Agattiyam: First Tamil Grammar from the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature


Agattiyam is the first and foremost grammar of Tamil. Agattiyam is a Tamil grammar written in the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature.

Agattiyam: A Sangam Age Tamil Grammar



The heritage and tradition the Tamil language possesses is more than two thousand five hundred years old. The first recognized period of the Tamil literature has been distinguished as the Sangam Age of Tamil literature. This Sangam Age produced many masterpieces of which we can name the Eight Anthologies, the Ten Idylls, the five epics and the two grammar works Tolakappiyam and Agattiyam. Agattiyam [In Sanskrit, Agastiyam] is possibly composed by the mythical hermit Agastya.



Agattiyam: The Legendary Tamil Grammar



According to Hindu mythologies, Agastya the hermit came to Deccan from the Northern India, never to return. Here, he composed the first Tamil grammar, Agattiyam. The original text of Agattiyam cannot be found. In fact we only have the references to Agattiyam with respect to Agattiyam in different other texts. The original text of Agattiyam is said to have been lost beyond recovery.

According to the Hindu legends, Agastya the hermit was the creator of the Tamil language. Agastya brought it from Lord Shiva. Historically, we can say that Agastya was a hermit cum linguist from the northern parts of India who, as he came to the Deccan, brought with him a huge impact of the Sanskrit language on the extant Dravidian people and their languages. Gradually, the then extant Dravidian languages became substrate and Sanskrit became superstrate; what resulted from this cross cultural communication is what we can call the first stage of the modern Tamil language. It was possibly the first phase of Tamil's linguistic borrowings that began with Agastya. Incorporating Sanskrit into the existing Dravidian languages, Agastya formed a new language, Tamil, and created its grammar, called Agattiyam.

Since the text of Agattiyam has not been found, Tolakappiyam is considered the oldest extant Tamil grammar. The writer of Tolakappiyam was Tolakappiyar, who was supposedly a disciple of Agastya, the author of Agattiyam. Agastya was also supposedly took part in the mythical Sangams from where the name Sangam Age of Tamil Liteature has derived. Agattiyam was composed and read out in those Sangams. It is said that twelve of Agastya's students, including Tolakappiyar, the author of Tolakappiyam, had helped Agastya composing Agattiyam.


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