[Compiled by: Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]
The early inhabitants of the south India-Dravidians were by no means vegetarians.Over 2000 years old Sangam poem,Akananuru 107,lines,5-10 clearly mentioned that,Tamils during the sangam period had ate meat without any restrictions as:"where a big [huge] tiger killed a stag [a male deer], ate to its full, and left the flesh to dry on a wide granite boulder, making those who go on the path happy, seeds of flourishing bamboo are cooked with curds from the villages of cattle herders, and melted fatty flesh is eaten on wide leaves of teak ".Further In Purananuru 386,The poet narrates that,"We do not feel perspiration by toiling.We feel perspiration while we eat hot meat and drink hot milk. He (my king) serves us the meat boiled in ghee.When dish has been finished he fills the cup with hot milk. By eating these we feel perspiration." and particularly lines such as:"He gave us to eat, fried meat dripping with ghee as when drops of rain shower down on a pond brimming with water," & "and meat roasted on skewers.",clearly indicate that in those early
days,Tamils know cook (food) in hot fat or oil, typically in a shallow well as fastening meat on a long pointed piece of metal or wood and roasting over an open fire.All of these again confirmed by Porunaratruppadai,lines,102-105"knowing the time to eat, he urged me to eat cooked, thick thigh meat of sheep that were fed arukam grass twisted to ropes,and fatty, big pieces of meat roasted on iron rods." and Akananuru 169,lines,"loud bandits take the leftover flesh, threading it on sticks,of a large bull elephant killed and abandoned by a tiger after it ate its full,then salt it and roast in small fires started with kindling wood, and eat it with the rice cooked with sweet water from the springs."Rice was the staple and they ate it with the meats of rams,deer,fowl,iguana,fish,crabs and pigs cooked with ghee and spices. Mangoes,jackfruit,sugarcane and honey provided the sweet component to their meals.Though rice is now called "chaatam"[cooked rice-mainly in south
India],During the Sangam period and in 
general,It is called as "choru"[boiled rice].Pattinappalai,lines 44-45.said that:"Thick water, drained from choru[cooked or boilled rice] poured on streets,runs like rivers,creating slush and mud".Their foods also included edible roots, buffalo curd preserved in bamboo pipes,Sweet cakes resembling honey combs,pasties made of coconut and sugar and pickled fruits. Also Perumpanatruppadai,lines,309-10,speaks about Mango pickles as:"You will also receive fragrant vadu mango pickles from tender green mangoes from tall trees."Toddy was in abundant supply and was consumed by all classes of people.“Slumbers are no different from the dead; nor alcoholics from consumers of poison” (Kural 926) said Thiruvalluvar,But when we look at Sangam poems There are scores of references to indicate that alcoholic beverages played an important part in the daily lives of ancient Tamils,both men and women.The renowned poetess Avvaiyar of the Sangam period
has sung [Purananuru -235]: "When he had only a little toddy, he would give it to us, but
now no longer; when he had ample toddy he would give it to us and then happily drink what was left to him as we sang.But now no longer"[as a supplement to meals] &.A poem from Akananuru (336) also mentions young women consuming toddy and dancing near a village tank beneath the shade of a kanchi tree as:"...women  come to fetch water with their pretty pots,who drink clear liquor  talking about their men,who keep the company of concubines, as they perform kuravai dances under a kanji tree(Trewia nudiflora)....".

In the Sangam poems land is classified into five geographical areas and the food related to each area has some variations depends on the life style of the particular people & food available there.The herdsmen of mullai (forest tracks) region enjoyed maize, beans, thinai rice (millet), and milk, yogurt, and ghee made from buffalo milk. Farmers of the marutham (farm land) region cultivated rice, sugarcane, mango, jackfruit and plantains for food.They were familiar with irrigation methods and used water stored in reservoirs in their fields.They ate their white rice and rice gruel with roasted flesh of fowl.Fishermen of the neithal (coastal) region ate fish and drank a potage of rice and warm toddy kept in wide mouthed jars.In the kurunchi (mountainous) region they ate millet, flesh of rams, honey, and drank rice toddy. They also cultivated fruits and vegetables and gathered honey. In the Palai (dry land) region hunters lived on red rice and animals they hunted. 



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