The Sangam Age: Ancient Indian History

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Sangam Age- Ancient Indian History

              In the Sangam age of ancient Indian History;  The term Sangam is for the first time by coined by Saiva Saint Tiruna Vukarasu Nayanar. Sangam was a college or assembly of Tamil scholars under the royal patronage of the pandyan kings held at Madurai.  The main period of compilation of Sangam literature is between 300 to 600 AD.

           Tamil language is the main language of compilation which is the oldest language among the spoken languages in India. According to the Tamil traditions three Sangams (confluence) occurred . First was at Madurai and the chief Acharya of this assembly was the Agastya muni. The second assembly was at Kaputpuram in which several poets attended.

             Many important books came out from this assembly out of which  Tolkapiyyam was very important. Tolkapiyyar the disciple of the Agastyamuni had written this Tolkapiyyam. The third Sangam assembly under the royal patronage at Madurai. Ettutogai was important  among the literature of this assembly.  The third Sangam was also held in Madurai. The remains are available as group texts or epics.

            In ancient indian Hstory of Sangam age, Sangam literature is written mainly in Tamil language. The major works of the Sangam era include the texts like Tolkappiyam, Etuttauke, Pattappattu, Padinekillakanakku etc. epics like  Shilappadikaram, Manimekhalai and Jeevak Chintamani.

           Sangam was a confluence or conference of Tamil poets, which was held under the patronage of kings. The description of three confluences, found in the ancient Indian history. With  royal patronage by the Pandyan kings. Dravidian literature are reflected in these literature. According to Tamil legends, three Sangams (congregation of Tamil poets).

The Sangam Age- Ancient Indian History

Literatures of the Sangam Literatures:-

-Padinekillakanakku is an ethnographic treatise with 18 poems and is related to the third Sangam literature. The most important of these 18 poems is Tirukkural written by the great Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar. It is also considered to be the Biblical or fifth Veda of Tamil literature.  

-Etuttauke (Ashta Collection) is a collection of eight texts of the third Sangam. These eight texts are:  Nanninai, Kurunthokai, Enkurunur, Paditrappattu, Paripadal, Kalithouke, Ahananaru and Purunanaru. 

– Pattupattu (Dashagit) is a collection of ten poems and is the second collection of the third Sangam. These ten poems are the following;  

Tirumurukatruppadai, Nedanalavadai,Perumpanatruppadai, Pattinappalai, Porunaratruppadai, Maduraikanchi, Sirupanatruppadai, Mullappattu, Kurunjippatu and Malappadukadam.

-Shilappadikaram is an epic written by ‘Ilangoadigal’ and by Manimekhalai Sitalastattanar. These epics provide good information about the then Sangam society and politics.

The Sangam Age- Ancient Indian History: Other sources of Sangam Age:-

-Greek writers such as Megasthenes, Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy have mentioned commercial trade contacts between West and South India.

– The records of Ashoka mentions Chola, Pandya and Chera.

-The Hathigumpha inscription of Kharvel of Kalinga mentions about  the Tamil states. 


During the Sangam era, South India was ruled by three most important dynasties – the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas.  


-The Cheras controlled the central and northern parts of the modern state of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

-Their capital was at Vanji or karur.

-The emblem of the Cheras was the ‘bow and arrow’.

-The Pugalur inscription of the first century BCE gives information about three generations of Chera rulers.

-The Chera kings benefited from trade with the Roman Empire. He also built a temple of Augustus.

-The greatest king of the Cheras was Senguttuvan who was also known as Lal or Achcha.

-Senguttuvan started pattini (wife) worship (Kannagi Puja) in  Chera state.

-He was the first to send messengers from South India to China.


-The Cholas controlled the central and northern parts of Tamil Nadu.

Cholamandalam at the Cauvery Delta was the main area of ​​rule.

-Their capital was Uraiyur (near Tiruchirapalli town).

-Later, Karikal established Kaveripatnam or Puhar Nagar and made it his capital.

-Their emblem was ‘tiger’.

-The Cholas also had a skilled navy.
-King Karikal was the most important ruler among the Chola kings.

-Karikal defeated eleven kings including Pandya and Chera.

-Karikal’s military achievements made him the suzerain of the entire Tamil region.

-He  thriving the trade and commerce sector during his reign.

-Karikal founded the city of Puhar or Kaveripatnam and shifted his capital from Uraipur to Kaveripatnam. Apart from this, 160 km along the river Kaveri built a long dam. 


-The Pandyas ruled from Madurai. The Pandya kingdom was in the far south and south-eastern part of the Indian peninsula. Madurai was their initial capital.

-The symbol of the Pandya dynasty was ‘fish‘.

-They patronized the Tamil Sangams and facilitated the compilation of Sangam poems.

-The rulers maintained a regular army. According to Sangam literature, the Pandya kingdom was rich and prosperous.

Megasthenes mentioned  the Pandyas  for the first time, who described their state was famous for pearls.

The Snagam age society were treating Widows very badly. 

-The Brahmins had considerable influence in this state and Pandya Raza performed Vedic Yajna in the early centuries of Christ.

-Their power decayed with the invasion of a tribe called Kalabhras.

-Nallivakodan was the last Pandya ruler of the Sangam era.  

Sangam Polity and Administration:- 

– Hereditary monarchy was in vogue during the Sangam period.

– Each dynasty of the Sangam era had a royal emblem. Such as tigers for Cholas, fish for Pandyas and bows for Cheras.

– Five councils known as the five Mahasabhas controlled the power of the king. 

– The ministers were (Amachachar), Purohit (Purohitar), Envoy (messenger), Senapati (Senapatiyar) and Gupta (Orrar).

-Each ruler had a  regular army and conducted efficiently Military administration . 

-The main source of income of the state was land revenue, while foreign trade was also levied by customs. Property looted in war was  the main fiscal income at this age. Proper system of roads and highways maintained to prevent robbery and smuggling.

 Sangam Society:- 

-Four sections Tudian, Padan, Padaiyan and Kamban in the socienty. Four castes mentioned in the book tolkapiyyar   such as – Andanar, Arasar, Vaisiyar and Velalar.

– Untouchability was prevalent in this age.

– Andanars enjoyed the highest esteem.

Status of women during Sangam Age:-

– There is a lot of information available in the Sangam literature to understand the position of women during the Sangam era.

– Women had  respect and they could conduct intellectual activities.

-Female poets like Avvaiyar, Nachchellaiyar and Kakipadiniyar made outstanding contributions to Tamil literature.

– Women could choose their spouses but the lives of widows were pathetic.There is a mention of the practice of Sati at a higher level in the society.


The principal deity of the Sangam period was Murugan, known as the Tamil god.

– in South India the worship of Murugan is the oldest  and Sangam literature contains the festivals related to Lord Murugan. 

– Other deities worshiped during the Sangam period were Mayon (Vishnu), Vandana (Indra), Krishna, Varuna and Korravai.

-The worship of the Nayaka Stone Age in the Sangam period was important, marked as a commemoration of the valor that the warriors showed  in battle.

– The spread of Buddhism and Jainism also appears in the Sangam era.

Sangam age economy:-

-Agriculture was the main occupation and rice was the most common crop.

-Handicraft included weaving, metalwork and carpentry, shipbuilding and making jewelry using beads, stones and elephant tusks.

-An important feature of the Sangam era was its internal and external trade.

-Highly specialized in spinning and weaving of cotton and silk fabrics.

-Woven cotton clothing was in great demand in Western countries. 

-The city of Puhar became an important place of foreign trade, as large ships with valuable goods entered this port.

-Many gold and silver coins issued by Roman emperors such as Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero have been found in all parts of Tamil Nadu indicating rich trade.

– The major exports of the Sangam era were cotton clothes, spices such as black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon & turmeric, elephant tooth products, pearls and precious gems.

-The traders imported the main items such as Horse, gold, silver and sweet liquor etc. 

End of the Sangam age:-

– By the end of the third century, the Sangam period gradually began to decline.

– The Kalabhras (Kalabhras) occupied the Tamil country between 300 BCE and 600 CE as such this period known by earlier historians as an interim or ‘dark age’. 

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