We possess in ancient Tamil a large body of poetry which antedates for all intents and purposes the incursion of Sanskrit culture into Tamilnad. This poetry, found in the eight anthologies and the Pattuppāṭṭu, dates from the first and second centuries A.D. The culture which produced it was a continuation of the megalithic culture which dominated the Deccan for the millenium before Christ. The special importance of early Tamil poetry for cultural history is that it describes this civilization, which according to the Allchins was characterized by a very conservative and unchanging culture, before it was appreciably influenced by Sanskritic culture from the North. Thus a study of early Tamil reveals elements which were contributed to India by this culture and which were later assimilated by the rest of India. Other sources for this culture—the Sattasaī in Māhārāṣṭrī, for example—show the influence of Sanskrit culture, so that it is not possible to determine from them which elements belonged originally to the Deccan culture and which to the culture of the North.

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