Economy of the Sangam Age
Agriculture was the chief occupation. Rice was the common crop. Ragi, sugarcane, cotton, pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and a variety of fruits were the other crops. Jack fruit and pepper were famous in the Chera country. Paddy was the chief crop in the Chola and Pandya country.
The handicrafts of the Sangam period were popular. They include weaving, metal works and carpentry, ship building and making of ornaments using beads, stones and ivory. There was a great demand for these products, as the internal and external trade was at its peak during the Sangam period. Spinning and weaving of cotton and silk clothes attained a high quality. The poems mention the cotton clothes as thin as a cloud of steam or a slough of a snake. There was a great demand in the western world for the cotton clothes woven at Uraiyur.
Both internal and foreign trade was well organized and briskly carried on in the Sangam Age. The Sangam literature, Greek and Roman accounts and the archaeological evidences provide detailed information on this subject. Merchants carried the goods on the carts and on animal-back from place to place. Internal trade was mostly based on the barter system.
External trade was carried between South India and the Greek kingdoms. After the ascendancy of the Roman Empire, the Roman trade assumed importance. The port city of Puhar became an emporium of foreign trade, as big ships entered this port with precious goods. Other ports of commercial activity include Tondi, Musiri, Korkai, Arikkamedu and Marakkanam. The author of Periplus provides the most valuable information on foreign trade. Plenty of gold and silver coins issued by the Roman Emperors like Augustus, Tiberius and Nero were found in all parts of Tamil Nadu. They reveal the extent of the trade and the presence of Roman traders in the Tamil country. The main exports of the Sangam age were cotton fabrics, spices like pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric, ivory products, pearls and precious stones. Gold, horses and sweet wine were the chief imports.
End of the Sangam Age
Towards the end of the third century A.D., the Sangam period slowly
witnessed its decline. The Kalabhras occupied the Tamil country for about two
and a half centuries. We have little information about the Kalabhra rule.
Jainism and Buddhism became prominent during this period. The Pallavas in the
northern Tamil Nadu and Pandyas in southern Tamil Nadu drove the Kalabhras out
of the Tamil country and established their rule.
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