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Three tamil sangams : Myth and reality

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Ancient Tamil literature speaks of three Tamil Sangams (Tamil Cankam or Tamil Academies). First two Sangams were devoured by the sea during Tsunami catastrophes and the third academy was established at Madurai. We have enough literary materials to confirm the third academy. But the other two were doubted by several scholars because of some unbelievable claims. Even about the third academy there are some unsolved puzzles. Let us look at the facts first. The total years given for all the three academies are 10,040 years!

From the third and the last Sangam we have over two thousand poems composed by over 470 poets. This is grouped as Ten Idylls and Eight Anthologies and classified as Sangam Tamil literature. But according to the legend only 49 poets formed the third Tamil Sangam or academy. So we do not know who the academic members were and who just poets were. There was another Dravida Sangam established by a Jain scholar known as Vajranandhi in 470 AD. Was it part of the Tamil Sangam or was it a Sangam for Jain Tamil scholars? The later works like Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam talks about rivalries and fights among Sangam poets and Shiva had to come to the rescue of genuine poets. But this division was not mentioned in the old Tamil literature.
Existence of third Tamil Sangam in Madurai was confirmed by Appar Thevaram and Andal Tiruppavai. Appar not only refers to Tamil Sangam but also refers to a popular episode of a poor poet called Dharumi and his clash with Nakkeerar. Over forty of Sangam poets had the prefix Madurai in their names.
Two Tsunamis
Since there were at least two references to Tsunamis and four references to earth quakes in Sangam Tamil and post Sangam Tamil verses we can be sure of some natural catastrophes. The reason for the doubts about their existence came from the big number of kings, big number of poets they sponsored and the years the kings ruled. If we take those years as exaggerated or coded language then we can reconcile the contradictions.
Adirakku Nallar, the commentator of Tamil epic Cilappatikaram had given the geography of the Tamil Land that was devoured by the sea. He wrote that there were seven big areas and each one was divided into seven smaller areas. Seven is a sacred number for Hindus and this type of land division is already in Hindu mythologies. When the first Tamil Sangam at South Madurai went into the sea ,they moved south and established the second academy at Kapatapuram. When that was also devoured by the sea they moved further south and established the third Tamil Sangam in modern Madurai. During the second academy Tolkappiyam was written by Tolkappiyar. At present Tolkappiyam is the oldest available Tamil work, which is grammar book. Scholars date it to first century BC or AD. Some kings and poets who were part of First (Murinjiyur Mudinagarayar) and Second Sangam wrote a few poems which are included in Sangam corpus of Tamil literature ( Panamparar, Kakkaipatiniyar).

Any student of linguistics will easily find out that their poems were not very old as claimed by the commentator. The language of Tolkappiyam and verses by Muda Thirumaran (King during second Tamil Sangam) and Murinjiyur Mudinagarayar (First Tamil Sangam)betray their age. The language was not very different from other Sangam poems. If we apply the thumb rule followed by Max Muller to date the Vedic literature (two hundred years for language changes) both Tolkappiyam and other Sangam works will be grouped under the same period. Tolkappiyar himself indirectly says that he compiled whatever materials available at that time. He adds in hundreds of places the journalist’s cliché “they say”, “it is said that”. This makes it clear that he was not the one who wrote every bit of the book, but it was only a compilation. If we go by his language we can’t put him back any further than first century. His colleague Panamparar wrote the introduction (prefatory verse) for his treatise. His language was not archaic either.
The commentator of “Iraiynar Agapporul” gives a full account of the three Tamil Sangams .In the background of this linguistic evidence and in the absence of any historical proof, the claim that the First Tamil Sangam existed for 4400 years under 89 kings and 4449 poets composed poems wont command any credibility. It is the same story about Second Tamil Sangam which existed for 3750 years under 59 kings and 3700 poets. The third Tamil Sangam existed for 1850 years.

The book Tolkappiyam was launched in the royal court of Nilam Tharu Thiruvil Pandya under the chairmanship of Athakottu Asan (Teacher of Athankodu, a village in Kanyakumari District) who was well versed in the four Vedas. According to legends both Tolkappiyar and the teacher Athankottu Asan were Brahmins. It wouldn’t surprise anyone because the highest contribution in Sangam corpus of 2000 + poems was from the Brahmin poets such as Kapilar ,Paranar, Mamulanar, Nakkiran ,Uruththiran Kannan (Please read my article “No Brahmins, No Tamil”). The name “Kapatapuram” (place of second Tamil Sangam) and the word “Sangam” are all pure Sanskrit words. Tolkappiyam has three chapters. Many scholars consider the third chapter to be a later addition.

Another word that betrays Tolkappiyam is “ADHIKARAM”. This Sanskrit word is used in Tirukkural of fourth or fifth century AD and CilappADIKARAM of same period (The Kannaki-Kovalan story happened in second century ,but the language of Cilappadikaram is definitely Post Sangam i.e after third century AD). Tolkappiyam is divided into three chapters and they are also classified as ADIKARAMS: Ezuththu/alphabet, Sol/word and Porul/worldly matters ADHIKARAMS. So we can put Tirukkural, Cilappadikaram and Tolkappiyam in the same period. But one must remember the date of writing and the date of events or grammar rules are different. Tamils very often get confused with the script and the language and the event and the actual date of putting it in writing.

To solve the puzzle of big numbers, one scholar suggested to divide the numbers by 37, saying that Jains were obsessed with this number. Then we will get 120,100 and 50 for the first, second and third Tamil Sangam respectively. People can question this method. They will ask why 37 number. What has it got to do with the Tamil Sangam. Even when we do it, it won’t go well with the number of kings and poets, which is very high again.
Patanjali, the author of Mahabhasyam followed a simple solution when Ramayana said that Lord Rama ruled for several thousand years. He simply divided that big number by 365 and arrived at the figure of 28 years for Rama. Any one would believe that Rama ruled for 28 years. We may also follow Pathanjalis scientific method and divide the years 10040 by 365 and arrive at 270 years.

Another problem with the previous two Tamil Sangams is the books attributed to those Sangams. They are pure Sanskrit names such as Maa Puranam, Bhuta Puranam, Pancha Marapu, sikandiyam, Kuna nul, Thakadur Yaththirai etc. When the last Tamil Sangam didn’t have many Sanskrit names how come the previous one’s had so many Sanskrit names for the books would be a valid question.

I suggest the following solution; once again it cannot be explained logically:
If we divide the number of years of three Tamil Sangams by 37 we arrive at 120,100 and 50=270 years. This is possible for three Tamil academies. If you add the kings number 89 (8),59 (5) and 49(4) after dropping 9 we arrive at 17. If anyone asks why should we drop nine and add only single digits there is no logical answer. Since we believe that they have used coded language, we do it.

First Sangam Second Third
Years 4440 3700 1850
Kings 89 59 49
(If we drop number 9 the total will be (8+5+4=17). 17 kings ruling for 270 years is acceptable to historians)
Poets 4449 3700 449
(Though the number of poets is huge there is nothing wrong in accepting it as the total number of scholars in the country )
Academy Members 549 69 49

By using the methods used by Patanjali and Maxmuller we can arrive at a reasonable figure for the three academies.( I have written another article about the Tsunamis and Earth quakes that affected ancient Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Academies).

Another word that betrays Tolkappiyam is “ADHIKARAM”. This Sanskrit word is used in Tirukkural of fourth or fifth century AD and CilappADIKARAM of same period (The Kannaki-Kovalan story happened in second century ,but the language of Cilappadikaram is definitely Post Sangam i.e after third century AD). Tolkappiyam is divided into three chapters and they are also classified as ADIKARAMS: Ezuththu/alphabet, Sol/word and Porul/worldly matters ADHIKARAMS. So we can put Tirukkural, Cilappadikaram and Tolkappiyam in the same period. But one must remember the date of writing and the date of events or grammar rules are different. Tamils very often get confused with the script and the language and the event and the actual date of putting it in writing.


I have opposed the word betrays using in the article. I want to clear the doubts, where you have aroused in the article. Here, this has a well-known fact that the Tholkapiam have written in various periods by the various authors. Because of this reason, the author’s name imposed as its book's name. This is not only a grammar book but also a common book to logic, anthropology and philosophy. This is an old one. This book speaks that the Tamil books to be made out only from virtue, wealth and pleasure.

There who came on the latter stage, unfortunately, misunderstand the book’s features and spelled wrongly, that these are the four features of the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana vedas. The book Tholkapiam made by the various authors and we could not trace out the age. In other words, this is a book which written in poetic form, in the time immemorial.

தொன்மை தானே
உரையொடு புணர்ந்த பழமை மேற்றே

From the line, we can understand that the prose formats also in customary, in those days.

Proud to say, that the Dravidian culture would have its own scripts, language and grammar and this would even before in practice the invading of Ariyas. Whenever imposing the scripts to the Vedic’s such as Rig, Yajur, Sama, Adarvanas they have borrowed the words from the Tamil. The experts Mr. Emano and Baro said in the book Dravida Verchol Agarathi that Tamil word valzhu (வழு) turned as vasu in the Devanagari. This would be mentioned in the lines (ஈஉஈ.4336)

The letter (Meyezhuthu) cannot stand in front of the Tamil scripts, like these vasu (வசு). This would be enough to prove that the Tamil language is an old one than the Vedics.
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Thanks for your comments.I love Tamil like anyone else and I am also proud to be a Tamil. But Dravidian Etymological dictionary cant go beyond 4000 words. All other words that you and I use are from Sanskrit or Munda etc. No one can speak pure Tamil today. In two minutes talk you will be using hundreds of Sanskrit words.I have challenged a lot of people and no one came with pure Tamil so far. Some scholars claimed that they can write in pure Tamil and they ended with Skt. When questioned they said Skt borrowed all these from Tamil. But no proof. But Rig Veda is dated 1500 BC and Tolkappiyam is dated 1st century BC. So book wise Tamil is 1400 years junior to Skt. according to the majority of scholars. If Indus Valley script is deciphered tomorrow and it is proved to be Tamil and then we can claim that Tamil is older than Skt. As of now there is no proof. Even before Homer wrote the first book in Greek language and even before Moses spoke Hebrew , there was a huge mass of materials in Skt. What I say is accepted by majority of scholars. But you may see people in Tamilnadu who say Tolkappiyam is dated 20000 BC. I stop arguing with them.
Le them whatever they say. I always go the majority of scholars.
For us tamil and samskrit are like two eyes. There is a inseparable association between the two. If only the staunch anti-samskrit dravidavadis will cast aside foreign influences and use native eyes for analysis, both languages will gain.
Dear Sarang

I agree with you. Not only you but Appar, Paranjothi Munivar and several other poets have expressed the same view. Even if you read Tiruvallauva Malai four or five poets compare Tirukkural with the Vedas.They held both the languages as two eyes.

Whoever dates, Tolkappiam 20,000 or 30000 BC indirectly agrees Sanskrit is older than Tamil. The reason being Tolkappiyar have done rules to borrow words from Vatakku (nothing but Sanskrit). He also mentioned the Vedic phonetics. He also defined what is mantra. He also mentioned Brahmins. He also mentioned eight type of marriages. He called Vedic Gods Varunan and Indra as gods of the Tamils. In Porul Adhikaram there are innumerable references to the so called "aryan customs". So if any one calls Tolkappiyam older and older and older they indirectly accept that Sanskrit and Vedas were there even before Tolkappiyam. Since Tolkappiyar mentioned most of the things I said, in the first two Adikarams .So they cant say it is interpolation or additions. Above all Panamparar has clearly said it was launched with the approval of the Teacher of Athankotu who was well versed in Four Vedas. This clearly showed that the four Vedas were there in Tamilnadu on the day Tolkappiyar launched his book. Panamparar did not stop there .He also said that Tolkappiyar was a great scholar of Ainthiram. This was in Sanskrit and it was in the name of Indra.

Tamil and Sanskrit are great. We are all lucky to be born as Tamil Brahmins because we are the descendants of two greatest language speakers.
Tamil references from Tolkappiyam
நான்மறை முற்றிய அதங்கோட்டாசான், அளபிற் கோடல் அந்தணர் மறைத்தே, அறுவகைப்பட்ட பார்ப்பனபக்கம், மறையோர் வகுத்த மன்றல் எட்டு,வேந்தன் மேய தீம்புனல் உலகமும், வருணன் மேய பெருமணல் உலகமும்
I enjoyed learning about all the information in this thread and I am not being argumentative; I am curious to understand as to why Tamil is more prevalent as a spoken language in tamilnadu. Will sanskrit have a similar fate to latin, which became so alien to christians that they did not want to hear prayers said in latin in their churches in England.nandri.
Dear Nalanda
Sanskrit will never go in the way of Latin. Sanskrit will live for ever. NO FORCE IN THE WORLD CAN DESTROY SANSKRIT. Your father and my father's names are in Sanskrit. Your town and my town names are in Sanskrit. Your god and my God's names are in Sanskrit. Sikh, Jain and Buddhist names are in Sanskrit.Gurbir Singh is nothing but Guru Veera Simha, Harinder Kaur is nothing but Hari Indra, Mahavir is nothing but Maha veera, Buddha is nothing but Buddhi-knowledge-wisdom. I can go on adding.As long India and Hinduism live Sanskrit will live.It is in the name of Jaya Lalitha, Karuna Nidhi and Rama Swami Naicker (Atheist leader E.Ve.Ra).

Latin hasn't got such things.Though the four romance languages including French and Spanish came from Latin, they are considered separate languages.As long as Brahmins do Sandhya Vandhanam every day they can proudly say they have been continuing the same mantra done on the banks of river Saraswathy/Sindhu and Ganges several thousand years ago. No one claim the same with Latin.

Only difference with other languages and Sanskrit is we dont use it for our day to day transactions. Scholars say it was never used as a spoken language. It was official language in the courts (Royal assemblies). When the king left the royal court he spoke in Prakrit. In Kalidasa's dramas women and jesters (clown) spoke in Prakrit where as the King and ministers spoke in Sanskrit. When Madala Maraiyon came to see Cheran Senguttuvan he spoke in Sanskrit with Cheran Senguttuvan. Kovalan also spoke Sanskrit, though he belonged to Vaisya caste. Kovalan is the Tamil translation of GOPALAN.

Brahmins have a duty towards Sanskrit. They must learn it and teach it to their children and do the mantras with the meanings. Sanskrit will never die. Probably like we lost the meaning of Vedas, we may lose the meaning and still recite Vishnu Sahasranama after 200 tor 300 years.

At the moment you can challenge any Indian to speak for five minutes without a Sanskrit word.They cant do it. I have done research with Indian,Sri Lankan,Malysian and Singapore Tamil journals by taking random pages and underlining the Sanskrit words. It is nearly 40 to 50 percent. If they speak naturally they will have to use Sanskrit. There is no word for heart in Tamil. Lot of words have got common origin. That is a separate field. I will write an article when time permits. Thanks for all your interest.

Even before Homer wrote the first book (Iliad and Odyssey) in Greek in 800 BC, Sanskrit had a huge volumes of materials in Aranyakas, Brahmanas, Samhitas and Upanishads. Unfortunately we lost all secular materials because they were not passed from one generation to another generation like Vedas. Even Rig Veda is still mysterious to scholars. The eight Mandala has got a lot of foreign names , may be Iranian. If it is true it has covered a vast geographical area-with no parallel literature in the world.
Thankyou Mr Swaminathan,
I take comfort in your answer as I enjoy listening prayers in sanskrit in temples and on cd's.I would not want sanskrit to disappear.nandri
Dear Mr.Swami,Mr.Sarang and Mr.Nalanda

Always, this is not a healthy way, in an argumentative. I am not interested in these because these are unsolved hypes to one. Never to solve the riddle that which one is first, egg or hen? Obviously, every language and culture has it’s an antiquity and the traditional glory.

For instance, experts of linguistics listed thirty six languages are primogenital in the first millennium B.C. Here we realized that this is not an easy job to analysis the each and every languages, because the volume of the article may extend. So we are going to analyses two or three only which seems to be an old one.

Experts said Arabic and Hebrew are from the Phoenician language family. In this, the Hebrew is very close to the Phoenician language. The Phoenician language has spoken in the Mediterranean. Hebrew is a language where spoken by the Christ.

Here, there is a legendry those who wish to revive their language and those who wish to protect them from the perils. The Jews who defeated by the Greek in the B.C. decided to protect their language from the decedents.

Ironically this language has demised of Greek invading and has to speak only three hundred peoples at the period.

They suffered a lot in war. They drove away from the western banks, in the Gaza, strips by the Greeks.

At that time, the Jews statesmen decided to protect their language Hebrew. With, the long counsel, they decided to meet, the Greek Emperor and plea to allow them, to do their ritual works, in their Dom. In, addition to that they decided to plea, to open the new Schools, for their children. On the grievance day the Emperor heard with clemency and permitted to continue their rituals in their Dom and also help to start the new Schools for the Hebrew children. From the beginning of this, the clergies teach their midrash to their children in these Schools and temples. Thus, they gained fairness and avail this opportunity to teach their language and their history to their children.

Because of un-tired efforts the quantum of native speakers has raised to three hundred to three thousand.

Hebrew is the only language to have been revived as the mother tongue of millions after a period of having no native speakers. The fact that its creation relied significantly on ancient texts accounts for its similarity to Ancient Hebrew. Modern languages that developed naturally often differ much more from earlier versions of the language than does Hebrew.

Now, Hebrew total number of speakers is 5.1 million both in Israel and U.S.A.

One might learn how they only can achieve these histrionic changes? This is the most important thing to note how they can protect their languages from the decadence.

While, going through this phenomenal, think, it is best to analysis the causes for the language death.

According to the statesmen, language death may manifest itself in one of the following ways:

Gradual language death

Bottom-to-top language death: when language change begins in a low level environment such as the home.

Top-to-bottom language death: when language change begins in a high level environment such as the government.

Radical language death

Linguicide (Also known as sudden death, language by genocide, physical language death, biological language death)

Apart from that the most common process leading to language death is one in which a community of speakers of one language becomes bilingual in another language. Bilingual means the two languages are speaking by the natives. While speaking the native language, the people have to mingle the foreign in to the native.
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If all the Brahmins decide today that we must revive Sanskrit like Jews revived Hebrew we will achieve more than what the Jews achieved today. The Jews were persecuted by Hitler and so they had a political urge to from a nation and revive their language. But we dont have any political urge to form any country like Israel.Whole Bharat belongs to us. That is why in my reply I told Brahmins must do some thing about Sanskrit. Since Jews had occupied key positions in the USA they wielded big political influence in getting the support of America.

But instead of going into all the history, Brahmins must have at least working knowledge of Sanskrit. I did pass all the exams conducted by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Chitoor Samkrita Pracharini Sabha or Parishad. I passed all the five Bhagavad Gita exams conducted by the B.V. Bhavan. Now Sanskrit is taught even in correspondence course. Please do it and get working knowledge. If you ask lot of people what their names mean they are not able to tell us.They are in Sanskrit. But probably Mr Karuna Nidhi will tell us what his name meant. Just to criticize Sanskrit and Puranas they have read more than many Brahmins. In short it is in the interest we show. I strongly believe we can revive Sanskrit because we are more in number than the Jews. Sanskrit is one of the richest languages in the world. There are many more unraveled secrets and mysteries in our literature. An Adi Shankara or a Vivekananda will come again and show us.Like Kanchi Shankaracharya said in Deivathin Kural it is our duty to carry the torch forward. He gave a beautiful story. A blind man carried a torch in the night. People laughed at him and asked why did he carry the torch knowing that he was blind. He told them "It is for you people I am carrying it so that you wouldn't fall on me".

We may be blind, but it is our duty to carry the light (Sanskrit literature) forward for future generations.
One Adi Shankara or Vivekananda is enough to revive it.
''We may be blind, but it is our duty to carry the light (Sanskrit literature) forward for future generations.
One Adi Shankara or Vivekananda is enough to revive it''.[/QUOTE]

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