Wednesday, September 22, 2004

History of Thamizh

By Vasanthan.B

6000 years (or more) before. Yes 6000 years past from 2004 ! Humans then lived, should have lived, we all know that ! These humans still live, but what along ?

Can U ever imagine one thing that existed 6000 years before, that still lives along with the humans ? Can it be, wood ? stones ? metals ! Even the mightiest of mountains were torn to pieces of stones in 6000 years. Many species were extinct and many other species evolved. The humans themselves changed their form. Several times.

But yes, to every one’s surprise, to every one’s disbelief there exists, something, except for the mother earth itself, that still exists amongst us. What could it be ?

It is a gift that history has left with us. Yes, it certainly should be called a gift.

Its an heritage, an legacy, philosophy, a way of life that has stood the test of time for 6000 years, that is still followed, and still spoken! Yes still spoken, by not just few, but 60 million people on this same earth !

The Times of India
18 – 09 – 2004

Tamil on Friday became the country’s first ‘classical language’ a category created by the union cabinet to satisfy the aspirations of heritage and legacy of the people.

18 – 09 – 2004 is a big day, its indeed a huge day for the Dravidians. ‘Thamizh’(Tamil) which is not just a language but, whole of culture, heritage, philosophy, life style for the dravidians was declared classical.

Thamizh thus becomes India’s one and only language to be called classical language. But for a language that has stood the test of time for more than times immemorial, this declaration is natural. And this declaration has made the 60 million Thamizh speakers world wide proud.

How come a language that is more than 6000 years old still exist on earth and how still 60 million speak it world over ? How did it resist the test of time ? Thamizh is one amongst those most implausible, antiquated idea or concept that history left to us, left amongst us till this 21st century. At this joyous moment where yet another feather has been added to Thamizh, come lets explore how it was simply possible for history to defy extinction ? and still emerge successful ? Come lets explore the History of Thamizh.

Thamizh is the Dravidian language with the most ancient literary tradition in India, dating from the early centuries of the Common Era or before. It was one of the earliest languages learned by Europeans and is the first Indian language to appear in print. Because of its ancient literature and its spread both in ancient and recent times into southeast Asia, Thamizh is important as a historical language in the area between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, and is studied by non-Thamizhs to a degree that is out of proportion to the size of its population of speakers.

Thamizh occupies a distinctive position among the Dravidian languages owing to its geographical expansion, for it has spread beyond the frontiers of India. Apart from being the language of forty million people in Tamil Nadu it is the spoken and written language of several millions of Tamils living in Sri Lanka, Burma, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Fiji Islands and Mauritius. Thamizh is still an official language of governance in Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia. Coins and Currencies of Sri Lanka and Singapore holds Thamizh.

History holds so many facts and proof that the whole of India spoke Thamizh thousands of years before. But even in South India it did not remain as one single language for a long time. Dialectical differences arose due to the political and geographical division of the Thamizh country into three distinct Thamizh kingdoms. As a result the Dravidian language spoken by the people who lived in the regions north and south of the Tirupati mountains, varied to such an extent as to become two independent languages, Thamizh and Tulunattut-Thamizh which later turned out to be Telugu.

At one time the languages spoken in the regions of Mysore, Tirupati and Malabar were respectively known as Karunaattut-Thamizh, Tulunattut-Thamizh and Malainattut-Thamizh. Today however, these regional languages are classified under the blanket term "Dravidian family of languages".

Karunaattut-Thamizh later turned out to be Kannada, the language spoken in the region of Mysore. And Malainattut-Thamizh ( Thamizh of the mountain land ) later turned to be Malayalam that emerged as yet another distinct language in Kerala.

However the term Dravidian, which refers to the language of South India, is of a later origin. Originally it was derived from the word Thamizh. This word in course of time changed into dravida after undergoing a series of changes like tamiza, tramiza, tramiTa, trapida and travida. And for this fact, all dravids are essentially Thamizhs.

Thamizh was the language of bureaucracy, of literati and of culture for several centuries in Kerala. In fact, fifteen centuries ago the rulers of Kerala were all Thamizhs. Up to the tenth century the Pandya kings ruled Kerala with royal titles such as 'Perumaankal’. It was a Thamizh poet from Trivandrum who in fact presided over the academy of Thamizh scholars, when they met to evaluate the famous Thamizh grammatical work Tolkappiyam. The author of the famous Thamizh epic Chilappatikaram was a poet from Kerala. Many scholars and pundits from Kerala contributed much to the Thamizh language and literature and the historical evidence shows that the region now known as the State of Kerala was once an integral part of Tamil Nadu at some period of time. Because of these reasons there is greater affinity between Thamizh and Malayalam than between Thamizh and Kannada or Telugu.

That the Thamizhs were well advanced in sea-borne and inland trade is evident both from Thamizh literary sources as also from the accounts of foreign travellers. Even as early as the tenth century B.C., articles of trade such as peacock feathers, elephant tusks and spices intended for King Solomon were sent in ships belonging to the Thamizh country. Some words in Hebrew, Greek and English point to the existence of trade between Tamil Nadu and the countries around the Mediterranean region.

Sea-borne trade flourished between the Thamizh country and the Roman Empire during the period of Emperor Augustus. This fact is borne out by numerous coins issued during his reign, which were unearthed by archaeologists in Tamil Nadu. Iron age finds in Philippines also point to the existence of trade between Tamil Nadu and the Philippine Islands during the ninth and tenth centuries B.C. This apart, Thamizh traders frequented the shores of Burma, Malaya and China with their wares and bartered them for Chinese silk and sugar.

The business acumen of the Thamizhs is shown in the special terms used by them to refer even to the minutest fractions in calculation. To cite some examples, the term immi referred to the fraction of 1/320 x 1/7. And one-seventh of this fraction was termed as anu. One-eleventh of an anu was known as mummi and one ninth of a mummi was termed kunam.

The few other languages that still exists from the ages of Thamizh are Greek, Latin and Hebrew. Greek and Thamizh have complimented each other, with lot of Greek words having a Thamizh origin and a lot Thamizh words having a Greek origin. For example, although English words like 'sandalwood' and 'rice' are borrowed from the Greek language, their origin is in fact Thamizh (Sandhanam and arici). Likewise the Greek words for ginger (Inji) and pepper (Milagu) also owe their origin to Thamizh.

Thamizh existed in India amongst the Dravidians several thousands of years before. Sanskrit was a language that was brought by Aryans those who entered India through the Kyber and bholan passes. Sanskrit is as such, much younger language than Thamizh. Thousands of words were borrowed from Thamizh into Sanskrit. Few examples are neer (water) and meen (fish). The linguistic research work done by the two greatest English linguists Caldwell and Burrow proves this fact that, Sanskrit has borrowed words heavily from Thamizh.

Sanskrit scholars attempted to Sanskritise Thamizh several centuries ago by the liberal use of Sanskrit words. They argued that such a liberal mixture enhanced the beauty of the Thamizh language and compared the hybrid language to an ornament made out of equal number of pearls and corals. Some of the Jain and Vaisnava Sanskrit scholars employed that style, however, it failed because of the naturally rich vocabulary and literary wealth of the Thamizh language.

Sanskrit scholars, however, refused to acknowledge the real merit of Thamizh literary works. The most funny aspect in here is almost 75 % percent of the Sanskrit scholars those who ever lived in India and contributed to Sanskrit are born in the Tamil country, spoke the Thamizh language, and lived as Tamilians. Some example that can be quoted here are, Dandin the author of the Kavyadarga in Sanskrit, was a scholar from Kanchipuram in the Tamil Nadu. Sankara the exponent of Advaita philosophy, was again a Tamilian. He mentioned in his works Saint Njanasampantar, the crusader against Jainism in South India. Raamanujar, the originator of Visishtaadvaita philosophy was a Tamilian and he lived every close to Kanchipuram. Scholars, who analysed the life-style and arts of the people of the Tamil country, wrote many works on the Bharata Naatyasastra, the Carnatic music and on astrology.

But these Tamilians turned Sanskrit Scholars, instead of appreciating Thamizh, worked for the growth of Sanskrit, for reasons which may not be appropriate to be mentioned here. They called Thamizh as the language of the mortals and Sanskrit as the language of Gods. But history has punished them rightly for all that they have did, Sanskrit is no more spoken anywhere in the world now.

Though the efforts to Sanskritise Tamil no longer exist, the repercussions of those earlier efforts are still felt in society. One effect, of course, was the virulent opposition to the use of Sanskrit words in Tamil, and this opposition has not subsided even today. This could be one reason why Tamilians still refuse to accept North Indian Languages.
Vaazhga Thamizh !!!


Blogger jp said...

dear vasant,

your article is very good.

i feel it would be much better if u remove the comment about rahul dravid. my opinion is, he is a negligible person and it is not appropritate to talk about him ( nethu maliyila mulaitha kaalaan ) when we talk about 6000 yrs old our language.

2:31 PM  
Blogger crsathish said...

good article vasanthan

3:50 PM  
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8:13 PM  
Blogger Suresh Kumar said...

அருமை தோழரே!...

மிக அழகான கட்டுரை.

மிக்க நன்றி...

ந.சுரேஷ் குமார்.

1:51 AM  
Blogger Cprogrammer said...

Good article but flawed on the 'Aryan Invasion' theory. The theory is flawed.

You might want to learn about Mehrgarh Civilization - The precursor to the Sumer and the Indus valley civilization.

The discovery of Mehrgarh changes quite a lot of misconceptions about history of India.

8:07 PM  
Blogger hima said...

A small correction. Tulu-nattu tamizh emerged as TULU and not as Telugu.So get ur facts right.. If you wanna see the lineage go and visit the wikipedia. That gives you a lineage of all the dravidian languages. Tulu,tamizh,malayalam and kannada are part of southern dravido group whereas telugu is part of central basically there is a huge difference.

3:36 PM  

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