The Purananuru is one of the eight books in the secular anthology of Sangam literature. The secular anthology is entirely unique in Indian literature, which are nearly all religious texts during this era. The Purananuru contains 400 poems of varying lengths in the akaval meter. More than 150 poets wrote the poems. It is not known when or who collected these poems into these anthologies.
The Purananuru is a source of information on the political and social history of prehistoric Tamil Nadu. There is information on the various rulers who ruled the Tamil country before and during the Sangam era.
Among the eight Sangam anthologies, Purananuru and Pathitrupathu are concerned with life outside family - kings, wars, greatness, generosity, ethics and philosophy. While Pathitrupathu is limited to the glory of Chera kings in 108 verses, Purananuru contains an assortment of themes in three hundred ninety seven poems. Of the original 400 poems, two have been lost, and some poems miss several lines.
There are 400 poems in Purananuru including the invocation poem. Poems 267 and 268 are lost and some of the poems exist only in fragment. Of the poets who wrote these poems, there are men and women, kings and paupers. The oldest book of annotations found so far has annotations and commentary on the first 266 poems. The commentator Nachinarkiniyaar, of the eleventh – twelfth century Tamil Nadu, has written a complete commentatry on all the poems.
A majority of poems are