Tamil literature is literature in the Tamil language which most prominently includes the contributions of the historic Tamil country or Tamizhagam, a large part of which constitutes the modern state of Tamil Nadu in India. Because of the antiquity of the Tamil language, Tamil literature has a rich tradition spanning more than 2000 years and is particularly famous for its poetic tradition as well as for its epics, philosophical works and secular flavour.
The works of the Sangam period, known as Sangam literature, at the turn of the first millennium are the most ancient and considered very important. The word Sangam refers to an academy. Tolkappiyam, Akananaru and Purananaru are important works from this period.
In the post-Sangam period, there were many notable works. Silapadhigaaram by Ilangovadigal tells the tale of Kannagi, Kovalan and Maadhavi. Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar consists of 1330 couplets which discuss about various aspects of life and is widely known even today. Aathichoodi, a collection of single-line sayings was written by Auvaiyaar, a young poetess who became prematurely old according to folklore. The first word in each saying is based on alphabetical order. Kambaramayanam was a version of the Ramayana by the poet Kamban. Periya puranaam was written in the Bhakti tradition relating to Shaivism. Manimegalai, Seevaga sindhamani, Valayaapathi, Kundalakesi are other important works.
In the modern period, the works of poet Subramanya Bharathy, (better known as Bharathiar) who was also a great freedom fighter, are particularly stimulating in their progressive themes- emancipation of women, freedom, etc.,
As far as modern fiction is concerned, Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram was the first novel in Tamil.
In the early twentieth century, Kalki is one of the most renowned and respected writers. Sivagamiyin Sabhadham and Ponnien Selvan constitute some of his greatest works, both based on historical themes.
Some famous contemporary writers include Jayakanthan and Thi. Janakiraman.