- Three Sangams flourished under the royal patronage of the Pandyas.
- 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.
- These Tamil literary works remain useful sources to reconstruct the history of the Sangam Age.
- The corpus of Sangam literature includes Tolkappiyam, Ettutogai, Pattuppattu, Pathinenkilkanakku and the two epics – Silappathigaram and Manimegalai.
- Tolkappiyam authored by Tolkappiyar is the earliest of the Tamil literature.
- It is a work on Tamil grammar but it provides information on the political and socio-economic conditions of the Sangam period.
- The Ettutogai or Eight Anthologies consist of eight works – Aingurunooru, Narrinai, Aganaooru, Purananooru, Kuruntogai, Kalittogai, Paripada and Padirruppattu.
- The Pattuppattu or Ten Idylls consist of ten works – Thirumurugatruppadai, Porunaratruppadai, Sirupanatruppadai, Perumpanatruppadai, Mullaippattu, Nedunalvadai, Madurai kkanji, Kurinjippatttu, Pattinapalai and Malaipadukadam.
- Both Ettutogai and Pattuppattu were divided into two main groups – Aham (love) and Puram (valour).
- Pathinenkilkanakku contains eighteen works mostly dealing with ethics and morals.
- The most important among them is Tirukkural authored by Thiruvalluvar.
- Silappathigaram was written by Elango Adigal and Manimegalai by Sittalai Sattanar also provides valuable information on the Sangam polity and society.
- In addition to the Sangam literature, the Greek authors like Megasthenes, Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy mention the commercial contacts between the West and South India.
- The Ashokan inscriptions mention the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers on the south of the Mauryan empire.
- The Hathikumbha inscription of Kharavela of Kalinga also mentions about Tamil kingdoms.
- The excavations at Arikkamedu, Poompuhar, Kodumanal and other places reveal the overseas commercial activities of the Tamils.
Period of Sangam Literature
- The chronology of the Sangam literature is still a disputed topic among scholars.
- The sheet anchor of Sangam chronology lies in the fact that Gajabhagu II of Sri Lanka and Cheran Senguttuvan of the Chera dynasty were contemporaries.
- This is confirmed by Silappathigaram as well as the Dipa vamsa and Maha vamsa.
- The Roman coins issued by Roman emperors of the first century A.D were found in plenty in various places of Tamil Nadu.
- The most probable date of the Sangam literature has been fixed between the third century B.C. to third century A.D. on the basis of literary, archaeological and numismatic evidence.
- The Cheras ruled over parts of modern Kerala.
- Their capital was Vanji and their important seaports were Tondi and Musiri.
- They had the palmyra flowers as their garland.
- The Pugalur inscription of the first century A.D refers to three generations of Chera rulers.
- Padirruppattu also provides information on Chera kings.
- Perum Sorru Udhiyan Cheralathan, Imayavaramban Nedum Cheralathan and Cheran Senguttuvan were the famous rulers of this dynasty.
- 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.
- Karikala was a famous king of the Sangam Cholas.
- Pattinappalai portrays his early life and his military conquests.
- In the Battle of Venni, he defeated the mighty confederacy consisting of the Cheras, Pandyas and eleven minor chieftains. This event is mentioned in many Sangam poems.
- Vahaipparandalai was another important battle fought by him in which nine enemy chieftains submitted before him.
- Karikala’s military achievements made him the overlord of the whole Tamil country.
- Trade and commerce flourished during his reign period.
- He was responsible for the reclamation of forest lands and brought them under cultivation thus adding prosperity to the people.
- He also built Kallanai across the river Kaveri and also constructed many irrigation tanks.
- The Pandyas ruled over the present-day southern Tamil Nadu. Their capital was Madurai.
- The earliest kings of the Pandyan dynasty were Nediyon, Palyagasalai Mudukudumi Peruvaludhi and Mudathirumaran.
- There were two Neduncheliyans.
- The first one was known as Aryappadai Kadantha Neduncheliyan (one who won victories over the Aryan forces).
- He was responsible for the execution of Kovalan for which Kannagi burnt Madurai.
- The other was Talaiyalanganattu Cheruvenra (He who won the battle at Talaiyalanganam) Neduncheliyan.
- He was praised by Nakkirar and Mangudi Maruthanar.
- He wore this title after defeating his enemies at the Battle of Talaiyalanganam, which is located in the Tanjore district.
- Maduraikkanji written by Mangudi Maruthanar describes the socio-economic condition of the Pandya country including the flourishing seaport of Korkai.
- The last famous Pandyan king was Uggira Peruvaludhi.
- 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.
- Among them, Pari, Kari, Ori, Nalli, Pegan, Ay and Adiyaman were popular for their philanthropy and patronage of Tamil poets.
- They were known as Kadai Yelu Vallalgal.
- Although they were subordinate to the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers, they were powerful and popular in their respective regions.
- The hereditary monarchy was the form of government during the Sangam period.
- The king had also taken the advice of his minister, court – poet and the imperial court or avai.
The Chera kings assumed titles like
The Chola kings assumed titles like
The Pandya kings
Each of the Sangam dynasties had a royal emblem
- 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.
The king was assisted by a large body of officials who were divided into five councils. They were
- Ministers (amaichar)
- Priests (anthanar)
- Military commanders (senapathi)
- Envoys (thuthar)
- Spies (otrar)
- The military administration was also efficiently organized during the Sangam Age.
- Each ruler had a regular army and their respective Kodimaram (tutelary tree).
- Land revenue was the chief source of the state’s income while custom duty was also imposed on foreign trade.
- The Pattinappalai refers to the custom officials employed in the seaport of Puhar.
- Booty captured in wars was also a major income to the royal treasury.
- Roads and highways were well maintained and guarded night and day to prevent robbery and smuggling.
- Tolkappiyam refers to the fivefold division of lands
- Kurinji (hilly tracks)
- Mullai (pastoral)
- Marudam (agricultural)
- Neydal (coastal)
- Palai (desert)
- The people living in these five divisions had their respective chief occupations as well as gods for worship.
- Kurinji – chief deity was Murugan, chief occupation – hunting and honey collection.
- Mullai – chief deity Mayon (Vishnu), chief occupation – cattle – rearing and dealing with dairy products.
- Marudam – chief deity Indira, chief occupation –
- Neydal – chief deity Varunan, chief occupation – fishing and salt manufacturing.
- Palai – chief deity Korravai, chief occupation – robbery.
- Tolkappiyam also refers to four castes namely
- Other tribal groups like
- Pulaiyar were also found in the Sangam society.
- Ancient primitive tribes like
- Vedars lived in this period.
- The primary deity of the Sangam period was Seyon or Murugan who is hailed as Tamil God.
- The worship of Murugan was having 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)
- The Hero Stone or Nadu Kal worship was significant in the Sangam period.
- The Hero Stone was erected in memory of the bravery shown by the warrior in battle.
- Many hero stones with legends inscribed on them were found in different parts of Tamil Nadu.
- This kind of worshipping the deceased has great antiquity.
Position of Women
- Women poets like
- Kakkaipadiniyar flourished in this period and contributed to Tamil literature.
- 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 life of widows was miserable.
- The practise of Sati was also prevalent in the higher strata of society.
- 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.
- The royal courts were crowded with singing bards called Panar and Viraliyar.
- They were experts in folk songs and folk dances.
- The arts of music and dancing were highly developed.
- 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.
The economy of the Sangam Age
- Agriculture was the chief occupation. 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.
- The handicrafts of the Sangam period were popular.
- They include weaving, metal works and carpentry, shipbuilding and the 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.
- The poems mention the cotton clothes as thin as a cloud of steam or a slough of a snake.
- There was a great demand in the western world for cotton clothes woven at Uraiyur.
- Both internal and foreign trade was well organized and briskly carried on in the Sangam Age.
- Internal trade was mostly based on the barter system.
- External trade was carried between South India and the Greek kingdoms.
- The author of Periplus provides the most valuable information on foreign trade.
- 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.
- Merchants carried the goods on the carts and on the animal – back from place to place.
- After the ascendancy of the Roman Empire, the Roman trade assumed importance.
- Plenty of gold and silver coins issued by the Roman Emperors like Augustus, Tiberius and Nero were found in all parts of Tamil Nadu.
- They reveal the extent of the trade and the presence of Roman traders in the Tamil country.
- The main exports of the Sangam age were cotton fabrics, spices like pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric, ivory products, pearls and precious stones.
- Gold, horses and sweet wine were the chief imports.
End of the Sangam Age
- Towards the end of the third century A.D., 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.
- 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.