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Sangam literature
Akattiyam Tholkāppiyam
Eighteen Greater Texts
Eight Anthologies
Aiṅkurunūṟu Akanāṉūṟu
Puṟanāṉūṟu Kalittokai
Kuṟuntokai Natṟiṇai
Paripāṭal Patiṟṟuppattu
Ten Idylls
Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai Kuṟiñcippāṭṭu
Malaipaṭukaṭām Maturaikkāñci
Mullaippāṭṭu Neṭunalvāṭai
Paṭṭiṉappālai Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai
Poruṇarāṟṟuppaṭai Ciṟupāṇāṟṟuppaṭai
Related topics
Sangam Sangam landscape
Tamil history from Sangam literature Ancient Tamil music
Eighteen Lesser Texts
Nālaṭiyār Nāṉmaṇikkaṭikai
Iṉṉā Nāṟpatu Iṉiyavai Nāṟpatu
Kār Nāṟpatu Kaḷavaḻi Nāṟpatu
Aintiṇai Aimpatu Tiṉaimoḻi Aimpatu
Aintinai Eḻupatu Tiṉaimalai Nūṟṟu Aimpatu
Tirukkuṛaḷ Tirikaṭukam
Ācārakkōvai Paḻamoḻi Nāṉūṟu
Ciṟupañcamūlam Mutumoḻikkānci
Elāti Kainnilai

Agattiyam (Tamil: அகத்தியம்), also spelled as Akattiyam,[1] according to Tamil tradition, was the earliest book on Tamil grammar. It is a non-extant text, traditionally believed to have been compiled and taught in the First Sangam, by Agathiar (Agastya) to twelve students.[2][3][4]

Sage Agattiyar (Agastya), in medieval commentaries of Tamil Hindu scholars, is variously credited with either creating the Tamil language or learning it from the god Siva.[4] In contrast, according to medieval era Tamil Buddhist scholars, the sage learned Tamil from Avalokita. These legends are mentioned in Akitti Jataka and in Tamil Buddhist epics.[4] There is no mention of the sage, or Agattiyam text, in Tolkappiyam or the bardic poetry of the Sangam literature.[4]

Tolkappiyar (epithet), the author of Tolkappiyam, which is the oldest extant Tamil grammar, is believed by various traditions to be one of the twelve disciples of Agattiyar. Tolkappiyar is believed to have lived during the Second Sangam and to be the author of the Tolkappiyam that has survived.[5][4]

The context of the Agattiyam is in the sangam legend. Sangam literally means "gathering, meeting, fraternity, academy". According to David Shulman – a scholar of Tamil language and literature, the Tamil tradition believes that the Sangam literature arose in distant antiquity over three periods, each stretching over many millennia.[1] The first has roots in the Hindu deity Shiva, his son Murugan, Kubera as well as 545 sages including the famed Rigvedic poet Agastya. The first academy, states the legend, extended over 4 millennia and was located far to the south of modern city of Madurai, a location later "swallowed up by the sea", states Shulman.[1][6] The second academy, also chaired by a very long-lived Agastya, was near the eastern seaside Kapāṭapuram and lasted three millennia. This was swallowed by floods. From the second Sangam, states the legend, the Akattiyam and the Tolkāppiyam survived and guided the third Sangam scholars.[7][6][8] Agastya convened this session and wrote Agattiyam. Agastya is one of the seven revered rishi of the Vedic literature, mentioned in the Rigveda.[1]

Surviving versesEdit

A few verses from Agattiyam have been quoted in medieval commentaries.[1] However, the authenticity of these verses is uncertain.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e David Shulman (2016). Tamil. Harvard University Press. pp. 25–28. ISBN 978-0-674-05992-4.
  2. ^ Weiss, Richard S. (19 February 2009). Recipes for Immortality: Healing, Religion, and Community in South India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199715008.
  3. ^ K A Nilakanta Sastri (1966). A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar. Oxford University Press. pp. 76–77.
  4. ^ a b c d e Zvelebil, Kamil (1975). Tamil Literature, Handbook of Oriental Studies. BRILL. pp. 61–63 with footnotes. ISBN 9004041907.
  5. ^ Garg, Gaṅgā Rām (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. Concept Publishing Company. ISBN 9788170223740.
  6. ^ a b Daniélou, Alain (11 February 2003). A Brief History of India. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781594777943.
  7. ^ David Shulman (2016). Tamil. Harvard University Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-0-674-97465-4.
  8. ^ Weiss, Richard S. (19 February 2009). Recipes for Immortality: Healing, Religion, and Community in South India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199715008.
  9. ^ N. Subrahmanian, ed. (1997). Tamil social history. Institute of Asian Studies.