Sangam literature provides us a near accurate picture of society existing during the Sangam Age.
Sangam Age Society
- The caste divisions and tribal arrangements existed together in the Sangam Age.
- The Tamil Sangam society was basically divided between the high born and the low born, differentiating the Brahmins from the common people.
- The Tolkappiyam mentions four castes—Brahmans, kings, traders, and farmers—ignoring the other common people. This shows the influence of Sanskritic social ideas on the Sangam poets.
- The Brahmins were a respectable and learned community of people. The concept of pollution caused by the low born was present in society.
- Both Vaishyas and Vellas were engaged in trade. The Vaishyas cultivated the land, protected cows, made gifts to the kingdoms, and performed sacrifices. The same functions were also performed by the Vellas.
- Apart from these classes, the Tamil land was also inhabited by hunters, gatherers, and communities whose main occupation was fishing and animal husbandry. They also practiced shifting cultivation.
- People mainly consumed grains, meat, fish, milk, and milk products. The main sources of entertainment for the people were cockfights and goat fights. Gambling was also popular. Wrestling was also organized.
- During the Sangam Age, women were provided with education as we find many women poets during the Sangam Age. Women also enjoyed the freedom of movement. However, their position was not equal to that of men.
The economy of the Sangam Age
- The economy of the Sangam Age was simple and self-sufficient. Agriculture was the main occupation of the people. Rice, wheat, pepper, ginger, cardamom, and various other spices and fruits were grown.
- Embankments were made by the state to support irrigation. Chera country was known for its jackfruit, pepper, and turmeric.
- Spinning and weaving were other major occupations of the people. Uraiyur was an important center of the cotton trade.
- Ship making, metalworking, carpentry, rope making, tanning, and the making of ivory products are important industries.
- Sangam literature gives us a vivid description of the trading activities during this period. Internal and foreign trade practices were well organized. Trade was mainly carried through barter.
- Paddy was the main medium of exchange in the rural regions.
- There were established markets known as angadi in large towns. Hawkers also carried goods from one place to the other.
- Extensive foreign trade was carried out with many countries. Spices were in great demand in foreign countries. Ivory products, pearls, and precious stones were exported and hoarded, and gold and glass were imported.
- According to an important manuscript, Periplus, trade flourished between India and the Roman Empire. According to the text, Cannanore, Ponnani, and Kottayam were important trading ports.
- Uraiyur was a city from which pearls and fine quality muslin were exported. Many gold and silver coins struck by Roman emperors have been found in the interiors of the Tamil land. This shows that extensive trade flourished between the Tamil land and the Roman Empire.
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The Sangam Age refers to the period when most of the Tamil literature was composed by a body of Tamil scholars and poets in three successive literary gatherings called Sangam. Read more