Agni in the Oldest Tamil Book ‘Tolkappiam’

durga from indonesia

Durga from Java, Indonesia in US museum

By London Swaminathan
Post no.946 Dated 31st March 2014.

The oldest Tamil book available today is Tolkappiam, a grammatical treatise. It is dated around first century BC. It has got clear references to Vedic Gods Indra and Varuna along with Vishnu, Skanda and Durga. They have the Tamil names Venthan, Varunan, Mayon, Seyon and Kotravai respectively. But the reference to Agni is not that clear. Tolkappiar mentioned three deities Kodinilai, Kanthazi and Valli in one of his Sutras in the third chapter ( Porul Adhikaram—Purath thinai Iyal).

According to the oldest commentator Ilampuranar, Kodinilai is the Sun, Kanthazi is Fire (Agni) and Valli is the Moon. It is mentioned in his rule/Sutra on the prayer. Anyone will readily agree with him given the mention of the Vedic gods Indra and Varuna by Tolkappiam. But the strangest thing about these words Kodinilay and Kanthazi is that they are not found anywhere in the Sangam Tamil literature. Another strange thing about this book is that it never mentioned about Lord Shiva. Foreigners who wrote about the Indus Valley civilisations wrote that Dravidians worshipped Lord Shiva. But the oldest book never mentioned it. Sangam Tamil literature has many references to Shiva without using the word ‘’Shiva’’. His attributes as we in the Yajur Veda such as Trinetra, Neelakanda etc, are there in the Sangam Tamil literature.


Brahmin’s Three Fires: Kanchi Paramacharya’s Talk

Another interesting reference to Fire God is in another Tamil book. It is about the Three Fires that are found in Brahmin’s house. But this is from Sangam Tamil literature, not from Tolkappiam. I will give it in the words of Kanchi Paramacharya Swamiji (1894—1994):–

“In a Tamil work as ancient as the Purananuru, there is a reference to God with his long matted hair chanting the Vedas all the time, the Vedas with the six limbs (Sadanga). I read this in an article recently. The following appears in another Purananuru passage: The rulers of three Tamil Kingdoms – Cera, Cola and Pandya – were always at war. But on one occasion the three were seen together as friends in the same place. The old lady Avvai saw the three kings together and was immensely delighted. She wished to compare the scene to something worthy. And how did she express her idea? “The three of you”, she said, “seen together remind me of the three sacred fires in a Brahmin’s household, garhapatyagini, ahavaniyagni and dakshinagni.”
Even after the Sangam period, the Tamil rulers continued to give away gifts of lads free of tax to Brahmins. They promoted scriptural learning by establishing Vedic schools throughout the land.
(Tamil version of this article carries all the original references).

ajanta Cave14_DurgaSamhara
Durga in Ajanta Cave

‘No Basis for Aryan –Dravidian Race theory’

Kanchi Paramacharya said,

“Researchers in modern times propagate the view that the Vedas came to the south from the north, that the south had another religion and religious texts. This view of theirs, along with the theory that Northerners are Aryans and the Southerners are Dravidians, had created a conflict among the people. But if you truly examine Sanskrit and ancient Tamil texts you will find no basis for such a view or for the race theory. The researchers say that one should not be deceived by placing blind faith in the Shastras. But, in the end, what obtains today? Many people have come to accept the view of these researchers without examining it properly; merely because the research scholars concerned claim that their view is ‘rational; and ‘scientific’.

In the Vedas and Shastras there are indeed matters that have to be accepted in faith. But there are also scriptural aspects that can be examined rationally. If we inquire into such texts together with the ancient works in Tamil we will realise that the race theory is baseless. The fact that there was such a thing as Tamil religion will also be seen to be unfounded. It is a matter for regret that wrong notions have arisen with regards to subjects of great value, along with lack of faith in the Shastras. All these must go and the Vedic culture flourishes again, a culture that brings good to all the worlds and all the creatures. This is the prayer we must always make to the Lord”.

Kanchi Paramacharya’s Talk as in pages 741 and 745/6 of Hindhu Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai. Year of Publication 2000.

Durga in Dulmi (Jharkhand)
Durga in Dulmi,Jharkand.

Please read my earlier posts:
No Brahmins ! No Tamil ! (posted on 12/1/2012)
Tolkappian- A Genius ( posted on 12/9/2012)
Indra in the Oldest Tamil Book
Varua In the Oldest Tamil Book
Three Tamil Sangams: Myth or Reality

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