(shepherds) and of Murugan by the kuruvar (hunters) being the most striking
instances of this. A temple of Sarasvati is mentioned in the Manimegalai
which also alludes to the Kapalikas, as an austere class of Saiva ascetics.
Belief in reincarnation, the effects of karma in successive births and the
power of fate was the basis of all religion in India and this was generally
accepted in the Tamil country also. There was much faith in omens and
astrology. A woman with dishevelled hair was a bad omen. There were
fortunetellers who plied a busy trade. Children were provided with amulets
for warding off evil; and rites were practised which were supposed to avert
the mischiefs of demons (pey), to bring about rain, and produce other desired
results. The banyan tree was considered to be the abode of gods, while
eclipses were held to be the result of snakes eating up the sun and moon.
Crows were believed to announce the arrival of guests, particularly the return
of the absent husband to his lonely wife.
Position of Women
With the growing Aryan influence, the position of women suffered.
Remarriage of widows was generally not favoured. The lot of widows was a
hard one; they had to cut off their hair, discard all ornaments, and eat only the
plainest food. No wonder that some wives preferred to die with their
husbands and earn fame as satis. The tonsure of widows, like the tying of the
tali at the marriage ceremony was obviously a pre-Aryan Tamil custom taken
over and perpetuated into later times.
The Tolkappiyam, said to have been modelled on the Sanskrit grammar of
the Aindra school, states definitely that marriage as a sacrament attended with
ritual was established in the Tamil country by the Aryans. The earliest
Dharmasastras mention eight forms of marriage. These eight forms are
mentioned in the Tolkappiyam and other works, and much ingenuity is spent
in appropriating them into Tamil forms. The Tamils had also names for
unilateral love (kaikkilai) and improper love (pertilldinai).
Poetry, music and dancing were quite popular among the Sangam people.
The poets were men and women drawn from all classes of society; and were