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Vol 02.025 Pre-SaraNAgati Issues
7 March, 1997

In this Issue:
1. Note from the Editor
2. Excerpts from Chapter 4 of "Hinduism Rediscovered" dealing with " Religion and Language"

1. Note from the Editor

Dear Bhagavatas,
We present the concluding part of our excerpts on Religion and Language from Chapter 4 of "Hinduism Rediscovered".

Anbil Ramaswamy

2. Excerpts from Chapter 4 of "Hinduism Rediscovered"
dealing with the roles of Sanskrit and Tamil in the development of Hinduism.

The ancient Vedic maths system provides a pattern based parallel processing algorithms, with possibility of parallel processing at digit level for the 21st century computers, giving the learner a number of possibilities to solve a problem. Vedic maths had also started catching the attention of scholars and teachers all over the world. It is being taught at the School of Economic Sciences, Saint James School, London, besides Maharishi's schools in the U.S. and Holland. Research is also under way in Britain and in many Indian universities for the application of Vedic mathematics to trigonometry, CO-ordinate geometry, solution of computer software and civil engineering.

A survey conducted by Wall Street Journal revealed that if admissions were based on merit alone to the University of California at Berkeley, one of the premier educational institutions in the United States, Asians will make up a clear majority at the Berkeley Campus. The Wall street journal said that the most important factor in the rise of ' this new American elite' (referring to Asian Indians ) is the intense and devoted family relationships that typify the Asian home. This include respect for elders and high standards for children, including hard work at school and off- hours, responsibilities that many times still include chores at relative's business.

The Wall Street Journal says "It is astounding when you think of how far this country has come from the dark decades, as recent as 50 years ago when Asian immigrants - even American citizens - were subject to some of the harshest legal treatment since slavery"

Sanskrit grammar is equally baffling and mind boggling to one uninitiated into the mysteries of the language (who would otherwise be able to master other languages and even highly technical scientific subjects with comparative ease - since much of the grammatical and other disciplines demanded by Sanskrit are not found required in them.

A slight inflection or deflection in pronunciation would alter the meaning so thoroughly with disastrous consequences (e.g.) as you know the story of Kumbakarna who desired immortality Nityatva, but asked for sleep Nidratva and he got what he asked for.

Similarly, in the Atharva Veda, there is a stotra called "SRILAKSHMI NARAYANA HRIDAYAM" akin to Adityahridayam. One Sloka in that reads "yasya smarana matrena thushta syaath vishnu vallabha" meaning one who becomes "pleased" on being remembered. If instead of Thushta it is pronounced as `Dushta' by mistake, it would mean `one who becomes wicked on being remembered' and this would run counter to what is intended.6

Again, the word `Agni' (fire) used in Sacrificial rites has another word `Vahni' also meaning fire. But, it cannot be substituted for Agni and we are told that the efficacy of the yagna will be very much affected detrimentally when the wrong word is used instead of the correct word prescribed in the Sastras. This accounts for the preservation of the Vedic mantras in their pristine form and glory to this day.

Apart from grammar, the accent, intonation, articulation and pronunciation play a vital role in preserving the heritage. They are variously defined as - Ucha stayi (high pitch) neecha stayi (low pitch) madhyama stayi (middle pitch) deergha (elongated) hrasva (shortened), gana (repetition back and forth) udatta (high key), anudatta (low key) swara (tone) etc. so that even the letter, let alone the words of the mantras and other sacred literature could not be altered or tampered with at will. It would be sacrilegious to do so. This also accounts for how the recitation tradition has come down over millions of generations unaltered, unsullied and unaffected by what they call `emendations' and `interpolations' which we find even in later works like those of Shakespeare and even Kalidasa - which have several versions or readings in several contexts.

Combined with other Vedangas and these formidable restrictions on usage, Sanskrit has remained uncorrupt and incorruptible. But, the felicity and flow of language remained the same as in the original compositions (e.g.) Vedas may be in archaic Sanskrit but Valmiki Ramayana and some other works are in lucid and simple style and could , therefore, be easily understood.

Apart from the general characteristics of all languages like alphabets, vowels consonants, tenses, moods, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions etc. Sanskrit has other peculiarities like - Aorist, Conjugations, Declensions, Indeclinables, Sandhis, Vibakthi (Syntax) separately for Cases like Nominative, Accusative, Instrumental, Dative, Ablative, Desiderative, Possessive, Genetic, Frequentative, Locative and Vocative -

in Gender               :  Masculine, Feminine and Neuter
in Number               :  Singular, Dual and Plural
in Compounds (Samasa)   :  Dvandva, Tatpurusha, Bahuvrihi, Karmadhyaya,
			   Dvigu, pradi, Gati, Upapada and Avyabhava
in prefixes and suffixes:  Like `TUMUN' that change the meanings
in Usage                :  (PRAYOGA) : KARTARI Prayoga, KARMANI Prayoga, BHAVAE prayaga,
in tense                :  Perfect and Imperfect, Past, Past participles,
                           Habitual Past, Past Continuous, Simple Past
in moods                :  Imperative
in participles          :  Upasarga
and special rules like savarna deergha, guna, yuna, vriddhi, purvarupa, yantavantadhesa and most of the above getting repeated under two major heads called.-


As for pronunciation, they are governed by rules on - gutterals, palatals, linguals, retroflex, dentals, labiels, aspirates, nasals, semivocals, diphtongs, visarga and anuswara which are distinct and clear so that if anyone of them is misused in the place of the correct one, it would render the words either meaningless or twisted out of shape. Some and not all of these variations in pronunciation are discernible in languages suh as Zend, Pehlevi, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew and Chinese.

"It was only on the discovery of Sanskrit by the West that a science of phonetics arose in Europe. PANINI's grammar is one of the greatest intellectual achievements of any ancient civilization and the most detailed and scientific grammar composed before the 19th century in any part of the world" 7 "Panini's ASHTADHYAYI is one of the most remarkable literary works that the world has ever seen....no other country can produce any grammatical system at all comparable to it either for originality of plan or for analytical subtlety"8

BHATTOJI DIKSHITA followed PANINI with his SIDDHANTA KAUMUDI, a simplified grammar.

The dictionaries of those periods were quite unlike the alphabetically arranged dictionaries that we are familiar with. They were akin to ROGET'S THESAURUS containing lists of words of approximately the same or similar meanings differing slightly in shade, hue or measure but used in similar contexts - so that you could go from the "Meaning to the Word" instead of from the "Word to the meaning" we are used to. And, the wonderful part of it is that the whole exercise is presented in simple verse form (e.g.) AMARASIMHA'S AMARAKOSA. The latest version of a work on the lines of modern dictionary is by V.S. APTE -a voluminous work containing almost an exhaustive treatment of the word - meaning - nexus with homonyms , synonyms etc.

The very rigor posed by the grammatical requirements seem to scare away modern youths from learning the language. Nevertheless, it must be stated that if only one takes interest, it is not impossible to gain an insight just enough to read and understand, if not the Vedas - at least the secondary scriptures written in lucid, simple and easily understandable - Sanskrit. Recent developments include crash courses in spoken Sanskrit enabling one to speak in simple Sanskrit within 10 days organized by the Hindu Seva Prathishtan of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. It is also noteworthy that quite a number of Westerners like MAX MULLER have taken such deep interest and have become authorities in our scriptures that we Hindus are in the unenviable position of having to learn the glorious heritage of our religion through them.

It is, however, encouraging to note that today the position of Sanskrit is reversed and though not widely used is by no means a dead language but is studied throughout India and taught in India and other Universities throughout the world.

We know that in the southernmost part of the subcontinent, four dravidian' languages developed independently Viz. Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu. The scripts of Tamil and Malayalam as well as the expressions had similarities while such similarities could be discerned between Telugu and Kannada. Except in the case of Tamil, there is a profuse and prolific admixture of Sanskrit words in the other three languages. And, though several Sanskrit expressions could be traced as having crept into Tamil language and literature, Tamil has had more or less an independent development.

While Tamil (as a language without a script) had also been handed down through oral tradition from days of yore - much in the same way as Sanskrit in the north, the inscription of the letters on palm leaves, barks and parchments with iron nail serving as quill must have come into vogue only a few centuries before Christ.

Tamil literature as such had crystallized much later in the 3rd century B.C. onwards when we come across references to the three `SANGAM' periods known as the `TALAI SANGAM' with `AGASTIYAR' as its head (3c BC), IDAI SANGAM with TOLKAPPIYAR as its head (2c BC) and KADAI SANGAM with NAKKIRAR as its head (1c BC).

The first SANGAM was believed to have been attended by Gods and sages of whom SEKKIZHAR was prominent. No date could be assigned and there are no surviving works but it is believed to have been in 3c BC.

The second SANGAM for which also dates could not be fixed with any certainty but is believed to have existed in 2c BC. It is believed that TOLKAPPIYAM (Tamil Grammar) was produced during this period. However, some scholars believe that the TOLKAPPIYAM is later than even some third Sangam poems.

The Third Sangam (based on some literature assigned to this period) probably could be assigned the date of 100 BC to 300 AD. Presided over by NAKKIRAR, it saw the emergence of PATHUPPATTU (Ten Idylls) and ETTUTHOGAI (Eight Anthologies) totaling 18 works as follows.(6 to 95AD)


ETTUTHOGAI (Eight Anthologies)
Other great literary works include SILAPPDIKARAM of ILANGO ADIKAL (1 or 2c AD) while some scholars place it in the 5c AD and TIRUKKURAL a form of couplet of TIRUVALLUVAR who is also considered to have lived in 5c AD. TIRUKKURAL has the distinction of being the most translated and most commented upon Tamil literature. Each verse consists of seven words and is of length of 1 3/4th lines.

Besides, such works like ATHICHUDI, KONRAIVENDAN, NANNERI, ULAGANEETHI, INNA NARPADU, INIYAVAI NARPADU, VETRI VERKAI, MOODURAI , NALVAZHI etc., were meant to lay down guidelines for leading a virtuous life and were so popular until recently and formed the fulcrum of moral instruction in the `primary' grades of education in schools in India. Though there are 63 Nayanmars, only TIRU GNANA SAMBANDAR, TIRNAVUK ARASAR and SUNDARA MURTHY produced in all 7 works (3 + 3 + 1) collectively known as THEVARAM (between 600 and 865 A.D). KARAIKKAL AMMAIYAR produced 2 works ARPUTHA TIRUVANTADI and TIRU ERATTAI MANI MALAI. The other Nayanmars did not produce any works though they spearheaded the BHAKTI ( devotion) movement in the south with SIVA as their deity much like the ALWARS who had VISHNU as their Supreme Lord.

Besides the above a few other luminaries appeared on the scene like

  1. SEKKIZHAR (1064 - 1113 AD) who wrote PERIA PURANAM
But, by far the most important Tamil works came from the outpourings of Bhakti by the 12 Alwars and TIRUVARANGATHU AMUDANAR who between them composed what is known as NALAYIRA DIVYA PRABANDAM the holy collect of 4000 hymns) devoted to the various AVATARS of Lord NARAYANA -the primordial deity, the Lord of even Siva and Brahma.

The Alwars' contribution to Tamil literature was second to none and stand incomparable. The sentiments contained in the Vedas of the north were found expressed in their works earning the sobriquet of `DRAVIDA VEDAM'. One Lokasaranga Mahamuni who was living in the north once inquired some travelers from the south about the happenings in the south.. They narrated to him the phenomenon of Nammalwar and his Tiruvoimozhi. When they sang the verse 'Aaraa Vamudhe'meaning the delectability of the nectar that was insatiable at any stage (referring to the beauty of the deity of that name), he was so overwhelmed at the sentiment contained therein that he settled in the area that could coin and speak such felicitous expressions (so hard to find in any of the languages in the north.)

While the Saivites relied on the Non-vedic agamas, the Srivaishnava Saints echoed the contents of the Vedas so faithfully that it would be difficult to distinguish between the Sanskrit VEDA in the DEVA BASHA and the DRAVIDA VEDA in the DRAVIDA BASHA. Thus, to the exclusion of all other dravidian languages, Tamil came to be regarded as "THE DRAVIDIAN LANGUAGE."

A brief write up based on the hagiographic details of the Alwars and their works comprising of 4000 hymns of the holy collect is given in our Chapter on 'Alwars and Acharyas'

The parallel between the contents of the Vedas and the Divya Prabhandam is so striking that one can rightfully wonder if there had been a thread binding the two in a common fold albeit invisible. The astonishing fact is that the text of the Vedas were unavailable to the Alwars to serve as any kind of role model for their sentiments. Of the 12 Alwars, only 3 were Brahmins ( Periyalwar, Madhurakavi and Tondar Adip podi), one was an untouchable (Tiruppaanalwar), one a woman ( Aandaal) and some others whose parentage was not known. Still, like the Vedas, they spoke the language of Bhakti which the Vedic seers expounded earlier. No wonder, the first Bhakti poets were born in the Tamil speaking areas. .

"TAMIL was the one Indian mother tongue with a long literary tradition going back to at least the 1st century BC The spoken regional dialects that later became the modern Indo - Aryan languages such as Bengali, Gujarathi, Marathi and varieties of Hindi did not have any literary form until after the 10th c A.D".9

The Sanskrit Vedic hymns and the 4000 Divya Prabanda hymns were integrated in both domestic worship and temple festivals. When the deity is taken out on rounds either within the temple circumambulations or outside on the principal streets, the Tamil singers led the processions walking before the deity and those reciting the Sanskrit verses followed behind the deity. It used to be said in lighter vein that while the Vedas seek God, God seeks and goes after the Tamil hymns.

In the temple rituals , the two stand beautifully blended and formed part of the authoritative lectionary. This is observed not only in the Tamil speaking areas of the south but even in the remotest parts of the country like Naimisaranya where the archakas cite the Tamil verses in what is known as `satthumurai' with as much ease and felicity as with which they cite the Sanskrit Stotras. It should be noted that these archaks have absolutely no exposure either to the Tamil language or to its literature.

In domestic worship in the hearths and homes in what is known as `TIRUVARADANAM' - the hymns and verses are interwoven (e.g.).

While inviting the Lord to take shower the Bhakta pleads with him in Tamil -
"You have besmeared your body with butter and the street dust while playing - I cannot let you be dirty for long. See! How long have I been waiting with oil and soap-nut powder to smear on you and pour water on you to make you clean and fragrant. O Narana ! Please do come and take your shower" - This loving pleading almost looks like persuading a wayward child.-10

"The sandal paste with which I smear you is but by mind, the decorations and the garlands are my words, the bright costumes and the glittering ornaments are only my folded palms, O! Lord who devoured the world and brought forth again. For the unique possessor of all, what can I offer?"-11

And, when offering food, the Bhakta's imagination runs riot. What he is not able to offer in reality, his mind is profusely offering very imaginatively thus in Tamil.
"To the Lord of the fragrant flower garden of Thirumaliruncholai, I offer hundred potsfull of butter, hundred potsfull of sweet gravy called AKKARA ADISIL. OI Lord!. The one whose chest is adorned by the `Thiru' or Mahalakshmi. Please do come down here and now to partake the preparations."12

The Verses from ANDAL'S TIRUPPAVAI commencing with "Sitran sirukale vandu unnai sevithu "as also PERIYALWAR'S famous hymn "Pallandu pallandu" form integral part of the daily `Tiru aradana sattumurai' both at home and in the temples not only in the South but also all over the country.

The scholars who are well versed in both the Sanskrit Vedas and the Tamil Divya Prabandams of Alwars are known as "Ubhaya vedantins" - Masters of both Vedanta theologies.

This pre-eminence and this blending of Sanskrit and Tamil had not been reached by any other language though there are any number of dialects in common parlance and vogue in the country.

1. Halls,p.288
2. Basham, p.398
3. organ, p.28
3A Tirukkural verse 129
" Theeyinaal sutta Punn Ull Aarum Aaraadhe/ Naavinaal sutta Vadu" 4. VRN,p.377
5. ibid p97-99
6 Lakshminarayana Hridayam stanza 96, p.49,ed..Vishnupriya, pub: Lifco, Madras,1985
7. Basham,p.390
8. Williams refers to Ashtadhyayi of Panini ,p.172 9. Ramanujan,p.126
10. PATM 2.4.1Vennai yalainda kunungum / Vilaiyadu p uzuhudiyum kondu

        Thinnen ivviravu  Unnai / Theythuk kidakka nan otten
        Ennai pulip pazham kondu /Ingu ethanai podum irunden
        Tannal ariya pirane /  naranaa Neerada varaai.
11. TVM 4.3.2 "Poosum sandu en nenjame / Punayum kanni enadudaiya
        Vasakam sei malaiye / Van pattadaiyum akhde
        Tesamana anikalanum / En kai kooppu seigaiye
        Easun jnalam undu umizhnda / Enthai yeka moorthikke"
12.Nach. T, 9.6.Naaru narum pozhil / Malirun cholai nambikku, nan
        Nooru tadavil vennai / Vai nerndu paravi vaithen
        Nooru tada nirainda / Akkara adisil sonnen
        Yeru thiru udaiyan ingu / Vandhu ivai kollun kolo

Kavi Thaarkika Simhaaya Kalyaana Guna Saaline / Srimate Venkatesaaya Vedaantha Gurave Namah //