Ancient Tamil country

Ancient Tamil country

The ancient Tamil country, also known as Tamilakam, refers to an ancient, independent region in the areas of modern South India,cite book | last =Kanakasabhai | first =V | title =The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago | publisher =Asian Educational Services |date=1997 | pages =10 | url =,M1 | isbn =8120601505 ] corresponding roughly to the present-day Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Laccadives, parts of Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Karnataka.cite journal | last =Abraham | first =Shinu | title =Chera, Chola, Pandya: using archaeological evidence to identify the Tamil kingdoms of early historic South India. | journal =Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific | volume =42 |date=2003 | url =;jsessionid=GfpTLJYcL1XJGP4Vv1mSvT1hvmCvCxGMhrrDBZ23l2vmKVN1JkYG!-2096127210?docId=5002047766] Approximately during the period between 350 BCE to 200 CE, Tamilakam was ruled by the three Tamil dynasties of Chola, Pandya and Chera, and a few independent chieftains. There is a wealth of sources of information about the history of ancient Tamilakam, including its socio-political and cultural practices, including volumes of Sangam literature and epigraphy. [cite book | last =Zvelebil | first =Kamil | title =Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature | publisher =Brill Academic Publishers |date=1991 | isbn =ISBN-10: 9004093656 ]



The religion of the ancient Tamils closely followed the roots of nature worship and some claim it close to its contemporary in North India, Hinduism. Tolkappiyam, one of the oldest grammar work in Tamil mentions Sevvael (Murugan) and Thirumaal. The influence of Hinduism in Tamil literature rose again during the Bhakti period which documented the people organizing into Saivam(Shiva) and vainavam(Vishnu). The most popular deity was Murugan, who has from a very early date been identified with Karthikeya, the son of Siva. Muruga might have been a different deity originally stemming from a local deity. According to the noted expert on Tamil culture Kamil V. Zvelebil, "Subrahmanya-Murugan is one of the most complicated and baffling deities for analysis". The later(medieval to present) worship of Amman or Mariamman, thought to have been derived from Kotravai, an ancient mother goddess, also was very common. Kannagi, the heroine of the "Cilappatikaram", was worshipped as Pathini by many Tamils, particularly in Sri Lanka. There were also many temples and devotees of Thirumaal, Siva, Ganapathi, and the other common Hindu deities.

In the ancient Sangam literature, the Tamil landscape was classified into five categories, "thinais", based on the mood, season and the land. Each of these "thinai" had an associated deity such as "Mayavan", "Velavan", etc.



The ancient Tamil calendar was based on the sidereal year similar to the ancient Hindu solar calendar. The year was made up of twelve months:

* "Ootrai" (Chithirai) - April
* "Puyaazhi" (Vaikaasi) - May
* "Aandri" (Aani) - June
* "Eyyann" (Aadi) - July
* "Iruvann" or "Madangal" (Aavani) - August
* "Pulatrtrai" (Purataasi) - September
* "Eenjam" (Ipasi) - October
* "Itrtrai" or "Nali" (Kaarthigai) - November
* "Panmizh" or "Silai" (Maarkazhi) - December--
* "Thai" (Thai) - January
* "Moanji" (Maasi) - February
* "Polanurrai" (Panguni) - March

ix seasons

Every two months constitute a season "(Perumpozhuthu) ":

*"Ilavaenil", the spring in Thai and Moanji (mid January-mid March) ,
*"Muthuvaenil", the summer in Polanurrai and Ootrai {mid March-mid May)
*"Kaar", the rainy season in Puyaazhi and Aandri (mid May-mid July)
*"Koo Uthir", the autumn in Eyyann and Iruvann (mid July-mid September)
*"Munpani", the first winter in Pulatrtrai and Eenjam (mid September-mid November)
*"Pinpani", the second winter in Itrai and Panmizh (mid November-mid January)

Ancient Tamil festivals

*"Pongal", the festival of harvest and spring, thanking Lord Sevvéļ ,Lord Surya and Lord El, comes on January 14/15("Thai 1") .
*"PeruVaenil Kadavizha", the festival for wishing quick and easy passage of the mid-summer months, on the day when the Sun or El stands directly above the head at noon(the start of Agni Natchaththiram) at the southern tip of ancient Tamil land . This day comes on April 14/15("Ootrai 1") .
*"Mazhai Vizhavu", "aka" "Indhira Vizha", the festival for want of rain, celebrated for one full month starting from the full moon in "Ootrai"(later name-Cittirai) and completed on the full moon in "Puyaazhi"(Vaikaasi)( which coincides with Buddhapurnima ) .
*"Puyaazhi(Vaikaasi) visaagam" and "Thai poosam", the festivals of Tamil God Sevvaell's birth and accession to the "Thirupparankundram Koodal" Academy, coming on the day before the full moons of "Puyaazhi" and "Thai" respectively.
*"Soornavai Vizha", the slaying of legendary Kadamba Asura king Surabadma, by Lord Sevvaell, comes on the sixth day after newmoon in "Itrai" (Kaarthigai) .
*"Vaadai Vizha" or "Vadavazhi Vizha", the festival of welcoming the Lord El back to home, as He turns northward, celebrated on December 21/22 (Winter Solstice)(the sixth day of "Panmizh" [Maargazhi] ) .
*the "Semmeen Ezhumin Vizhavu (Aathi-Iřai Darisanam)", the occasion of Lord Siva coming down from the "ThiruCitrambalam" and taking a look at the "vaigarai Thiru Aathirai" star in the early morning on the day before the full moon in "Panmizh". Aathi Irai min means "the star of the God(Siva) on the Bull(Nandi)" .

Ancient Tamil People

The land was divided into five types- Kurinci, Mullai, Marutam, Neithal and Paalai . The ancient Tamil people were divided into five different clans ("kudi") based on their profession. They were

*the "VaeLir" - the farmers,
*the "Mazhavar" - the hill people who gather hill products, and the traders,
*the "Naagar" - people in charge of border security, who guarded the city wall and distant fortresses .
*the "Kadambar" - people who thrive on forests and
*the "Thiraiyar" - the seafarers.

All the five "kudi" constituted a typical settlement, which was called an "Ur" or Oor. Later each clan spread across the land, formed individual settlements of their own and concentrated into towns, cities and countries. Thus the Vaelir settled in North Tamil Nadu and South Andhra Pradesh, while the Mazhavar came to live in Kerala, West Tamil Nadu, East Andhra Pradesh and South Sri Lanka. The Naagar inhabited South and East Tamil Nadu, and North Sri LankaFact|date=May 2007, while the Kadambar settled in Central Tamil Nadu first and later moved to West Karnataka. The Thiraiyar inhabitated throughout the coastal regions . Later various subsects were formed based on more specific professions in each of the five landscapes .

*"Poruppa"n(the soldiers), "Verpan"(the leaders of the tribe/weaponists), "Silamban"(masters of martial arts/the art of fighting), "Kuravar"(the hunters and the gatherers, the people of foothills) and "Kaanavar"(the people of the mountainous forests ) in Kurinci,

*"KuRumpoRai naadan-Kizhaththi"(the landlord of the small towns amidst the forests in the valleys), "ThonRal-Manaivi"(the ministers and other noble couples), "Idaiyar"(the milkmaid and family), "Aaiyar"(the cattle-rearers) in Mullai,

*"Vidalai"(the innocent people and the victims of robbery, "KaaLai"(the robust native tribe who work to restore the fertility of the spoiled land), "MeeLi"(the saviours/people who are in charge of protecting and recovering the lost wealth from the robbers), "Eyinar"(the soldiers who guard the remote, isolated forts- that are permanently endangered by pirates), "MaRavar"(stubborn natives who were warriors, conquerors and rulers; including the major Tamil dynasties of Cheras, Cholas and Pandians; again a number of subsects have been formed all over Tamilland from early Maravars) in Paalai

*"Uran"(small landlords), "Magizhnan"(successful small scale farmers), "Uzhavar"(the farm workers), "Kadaiyar"(the merchants) in Marutham, and

*"Saerppan"(the seafood vendors and traders), "Pulampan"(the vegetarians who thrive on coconut and palm products), "Parathar"(people who lived in the seas-the merchants and the pirates), "NuLaiyar"(the wealthy people who both do fishing and grow palm farms) and "ALavar"(the salt cultivators) in Neithal .

The Five Artists

Apart from these subsects, there were people who were musicians, stage artists and performers, who entertained the kings, the noble, the rich and the general masses. They were:

*the "Thudian", the masters of "thudi" -a small percussion instrument;
*the "PaRaiyan", who beat "maeLam"(drums ) and perform "kooththu" a stage drama in dance form and also, proclaim king's announcements;
*the "Muzhavan", who blow into a "muzhavu" -a pipe instrument, for the army indicating the start, the end of the day and the victory in the battlefield and also performs in "kooththu" alongside other artists .
*the "Kadamban", who beat a large bass-like drum, the "kadampaRai" and blow a long bamboo "kuzhal", the " ceRioothuthi" ( similar to the present "Naagasuram" ) .
*the "PaaNan", who sang sweet songs in all "paNN"(tunes, that are specific for each landscape ) and are masters of "yaazh" -a stringed instrument with a wide range of frequency.

Together with the poets("pulavar") and the academic scholars("saanRoar"), these people of special talents appeared to be from all walks of life, irrespective of their native profession.

Later fragmentations

After the tenth century C.E., even more subsects appeared in the Tamil society. Till date there are about 247 subsects in total spread in all the five early native clans of ancient Tamil people. The number is still growing at the rate of 1-2 per generation(~30 years).

Ancient Tamil kingdoms

Empires or large kingdoms were the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Cheras . The small kingdoms and city states amidst these were :

*Naanjil(1)- in the present Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu .
*Pothigai (Aai) nadu(2)- the Cardamom hills and Palani hills of Southwest Tamil Nadu .
*Kaandhal KuRa Nadu(3)- TenKasi and Kutrraalam, Thirunelvaeli dt .
*Koadai malai(4)- Kodaikkanal, Dindigul dt .
*Malai Nadu(5)- the Anaimalai Range in Kerala.
*Evvi's Needoor-Mizhalai (6)- Pudukottai district in TN.
*Parampu malai(7)- West Namakkal dt.
*Thoandri malai(8)- Pachchai malai,Perambalur dt .
*MuLLur Nadu and capital ThirukKoilur (9)- West Vizhuppuram, West Thiruvannamalai dt's.
*Kolli malai nadu (10) - East Namakkal dt.
*Oaymaan Nadu (11) in the Aruva Nadu and Aruva vadathalai nadu region- East Thirvannamalai and East Vellore dt.
*Punnaadu(12)- East Thiruvannamalai dt .
*VaaNar Nadu(13)- West Vellore and Chittor dt's .
*ThoNdai Nadu (14)- Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur dt's .
*Mukkaaval Nadu (15) - Vellore dt .
*Kaankezhu Nadu (16) or Thirumunaippadi- East Vizhuppuram dt.
*Mudhira malai (17)- Chennai dt .
*Athigan Nadu(18) and its capital Thagadur- Dharmapuri dt .
*Kudhirai malai(19)- West Dharmapuri and East Mandya dt's .
*Payalanadu( Vaiyaavi )(20)- Krishnagiri, Kolar, Anantpur, Bellary dt's .
*VaeLaavi Nadu( Vaengi )(21)-Krishna and Guntur dts.
*Vellimalai(22)- North and West of Thirupathi .
*Vaengada Nadu(23) - Rayalaseema dt .
*Pungi Nadu (24)- West Chittoor dt.
*Mazhampula Nadu (25)- South of Kalahasthi up to Pulicat .
*Pulli Nadu (26) - South East coast of A.P.
*Erumai Nadu (27)- Central and Northwest Mysore dt .
*VeLimaan Nadu (28)-West Mysore
*Oonoor Kosar (29)- Raichur dt .
*Idaichchura Nadu (30) - Raichur dt .
*Irungoe Nadu or Araiya Nadu(31) and Citraraiyam and Paeraraiyam forts- Tumkur and Chitradurga dt's .
*Vichchikoe Nadu(32)- North of Ooty dt .
*Thoatti malai (33) -Ooty dt.
*Kuda Nadu or SengaNmaa Nadu (34) - Coorg dt .
*Kuttuva Nadu (35)- North Malbar dt .
*Cera Paayal malai (36) - North Malabar dt .
*Kadamba Nadu (37) -Hangal, Hampi(Banavasi), Uchchangi,Dharwar dt's and KoNkan coast up to Goa .
*KoNkaana Nadu (38)- Southwest Maharashtra's KoNkan coast, north of Goa .
*Malli Nadu (39)- Udipi dt .
*Karuvoor Chera Nadu (40)- West Karur dt .
*Kongu Nadu (41)- In the present day Coimbatore,Erode,Salem,Karur,Dharmapuri,Krishnagiri,Dindigul,Ooty,Mysore,Mandya,Bangalore,Kolar,Tumkur,Chikmagalur,Kudagu and Chamrajanagara dists.

Ancient city-states

*Naalai city state(41)- Nanguneri, Thirunelveli dt .
*Poandhai city state(42)- Kulachchal, Kanyakumari dt .
*Koodalpattinam- Tootukudi dt .
*Eyilpattinam- North coastal Ramanathapuram dt .
*Pidavoor- Thuraiyur tk., Thiruchchi dt .
*Sirukudi- Thiruchchi dt .
*Kaanappaereyil- North Sivagangai dt.
*Azhunthur(43) - South Salem dt.
*Moagur (44) - South East Naamakkal dt .
*Pazhai Nadu- East Karur and South Namakkal dt's.
*Vallaar- North Pudukottai dt .
*Aali- North Thanjaavoor dt .
*Cellur- North Bangalore dt .
*Eernthur- North Thiruchi dt .

ee also

*History of Tamil Nadu


*P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar's "History of the Tamil from the earliest times to 600 AD", Madras, 1929
*A. L. Basham's "A Wonder that was India", London, 1954

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Economy of ancient Tamil country — The economy of the ancient Tamil country (Sangam era: 200 BCE – 200 CE) describes the ancient economy of a region in southern India that covers the present day stateTamil Nadu. The main economic activities were agriculture, weaving, pearl fishery …   Wikipedia

  • Religion in ancient Tamil country — The people of the ancient Tamil country of the Sangam age (ca. 200 BCE to 200 CE), practiced three main religions: Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The society displayed tolerance towards all religions, as the monarchs themselves openly encouraged …   Wikipedia

  • Industry in ancient Tamil country — During the Sangam age, industrial activity was considered ancillary to agriculture and was mostly domestic, not factory based. Simple workshops where the blacksmith made the wheel or the carpenter his wooden wares could be called factories of a… …   Wikipedia

  • Agriculture in ancient Tamil country — During the Sangam age, 200 BCE 200 CE, agriculture was the main vocation of the Tamils. [cite book last = Venkata Subramanian title = pages = p. 26] It was considered a necessity for life, and hence was treated as the foremost among all… …   Wikipedia

  • Ancient Tamil music — The ancient Tamil music was the music of the ancient Tamil people, who resided in the lands of the ancient Tamil country. Many poems of the Sangam literature, the classical Tamil literature of the early common era, were set to music. There are… …   Wikipedia

  • Sources of ancient Tamil history — There are literary, archaeological, epigraphic and numismatic sources of ancient Tamil history. The foremost among these sources is the Sangam literature, generally dated to the last centuries BCE to early centuries CE. The poems in Sangam… …   Wikipedia

  • Tamil — may refer to: * Tamil language, one of the Dravidian languages primarily spoken in South Asia and South East Asia * Tamil script, primarily used to write the Tamil language * Tamil peopleee also* Ancient Tamil country * Dravidian martial arts *… …   Wikipedia

  • Tamil history from Sangam literature — Sangam Literature is one of the main sources used for documenting the early history of the ancient Tamil country. The ancient Sangam poems mention numerous kings and princes, the existence of some of whom have been confirmed through… …   Wikipedia

  • Tamil Nadu — தமிழ் நாடு   State   Tamil Nadu Emblem …   Wikipedia

  • Tamil literature — refers to the literature in the Tamil language. Tamil literature has a rich and long literary tradition spanning more than two thousand years. The oldest extant works show signs of maturity indicating an even longer period of evolution.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.