Chera country was noted for its jack-fruit, pepper and turmeric. In the
Chola country a veli of land yielded around thousand kalams of paddy. Many
rural activities like the cultivation of ragi and sugar-cane, the making of sugar
from the cane, and the harvesting and drying of grain are described in the
Sangam poems in a vivid and realistic manner.
Weaving, shipbuilding, metal working, carpentry, rope-making, ornament-
making, making of ivory products, tanning, etc., were widely practised. The
large demand, both internal and external, for these manufactured goods gave
these professions a further boost.
Spinning and weaving of cotton, and perhaps also of silk, had attained a
high degree of perfection. Spinning was then, as always, the part-time
occupation of women. The weaving of complex patterns on cloth and silk is
often mentioned in literature and according to the Periplus, Uraiyur was a
great centre of cotton trade. The poems mention cotton cloth as thin as the
slough of the snake or a cloud of steam, so finely woven that the eye could
not follow the course of the thread. Scissors and needles were known and
employed in cutting hair and in dressmaking; a kind of hair pomade
(tagaram) is also mentioned.
The making of rope charpoys by pulaiyans and the use of animal skins as
mats for lying on deserve to be noted. The Pattinappalai gives a vivid
account of the life of the fisherfolk of Puhar, the paradavar, including some
of their holiday amusements.
Trade and Commerce
Trade, both inland and foreign, was well organized and briskly carried on
throughout the period; Tamil poems, classical authors and archaeological
finds in south India all speak with one voice on this subject.
Internal trade was brisk, caravans of merchants with carts and pack-
animals carried their merchan- dise from place to place and from fair to fair.
Salt was an important commodity of trade and salt merchants moved with
their families in carts provided with spare axles against contingencies. Barter
played a large part in all transactions. Honey and roots, for example, were
exchanged for fishoil and toddy, and sugarcane and aval (rice-flakes) for