Myth of Tamil Sangams

According to the Sangam legends first described in the Irayanaar Agapporul (11th century AD) and a commentary to it by Nakkirar. There were three Sangams spanning thousands of years. The first Sangam, whose seat was then Madurai (southern Madurai), lasted a total of 4440 years and 4449 poets, which included some gods of the Hindu pantheon, took part in it. Lord Shiva presides it. The second Sangam was convened in Kapatapuram, which finds mention in Valmiki Ramayana (Kishkinda Kanda 42:13). This Sangam lasted for 3700 years and had 3700 poets participating. Both these places were held in legendary kumari kandam, which was submerged into sea. The third Sangam believed to be located in the current city of Madurai and lasted for 1850 years under 49 kings.

Sangam literature
Sangam literature refers to a body of classical Tamil literature during third Sangam period. This collection said to contains 2381 poems written by 473 poets, some 102 of who are anonymous authors. The period during which these poems were written is commonly referred to as the 'Sangam' age, referring to the prevalent Sangam legends claiming literary academies lasting thousands of years, giving the name to the corpus of literature. Sangam literature is primarily secular dealing with everyday themes in a South Indian context. The poems belonging to the Sangam literature was composed by Tamil poets, both men and women, from various professions and classes of society. These poems were later collected into various anthologies, edited and had colophons added by anthologists and annotators after 1000 AD. Sangam literature fell out of popular memory soon thereafter, until scholars such as S. V. Damodaram Pillai and U. V. Swaminatha Iyer rediscovered them in the 19th century.

The available literature from this period was categorized and compiled in the 11th century into two categories based roughly on chronology. The categories are: The Major Eighteen Anthology Series Pathinenmaelkanakku comprising The Eight Anthologies Ettuthokai and the Ten Idylls Pattupattu and The Minor Eighteen Anthology Series Pathinenkilkanakku


Archeological evidence
There has been no contemporary archaeological or scientific evidence found to substantiate whether these academies existed at all and if so, the dates, the participants or their works. The historian and scientific community at large have dismissed claims of the description of sunken landmass Kumari kandam (Lemuria).

Between the fourth century B.C.E. and c 1000 B.C.E., the archaeological findings point to only a megalithic period, and going further back a Neolithic period starting from about the third millennium BC. These two prehistoric periods do not show any sign of a complex culture, and no clear connection with the dawn of urban civilization in Tamil Nadu.

Any accurate chronological assessment of literary works had been rendered difficult due to lack of concrete scientific evidence to support conflicting claims. Undue reliance on the Sangam legends have thus culminated in controversial opinions or interpretations among scholars, confusion in the dates, names and personal accounts of authors and doubts of even their existence in some cases.

The earliest archeological evidence connecting Madurai and the Sangams is the tenth century Cinnamanur inscription of the Pandyas.

Literary evidence
Although the term Sangam literature is applied to the corpus of Tamil literature claimed to belong to the  200 BCE – 200 CE, the name Sangam and the legend indicates much later date. The  literature  does not contain any mention of the Sangam academies, although some relationship between Madurai and literature may be found in some of the Sangam age literature. References to Sangam and its association with Madurai have been mentioned by poets such as Sekkilar, Andal, Auvaiyar and Kambar (all belonging to the tenth to the thirteen centuries CE). The actual poems of the Sangam literature themselves do not directly mention such academies. However the poem Mathuraikkanci (761-763), which belongs to the early collection of Pattupattu, describes kudala(Said to be Previous name of Madurai) as the 'place where authors met and interacted

Original Sangha
The word Sangam(confluence of Rivers) is  Sanskrit origin, coming from Sangha, the Buddhist and Jain term for an assembly of monks. In Tamil the word means "assembly" or "academy".

Dravida Sangha
Many sangha’s with different acharyas were born after Kundakonda (1st century AD). The great Acharya Kundakunda is associated with Mula Sangh, According to Devasen the process of dividing from the Mula Sangha(Under Gangas in Mysore) began in the 5th century many Ganas, gachchas or sanghas originated. Chief among them are Sen gana (Karanja, Vidarbh), Balatkara gana (Balligame, Banswasi, Karnataka), Nandi gana Desi gana, Dramis gana, Kranur gana, Saraswati gachcha, Dravida Sangha, nandi Sangha, Mayur sangha, Kitthur sangha and Kulattu sangha.

We can also find Jain names such as Uloccnaar and Maathirthan among the early poets. Jain cosmology and mythology are also found mentioned in the early Sangam poems. The Sangam Literature liberally uses Vedic Legends, such as Thiru Murugatrupadai for Muruga Birth or all the Avathars of Vishnu in Paripadal, and paripadal even names Samaveda. Mathurai Kanchi refers a Sanskrit Assembly in Kanchipuram. Mankmekhalai even makes it much more clear that Anthanars used Sanskrit

Iravatham Mahadevan says that Devasena, the author of Darsanasara, a Prakriti work written in 853 A.D. has mentioned that Vajranandi, the pupil of Pujyapada, founded the Dravida Sangha in Madurai in 468-469 A.D. The work does mention Dravida Sangha ,  But the work does not mention it is from  Madurai but in Amaravati in Andhra pradesh and it is not Tamil, but Jain religious Sangha. Iravatham Mahadevan is twisting facts here. The Dravida Sangha is also mentioned in Kannada inscriptions from Karnataka.

If we see the evidence there is nothing to suggest Tamil sangam’s existed not in Tamil literature, inscriptions or other literatures. Only the Jain sangha’s have become legends and by the turn of 10th century AD, they have come to mean literary sangha’s. Iravatham Mahadevan seems to have proven to himself  that Tamil sangam’s exist, but the verdict is still out there,  they are still Jain sangha where Sanskrit was the Lingua franca. Another pillar of Tamil antiquity seems to have absolutely no backup.


  1. From : N.Shankarappa Toranagallu

    # From the internal evidences it is clear that the Perundevanar who wrote Bharata Venba -the first epic in Tamil and who was in the court of Pallava king Pottarasa (Nandivarma-3) has written introductory verses to five of eight collections in Ettuttokai Viz., Ahananuru , Ainkurunuru , Kuruntokkai , Nattinai and Purananuru. A few lines of his Bharata Venba have been traced in these collections. This clearly indicates that during 900-1100 C.E period oral Sangam literature was fixed in writing and classification of them was completed. With this as reference Poruladigaram of Tolkappiam has been written.

    # Nakkirar who wrote commentary to Iraiyanar Ahapporul (800-1000 C.E) , elaborates the myth of Tamil Sangams but no where he talks about Ettuttokkai and Pattuppattu. This supports the fact mentioned above

    # The first commentary on Tolkappiam was written by Ilampuranar (1100-1200 C.E). He is called as Uarai Asiriyar (Master Commentor). He has not mentioned Ettuttokkai and Pattuppattu. Pearasiyar (1200-1300 C.E) , Mayilainathar (1300 C.E) , Nacchinarkkiniyar (1300-1400 C.E) has mentioned Ettuttokkai and Pattuppattu. This clearly indicates the period during which completion of classification of written oral Sangam literature was achieved.

    # There is a inscription of 230 lines at the plinth of Temple in Tirukkoyilur issued by RajaRaja Chola in 1012 C.E. which is in Agaval metre. In this inscription the life of Kapilar the poet of Sangam age , his friendship with Pari –Velir of Sangam age is given in detail. The great pains taken by Kapilar after death of Pari to get the marriage of his daughters with Malaiman and after fulfilling this entering the fire to achieve heaven has been described. By this we can interpret that the agaval metre was in use during 11th century as well as the oral Sangam literature was in process of writing and classification.

    # An inscription of 900-1000 C. in Agaval meter has been found at Erakkanakudi. In this, Sangam Chair over which ancestor of Ettichhattan sat has been been mentioned. By this it can be said that during 900-1000 C.E Agaval meter was in use and popular as well as myth of Sangam Literature was emerging out to full scale.

    # By observation of the above facts it can be concluded that (1) During 700-800 C.E. Sangam literature which was in oral form was written (2) During 900-1100 C.E the written literature was classified into individual collections Viz., Ahananuru , purananuru,kuruntokkai etc., (3) During 1100-1300 C.E the complete classification was achieved with Ettuttokkai and Pattuppattu.

  2. Correction , the sangam writting starts only during last days of Pallava regime(9th century AD. When Cholas become independent (11th century AD), the chola legends get added. The poems which praise cholas should have been added during that period or later. Much of the legend is when Pandyas became independent (12th century AD).

    Purananooru speaks about Nandivarman III and their warring sons kampavarman -Nrputunga (killi valavan and Nedunkilli - Nalankilli).

    Kapilar singing about malayaman is Hoysala prince marriage to Chola princess to save chola throne.

    so by above considerations the oral form should have been 10th century AD

    Written form 11th century AD.

    The complete Classification during 12th and 13th century AD.

    14 th century AD ,due to Muslim invasion all went underground until 19th century, when they were found

  3. Perundevanar lived during the period of Kalladar, who is dated to 11th century AD.

  4. Potarasa mentioned in Belagami inscription in karnataka 1078AD along with Bijjala of Kalachuri Dynasty Feudatory of Taila III (Kalyani chalukya). So who is this pottarasa, definitely not pallava. I think that is a myth

  5. The Date of Purananooru article will shed more light.

  6. The word Sangam is of Tamil origin,
    San+Akam meaning Group or literally "People Inside". If you want similar words I will give you a list of Tamil words that starts with San.
    Santhai(Market group of shops), Santhi(Street group of houses),Santhippu(Meeting), SanMukam(Many Faces),AraSan(Goodness to many),Sanal(group of threads), Sanku(Call many), Easan(Give Many) and a lot more. So its clearly of Tamil origin and you claim to be of Sanskrit origin and written some nonsense.

  7. Tamil Word Really

    1) According to Tholkappiam no word in tamil can start with Sa.

    2) What is the etymolgogical root word of San in tamil ? (sangha in Sanskrit is for assemby or association).

    3) The pure tamil words are Santhippu(kooduthal), SanMukam(sanskrit name again), AraSan("an" is ending for male gender not san - arasu + an), Sanal(etymology please), Sanku(Koopidu or karai is the correct dravidian word, sang is pure sanskrit word for call)

    4)Sanskrit - san(m) + Krit = put together = together + put (Karma -krta)

    So if you choose to comment come with good back material and I will not publish your nonsense again.

    1. Moda,,you are doing deep research and analysis. I dont like you anyway.Because some time I go by feeling and not by logic. It may be wrong. but here instead of truth results matter. I am totally against false pride.and false superiority.

      What is your point? Are you a srilankan?

  8. Tamil language in spite of hard efforts to distance itself from Sanskrit, it still has boorwed a good number of Sanskrit words, of course after corrupting them to Tamil accent. Still compared to other Dravidian languages, i. e., Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada,Sanskrit influence over Tamil is insignificant. Tulu is the other Dravidian language, which has minimal influence of Sanskrit, though the early Tulu literature contains 80% Sanskrit words.

  9. Dravidian Languages are not languages spoken in some Island and not to have any influence. They are well connected and very much capable of influencing and getting influenced by other languages. Especially Sanskrit. To claim these influences as corruption is the most bizarre one. The influences show that languages are healthy and people speaking them are at the forefront of all the changes happening in the world and not stunted in growth to be frozen in a particular level.

    To claim Influence of Sanskrit is insignificant is a lie propagated from 19th century AD on wards by British and caught hold by so called Dravidian intellectuals.

    Your theory is funny if Tulu starts with 80% percent Sanskrit , how come it has so few influence.

  10. Sangam. Poets. May. Exist. As. Saiva. But. It's. Antiquity. Is. Not. Too. Early. As. 200. To300. Bc. Pallavas. Cholas. Are. Telugu. Kings kalidas. Said. Nagareshu. Kanchi. Kanchi. Madura. Kumbhakonam. Chidambaram. Are. Enthralled. By. Saiva. Devotees. Of. Telugu. Tamil. And. Kannada. So. Boasting. Too. Early. Is. Not. Good.


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