Five Epics of Tamil Literature: the Treasures from the Sangam Age


The Sangam Age of Tamil Literature produced five great Tamil epics, namely Silappatikaram, Manimegalai, Civaka Cintamani, Kundalakesi and Valayapathi.

The Sangam Age of Tamil Literature



Tamil literature has a literary tradition more than two thousand years old. Chronologically divide in some periods or ages, the history of Tamil literature first began to take shape around 600 B.C. which is approximately marked as the beginning of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature. The age has derived its name from a myth that on a now vanished continent south of India, three successive Sangams or poetic assemblies too place, from where the entire bulk of the Tamil literature of the Sangam Age has originated.

With a long duration of as much as 800 years (600 B.C. to 200 C.E.), the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature has produced literary gems like the ancient grammars Tolkappiyam and Agattiyam, the Ten Idylls or Pattuppattu, Ettuttokoi or Eight Anthologies, and moreover, five great epics.


The Five Epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature



The Five Tamil Epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature, or Aimperumkappiyam, are precious gems of the Tamil literature of the Sangam Age. The first mention of the Aimperumkappiyam or the Five Tamil Epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature occurred in Mayilainathar's commentary of Nannul, a grammar work by Pavananthi Munivar around the 13th century. Nevertheless, there is no separate mention of the particular names of those five Tamil epics in Mayilainathar's text.

The particular names of the Five Tamil Epics or Aimperumkappiyam of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature are first mentioned in Thiruthanikaiula, a work of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. These are:

1. Silappatikaram
2. Manimegalai
3. Civaka Cintamani
4. Kundalakesi
5. Valayapathi


Silapattikaram: Tamil Epic of the Sangam Age



The first of the five Tamil epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature is Silappatikaram. Silappatikaram was a non-religious text of the 1st century CE. The writer of Silappatikaram was Ilango Adigal.


Manimegalai: Tamil Epic of the Sangam Age



The second of the five Tamil epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature is Manimegalai. Manimegalai was a Jain religious text composed in around 1st or 2nd century CE. The writer of Manimegalai was Seethalai Sathanar.


Civaka Cintamani: Tamil Epic of the Sangam Age



The third of the five Tamil epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature is Civaka Cintamani . Civaka Cintamani was a Jain religious text but its date of composition cannot be ascertained. The writer of Civaka Cintamani was Tirutakkatevar.


Kundalakesi: Tamil Epic of the Sangam Age



The fourth of the five Tamil epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature is Kundalakesi. Kundalakesi was a Buddhist religious text composed in around 5th century CE. The writer of Kundalakesi was Nagakuthanar or Nagasena.


Valayapathi: Tamil Epic of the Sangam Age



The fifth and last of the five Tamil epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature is . Valayapathiwas a Jain religious text of 9th century CE. The writer of Valayapathi was some anonymous Jain asectic.


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