Studies In Tamil Civilization


As part of the Infinity Foundation (India)’s efforts to promote Indic thought and consciousness from a Dharmic perspective, the third Swadeshi Indology (SI-3) conference was held in IIT Madras from December 22-24, 2017 with the theme “Tamil Nadu –The Land of Dharma” emphasizing the state’s rich and varied contributions to Hindu Dharma, Sanskŗti, Itihāsa, and Paramparā. Padma Bhushan awardee Dr. Nagaswamy (Founder, Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department), inaugurated the conference with an informative talk that drew out the similarities between the Sangam literary works and the Vedic texts. He explicitly showed how the Tirukkural, a famous fifth century work by the poet Tiruvalluvar, is correlated with the Manusmŗti; concluding that the ancient Tamil text was inspired from the Dharmaśāstra of Manu. An enlightening panel discussion about the spiritual traditions of Tamil Nadu followed where speakers representing the Śaiva, Vaişņava, and Jaina traditions spoke about how their respective traditions or schools of thought flourished and coexisted in Tamil Nadu for thousands of years. The parting message and appeal of the conference for the delegates, the attendees, and the people of India on the whole was the need to reaffirm Tamil Nadu as the “Land of Dharma” that remains in mutual harmony with the rest of the country. Though Āgama is (and has remained) the more dominant spiritual and social mode or stream of expressing Dharma in Tamil Nadu, it has also welcomed the various schools of thought belonging to Nigama, the other equally important spiritual social mode or stream of expressing Dharma. Āgama refers to the collection of practices and precepts (ācāra-s and vicāra-s) centered on the institution of pūjā to Śiva, Viṣņu and Devī preserved in the Kāvya and Śāstra types of texts in Tamil (and in Sanskrit). Nigama refers to collection of practices and precepts (ācāra-s and vicāra-s) centered on the institution of yajña initially but subsequently extended to pūjā to Vişņu and other Hindu deities preserved in Kāvya and Śāstra types of texts in Sanskrit (and some in Tamil).

Another objective of SI-3 was to provide critical assessment of the Dravidian nationalist movements in contemporary Tamil Nadu known for their virulent attacks on Hindu Dharma using the caste system and the practice of untouchability as well as their penchant for Hindu-phobia. Participants who spoke on this topic pointed out that a strong anti-Hindu bias obtains in the Tamil and English print and visual media of today. Most young Tamils who enter university journalism departments or the media are already thoroughly ‘secularized’ and ‘westernized.’ The fact that most of them happen to be graduates of the English medium high schools operated by the Christian missions reinforces their anti-tradition and anti-Hindu stance. They are not trained to think and write about cultural, political, religious or social issues from an insider’s (i.e. an emic) perspective. The humanities and social science departments of the universities they typically attend (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi [JNU] for instance) are regrettably politicized where the search for truth is subordinated to left wing ideology. Commonly, graduates of these departments see Indic culture and society through an ideological prism of Marxism-Leninism and secularism that reinforces perceptions of Hindu dharma not on the basis of ‘objective’ observation and fact but on an ideological ground and emotion. There was general consensus at the conference that Dravidian nationalism that is now so rampant in today’s Tamil Nadu owes its roots to the Myth of the Dravidian-Aryan Divide that originated in the Aryan invasion (now described as ‘immigration’) theory which has remained a mainstream doctrine for more than a century.

Conference presentations

In total forty-six papers were presented at SI-3 spreading across twelve sessions under the following themes: the Two spiritual streams of Dharma —  Āgama and Nigama, Embedded Sacredness in Tamil Life; Modern Hinduphobia and Dravidian Movement; Caste, Untouchability and Hinduism; Roadmap for Future – Tamil Identity. The papers were selected after passing through double blind peer reviews,  ten of which have been compiled in this volume. The papers call for a multidimensional approach in order to (1) disaffirm the Myth of Dravidian-Aryan Divide launched by the proponents of the AIT and (2) reaffirm the relation of harmony (samanvaya) that traditionally existed between Tamil Nadu and the rest of India. Toward that objective they take a composite approach that is based on research in Kāvya, Śāstra, and Bhakti texts in Sanskrit and Tamil combined with evidence from linguistics and numismatics. The papers generally follow the traditional debating format: ‘Pūrvapakşa-Uttarapakşa-Siddhānta’ (Arusamaya Pinakkam). Pūrvapakşa (‘the first side;’ ‘Parapakka’ in Tamil) is the technical term for the preliminary position, or prima facie view in a metaphysical or philosophical argument put forth in the form of an objection by the Pūrvapakşin (opponent; real or imagined). The Uttarapakşa (Nirākaram; also known as ‘Svapakka’ in Tamil) refutes the argument put forth by the pūrvapakşin. Siddhānta (‘established end’) is the technical term for the demonstrated and definitive conclusion of the debate.

Method of Samanvaya

In the Indic tradition each Śāstra (science) has its own method (tantrayukti; tandiravutti in Tamil), which is determined by the nature of that Śāstra. The subject matter of Vedānta(Adhyātmaśāstra), for instance,is brahman and the method Vedāntaadopts to establish its own understanding of brahman is called samanvaya meaning ‘coherence and harmony’ (internal and external unity respectively). If a text is meaningful in itself it is coherent. If that meaning is in agreement with other coherent texts, there is harmony. Analysis and interpretation proceed at two levels (anvaya-vyatireka): emphasizing and establishing the non-dual nature of brahman; i.e. what (and why) brahman is (anvaya) and refuting what (and why) brahman is not (dual, phenomenal etc). In an extended sense anvaya refers to the logical explanation of connection between words, ideas, or actions–as to how different words etc relate with each other to convey a significant meaning as between ‘smoke’ and ‘fire.’ It is universally known that “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Traditionally, anvaya is used along with the word vyatireka, which means agreement in absence between two things, such as absence of ‘smoke’ and ‘fire’: “where there is no fire, there is no smoke.” The method (yukti) of samanvaya thus is a method of synthesis and analysis, conjunction and disjunction. Anvaya/vyatireka also constitutes a basic structure of Śankarācārya’s reasoning and method (yukti, tarka, or anumāna in chapter eighteen of his Upadeśasahasrī.

Examination of a given topic of the Śāstra (adhikaraņa) usually proceeds along the following steps: prima facie doubt or objection (Pūrvapakşa), reply (Uttarapakşa), and the conclusion (Siddhānta). The statement of the subject or the issue raised and the doubt or alternatives proposed constitute the context of the discussion (vişayo vişayaścaiva pūrvapakşas tathottaram nirņaya (samgati) śceti pańcāngam śāstre’dhikaraņam smŗtam)(Bhiksu Gaurisankara 1950: 11). Samanvaya, then, may be understood as the Indic equivalent of hermeneutics used to interpret spiritual or philosophical texts (or topics) such as the Upanişad-s. As a method of harmonization, samanvaya first occurs in chapter one of the Brahmasūtra, a text in four chapters wherein the author Bādarāyaņa reconciled and systematized the teachings of the Upanişads identifying a consistent set of doctrines running through them. It was through the instituted methodology of samanvaya that the citizens of India grew up to be moderate, tolerant, and open minded with respect to diverse beliefs and practices. They were socialized to accept that the ability to tolerate each others’ views enriched them and transformed them into a cultured individual (śişţa). It is not that they did not realize what was untrue, but their focus was more on the aspects that were true (see Brahmasūtra 1:1.1-4; tattu samanvayāt).

Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski reasoned that a scientific habit of mind is universal; that all people

[cultures and societies]

operate, or are capable of navigating through the domains of magic, science, and religion. In all societies (including Western civilization) practices dubbed ‘magical’ and ‘mystical’ coexist with rational/empirical processes. He was keenly alert to the double selection by which ‘primitive peoples’ are described entirely in terms of their mystical beliefs ignoring much of their empirical behavior in everyday life, while Europeans are described entirely in terms of scientific rational-logical thought (Tambiah 1990: 92). The method of samanvaya gets away from this trap by maintaining that one can in a particular context operate in a transcendent or mystic mode and then can switch in another context to a practical empirical everyday frame of mind. Most modern scientists, however, are unwilling to make this concession.

I Pūrvapakşa: Imposing Dravidian and Aryan disharmony (duranvaya)

The Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT)

Nicholas Kazanas, Indologist and Director of Omilos Meleton Cultural Institute, Athens, examined the issues concerning the Aryan Invasion Theory and concluded that actual archaeological evidence and the Indo-Aryan documents are against the arrivals of ‘Aryans’ into India at about 1500 BCE as proposed in the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). The linguistic data used as evidence for the AIT can furnish no evidence at all either for the date of this entry or for the entry itself: in fact, they can be, and have been, interpreted quite differently. Recent genetic studies do not suggest any entry of Indo-Aryans in such numbers as would accomplish the full Aryanization of Saptasindhu and the farther North India within the last ten thousand years. Indeed all the data used as evidence by the AIT are wholly conjectural and arbitrary and often consist of misrepresentations and distortions (Kazanas 2006). American archaeologist J. Shaffer had the courage to call the AIT of India “a myth.” The development of this “myth” which had obtained mainstream status in academia is well traced by Edwin Bryant. Having started as a linguistic theory, it later acquired biological undertones involving more or less obvious ethnic/racial prejudices (Bryant 2001, Shaffer 1984; cited in Kazanas 2006). Kazanas explains how, before the Nazi “aryanism” of the 1930’s, the AIT was used by colonial politics as is obvious in the speech of British Prime minister Stanley Baldwin (cousin of Rudyard Kipling) in Parliament in 1929:

           Now after ages … the two branches of the Aryan ancestry have again been brought together by Providence… By establishing British rule in India, God said to the British, ‘I have brought you and the Indians together after a long separation… it is your duty to raise them to your level as quickly as possible… brothers that you are’”! God’s ways were no longer so mysterious (Kazanas 2006).

Myth of Dravidian-Aryan Divide

The Myth of Dravidian-Aryan Divide (hereafter Myth) continues in the West and among Indian academics because vested’ interests and academic posts are still involved and will continue to be involved because the human ego is not educated to let go of claims that are shown to be untrue. E. Leach pointed out (1990), academic posts and reputations are involved. Scholars are people and people tend to be attached to and identified with their ideas, posts and reputations (and incomes). Consequently they persist with their models and paradigms irrespective of other factors. In Indology and Indo-European studies the mainstream orthodoxy, despite the preceding evidence, will not allow the case for ‘Out of India’ theory and a time period when the Ŗgveda was compiled in the 4th millennium BCE to appear in any form in the media it commands. Michael Witzel, for instance, observed: “It is certain that Kazanas, now that he is published in JIES, will be quoted endlessly by Indian fundamentalists and nationalists as ‘a respected scholar published in major peer reviewed journals like JIES’ – no matter how absurd his claims are known to be by specialist readers of those Journals” (2003: 23, §5 end; Kazanas 2006).

Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan on the Myth of Dravidian-Aryan Divide:

Presenters at SI-3 demonstrated keen awareness that disaffirmation of the Myth of the Dravidian-Aryan Divide and correct comprehension of the AIT (its driving motor) by the people of India is critical in the fight against the ‘breaking India’ forces so forcefully argued and meticulously documented by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan (M&N) in their masterpiece monograph Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines (BI; 2011). Starting from an analysis and discussion of the European Race theories, the Aryan invention, Imperial evangelism, and the “caste” construction, M&N focus on Dravidian and Dalit identity separatism that is being fostered by the Christian West in India the name of human rights. The first half of BI documents how Aryan theory was fabricated in the workshops of European evangelists and Indologists and how deeply it has affected the Indian mindset; how social principle of the division of labor (varņa) was transformed into a nasty nexus of “the caste system.” From the “Myth of Ham” European and British evangelicals justified their claim that labor of all Native Americans, Africans, and Indians may be freely used because they all are sons of Ham. In the second half of the book M&N discuss the digestion of Hindu dharma into Dravidian Christianity and the more recent phenomena of the Afro-Dalits. The thesis of BI may be summarized as follows:   

I Distorting categories of ‘Aryan,’ ‘Dravidian,’ and Tamil

Presentations at SI-3 began with the Pūrvapakşa by insisting that the very idea of there being a distinct and separate linguistic, cultural, and ethnic Dravidian identity took root only after the AIT gained a firm foothold in India. The Brahmins subsequently began to be projected as a foreign ‘Aryan’ race who purportedly arrived south in Tamil Nadu and introduced a religion which now goes by the name ‘Hinduism.’

              … the Vedas belonged to the foreign Aryans, who were pure, while the modern Hindus were degenerate bastard off-springs of these White Aryans mating with the inferior Dravidian natives. However, the Dravidians were now being given their own glorious past with their origins in Lemuria (Malhotra and Neelakandan 2011: 82).

The Dravidianists now began to propose that Brahmins, Sanskrit and Vedānta were evil forces that needed to be eradicated to re-purify Tamil Society (Malhotra and Neelakandan 2011:97). In the early 20th century, an anti-Brahmin political organization called the Justice Party was started, which in 1944 was renamed ‘Draviḍar Kaļagam’ (a social organization) under the leadership of ‘Periyar’ E. V. Ramasamy. Since then, the various Dravidian Parties (including the Draviḍa Munnetra Kaļagam = DMK; the political offshoot of the Draviḍar Kaļagam) have held Tamil Nadu in their ideological sway for over half a century. The distorted and contorted manner in which the equation Aryan=Brahmin=Hindu is posited continues to feed the divisive politics at all levels in Tamil Nadu. Proponents of the AIT decisively split Indian languages into two global language ‘families: the Aryan (later redubbed Indo-European) family pertaining to North India, and the newly certified Dravidian family, with Tamil as its fount, pertaining to India South of the Vindhya mountains. The conflation of linguistic ‘family separation’ with ‘racial’ separation was actively pursued without mentioning it formally. Strenuous efforts were (and still are) made in mainstream scholarship to show that the so-called indigenous Dravidians occupied the whole of the subcontinent and beyond – as far as the Middle East.

II Sowing disharmony (duranvaya) between ‘Dravidians’ and ‘Aryans’

           Bishop Caldwell proposed that the Dravidians were in India before the Aryans, but got cheated by the Brahmins, who were the cunning agents of the Aryans. He argued that the simple-minded Dravidians were kept in shackles by Aryans through the exploitation of religion. Thus, the Dravidians needed to be liberated by Europeans like him. He proposed the complete removal of Sanskrit words from Tamil” (Malhotra and Neelakandan 2011: 62).

Caldwell thus divided Indians linguistically and religiously and established the theological foundation for Dravidian separatism from the pan-Indian Dharma. The word ‘Draviḍa’ came into popular use to denote the people of non-Brahmin class belonging to the Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu regions of South India was in 1912 with the formation of the ‘DraviḍaAssociation.’ It adopted the name ‘Draviḍa’ from an earlier group that called itself –Dravida Jana Sabha. This was an important tipping point in the history of Dravidian nationalist movement, which began to declare itself as the custodian of ‘Dravida’ interests. Later,  DMK inherited its policies from the Draviḍa Kaļagam, which came into being when caste divide in the society had reached its zenith. The era of Indian independence coincided with this context and many leaders emerged who gave vent of this oppressive climate. One of them was E. V. Ramasamy Naicker (1879-1973; EVR). Due to his early experiences in life of caste divisions and separation, he was against the Brahmin class and the importance given to this section of society in social, religious and political context. He also propagated the self-respect movement in 1925 which demanded equality for all classes in the society and encouraged backward classes to command self-respect in a caste-based hierarchical society. EVR shaped the Dravidian social movement’s focus of recognizing the Brahmins as the real threat rather than the British who ruled India then. He called his fellow men to establish equality with Brahmins before they sought equality with foreigners.

Under M. Karunanidhi (1924–2018), DMK executed what EVR had envisaged–wiping out the collective memory of the Brahmin community in Tamil Nadu which was accomplished by institutionalizing the theory of Dravidian-Aryan Divide. Over time, however, M. Karunanidhi and DMK realized that their atheist beliefs were not popular with the majority in Tamil Nadu. The majority of the society found succor in following their beliefs in traditions and customs of religion. Recognizing the trend, they tried to rebrand DMK as the flag bearer of caste equality and decided to associate DMK with Rāmānuja, the patron saint of Brahmin community seen by all as a saintly person who strived for everyone’s spiritual liberation beyond all differences in castes, gender, etc. 

III Constructing a de-Indianized Christian ‘Dravidian’ identity

Chapter six of BI elucidates ongoing de-Indianization of the Tamil tradition, culture, and society that began with Bishop Robert Caldwell (1814-1891), an evangelist for the society for the propagation of the gospel, who actually came up with the idea of a ‘Tamilian’ Dravidian race. Another missionary Indologist George U. Pope (1820-1908) played a lead role in claiming Tamil classical literature to be un-Indian, un-Hindu linking it to Christianity. A Conspiracy theory was propagated to stress the cunning Aryans and Brahmins exploiting innocent Dravidians. Initially, it was Christian missionaries – operating mainly in and around the southern coastline of India between Madras & Cochin that sold to the local populace, the narrative of a Christian Dravidian identity. A case in point would be the mapping of the epitome of Tamil-Hindu classic text Tirukkural onto Christianity. Today, Dravidian politics and the Dravidian Christianity movement continue to be the primary proponents of the debunked Aryan Invasion theory. For example, there have been attempts to delink Tamils from Hinduism ever since the British colonial era.

           “The missionaries’ strategy was two-pronged: First, they intensely studied the devotional Tamil literature and praised it in glowing terms to Tamil scholars. Second, they projected the Tamil culture as being very different and totally independent from the rest of India. Their work provided the ideological underpinnings of later Tamil racist politics. Missionary scholarship stimulated a new local ethnic identity, which was instructed to reject its Hindu nature. It became strategic to show that Tamil religion had strong underpinnings, on par with ‘civilized’ religions, and that ‘civilized’ meant monotheistic. These positive features were isolated and claimed to be indigenous to the Tamils, and shown to be in opposition to the ‘foreign’ traits that were attributed to the Aryans” (Malhotra, Neelakandan 2011: 65).

IV Digesting dharma into Christianized Dravidian identity

Chapters eight and nine of BI elucidate how Hindu dharma is being digested into ‘Dravidian’ Christianity using the Myth of St Thomas. Evangelism is harnessed in the cause of the Dravidian Movement and to Christianize elements of Hindu popular culture such as the Bharatanāṭyam. The proponents of the Myth initially recruited the colonial administrative officials who also doubled as Orientalists to come up with a compelling “Dravidian Proof.” Subsequently, European and American academic networks were recruited to perpetuate the Myth (BI Fig 10.1). These networks quickly established control over social discourse and gaze using philology, anthropology, and exegesis to proclaim existence of a distinct Tamil linguistics and to separate Aryan and Dravidian grammars. Yale University, for instance, sponsored the Dravidian etymological dictionary; while at Harvard University, Dravidian antiquity and Aryan borrowing from the Tamil classical literature was promoted. It was also projected as ‘secular’ and ‘un-Indian. Elsewhere at American universities, art and cultural studies of South India are pushed and in courses on anthropology of caste  (jāti-s) are equated with varņa positing the caste system as uniquely a Hindu problem; absolving other Indian religions and social systems and cultures of other countries of this problem. A seminar on ‘Dravidian Religion to eradicate casteism was held in 2000 and in 2001 India was declared the ‘Mother of International Racism.’ At a conference in New York, Hinduism was‘re-imagined’ to be St Thomas Dravidian Christianity and Dravidian Christianity became an international movement. 2007 saw Second International Conference on the History of Early Christianity in India and in 2008 First International Conference on the Religion of Tamils was held. The salient features of the breaking India forces addressed in BI are provided schematically in the Appendix: Fig. 6.1 Constructing [false] Dravidian identity; Fig. 6.2 De-Indianizing and Christianizing Āgama (Tamil spiritual traditions); Fig. 8.1 Digesting Dharma into Dravidian Christianity; Fig. 11.1 Western institutional control over social discourse in India; Fig. 11.2 Western gaze on India: secular and biblical; Fig. 11.3 Western academic manipulation of Dravidian identity.   

Divide, Digest, and Demonize

M&N argue that appeasing the Dalits (or the Christians for that matter) in India as minorities by conferring upon them special rights and privileges in order to promote social peace or harmony is really paving the way for India’s disintegration. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (who heads the Art of Living Foundation in India with branches all over the world) supports M & N on this point. In an article published in The Times of India (November 5, 2005; Pune edition), he criticized the actions of Dalit leaders like Kancha Ilaiah who took the issue of discrimination against the Dalits and deprivation of their human rights in India to the United States Congress. In the name of Dalit upliftment, Shankar argued, they were pursuing an ideological agenda and damaging the image of the country. “If they were really interested in the betterment of the Dalits, they should work in the villages in India instead of going to the US Congress,” argued Shankar. Kancha Ilaiah and company would do well to learn a thing or two from the [accursed] Yankees: national pride. There are three million homeless beggars in America, a little over one percent of the population. Yet, the American media generally does not publicize this fact abroad and, on the whole, American blacks have not asked the United Nations or any another country to interfere in the internal matters of the United States on their behalf (Ravi Shankar 2005).

François Gautier, a French journalist now based in India, notes that although most of intellectual elite of Tamil Nadu is born Hindu, the great majority of them are Hindu haters that are ashamed to identify themselves as Hindu. Their reports always come out sprinkled with the same clichés to slam Hindu dharma and Hindutva: the Saffron Brigade, the Hindu fundamentalists, fanatics, fascists, or communalists (Gautier 2002). Courier International, a prestigious French magazine, which is read by diplomats and politicians, published a special issue on ‘Hindu fundamentalism’ with a cover photo of the RSS members doing their drill holding a wooden staff. The ignorant Westerner who read it, goes on Gautier to say, must have had the impression that India indeed is in the grip of fascist, Nazi-like Hindu groups where civil liberties are curtailed. When the editor-in-chief of that magazine was contacted, he pointed out that all the pieces had been translated from articles written in the Indian Press by Indian journalists. “If I did not know India,” wrote Gautier in one of his other writings, “I would tend also to believe what I read about India in the Western press: a nation torn by caste discrimination, and Hindu extremism. But after living more than thirty years in this country, my experience is totally different: Hindus are probably the most tolerant people in the world” (Gautier 2002)

II Uttarapakşa: Affirming DraviaĀrya harmony (samanvaya)

Cut the funk: take guard on the Kurukşetra

The presentation of the Pūrvapakşa using insights from BI illustrates the sinister nature of the threats posed to Indic civilization. The elaborate machinations of expansionist Western civilization are ever present albeit in a different avatāra. They continue to operate using the mechanisms provided by “modernity”—such as the academia, capitalism, and their likes. It is up to intellectuals and thought leaders to understand the true nature of the systems, processes operating around us and understand their motives and mechanisms. The nature of the Kurukşetra is that the ‘breaking India’ forces originating from the Myth of Dravidian-Aryan Divide have to be confronted simultaneously on all fronts. Another important point to note is that not one of the ideologies behind the Myth was or is developed indigenously (i.e. Swadeshi); they are all Videshi.

M&N do not mince words when they explain how Western interventions utilize and deepen Dravidian and Dalit fault lines for their plans to break India apart. They spell out in detail how a great deal of separatism in contemporary India is rooted in the Aryan invasion/migration (AIT/AMT) theory. The modern South Indian political identity and vote banking has been driven on such assumptions. The Church has appropriated these fragments and is trying to unify them under the roof of Christianity by fabricating the history of Tamils and others in a pro-Christian manner. Thus this is not only an academic issue; it also has become a political issue (see Rajiv Malhotra’s e-mail interview with ‘Sandeep’ published on May 25, 2011

The guiding message that M&N bring to Hindus in India therefore is: “Cut the funk; take guard on the Kuruksetra.” So what is funk? An anecdote may be relevant here: A gentleman goes to a book store in Pune owned and operated by a Muslim. As he is browsing, the owner asks him “Are you Muslim?” “Ye….s,” replies the gentleman sheepishly,” and a Christian, and a Buddhist and a J…” “stop, stop” interjects the exasperated owner. “I know who you really are; you are a Hindu!” “Yes, I’m” came the confession eventually. Professor Dad Prithipaul (born of Hindu parents in Fiji), a retired professor of Hinduism from University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, has called this form of Hindu hiding (or denial) of self identity ‘funk’ (from Flemish fonck = terror, panic, fear). The educated Hindu of today (writes Prithipaul) has to overcome an inner resistance when the occasion requires him to say: “I am a Hindu” as a noun or “I am Hindu” as an adjective. He is afraid to say it or to own it. The funk which inhabits his consciousness is evident when he hastens to qualify his Hinduness with a ‘but’ when he sets forth the damper: “I am a Hindu, but I am a universalist/Indian first.” In the West it would be rare to hear someone proclaiming “I am Christian, but I am a Canadian, or a Frenchman, or an American first” (see Prithipaul 2005).

Refuting the Myth of Dravidian-Aryan Divide

Presentations at SI-3 conference in Chennai marshaled impressive evidence by way of Uttarapakşa to disprove the distorted versions of the categories of Aryan, Dravidian, and Tamil outlined in their presentations of the Pūrvapakşa. Attention was drawn to the fact that the AIT has not found scientific traction based on archeological, genetic or literary hard data. There is no physical evidence of an invasion followed by mass annihilation and/or exodus. Secondly, there is no evidence to show any form of genetically distinct identities, viz., Dravidian and Aryan, in the subcontinent. India’s population mix has been stable with no evidence of Central Asian gene influx for the past ten thousand years. Finally, there is no literary reference to any invasion and subjugation either by the (supposed) invader or by the invaded peoples. Next, there is no reference to the areas of the subcontinent from which the Aryans are accused of having pushed away the Dravidians. On the other hand, the word ‘Aryan’ and several of its variants are seen in the Tamil Sangam literature (dated to have begun in the 3rd century BCE) over several centuries but none of the multiple usages has any racial/cultural implication. This is in stark contrast to the common references to the Bauddhas and the Samanas (Jainas) as distinct (sometimes hostile) Dharmic communities in these works as well as in inscriptions. An occurrence of such magnitude as the Aryan Invasion – which is purported to have turned topsy-turvy the social and political equations – is mentioned in none of the earliest Tamil works which is concrete proof that it never occurred in the first place. Furthermore, there is no reference to any such invasion in any of the literary or oral traditions of the outsiders while referring to the Aryans and the Dravidians.

Ancient Tamil society was categorized into four traditions followed by people: Arasar ( also Āndār), Antanar,  Vaigar and Vellālar, which correspond to Kşatriya, Brāhmaņa, Vaiśya and Śūdra respectively. Tolkappiar describes Antanar as the one with the thread, the kamaņalu, the tridaņa and the wooden seat. An identical description of Antanar is found in Ettutogai. Similarly, descriptions of each of the other three traditions and their lifestyles are also described in detail by Tolkappiar.Interestingly, the Tamil word ‘varuṇanai’ (meaning ‘to describe’), is akin to the Sanskrit word ‘varņa’ which means ‘to ‘sort out.’ ‘Vaņņathar’ (which could also mean ‘coloring people;’ i.e. dyers of cloth, in its more common usage) is clearly depicted as ‘people of specific qualities’ in the Sangam Literature.From the above, it seems obvious that the varņa system existed in Tamil Nadu from very early times and was well-established when Tolkappiar alluded to it and that the social structure was akin to the non-Tamil societies of the sub-continent. There was no racial or ethnic association with any of the varņa-s. All of them were perceived and treated as part of the society. There is no association of skin colour to classify the varņa-s, as is interpreted by the proponents of the Aryan Invasion and Southward Expansion Theory. The Dravidianists’ restriction to only two kinds of people–the Aryans who are Brahmins and the Dravidians who are not Brahmins does not account for the other two varņa-s of the society (Joshi and Harshavardhana 2017).

Dravia, Ārya, and Tamil 

In his Tathyadarśana, Sediyapu Krishna Bhat (1997) discussed the Dravidian-Aryan issue at length from the viewpoint of linguistics. Analyzing the meaning of the word dravia, Sediyapu refuted the claims made about ‘Dravidians’ by Robert Caldwell. Before the nineteenth century, i.e. before Western scholars misrepresented it, the word dravia only meant the Tamil language. Its etymological derivation can be explained in the following way: dru (nāmapada) + ila (taddhita-pratyaya) = dravila. As per the famous rule ‘alayorabheda,’ dravila becomes dravia. The nāmapada dru’ means a tree. The taddhita-pratyaya ila’ literally means ‘filled with’ – for example, phenila = phena (foam) + ila, means, ‘filled with foam.’ Hence, the meaning of dravila is, ‘filled with forests trees’—i.e. a land filled with forests—Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats and Nilgiris—which corresponds to South India and specifically Tamil Nadu. In those days, Kerala was not an independent state; it was a part of Tamil Nadu as the Cera province. Therefore, all the three mountain ranges were housed in Tamil Nadu. This is supported by kuriñji-tiai in Tolkāppiyam, known for its mountain slopes occupied by dense forests. Draviḍa thus suggests a wider term which includes (but is not exclusive to) the Tamils. Presently, however, the Dravidian ideologies are popular more in Tamil Nadu than elsewhere in the southern regions of India (see Krishna Bhat cited in Ganesh and Shashi Kiran 2017).

Kannada scholar S. Srikant Sastri has noted that the word ‘Draviḍa’ is absent in Sangam literature; nor is it seen in any of its variants–‘dravidar,’ ‘draviḍai,’ or ‘draviḍam.’ ‘Draviḍa’ itself is not of Tamil origin and Tamil grammar does not provide for two of the sounds in the word: First, no word begins with a sonant and so cannot begin with ‘d.’ Second, no word begins with a half-syllable.9 The word Draviḍa therefore must have originated outside of Tamil, most likely Prakrit or Sanskrit, in order to refer to the people in the Southern parts of the subcontinent. The very first use of the word ‘Draviḍa’ in Tamil to refer to the Tamil language is made by the great yogi Tāyumānavar, in the 18th century. The variants of the word ‘Tamila’ (Tamilian) such as ‘Damila’, ‘Dramila’, ‘Tamira’ and so on have been used by others to refer to the Tamils )(S. Srikant Sastri in Ganesh and Shashi Kiran 2017).

Analyzing the etymological meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘ārya,’ Sastri explained that it is derived from the root “ – karae,” which means, ‘to plough,’ ‘to cultivate.’ He posited that Aryans were originally an agricultural people and not a primitive marauding warrior-folk in the pastoral stage of civilization. Sastri affirmed that the theory of autochthonous origin of the Aryans in India cannot be dismissed as an expression of Hindu chauvinism, as it is the only theory consistent with available evidence. Drawing from the vast Vedic lore, he showed how the Aryan homeland is primarily Brahmāvarta (Eastern Punjab) and Brahmarṣideśa (Ganga-Yamuna doab). These were the centers from which Vedic speech and culture migrated to the west, east, and the south in the early Paleolithic period. In this regard, he pointed at the fact that the gveda knows only of the land of the sapta-sindhu and the most sacred place is Brahmāvarta bound by Dṛśadvatī and Sarasvatī (Ŗgveda. 3.23.4)(see S. Srikant Sastri in Ganesh and Shashi Kiran 2017).

The word ‘āriyan’ and its variants, ‘āriyam,’ ‘āriya,’ and ‘āriyar’ are seen in Tamil literature right from the most ancient Sangam literature.In the other Sangam literary works, including Aganānūru and Puranānūru, the word ‘āriyan’ has been used in various contextual meanings including ‘northern king,’ ‘those living in the Himalayas,’ ‘rishis from the snowy mountains (Krishna Bhat in Ganesh and Shashi Kiran 2017). In such usages, the word denotes one who was from a part of the subcontinent which was not native to the Tamils, and nothing therein indicates anything racial either explicitly or implicitly. Jha notes that the sound systems of Indian languages across families show remarkable similarity in terms of vowel and consonant systems, syllable structure and the sandhi formation. There are many features shared between the dominant families of India.” He therefore does not rule out the possibility of “a common origin for so-called Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages (Jha 2013: 35).

(Dr. Shrinivas Tilak, Editor).