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Sangam Period

An important era in South Indian history is the Sangam Period. Three Sangams (Academies of Tamil Poets), also known as Muchchangam, are said to have existed in mediaeval Tamil Nadu, according to Tamil folklore. The Pandyas’ imperial patronage allowed these Sangams to flourish. Between the third century B.C. and the third century A.D., South India (the region south of the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra) was known as the Sangam Period. This article will explain to you the Sangam Period which will be helpful in Ancient History part of UPSC Syllabus.

Sangam Period History

In ancient Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and parts of Sri Lanka, a time period known as the Sangam period or age, particularly the third Sangam Period, spanned from roughly the sixth century BCE to roughly the third century CE. It was given that name in honour of the illustrious Madurai-based Sangam schools of poets and thinkers. The Sangam academies, which thrived at the time under the royal patronage of the Pandya rulers of Madurai, inspired the name of the institution.

The best writing was published in anthologies, which were censored by distinguished intellectuals who congregated at the sangams. These books were some of the earliest writings of Dravidian literature. Three Sangams (Academies of Tamil Poets), also known as Muchchangam, are said to have taken place in ancient South India, according to Tamil legends.

It is said that gods and legendary sages witnessed the First Sangam, which was held in Madurai. There are no copies of this Sangam’s writings accessible. From the Second Sangam, which was conducted in Kapadapuram, only Tolkappiyam was left. The Third Sangam was also held in Madurai. The history of the Sangam period can be reconstructed using a few of these Tamil literary works that have remained.

Only a small number of the many writers who attended it and produced a large body of work persisted. These Tamil literary works are still important sources for reconstructing the Sangam period’s past.

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Sangam Period Distribution List of Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas

Three Sangams, also known as Muchchangams, were conducted in ancient South India, according to Tamil legends. Three Sangams were set up over a 600–700 year span. But there is no definitive historical record of the first two Sangams. Many academics believe that the first and second Sangams are myths and folklore.

Sangam Period Dynasty Present-Day City Ancient Capital Important Ruler Important Ports Emblem
Cheras Kerala Vanji Cheran Senguttuvan Musiri, Tondi Bow and Arrow
Cholas Tamil Nadu Uraiyur, Puhar Karikala Kaveripattanam Tiger
Pandyas Tamil Nadu Madurai Neduncheliyan Muziris (Muchiri), Korkai,  Kaveri Carp

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Sangam period Sources

1. Sangam Literature

Among the writings in the Sangam literature corpus are Tolkappiyam, Ettutogai, Pattuppattu, Pathinenkilkanakku, and the two epics Silappathikaram and Manimegalai. The first work of Tamil literature is Tolkappiyam, which was penned by Tolkappiyar. Although it is a study of Tamil, it also covers the political and economic circumstances of the Sangam period.

The Ettuthogai or Eight Anthologies contains the writings of Aingurunooru, Narrinai, Aganaooru, Purananooru, Kuruntogai, Kalittogai, Paripadal, and Padirruppattu. The Pattuppattu or Ten Idylls is made up of Thirumurugarruppadai, Porunarruppadai, Sirupanarruppadai, Perumpanarruppadai, Mullaippattu, Nedunalvadai, Madurai Kanji, Kurinjippatttu, Pattinappalai, and Malaipadukadam.

The eight pieces that make up Ettuthogai are Aingurunooru, Narrinai, Aganaooru, Purananooru, Kuruntogai, Kalittogai, Paripadal, and Padirruppatu (Eight Anthologies). There are eighteen works in Pathinenkilkanakku, the majority of which are concerned with morality and ethics. Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural is the most significant. Both Silappathigaram by Elango Adigal and Manimegalai by Sittalai Sattanar provide insightful knowledge on Sangam politics and society.

Regarding the dating of the Sangam writings, scholars continue to disagree. The main tenet of Sangam chronology is that Cheran Senguttuvan of the Chera kingdom and Gajabhagu II of Sri Lanka were contemporaneous. This is supported by Silappathigaram, the Dipavamsa, and the Mahavamsa. Roman coins produced by Roman rulers in the first century A.D. have also been found in large quantities throughout Tamil Nadu. As a result, the most probable dating of the Sangam literature has been set to the third century B.C. to the third century A.D. based on literary, archaeological, and numismatic evidence.

2. Other Sources

Greek authors like Megasthenes, Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy, in addition to the Sangam literature, point to commercial ties between the West and South India. The Asokan inscriptions make reference to the Chera, Chola, and Pandya monarchs of the Mauryan kingdom. Tamil states are also mentioned in Kharavela of Kalinga’s Hathikumbha inscription. The discoveries at Arikamedu, Poompuhar, Kodumanal, among other sites, provide evidence of the Tamils’ international trade activities.

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Sangam Period Political History

1. Cheras

The Kongu region of Tamil Nadu, as well as the central and northern areas of Kerala, was all under Chera rule. Their capital was Vanji, and Musiri and Tondi ports on the west coast were under their authority. The emblem of Cheras was a “bow and arrow.” Three generations of Chera kings are mentioned in the Pugalur inscription from the first century AD.

The importance of the Cheras was due to their trade with the Romans. They also built an adjacent Augustus temple. The best ruler of the Cheras in the second century A.D. was Senguttuvan, also referred to as the Red Chera or the Good Chera. His military achievements, which included a journey to the Himalayas where he overthrew numerous north Indian kingdoms, are described in the epic Silapathikaram. In Tamil Nadu, Senguttuvan popularised the Pattini cult, or the veneration of Kannagi as the perfect bride. He was the first to dispatch a South Indian embassy to China.

2. Cholas

The Chola monarchy spanned southern Andhra Pradesh and the modern Tiruchi district during the Sangam period. Initially situated in Uraiyur, their capital subsequently moved to Puhar. A well-known Sangam Chola king was Karikala. Pattinappalai describes his early years and combat victories.

At the Battle of Venni, he defeated the formidable alliance of the Cheras, Pandyas, and eleven other chieftains. Sangam poetry frequently alludes to this event. He also participated in the Vahaipparandalai battle, which resulted in nine opponent chieftains submitting to him. Karikala became the ruler of the entire Tamil realm thanks to his military prowess.

Trade and business thrived under his reign. He was in charge of recovering forest areas and turning them back over to agriculture so that the people could benefit financially. Along with building Kallanai over the Kaveri River, he also built several irrigation channels.

3. Pandyas

Over what is now southern Tamil Nadu, the Pandyas ruled. Their main city was Madurai. Nediyon, Palyagasalai Mudukudumi Peruvaludhi, and Mudathirumaran were the first Pandyan kings. Two Neduncheliyans were in attendance. Arya Padai Kadantha Neduncheliyan was the name of the first (one who defeated Aryan armies).

He was in charge of Kovalan’s killing, which caused Kannagi to set Madurai on fire. The other was Neduncheliyan, also known as Talaiyalanganattu Cheruvenra (He Who Won the Battle of Talaiyalanganam). Both Mangudi Maruthanar and Nakkirar praised him. After winning the Battle of Talaiyalanganam, which took place in the Tanjore region, he was given this title. Neduncheliyan gained dominance of the entire state of Tamil Nadu with this victory.

The Pandya nation’s socioeconomic situation is portrayed in Mangudi Maruthanar’s Madurai Kanji, especially the bustling port of Korkai. The final well-known Pandyan emperor was Uggira Peruvaludhi. During the Sangam Age, the Kalabhra invasion led the Pandyan power to decline.

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Sangam Period Polity

Hereditary monarchy was the form of administration during the Sangam era. The king had also consulted his minister, the royal poet, and the avai, or imperial court. The Chola kings were known as Senni, Valavan, and Kili, and the Pandya kings were known as Thennavar and Minavar. The Chera kings were known as Vanavaramban, Vanavan, Kuttuvan, Irumporai, and Villavar.

With a carp for the Pandyas, a tiger for the Cholas, and a bow for the Cheras, each Sangam kingdom had its own distinctive royal emblem. The imperial court, or avai, was visited by a number of rulers and officials. Five councils made up of a sizable number of officials assisted the monarch. They included ministers (amaichar), clerics (anthanar), generals (senapathi), envoys (thuthar), and spies (orrar).

Each monarch also had their own Kodimaram in addition to a regular force (tutelary tree). Government income primarily came from land taxation, and foreign trade was also subject to customs duties. Customs agents known as Pattinappalai are stationed in Puhar’s harbour. The royal treasury also received a sizable portion of its income from war spoils. To deter theft and smuggling, roads and paths were kept up and watched 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Sangam Period Minor Ruler

Throughout the Sangam period, minor chieftains were significant. For their generosity and support of Tamil writers, Pari, Kari, Ori, Nalli, Pegan, Ay, and Adiyaman were well-known. They were given the name Kadai Elu Vallalgal as a consequence. They were powerful and well-liked in their own territories but were under the control of the Chera, Chola, and Pandya kings.

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Sangam Period Society

The five geographical sections of Tolkappiyam are Kurinji (hilly trails), Mullai (pastoral), Marudam (agricultural), Neydal (coastal), and Palai (desert). The people who resided in these five divisions had separate main occupations and deities to worship.

Land forms Chief Deity Chief Occupation
Kurinji (hill track) Murugan Hunting and honey collection
Mullai (Pastoral) Mayon (Vishnu) cattle rearing, dealing with dairy products
Marudam (Agricultural) Indira agriculture
Neydal (coastal ) Varuna fishing, salt manufacturing
Palai (desert) Korravai robbery

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Sangam Period Economy

The most significant industry for work was farming. The most commonly cultivated crop was rice. Ragi, sugarcane, cotton, pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and a number of different vegetables were also grown. The Chera people were renowned for their adoration of pepper and jackfruit. The primary crop in Chola and Pandya land was paddy.

Weaving was a common skill during the Sangam era, along with metal and woodworking, shipbuilding, and making jewellery out of beads, stones, and ivory. There was a high demand for these items during the Sangam era because internal and external commerce were at their peak. The spinning and weaving of cotton and silk clothing attained a high degree of excellence.

The poem refers to cotton clothing that is as thin as a steam mist or a snake’s slough. The demand for the cotton clothing made in Uraiyur was particularly strong in the West. Both domestic and international commerce were efficiently managed during the Sangam Age. There is a wealth of information on this subject in the Sangam literature, Greek and Roman tales, and archaeological findings.

On carts and the backs of beasts, traders transported their goods from one location to another. Barter was the main form of internal commerce. South India and the Greek monarchs engaged in foreign trade. After the expansion of the Roman Empire, Roman trade became more significant. As big ships carrying valuable goods entered Puhar’s harbour, the city developed into a hub for international trade.

Other commercially busy ports include Tondi, Musiri, Korkai, Arikamedu, and Marakkanam. The author of Periplus provides the most crucial knowledge on international trade. Around Tamil Nadu, a huge number of gold and silver coinage struck by Roman emperors like Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero were found. The extent of trade and the existence of Roman traders in Tamil Nadu are demonstrated by them.

The main exports during the Sangam era were cotton clothing, items made of ivory, pearls, and valuable stones, as well as spices like pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric. The three most significant commodities were sweet wine, horses, and gold.

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Sangam Period Religion and Worship

The main deity during the Sangam period was Seyon, also known as Murugan in Tamil. Murugan worship has a long history, and Sangam literature contains descriptions of celebrations honouring the god. In his honour, he was granted the six homes known as Arupadai Veedu. The Sangam period saw the worship of Mayon (Vishnu), Vendan (Indiran), Varunan, and Korravai as well.

Throughout the Sangam period, the Hero Stone—also known as Nadu Kal worship—was significant. To honour the warrior’s bravery in battle, the Hero Stone was made. In different parts of Tamil Nadu, there have been many hero stones found with stories carved on them. This particular method of remembering the deceased has a long past.

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Sangam Period Position of Women

The Sangam literature contains a wealth of information that can be used to follow the status of women throughout the Sangam time. During this time, female poets like Avvaiyar, Nachchellaiyar, and Kakkai Padiniyar thrived and made significant contributions to Tamil literature. Several poems also praised the courage of women.

The best female quality was thought to be karpu, or living a chaste existence. It was customary to get married for affection. Ladies now have the freedom to select their life partners. On the other side, widows led miserable lives. Upper class members of society also frequently exercised sati. The upper class of performers was patronized by the kings and nobles.

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Sangam Period Arts

The Sangam people were big on poetry, singing, and dance. Poets received generous payments from kings, chieftains, and nobles. The royal halls were packed with singing bards Panar and Viraliyar. They were experts at dancing and singing folk songs. The skills of music and dance were very advanced. A wide range of Yazhs and drums are mentioned in the Sangam writings. Kanigaiyar danced. Koothu was the most popular type of entertainment.

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Sangam Period End

At the close of the third century A.D., the Sangam period began to progressively deteriorate. The Kalabhras ruled over Tamil territory for almost 250 years. The Kalabhra era is a period about which very little is known. Jainism and Buddhism gained popularity at this period. The Kalabhras were driven out of Tamil Nadu by the Pallavas of northern Tamil Nadu and the Pandyas of southern Tamil Nadu, who then founded their rule.

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Sangam Period UPSC

A significant period in South Indian history is the Sangam Period. In ancient Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and parts of Sri Lanka, the Sangam period or age, and particularly the third Sangam period, was a historical era that spanned approximately from the sixth century BCE to the third century CE. It was given the illustrious Sangam schools of poets and thinkers from Madurai as its name. This article has all the details related to Sangam Period, to learn more about UPSC Preparations go to the official website of StudyIQ UPSC Online Coaching.

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Which period is known as Sangam period?

Sangam Period refers to the time period in South India (the region south of the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra) that spans approximately from the third century B.C. to the third century A.D. It was given that name in honour of the Sangam schools that were active at that time and thrived thanks to the support of the Pandya kings of Madurai.

Why it is called Sangam period?

The majority of Tamil writing was produced during the Sangam Age, which is named after the gatherings of poets and bards. The Sanskrit word "Sangha," which signifies an association, is translated as "Sangam" in Tamil.

What are three Sangam period?

There were three Sangam eras, Head Sangam, Middle Sangam, and Last Sangam period, according to Tamil legends.

Who ruled Sangam period?

The Cheras, Cholas, and Pandyas were the three dynasties that governed during the Sangam Age. The primary source of information about these kingdoms comes from Sangam Period literary allusions.

Who headed the First Sangam?

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.

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