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Mains Answer Writing

21-November-2023

Q1) From the perspective of a coherent political history of South India, the Sangam literature is not very helpful, but it does a fantastic job of capturing the social and economic realities of the period. Comment.

ANSWER

  • The Sangam literature, dating back to the ancient period in South India, primarily focuses on themes of love, heroism, and warfare rather than providing a continuous political narrative. However, despite its limited engagement with connected political history, the Sangam literature offers valuable insights into the social, economic, and cultural aspects of its time with remarkable vividness

SANGAM LITERATURE AND SOCIAL LIFE

  1. Caste and Social Hierarchy: The Sangam literature reflects the existence of a hierarchical society. Tolkappiyam also refers to four castes namely arasar(Ruling Class), anthanar, vanigar(carried on trade and commerce) and vellalar(Agriculturists).
  2. Role of Women: Sangam literature portrays the significant roles women played in society. Poems like “Ainkurunuru” feature strong and independent female characters, showcasing their influence and agency. The poet Kapilar’s verses highlight the prowess of women in administrative roles.
  3. Honour and Valor: Honor was an essential aspect of ancient South Indian society. Literature, such as the famous “Purananuru,” written by poet Paranar, extols the valour of warriors who were revered for their courage and loyalty to their kings.
  4. Cultural Diversity: The Sangam literature illustrates the cultural diversity that existed in South India during that era. Various regional customs, traditions, and dialects are depicted in the poetry. Ancient primitive tribes like Thodas, Irulas, Nagas and Vedars lived in this period.
  5. Education and Scholarship: Poems like “Natrinai” and “Kuruntokai” often praise learned scholars and intellectuals. Kings like Pari and Uthiyan Cheralathan were known for their patronage of poets and scholars, contributing to the flourishing of knowledge and arts.

SANGAM LITERATURE AND ECONOMIC LIFE

  1. Agriculture and Trade: Sangam literature extensively discusses agriculture as the primary occupation of the people. The poem “Nattrinai” by the poet Kapilar mentions various crops and agricultural practices. Additionally, the port city of Puhar (Kaveripattinam) is mentioned in “Silappadikaram” as a bustling centre for maritime trade.
  2. Trade Relations: The literature provides insights into trade relations with other regions. The poem “Pattinappalai” describes the bustling trade with ancient Rome, highlighting the economic significance of overseas commerce.
  3. Economic Prosperity: The reign of kings like Karikala Chola is often associated with economic prosperity. While not directly political, these rulers were praised in literature like “Pattinappalai” for their efforts in improving irrigation systems and agricultural productivity, which contributed to the welfare of their people.
  4. Livelihoods and Occupations: Sangam literature mentions various livelihoods and occupations. Poems like “Purananuru” provide glimpses into the lives of fishermen, weavers, and traders, showcasing the economic diversity of the time. Tolkappiyam refers to the Five-fold division of lands – Kurinji (hilly tracks), Mullai (pastoral), Marudam (agricultural), Neydal (coastal) and Palai (desert).
  5. Wealth and Patronage: The literature also speaks of wealthy merchants who supported the arts and culture. Poems like “Purananuru” praise the generosity of wealthy individuals who patronized poets and artists, contributing to the flourishing of literature and arts.

While the Sangam literature might not provide a continuous connected political history of South India, it remarkably portrays the social, economic, and political conditions of its time, offering valuable insights into the ancient society’s multifaceted nature and cultural richness.

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