The Wonder that is Tamil – Part 3


Research paper written by London Swaminathan

Research article No.1534; Dated  31 December 2014.

The Wonder that is Tamil 2 : Tamil’s ban on ca, nja, ra, la, published on23-12-2014; The Wonder that is Tamil 1 : Tamil Talent beyond Belief! Published on 22-12-2014. Following is part-3:

More wonders from ancient Tamil literature:

  1. Agastya was the first man to write a grammar for Tamil. But we lost it. His disciple Tolkappiyar wrote another book which is available today. Sage Agastya’s name is mentioned even in Rig Veda , the oldest religious book that is available today. But it is a clan (gotra) suffix. Any one born in that clan is called Agastya. So, Agastya linked to Tamil was a later one. Scholars believe he lived around 1000 BCE.
  1. “A “ for Apple is the way English teach alphabets! “ A “ for Amma (Mother) is Tamil teaching. A child will start with Amma/mother because Hindus consider mother as the first God. The saying in Tamil and Sanskrit is “Matha, Pitha Guru Deivam”. Two interpretations are available for this golden saying. Mohter, father and the teacher are gods for a child. Second explanation is Mother is number one, Father 2, Teacher 3 and then comes God. You must respect them in this order. God is relegated to fourth position!
  1. All Indian languages begin with “a”. It is not English “A” or Greek Alpha.

It is “ a” as in the English words like “ oven “ or “umbrella”. Most famous Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar knew this and said in his very first couplet “ As all the alphabets have the letter “a” for their first, so has the world the eternal God for its beginning. Tirukkural and the oldest religious scripture in the world The Rig Veda begins with this letter. “Akara muthala Ezuththellam”-Tirukkural. “Agni Meele Prohitham”-Rig Veda.

*No one can “study”, not read, all the poems in Tamil in one’s life time. Please read my article “To master Tamil language———“ in this blog.

  1. Tamil is one of the richest and oldest languages of the world. No one can understand Indian culture fully without studying Tamil and Tamil culture. It is on par with Sanskrit, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese and Latin in its richness.

5.Tamil is a vibrant language that has been producing literature continuously for over two thousand years.

6.Tamil means ‘sweetness’. Indeed it is a sweet language.

SL stamp

Sri Lanka is the only country in the world which issues stamps with Tamil name on them.

7.Tamil is classified as a Dravidian language and it is spoken by over 100 million people. Most of the Tamil speakers are in India. Other traditional areas are Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Reunion, France and Guyana. Now Tamils are found everywhere from South Pole to North Pole in almost all countries in the world, but in small numbers. Telugu, Tulu, Malayalam and Kannada are sister languages of Tamil.

8.Tamils call their vowels ‘life letters’ and the consonants ‘body letters’. Needless to say it needs to function together. So the vowel consonants are called ‘life body’ letters. This is a unique approach to alphabets.

9.Tamils have a unique letter. We can’t even write it in any other language. So it is transliterated as ‘za’ in English. One has to curve one’s tongue and the tip of the tongue should touch the back of the upper part of the mouth. It is a retroflex letter. Scholars point out that the French rolling “  r ’’ sound and a letter in Chinese language come closer to the Tamil “ za “. E.g.Pazam in Tamil means fruit in English

  1. Some people find it difficult to learn this language because of three ‘ l ’ sounding letters and three ‘n’ sounding letters and two ‘r’ sounds. But practice makes one perfect. Christian missionaries mastered Tamil and Sanskrit to spread their religion. Where there is a will, there is a way!


First printed book in India Thambiran Vanakkam in Tamil 1578

Oldest Printed Book is Tamil Book!

11.Tamil was the first language that went in to print in India. The oldest book was printed in Tamil. Harvard University (USA) museum has the oldest book “Thambiran Vanakkam” on display.

12.Tamil poetry is beautiful. It has got several genres. One of them is called Andhadhi (Sanskrit word meaning Andham+Adhi= End+Beginning. Normally 100 stanzas are in a poem and the second stanza will begin with the last word of the first stanza. Third stanza will begin with the last word of second stanza. This continuity will go up to 100 stanzas. Some poets go beyond this continuity and connect the last word of the last stanza with the first word of the first stanza. It is like a circle or a garland where there is no beginning or end. In Hinduism God is praised as one who has no beginning or end. Most famous Andhathi was on Goddess Abhirami composed by Abhirami Bhattar.

13.Tamils are very passionate about their mother tongue. One of the famous Tamil quotes says “Tamil race existed even before the stones became sand and they came in to existence with  swords’’- In Tamil: “Kal thondri man thondraa kaalathe Valodu mun thondriya mootha kudi’’  (i.e. they are talking about geological ages, when earth was still with hills and rocks).

14.The oldest Tamil book available today is Tolkappiyam written by Tolkappiyar. The book is a grammatical treatise dated first century BC or AD.


247 letters!

15.Tamil alphabet has 247 letters (12 vowels ,18 consonants,216 vowel consonants and one more mysterious letter called Aytha Ezuthu. It is written with three dots and pronounced as ‘AH’. It has become almost obsolete today. The origin and use of this letter are a mystery. Scholars are still debating. Some people consider it may be like Sanskrit Visarga ‘ : ’ sound that brings out various missing sounds in Tamil.

16.The Tamil alphabet used today was evolved from the North Indian Brahmi. If Tamil poets who lived two thousand years ago came alive today they can’t read today’s Tamil alphabet! The Brahmi that was adapted to bring Tamil sounds is called by modern scholars as “ Thamizi”. The oldest inscriptions can be seen around Madurai dated to 3rd century BC.


Tamil Bible, published in  1715

Three Tamil Academies

17.Tamils had three academies to sponsor and nourish their language. But two were devoured by the sea. Two tsunami attacks were mentioned in ancient Tamil literature. The cities went in to sea. The Third Tamil Academy (Known as Tamil Sangam or Cankam) had 473 poets. They wrote 2000 + poems running to approximately 30,000 lines. They were based at modern Madurai. This literature is called Cankam or Sangam literature.

18.One of the commentators said that the three Tamil Academies existed over a period of several thousand years which is not possible. But he was using a figurative language and all the three Tamil Academies (Tamil Sangam or Cankam) existed only over a period of a few hundred years. (Please read my research article THREE TAMIL SANGAMS: MYTH AND REALITY, published on 25 February, 2012

tamil countries

19.Sri Lanka is the only country in the world that issues stamps with Tamil name on them!

More Tamil wonders are coming…………………….. (contd.)