Though not very useful from the point of view of a connected political history of South India, the Sangam literature portrays the social and economic conditions of its time with remarkable vividness. Comment. (200 words) (10 marks)

Sangam literature is the Tamil literature composed during the great poetic confluences of ‘Sangams’ during 1-3rd century AD in Tamil land.


Economic significance of Sangam literature

  1. It tells us about the brisk Indo Roman trade. It tells us we used to import gold, wine, pottery, slaves and export spices, textiles, silk.
  2. It tells us of the important ports of the age (Muchiri, Arikamedu), important cities (Kanchivaram), important economic activities (textile making, agriculture).
  3. It tells us the important role played by women in the economy.
  4. It tells us that rice cultivation was important.
  5. It tells us that economic decline had set in by the end of 3rd century as the poets don’t praise the then kings highly.

Social significance of Sangam literature

  1. It tells us that brahmanisation of tamil society was going on, it was not complete.
  2. It tells us at the top of the society were brahmans. Below them everybody was shudra but among them the vellalars held importance.
  3. It tells us of the clan based society, the importance of kinship. The poets praise entire kins of the kings and not just the king.
  4. It tells us that main clans were hillsmen, forestmen, delta people, coastal people.
  5. It tells us untouchability had come into existence.
  6. It tells us of kannagi worship and thus the virtues expected from a noble woman i.e. chastity and devotion to husband.
  7. It tells us education was dominated by brahmans.

Political significance of Sangam literature

  1. Some of the stories like attempts to link to mahabharata war and pandavas are obviously an exaggeration. Yet it tells us some important real political events.
  2. For example the Chola king Karikala who won his kingdom back after defeating an alliance of opponents.

Answer by Gaurav Agrawal AIR 1 CS 2013- Courtesy his superman blog

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