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Re: [WMASTERS] Anu's Diatribes
Dear Professor Hart:
Can you please clarify some points for me. I would apreciate it.
I've also made some comments which you're welcome to criticize.
@From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Sep 11 13:43:40 1997
@Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 10:42:55 -0800
@To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
@From: George Hart <email@example.com>
@Subject: [WMASTERS] Anu's Diatribes
@For heaven's sake, do we have to make this forum a platform for hating one
@For your information, Anu, here are some facts:
@1. Brahmins are only 2% of the population, yet they have contributed much
@more to Tamil literature than their number would indicate.
@2. The purest (i.e. least Sanskritized) Tamil was written by the medieval
@Saiva Brahmin commentators on Tamil. For example, Parimelazakar translates
@the yoga asanas into Tamil, and the only way anyone can figure out what he
@is saying is to read the subcommentary (by Gopalakrishnamachari), who gives
@the original Sanskrit terms. You will find no Tamil any purer than that of
@Naccinarkkiniyar et al.
Is ParimElazakar a Saiva Brahmin ?
How is this determined ?
Are you saying that the Tamil terms used by P in translating
the yoga asanas is coined by him with no tamil tradition ?
How is it decided that the Sanskrit terms were the original?
@3. Brahmins have contributed to Tamil from Sangam times. Kapilar is one of
@the greatest Tamil poets.
@4. Yes, of course Brahmins have had their own political agenda to push.
@They have been responsible for many things that I feel are entirely
@unconscionable. But is this any different from the other high castes? I
@have heard many many stories of high non-Brahmin castes killing and abusing
@Dalits. You can't blame the Brahmins for this. In fact, the most
@pernicious example of the caste system was in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka,
@where there are virtually no Brahmins and never have been.
@5. You cannot blame the Brahmins for Sanskritizing Tamil. Tenkalai
Supposing I accept your statement, may I ask who in your view is
'sanskritizing tamil' ?
@Aiyengars often use Tamil words where most non-Brahmins use Sanskrit ones.
@The Sanskrtization of Tamil is a very old process and cannot be understood
@except in an all-South-Asian context. The Bengali used in Bangladesh is
@highly Sanskritized, and the Muslims are quite proud of their language.
@The fact is, Sanskrit was the lingua franca of South Asia for intellectual
@purposes, much as Latin was in Europe.
In my understanding, which I admit could be faulty,
this is as much a 'fact' as saying that Tamil
is the lingua franca of america, say based on some partial records
discovered in the year 2700 ( say after a series of invasions
by Chinese, Spanish etc..)
I'm not disputing the fact that
Sanskrit was ONE of the intellectual traditions in the Indian
subcontinent. I think it was not the linqua franca, but an important
language among a tiny group of people who were also quite
influencial. I don't think it was lingua franca.
Comparison with Latin in europe etc. will be more
Sri Ramanujar lived in Tamil country, and it is claimed that he
intently listened to and was influenced by Azvaar's poems;
but when pressed
to show evidence of at least mentioning some of the Azvaar's ideas or
his indebtedness to Azvaar's works in his Skt works, virtually
nothing substantial comes up. He wrote in Sanskrit, it appears,
to counter Sri Adi Sankarar's interpretation of Sanskrit works and not
Azvaar's ideas in the supposedly the lingua franca.
There are more statues of Kaaraikkaal
ammaiyaar in South Asia, outside of India, than Sri Adi Sankarar's
( actually zero for Sri Adi Sankarar, as far as I know).
One can also see the 63 naayanmar's
statues in nearly all Saivite temples in TN, but hardly any for
Sri Adi Sankarar, and yet Sri Adi Sankarar is acclaimed more in certain
circles, which is fine; but there are other circles too.
No, we don't have to go that far in time,
Sri Ramana Maharishi lived
in our time and I see how the 'bhaktas' promote 'Sanskrit
works' of this saint hardly mentioning any of uLLathu naaRpathu
or any of his tamil works.
The 'fact' appears to be that some people have been selectively
promoting Sanskrit which gives the impression that Sanskrit was some
kind of 'common' language ( god knows among whom ?!), which I think
it was not.
@Buddhists used it, Jains used it,
@much as Spinoza, a Jew, wrote his philosophical treatises in Latin. The
(1) Yes, but since when ? Would you say that Sanskrit was not
lingua franca prior to that time then ?
(2) Didn't the Buddhists and the Jains use other languages as well ?
Buddhism and Jainism were religions to which people got
coverted to from their native traditions. Works were
created in local languages, and although sanskrit was not
a local language of any region, skt came to be used
much later when Nagarjuna, Buddhagosha and such people from
vedic tradition adopted and controlled Buddhism.
I believe Jains did not use skt
until much later than Buddhism. These religions used
many different languages, and Sanskrit was one of them.
Many works in Tamil are lost.
@Tamil of Ramalinga Swamigal, a non-Brahmin, is highly Sanskritized.
You mean the prose writings ?
@6. Sanskrit and Tamil are part of the same intellectual and literary
@tradition. The fact is, Sanskrit literature owes an enormous amount to
@Dravidian -- much of its syntax, its literary conventions, vocabulary.
@When we come to the great kavya of Sanskrit (e.g. Kalidasa), it is
@definitely part of the same stream as Tamil literature, just as French,
@English and German belong to a Western European literary tradition. This
@is even true of Sangam literature -- it is clearly of the same cultural
@tradition as, say, the Sanskrit Mahabharata.
@7. Tamil is richer because it has many styles. It is the only Indian
@language that has a pure, unsanskritized style (well, there is a pure
@Telugu, called accu telugu, which was cultivated mainly by Brahmins). This
@style is very rich, no doubt. But Tamil has innumerable other styles --
@many dialects, a highly Sanskritized style, a style with many English
@words, etc. etc. All of these add to the richness and expressiveness of
@the language -- why impoverish the language by removing its resources?
@8. Anu, a personal note from an outsider. Tamil culture has not suffered
@because of one group. It has suffered because of the caste system and
@because of its treatment of women. If you want to do some good, campaign
@for these two issues. Let's promote intercaste marriage, let's get rid of
@dowry and give women independence and self-respect, and above all, let's
@avoid a victimization complex which only plays into the hands of those who
@have a vested interest in continuing the inequities that exist in Tamilnad.
@If every Brahmin were to disappear from Tamilnad, the Dalits and others who
@are exploited would benefited not one iota.
@9. Please note that I am not pro- or anti-Brahmin. I am acutely aware of
@the negative role Sanskrit has played in the development of the Indian
@regional languages. Indeed, A. K. Ramanujan, a Brahmin, once told me that
@the worst things that ever happened to South India were Sanskrit and
@English. A slavish devotion to Sanskrit has had a negative effect on Tamil
@and, even more so, on other South Indian languages. But we cannot change
@the past. There is nothing inherently good or bad in a word, whatever its
But the future can be influenced based on the awareness of the
past and the present.
@origin, so long as it has been adopted for general use in a language. What
@is bad -- and what I deplore -- is the mindless assumption that Sanskrit is
@somehow superior. It is not. Indeed, Sanskrit is a very limited language,
@because it has no spoken substratum. But where Sanskrit words have come
@into common usage in South India, they have acquired broad connotative
@powers that enhance the spoken languages that have borrowed them (much like
@Latin and French words in English). It is insulting to Tamil to claim that
@the language cannot borrow words without being corrupted. Tamil has a
@long, powerful tradition, and it is a very rich language. Judicious
@borrowing can only enhance, not spoil it.
Choice words ! I echo the same feeling.
@This is the last I am going to treat this issue. Anu, good luck -- I'm not
@responding any further. But please, take some time and think: is it not
@possible that, with all your emotionalism, you are doing more harm than
@good to Tamil.
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