Ancient India-The Sangam Period

Ancient India-The Sangam Period

In ancient history the “Sangam Period” started around the 3rd century BC and lasted around the 3rd Century AD.

The “Sangam Period” is named after being inspired by Sangam academies during the reign of Pandya Kings. The “Sangam Period” flourished with the growth of Sangam academics in Madurai. The Sangam academics were filled with eminent scholars of that time. The scholars served as a censor board and as a choicest of literature that belongs to anthologies. The literary works of that time generally indicate the Dravidian types of literature. Most historians believed them as the earlier copy of this literature. In this study, the reason behind the growth of the “Sangam Period” and its major features is elaborately discussed.

Overview of “Sangam period”

The term ‘Sangam’ in the “Sangam Period” generally means the Tamil poets academy. According to popular legends of this area this “Sangam Period” is divided into three parts. These three Sangam in the “Sangam Period” generally belong to the south Indian region in ancient times and was popularly known as Muchchagam.

Among the three Sangam, the first Sangam according to historians belongs to Madurai.  It is believed that the Sangam is attended by the legendary sages and gods. Hence, there is no literary evidence of this “Sangam Period”. According to the “Sangam Period,” the second Sangam belongs to the region of Kapadapuram. The Third Sangam was again held in Madurai. According to the “Sangam Period,” it is the third Sangam period in which various literary works of Tamil poets have survived. It is the third Sangam that helps historians to understand the history of the “Sangam Period” with the use of surviving sources.

Famous literary work of “Sangam period”

The famous Sangam literary work in the “Sangam Period” includes the works like Manimegalai, Pattuppattu, Ettutogai, Tolkappiyam and Silapathikaram.  Among this Ettuthogai which means the collection of eight anthologies consists of eight literary works. These works are Aganaooru, Aingurunooru, Paripadal, Paditrupattu, Natrinai, kalittogai, Kuruntogai and purananooru. Another famous literary work is Tolkappiyam written by Tolkappyar. According to the “Sangam Period,” Tolkappiyam is considered the oldest literary work in the Tamil language. However, the Tamil work consists of Tamil grammar. Only this literary work helps understand the socio economic and political condition of the “Sangam Period”. Among other works, Pattuppattu is a collection of ten literary works. Pathinenkilkanakku is a collection of eight works and generally about the topic of morals and ethics. Among other sources includes the Greek author Megathenes’s work which mentions the trade between South India and west India. The inscription of Ashoka also mentions the reign of Pandya rulers. 

Political Situation of  “Sangam Period”

During the  “Sangam Period,” the whole of South India was ruled by the Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras. The information that came about the reigns of these kingdoms is basically mentioned in the literary works of  “Sangam Period”.

 According to various literary works, the pandas ruled the entire Madurai region.  Pandyas used the Korkai port located in the Bay of Bengal for business purposes. It is also known that the port is also famous for chank diving and pearl fishery. The emblem of Pandya’s kingdom is fish. The Pandyan kings patronized and felicitated the Sangam poets.

Cholas in the “Sangam Period” control the entire northern and central regions of Tamilnadu. The core ruling area of the Chola kingdom was in the delta region of the Kaveri river. This region is presently known as Cholamandalam. The capital city of the Chola dynasty was Uraiyur and in the Puhar region.  The chola dynasty’s emblem of the flag was a tiger. In the “Sangam Period” among the Sangam Cholas king Karikala was famous.  The Cholas maintained a huge navy and military. King Karikala had various military achievements and flourished the businesses in the “Sangam Period”. 

Cheras in the  “Sangam Period” administered the northern and central parts of Kerala and the Kongu region that is in Tamilnadu. Cheras made their capital in  Vanji. Bow and arrow was the symbol of the Chera dynasty. 


On a concluding note, it can be said that literary works play a major role in later periods. Further, this literary work is the only evidence of the “Sangam Period”. These literary works tell the kingdom and trade and the renowned scholars of the “Sangam Period”. It is this “Sangam Period” that expresses the effective administration system led by Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras. Among the Chola kingdom king Karikala plays a major role as an ideal king. His reign flourished with trade, military and navy. This helps the kingdom to strengthen both economically as well as politically. Inspired by the rhymes of Tamil Sangam poets and the Dravidian format, later literary work made a greater impact in the new pattern of rhyming. The Greek scholars like Megasthenes, Pliny, Ptolemy praised the trade affluence of the “Sangam Period”.