Tamils are Devil Worshippers: Caldwell’s Bluff- Part 1 (Post No.3227)


Compiled by London Swaminathan


Date: 7 October 2016


Time uploaded in London: 17-05


Post No.3227


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.


From the book

The folk songs of Southern India


Charles E.Gover

Member of Royal Asiatic society and of the Society of arts, Fellow of the Anthropological Society, Year 1871.


“Since the learned book by Dr Caldwell- Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Languages – was issued, it has been taken for granted that the Tamils & c , are a Turanian People. The progress of philogical enquiry and the new means of analysis furnished by the great German writers on languages have shown the error of this classification. Driven at a very early period into the extreme south , and cut off by vast oceans from intercourse with other peoples, the Dravidian nations have preserved with singular purity the vocabulary they brought with them; and it is probably not extravagant or untrue to say that there is not one single true Dravidian root common to the three great branches, Tamil, Telugu and Canarese, that cannot be clearly shown to be Aryan.as an interesting example both of the true character of the language and linguistic progress made since the publication of Dr Caldwell’s book,, it may be noted that the learned doctor gives an appendix containing considerable number of Dravidian words which he asserts to be Scythian, and most efficient witnesses to prove the Turanian origin of the language. It is now known every word in this list is distinctly Aryan, although some of them have representatives in the Finnish group of Turanian tongues – the group which has been most constantly exposed to Aryan influences. The greater portion of them are included in Fick’s Indogermanischen Grundsprache as Aryan roots, although Fick does not appear to have seen Caldwell’s work.


This however is a digression. The songs do not touch the question of roots or derivatives. On another side of the same argument their evidence is decisive. It has been always noted that the true Turonian peoples are inferior to the Aryan in everything connected with the moral nature of the man. One recent writer lays it down as a rule that the Turanian peoples display “an utter want of moral elevation”.



Caldwell grouped Tamils with Murderers!

Mr Farrar, the learned and eloquent author of Families of Speech asserts (page 155), “We may say generally that a large number of them (the Turanian peoples; – he has previously stated that the exceptions are Chinese, Finns, Magyars and Turks) belong to the lowest paleozoic starta of humanity………….. peoples whom no nation acknowledges as its kinsmen, whose languages, rich in words for all that can be eaten or handled, seem absolutely incapable of expressing the reflex conceptions of the intellect or higher forms of the consciousness, whose life seems confined to the glorification of the animal wants, with no hope in the future and no pride in the past.  They are for most part peoples without a literature and without a history, and many of them apparently as imperfectible as the Ainos of Jesso or the Veddahs of Ceylon – perhaps whose tongues in some instances have twenty name of murder, but no name for love, no name for gratitude, no name for God.


This is but a fair description of the class to which are said to belong the writers and learners of the songs this book contains. It will be seen that the Dravidian peoples possess one of the noblest literatures, from a moral point of view, the world has seen. Compare with the above, the remarks of the Rev. P Percival, in his excellent book – The Land of the Veda – perhaps no language combines greater force with equal brevity, and it may be asserted that no human speech is more close to and philosophic in its expression as an exponent of mind……. The language, thus specific, gives to the mind a readiness and clearness of conception while its terseness and philosophic idiom afford equal means of lucid utterance. The Rev W Taylor says about Tamil language, “it is one of the most copious, refined and polished language spoken by man. And again in his Catalogue Raisonne of Oriental Mss (Vol.1 p.v), “It is desirable that the polish of the Telugu and Tamil poetry should be better known in Europe; that no competent judges might determine whether the high distinction accorded to Greek and Latin poetry, as if there were nothing like it in the world, is perfectly just”.


Dr Caldwell asserts – “It is the only vernacular literature in India which has not been content with imitating the Sanskrit, but honourably attempted to emulate and outshine it. In one department, at least, that of ethical epigrams, it is generally maintained, and I think must be admitted, that the Sanskrit has been outdone by the Tamil.” Three such witnesses, added to hundred this book contains, suffice to show that, whether as regards literature or morals, the Dravidian people are deserving of entited to the honor of omission from the Turanian family.


This is no unimportant matter. Looking to the necessity that the governing race should not be disqualified from performing its noble task by labouring under a complete mistake as to the nationality, aspirations, feelings and errors of the people

It rules; seeing that the Dravidian peoples distinctly claim unity of race and origin with the yet more cultivated Sanscrit nation that has settled among them; knowing that Orientals look as much to points of etiquette, which require in their observer an accurate knowledge of popular social ideas, as to matters of stern fact – would as soon be robbed as loose title; it is indisputable that there can scarcely be a more serious and interesting question that that which would enquire of the true character and position of the subject nation.  All this is over and above that interest and value which is everywhere inherent in all attempts t learn the true life and inner feelings of any portion of the great human brotherhood.



Toshow how a simple error in such matters may lead to gigantic mistakes, and because the subject has a close connection with the question under discussion, it will be profitable to examine one feature of the theory started by Dr Caldwell regarding the South Indian DEMONOLATRY.  He shows truly enough that the Shanars worship malignant beings, pure devils and proceeds to note that  that there is ample proof that the Shanars, and the argument includes Tamils also, cannot be related to the Sanscrit race.


He says, “Every word used in the Tamil country relative to the Brahmanical religions, the names of the gods and the words applicable to their worship, belong to the Sancrit, the Brahmanical tongue; whilst the names of demons worshipped by the Shanars in the South, the common term for “devil” and the various words used with reference to devil worship are as uniformly Tamil………….. The words used with reference to devil-worship being exclusively tamil, we are obliged to assign to this superstition a high antiquity, and refer its establishment in the arid plains in the plains of Tinnelvelly and amongst the Travancore jungles and hills., to a period long anterior to the influx of the Brahmans and their civilization of the primitive Tamil tribes”.


The most important word thus noted is Pe or as Ziegenbalg correctly writes it Pey. It means a devil. The places of worship are called Pe- Coils. Another form of the word in Tamil is Penam, a devil. Now let us follow up this word. It appears in Khond as Pennu, the name of the deity. But the object of worship is the Sun or Light. Macpherson says – “There is one Supreme Being, self-existing, the source of good, and Creator of the Universe” This divinity is sometimes called, “the God of Light”, by others “ the Sun-God and the sun and the places from which it rises beyond the sea, are the chief seats of his presence”. Again Macpherson says, “The Supreme being and the Sole Source of Good is styled the God of Light”. It is true there are other gods to whom the name Pennu is generically given, and even the Sun god takes prename and is known as Bella Pennu, literally the Light of the Sun”. But this, it is clear, does not touch the question, for there are kinds of light which require an adjective off defentin. Then subordinate deities arose, to whom, though not representing ligh, the name was attached. This has happened everywhere. The Sanscrit word Deva means deity. But there are Sibva Deva, Vishnu Deva, Agni Deva and so on. Pennu exactly corresponds with Deva and both mean “the light”.



But how came Pennu or its root form Pey to be reduced till it mean a devil? Macphersn again gives the answer. He distinctly states that this worship of light is common to all the tribes. But the Khonds are divided into north, middle and south confederations. The former had degraded its worship into a demonolatry.  The deity exhibits nothing but pure malevolence towards man, and they believe that while no observances or course of conduct can change her malignant aspect into benignity, her malevolence mat still be placed in partial or complete abeyance by the sacrifice of human life, which has expressly ordained”. He describes the rites of this horrid superstition and they are the exact counterpart of the Shanar devilry, where, by the way, the male god has also been changed into a female devil.  The Khonds of the middle region have maintained the true and earlier doctrine. Macpherson says of their deities the same as those worshipped in the north – “No malevolence towards mankind is ascribed to them.  On the contrary they are merciful and benign towards those who observe their ordinances and discharge their rites.  Instead of delighting in cruel offerings they abhor the inhuman ritual of the northern, southern and western districts; and they would resent with detestation any semblance of participation in it by their worshippers.”


To be continued……………………………

(In the Second part I will give the argument of E Gover and the strange link between the Bella Pennu and Egyptian deity Benu of 2500 BCE)

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