The Sangam is a collection of Tamil literature composed between 1500 and 2000 years ago.
The Tamil Sangams
Though the idea that early Tamil literature was fostered in ancient academies in a lost continent have been widely discredited, literary historians do still refer to Tamil literature from 200BCE to 300CE as Sangam literature. Sangam literature is the oldest known Dravidian literature, written in Tamil and deals with love, war, governance, trade, eloping, bereavement and mourning. In contrast to contemporary literary works in Sanskrit, Pali, Sangam literature is surprisingly secular, dealing with day to day themes in a unique South-Indian context.
According to medieval commentators on older Tamil poetry, Assemblies or Academies or Learned gatherings called Sangams were founded to foster the Tamil language. Each was shifted around due to "Piralayams" or "Great Deluges". Three such Sangams, Talaicchangam (the first), Idaicchangam, the middle and Kadaicchangam (the last) had poets, musicians, kings and nobles as members. According to other accounts,even before the first Sangam, another one with the name of Mahendramalai Tamil Sangam is said to have existed, between 16000 BC and 14550 BCThese ideas were first expressed in the Iraiyanar Ahaporul, a commentary work usually dated to the 13th century CE.
The First Sangam
This session was held at "Ten Madurai" (South Madurai) on the banks of the river Kanni aka Pahruli under the patronage of a Pandyan King called Ma Kirti. Sage Agastya convened this one and wrote Agattiyam or Agastyam – a Treatise on Tamil Grammar. This Sangam lasted for 4440 years. It was held in Mt. Mahendra in Kumari Nadu - a continent that extended beyond the current Kanyakumari. [on Whether sunken continents could happen ? See Note C] Iraiyanaar and Murinjiyur Mudinagarayar were other scholars who lived in this period. Sage Agastya is said to have had 12 students. Chief among them Tolkappiyar was a member of the second sangam. Regarding the First Sangam, we know little. None of the writings attributed to this Sangam have come down to us in their entirety. The identification of "Ten Madurai", the seat of the first Sangam, has been a controversial point. Regarding the destruction of this place, there are certain allusions both in the Madurai STALAPURANA and in the SILAPPADIKARAM. The commentator of the latter work writes as follows: "Between the rivers KUMARI and PAHRULI there existed an extensive continent occupying an area of 700 KAVADAMS (a KAVADAM being equal to ten miles). This land consisting of forty nine NADS (inclusive of Kollam and Kumari), innumerable forests, mountains and rivers had been submerged in the Indian Ocean as far as the peaks of Kumari, by a terrific convulsion which resulted in the upheaval of the Himalayan Range". Five hundred and forty-nine people participated in the Premier Sangam. Participant poets included Akaththiyanar, Sivan, Murugan, Muranjicyoor Mudinaagaraayar, Lord Kuberan and others. Including them, 4449 poets presented their poems, it is said. Musical poems called Paripaadals were sung, as well as treatises on the grammar for tamil music called Mudhunaarai, Mudhukuruku, Kalaviyaavirai, and so on. They remained convened in the Sangam for 4440 years. 89 Pandiyan kings kept the Sangam convened, from Kaaycina Vazhudhi at first to Kadungkon at the end; seven of those kings even presented poems.
The Second Sangam
After a deluge the Sangam was shifted to Kapaadapuram aka Kavadapuram (Kavatapuram) in a now-lost continent know as KumariKandam on the banks of river Kumari which was South of present day Kanya Kumari. This Second (Idai) Sangam is said to have lasted for 3700 years. This was presided over by Murugan (Skandha) and attended by Krishna. The work Tolkaappiyam by a Tolkaappiyar is from this era. Kapilar is also from this era. Kapaadapuram is mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana.
The only work of the second Sangam which has come down to us is the Tolkappiyam. Nothing further is known about Tolkappiyar than that he was a student of Agastya and that he lived in a village near Madurai during the reign of the Pandya king Makirti. All the works of this Sangam have also been irretrievably lost, except the above work and a few poems which found their way into the anthologies of the third Sangam. Then unfortunately the ocean swelled and submerged the whole Kumari continent comprising various countries such as Ezh Thenga Naadu, Ezh Munpaalai Naadu etc., the vast Pahruli river and of course the city of Old Madurai itself. Almost all Tamil treatises composed at that Sangam were lost. The Tamil grammar Akaththiyam was the reference grammar.
The Tamil people were forced to move the site of their Sangam further north. 59 prominent poets participated in the Sangam including Akaththiyanar, Tholkaappiyar, Irundhaiyuur Karungkozhi Moci, Vellur Kaappiyan, Paandarangan the Younger, Thiraiyan Maaran, Thuvaraik Komaan ("The Lord of Dwaraka" or "Krishna"), Keerandhai, and others. Including them 3700 people presented their poems, it is said. They presented Kali, Kuruku, Venthaazhi, Viyaazha Maalai Akaval, and other works, it is said. Their reference works were Akaththiyam, Tholkaappiyam, Maapuraanam, Icai Nunukkam and Poothapuraanam. They remained convened in the Sangam for 3700 years; 49 kings kept the Sangam in session, from Ven Ther Chezhiyan ("The Pandiyan of the White Chariot") to Thirumaaran the Lame; 5 of those kings presented poems.
The Final Sangam
After yet another deluge, the Pandiyan king Thirumaaran moved the Sangam this time to current Madurai. This lasted for 1850 years and resulted in works such as Ettutthogai (eight Antholgies) and Pattu-pattu (ten-idylls). Almost all the best Tamil classics we now possess are the productions of the third Sangam, which had its seat in Madurai.
49 prominent poets researched into Tamil culture during the Final or Third Sangam. Among them were Cendhampoodhanaar, Ilam Medhaaviyaar, Arivudaiyanaar, Mudhu Kunrur Kizhaar, Ilam Thirumaaran, the Madurai Professor Nallandhuvanaar, Madurai Marudhan Ilanaaganaar, Nakkeerar the Son of Madurai Kanakkaayar, and others. Including them 449 people presented their works. They composed Akanaanooru ("The Anthology of 400 Long Poems On Love"), Kurunthokai ("The Anthology of 400 Short Poems On Love"), Narrinai ("The 400 Good Poems On the Modes"), Pura naanooru ("The 400 Poems on the Exterior Landscape"), Kurunthokai ("The Anthology of 400 Short Poems on Love"), Aing kurunooru ("The 500 Short Poems on Love"), Pathirrup paththu ("The Ten Decades"), Noorraimpathu Kali ("The 150 Kalis"), 70 Paripaadals, Kooththu ("Dance"), Vari, Cirricai ("The Lesser Musical Treatise"), Pericai ("The Greater Musical Treatise"), and others.
Akaththiyam and Tholkaappiyam were their reference works. They remained in session and researched into Tamil culture for 1870 years; 49 kings maintained that Sangam from Thirumaaran the Lame to Ukkirap Peru Vazhudhi; three of them presented poems. The last Sangam ended around the 2nd century A.D. with the invasion of Kalabras from the north.
Note In Varahamihira's 7th century Grahasamhita, Lanka and Simhala are kingdoms south of India. Pali and Sanskrit works generally treat Lanka and Simhaladwipa or Tampapanni (Tamraparni) as separate countries. According to M.D. Raghavan, ethnologist emeritus of the National Museums of Ceylon in the 1960s, "Simhaladwipa seems to have been the remnant of Lanka after parts of it were submerged in the sea; what was left of the more extensive dominions of Ravana's Lanka." The Simhala classic Rajavaliya speaks of Ravana's castle "later submerged by the sea".
In 1998-1999 a team of accredited geological researchers spent a year on a ship ‘The Joides Resolution’ probing the ocean floor in the southernmost areas of the Indian Ocean. Based on recovered spores, wood etc, they figure that a continent ‘went down’ about 20 million years ago. While the Kerguelen Igneous Plateau and the Kumari-land are vastly separated in time, space and the way of disappearance. The Tamil continent - based on the Tamil Sangam Legends - lost out to sea-level rise within the Pleistocene era. Besides the Kerguelen Plateau is several thousands of miles South of the southernmost point in India today and disappeared millions of years BP. (see pictures below). Still, such things happen and this study should cause mainstream researchers to pause and think before they pooh-pooh tradition as the stuff of mere legends.
Last Glacial Maximum
Ocean Extents before the end of the last Ice Age i.e. before 11,600 years BP.
Note that the end date of the First Tamil Sangam coincides with the end of the ice-age which concluded the slow rise in ocean levels. This slow rise of ocean levels in the preceding millennia is called the ‘Flandrian Transgression’. This rise in global ocean levels is believed to have followed the ‘Last Glacial Maximum’ approximately 20,000 years BP.