Sangam

Sangam

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The Tamil Sangams were assemblies of Tamil scholars and poets that, according to traditional Tamil accounts, occurred in the remote past. Three assemblies are described. The legend has it that the first two of which were held in cities since "taken by the sea", and the third of which was held during the 5th century BC in the present-day city of Madurai
Madurai
Madurai is the third largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It served as the capital city of the Pandyan Kingdom. It is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District and is famous for its temples built by Pandyan and...

.

The Sangam period extended from roughly 300 BC to 300 AD, when the earliest extant works of Tamil literature
Tamil literature
Tamil literature refers to the literature in the Tamil language. Tamil literature has a rich and long literary tradition spanning more than two thousand years. The oldest extant works show signs of maturity indicating an even longer period of evolution...

 were created (also known as Sangam literature
Sangam literature
Sangam literature refers to a body of classical Tamil literature created between the years c. 600 BCE to 300 CE. This collection contains 2381 poems composed by 473 poets, some 102 of whom remain anonymous The period during which these poems were composed is commonly referred to as the Sangam...

). However, the name Sangam and the associated legends probably derive from a much later period.

Whilst the accounts of first two Sangams are generally rejected as ahistorical, some modern scholars, such as Kamil Zvelebil
Kamil Zvelebil
Kamil Václav Zvelebil was a distinguished Czech scholar in Indian literature and linguistics, notably Tamil, Sanskrit, Dravidian linguistics and literature and philology.- Biography :...

, find a kernel of truth in them, suggesting that they may be based on one or more actual historical assemblies. Others reject the entire notion as a infactual. Nevertheless, legends of the Sangams played a significant role in inspiring political, social, and literary movements in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Pondicherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...

 in the early 20th century.

Sangam legends


Early literature from the pre-Pallava
Pallava
The Pallava dynasty was a Tamil dynasty which ruled the northern Tamil Nadu region and the southern Andhra Pradesh region with their capital at Kanchipuram...

 dynasty period does not contain any mention of the Sangam academies, although some early poems imply a connection between the city of Madurai, which later legends associate with the third Sangam, and Tamil literature and the cultivation of the language. The earliest express references to the academies are found in the songs of Appar and Sampandar, Shaivite poets who lived in the 7th century. The first full account of the legend is found in a commentary to the Iraiyanar Akapporul
Iraiyanar Akapporul
Iraiyaṉār Akapporuḷ, or Kaḷaviyal eṉṟa Iraiyaṉār Akapporuḷ, literally "Iraiyanar's treatise on the love-theme, called 'The study of stolen love'" is an early mediaeval work on Tamil poetics, specifically, on the literary conventions associated with the akam tradition of Tamil love poetry...

by Nakkīrar (c. seventh/eighth century CE). Nakkīrar describes three "Sangams" (caṅkam) spanning thousands of years. The first Sangam (mutaṟcaṅkam)mudharchangam is described as having been held at "the Madurai which was submerged by the sea", lasted a total of 4400 years, and had 549 members, which supposedly included some gods of the Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 pantheon such as Siva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

, Kubera
Kubera
Kubera , also spelt Kuber, is the Lord of wealth and the god-king of the semi-divine Yakshas in Hindu mythology. He is regarded as the regent of the North , and a protector of the world His many epithets extol him as the overlord of numerous semi-divine species and the owner of the treasures of...

 and Murugan
Murugan
Murugan also called Kartikeya, Skanda and Subrahmanya, is a popular Hindu deity especially among Tamil Hindus, worshipped primarily in areas with Tamil influences, especially South India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius and Reunion Island. His six most important shrines in India are the...

. A total of 4449 poets are described as having composed songs for this Sangam. There were 89 Pandiya kings starting from Kaysina valudi to Kadungon were decedents and rulers of that period.

The second Sangam (iṭaicaṅkam)idaichangam was convened in Kapatapuram. This Sangam lasted for 3700 years and had 59 members, with 3700 poets participating. There were 59 Pandiya kings starting from Vendercceliyan to Mudattirumaran were decedents and rulers of that period. This city was also submerged in sea. The third Sangam (kaṭaicaṅkam)kadaichangam was purportedly located in the current city of Madurai
Madurai
Madurai is the third largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It served as the capital city of the Pandyan Kingdom. It is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District and is famous for its temples built by Pandyan and...

 and lasted for 1850 years. There were 49 Pandiya kings starting from Mudattirumaran (who came away from Kabadapuram to present Madurai) to Ukkirapperu valudi were decedents and rulers of that period. The academy had 49 members, and 449 poets are described as having participated in the Sangam.

There are a number of other isolated references to the legend of academies at Madurai scattered through Shaivite and Vaishnavite devotional literature throughout later literature. The next substantive references to the legend of the academies, however, appear in two significantly later works, namely, the Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam of Perumpaṟṟapuliyūr Nambi, and the better-known work of the same title by Paranjothi Munivar. These works describe a legend that deals mostly with the third Sangam at Madurai, and is so substantially different from that set out in Nakkirar's commentary that some authors such as Zvelebil speculate that it may be based on a different, and somewhat independent, tradition. In Nambi's account, the 49 members of the third Sangam led by Kapilar, Paraṇar and Nakkīrar were great devotees of Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

, numbered amongst the 63 nayanars
Nayanars
The Nayanars or Nayanmars were Shaivite devotional poets of Tamil Nadu, active between the fifth and the tenth centuries CE...

. Nakkirar himself is said to have later headed the Sangam, and to have debated Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

. The Sangam is described as having been held on the banks of the Pond of Golden Lotuses in the Meenakshi-Sundaresvarar Temple
Meenakshi Amman Temple
Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple or Tiru-alavai is a historic Hindu temple located in the south side of river Vaigai in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India...

 in Madurai.

In contemporary versions of the legend, the cities where the first two Sangams were held are said to have been located on Kumari Kandam
Kumari Kandam
Kumari Kandam is the name of a supposed sunken landmass referred to in existing ancient Tamil literature...

, a fabled lost continent, that lay to the South of mainland India, and which was described as the cradle of Tamil culture
Tamil culture
Tamil culture is the culture of the Tamil people. Tamil culture is rooted in the arts and ways of life of Tamils in India, Sri Lanka, and across the globe...

. Kumari Kandam supposedly lay south of present-day Kanyakumari
Kanyakumari District
Kanyakumari District ) is a district of Tamil Nadu state, India and is the southernmost land area of mainland India.The district is the second most urbanised district in Tamilnadu, next only to Chennai and ahead of Coimbatore. It also has the highest literacy and education levels in the...

 District and, according to these legends, was seized by the sea in a series of catastrophic floods.

Historicity


According to P.T. Srinivasa Iyengar who made research on this topic mentions in his book "History of Tamils" Chapter XVI on topic "Criticism of the legend", as the years mentioned for the Three Tamil Sangams are too vast. The First sangam lasted 4440 yrs and spanned 89 Succeeding Kings. The Second sangam lasted 3700 yrs and spanned 59 Succeeding Kings, The Third sangam lasted 1800 yrs and spanned 49 Succeeding Kings.

According to Kamil Zvelebil
Kamil Zvelebil
Kamil Václav Zvelebil was a distinguished Czech scholar in Indian literature and linguistics, notably Tamil, Sanskrit, Dravidian linguistics and literature and philology.- Biography :...

, the assemblies may have been founded and patronised by the Pandian kings and functioning in three different capitals consecutively till the last sangam was set up in Madurai
Madurai
Madurai is the third largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It served as the capital city of the Pandyan Kingdom. It is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District and is famous for its temples built by Pandyan and...

. Zvelebil argues that the appearance of the tradition in literary and epigraphical sources means that it cannot be dismissed as pure fiction. He suggests that the Sangam legends are based on a historical "body of scholiasts and grammarians 'sits' as a norm-giving, critical college of literary experts, and shifts its seat according to the geopolitical conditions of the Pantiyan kingdom."

In 470 CE, a Dravida Sangha
Dravida Sangha
Dravida Sangha was established in 470 AD. by one Jaina monk named Vajranandi in the city of Madurai in present day Tamil Nadu. It is considered to be the forerunner of the legendary Tamil Sangams of the Tamil lore. Madurai at that time was under the sway of the Kalabhra rule...

 was established in Madurai
Madurai
Madurai is the third largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It served as the capital city of the Pandyan Kingdom. It is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District and is famous for its temples built by Pandyan and...

 by a Jain named Vajranandi. During that time the Tamil region was ruled by the Kalabhras
Kalabhras
The Kalabhras dynasty ruled over the entire Ancient Tamil country between the 3rd and the 6th century in an era of South Indian history called the Kalabhra interregnum. The Kalabhras displaced the kingdoms of the early Cholas, early Pandayan and Chera dynasties. Information about its origin and...

 dynasty. The Kalabhra rulers were followers of either Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 or Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

. The Dravida Sangha took much interest in the Tamil language and literature. Jain cosmology and mythology are mentioned in early Sangam works, and Jain surnames are found amongst the early poets. Later legends about Tamil Sangams may have been based on the Jaina assembly.

Sangam literature


The earliest extant works of Tamil literature
Tamil literature
Tamil literature refers to the literature in the Tamil language. Tamil literature has a rich and long literary tradition spanning more than two thousand years. The oldest extant works show signs of maturity indicating an even longer period of evolution...

 date back to the period between 300 BCE and 200 CE and deal with love, war, governance, trade and bereavement. The literature of this period has been referred to as The Sangam literature and the period in which these works were composed is referred to as the Sangam period, alluding to the legends. Although the term Sangam literature
Sangam literature
Sangam literature refers to a body of classical Tamil literature created between the years c. 600 BCE to 300 CE. This collection contains 2381 poems composed by 473 poets, some 102 of whom remain anonymous The period during which these poems were composed is commonly referred to as the Sangam...

is applied to the corpus of the earliest known Tamil literature, the name Sangam and the legend were probably from a much later period.

An accurate chronological assessment of literary works has been rendered difficult due to lack of concrete scientific evidence to support conflicting claims. Undue reliance on the Sangam legends has thus culminated in controversial opinions or interpretations among scholars, confusion in the dates, names of authors, and doubts of even their existence in some cases. The earliest archaeological evidence connecting Madurai and the Sangams is the 10th century Cinnamanur
Chinnamanur
Chinnamanur is a city and a municipality in Theni district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India.-Geography:Chinnamanur is located at . It has an average elevation of .-Demographics:...

 inscription of the Pandyas.