India is divided into 29 states, mostly based on language and culture. But this diversity in language and culture do not divide Indians. As citizens of the great sub-continent, even belonging to diverse culture and speaking different languages are factors that unite the heart of Indians.
Every Indian state has its own local language and a great history behind it. The south Indian state Tamil Nadu was formerly known as the Madras Presidency. But, later it was renamed into Tamil Nadu based on the local language spoken in the state being Tamil.
Tamil is unanimously identified as one of the oldest languages of the world. The history and development of Tamil through centuries is an all time interesting topic as it instils a feel of awe and inspiration. Let’s look forward into how the language survived through the ages with numerous literary works.
Tamil sangam is an ancient academy formed to develop and preserve Tamil language. The age of Tamil sangam is estimated as around ten thousand years old. This is an astonishing number for a south Indian language, which makes it one of the oldest languages in the world.
The Tamil sangam functioned in a place where legendary poets and authors submitted their work. The ruler of that region had control over its functions and the sangam is believed to have a secretary. Contributors from all over Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka submitted their literature and received accolades. The Tamil sangam is roughly divided into three based on the period of their functioning.
First Tamil sangam
The first Tamil sangam is almost pre-historic and there are very less evidences to estimate its actual period. Based on interpretations, historians map the first Tamil sangam to the period extending from 9600 BC to 5200 BC. During these centuries, almost 89 Pandiyan kings ruled Tamil Nadu. This first Tamil sangam was active for more than 4400 years with around 549 poets as members. This great academy with massive talents and time span would have led to amazing literary works published and acknowledged.
But, unfortunately not a single work from first Tamil sangam remain today. It is believed that a big natural disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami might have caused a destruction, leading to the disappearance of sangam’s capital and its literature. The great Tamil legend Agathiyar is associated with first Tamil sangam. South Madurai or Then Madurai was the capital of first Tamil sangam and Kandungon was the last Pandiyan ruler of it.
Second Tamil sangam
After the destruction of first Tamil sangam, the Padiyas shifted their capital to Kavatapuram. The second Tamil sangam begins with the reign of Vendhar Sezhiyan and ends with Mudar Thirumaaran. The second Tamil sangam was active for around 3700 years and witnessed the rule of 59 Pandiya kings. The great Tamil grammar text called Tholkappiyam was published by second Tamil sangam. This grammar epic set guidelines for several forthcoming literary works. It is considered as one of the best grammar works in Tamil. Like the first Tamil sangam, this second Tamil sangam also faced a destruction due to natural disaster. The epic of second Tamil sangam, Tholkappiyam survives until to-date.
Third Tamil sangam
The third Tamil sangam begins with the reign of Mudar Thirumaaran who shifted the capital to Madurai. This sangam existed for around 1850 years under the rule of 49 consecutive kings. A large collection of works remain till date that belonged to third Tamil sangam. They are mainly classified into two – “pathinen mel kanakku” and “pathinen keezh kanakku”. The third Tamil sangam came to an end with the reign of Ukkirapperu Vazhudhi.
Revival of Tamil literature
The great works published by Tamil sangam were lost for a long period before they were re-discovered. This attempt was led by Tamil scholars such as U. V. Saminathan Pillai who is called as “Thamizh thaatha”. It means “Grandfather of Tamil”. After the discovery of sangam literature, they were brought to print and now most of them are available even in digital version.
From parchment to digital, these grand literary works have travelled a long way to reach our hands. They carry an enormous amount of information about the life which existed several centuries ago. Most of them also teach valuable morals and lessons. A great responsibility lies on our shoulders to educate our next generation about the importance of preserving such literary works, so that hopefully they won’t get lost again!