- The Sangam literature discusses about the 3 main Kingdoms- Chola. Pandya & Chera and about their rivalry.
- Capitals at Kaverippattanam (Puhar) and Uraiyur (famous for cotton trade).
- Territory – N-E to the territory of Pandya, between Pennar & Velar Rivers.
- Emblem – Tiger
- Kaverippattanam, Uraiyur and Arikamedu (Puducherry) became famous centers of trade and industry under Cholas.
- Elara was the earliest known king. He conquered Sri Lanka & ruled over it for 50 yrs.
- Karikala was the greatest king. He founded Puhar & constructed dam across Cauvery River.
- Capital at Madurai (center of trade and industry)
- Teritory – Southern most & South eastern portion of peninsula.
- Emblem – Carp (fish)
- Pandyas had trade relations with Romans. They were first mentioned by Megasthanese. They also find mention in the Ramayana & Mahabharata.
- Nedunjelian, known for his kingdom’s wealth and prosperity, was most noteworthy Pandya ruler.
- Capital at Vanji (Malabar).
- Territory – West & North of Pandya.
- Emblem – Bow and Arrow.
- Senguttuvan (Red Chera) was most important ruler. He established the Kannagi or Pattini Cult; Kannagi became object of worship.
- He was the first King from South India to send an ambassador to China.
- He enjoyed the reputation of being highly ethical or virtuous.
- Gajabahu was his cotemporary Sri Lankan King.
- Karrur and Mujirispattanam were important centers of international trade.
- Romans settled at Mujirispattanam.
- A temple of Roman emperor Augustus was constructed here.
- Kingdom was divided into Mandalam, Nadu (province), Ur (Town), Sirur (Small village), perur (Big Village)
- King was called Ko Mannan, Vendan, Korravan or Iraivan. He was the centre of the administration. Avai was the court of crowned monarch.
- Amaichar (ministers), anthanar (priests), Dutar (envoys), senapatiyar (military commanders) and orrar (spies) were the 5 important officers that assisted the King.
- REVENUE ADMINISTRATION: Karai – land tax, Ulgu – custom duties, Iravu – Forced gift/extra demand, Irai – tribute paid by feudatories, Variyar – Tax collector
- The region that Sangam Literature mentions was prosperous and agriculture, industry and trade flourished there.
- People were pastoralists, hunter, fishermen although they also produced rice.
- ITEMS OF EXPORT: Maslin, glass beeds, pearls, sandalwood, perfumes, black pepper (Yavanapriya), tortoise shell, medicines, animals and birds.
- ITEMS OF IMPORTS: Gold, Silver, Munga, wine, olive oil dry fruits, raw glass, ivory, copper, tin, medicine and slaves.
- Gold and Silver in huge quantities were brought into India and made the trade greatly in favour of India.
- Pliny, the Roman author and member of senate, in his Naturalis Historia (77CE) regrets the drain out of huge amounts of gold and siler to India.
- Ptolemy in his Geographia (Geography) and Strabo in his Geographica (Geography) also describe this trade imbalance of Roman empire with India.
- Discovery of Mansoon winds by Hippalus around 45-47 CE further promoted the trade between India and the west.
- Tamilmandalam served as the zone of interaction for silk trade with China.
- Land revenue, customs duty on foreign trade and booty captured in wars were the main sources of the income.
- Tamil people were primarily pastoral and trace of early megalithic life appear in the sangam texts.
- Social classes – Arasars (Ruling Class), Kadasiyar (lower classes people) Aanthanars (priests), Vanigar (involved with trade and commerce) , Vellalar (Agriculturists).
- In the Marutam region the Vellalas or the rich peasants were dominant.
- Courage, creativity and spirituality of women was respected in Sangam society. Avvaiyar, Nachchellaiyar and Kakkaipadiniyar were the women poets who enriched the Tamil literature.
- Love marriage was accepted in Sangam society.
- Yet, the widows were treated badly as Sati was prevalent.
- Some social (Parathavar, Panar, Eyinar, Kadambar, Maravar, Pulaiyar) and other primitive (Thodas, Irulas, Nagas, Vedars) tribal groups also lived in the Sangam age.
- Murugan was the most important deity of the Sangam age and Nadu Kal (Hero Stone) was also commonly worshiped remembering the bravery of soldiers.
- Kurinji (hilly tracks), Mullai (pastoral), Marudam (agricultural), Neydal (coastal) and Palai (desert) are the five types of the lands mentioned in the Tolkappiyam. Each type of land was associated with a distinct activity and a related deity:
1. Kurinji– Hunting; Murugan
2. Mullai– cattle-rearing; Vishnu (Mayo)
3. Marudam– agriculture; Indra
4. Neydal– Fishing, Salt-manufacturing; Varunan
5. Palai– Robbery; korravai
- Jainism and Buddhism flourished and expanded during this period.