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Q 23- The Sangam literature is a combination of ideals with realistic history and classical epics which all together serve as the sources of history of that age. Explain. (250 words)

  •   Paper & Topic: GS I à Indian Culture


  • Model Answer:


  • Introduction:


  • The Sangam Age constitutes an important chapter in the history of South India.
  • According to Tamil legends, there existed three Sangams (Academy of Tamil poets) in ancient Tamil Nadu popularly called Muchchangam. 
  • These Sangams flourished under the royal patronage of the Pandyas.


  • Body:


  • The first Sangam, held at Then Madurai, was attended by gods and legendary sages but no literary work of this Sangam was available.
  • The second Sangam was held at Kapadapuram but the all the literary works had perished except Tolkappiyam.
  • The third Sangam at Madurai was founded by Mudathirumaran.
  • It was attended by a large number of poets who produced voluminous literature but only a few had survived.


  • Sangam Literature: Ideals and Realistic history:


  • The corpus of Sangam literature includes Tolkappiyam, Ettutogai, Pattuppattu, Pathinenkilkanakku, and the two epics- Silappathigaram and Manimegalai.
  • It is a work on Tamil grammar but it provides information on the political and socio- economic conditions of the Sangam period.
  • Both Ettutogai and Pattuppattu were divided into two main groups – Aham (love) and Puram (valour).
  • Pathinenkilkanakku contains eighteen works mostly dealing with ethics and morals. The most important among them is Tirukkural authored by Thiruvalluvar.
  • Silappathigaram written by Elango Adigal and Manimegalai by Sittalai Sattanar also provides valuable information on the Sangam polity and society.
  • Sangam Literature as sources of history
  • Political history: The Tamil country was ruled by three dynasties namely the Chera, Chola and Pandyas during the Sangam Age. The political history of these dynasties can be traced from the literary references.
  • Position of women: There is a plenty of information in the Sangam literature to trace the position of women during the Sangam age. Women poets like Avvaiyar, Nachchellaiyar, and Kakkaipadiniyar flourished in this period and contributed to Tamil literature. The courage of women was also appreciated in many poems.
  • Sangam Society: Tolkappiyam refers to the five-fold division of lands – Kurinji (hilly tracks), Mullai (pastoral), Marudam (agricultural), Neydal (coastal) and Palai (desert).
  • Tolkappiyam also refers to four castes namely arasar, anthanar, vanigar and vellalar.
  • The ruling class was called arasar. Anthanars played a significant role in the Sangam polity and religion. Vanigars carried on trade and commerce. 
  • The vellalars were agriculturists.
  • Sangam Polity: Hereditary monarchy was the form of government during the Sangam period.
  • Land revenue was the chief source of state’s income while custom duty was also imposed on foreign trade.
  • Trade: Both internal and foreign trade was well organized and briskly carried on in the Sangam Age.
  • The Sangam literature, Greek and Roman accounts and the archaeological evidences provide detailed information on this subject.
  • Spinning and weaving of cotton and silk clothes attained a high quality.
  • The poems mention the cotton clothes as thin as a cloud of steam or a slough of a snake.
  • There was a great demand in the western world for the cotton clothes woven at Uraiyur.
  • Agriculture: Agriculture was the chief occupation. Rice was the common crop. Ragi, sugarcane, cotton, pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and a variety of fruits were the other crops.
  • However, there are dispute among the exact period of sangam age and its chronology.
  • The most probable date of the Sangam literature has been fixed between the third century B.C. to third century A.D. on the basis of literary, archaeological and numismatic evidences.


  • Conclusion:


  • The Sangam age Tamil literary works remain useful sources to reconstruct the history of the period providing major insights into the social and economic life of people, especially in the Southern India.


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