Poets in Sangam Age

Poets in Sangam Age

Poets in Sangam Age were mostly Dravidian Tamil poets, including both men and women from various classes of society and professions. Some eminent kings also wrote many memorable poems.

Poets in Sangam Age were mainly Dravidian Tamil poets who created several poetic works during that period. The poets included both men and women, who belonged to different professions and came from various classes of society. Tamil literature created during 600 BCE to 300 CE is usually referred to as Sangam literature. The overall collection of Sangam literature consists of 2381 poems that were written by 473 poets and authors. Amongst the authors of these poems, the names of around 102 poets remain anonymous. Kapilar, one of the most renowned poets had written almost 235 poems in the Sangam classics. There are 4 other well-known poets who contributed much to the Sangam literary classics like, Amrnuvanar wrote 127 poems; Orampokiyar wrote 110 poems; Peyanar wrote 105 poems and Otalantaiyar who wrote 103 poems.

Some of the poets in Sangam age came from urban areas and cities, while most of the authors and poets were mainly from the rural areas and villages. The poets and authors hailed from several professions like soldiers, bullion dealers, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, carpenters, cloth merchants, dispensers, astrologers, teachers, ministers and minstrels. Not just men, but women also became well known as authors and poets during the Sangam era. Few noted poets belonging to the royal lineage also composed famous poems in that period. Some of the distinguished royal kings who became poets in Sangam age were Colan Nalankilli, Killivalavan, Pandyan Netunceliyan and Kopperun-colan.

Relationship of Poets with Kings

The Tamil nation was ruled by the Chera, the Chola and the Pandya dynasty and their feudatories. The popular Indian epics, the Ramayanaand the Mahabharata, contain several references regarding them. Vanci, Uraiyur and Madurai were the capitals of Vanci, Uraiyur and Madurai rulers respectively and these 3 urban areas were developed as a centre for learning and practising fine arts and education. The rule of these 3 royal dynasties was enthusiastically accepted by all classes of people. There was much tension and conflict amongst these three rulers that resulted in various battles and wars. Consequently there was conflict amongst the vassals as well. In such a scenario, the posts in Sangam age played a significant role by intervening and mediating for an agreeable settlement. The Purananuru contains many references that support this analysis.

When the citizens revolted against Kopperuncolan, the Chola King, another poet named poet Pullarrur Eyirriyanar prevented a probable Civil War. Killivalavan, a Chola King, paid a radiant tribute by means of a poem to the munificence of a philanthropist of the time named Pannan. Several poems in the Purananuru anthology disclose the respected position the poets held in the lives of the rulers of that period. The fact that the rulers remembered the poets even before embarking to the battleground proves high respect for the poets.

The poets were also much respected by the common people as well, such as Kuttar (dancer and actor), Panar (minstrels), Porunar (war-bard who travelled with warriors), Viraliyar (female dancer and singer).

Royal Poets in Sangam Age

Many poems in the Purananuru were written by various Kings of the Tamil land. Netunceliyan, a Pandya ruler, composed a verse celebrating the blessing of good education. Kopperuncolan, the Chola King, also wrote many poems before he died that exude a feeling of tenderness, sympathy and pity. One of the poems was dedicated to his poet friend named Picirantaiyar. The poems of Pottiyar and Picirantaiyar are comprised in the Purananuru. Irumporai, a Chera ruler, revealed his sense of honour through his poems.

In another poem which is included in Purananuru, Picirantaiyar adviced Arivutainampi who was a Pandya ruler. The poem is rich with ideas and views applicable to the rulers of contemporary democracy. The poem suggests the king about the principles related to collection of the annual tax from his subjects. Another poem by Punkunranar revealed similar thoughts. The indispensable theme of this poem is but an essence of the poet’s experience in life. Many rulers of Tamil Nadu during the Sangam age were expert in their mother language. They wrote poems exemplifying noble views. Nallurtittiran, the Chola kings, explains his noble aim and paid tribute to men of great deeds through his poems.

Purananuru contains poems on several themes composed  by people belonging to different class and professions.

(Last Updated on : 29/12/2011)


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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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