Origin of Tamil and Sanskrit


Research paper written by London Swaminathan
Research article No.1409; Dated 13th November 2014.

Ancient Tamils believed that Lord Shiva gave two languages to the Hindus: Sanskrit and Tamil. They believed that Siva’s drum Damaruka gave Sanskrit from one side and Tamil from another side. The fourteen Maheswara Sutras (fourteen sounds of letters) came from one side of the drum. And the other side echoed Tamil. Panini, the first grammarian in the world, used the Maheswara sutrani to write Sanskrit grammar.

Where is the proof for such a belief in Tamil?

Tamil poets Kamban, Paranjothy and Bharatiyar openly proclaimed this truth and Kalidasa indirectly referred to it in his Raghuvamsam. Saivite and Vaishnavite saints also praised Sanskrit and Tamil in their hymns from seventh century CE.

Greatest of the modern Tamil poets Subramanya Bharati said in his poem “Mother Tamil”:

1.Siva the supreme was my father
Sage Agastya took delight in me
Grammar, complete and perfect
The Brahmin endowed me with

2.The three royal families
Cherished me with loving care
Among advanced languages I stood
As peer of sublime Sanskrit

Poets erudite, experienced and wise
Combined wine and fire, wind and cosmic space;
Out of that alchemy arose
Sweet poems to enrich me

3.Treatises, scientific and spiritual
Scholars equipped me with;
And glory was mine
That reached the ends of earth. (Translated by Prof. S Ramakrishnan)

Dum Dum Dum Dum dum dum Damaruka natha
Bam Bam Bam bam bam bam Bhaje Damaru (Bhajan song)

Bharati did not concoct a new story. This was the age old belief at least from Kamban’s time (Twelfth Century CE). Agastya was sent by Lord Shiva to the south to reduce the imbalance in the population in Northern India (Please see the details in my earlier post on the Population Explosion: Oldest Reference is in Hindu Scriptures posted on 2nd February 2013). “Himalayas was tilting to one side due to heavy concentration of people”. He asked Agastya to lead one group of people to the south. Agastya was not happy to go out of the Himalayas, where Lord Shiva has his permanent abode. But Shiva promised him that he would be on his side in the south. He led 18 tribes from the north which is attested by commentator Nachinarkiniyar (See Tolkaapiam commentary and Puram verse 201).

The earliest reference to Agastya in connection with Tamil land comes from the Raghuvamsam of Kalidasa of first century BCE. Tamils have been living in this land from the days of Ravana. A peace treaty was signed between the Pandyas and Ravana not to attack Tamil Nadu. All these are found in ancient Tamil commentaries from 13th century (please see for details Ravana-Pandya Peace treaty posted on 24th June 2014).

Paranjothy, author of Tiru Vilayadal Purana also says that Lord Siva gave Panini the Sanskrit language and gave Agastya Tamil which is equal to Sanskrit.

Great Tamil poet Kamban also praised Lord Siva as the giver of Tamil language in his Tamil Ramayana and lauded Agastya as the one who gave Tamil which is like boundless ocean. Most of the Vaishnavite and Saivite saints praised Tamil and Sanskrit together in their poems. We may take it as an indirect reference.

Apart from this story, another important thing is Tamil is the closest language to Sanskrit and vice verse. Both have similar case suffixes and alphabetical order. Writers of both the languages follow the same style and beliefs, literary styles (genres) and the values in life.


The oldest book in Tamil, Tolkappiyam, speaks of Dharma Artha Kama in the same order. Tiruvalluvar who followed Tolkappiyar also said everything in 1330 couplets under Dharma Artha and Kama (Aram, Porul, Inbam in Tamil) in his Tirukkural.

Hundreds of beliefs and customs were common to both the south and the north from as early as the Sangam period. Key words in Sangam Tamil such as Kamam (sexual desire), Manam(mind), Ulakam (world), Arasan (king), avai(Sabha) etc came from Sanskrit. In fact Tamils did not hesitate to use Sanskrit wherever necessary.
Kamban praised Agastya as the one who gave us the boundless ocean called Tamil. Earliest Tamil poems made an indirect reference to Agastya by comparing Pothiyil Mountains with the Himalayas. Pothyil was the hill where Agastya established his southern most Ashram. It forms part of the 1000 mile long Western Ghats. He shifted his Ashram from the Himalayas, to the Vindhyas and then to Karnataka and then his last resort was at Pothiya Malai near Tirunelveli. We don’t know whether one Agastya did this or his descendants did one after another. We see his statues all over South East Asia.

From Purananuru (Pothyil Hill) to Bharati it covers a historical period of 2000 years. From Agastya/Pandya/Ravana link to modern days, it covers a period of several thousand years. So Agastya’s connection to Tamil is not new. From seventh century onwards we see long Tamil inscriptions which openly speak of Agastya’s contribution to Tamil. Of the three great Tamil kingdoms, Pandyas were the one who patronised Tamil language, Tamil Poets and Three Tamil Academies known as Tamil Sangam.


Credits go to Kalidasa of first century BCE for linking Agastya, Pandya and Ravana (Raghuvamsam 6-61, 6-62).
Tamil and Sanskrit came from the same source. One who knows these two languages can learn any language in the world without much difficulty. Anyone who wants to understand Indian culture must study literature in these two languages; otherwise one’s knowledge will be incomplete in this area.

My Earlier posts related to this topic:
Ravana-Pandya Peace Treaty: Kalidasa solves a Tamil Puzzle (24th June 2014)
Population Explosion: Oldest Reference is in Hindu Scriptures (posted on 2nd February 2013).

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