Tuesday, February 13, 2018



Tamil originated as a sister language, while Sanskrit was being formulated by the seers. While the proceedings of the language reform committee were on, a dispute arose primarily between Agasti on one hand and the others on the other hand. A doubt may arise regarding the authenticity of the depicted episode due to the doubtful identity of Agasti, and Shambhu, the author of Shambhu Shikshaa, who has been referred hereafter.

This Shambhu should not be considered a mythological figure, but a historical person who lived actually in this land and authored several books. There are others bearing the same name. Their timing has to be derived from internal evidence of their writings, but their historicity is beyond doubt. The dispute between Agasti and the others was fundamental. In the conference, while there was no dispute over the letters “a”, “i”, “u”, as they were the expressions of the dominant forces of “ichchaa”, “gnyaana” and “kriyaa” forces (shakti), the next letter “rh” invited dispute. According to the phonetic principle (Vaajasaneyi Praatishaakhya 4-17 and similar other texts), if there is a vowel before and after the ushma varnas, then they are pronounced as “rh” and “lr” (or as the Tamilians write zh) . According to Rhk Praatishaakhya 6-35, it is pronounced as one letter with one maatra. Thus, the letters are formed with ¼ of “a”, ½ of “ra” or “la” respectively and ¼ of “a”. While everyone agreed to keep these as vowels based on their pronounced sound (beginning and ending with vowel) and time taken, Agasti wanted these to be consonants based on the fact that the expression of “a” at the end of it, even though faint, makes them consonants. While the general opinion was that both “ra” and “la” belong to consonant group because of their dependence on the vowel “a”, there was no unanimity on “rh” and “lr”.

Agasti opined that both “ra” and “la” belong to the “antastha” group of consonants, which are an expression of the “ichchaa” and “unmesha Shaktis”. These are called “antastha” as they are considered as intermediate between vowels and consonants. Hence their further subdivision as vowels should be avoided. Further, “rh” and “lr” are original letters (moolaswara) and not combined letters (sandhyakshara). Though their sound is a combination of vowels and consonants, these are indistinguishable from each other. Further, the body part from which the sound turns outward in their cases are root of the tongue and root of the teeth respectively like those for “ka” and “ta”, which are consonants. Similarly the body part from which the final sound emanates in these cases are base of the jaws and tip of the tongue respectively like those for “ka” and “ta”. When “ra” precedes any consonant, it is called “ref”. If there is another “ushmavarna” (like “ha” or the second and the fourth letters of a varga), after “ref” or “la”, then distinguishing the pronunciation becomes difficult. Hence, while pronouncing such words, a letter like “rh” or “lr” is added. This process is called “swarabhakti” in Vedas other than Yajur Veda. Thus, “rh” and “lr” should be consonants and not vowels. However the others opined that due to the same reasons, “rh” and “lh” should be treated as vowels as vowels are the “beeja” – the root in language classification. Further the expression of “ichchaa” and “unmesha Shakti” are perceptible only in “paraa vaak” and “pashyanti vaak”. It is not so clearly perceptible at the level of “vaikhari vaak”, which covers from “aa” to “sa”. Hence they should be vowels.

A similar dispute arose over the classification of the nasal “n” (anuswaara). If the nasal “n” (anuswaara) precedes a light vowel (of one unit duration) then the vowel is pronounced for half units and the nasal is pronounced for one and a half units. If the nasal “n” (anuswaara) precedes a long vowel (of two units’ duration) then the vowel is pronounced for one and half units and the nasal is pronounced for half units. Since its duration for pronunciation is less than one unit in some cases, it cannot be a vowel. Since its duration for pronunciation is more than one unit in other cases, it could not be a consonant either. While others wanted it to be classified as a vowel for the above reason, Agasti wanted it to be a consonant. Agasti argued that “yama”, which implies the differentiation of repeated consonants of “sparsha” group, is also nasal. For example, if a consonant of “sparsha” group other than the nasal letter is repeated in a word such as “rukkamah”, then the second consonant could not be pronounced properly without differentiation (vichchheda) from the first. For this purpose, the second of the repeated letter is pronounced as nasal. On a similar analogy, the nasal “n” (anuswaara), which is extension of a consonant, should be treated as a consonant. Others rejected this argument on the ground that the above rule is not
applicable to repeated nasal consonants. Hence, based on duration for pronunciation, it should be treated as a vowel.

The next dispute arose over the subgroup of the “sparsha varnas”. While everyone accepted the five vargas of “ka”, “cha”, “ta”, “ta”, “pa”, based on the internal effort (sprhshta – hence these are called sparsha varnas) and the places in the mouth after touching which it is ejected outwards, there were disputes over its subgroups. These vowels are pronounced due to the operation of the dominant forces of “jnyaanam,” and “unmesha shakti”. There was no dispute on the last letter of these vargas, as its place of exit was nose also, i.e., these are nasal sounds.

The general opinion was for further classification of “ka” into “kha”, “ga”, “gha” based on the inner mouth, palate and the root of the teeth that are used before pronouncing these words. The external efforts in the case of the first and the third was “light - alpapraana”, whereas the same for the second and the fourth was “heavy – mahaapraana”. Further, the efforts in pronouncing the first and second letters belong to the category “Vivaara, shwaasa and aghosha”, whereas that in the case of the third, fourth and fifth belong to the category “Samvaara, naada and ghosha”. These differences justified a division of five for each of the above vargas. Agasti opined that these effects could come with increased application of force (prayatna). Moreover, these differences are not distinguishable, when the pitch is varied. Since similar application of force is used while uttering the same word at low and high voices, the words “kha”, “ga”, and “gha” are nothing but “ka” only. Further higher application of force is a condition for “ushma varna” category of vowels, which are dominated by “kriyaa” and “unmesha shakti”. But this is not applicable to
“sparsha varnas” dominated by forces of “gnyaana,” and “unmesha Shakti”. The general opinion was that while vowels are “beeja”- root, thus could produce the same sound only, the consonants are “yoni”- originator, which can generate further variations. Further, Agasti asserted that brevity is the essence of communication and diluting compactness of expression will reduce its efficacy. For the same reason, Agasti held that among all aspirates, the palatal, lingual and dental “sha” should be treated as one letter instead of three letters.

The others, while not disputing this view, opined that expression (vyanjakatwa) is the essence of communication. Since the subdivision gives better expression to these letters, it should be retained. They further pointed out that brevity is also the reason for sandhi – joining two words to make a composite word. However, when the place of discharge (sthaana) of sound in the mouth for the last letter of the first word and first letter of the last word are adjacent, then only a proper sandhi is possible. For example, in the sandhi of tat + purusha, the sthaana of ta and pa are root of the teeth and the lips respectively, which are adjacent. Hence we can utter tatpurusha without any problem. However, if we join two words where the sthaana of the junction letters are not the same nor adjacent, we cannot pronounce the word properly. For example in the sandhi of the words tat and hita, the sthaana of ha is the throat. Hence for proper pronunciation, the word ta must assume its fourth secondary subdivision dha, whose sthaana is root of the teeth. The joined word thus becomes taddhita, which can be pronounced easily and understood properly.

The next dispute was over the mode of pronunciation of the consonants belonging to sparsha category. Since the sounds of the consonants are transitory – (it takes half the time needed to pronounce a vowel clearly) – and what follows thereafter is a vowel, the general opinion was that the vowel ‘a’ should follow the consonants in the general case (unless another vowel is used). The reason for choosing “a” was that all other letters are variations of this. Hence, the consonant ‘k’ has to be pronounced as ‘ka’. But Agasti argued that in the pronunciation of a consonant, the position of vowel is not secondary. All consonants are expressions of ‘a’ in sambrta state (for explanation please refer to any book on shikshaa) depending upon sthaana and prayatna. Hence the vowel should be given its due importance by placing it before the consonant. Further, the vowel associated with a consonant cannot be ‘a’ as it is always ‘vyaavrta’, while the other letters are always ‘sambrta’. Further vowels are “beeja”- root and the consonants are “yoni”- originator. No sound can be produced without a root. But ‘a’ being sambrta, cannot be used. Hence it has to be ‘i’ only. Also, ‘a’ indicates the force of desire (ichchha shakti) only, whereas the pronunciation of a consonant indicates the force of knowledge (jnyaanam shakti) of the exact expression needed to satisfy the desire. Hence the vowel used in the pronunciation of a consonant should be ‘i’ only, as it represents the expression of the force of knowledge. Hence the consonant ‘k’ should be pronounced as ‘ik’ and not
as ‘ka’. Others did not accept this view.

While Agasti went on differing like this, the others went ahead with their decision. Feeling neglected and frustrated for being ignored, Agasti left the meeting in disgust. But he was convinced about the authenticity and correctness of his views. Hence he wanted an independent authority to judge his views. And who could be a better authority on the science of sound and language than Shambhu, the author of many books including the book on “Shikshaa” which bears His name. Even the great grammarian Paanini started his book with the fourteen “pratyaahaara sootras” attributed to Shambhu. Thus Agasti went to Shambhu for a final assessment of his theories.

When Agasti reached Shambhu, he was enchanted with a sweet fragrance that was emanating from somewhere. Speechless, he looked around to find the source of such enchanting smell. Shambhu could understand his thoughts and silently signaled towards a hip of leaves and flowers of ‘vilvam’ tree lying in one corner. After his inquisitiveness was satisfied, Agasti exclaimed aloud, “Tamilam, Tamilam”, meaning thereby ‘enchanting, enchanting’. Then he discussed the issues pestering him with Shambhu. After hearing him fully, Shambhu told him that while the others are correct from the point of view of simplicity of expression, he was also correct from his point of view that brevity is the essence of communication. Extremely happy at the validation of his theories by none other than Shambhu, the greatest authority on language, Agasti set out to formulate a new language with his own grammar.

After the others formulated the grammar, the language was named as “Samskrhta” or Sanskrit – literally meaning reformed. Agasti had to select a name for his language. He decided that when he went to Shambhu, where this new language was finally formulated, the first words uttered by him were “Tamilam, Tamilam”. Hence he decided to name the new language Tamil. The ‘rh’ and ‘lh’ of Sanskrit became the additional ‘rh’ and ‘lh’ of Tamil consonant. While Sanskrit did not keep the “lh” of the Vedic language, Agasti kept it as “zh”. The ‘pluta’ ‘e’ and ‘o’ of Sanskrit were retained, in addition to their ‘deergha’ form since the previous vowels were kept in dual form, i.e., ‘hraswa’ and ‘deergha’ form. The ‘anuswaara’ of Sanskrit vowel became the additional ‘na’ in Tamil. The other differences between Tamil and Sanskrit are as discussed earlier.
However, Agasti had to make some adjustments and introduce some concepts of Sanskrit due to some functional difficulties. For example, in Sanskrit, ‘ka’, the first consonant is pronounced by contracting the throat slightly while allowing the inner air to come out through the vocal chords with lips forming a circle, which produce the sound ‘a’ in normal cases. Thus, the words beginning with ‘ka’ signify objects and ideas, which are contained or remain in a contained environment. For example, the normal meaning of the word ‘ka’ is water, which is always contained in its base. The letters ‘a’ and ‘ha’ belong to the category ‘paraa’ and ‘pashyanti’ respectively. When the letter ‘ha’ is added to a consonant, it implies the opposite meaning or the complement of the meaning expressed by the same letter added with ‘a’ due to the different forces involved in their generation. Thus, ‘kha’ implies unbound objects and ideas such as space, which is the opposite meaning of ‘ka’ implying containment. When a little additional force is applied to move the sound of ‘ka’, it generates the sound ‘ga’. This implies motion of the contained object. However, if ‘ha’ is added to ‘ga’, then it becomes ‘gha’, which implies stability and changelessness.

The same principle applies to ‘cha’, as it is produced when the process for pronouncing ‘ka’ is repeated. Thus the letter ‘cha’ implies repetition. For example, ‘ra’ implies motion. Hence the word ‘char’ implies repeated motion or moving ahead. Similarly, ‘ma’ implies negation. Hence the word ‘mar’ implies negation of motion, i.e., death. If ‘ha’ is added to ‘cha’, it becomes ‘chha’, which implies non-repetitive nature. But when we put a little additional force to move ‘cha’ and produce ‘ja’, it implies that which moves always repeatedly, i.e., the cycles of Nature, including creation itself. This concept could not be generated from the word ‘cha’ alone in Tamil. Thus, Agasti was forced to burrow some extra letters such as ‘ja’ from Sanskrit in to Tamil.

From the above discussion it is clear that Tamil is a very old language and contemporary to Sanskrit. Also it is a sister language of Sanskrit. It is one of the most scientific languages, which emphasized brevity in precise pronunciation than even Sanskrit. However, it is unfortunate to see some persons in their eagerness to de-link Tamil from Sanskrit have diluted this brevity to an unacceptable level. New words, not conforming to the basic principles of Tamil are being used in such regularity that few people now could read and understand classical Tamil literature including the revered “Thirukkural”, even though Thiruvalluvar, its author, is the most revered Tamil. Similarly, the “Thevaram”, an anthology of devotional songs written in praise of Lord Shiva is being increasingly neglected, even though its author Thirugnyaanasambandhar of Sirkazhi is a highly revered figure for the past one thousand and five hundred years. It is said that he was fed with divine milk mixed with wisdom by none other than Goddess Meenaakshi Herself on the steps of the Portamaraikulam, when he was three years old. Thirugnyaanasambandhar brought back to life Poombavai, daughter of Shivanesar, from the ashes after she died of snakebite and cremated. Poombavai spent the rest of her life serving Lord Kapaaleeshwarar. Even now there is a small shrine of Poombavai near the outer wall at the western side of the Kapaaleeshwarar temple at Mylapore.

Even the Temple Trustees often show haste in reaching the finale whenever the Thevaram or the other Tamil classical work Thiruvasakam is recited in temples. The Oduvars, the traditional reciters of Tamil devotional songs in religious ceremonies and marriages are frequently seen performing in funeral functions, even though they use different texts for such occasions. The Tamil words used by the great teacher Kumaarila Bhatta in his Sanskrit works are no longer seen in their pristine form, but has been changed and deformed. Some letters of Tamil script are not used deliberately branding them as “grantha lipi”, i.e., specially designed to write Sanskrit words, even though it was part of the original Tamil language in accordance with its basic principles of pronunciation. Thus, Shiva is now written as ‘Chiva’, even though it is pronounced as Shiva. The letter ‘sha’ is not used saying that it is grantha lipi. Such pronunciation is not only wrong, but goes against the principles of Tamil language as ‘sha’ belongs to the category of ‘antastha varna’, whereas ‘cha’ belongs to the category ‘sparsha varna’. Both are generated by different forces and are not interchangeable.

The 9th Century Tamil Raamaayana (Raamaavataaram and not Irramaavataaram) by the venerable poet Kamban (Kambar with honorific) uses “Chanakan” (and not sanakan as some think) for Janaka. Some people highlight this to show that Tamil language does not have the letter “ja”. But this is an erroneous concept. The letter “cha” has been used in place of “ja” for brevity according to the laws of Tamil grammar as has been explained above. Both in Tamil as well as in Sanskrit, the “cha varga” contain “ja” as its third

The concept that Tamil language does not have such letters as “cha”, “ja” or “sa” is erroneous. In the word “panjam” (famine) which is a Tamil word, “ja” is pronounced as such. Similarly, in the Tamil word “naham” (nail), “ha” is pronounced as such. In the word “saappad” (meal), “sa” is pronounced as such. Modern Tamil uses the letter “cha” in place of “sa”. However, the great teacher Kumaarila Bhatta had used “sa” while writing the word in Tamil. He even tried unsuccessfully to derive some Sanskrit words from some Tamil words. One such word was “saappad”, which he called “saap”. He tried to derive the Sanskrit word “sarpa” – snake – from it due to its crawling motion. Even while writing English words such as “stores” or “fancy”, “sa” is used as such. While writing Shailaja in Tamil, “sha” is used. Then in writing Shiva, why “sa” cannot be used and why it should be written as “Chiva” defies logic.

The cause of Tamil has not advanced by such misguided actions to create an artificial distance between Tamil and Sanskrit. For example, there is a saying, “Amantram aksharam naasti” – there is no letter without the force of a mantra. The letter here refers to the scientific phonetic letters. There are several Sanskrit verses and mantras, which are used for various remedial measures or for getting one’s desired result. Similarly, the Classical Tamil has many verses, which have remedial properties. The most prominent among them are the verses from Thiruppugazh, a set of songs written by Shri Arunagirinathar of Tiruvannamalai during the fifteenth Century. Shri Arunagirinathar was named after Lord Shri Arunaachaleswarar. He lost his parents at an early age and was brought up by his sister. He was highly proficient in both Tamil and Sanskrit. He was well known for his power of vocabulary like Arjuna for his archery.

There is a saying in Tamil, “Villukku Vijayan, Vakkukku Arunagiri” which shows his power of vocabulary. However, the urge for carnal pleasure drove him towards a life of sinful acts. Subsequently he realized his mistake and as penance tried to end his life by jumping from the towers of the temple at Tiruvannamalai. However, he was rescued miraculously. Legend has it that he was saved by the Lord Muruga of Swamimalai, the Gnana Pandithar – fountainhead of all knowledge. The Lord commanded him to compose songs studded with pearls (muthu) of devotion and wisdom. The Lord also named the composition as Thiruppugazh. This changed his life completely. Arunagirinathar composed his first song “Muthai tharu pathi thiru nagai ……” and continued to write while visiting all over Tamilnadu. Starting from Vayalur, he visited the six important shrines of Lord Muruga, Thirupparankundram, Thiruchendur, Palani, Swamimalai, Thiruthani, and Pazhamudhir Cholai, in addition to 216 other holy shrines. He composed a total of about 16000 songs out of which only 1365 are available now. He was also the author of other works like Kandhara Alangaram, Kandhara Anubhooti, Kandhara Andhati and Viruthams on Vel and Mayil. Since Thiruppugazh could be song in various rhythms (Taala), it is also known as “Thaalamalligai”.

In his song, “Naveru Pamanatha” he says, by adhering to the 28 tenets (Aagama) contained in the four Vedas, one attains a stage, where his identity as an individual merges with God. In his song, “Madhiyal Vithagan Aki, Manadhal Uthaman Aki”, he shows how one could shape himself or herself as a full-fledged personality, combining the qualities of head and heart. According to him, the best path that leads to ultimate salvation and cessation of the cycle of birth and death is the “jnanam marg” – the path of knowledge. However, the people following “karma yoga” – the path of detached action, can also benefit from his songs. For the general people, the belief is that the recitation of the song, “Viral Maran Aindhu Malar Vali Sindha” removes obstacles in marriage. The recitation of “Jegamayai” brings well-being to the pregnant mother and the baby. The recitation of “Irumalum Roga” brings in health. Recitation of “Charana Kamalalayathai Arai Nimisha” brings in prosperity. The recitation of “Ainkaranai Otha Manam” gives a happy family life. The recitation of “Sinathavar Mudikkum” removes miseries caused by foes. The recitation of “Antarpathi Kudiyera” leads to beget a house. The recitation of “Nal En Seiyum” safeguards from adverse planetary influences. All these effects come not only from the enlightenment of Arunagirinathar and the blessings of the Lord, but also from the highly scientific Classical Tamil. By destroying the language, the value attached to the language and the achievements of such great saints are being destroyed.

Thirukkuraal, whose verses consist of two lines only and belongs to the smallest in “venba” family, highlights the brevity aspect of Tamil. The dilution of the brevity aspect of Tamil started during the Sangam era, whose literature belongs to “aasiriyappa” family, whose minimum number of lines should be three. The role of the Sangam was to popularize Tamil from its highly structured and compact form, which made it difficult for common use to a more liberal form suited for common use. This way it became closure to Sanskrit. Yet, Tamil retained its purity. This is the reason why many great Sanskrit scholars are South Indians – mostly Tamils.

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