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The Sangam Age
The Sangam Age or the Early Historic period is an important phase in the history of South India. This period is marked out from prehistory, because of the availability of textual sources, namely Sangam literature and Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions. Sangam text is a vast corpus of literature that serves as an important source for the study of the people and society of the relevant period.
There is considerable debate among scholars about the age and chronology of Sangam society. The Sangam texts are generally dated to between third century BCE and the third century CE. The references in Greco-Roman texts, Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions and the references to the Cheras, Cholas and the Pandyas in the Ashokan inscription corroborate this date. It is generally agreed that the Sangam poems were composed in the early part of the historical period, but were compiled into anthologies in the later period.
Ashokan Brahmi - the script used in Ashokan edicts or inscriptions.
The concept of Thinai is presented in the Tamil Grammar work of Tholkappiyam and this concept is essential to understand the classical Tamil poems. Thinai is a poetic theme, which means a class or category and refers to a habitat or eco-zone with specific physiographical characteristics. Sangam poems are set in these specific eco-zones and reveal that human life has deep relationships with nature.
The themes of the poems are broadly defined as akam (interior) and puram (exterior) . Akathinai refers to various situations of love and family life, while Purathinai is concerned with all others aspects of life and deals particularly with war and heroism.
Ainthinai: The Five Thinais or landscapes.
Tamilagam was divided into five landscapes. Each region had distinct characteristics – a presiding deity, occupation, people and cultural life according to its specific environmental conditions. This classification has been interpreted by scholars to reflect real life situations in these landscapes.
· Kurunji refers to the hilly and mountainous region.
· Mullai is forested and pastoral region.
· Marutham is the fertile riverine valley.
· Neythal is coastal region.
· Paalai is sandy desert region.
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