SANGAM TAMIL VERSE THROWS MORE LIGHT ON RIG VEDA (Post No.7842)

WRITTEN BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Post No.7842

Date uploaded in London – 17 April 2020   

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Two thousand years ago about 450 Tamil poets composed 2500 plus poems. Around fourth century CE, those poems were made into 18 books. They are called Sangam Tamil works. Though Tamils are banned from using ‘SA’ beginning words tSangam Age Tamil scholars used the Sanskrit word ‘Sangam’. Tamils used it to mean academy and assembly of poets. Of the 18 Sangam works the most important book is Purananuru, part of Eight Anthologies. Other ten works are made into a separate book.

Purananuru consists of approximately 400 verses. This book deals with various aspects of Tamil life. We come to know about the kings, their trade with Rome, the wars they fought, the support they gave to poets and Tamil language and their religious life . Sangam period Tamils were predominantly Hindus . They never mentioned Buddha or Mahavira in their poems, though we have few indirect references to their followers. Post Sangam works like Silapaadikaram and Manimegalai, the Twin Epics, have more references to them.

Karikala,one of the Choza kings , did a Yaga in eagle shaped altar. Another Choza king Perunarkilli performed Rajasuya Yajna. One Pandyan king had done innumerable Yahas and installed Yupa pillars every where. The coins with his name Peruvazuthi has horse picture. He must have performed an Asvamedha Yaga. Another Brahmin poet approached a Chera king and requested him to send  him to Swarga/ Heaven. At the performance of tenth Yaga, both his wife and himself disappeared. They went to heaven and it is documented in one of the Eight Anthologies.

Though there are several poems about Hindu gods, their Vahanas, their flags, their temples I want to compare one Purananuru verse with two Rig Vedic Hymns. When Sayana of 13th century wrote a commentary on the Rig Veda , world ‘s oldest book, it looked like he guessed lot of things and wrote. Religious heads like Shankaracharyas never use them because they follow the old tradition that you should not look into the meaning of verses but follow it literally for its magical mantra effect. In short no body corrected Sayana or challenged him . Western indologists were cunning enough to quote him wherever it served their motives and in other places gave their opinions

There are several verses where even Sayana says he couldn’t understand. Griffith was honest enough to admit in every other page saying he ‘could not understand’, ‘meaning is obscure’, ‘he is not certain’ etc. Other translators made guesses according to their whims and fancies.

The Purananuru verse number 166 may help Vedic scholars to understand some difficult hymns of Rig veda.

First let me give some salient features of verse 166 and then show how we can use them to interpret Rig Vedic verse 1-164 and 1-72

In Purananuru 166, poet Avur Mulan kizar praises one Brahmin called Vinnan Dayan.

Vinnan Daayan is the tamilized Sanskrit name Vishnu dasa. Poets surname shows that he was from the caste of agriculturists.

He got gifts, probably, after attending the Yajna . This shows that even non Brahmins attended yagas and received prizes.

The verse begins with a praise for Lord Shiva. He says Vishnu dasa was a great devotee of Lord Shiva whose mouth is always reacting Vedas .

He praised Brahmins mastered Four Vedas And Six ancillary subjects. We know that it includes grammar, astrology, etymology etc.

He also said Brahmins rejected the atheists argument and established One Dharma.

While praising Brahmins like this he says Vishnu dasa came in the family of who did 21 types of Yagas.(see the explanation at the bottom)

This is the one which helps us to understand RV I-164-3.

Dirgatamas, the blind poet of Rig Veda, used lots of numbers.

He says

THE SEVEN WHO ON THE SEVEN WHEELED CAR ARE MOUNTED HORSES, SEVEN IN TALE, WHO DRAW THEM ONWARD.

SEVEN SISTERS UTTER SONGS OF PRAISE TOGETHER, IN WHO THE NAMES OF THE SEVEN COWS ARE TREASURED… RV 1-164-3

Commentators interpreted the Seven as seven swaras of music, seven meters in

Prosody, seven rays of sun etc.

The three sevens may mean 3×7 Yagas. The Vedic hymn might have meant two types of cows like the Tamil poem.

Here is another mantra with Number Seven,

KNOWING THE LAW, THE SEVEN STRONG FLOODS FROM HEAVEN, FULL OF GOOD THOUGHT, DISCERNED THE DOORS OF THE RICHES.

SARAMA FOUND THE CATTLE S FIRM BUILT PRISON WHERE BY THE RACE OF MAN IS STILL SUPPORTED – RV 1-72-8.

Here also the seven floods from heaven is not explained satisfactorily.

Three Sevens are all not explained by the Vedic commentators.

So we have to review all the sevens in the verses. Sangam Tamils commentaries may help us to clear the vagueness.

xxxx

What is 3 X 7 ?

In the commentary of Puram 166,

The doyen of Tamil literature Dr U V Swaminatha Iyer listed all the 21 yagas..

They are broadly divided into three sevens and they are

Soma Yajnas 7

Havir yajnas 7

Paga Yajna  7.

(I have given all the 21 names in my Tamil article.)

What is  2 X 7 ?

And in another Tamil line of the verse two (2×7)  sevens come. These are ghee made from the milk of seven domestic cows and ghee made from the milk of seven wild cows.

Later the poet added that the Brahmin ladies who assisted Vishnu dasa wore special head ornaments and the gentleman wore deer skin.

Sangam Age Tamils were very familiar with the Himalayas and the Ganges river because of Kalidasa’s works. Of the 1500 images and similes of Kaliadsa, Sangam poets have used at least 200 similes. Avur Mulankizar wished the king to live a “long life like the Himalayas”.

When he praised the wife of Vishnu dasa he praised their chastity and their beauty. He added two interesting points also,

She is a woman of few words.

And she did what he said.

Here we are reminded of the saying of Greek philosopher Democritus, who said,

FEWSNESS OF WORDS IS AN ORNAMENT TO A WOMAN- Democritus.

Vishnudasa performed the Yagas, Fire Ceremonies, where

His use of Ghee (clarified butter) shamed Water

His lot of Yagas shamed the Numbers

His Spread of fame shamed the Earth

(such was his great ness, says the poet.)

–subham–