Did TOLKAPPIYAR copy from Sanskrit Books?

(Read First part: Who was Tolkappiar?. Following is the Second Part: swami)

Prof. Vaipapuri Pillai has given the following matter in Tamil in his book ‘Tamil Sudar Manikal’. So I am not giving it in Tamil in my Tamil article.

Following is an excerpt from “ History of Tamil language and Literature” by Prof. S. Vaiyapuri Pillai:

“ The Tolkappiam is directly indebted to Panini is quite clear.

For instance Panini II, 3,18 is followed in Tolkappiam II, 557:

Panini VII,3,107 is Tamilised in Tolkappiam II, 761. In a relatively late work, a sloka has been altered in Tolkappiam II, 575 in consonance with Tamil literary usage. Even from Paniniya Siksha rendered by Tolkappiar (Tolkappiam I, 83), Patanjali’s Mahabhashya is also laid under contribution. For instance, Patanjali classified compounds (samasas) into four kinds according to the place where their sense becomes full and significant, viz., Purva padartha  pradhanah, Uttara padartha pradhanah ,Anya Padartha pradhanah and Ubhaya Padartha pradhanah. This classification was adopted by Tolkappiyar and the terms are literally translated in his grammar (II,4/9)

He also indicates by adding “enba” that this matter has been taken from some ancient authority. Manu has been studied and utilised by Tolkappiar in regard to certain social prescriptions (compare Manu III, 46, 47 and Tolkappiam III, 185).This will give Tolkappiar a date posterior to 200 AD

Kautilya’s Arthashastra has also furnished material to Tolkappiam( e.g. enumeration of 32 uktis at the end of both the works) But as Kautilya’s date is a disputed point, we may leave this out of account.

Lastly Tolkappiar is very much indebted to Bharata Natya Sastra and Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra. I need only to mention the eight rasas (Natya VI 15) and eigth meipadu (Tolkappiam III, 3) and the dasavasthas (Kama V 1= Tolkappiam III, 97). This gives us a date perhaps later than fourth century AD. Considering all the earliest Tolkappiar may be assigned is the fifth century AD.

The famous Sangha of Vajranandhi was established in 470 AD and perhaps Tolkappiam was its first literary output. This accords well with the fact that its author uses (III,133) the word ‘orai’ (Sanskrit Hora) which is a Greek word borrowed in Sanskrit astrological works about third or fourth century AD.

Date of Tolkappiar

The date of Tolkappiyar has been a disputed point. But, there are very strong grounds for holding that he flourished during the second half of the 5th century A.D.

Tolkappiyar’s grammar consists of three ‘adhikaras’ or sections.The first section deals with phonology and accidence in nine subsections or Iyals; the second section, with syntax in nine iyals; and the third with poetical themes, rhetoric (rasa, figures of speech), prosody, and usages in nine iyals.

In the subsection on phonology, it may be noted with interest that the letter forms of the consonants, in particular of ‘m’ and of short ‘e’ and ‘o’ are given in nun-marapu (13-17) in the same sub section, we find an important piece of original investigation. The structure of words has been studied and the sequence of sounds noted with care (sutras 23-30). This is a feature which has not been found elsewhere in the whole range of Indian grammatical literature, not excluding Paniniyam. The peculiarity of the Tamil language in which the short ‘u’ plays such an important part is also adequately treated.

The next section, i.e. on syntax continues with the treatment of accidence or morphology in the earlier subsections. As Tamil is an agglutinative language, we see the necessity of treating of treating its morphology in extensor. Parts of speech are next dealt with; we find four parts of speech viz. peyar(noun), vinai(verb), idai (particles, increments, augments etc.) and uri (indeclinables, adjuncts etc). These correspond to the four parts of speech, in Sanskrit, viz. nama, akhyaya, upasarga and nipata. The last subsection on uri mainly consists of lexical matter.

Tolkappiar had liberal views regarding the vocabulary of Tamil language. He says that the poetic or literary vocabulary consists of common native words, artificial of affected words consisting of homonyms and synonyms, provincial and local words and Sanskrit words (echchaviyal, 1).


Besides making this general observation, he provides us a cardinal principle for our guidance. He tells us that, , if in course of time new words get in to currency, they should not, on the score of their newness, be treated as unacceptable (echchaviyal 56).

Sanskrit Words

So far as Sanskrit words are concerned, he uses several of them in his grammar. He defines Sanskrit technical terms, e.g.suttiram, patalam, pindam (seyyul 161) ambotarangam (seyyul 145, Kandigai (marapu 98). He formulates rules regarding Sanskrit words, e.g. Bharani etc.(uyir Mayangiyal 145), chittirai phalakai (pullimayangiyal 79), tamarai (Sanskrit. Tamarasa (pullimayangiyal 98). He translates Sanskrit terms, e.g. Tam verrumai= Sanskrit Vibhakti; avaiyalmoli=asabhya; nul=sutra.

Also he translated Sanskrit sutras (eg. Pirappiyal 1= Panini siksha 12; meypattiyal 3= Bharata Natya Sastra, VI-15). He refers to classifications mentioned in Sanskrit works such as the eight kinds of marriage (Kalviyal 1), ten kinds of poetic defects (marapiyal 95, 105) and 32 kinds of uktis ( marapiyal 95, 107).

In addition to the above Sanskrit elements, he uses several Prakrit words also e.g. paiyul (uri 45), kamam (uri59), pannatti (Seyyuliyal 173), padimai (ahattinai 30) etc.,  he adopts Prakrit sutras  e.g the 21st and 22nd sutras of molimarapu corresponds to two  sutras of Prakrita –prakasam (I:36, 42)

The third section, that is, on poetic themes etc., deserves careful examination. Some sub sections, the first five, are believed to throw much light on the social customs of the ancient Tamils.the subsections one, three, four and five treat of love themes and the second sub section, of non-love themes, technically known as ‘aham’ and ‘puram’ respectively.

Taking ‘aham’ first some general considerations relating thereto are first mentioned in the first iyal (ahaattinai iyal). There are seven love aspects of ‘tinais’, including five regional tinais. The first, known as ‘kaikilai’, is the one sided love of a man for an immature girl. The last, known as ‘perundinai’ is the unequal love leading to excesses. The five regional ‘tinais’ deal with mutual love reciprocated in equal degree, between a youth and a maid well matched in every respect. These are called regional because the Tamil land is divided into five regions- mountainous (kurinji), forest or pastoral (mullai), agricultural (marudam), maritime (neydal) and desert (palai)- to each of which a particular love act is ascribed. This reciprocated love is divided into two kinds, pre marital love and marital love; the former being called ‘kalavu’ and the latter ‘karpu’.

Kalavu, Tolkappiyar takes care to add, corresponds to the Ghandarva union of the Aryan system of marriages, made famous by the union of Dushyanta and Sakuntala. The third subsection deals with Kalvu and the fourth with karpu. The fifth subsection, poruliyal and sixteen sutras (177-192) of seyyuliyal treat of some miscellaneous matters relating to love. The second subsection deals with non-love themes (puratinai) whose sub divisions have been noticed already.

Even the rough outline is sufficient to show the utterly artificial or at best conventional character of the treatment. Tolkappiyar himself recognises the distinction between the art and reality in a sutra (ahattinai 56). The former he calls ‘nataka valakku’ and the latter ‘ulagiyal valakku’, corresponding to natya dharma and loka dharma of Bharata Natya Sastra (Ch. XIV, 69-73). Hence one must be careful when trying to find out any substratum of reality beneath the artificialities mentioned above. To deduce the existence of free love in ancient Tamilakam on the evidence of these artificialities is to follow the will-o-the-wisp. The ‘tinais’ may have had some meaning and function in pre Tolkappiyam days; but they never had any influence on the development of Tamil literature. Today as it has been for many centuries past, they have no meaning except for the antiquarian.

But we may absolve Tolkappiyar of all responsibility for originating these ‘tinais’. Even in the opening sutra of the third section, he refers to previous authors collectively. As Tolkappiyar was a Jain, perhaps we owe to Jain authors, these infelicitous classifications. At any rate, the conception of the meaning of the lovers in a grove, all alone, their mutual love of equal intensity and their immediate union so characteristic of the pre marital love of regional tinais (kalavu) corresponds to the Jain conception of enjoyment in Bhoga Bhumi.


The famous commentator on Tirukkural defines kalavu as the sanctionless union of two lovers who remain changeless being free from disease, old-age and death, who are well matched in beauty, wealth, age, family, character, love etc., and who meet each other induced by fate, all alone with no one in their vicinity. The commentator has developed the idea of bhoga bhumi and made the utterly conventional character quite obvious. But Tolkappiyar, be it said, keeps the extra mundane aspect entirely in the background and is more in accordance with the spirit of the love lyrics of the Sangam age. He is mainly concerned with the several situations when the various characters in the stray love scenes are entitle to speak. It is only the later grammarians that have tried to piece together a connected love drama and made it schematic and thoroughly conventional”.

Please read the third part TOLKAPPIYAN WAS A GENIUS. Contact swami_48@yahoo.com


Leave a comment


  1. The Biggest point you had missed in your enthusiasm to firmly establish a fantasy that Tolkappiyam is inferior to sanskrit is that -had tolkappiyar copied Panini work ashtadhyayi or from the aindram school of thought Tamil would have had a different written structure akin to sanskrit and not opposed to it or a precursor to the formation of sanskrit syllable structure infact Tamil is the forerunner a primordial model of writing system-Aezhuttu varisai.
    Speech modulation expresses limitless forms of expression and very individualistic form of expression but schematising it and restricting it to four orders is either for a code structure or for a purpose specifically mantras and tantras.Dialects arise out of sound structure representing subjects and objects and when its syntax developed language stereotype is formed.

  2. Coincidences of references in a text ,akin to what appears in another language text , references to earlier text “enba” “enmanaar pulavar” does not perse give sanction to belief that it is copy from sanskrit or any other languages.There was a stream of grammar works it is believed preceding tolkappiyam as it is the case for ashtadhyayi.

  3. Dear Sir/ Madam
    Thanks for your comments. Prof. Vaiyapuri Pillai did not say he copied everything from Sanskrit sources, other than what he gave in the excerpts. I am uploading the third and final part today where in he priases Tolkappiar’s genius in certain areas.

    The second point– grammar works preceded Tolkappiar is correct. That is what I am saying in my five part Tamil articles. The three part English summary is just Vaipuri Pillai’sand Sri Kalyanaraman’s views.

    I respect all different views on this subject. But Tolkappiar wouldn’t feel ashamed to copy a few ideas from Panini if he was really Agastya’s student and if really launched his book under the chairmanship of Athankottu Asan who was well versed in four Vedas.

  4. Sir
    Thanks for your middle path reply rather the meddling path adopted by many when it comes to Tamil.

  5. Fixing the date of Tolkappiam and other Sangam works needs further deep study. Mere surmises and hypothesis could not solve the crisis. Not only Tamil works even dates of Sanskrit works are still under dispute; for example, the date of Kalidassa is still disputed. His period is assigned from 1st BC to 5 AD and a host of other poets. Even Vedas are yet to be fixed at correct dates; they are fixed from 3000 BC to 100 BC. No Indian literature carry dates of authors or in some cases, the authors themselves. Indian literature dealt with all branches of knowledge except history which is a lapse for us. Still we depend on foreign authors to fix dates for our literature. Very poor,
    In this connection, Europeans are a better lot since they have Herodotus, and a host of other Greek and Roman historians, even though some of their writings cast doubts on their authenticity.

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