(Last Updated on : 19/01/2013)
The Sangam literature is a remarkable literature produced by the Sangam Tamils. The Tamils were the first to produce literature in India, barring Sanskrit and some kinds of Prakrit. The Sangam literature belonged to the six centuries between the 3rd century B.C. and the 3rd century A.D.
There are different views by different scholars regarding the composition if the Sangam literature. The most orthodox view holds that the Tolkappiyam
, Ettutogai (eight anthologies), Pattuppatu (an anthology of ten long verses) and most of the eighteen (minor) works known as the Padinenkilkka-nakku as well as the Tagadur Tattirai and the Muttollayiram along with the two epics Silappadikaram and Manimckalai constitute Sangam literature. A more restricted view is that only the Ettuttogai and some of the Pattupattu belong to this age. According to them even Tolkappiyam, Tirumurugatrrupadai (a devotional song on Murugan by Nakkirar, the famous Sangam poet), the Paripadal and the Kural belong to later times. The twin epics, Silappadikaram and Manimekalai are wrongly assigned to a later date. But it is undeniable that the Sangam Tamils produced a body of literature, which is creditable by any standard of criticism.
Nearly 600 poets have contributed to the Sangam literature. Among these the more important were the Brahmin
poets Kapilar and Nakkirar, the Brahmin grammarian Tolkappiar and royal poets like Nedum Seliyan, Nalluttiran etc. Vaisya poets like Sattanar of Madurai
, poetesses like Auvaiyar, Vellividiyar and many others belonging to different castes and from both sex contributed to this literature. Epics like the Silappadikaram crowned the literary efforts of the Sangam Tamils. The Tagadur Tattirai was an unusual piece of literature, which narrated the historical events pertaining to the storming and reduction of the fortress of Tagadur by the Chera king Perum Serai Irumporai. Perunjjadai, an adaptation of Gunadya's Brihatkatha, originally written in the Paisasi Prakrit was written by Kongu Vel, a prince. It can be classed among the greatest of Tamil epics. Perhaps it was composed during the fag end of the Sangam period or the dawn of the Pallava age.
The tradition of art and architecture in that society can be gauged only by inference through mention in literature. Architecture, secular and religious, was known to and practiced by them as evidenced by the Silappadikaram
, Manimekalai, Patinappalai and Maduraikkanchi. Music of a fairly high order as well as the sister art of dancing reached fairly high levels of perfection as can be seen in the Arangetrrukkadai of Silappadikaram. Sangam painters to guide their artistic efforts used Oviya Nul, a manual of painting. Their sculptures were in the medium of plaster and the architectural tradition should have begun with the brick and timber prototype of the Pallava stone architecture.