape. The poems also give insight into the beliefs and practices of the ancient Tamil people, including their religion, rituals, and festivals.
2. portrayal of women
Sangam literature is also known for its portrayal of women. The poems of the Sangam period depict women in a positive light, as strong and independent individuals who are active participants in society. They describe the roles and responsibilities of women, as well as their relationships with men and their families.
3. themes of love and war
In addition to its depiction of everyday life and its portrayal of women, Sangam literature is also notable for its themes of love and war. The poems of the Sangam period contain many love stories and descriptions of romantic relationships, as well as accounts of battles and wars. These themes are often interwoven, with love stories being set against the backdrop of war and political conflict.
Examples of Notable Works from Sangam Literature
Here are some examples of notable works from each category of Sangam literature, along with a brief overview of their content and themes:
From the Pathinenkilkanakku:
- Tirukkural: This work, also known as the “Tamil Veda” , is a collection of 1,330 couplets on ethics and morality. It is considered one of the greatest works of Tamil literature and is still widely read and respected today.
From the Ettuthokai:
- Kurunthogai: This anthology contains 400 love poems that describe the beauty and passion of young love.
- Purananuru: This anthology contains 400 political poems that describe the lives of the rulers and warriors of ancient South India.
- Ainkurunuru: This anthology contains 400 moral and ethical poems that provide guidance on how to live a virtuous life.
From the Pattuppattu:
- Iraiyanar Ahaporul: This is a mythological poem about the heroes of the Tamil country. It describes their battles, adventures, and deeds of valor.
- Puram: This is a poem about the king and his court. It describes the splendor and grandeur of the royal court, as well as the duties and responsibilities of the king.
- Kurincippattu: This is a poem about the beauty of nature. It describes the natural wonders of the Tamil landscape, including its mountains, forests, rivers, and coast.
These are just a few examples of the many notable works of Sangam literature. Each category contains a wide range of poems on various subjects and themes, and there is something for everyone in this rich and varied literary tradition.
importance of Sangam literature in Tamil history and culture
Sangam literature is an important and enduring part of Tamil history and culture. It is considered to be some of the oldest and most significant literature in the Tamil language, and it has had a lasting impact on Tamil literature and culture.
One of the main reasons for the importance of Sangam literature is its age. The poems of the Sangam period are among the oldest surviving works of Tamil literature, and they provide a valuable window into the culture and society of ancient South India. The poems of the Sangam period are written in a form of Tamil called agattiyam, which is characterized by its use of rhyme and alliteration. This form of Tamil is different from the classical Tamil of later periods, and the poems of the Sangam period are considered to be a link between the ancient and classical periods of Tamil literature.
Another reason for the importance of Sangam literature is its content. The poems of the Sangam period provide a detailed and vivid picture of everyday life in ancient South India, including the occupations, customs, and habits of the people. They also provide insight into the beliefs and practices of the ancient Tamil people, including their religion, rituals, and festivals. The poems of the Sangam period are also known for their portrayal of women and their themes of love and war. These features make Sangam literature a rich and varied source of information about ancient South Indian culture and society.
Impact on Later Tamil Literature
1. inheritence of style and form.
Sangam literature has also had a lasting impact on later Tamil literature. Many of the themes and ideas that are found in the poems of the Sangam period, such as love, war, ethics, and morality, are also found in later Tamil literature. The style and form of Sangam literature, with its use of rhyme and alliteration, has also influenced the style of later Tamil literature.
2. Singnificant Source of Information
In addition to its influence on later Tamil literature, Sangam literature is also significant as a source of information about ancient South Indian society. The poems of the Sangam period provide a detailed and realistic portrayal of the social, cultural, and economic life of the time, and they offer a valuable glimpse into the culture and society of ancient South India. The poems of the Sangam period are often studied by historians, anthropologists, and other scholars as a source of information about the ancient Tamil-speaking region.
Thus, Sangam literature is an important and enduring part of Tamil history and culture. Its age, content, and lasting impact on later Tamil literature, as well as its significance as a source of information about ancient South Indian society, make it a fascinating and valuable literary tradition.
Conclusion of Sangam Literature
To conclude, Sangam literature is a rich and varied body of ancient Tamil literature that was produced in the Tamil-speaking region of South India during the Sangam period, which lasted from about 300 BCE to 300 CE. Sangam literature is divided into three categories: the Pathinenkilkanakku, the Ettuthokai, and the Pattuppattu. The Pathinenkilkanakku consists of short ethical and didactic works, while the Ettuthokai and Pattuppattu contain longer poems and epics.
Sangam literature is known for its depiction of everyday life in ancient South India, its portrayal of women, and its themes of love and war. It provides a detailed and realistic portrayal of the social, cultural, and economic life of the time, and it offers a valuable glimpse into the culture and society of ancient South India. Sangam literature has also had a lasting impact on later Tamil literature and is significant as a source of information about ancient South Indian society.
In summary, Sangam literature is an important and enduring part of Tamil history and culture. Its age, content, and lasting impact on later Tamil literature, as well as its significance as a source of information about ancient South Indian society, make it a fascinating and valuable literary tradition.
FAQs about Sangam Literature
Sangam literature is a body of ancient Tamil literature that was produced in the Tamil-speaking region of South India during the period from the 3rd century BCE to the 4th century CE. It consists of a large collection of poems, stories, and hymns that were composed by Tamil poets and scholars and are considered some of the earliest examples of Tamil literature.
Sangam literature deals with a wide range of themes, including love, war, politics, religion, and ethics. It also contains many myths and legends about the gods and heroes of Tamil culture.
Three Sangams (assemblies) are mentioned in Sangam literature: the First Sangam, the Second Sangam, and the Third Sangam. The First Sangam was held at Madurai and is said to have lasted for 4,400 years. The Second Sangam was held at Kapatapuram and is said to have lasted for 3,700 years. The Third Sangam was held at Madurai and is said to have lasted for 1,850 years.
Sangam literature was produced by a number of Tamil poets and scholars, many of whom are mentioned by name in the texts. Some of the most famous contributors to Sangam literature include the poets Kapilar, Nakkeerar, and Tiruvalluvar.
Sangam literature is important because it is considered the earliest and most influential body of Tamil literature. It played a key role in the development of Tamil language and culture and continues to be widely studied and admired in modern times.
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The Sangam Literature
The sangam means an association. here, it refers to tamil sangam, an association of tamil poets..
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Sangam Literature | Ancient Tamil Literature
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The Sangam literature denotes the ancient Tamil literature and is the oldest literature. The Tamil literature reaches its peak before few thousand years, and it was highly patronised by the Madurai kings. Rishi Agastya had contributed a lot in the Tamil Literature, and he has written poems and wonderful works in the form of palm leaf manuscripts in praise of various Hindu deities.
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Tolkappiyam is an ancient Tamil text, which was written by the popular poet Sri Tolkappiyar and it is still considered as one of the excellent Tamil works.The Sangam literature had added significance to the Hinduism religion, and it also praises the holy temples in Kumbhakonam.
The great poet Kapilar had written many works and also sung beautiful divine songs in praise of Lord Vishnu, Vinayaka, Shiva, Durga and Muruga. Sangam literature consists of details of more than 500 sages and also contains nice information about Hindu deities. Nakkiranar was one of the important contributors in the Sangam literature, and his famous poem Thirumurugatrupadai was still praised by the present Tamil Scholars, and also by the devotees of Lord Muruga.
Some of the Sangam period poems are as follows:
The Sangam literature was written by more than 600 poets. Some of these poets were belonged to rich family, some belonged to business family and some of them belonged to poor family.Some female poets are also written wonderful works during the Sangam era. During the Sangam period, due to the sincere efforts of Pandiyan kings, Tamil Language attained royal status similar to Sanskrit.
“OM” WRITTEN BY R.HARISHANKAR