In News: Findings during keeladi excavations in Tamil Nadu proved that history of Sangam era, earlier considered as old as 3rd century BC, is as old as the 6th century BC.

Source: The Hindu

Vaigai valley civilisation: socio –economic conditions

  • Cultural gap of 1000 years between vagai civilisation and Indus valley civilization: This cultural gap is generally filled with Iron Age material in south India. The graffiti marks encountered in Iron Age sites of south India serve as the only residual links between the Indus Valley Civilisation and south India.The State Department of Archaeology’s comparison of graffiti found in Keeladi with Indus Valley signs
  • No evidence of religious worship found.
  • Industrious and advanced civilisation: Existence of industrial units, structures that could have been used to convey molten metal or filter liquid strongly point to the existence of people who were involved in industrial work.
  • Literacy:  learnt art of writing as early as 6th Century BCE. The letters engraved on pots that clearly demonstrate the “high literacy level of the contemporary society that survived in 6th century BCE.” The Tamil Brahmi script, found engraved on the outer surface or the shoulder of black and red earthenware in Keeladi, carries personal names.
  • Trade: A few pottery samples of 2nd century BCE do contain earth content similar to that of other regions, thereby suggesting that they exchanged goods with neighbouring regions. Urban civilisation, with brick structures, luxury items and proof of internal and external trade.
  • Occupation: The antiquities suggest that the prime occupation of the people of Keeladi was agriculture, which was supplemented by the iron industry, carpentry, pottery-making and weaving.
  • Samples of animal skeletal fragments suggest the habitants were predominantly cattle-rearing people. The hump of the Bos indicus species is referred to as imil in Tamil literature, which later came to be known as timil. The grandeur of this species, which was also present in the Indus Valley, lies in its hump.

Significance of keeladi: A sophisticated urban settlement

  • It has given evidence of urban life and settlements in Tamil Nadu during the Early Historic Period.
  • Keeladi has added greatly to the credibility of Sangam Literature.
  • Conch shell: Typical of the Indus Valley civilisation, and which seems to have been in extensive use in Indus cities, was obtained from [the] south-east coast of the Madras Presidency, thereby establishing link between Sangam people and Indus Valley.
  • Bos indicus: Is also the icon of the ancient sport eru thazhuvuthal or eru anaithal (embracing the bull), which was prevalent in villages around Keeladi,now practised as jallikattu.
  • Analysis of construction material: every specimen contained elements like silica, lime, iron, aluminium and magnesium.
  • Pottery: the potters of Keeladi were familiar with the technique [of using carbon material for black colour and hematite for red] and knew the art of raising the kiln temperature to 1100°C to produce the typical black-and-red ware pottery.

Sangam period  is the period of history of ancient Tamil Nadu and Kerala (known as Tamilakam) spanning from c. 6th century BCE to c. 1st century CE. It is named after the famous Sangam academies of poets and scholars centered in the city of Madurai.

Sangam Literature Classification

Based on period of composition

  1. Patinenmelkanakku
  1. Works composed between 200 BCE to 100 BCE
  2. Oldest surviving Tamil poetry
  1. Patinenkilkanakku
  1. Works composed between 100 CE and 500 CE
  2. Collection of 18 poetry compositions
  3. Mostly composed before the age of the Pallavas
  4. Chief works include Thirukkural, Palamoli, naladiyar, etc.

Based on the context and interpretation

  1. Aham (Inner)
  1. Abstract discussion on human aspects such as love, sexual relations, etc.
  1. Puram (outer)
  1. Human experiences such as heroism, customs, social life, ethics, philanthropy, etc.


Time span

No. of Poets




4440 years



No books survived


3700 years



Tolkāppiyam (author - Tolkāppiyar)


1850 years



covers entire corpus of Sangam Literature