Defence Exam Notes on Ancient History: Sangam Age

By Naveen Singh|Updated : June 24th, 2020

Art and Culture is one of the most important topics in History. Many students find it difficult on how to go about solving questions from this topic. For this one needs to have a thorough knowledge of the subject. To simplify the subject we are have divided the subject into smaller topics and are providing you the notes for the same. These notes will help you revise effectively. 

Ancient History: Sangam Age

The Megalithic Background

Megalith graves were encircled by big pieces of stones. They also contained pottery and iron objects buried with the corpse. They are found in the upland regions of Peninsula with the concentration in Eastern Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu

State formation and the rise of civilization

The megalithic people started to reclaim the fertile deltaic lands. The route to the south is called as Dakshinapatha which became economically important.

Megasthenes knew about Pandyas while Ashokan inscriptions mention about Cholas, Pandyas, Keralaputras, and Satyaputras

Flourishing trade with the Roman empire led to the formation of these three states i.e., Cheras, Cholas, and Pandyas

Sangam Period

Sangam period is the period in the history of ancient Tamil Nadu spanning from c. 3rd century BC to c. 3rd century AD. It is named after the famous Sangam academies of poets and scholars centered in the city of Madurai.


Three early kingdoms





Famous Ruler


Vanji – Modern Kerala

Muzuri and Tondi




Uraiyur and Puhar

Kaveripatinam/Puhar. They had an efficient Navy





Korkai for Pearl Fishing




  • They had Palmyra flowers as their Garland
  • Pugalur inscriptions mention of three generations of Cheras
  • Senguttuvan introduced Pattni cult or Worship of Kannagi as the ideal wife


  • Karikalan built Kallanai (Check dam) against River Kaveri


  • Maduraikkanji written by Mangudi Maruthanar describes the socio-economic conditions of the Pandyas
  • Invasion by Kalbharas led to their decline

These kingdoms had a profitable trade with the Roman empire. They produced Pepper, Ivory, Pearls, Precious stones, Muslin, Silk, Cotton etc. which led to prosperity in their region.

The rise of social classes

  • Enadi – captains of the army
  • Vellalas – Rich peasants
  • Arasar – the ruling class
  • Kadaisiyar – the lowest class
  • Pariyars – agricultural laborers

Four castes mentioned in Tolkappiyam

  • Arasar – Ruling class
  • Anthanar – Brahmanas
  • Vanigar – People involved in Trade and Commerce
  • Vellalar – Labourers

Five-fold division of land


Type of land

Chief deity

Chief occupation


Hilly tracts


Hunting and honey collection




Cattle rearing and dealing with dairy products








Fishing and salt manufacturing





Sangam administration

  • Avai – the imperial court
  • Kodimaram – tutelary tree of every ruler
  • Panchmahasabha
    1. Amaichar – ministers
    2. Senatipathiar – Army chief
    3. Otrar – Spy
    4. Thoodar – Envoy
    5. Purohitar – Priest
  • Kingdom’s division
    1. Mandalam/Nadu – Province
    2. Ur – town
    3. Perur – Big village
    4. Sitrur – Small village

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Surviving texts







Agasthiyar and Tolkappiyar




Founder - Mudathirumaran


Ettutogai, Pattu Pattu (10 idylls)

Tamil language and Sangam literature

  • Narrative – Ettutogai and Pattupattu which are called Melkankakku – 18 Major works. They are divided into Agam (love) and Puram (Valour)
  • Didactive – Pathinenkilkanakku – 18 minor works. They deal with Ethics and Morals.
  • Thirukkural ­– Written by Thiruvalluvar is a treatise covering various aspects of life.
  • Tolkappiyam by Tolkappiyar is the earliest of Tamil literature. It is a work on Tamil Grammar but also provides information on Political and Social conditions of Sangam period


  • Silapadhikaram by Elango Adigal
  • Manimegalai by Sitthalai Sathanar
  • Valayapathi
  • Kundalagesi
  • Sivaga Sinthamani

Below are some important Questions asked in the exams:

1.With reference to the Sangam Age, consider the following statements. 
I. According to Tamil legends, there existed three Sangams (Academy of Tamil poets) in ancient Tamil Nadu popularly called Muchchangam. 
II. These Sangams flourished under the royal patronage of the Pandyas. 
III. The second Sangam was held at Kapadapuram but all the literary works have perished except Tolkappiyam. 

Choose the incorrect statements.

A. I only 
B. II only 
C. III only 
D. None of the above 

2.Who were the patrons of Sangam Literature?

A. Nayakas 
B. Chandellas 
C. Pandyas 
D. Solankis 

3.During Sangam period Kon, Ko and Mannan is synonyms of:

A. Prime Minister 
B. Finance Minister 
C. Army Chief 
D. King 

4.What was belonging from “Sangam literature”?

A. Indian literature 
B. Tamil literature 
C. Bengal literature 
D. None of the above 

5.In Sangam Literature ‘Tolkappiyam’ is a text of

A. Tamil poetry
B. Tamil grammar 
C. Tamil architecture
D. Tamil polity 

6.Which Sangam text deals with grammar and poetics?

A. Tolkkappiyam 
B. Tirukkural 
C. Ettukotai 
D. Melkannakku 


1. Ans. D. 

The Sangam Age constitutes an important chapter in the history of South India. According to Tamil legends, there existed three Sangams (Academy of Tamil poets) in ancient Tamil Nadu popularly called Muchchangam. These Sangams flourished under the royal patronage of the Pandyas. The first Sangam, held at Then Madurai, was attended by gods and legendary sages but no literary work of this Sangam was available. The second Sangam was held at Kapadapuram but the all the literary works had perished except Tolkappiyam. The third Sangam at Madurai was founded by Mudathirumaran. It was attended by a large number of poets who produced voluminous literature but only a few had survived. These Tamil literary works remain useful sources to reconstruct the history of the Sangam Age.

2. Ans. C. 

The Sangam literature is the ancient Tamil literature of the period in the history of ancient southern India (known as the Tamilakam) spanning from c. 300 BCE to 300 CE. This collection contains 2381 poems in Tamil. The legends claim that the Pandyan dynasty of the mythical cities of "South Madurai", Kapatapuram, and Madurai, patronized the three Sangams. The word "Sangam" is probably of Indo-Aryan origin (and was not used anywhere in the Sangam literature itself), coming from sangha, the Buddhist and Jain term for an assembly of monks.

3. Ans. D. 

In the Sanghaman literature, the Kon, Ko and Mannan words were used for the king. For the king, the words Mannan, Vedan, Kaushwan, Irayvan have been also used in the Sanghaman literature

4. Ans. B. 

Tamil literature was belonging from “Sangam literature”. Sangam literature is one of the main sources used for documenting the early history of the ancient Tamil country. The ancient Sangam poems mention numerous kings and princes, the existences of some of whom have been confirmed through archaeological evidence. Sangam literature is still the main source for the early Cholas, the Pandyas and the Cheras.

5. Ans. B. 

From Sangam literature it is known that in the South, the elements of Arya civilization were promoted by the sages Agastya and Kadiniya. The famous book ‘Tolkappiyam’ of Tamil Grammar and Archeology of this era is a treatise.

6. Ans. A. 

A. Tolkkappiyam is the only surviving text of second Sangam which was held under the chairmanship of Agastaya. It is an early book on Tamil grammar written by Tolakappiyar. 
B. Tirukkural is a classic Tamil text consisting of 1,330 couplets or Kurals, dealing with the everyday virtues of an individual. Considered one of the greatest works ever written on ethics and morality, chiefly secular ethics, it is known for its universality and non-denominational nature. It was authored by Thiruvalluvar. The traditional accounts describe it as the last work of the third Sangam. 
C. The Sangam literature comprises 30,000 lines of poetry, which are arranged in eight anthologies called Ettuttokai. 
D. Melkannakku is the collection of eighteen poetic works created during the post-Sangam period.

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