Sangam literature also referred to as “the poetry of the noble ones,” was first recorded in South India and is written in the ancient Tamil language. What do they discuss? Who are the main poets? Which are the main books? Scroll down the page to learn more about Sangam literature.
Sangam literature is the name given to the earliest readable Tamil literature. While the majority of the work is believed to have been produced between 100 CE and 250 CE, the Sangam period is roughly between 300 BC and 300 AD.
- Literally, “Sangam” means “association.” A collection of Tamil poets who were active in ancient southern India are mentioned.
- The first Tamil Sangam at Madurai is said to have been presided over by the Ancient Tamil Siddhar Agastyar between the first and fourth centuries CE.
- In early Indian literature, which is almost entirely religious, Sangam texts may be uncommon.
- There were 473 poets who contributed to the Sangam literature, 102 of whom were unidentified. The poets came from a variety of backgrounds, including farmers, businesspeople, and members of royal families.
- At least 27 of the poets were women.
- These poets emerged in a setting where Tamil (Dravidian) civilization had previously mingled with north Indians (Indo-Aryans) and had irrevocably blended with both sides.
- Both sides shared the same mythology, moral code, and canon.
- Many of the poems, especially the ones glorifying valour, are remarkably free from the literary conceits that characterise the majority of India’s other early and mediaeval literature.
- These poems lack the rich tale connections that characterize most Indian art forms and almost exclusively deal with nonreligious topics.
- However, Sangam poetry contains religious works as well. Sangam literature may contain poems on deities including Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, and Murugan.
Classification of Sangam Literature
- Akam and Puram are the two divisions of Sangam literature.
- In the context of romantic love, sexual connection, and sensuality, akam poetry is concerned with feelings and sentiments.
- The subject matter of Puram poetry is feats and heroism in the context of conflict and public life.
- One-fourth of the poetry in the Sangam is puram-themed, while three-fourths of it has an akam topic.
- Seven minor genres called tinai are used to categorize Sangam literature, which includes akam and puram.
- The setting or scenery of the poetry is the primary focus of this minor genre.
- Kurinci denotes mountainous areas, mullai denotes pastoral forests, marutam denotes riverine agricultural land, neytal denotes coastal regions, and palai denotes dry areas.
- In addition to tinais based on landscapes, akam poetry also uses tinais based on ain-tinai (well-matched, mutual love), kaikilai (ill-matched, one-sided), and perunthinai (unsuited, big genre).
- The 500-short poem collection The Ainkurunuru is an illustration of reciprocal love poetry.
- Similar tinais also apply to puram poetry; these include vetchi (cattle raid), vanchi (invasion, war preparation), kanchi (tragedy), ulinai (siege), tumpai (fight), vakai (victory), paataan (elegy and applause), karanthai, and pothuval.
- The akam poetry uses imagery and metaphors to create a mood; it never includes names of people or locations and frequently omits context, which the community would fill in and understand given their oral history.
- Puram poetry is more straightforward and makes use of names and places.
Literature of the Sangam: Major Works
- Because the three great epics of the time, Silappathigaram, Dipavamsa, and Mahavamsa, demonstrate that Cheran Senguttuvan of the Chera dynasty and Gajabhagu II of Sri Lanka were contemporaneous, the dating of Sangam literature is still up for question.
- Additionally, large numbers of coins made by the Roman Emperor in the first century can be unearthed throughout Tamil Nadu.
- Additionally, Greek writers like Megasthenes, Strabo, and Pliny asserted that the West and South India had trading relations.
- The Cheras, Chola, and Pandya kings who ruled in the region south of the Mauryan Empire were mentioned in inscriptions from the Ashokan Empire.
- The Sangam literature has been dated to the third century B.C. to the third century A.D. based on literary, archaeological, and extraterritorial evidence.
- The Sangam literature is made up of the two epics Silappathikaram and Manimegalai, Tolkappiyam, Ettutogai, Pattuppattu, and Pathinenkilkanakku.
- Both Silappathigaram by Elango Adigal and Manimegalai by Sittalai Sattanar were released in the postmodern era.
- These books contain vital details on the Sangam society and governmental structure.
- The Tamil Brahmi writing dates to the 15th century and is described in the Kalugumalai inscription.
- Both the dreadful destiny of Tamil poets and local chieftains are mentioned in the Tirukkovalur inscription.
- The Tolkappiyam, the first of these writings, was composed by Tolkappiyar and includes Tamil grammar in addition to details regarding the social, economic, and political conditions during the Sangam Age.
- The eight Anthologies, each with eight parts, made up Ettutogai.
- The two main groupings of Ettutogai and Pattuppattu were Aham (love) and Puram (valor).
- Silappatikaram is the first epic written in Tamil. The 5,730-line poem is almost entirely composed in the akaval (aciriyam) meter.
- In Tamil legend, Ilango Adigal is credited with creating Silappatikaram.
- The Fifth Ten of the Patiuppattu, a Sangam poem, describes the family and rule of Chera monarch Senguttuvan, who is claimed to be a
- The heroes of the epic, which depicts the tragic love story of a typical couple, are Kannaki and her husband Kovalan.
- The Silappathikaram has deeper roots in the Tamil bardic tradition, as shown by references to Kannaki and other characters from the story in later works like the Kovalam Katai as well as Sangam literature like the Naiai.
- It is believed that a prince-turned-monk by the name of Iak Aika wrote it around the fifth or sixth century CE.
- The Tamil-Buddhist epic Manimekalai, also known as Manimekhalai or Manimekalai, was likely written in the sixth century by Manimegalai Manimegalai Kulavika Seethalai Sataar.
- The first Tamil epic Silappadikaram’s “love story” is followed by this “anti-love narrative,” which features some of the same
- The epic is composed of 4,861 lines in the akaval metre and is divided into 30 cantos.
- The daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, who carries on her mother’s legacy as a Buddhist nun and dancer, is also known by the name Manimekalai. The epic tells her story.
- Tolkappiyam is both the oldest long piece of Tamil literature still in existence and the earliest existent Tamil grammar text.
- Some people think that Tholkapiyam was written by just one person, Tholkappiyar, a student of the Vedic sage Agastya, who is mentioned in the Rigveda.
- The existing manuscripts of the Tolkappiyam comprise three volumes (athikaram), each with nine chapters (iyal), for a total of 1,610 sutras in the nurpa metre.
- This thorough grammar work contains sutras on grammar, spelling, phonology, etymology, morphology, semantics, prosody, sentence construction, and the significance of context in language.
- The Tolkappiyam can’t be dated in any way.
- The verse dates to the first millennium BCE or earlier by some Tamil scholars, who place it in the legendary second sangam.
- The Eight Anthologies, commonly known as Ettuttokai or “Eight Collections,” is a significant piece of Tamil literature and one of the Eighteen Greater Texts (Patinen-melkanakku) anthology series published by Sangam Literature.
- The earliest Tamil works still in existence are The Eight Anthologies (Pattuppattu) and its companion anthology, The Ten Idylls (Pattuppattu).
- The eight pieces that make up Ettuthogai are Aingurunooru, Narrinai, Aganaooru, Purananooru, Kuruntogai, Kalittogai, Paripadal, and Padirruppatu (Eight Anthologies).
- The Ten Idylls often referred to as Pattupattu or Ten Lays, is a collection of ten longer poems from the Sangam era of Tamil literature.
- They range in length from 100 to 800 lines, and the collection includes Nakkirar’s well-known Tirumurukarruppaai.
- The earliest layer of the Pattupattu collection dates from the second to third century CE, the middle layer from the second to fourth century CE, and the final layer from the third to fifth century CE.
- The Pattupattu is made up of 10 works: Thirumurugarruppadai, Porunarruppadai, Sirupanarruppadai, Perumpanarruppadai, Mullaippattu, Nedunalvadai, Madurai Kanji, Kurinjippatttu, Pattinappalai, and Malaipadukadam (Ten Idylls).
- In literature, the Pathinenkilkanakku often referred to as the Eighteen Lesser Texts, is a collection of eighteen poems, most of which were composed in the “following Sangam period” (between 100 and 500 CE).
- Pathinenkilkanakku contains 18 books on morality and ethics.
- The most significant of these writings is Tirukkural, which was composed by eminent Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar.
- The poems in this collection are shorter and written in venpa metre than those found in the Eighteen Greater Texts, which are the oldest known collections of Tamil poetry.
- This collection’s sole anthology, Naladiyar, has been sung by 400 poets.
Sangam Literature: Implications
- The Cheras, Cholas, and Pandyas were the three principal Tamil kingdoms at this time.
- The Sangam literature offers historical proof of South India’s indigenous literary development concurrent with Sanskrit, as well as the status of Tamil as a classical language.
- The literature that has survived attests to a group of intellectuals located in ancient Madurai who had an impact on the “literary, academic, cultural, and linguistic life of ancient Tamil Nadu” even if there is scant evidence for the first and second legendary Sangams.
- The Sangam literature offers an understanding of a number of facets of ancient Tamil culture, as well as of both secular and religious concepts and persons.
- Sanskrit loan words are present in the Sangam literature, indicating continued linguistic and literary exchanges between Tamil Nadu and other parts of the Indian subcontinent in antiquity.
- Sangam poetry is focused on people and culture. It is almost entirely non-religious, with the occasional allusion to Hindu gods and larger allusions to many gods in the shorter poems.
Sangam, a phrase from the Sanskrit language, means “association.” It refers to Tamil Sangam, a group of Tamil poets who lived in the distant past of South India. From the first through the fourth centuries CE, the Ancient Tamil Siddhar Agastyar is thought to have presided over the first Tamil Sangam at Madurai. In early Indian literature, which is virtually purely religious, the Sangam works.
Article Written By: Atheena Fathima Riyas