Written by By S Swaminathan
Posted on 14th January 2012
Tamil is one of the oldest, richest and sweetest languages in the world. A great many people, irrespective of their religion and caste, have shed their blood and sweat to foster and preserve the language and the culture. We salute all those great people. But yet a lot of mischievous propaganda by the Dravidian political parties in Tamil Nadu has misled the public to a great extent that they really believed Brahmins were aliens to Tamil culture. But anyone who goes deeper in to ancient Tamil literature known as Cankam (also called Sangam) literature would find out that without Brahmins Tamil would have died or at least become poorer two thousand years ago. The reason being Brahmins were the teachers of that language, like in other parts of India. So much was their contribution that any deletion of references to words like Brahmins, Vedas, Yagas, Sanskrit words, Sanskrit names from those books would leave the Tamil literature like a virus affected software. That is to say it would be incomplete without their contribution. Literally hundreds of references are there in the books. Ramayana ,Mahabharata and Puranic references are also in abundance.
The oldest Tamil book Tolkappiyam says Tamils worshipped the Vedic gods Indra , Varuna and Vishnu (Ref.Porul Adhikaram-1.5)
Two great Tamil kings were praised for their great yagnas- RAJASUYAM vetta Perunarkilli and Mudukudumi Peruvazithi. The first one was a Choza who did the great fire ceremony called Rajasuyam. We knew from Mahabharata that Dharma did this yaga. The second one was a Pandya king whose country was full of Yupa pillars. He was praised as if he would bow only twice-when he goes around a temple or when he sees a Brahmin. He was indomitable and invincible that the entire world would bow to him (ref.Purananuru Poem 6)
Nalliakodan’s palace is open to Brahmins 24 hours a day, says Sirupantruppadai. Seraman Selvak Kadungo Vaziyathan will bow only to Brahmins , says Pathitru Pathu. In short we have so many references about kings bowing only before Gods and Brahmins.
Kapila was the giant among Cankam poets. He composed the highest number of poems (over 230) in Cankam period. Not only he composed Tamil poems, he taught a North Indian King Brahadhathan and made him to write a poem in Tamil. When he ridiculed Tamils, Kapila did teach him a real lesson. Kapila was praised by other Cankam poets as “A Brahmin of spotless character”.
A lot of Cankam poets have Sanskrit Names : Damodaran, Kesavan, Mahadevan, Vishnudasan, Kannadasan, Valmiki, Sahadevan, Gauthaman, Kausikan (Viswamitra), Kavya (written as Kappiya), Acharya (aasaan),Brahmachari
Over twenty Tamil poets are Nagas! They may not be Tamils. There is no reference to Nagas in five fold land division of traditional Tamils: Kurinji, Mullai,Marutham,Neithal and Palai landscapes have their own set of peoples and their own Gods such as Skanda Murugan,Vishnu,Indra, Varuna and Durga. Naga race lived in different parts of India.
The word Veda was beautifully translated by the Tamil poets. One poet described Veda as ‘Ezutha Kilavi’= unwritten word. Another poet praises it as ‘Ezutha Karpu’= unwritten chastity. He means that once written it’s purity would be lost and that is why the Brahmins pass it by word of mouth. Other poets call the Vedas as Marai= secret. They understood that the Vedas are written in a secret language with enigmatic or hidden meanings. Kaduvan Ilaveyini says that God is in secret form in the Vedas (Ref. Paripatal)
Karikalan and the Vedas
Karikalan and Rig Veda: Karikal Choza was praised as a supporter of Vedic practices. When you want to see your friends off you will have to walk seven steps with them and say good bye-says Rig Veda. The Saptapadthi ceremonly in wedding is also part of it. Karikalan was praised to have walked seven teps with his guest and see them off (Ref. Line 166 in Porunar Atruppadai by Mudathama Kanniyaar)
Brahmins are always referred to as one who looks inward (Anthanan or Paarppaan), one who always think of Brahman (Brahmanan). They are called one who do six jobs –Aru Thozilor- (In Sanskrit Shad Karma sukrutha:) because they do the following six kind of jobs,1.Learning,2.Teaching,3.Performing fire ceremonies for others 4.Doing fire ceremonies for themselves,5. Accepting Gifts and 6.Donating gifts.
They are attributed with six virtues 1.One who seeks Brahman,2.One who takes two Births/Dwija,3.One who worships three forms of Agni/fire 4.One who practises four Vedas,5. One who controls all the five senses and 6. One who does six kinds of Jobs. Anyone can notice numbers 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 are used to describe Brahmins. The play on numbers has been used by thevTamil poets for two thousand years.
Brahmins acted as messengers as well during Cankam period. Dramas of Kalidasa and Bhasa also attributed this messenger role to Brahmins.
VEDIC GODS IN OLD TAMIL BOOKS
Following Hindu Gods and Godly persons were mentioned in Cankam literature:
Indra,Varuna,Agni,Yama,Rama,Krishna,Balarama, Shiva,Uma, Vishnu,Lakshmi, Parasurama,Kubera,Surya,Chandra,Arundhati, Gods in City Squares, Gods in trees, Gods in Hero Stones, Goddess of Kolli Hills,Gods in water sources etc. Reference of Holy bath in Cape Comorin and Dhanuskoti is also found in Tamil books.
Tamil Queen Committed Sati
There is a reference of a Pandya queen, Bhuta Pandyan Perun Devi, committing Sati as well. There is another reference of a poet going straight to heaven after performing a particular type of Yagna (Ref. Pathitru Pathu/Tenfold Ten poems).Gowthamanar who sang about Kuttuvan Cheral was transferred to Swarga (heaven) when he completed ten yagams with the help of the king. It is mentioned in Silappathikaram as well.
List of Brahmin poets and their contribution in Cankam literature:
Agasthyar ,who received Tamil language from Shiva
Tolkappiyar (Thruna dumagni), who wrote grammar after Agaththiyam became obsolete.
Amur Gowthaman Sathevanar (Sahadevan)
Kadiyalur uruththiran Kannanar ( Rudra Aksha)
Kodimangalam Vathula (Gothra) Narsenthan
Sellur Kosikan (Kausika Gothra) kannanar
Madurai Teacher Nalanthuvan
Madurai Ilam kausikanar
Nakkiran,son of Madurai Kanakkayanar
Madurai gownian (Kaundinya Gothra) daththnar
Uraiyur enicheri mudamosi
Kapilar-Paranar, Kallada-Mamulanar are always treated as pairs. Of them Kapilar and Mamulanar are known Brahmins. But others are not classified under any caste. But my research shows Paranar is a Brahmin.
- Chera King sent his son with him for education. This was done in those days only with Brahmins.
- He was given land (Umbarkadu as Brahmadeyam) which was also done only to Brahmins or Temples in those days.
- Paranar is not a Tamil name. It is one of the Gothra Rishi’s name.
- Scholars like P T Srinivasa Iyengar also consider him a Brahmin.
- Dr R Nagaswamy, eminent historian and archaeologist of Taminadu also listed Paranar as a Brahmin in his book Yavarum Kelir.
- Paranar must be well versed in Sanskrit because he has translated and used lines from Kalidas’s poems and Vedic hymns.
- The name Paranar comes as a Brahmin’s name in the Story of Vikramaditya.
If we include Paranar’s 80+ poems with Kapilar’s 230+, it will form a huge chunk in the Cankam works.
Books by Brahmin poets
Tolkappiyam (Pre Cankam period)
Kurinji pattu (lines 261)
Thiru murugatruppadai (lines 317)
Pattinap palai (Lines 301)
Perumpanatrup padai (Lines 500)
Malaipadukadam (lines 583)
Nedunal vadai (lines 188)
Six out of Ten Idylls sung by Brahmins
Pathitrup pathu (all except one)
Ainkurunuru (Kapilar’s 100)
Brahmin’s contribution adds up to 10,000 lines, nearly one third of the Cankam literature. The man who went from village to village to collect all these manuscripts was Mr U V Swaminatha Iyer, a Brahmin. We would have lost most of the Tamil treasures without his hard work.
Post Cankam Brahmin Writers
Thiru Gnana Sambandhar
Madura kavi alvar
(Though Adi Shankara and Dandi are from the South they did wrote only in Sanskrit)
Parimel Azkar: Though ten scholars wrote commentaries on the most famous Tamil ethics Tirukkural, Parimel Azakar’s was the best and most popular.
Nachinarkiniyar: The greatest commentator of Tamil literature. What Adi Sankara did for Upanishads, Brahmasutra, Bagavad Gita and Vishnu Sahasranama, Nachinarkiniyar did for Tamil literature. He wrote and wrote and never stopped. Without his commentaries we wouldn’t understand the Tamil poems at all. He was a voracious reader and a prolific writer.
Senavaraiyar: He wrote commentary on Tolkappiyam
U Ve Swaminatha Iyer: He was the doyen of Tamil literature. He saved Tamil books by visiting village after village to collect the old palm leaf manuscripts. Without his collection Tamil would have lost very valuable works. The Tamil world is indebted to him forever.
Bharathiyar: This twentieth century revolutionary poet was the giant of modern Tamil. He simplified the language of the poems and made it popular. He was the first one to write on various themes like God, nature, women’s liberation, education, freedom from poverty and patriotism. He broke the shell which insulated Tamil and made it available for laymen.
Parithimar Kalaignar: He was the first one to suggest Tamil should be declared a classical language.
We don’t want class and caste divisions in the society. But if anyone says that Brahmins came from outside India via Khyber Pass and they were alien to Tamil language and culture, my argument will be a nail in the coffin of those Brahmin haters.