Society in Sangam Age
Many of the communities of the Iron Age society were organised as tribes, and some of them were Chiefdoms. The Sangam Age society was a society in transition from a tribal community ruled by a chief to a larger kingdom ruled by a king
Social stratification had begun to take root in Tamil society by the Sangam times. There were several clan-based communities including groups such as Panar, Paratavar, Eyinar, Uzhavar, Kanavar, Vettuvar and Maravar. The Vendhars, chiefs, and their associates formed the higher social groups. There were priests who were known as Antanars. There were artisan groups specialising in pottery and blacksmithy. The caste system we find in northern India did not take root in Tamil country as social groups were divided in to five situational types (tamil) and related occupational patterns.
Even though Sangam society was characterized by limited consumption of commodities, the kings, chiefs and merchants led a prosperous life. People at the margins lived in poverty. Panars depended on their patrons for their livelihood. The development of agriculture and pastoral ways of life might have harmed the eco-system and the naturally available forest and wild animals. It is possible that some of the hunter-gatherers might have been pushed to the forest areas and a few might have taken up the occupation of manual labourers. The development of agriculture in the wet-land region depended on the use of certain groups of people as labourers.
Women are frequently referred to in Tamil texts as mothers, heroines, and foster-mothers. Women from Panar families, dancers, poets, and royal women were all portrayed in Sangam literature. There are references to women from all five eco-zones. For example, Vennikkuyathiyar is identified as a poetess from the village of Venni. There are references to women protecting Thinai fields from birds and Umanar women selling salt showing that women were involved in primary production. Instances where women preferred to die along with their husbands also occur in the literature of the times.