Sangam Period - Political History of Cheras, Cholas & Pandyas of Sangam Age

In ancient history, the magnanimous dynasties played a significant role in defining the social, political and religious structure of the society. Such was the age of ‘Sangam Period’ which was lived by three great dynasties of Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas.

Going by the trend of UPSC questions asked in prelims and mains, it can be assumed that this is an important topic for IAS Exam. The syllabus of History has three segments and ancient history is one of them. Sangam Period is an important part of ancient history.

This article will introduce you to the Sangam Period and the three dynasties – Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas.

What is the Sangam Period?

  • Sangam Age is the period from the first century BCE to the end of the second century CE in south India.
  • There were 3 Sangams conducted in ancient South India called Muchchangam, Tamil legends say.
  • These Sangams prospered under the royal patronage of the Pandya kings of Madurai.
  • Three dynasties ruled during the Sangam Age – the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas.
  • The key source of evidence about these kingdoms is outlined from the literary references of the Sangam Period.

Introduction to Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas of Sangam Period

Sangam Period Dynasty Modern-Day City Ancient Capital Important Ruler Important Ports Emblem
Cheras Kerala Vanji Cheran Senguttuvan Musiri, Tondi Bow and Arrow
Cholas Tamil Nadu Uraiyur, Puhar Karikala Kaveripattanam Tiger
Pandyas Tamil Nadu Madurai Neduncheliyan Muziris (Muchiri), Korkai,  Kaveri Carp

Sangam Literature reflects the earliest literature of South India. It is a group of texts in old Tamil. Aspirants can read more about the literature in the Sangam Age from the linked article.

Comprehensive News Analysis - Daily News 2021

Aspirants can read the facts about Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas for UPSC 2021, given below in points:

Cheras

  • The Cheras ruled over large parts of modern-day Kerala.
  • Vanji was the capital of the Cheras.
  • Musiri and Tondi were the important seaports in this period.
  • The emblem of Cheras is the ‘bow and arrow’.
  • The first-century Pugalur inscriptions references to 3 generations of Chera kings.
  • Senguttuvan (2nd century CE) was the prominent ruler of the Chera dynasty.
  • The military achievements of Senguttuvan have been recorded in the epic Silapathikaram, which talks about his Himalayan expedition where he vanquished many rulers from northern India.
  • Senguttuvan introduced in Tamil Nadu the Pattini cult or the worship of Kannagi as the ideal wife.
  • He was the first to send an ambassador to China from South India.

Cholas

  • The Chola kingdom of the Sangam period stretched across the modern-day Tiruchirapalli District, Tiruvarur District, Nagapattinam District, Ariyalur District, Perambalur district, Pudukkottai district, Thanjavur District in Tamil Nadu and Karaikal District.
  • Initially, the capital of the Cholas was Uraiyur. Later it was shifted to Puhar (also called Poompuhar).
  • King Karikala was a prominent king of the Sangam Chola dynasty.
  • The insignia/emblem of the Cholas was ‘tiger’.
  • Pattinappalai written by Kadiyalur Uruttirangannanar depicts his life as well as military achievements.
  • Various Sangam poems mention the Battle of Venni where he defeated an alliance of the Cheras, Pandyas and 11 smaller chieftains.
  • Vahaipparandalai was another important battle fought by Karikala.
  • Trade and commerce prospered during his rule.
  • He also constructed irrigation tanks near river Kaveri to make available water for reclaimed land from the forest for farming.

Know about the Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu at the linked article.

Pandyas

  • The Pandyas reigned over the Southern region of modern-day Tamil Nadu.
  • Madurai was the capital of Pandyas.
  • Their emblem was the ‘Carp’.
  • King Neduncheliyan was also called Aryappadai Kadantha Neduncheliyan.
  • According to mythology, the curse of the Kannagi, wife of Kovalan, burnt and destroyed Madurai.
  • The socio-economic condition of the seaport of Korkai was mentioned in Maduraikkanji which was written by Mangudi Maruthanar.

Sources of Sangam Age

The following are the sources of Sangam Age:

  1. Sangam Literature – It is a major source that mentions about Sangam Age
  2. The Greek Authors including Megasthenes, Pliny etc. mentioned the trade contacts between South India and the West.
  3. Tamil kingdoms are mentioned in Ashokan edicts.
  4. Adhichanallur excavations brought to surface articles depicting the life of the Sangam Period.

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