Which one of the following statement about Sangam literature in ancient South India is correct?
[UPSC Civil Services Exam – Prelims 2022]
(a) Sangam poems are devoid of any reference to material culture.
(b) The social classification of Varna was known to Sangam poets.
(c) Sangam poems have no reference to warrior ethic.
(d) Sangam literature refers to magical forces as irrational.
- Sangam Poems: Sangam poems include incidental references to various aspects of material culture. These references include farming (mention of rice and barley), cattle rearing, fishing, and even iron. For example, Kuruntokai 16 mentions iron-tipped arrows, and Akananuru 72 compares a bear’s actions to a blacksmith forging iron. Therefore, statement 1 is incorrect.
- Social Classification: Sangam poets were aware of the social classification based on varna. They mention different groups such as Arashar (kings), Vaishiyar (traders), and Velalar (farmers). Brahmanas are also mentioned, often associated with royal courts and patronized by ruling elites. However, the four-fold varna classification had little relevance in ancient Tamil society, and the jati system was not prevalent. Hence, statement 2 is correct.
- Sangam Poems and Warrior Ethic: Sangam poems are characterized by a strong warrior ethic. The section called “Puram” in Sangam literature consists of war poems that depict the external aspects of people’s lives. These poems celebrate the heroic feats of warriors, including their deaths in battles. Therefore, statement 3 is incorrect.
- Ananku in Sangam Literature: Sangam literature reflects a belief in sacred or magical forces known as ananku, which were believed to inhabit various objects. Groups like pariyans, tutiyans, panas, and velans were responsible for performing rituals and rites to control these forces. They were associated with activities like ritualistic singing, dancing, trances, lighting cremation fires, and worshipping memorial stones. Hence, statement 4 is incorrect.
Therefore, option (b) is the correct answer.