The Sangam Age

  1. The period between the 1st century B.C. to the end of 2nd century A.D. in Southern India is known as Sangam Period

  2. It has been named after the Sangam academies during that period.

  3. According to the Tamil legends, there were three Sangams (Academy of Tamil poets) held in the ancient South India popularly called Muchchangam. These Sangams flourished under the royal patronage of the Pandya kings of Madurai.

  4. The First Sangam, is believed to be held at Madurai, attended by gods and legendary sages.1. No literary work of this Sangam is available.

  5. The Second Sangam was held at Kapadapuram, only Tolkappiyam survives from this.

  6. The Third Sangam at Madurai was founded by Mudathirumaran. A few of these Tamil literary works have survived and are a useful sources to reconstruct the history of the Sangam period.

Sangam Literature:-

Sangam was a college or assembly of Tamil poets held probably under royal patronage of pandyan kings in Madurai. According to tradition,the assembly lasted for 9990 years and was attended by 8,598 poets and 197 pandyan kings.

  1. The first Sangam was attended by Gods and legendary sages and all its works have perished.

  2. Of the second Sangam , the only surving is Tolkappiyam,an early work on Tamil grammer written by Tokapiyyar.

  3. The sangam literature can roughly be divided into groups –narrrative and didactic.

  4. The narrative texts are called Melkanakku or eighteen major works consisting of eight anthologies(Ettutogai) and ten idylls (Pattupattu).

Political History of Sangam Period:

During the Sangam Age, it was ruled by three dynasties-the Pandya,chola and chera

The Pandyas(Emblem-Fish):-

  1. The Pandhyas were first mentioned by Megasthanese,who said that their kingdom was famous for pearls

  2. The Pandyan territory included modern district of Tirunelevelli,Ramnad and Madurai in Tamil Nadu.It had its capital at Madurai,situated on the bank of Vaigai river.

  3. The Pandyan Kingdom profited from trade ith roman empire and sent emissaries to roman emperors.Augustus and Trojan.

  4. The Pandyas find mention in the Ramayana and Mahabharata

  5. The earliest known Pandyan ruler was Mudukudumi,who ruled from Madurai,he accused kovalan of theft. As the result the city of Madurai was laid under the curse by kannagi(kovalan’wife).

The Cholas (Emblem-Tiger)

  1. The Cholas kingdom called as Cholamandalam was situated to the north-east of Pandya kingdom between Pennar and Vellar rivers. The Chola kingdom corresponded to modern Tanjore and Tiruchiranpalli districts

  2. Its inland capital was Uraiyur, a place famous for cotton trade. One of the main sources of wealth for cholas was trade in cotton cloth.

  3. Puhar ,identical with kaverippattinam was the main port of cholas and served as alternative capital of cholas.

  4. The earliest known chola kingdom was Elara,who in 2nd century BC conquered Sri Lanka and ruled over it for nearly 50 years.

  5. Their greatest king was karikala (man with charred leg) who founded puhar and constructed 160 km of embankment along the kaveri river.

  6. They maintained an efficient navy.

  7. The Cholas were wiped out by the attack of pallavas from north.

The Cheras (Emblem-Bow)

  1. The Chera country occupied the portion of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

  2. The capital of Cheras was Vanji

  3. It main ports were muzris and tondi.the Romans set up two regiments at muzris(identical with Cranganore ) in Chera country.They also built a temple of Augustus at Muzris.

  4. One of the earliest and better known chera rulers was udiyangeral..

  5. The greatest of Chera King,however,was,Senguttuvan or Red Chera . It is said that he invaded north and even crossed the ganga

  6. He was the founder of the famous Pattini cult related to worship of goddess of chastity-Kannagi.

Sangam Administration

The king was the center of administration.He was called Ko Mannan,Vendan,korravaan or iravian.Avai was the court of crowned monarch.


  1. Amaichhar-Ministers

  2. Purohitar-Purohits

  3. Dutar-Envoys

  4. Senapatiyar-Senapati

  5. Orrar-Spics

The Kingdom was divided into Mandalam,Nadu(province),Ur(town),Sirur(small Village,perur(Big Village)

Revenue Administration:-

Karai               Land Tax

Irat                  Tribute paid by feudatories and booty collected in war.

Ulgu                Customs Duties

Iravu                Extra Demand or forced gift

Variyam          A well know unit of territory yielding  tax

Variyar            Tax collector

Position of Women during Sangam Age:

  1. There were women poets like Avvaiyar, Nachchellaiyar, and Kakkaipadiniyar who flourished and contributed to Tamil literature.

  2. Love marriage was a common practice and women were allowed to choose their life partners.

  3. But, life of widows was miserable.

  4. There is also a mention about the practice of Sati being prevalent in the higher strata of society.

Economy of the Sangam Age:

  1. Agriculture was the chief occupation where rice was the most common crop.

  2. The handicraft included weaving, metal works and carpentry, ship building and making of ornaments using beads, stones and ivory.

  3. These were in great demand of all above products in the internal and external trade as this was at its peak during the Sangam period.

  4. A high expertise was attained in spinning and weaving of cotton and silk clothes. Various poems mention of cotton clothes as thin as a cloud of steam or like a slough of snake. These were in great demand in the western world especially for the cotton clothes woven at Uraiyur.

  5. The port city of Puhar became an important place of foreign trade, as big ships entered this port containing  precious goods.

  6. Other significant ports of commercial activity were Tondi, Musiri, Korkai, Arikkamedu and Marakkanam.

  7. Many gold and silver coins that were issued by the Roman Emperors like Augustus, Tiberius and Nero have been found in all parts of Tamil Nadu indicating flourishing trade.

  8. Major exports of the Sangam age were cotton fabrics and spices like pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric along with ivory products, pearls and precious stones.

  9. Major imports for the traders were horses, gold, and sweet wine.