Sanskrit, Dravids, Tamils and South East Asia: No scope for ‘Divisive Agenda’

By: Dr. Nellutla Naveen Chandra

[This write-up by Dr. Nellutla Naveen Chandra is part of one of his several emails, which he sent to one Tamil friend (whose name is being withheld) who had strong thoughts ingrained in his mind of a divided India along the lines of South and North; Dravida and Arya; Tamil and Hindus; Dalit and so-called Upper Castes etc. We are reproducing it here as an article for the general public awareness and as an answer to the artificially bolstered agenda of vested interests to divide India along such fictitious claims.]

Through a good Tamil friend of mine I came to learn about Sangam Literature. This ancient Tamil literature is a rich source on society, intellectual activity, spirituality, literature and sciences and it can be broadly divided into two categories- Puram, external pertaining to nature and Akam, internal pertaining to personal relations.

There are 18 Sangam books translated by Vaidehi Herbert of Hawaii, USA who dates them from 3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE, pre-Pallava.  In the opinion of some of my Tamil friends conveyed to me personally part of Sangam is at least 5000 years old. Vaidehi describes this first Tamil Literature as secular though several Hindu passages are found in them. The latter unsecular Jain, Buddhist, Saivait and Vishnavait literature drew inspiration from Sangam.

The word itself is modified Sanskrit word “Sangham”, probably taken from Buddhist lore especially the norm “Sangham saranam gacchaami”.

This rich source of history contains many references to Mahabharata and Ramayana characters, Tamil Kings (Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras) and their rule, conquests and achievements. It describes a society based on Vedic concepts particularly the Four Purusharthas namely dharma, artha, kaama and moksha and four varnas also of Vedic origins. The morals, customs, social norms, administrative structure, temple life etc. all conform to Vedic culture. The very number of 18 volumes reminds us of 18 Parvas in Mahabharata and 18 chapters in Bhagavad-Gita and 108 Upanishads.

Love stories in Purananuru, one of the volumes, remind us of the great stories narrated in Mahabharata such as Nalopakhyaanam, stories narrated by great Sanskrit poets like Bhasa, Kalidasa, Sudraka, Bhartrihari and others.

It is safe to say that the word “Dravida” is not mentioned as a different race anywhere in Sangam literature. The word Aryan was used as a geographical reference such as “northern people.” The same word was also used to describe a different literature like Aryan Literature.

A later poet Banabhatta who lived in 7th century CE refers to “Dravida” in his novel Kadambari (first novel that was ever written anywhere in the world) also in the context as “a man from south”.

The original Tamil culture was essentially Vedic culture as explained in the book, “Tamil Nadu, The Land of Vedas” written by Dr. R. Nagasamy only this year. Vedic features of Sangam are explained by Rangasamy – see pages 24-29 for verse 166 of Purananuru and pages 29- 39 for verse 18 of Purananuru. Poem 166 points to the immense faith the ancient Tamil society had for Brahmins as leaders among the men of knowledge. The poem 18 is just a translation of Taittiriya Upanishad Brguvalli, perhaps the first of its kind, for example Sanskrit Upanishad annam anne pratishtitham is rendered into Tamil as unti mutarre unavin pintam.

In the same book, we find that –from the very beginning of ancient times, Tamilnadu was the land of Vedic traditions in every field of life – kings, merchants, cultivators, brahmins, hunters, hill tribes, fishermen, chiefs and soldiers, cowherds, artists, musicians, dancers (page 1, Introduction). This book by Rangasamy is an essential reading for all students of nonexistent Arya-Dravida divide concocted by the Colonial Power in their divide and rule policy.

Read this passage in the verse 17 of Purananuru: “From southern Kumari to the mountains in the north, from the oceans on the east to those on the west, the hills, the mountains, and the forests and the land, sing your praises in unison! You are heir to those who ruled this entire world as their bright wheels rolled sweetly!”

This is the Vedic description of Bharata Varhsa accepted by the poets who wrote Tamil Sangam Literature. This is the legacy of all Tamils in as much as it is the legacy of all Kashmiris. Where else will you find evidence of Bharat even though American Orientalists don’t accept this truth?

The contacts made with Southeast Asia by Indian Kings probably started with Ashoka who sent his daughter Sanghamitta and son Mahinda to Sinhala (the present Sri Lanka) at the request of the King Devanampiya Tissa (250 BCE – 210 BCE) for propagation of Buddhism. Look at the Pali names equivalent to Sanskrit words Sanghamitra, Mahindra and Devanampriya Darshan strongly suggesting the language they used was not Sanskrit.

Later many Tamil Kings sent navies as far as Cambodia where is located the world’s largest Hindu Temple, Angkor Wat, nay it is the largest religious structure larger than Vatican or Tirupati. You probably know the great Samudra Mathanam sculpture in the Suvarna Bhumi Airport in Bangkok and Garuda Airways of Indonesia and many other vestiges of Hindu contacts with SE Asia.

Saudis wanted Indonesians to remove all references to Hinduism but were flatly refused. A previous President of Indonesia was named Sukarno who explained “My father liked Mahabharata very much and Karna character was his favourite. He named me Sukarno meaning good Karna.” Thus, all through SE Asia, Hindu culture is fondly remembered and cherished suggesting historical amity that could only stem from cultural ties rather than a forceful occupation which would leave hatred and resentment behind.

Tamil Kings throughout the history patronized Vedas, Sanskrit and Brahmins. None of the Indian Kings (north or south) were predators in the same sense as Europeans who brutally installed their religion, languages and culture- the greatest example is India. Tamils Kings did not impose Tamil language or Hinduism on South East Asia. A Tamil friend of mine wistfully says they should have imposed.

The Hindu kings followed the great example of Rama himself as described by Valmiki in the Yuddhakanda of Ramayana. Seeing the wealth of Sinhala, the Vanaras and even Lakshmana wanted to stay there and occupy the land they just conquered. Rama admonished them saying:

अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का न मे लक्ष्मण रोचते जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी|”

“Lakshmana, even this golden Lanka does not appeal to me, mother and motherland are greater than Swarga itself.” Many people don’t know it was Rama who first said this great line. He installed Ravana’s brother Vibheeshana as the King of Sinhala.

Thus, Indians never used force to impose Sanskrit on SE Asia. Then how did Sanskrit spread? It was first Ramayana itself that was so dear to all people in Myanmar, Indonesia, all the way up to Cambodia. It was cultural  not political. You can’t name a Tamil King who used force to spread Sanskrit or Hinduism.

Even today perhaps after 10000 years or more Ramayana is recited all over in the most endearing manner. Then as we saw in the case of President Sukarno, it was Mahabharata as well. Even in Vietnam Hindu symbols such as Ganesh and Hanuman are used in taxis.

In the book Akananuru of Sangam literature stanzas 276,336,376,396 describe Aryans. . In all these references the word is used in the context of geography and not a race.

In Valmiki Ramayana, Sita addresses Rama as “Arayputra” and Mandodari addresses Ravana also as “Aryaputra”. If Ravana was Dravidian why was he called Aryaputra by his wife? Moreover, Rama was black and Ravana, a Brahmin was white. Kaurananidhi the propagandist par excellence does not mention these facts. Rama an Aryan from North India was black and Ravana a Dravidian from South India was white! Can DMK and other division seeking traitors explain this fact?

Who are Dravidas? Among the many sects of Brahmins, Dravidas was and is one. For example, Sreeman Adi Sankara was a Dravida Brahmin. But Sreeman Ramanuja and Sreeman Madhva were not Dravidas. They all came from South India. Does Karunanidhi know this? In Telangana, in Vemulavada region there many Dravidas, all Brahmins. None belongs to a non-Brahmin Varna. Why is that so? By the popular theory, you should find Dravidas in non-Brahmins and not find them at all in Brahmins.

 Brahmins living south of Vindhyas were called Pancha Dravidas and north of Vindhyas were called Pancha Gaudas. Pancha Dravidas were Gurjaras (Gujarati Brahmins), Maharastrikas (Maharashtrian Brahmins), Tailingas (Telugu Brahmins), Karnaticas (Kannada Brahmins) and Dravidas (Tamil and Malayalam Brahmins). Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Muthu Tambi Pillai’s Abhidana Chintamani and in N. Kathiravar Pillai’s Tamil Moli Akarathi mention this division. This definition of Dravida based strictly on Geography and secondly on Language is a sampradyaya parampara from Bana (8th century), Kalhana (circa 12th century), Muthu Thambi Pillai (18th century) and Kathiraver Pillai (20th century).

When Maxmuller proposed that Aryans invaded India where Dravidians were living, he did not follow up the details in Indian history books, creating two races that never existed (Dravidas became Dravidians). This is not evidence based. When the Marxists proposed Aryans as Brahmins and Dravidians as non-Brahmins, distorting history beyond recognition, they did not take into consideration the historical facts. This is also not evidence based. The idea that Dalits are Dravidians and others are Aryans, is a further distortion of truth. This is also not evidence based.

Two great leaders of Tamilnadu Sreeman Rajagopalachary and Sri Kamaraj Nadar never mentioned Dravidian race as different from Aryan race. It was demagogues like Anna Durai who publicized the idea of difference to get elected.

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