Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 61


South India in the Sangam Age

Jul 21, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Sangam Era Kingdoms

'South of the Deccan plateau were three ancient Tamil states: Chera to the west, Chola to the east, and Pandya in the south. These three were involved in internecine warfare, all seeking supremacy in the region. They are mentioned in Greek and Ashokan sources as being important Indian kingdoms beyond the Mauryan Empire.

A corpus of ancient Tamil literature known as Sangam (academy) works, provides much useful information about life in these kingdoms in the era 300 B.C. to 200 A.D. There is clear evidence of encroachment by Aryan traditions from the north into what was a predominantly indigenous Dravidian culture in transition.

Dravidian social order was based on different eco-regions rather than on the northern varna paradigm, although the Brahmans still had high status during the very early stage. Segments of society were characterized by matriarchy and matrilineal succession, which survived well into the 19th Century. Cross-cousin marriage and strong regional identities were cultural features.

Tribal chieftains emerged as "kings", as people moved from pastoralism toward agriculture sustained by irrigation from local rivers, collected in small-scale water tanks (ponds) and wells. The produce was delivered via maritime trade to Rome and Southeast Asia.

Discoveries of Roman gold coins in various sites of the Deccan south attest to the extensive links South India had with the outside world. As with Patliputra (Patna) in the northeast and Taxila in the northwest (Punjab), the city of Madurai, which was the capital of the Pandyan Kingdom (modern Tamil Nadu) was the center of intellectual and literary activity. Poets and bards assembled there under royal patronage at successive concourses to compose anthologies of poems and expositions on Tamil grammar.

Pandya Kingdom coinage, Sangam period


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