• Sangam literature is main source of History of ancient South India i.e., Tamilkam.
  • It was compiled during 3rd century BC to 3rd century CE & was composed in poetic format around theme of love and war.
  • Sangam was a college or assemblies of Tamil poets held under royal patronage. It is believed that 3 sangams lasted for 9990 years and were attended by 8598 poets and had 197 Pandya kings as patrons.
    • 1st Sangam- Old Madurai (Lemurai)
    • 2nd Sangam- Kapatpuram (Alovai)
    • 3rd Sangam- New Madurai
  • Sangam Literature is broadly divided into 2 groups – Narrative & Didactic.
  • Narrative texts are called Melkannaku/Eighteen major works consisting of Ettuthogai– Collection of 8 long poems & Pattupattu– Collection of 10 small poems.
  • Narrative texts are considered of heroic poetry in which heroes and wars are glorified. They also give idea of state formation in South India.
  • Didactic texts are called Kilkannaku/Eighteen minor works consisting of Tirukural and Naladiyar.
  • These texts prescribe a code of conduct for kings & society. They also Mentions about social groups, occupations.
  • 2nd and 13th rock edicts of Ashoka name 4 neighborly kingdoms of South India; these were Cholas, Cheras (Keralputras of Malabar) Pandyas and Satiyaputras.
  • Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela of Kalinga mentions Tamil kingdoms.

Other Sangam



  • Silappadikaram – written by Ilango Adigal. It is about love affair of Kovalan, Kanaggi and Madhavi. Later, a Kannagi Cult developed in South India.
  • Manimekhalai – Written by Sittalai Sattanar continues the story of Silappadikaram in next generation in which Manimekhalai is the daughter of Madhavi and Kovalan.
  • Tolkappiyam – written by Tolkappiyar was product of 2nd Sangam and it is basically a work on Tamil grammar & poetics.
  • Tirrukural – Deals with philosophy and wise maxims & was written by Tiruvallur









  • 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.
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