Sangam Age: Cheras, Cholas & Pandyas

  • Sangam – Assembly of Tamil poets.

  • Mainly flourished under the Pandyas.

  • First Sangam, held at Madurai, attended by gods and legendary sages but no literary work available.

  • Second Sangam, held at Kapadapuram – all the literary works had perished except Tolkappiyam.
  • Third Sangam at Madurai was founded by Mudathirumaran.

Sangam age Literature


  • It consists of 18 major works – Ettutogai (8) + Pattuppattu (10 Idylls).
  • Ettutogai and Pattuppattu were divided into – Aham (love) and Puram (valour).
  • Tolkappiyam writtern by Tolkappiyar, work on Tamil grammar but it provides information on the political and socio – economic.


  • It also consists 18 works mostly dealing with ethics and morals.
  • Tirukkural authored by Thiruvalluvar was the most important among them.
  • Silappathigaram written by Elango Adigal and Manimegalai by Sittalai Sattanar also provides valuable information on the Sangam polity and society.

Other Sources:

  • Greek authors like Megasthenes, Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy mention the commercial contacts between the West and South India.
  • Asokan inscriptions mention the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers on the south of the Mauryan empire.
  • Hathikumbha inscription of Kharavela of Kalinga also mentions about Tamil kingdoms.

Sangam age Polity:

  • Hereditary monarchy was the form of government.
  • King had also taken the advice of his minister, court-poet and the imperial court (avai).
  • Each of the Sangam dynasties had a royal emblem.
  • Avai (imperial court) was attended by a number of chiefs and officials.
  • King was assisted by a large body of officials who were divided into five councils.

1.Ministers (amaichar),

2.Priests (anthanar),

3.Military commanders (senapathi),

4.Envoys (thuthar) and

5.Spies (orrar).

  • Each ruler had a regular army and their respective Kodimaram (tutelary tree).
  • Land revenue was the chief source of state’s income.
  • Pattinappalai refers to the custom officials employed in the seaport of Puhar.

Sangam age Society

Tolkappiyam refers to the fivefold division of lands –

1.Kurinji – chief deity was Murugan – chief occupation, hunting and honey collection.

2.Mullai – chief deity Mayon (Vishnu) – chief occupation, cattle-rearing and dealing with dairy products.

3.Marudam – chief deity Indira – chief occupation, agriculture.

4.Neydal – chief deity Varunan – chief occupation fishing and salt manufacturing.

5.Palai – chief deity Korravai – chief occupation robbery.

  • People living in these five divisions had their respective chief occupations as well as gods for worship.

Tolkappiyam also refers to 4castes

  1. Arasar – ruling class
  2. Anthanar
  3. Vanigar and
  4. vellalas – agriculturists

Sangam age religion

  • Primary deity of the Sangam period was Seyon or Murugan.
  • He was honoured with six abodes known as Arupadai Veedu.
  • Other gods worshipped during the Sangam period were Mayon (Vishnu), Vendan (Indiran), Varunan and Korravai.
  • Hero Stone or Nadu Kal worship was significant in the Sangam period, it was erected in memory of the bravery shown by the warrior in battle.
  • Many hero stones with legends inscribed on them were found in different parts of Tamil Nadu.

Position of Women in Sangam age

  • Chaste life (Karpu) was considered the highest virtue of women.
  • Love marriage was a common practice.
  • Women poets like Avvaiyar, Nachchellaiyar, and Kakkaipadiniyar flourished in this period and contributed to Tamil literature.
  • Courage of women was also appreciated in many poems.
  • Women were allowed to choose their life partners.
  • However, the life of widows was miserable.
  • Practice of Sati was also prevalent in the higher levels of society.
  • Dancers were patronized by the kings and nobles.

Fine Arts of Sangam Age:

  • Koothu was the most popular entertainment of the people.
  • Royal courts were crowded with singing bards called Panar and Viraliyar.
  • Dancing was performed by Kanigaiyar.
  • Poetry, music and dancing were popular among the people of the Sangam age.
Economy of the Sangam Age
  • Agriculture was the chief occupation.
  • Jack fruit and pepper were famous in the Chera country.
  • Paddy was the chief crop in the Chola and Pandya country.
  • Spinning and weaving of cotton and silk clothes attained a high quality.
  • Gold, horses and sweet wine were the chief imports.

Three Sangam Kingdoms

Kingdoms Capital Emblems Famous sport
Cholas Uraiyur, later Puhar Jumping Tiger Puhar(Kaveripattam)
Cheras Vanji or Karur Bow & Arrow Muzris, Tondi, Bandar
Pandyas Madurai Twin Fishes Korkai, Saliyur

sangam agePolitical History of Sangam age

Three dynasties namely the Chera, Chola and Pandyas ruled during the Sangam Age.


  • Extended from modern Tiruchi district to southern Andhra Pradesh.
  • First capital was Uraiyur and then shifted to Puhar (Kaveripattanam).
  • Kingdom was called Cholamandalam or Coromondal.
  • Chief centre was Uraiyur, a place famous for cotton trade.
Karikala chola
  • known as the master of seven notes of music.
  • Karikala chola was a famous king of the Sangam Cholas.
  • Pattinappalai portrays his early life and his military conquests.
  • In the Battle of Venni he defeated the mighty confederacy consisting of the Cheras, Pandyas and eleven minor chieftains.
  • Vahaipparandalai was another important battle fought by him in which nine enemy chieftains submitted before him.
  • Responsible for the reclamation of forest lands and brought them under cultivation thus adding prosperity to the people.
  • He also built Kallanai across the river Kaveri and also constructed many irrigation tanks.
Other facts:
  • A Chola king named Elara conquered Sri Lanka & ruled it over for 50 years.
  • Main source of wealth was trade in cotton cloth.
  • Maintained an efficient navy.
  • Founder of later Cholas was Rajaraja I and he built ‘Brihadeswara temple’ at Tanjore.
  • Rajendra Chola is also known as ‘Gagaikonda Chola’. He later named his capital as ‘ Gangaikonda Cholapuram’.
  • Utharameroor inscription tells about the local self government under the cholas.
  • Thirukkural of Thiruvalluvar is the Tamil work which is known also as the fifth Veda.
  • Jivaka Chintamani the third epic of the Tamil was written by Tirukkadevar.
  • Cholas were well known for their naval supremacy and efficient village administration.


  • Earliest reference to the Chera (Keralaputra) kingdom cards in the Ashokan inscriptions.
  • Compromised the mordern districts of Malabr, Cochin and Northern Travancore.
  • Their capital was Vanji and their important seaports were Tondi and Musiri.
  • Pugalur inscription of the first century A.D refers to three generations of Chera rulers.
  • Padirruppattu also provides information on Chera kings.

Senguttuvan (red or good Chera)

  • He was the greatest ruler of Cheras.
  • He is credited with having invaded the north and crossed the river Ganga.
  • He built a temple for Kannaki.
  • His younger brother was Elango Adigal, the author of Silappathigaram.
  • Senguttuvan introduced the Pattini cult or the worship of Kannagi as the ideal wife in Tamil Nadu.
  • Compromised the modern districts of Madura, Ramnad, Tirunelveli and southern parts of Travancore.
  • Capital of Pandyas – Madurai.
  • According to the Megasthanese, the kingdom was that their kingdom was famous for pearls and was ruled by a woman.
  • According to Asoka edicts, the Pandyas were independent people living beyond the South than border of the Maurya Empire.
  • The Pandya kings profited from trade with the Roman Empire and sent embassies to the Roman emperor Augustus.
  • There were two Neduncheliyans. The first one was known as Aryappadai Kadantha Neduncheliyan (who won victories over the Aryan forces). He was responsible for the execution of Kovalan for which Kannagi burnt Madurai.
  • The other was Talaiyalanganattu Cheruvenra (who won the battle at Talaiyalanganam) Neduncheliyan. He was praised by Nakkirar and Mangudi Maruthanar.
  • He wore this title after defeating his enemies at the Battle of Talaiyalanganam, which is located in the Tanjore district.
  • Maduraikkanji written by Mangudi Maruthanar describes the socio-economic condition of the Pandya country including the flourishing seaport of Korkai.

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