Sangam Age :
- According to Tamil Scholars, In Ancient Tamil Nadu, popularly known as Muchchangam, had three sangams (academies of Tamil poets). These Sangam prospered under the royal patronage of the Pandyas.
- The first Sangam held in Madurai at that time was attended by legendary gods and sages, but there are no written records of it.
- The second Sangam was held in Kapadapuram, but all literary works did not survive except Tolkappiyam had perished.
- Mudathirumaran founded the Third Sangam in Madurai. A large number of poets took part and produced an extensive body of literature, but few survived.
- These Tamil literary works continue to be valuable sources for reconstructing the history of the Sangam era.
Literature of Sangam Age :
- Sangam Literature – The main source giving details of the Sangam literature of the Sangam Age includes Tolkappiyam, Ettuttokai, Pathuppattu, Pathinenkilkanakku, and two named epics: Silappathikaram and Manimegalai.
- Tolkappiyam was written by Tolkappiyam and is considered to be the first Tamil literary work. Although it is a work on Tamil grammar, it also gives an insight into the political and socio-economic conditions of the time.
- Ettutogai (Eight Anthologies) consists of eight works: Ainkurunuru, Narrinai, Aganaooru, Purananooru, Kuruntokai, Kalittogai, Paripadal and Padirruppatu.
- The Pathuppattu (Ten Idylls) consists of ten pieces: Thirumurugatrupadai, Porunararruppadai, Sirupanarruppadai, Perumpanarruppadai, Mullaippattu, Nedunalvadai, Maduraikkanji, Kurinjippatttu, Pattinappalai and Malaipadukadam.
- Pathinenkilkanakku contains eighteen works on ethics and morals. The most important of these works is Tirukkural, written by Thiruvalluvar, the great Tamil poet, and philosopher.
- The two Silappathikaram epics are written by Elango Adigal and Manimegalai by Sittalai Sattanar. They also provide valuable details about Sangam society and politics.
- Other sources giving information about the Sangam period are Greek authors such as Megasthenes, Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy mention trade contacts between West and South India. Ashoka inscriptions mention Chera, Chola, and Pandya rulers in the south of the Maurya Empire.
- Kharavela’s Hathigumpha inscription from Kalinga also mentions the Tamil kingdoms.
Political History :
South India was ruled by three dynasties during the Sangam era: the Cheras, Cholas, and Pandyas. The main source of information about these kingdoms goes back to the literary references of the Sangam period.
- They controlled the central and northern parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- Vanji became its capital and the west coast ports of Musiri and Tondi were under its control.
- Their emblem was “bow and arrow”. In the 1st century A.D, the Pugalur inscription refers to three generations of Chera rulers.
- The Cheras owe their importance to trade with the Romans. The famous temple of Augustus was built by them.
- The greatest ruler of Cheras was Senguttuvan, the Red Chera, who belonged to the 2nd century AD. His military achievements were narrated in the Silappatikaram epic with details of his expedition to the Himalayas where he defeated many rulers of North India. Senguttuvan introduced the cult of Pattini or worship of Kannagi as the ideal wife in Tamil Nadu.
- He was the first to send an embassy from South India to China.
- They ruled the central and northern parts of Tamil Nadu.
- Their central government area was the Kaveri Delta, later known as Cholamandalam. Its capital was Uraiyur (near Tiruchirapalli town) and Puhar or Kaveripattinam was an alternative royal residence and main port city.
- Tiger was its emblem.
- They also maintained a strong navy.
- Karikala was the famous king of Cholas.
- Pattinappalai describes his life and military conquests. Many Sangam poems mention the battle of Venni in which he defeated the confederacy of Cheras, Pandyas, and eleven lesser chiefs. The military achievements of Karikala made him the overlord of the entire Tamil region of that time.
- Trade and commerce prosper during his time.
- Foundation of the port city of Puhar (identical to Kaveripattinam) and construction of a 160 km dam along the Kaveri River.
- They ruled over Madurai, Korkai was its main port, located near the confluence of the Tamraparni and the Bay of Bengal. It was famous for pearl fishing and chank diving.
- Its emblem was the “fish”.
- They promoted the Tamil Sangams and facilitated the compilation of the Sangam poems.
- The rulers maintained a regular army. The trade was prosperous and its pearls were famous.
- Sati, caste, and idolatry were common. widows were mistreated.
- They adopted the Vedic sacrificial religion and patronized the Brahmin priests.
- His power waned with the invasion of a tribe called Kalabhras. After the Sangam era, this dynasty declined for more than a century, only to rise again at the end of the 6th century.