Historians divide the history of Tamilakam into three chronological periods:

  1. Pre-historical times (pre 3rd century BCE)
  2. The Sangam era (3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE)
  3. Post Sangam era (3rd to 200th century CE)

Caveat: These time periods are guestimates.

The people of Tamilakam wrote on palm leaves – they scribbled with thin iron pencils. Kings chiselled their achievements on stone tablets and etched important records and laws on thin copper plates.

But history lost much of the pre-historical records (pre-3rd century BCE) to nature’s ravages and to human neglect and depredation.

What remains is oral history passed down the generations. Poets recorded much of the oral tradition in verse—poetry and song. The poets also added their own spin to these stories.

These survived and became tales, myths and legends. The stories mutated and resulted in fantastic events that traced the lives of all-conquering, all benevolent kings. It was expected as the poets relied on royal patronage for their livelihood. Many of these erudite individuals, not of the royal blood, became all-knowing sages who could even summon gods at will.

Modern historians pulled the often ill-fitting pieces of the jig-saw puzzle and added coherence to an otherwise confusing period. Much of this history, unable to meet the rigours of modern standards, remains disputed to this day.

The historians agreed that geography played a great part in the societies that evolved in ancient South India. They recognised five regions: hill country, forest belts, semi-arid lands, arable lands, and the seacoast. Descended from the hill country, the people who settled in the various regions shared many common traits and customs but also evolved distinct practices and skills.

That was a preamble to pick up where we left off regarding South Indian history.

Next week: Stirrings of Statehood.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019


  1. I can imagine how these self proclaimed sages used the information they have to weave a glorious victory for the kings, so they get handsomely rewarded. If their predictions fall through, believe they will sneek out from the back door first, LOL.

    1. Windy dear,

      Your comment gave me a chuckle. Looks like you’ve recovered from your recent bout of cold.

      I can visualise the great sages sneaking out in the middle of the night with their prayer beads and all. LOL.

      Have a great day,

    2. Actually I’m still very much under the westher, Eric. But I’m going to ignore the flu so hopefully it goes away, LOL.

      It figures why sages often do not carry much possession, so they can disappear fast.And we assume they live a frugal life as holy men.

  2. It’s the poetry that came down to us from ancient times that gave some insight into ancient cultures Eric. I’m very interested in those ancient writings that have survived to this day too. Pre history is an interesting subject for me and I like to delve the internet and jump from one source to another to try and understand the movements of ancient people and development of the respective languages. 🙂

    1. Now that you mention it, you’re right, Ian.

      The great Greek epics Iliad and Odyssey, and the Hindu Mahabharata and Ramayana – they are all written in verse. Though the internecine rivalries and battles took centre stage, the backdrop gave hints of life and love of those times.

      It was right before my eyes, but I did not see it until you pointed it out. Gosh! I need some eye glasses 🙂

      Thank you, and all good wishes,

    1. Hello there, my Nairobi friend,

      Yes, lessons are back on. History has always fascinated me.

      I notice from your blog posts, you’re a fan too but you focus on one broad aspect 🙂


      1. I am a fan of the past. Maybe I live in the past generally.
        What interests me these days is to get to know what the common people did. Their songs. Their gods. Their passions and all.

  3. Thank you for this informative run down.
    I observe that all history is hard to uncover because we rely on what is given in records generally narrated by the victors. In “War and Peace” Tolstoy writes that history is not what happened but what we say happened! WW1 is a good example in which the victors placed the blame on Germany when the reasons why everyone jumped in are more confusing and complex.
    Your run down helps – I place your pre-historical time 3rd century BC as about the time that Alexander was warring across Asia and made his appearance in Northern India.
    You must be very busy with this history, your book, and a series of provocative Haiku,
    Cheers! Jane

    1. You’re welcome, Jane.

      Thank you for reading and contributing comments. Much appreciate your efforts.

      Yes, history has always been and continues to be “his-story”.

      I notice you tend to relate South Indian historical timelines to better known (and recorded) European history.That’s helps relate and keep track of what happened where and when. Here is a timeline lifted from Wiki that provides some guide > Timeline of Indian history > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Indian_history

      Have a great weekend ahead,

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