The Pandyas were perhaps the oldest among the Sangam Tamil ruling dynasties. In legend and early literature we hear of a Pandyan king called Vadimbalambaninra Pandyan.
He is equated with one Ugrakumara Pandya by the Puranas. He was also called Nediyon. He held a festival for the sea God. It is said that he ruled from Ten Madurai which was lost in the course of erosion by the sea. He was one of the most reputed and remembered among proto-historic kings of the Pandyan dynasty.
A commentary on the Tolkappiyam mentions this king as Makirthi. He seems to have been known also as Nilan Taru Tiruvil Pandyan. Among such early Pandyas we hear of one Kaisinavaludi who is said to have founded the first Tamil Academy and one Kadunkon who was the last to patronise that academy. In a similar context with reference to the second academy we hear of Venter Seliyan and Mudattirumaran. Among the Pandyas who ruled from Madurai on the Vaigai one of the earliest was Palyagasalai Mudukudumi Peruvaludi who is described as a great conquering hero, a patron of poets and a performer of many Vedic sacrifices.
Following him there is mention of a Pandyan Madivanan, one Porkai Pandyan and a Kadalul Mainda Ilam Peruvaludi. The last of these rulers was a poet whose beautiful verses are included in the Purananuru. Among the Pandyan rulers of the Sangam age the most reputed in epic and history was Aryappadai Kadanda Nedum Seliyan. He was the Pandyan ruler, according to the Silappadikaram, who executed Kovalan the hero of that epic. He had a younger brother by name Verriver Seliyan who was ruling in Korkai and who succeeded to the Madurai throne also after his brother.
He instituted a festival in honour of Kannagi, the Lady of Chastity. He was a contemporary of Senguttuvan. He died while inspecting a portrait gallery and so was called Chittiramadattu Tunjiya Nanamaran. Nanmaran was a title he had assumed after he became king of Madurai. Of all the Pandyan rulers of the Sangam age historically the most important, however, was Talaiyalangaattu Nedum Seliyan. He came to the throne when he was very young. He set out to defeat a confederacy of enemies including the Chera Mandaran Cheral Irumporai, a Chola and five chieftains. In this battle he was completely victorious and the Chera was taken captive.
As a result of this victory he annexed to his kingdom Milalaikkurram of Vel Evvi and Mutturrukkurram of the ancient Velirs. This battle was fought at Talaiyalanganam in the north-eastern part of the Pandyan land and it became an oft-referred-to event in Sangam history. The Sinnamanur and the Velvikkudi plates of later times refer to it. Mangudi Marudan, a poet patronised by him, wrote the Maduraikkanchi in which the poet describes the city of Madurai and gives advice to the king to give up martial activity and become peace-loving. In the days of the great Karikala Madurai was ruled by one Karungai Olval Perumpeyar Valudi.
Among the minor Pandyan rulers of whom connected accounts are not available may be mentioned, Nalvaludi who was a poet, Maran Valudi who conquered the Punnadu and another Maran Valudi who died at Kudakaram. The former commissioned the anthology of Aham verses called the Narrinai. A Nanmaran who died at Ilavandikaipalli, Kuruvaludi, a Peruvaludi who died at Valliambalam and one Nambi Nedum Seliyan were some of the minor Pandyan rulers of whom we know nothing but their names.
There was one Bhuta Pandyan who conquered Ollaiyur and who was a considerable poet. His queen Perungoppendu was also a poetess; she committed suicide by entering the flames when Bhuta Pandyan passed away. The beautiful little poem composed by her on that occasion exhibits the natural frame of mind of a defiant but devoted wife who could not be deflected from her will.
The last great Pandyan king of the Sangam age was Kanapperkadanda Ugrapperuvaludi. He was poet and a patron. We do not know for certain if he was the son of Talaliyalanganattu Nedum Seliyan. He defeated Vengali Marban; the ruler of Kanap Eyil (a forest fortress) now called Kalaiyar Kovil. He was a contemporary of the great Perunarkilli who performed the imperial sacrifice.
Ugrapperuvaludi commissioned anthology Ahananuru which was made by Rudrasarman. The commentary of the Iraiyi Ahapporul says that he was the last Pandyan patron of the third Sangam and this is way confirmed by the absence of any information about later Pandyan patrons of Sangam.
Among the feudatories of the Pandyas the greatest was Pari who ruled over the Par; and is reckoned by tradition as the greatest among patrons of those times exceeding munificence even the crowned monarchs. There were seven great patrons of the Sang< age, viz., Pehan, Ay, Kari, Ori, Adigan, Nalli and Pari. Of these, the last enumerated was first in esteem and importance.
His patronage of Kapilar, the great poet, is proverbial, three crowned monarchs became jealous of Pari and invaded his Parambu but unable to take it by storm, called him to conference and treacherously killed him.
There were a number of local chieftains who played a minor role in the history of the I Sangam Tamils. The Muttaraiyar, the Aruvalar, the Oliyar, the Tiraiyar, the Kalvar, the| Paradavar and the Kongar as well as the Kosar and the Ayar functioned as the powers of that age.