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Subjects /Indian History / Ancient History / Sangam Age Part II

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In Continuation With Part-I
10 Jan 2021

In this part we will learn more about the Sangam age.

Sangam Literature

Oldest Tamil Books, composed and written in Tamil language. Books were called – ‘Sangam literature’ or Tamil literature. Sangam literature was written on Palm leaf. Tamil scolars were called ‘Bards’.

There were four main books- Tolkappiyam, Ettutogai, Pattupattu, Pathinenkilkanakku and five Epics- Silappathigaram, Manimeglai, Valayapathi, Kundalakesi and Jivakachintamani.

Tolkapiyam – oldest Tamil Grammar book.Contained 1612 sutras. It provides information on the political and socio-economic conditions of the Sangam period.

Ettutogai- It consista eight works long and short both or eight anthologies named Aingurunooru, Narrinai, Aganooru, Purananooru, Kuruntogai, Kalittogai, Paripadal and Padirruppattu.

Pattupatta- 10 Idylls (Pattu means 10 and Patta means Songs) i.e it consists of ten works.

Both pattupatta and ettutogai were divided into two groups- Aham(love) and Puram(valour).

Pathinenkilkanakku- It contains 18 minor works mostly dealing with ethics and morals. Most important of them were:

  • Tirukkural authored by Thiruvalluvar.

Silappathiaram by Elango Adigal

·        It’s a story of Kovalan (Wealthy Merchant) and Kanagi (wife of the merchant) and Madhavi (Lady enters inKovalan’s life)

·        ‘Kanagi’ puja still done in South -India at Kanagi temple.

Manimegalai by Sitalai Sattanar

·        It’s a story of Manimeklai, dauther of Kovalan and Madhavi. She was a brave girl and became a Buddhist Nun.

Minor Chieftains of Sangam Age

Pari, Ori, Kari, Nalli, Pegan, Ay and Adiyaman were popular for their philanthropy and patronage of Tamil poets. And thus they were known as Kadai Yellu Vallalgal.

They were subordinate to Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers but powerful.

Sangam Polity

There was hereditary Monarchy form of government.

Different titles were adopted by different kings such as-

  1. Chera- Vanavaramban, Vanavan, Kuttuvan, Irumporai and Villavar.
  2. Chola- Senni, Valavan, Killi
  3. Pandya- Thennavar, Minavar 

The important terms used for different posts are-

Ministers- amaichar


Priests- anthanar

Spies- orrar

Military commanders- senapathi

Pattinapalai- custom officials employed in seaports of Puhar.

Land revenue and custom duty on foreign trade were the main source of income during sangam age.

Sangam age rulers used to keep regular army.

Roads and Highways were well maintained and guarded to prevent robbery and smuggling.

Sangam Society

Tolkappiyam mention five-fold division of land in Sangam Age-

Land Name

Chief Deity

Main occupation

Kurinji(hilly tracks)


Hunting and honey collection.

Mullai (pastoral)


Cattle rearing and dairy products

Marudam (agricultural)



Neydal (coastal)


Fishing and salt manufacturing

Palai (desert)



According to Tolkappiyam there were four castes named

  • Arasar- the ruling class
  • Vanigars- trade and commerce class
  • Anthanars- the political and religious class
  • Vellalas – agricultural class

Position of women

Many women poets flourished in sangam age some of them are Avvaiyar, Nachchellaiyar, Kakkaipadiniyar.

Highest virtue of women was in Karpu or chaste life.

Love marriage was common in sangam age.

Sati was prevalent this shows that the life of the widow was miserable.

Class of dancers was patronised by the kings and nobles.

Economy of Sangam Age

  • Agriculture was the chief occupation and rice, ragi, sugarcane, cotton, pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and a variety of fruits were common .
  • Pepper and jackfruit were prevalent in Cheras and Paddy in Chola and Pandyas. Handicrafts were also popular.
  • External trade with greek kingdoms and internal trade was at its peak during this period.
  • Cotton (as thin as a cloud of steam or slough of snake) clothes woven at Uraiyur was in great demand in western world.
  • Plenty of gold and silver coins were issued by Roman Emperors like Augustus, Tiberius and Nero were found in all parts of Tamil Nadu. Gold, Horses and sweets were the main imports in these kingdoms.