Like Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in ancient India, there were famous towns in ancient Tamilagam. They are Madurai, Kanchi, and Poompuhar etc.
The traces of ancient Tamil society can be found from Tamil literature, accounts of foreign travelers and archaeological pieces of evidence, etc.
Poompuhar is one of the oldest towns in ancient Tamilagam or Tamil country. The famous characters of Silapathikaram such as Kovalan and Kannagi lived in Poompuhar.
Poompuhar was also a port situated at the Bay of Bengal. Even in earlier times, the countries began to trade commodities by sea.
Poompuhar was a coastal town near the present-day Mayiladurai and located near river Cauvery where it drains into the sea.
Poompuhar Port or Kaveripoompattinam History
Poompuhar is also referred to as Puhar or Kaveripoompattinam. It served as the port to the early Chola Kingdom.
Puhar is referred to in popular Sangam literature such as Pattinappaalai, Silappathikaram, and Manimegalai, referring to the city Puhar as brisk seaborne trade in this port city.
Numerous merchants from foreign countries such as Greece, Rome, etc visited Poompuhar. Many of them stayed in Poompuhar indefinitely. There are several pieces of evidence of foreign settlement in the town.
The Foreign people started to interact with local people and this enabled the natives to learn a foreign language and vice versa for communication. This made the exchange of languages and ideas resulting in cultural blending.
The traders of Poompuhar are known for their honesty and integrity. They sold goods and commodities at legitimate prices.
Poompuhar had been built differently from other towns. Each social group had a separate settlement. The streets of Poompuhar were broad and straight, dotted with well-designed houses and there was also a dockyard.
Puhar was a busy port until 200 CE. It might have been destroyed by sea or tsunami. The city remains still present in Poompuhar town.
Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India.
Its antiquity can be understood from the sobriquet “Sangam Valartha Nagaram”. It is the name it has earned.
Madurai was ruled several rulers like Pandyas, Cholas and later by Kalabras.
During medieval, later Cholas and later Pandyas ruled Madurai.
Then Nayaks ruled Madurai.
This resulted in cultural blending.
The archaeological excavation done in Keezhadi near Madurai shows the evidence of trade flourished in Madurai.
Madurai is associated with Sangam which worked on the promotion of the Tamil Language. Forty-nine poets were associated with the last Sangam.
Ahil, Fragrant wood was brought from Port Thondi to Madurai. King Solomon of ancient Israel imported pearls from Uvari near the Pandyan port, Korkai.
A mint of Roman coins was present at Madurai. Other country’s coins are also minted at Madurai which is great proof of the glory of Madurai.
Megasthanes, a Greek Historian accounted for the glory and fame of ancient Madurai. Madurai was also mentioned in Arthasastra written by Chanakya, Chandragupta’s minister.
It is accounted that the moat around town, tunnels were constructed very big that even the elephants could comfortably enter.
Madurai had Naalangadi and Allangadi. Naalangadi means Day Market and Allangadi means evening market.
Madurai was also referred to as Thoonga Nagaram, which means the city near sleep. Madurai was a very safe city, where women do shopping from Allangadi without any fear.
Many schools were established in great numbers for the first time in Kancheepuram. Jains studied in Jainapalli and Buddhists studied in Viharas.
Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang studied at Nalanda university visited Kanchi ‘Kadigai’ to pursue his further studies.
Poet Kalidasa says, “Kanchi is the best of towns”. Tamil Poet saint Thirunavukarasar praises Kanchi as “Kalviyil Karaiillatha Kanchi”.
Hieun Tsang remarked that Kanchi can be counted as one among the seven sacred places like Budh Gaya and Sanchi. Kanchi is an older town in Thondai Nadu.
Scholars like Dharamabalar, Jothibalar, Sumathi, and Bodhi Dharma were born in Kanchi.
Kanchi was also known as a temple town. Kailasanathar temple at Kanchi was built by Pallava King Rajasimha. In the Pallava period, a number of cave temples were built.
The Buddhist monk Manimekalai spent the last part of her life at Kanchi. Water management is important for agrarian society.
Hundreds of lakes were created for storing water around the Kanchi. These lakes were connected by canals. Later, Kanchi came to be known as the district of lakes.
The glory of ancient Tamilagam can be known from Kallanai in Chola country and lakes, canals in Kanchi.
There are other important towns in ancient Tamil country such as Korkai, Vanchi, Thondi, Uraiyur, Musiri, Karuvur, Mamallapuram, Thanjai, Thagadoor, and Kaayal, etc.
Related Archaeological Discoveries
CONTEMPORARY CULTURE IN SOUTH INDIA AND TAMIL NADU
The early Vedic culture in northern India coincided with Chalcolithic cultures that existed in other parts of the sub-continent.
Since people used copper (Chalco) and stone (lithic), it was called the Chalcolithic period. Chalcolithic culture of India was contemporary to the mature phase of Harappan culture, they continued even after the decline of the Harappan.
The later Vedic Culture in north India and the Iron Age in South India belong to the same period. Towards the end of the Iron Age, people stepped into Megalithic Culture (600 BC to 100 AD).
The megalithic Period in ancient Tamilakam synchronized with the Pre-Sangam Period. The Black and Red Ware Pottery became the Characteristic of the Megalithic period.
MEGALITHIC / IRON AGE IN TAMILNADU
Some of the Megalithic/Iron Age Archaeological sites in Tamil Nadu
Artifacts Unearthed were Urns, Pottery of Various Kinds (redware, Black Ware), iron implements, daggers, swords, spears, and arrows.
Stone Beads and gold ornaments, Bronze objects representing domestic animals, and wild animals like tigers, antelope, and elephants have been unearthed.
The people were skillful in making pottery and in working stone and wood.
Keezhadi – Sivagangai District
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) excavated an ancient town Keezhadi Village at Tirupathur Taluk that dates to the Sangam Age.
Excavations have produced evidence for Brick buildings and drainage systems. Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions on pottery, beads of glass, carnelian and quartz, pearl gold ornaments and iron objects, shell bangles, ivory dice have been unearthed.
In 2017 ASI sent two samples for Radio Carbon dating to Beta Analytic, Florida USA. As the result, was these samples dated as 200 BCE.
The roman artifacts found at the site add to the evidence of ancient Indo-Roman trade relations.
Periplus mentions the steel imported to Rome from Peninsular India was subjected to duty in the port of Alexandria.
Porunthal – Dindigul District
Grave goods, glass beads in red, white, yellow, blue, and green. Iron swords, pottery with Tamil Brahmi scripts, pots filled with rice, semi-precious metals such as quartz, carnelian, bangles made of glass, and shell.
The discovery of iron sickle, pike, and the tip of plows provide evidence of the cultivation of rice in ancient Tamilakam. A pot of rice from the Porunthal site proves that rice was the people’s staple food.
Paiyampalli – Vellore District
Iron artifacts along with Megalithic Black and Red Ware Pottery were found. Evidence for iron smelting at Paiyampalli.
The date of this culture was found to be 1000 BC.
Kodumanal – Erode District
It is identified with the Kodumanam of Pathitrupathu. More than 300 pottery inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi have been found. The archaeologist has also discovered spindles, whorls (used for making threads from cotton).
Also pieces of cloth, along with tools, weapons, ornaments, beads, particularly carnelian. A Menhir found at the Burial site is assigned to the Megalithic period.
Megalithic Monuments in Tamil Nadu
The people who lived during the last stages of the New Stone Age began to follow the Megalithic system of burial.
According to this system, the dead body was placed in a big pot along with burial goods. The Megalithic monuments bear witness to a highly advanced state of civilization with the knowledge of iron and community living.
Dolmens are Megalithic tombs made of two or more upright stones with a single stone lying across the burial site.
Megalithic Dolmens have been found in Veeraraghavapuram village, Kanchipuram district, Kummalamaruthupatti, Dindigul district, and in Narasingampatti, Madurai district.
In Breton Language ‘Men’ means “stone” and ‘hir’, “long.” They are monolithic pillars planted vertically into the ground in memory of the dead.
Menhir at Singaripalayam in Tirupur District and at Vembur in Theni District points to the existence of an ancient settlement along the banks of River Uppar.
Menhirs are found at Narasingampatti, Madurai district, Kumarikalpalayam and Kodumanal in Erode district.
A Hero Stone is a memorial stone raised in remembrance of the honorable death of a hero in a battle or those who lost their lives while defending their village from animals or enemies.
Hero stones are found at Maanur village near Palani, Dindigul district, Vellalankottai, Tuticorin district, and Pulimankombai, Dindigul district.