Tuesday 29 December 2020

JOURNEY of A CIVILIZATION Indus to Vaigai” Introduction (Part 2) – V.Pusphalatha

 “JOURNEY of A CIVILIZATION Indus to Vaigai” Introduction (Part 2) – V.Pusphalatha


In continuation with previous article, this article presents concise details of chapter V and VI of the book “ JOURNEY of A CIVILIZATION Indus to Vaigai” by R. Balakrishnan.


   “Archeology is a magic, by digging deep underground a time machine is hoisted in the sky taking closer to past, travelling thousands of years back capturing/discovering presence of past in form of civilization, events etc. With the advent of development in various related fields like linguistic studies, anthropology, onomastics and genome studies combined with archeology, it aids to unlock the intriguing riddles with respect to collected/uncovered data, for describing past in holistic manner”.


Chapter 5 –  Place-names do Travel: OnamaticFootprints


Deep link between the signs of Indus Script and Indus like graffiti found in Tamilnadu

This book presents the voluminous place name evidence uncovered by author in the context of Sangam literature, anthroponymy and tamil epigraphy to build a convincing case of for the Dravidian authorship of the Indus civilization. 


Onamastics -  study of the origin and forms of proper names of persons or places.

Toponymy   -  systematic study of the origin and history of place - names 

Anthroponymy -  study of proper names of human beings, both individual and collective.

Ethnonyms  -  names of tribes and clans


Man, the Name Giver and Creator:


George stewart traces the single motivation from which all place-names arise to the desire to distinguish a particular place from place in general.  This makes place-names fundamental features of human psychology and behavior as they can communicate significant geographical knowledge as an expression of the names feelings and mental associations.


Types of names:


Author briefs about various type of names as follows a) Descriptive names b) Associative names c) Incident names d) Possessive names e) Commemorative names  f) Commendatory names g) Folk etymologies.


Man, the Carrier of Namescapes:


Names form an essential part of the immigrant’s baggage, besides their folklore, tradition, belief system and so on.  They provide a sense of continuity and become a connecting conduct to their ancestors and distant past. Place-names in a way represent the umbilical cord of a tribe, clan or a linguistic community.

Studying human migration historically provides evidence of repetition of geographical names right from the place of embarkation, its stops up until the final destination.

George R. Stewart notes how “a people clings tenaciously to its own way of identifying itself . As a result , these naming tend to survive linguistic and geographical shifts”.

Author explains process of name transfer with three different examples. Toponymy – Toponymy has now become widely accepted both for understanding the historical and cultural aspects of particular place and for studying the migration patterns.


Dravidian  hypothesis is largely a linguistic hypothesis the author is interested in establishing the onomastic and toponymic evidence that are available to strengthen and infer that the inhabitants of the Indus valley were people who spoke a Dravidian languages and that this language has left ancient remnants in its current geography. Besides , what is left of its culture in echoed in the language and culture of Sangam Tamils and by implication in contemporary Tamil culture.

In this work systematic and scientific approach to place names employing the comparative method as well as a cluster approach and use of a Geographic Information System(GIS) were utilized . 

Significant cluster of place names identified in the Indus valley is established as a place name complex called Korkai – Vanji – Tondi(KVT ) complex . 


The background of KVT complex is studied and established as a marker of an old tamil civilization which we can hypotherize to have migrated south. In subsequent chapters more information pertinent to understand old tamil culture and texts were provided. 


1.European and African Place-Names in USA

Chapter 6 – Ancient Tamilnadu and Old Tamil texts:                             

                    Glimpses of a Lost Indus Stream in the Deep South

The riddles of Indus and Dravidian origins are linked to our prehistory.  Prehistory is a study of humanity. Glyn Daniel points out that excavation not only amounts to a recovery of the past but to a certain degree a destruction of the past , cautions the excavator that the surgery of landscape has a responsibility to future generations. According to him prehistoric archeology is not adequately vocal about essentials of societies, how they lived, what they thought and what were their ideals and illusions. Colin Renfrew in his book Prehistory making of the Human Mindidentifies language, aesthetics and value systems and cosmology to be some of the intangibles of pre history

The sentiment expressed by Glyn Daniel and others turn out to be useful in constructing the methodology of this work.  In search of such intangibles with reference to these two riddles of Indian Prehistory.  We want to present new onomastic and other internal evidence from Sangam Tamil corpus to suggest that Sangam Tamil texts contain elements that could be indicative of post Indus legacies and carried forward memories from the probable Indus and post Indus past. However before presenting that it would be relevant to list some of the basic logics  that could justify the use of Tolkappiyam and Sangam texts as  a legitimate source to validate the Dravidian Hypothesis. 


The Tamil that was Nurtured Through the Sangams:


It is essential to bear in mind that neither the Tolkappiyam nor Sangam Tamil corpus could have emerged out of the blue. The Third Sangam period is generally set between 300 BCE to 300 CE signifying an oral tradition spanning many centuries, under the patronage of various tamil kingdoms and chieftains resulting in the editing and codification of anthologies that form the Sangam corpus.

The Sangam corpus recovered today stands at 26,350 lines of poems organized as 18 books of about 2381 poems written by 473 poets (includes 30 women poets ) . Besides the Pattuppattu ( ten songs ) and Ettuttokai ( Eight anthologies ) the corpus also includes the earliest Tamil literary work Tolkappiyam ( codifying Tamil grammar ).


The literature was primarily secular , covering the breadth and depth of human emotional experience through the lens of akam(inner life /love) and puram ( outer reality/ war ) in high literary style and through the portrayal of nature intertuined with love , valor, agony, ecstasy, Kindness, war, cruelty, charity, friendship and many more facets of humanity.


Tolkappiyam on Language and life


The importance and relevance of Tolkappiyan for the content of this work are manifold. Tolkappiyar explicitly makes numerous references to previous works, S. V Subramanian who has translated this immortal work into English points out that out of 1610 verses in the Tolkappiyam as ###3 as 343 verses contain reference to generic works and to earlier scholars as mentioned. This Tolkappiyam was backed by rich and deep traditions that Pre –existed and indeed it was a product of the collective genius of the ancient Tamils.                           


Tolkappiyam is a unique work.  It is not merely a grammatical work that cover phonology, morphophonemics , morphology, syntax and semantics but also with poetic conventions that deal with the conduct of love affairs, war and social life and traditional conventions. We are indeed fortunate to have precious sociological inputs that cover many aspects of the intangibles of Tamil prehistory in the forms of Tolkappiyam built on the strength of rich foundation of poetic traditions of the past.  Tolkappiyam was organized in parts namely eluttu, col and porul

Tolkappiyam has a space time approach to the matter (porul) that classified into three 1) mutual porul  2) karrup porul  3 ) Urupporul.


The porul ( Subject matter ) of poetry is divided into akapporul and purapporul.


2.Tinai Classification


3.Tinai Classification


Portrayal of high urban life in Sangam texts.


Sangam texts are urban literature par excellence for no other ancient texts in any Indian language celebrate various nuances of urban life in such copious yet realistic detail.

     Ancient tamils were great lovers of towns and cities. Sangam texts such as MaturaikkanchiPattinappalaiPerumpanarruppataiincluding the post Sangam Tamil epic Cilapatikkaram and manimekalai not only deal with urban life but also point a fair picture of significance towns and cities had for the people.


Description of sea ports and inland capitals strongly suggest town planning on an extensive scale ( streets, division into quarters, architecture ) Pattinappalai for example describes at length the features of the Kaveri port capital Kaverippumpattinam(Pumpukar) of the Chola King Kari kaalan.  It portrays  “ Sturdy boats with paddy got by bartering salts tied to post on the shores “  and also observes the public kitchens and tall mansions of the city in graphic detail.


Indus Valley Archaelogy, Old Tamil Towns and Sangam Poetry:


Based on the word aruppam, ‘fort’(DEDR 221), it  has been suggested by P.L.Samy that old Tamil town Araiyam could be Harappa of the Indus-Harappan Civilization. Mahadevan has made an interesting comparison between the archaeological data of the Indus Valley and Information available in Sangam texts on towns and urban life. He attempts to link the old Tamil town names such as Pali, KutalNanmatakutalMatirai(Madurai), and Elil with address signs of the Indus script.

Inspite of Sangam texts providing detailed accounts of the city scape, urban life and infra structure, there was acute paucity of archaeological findings that could corroborate the urbanisation of ancient Tamil lands of Sangam or pre- Sangam age.  This non – availability of arachaeological correlation made the Sangam inputs on urban life a mystery whicb motivated the study of alternative evidence to support the Dravidian hypothesis.


Maritime Culture in the IVC and in Sangam Tamil:


Author provides comparative study of mari time culture in the IVC and Sangam tamilClarrence Maloney points to the  Arthashastra(dated to 300 BCE ) referring to Pandiya ports in Indo-ceylon strait as sources of pearls.


Maritime trade of Chola empire antiquity of boat making and Indus trade were elaborated.  With given correlations one might ask if there is direct mention in the Sangam texts about sights of IVC .  Such question may not make sense given the geographical and historical distance between the end of the IVC (1900 BCE) and the beginning of the Sangam period ( 6th century BCE  ) what happened in between ? If the Dravidian hypotheus isnto be validated, one has to find a credible source may not be considered reliable objectives and methodology in this study are different as they involve proven methods of onomastics to identify markers for ancient migrations. Sangam corpus is an onomastic treasure trove.


➢ The boundaries of sangam landscape extended beyond the political boundaries of ancient tamilnadu.  The geographies dealt with in Sangam texts were not strictly coterminous with the political and linguistic boundaries sought to be defined in the texts themselves.


➢ The poets of Sangam had intimate knowledge of flora and fauna of a pan Indian nature (north, central,northwest) unmatched by any other Indian literary tradition.  Although the texts represent a Dravidian way of life, they had a pan-Indian character.



➢ Sangam poetry is a literature of migrations, lost lands and carried forward memories.  These ‘carried forward’ memories ensured that the texts literally travel back and forth in time and space.

Last of these features, but central to this book:

➢ Sangam poems are a treasure trove for onomastic studies, as it is a literature of names of places and people, of hills , rivers and the poets who celebrated them-names of all types, big, small, known and unknown.

The Nannans and Kosars are important connections in the present study more on this is upcoming chapters.  Two groups referred to in sangam literature are Nandars and Moriyar.


Wind Dynamics of Sangam Geography:


Tolkappiyam defines land and time as the first or basis things. Time again divided into season (perumpolutu) and times of day and night (cirupolutu) .  The climate occupies important position is poetic narration of Sangam texts. Sangam poets display their genius is minutely observing the tyoe of winds, their directions and intensity of their flow and use that as a tool to entrance the melodrama associated with the theme of the poetry. 


Author vividly describes the winds. The wind from all directions that is North, west, east and south from sangam poems.

Northerly wind   - Vatai – chilly wind – from different northern land 
Westerly wind    - Kotai – hot westerly wind 
Easterly wind     - Kontal – Rain bearing wind.
Southerly wind   - Tenral – Soothing breeze from south direction .


4.Frequency of wind pattern in Sangam Literature

Wind Rose and Sangam Literature:


Author captures minute details of four different wind direction mentioned in Sangam texts and compared it with the pattern in contemporary context by use of wind Rose diagram. Wind Rose diagram is graphics tool to give concise view of how wind speed and direction are typically distributed at a specific location. Something similar to polar plot depicting vibration analysis.

5.Wind Rose for Ahmedabad

The frequency of different types of winds in Sangam literature and their nature matches with the wind rose pattern of western geography and stands in contrasts with the wind rose for Chennai. What does this mean? Is there a conflict? 


The wind rose of Chennai gives a contrasting paradigm of wind direction portrayed in texts.  There is no way that geography has changed in the last two millennia western Ghats remain where it was and the boundaries remain mostly unchanged.


Imayam, the Red Himalayan Mountain:


Imayam, the red Himalayan mountain Sangam texts gives clues to detailed understanding of the Himalayas and other connected geographies.  The significance of their understanding needs to be analyzed with an open mind and light of other diverse evidence presented here.

Pattiraupattu (11-20) was written by poet kumattur Kannanar in praise of chera king. Neduncheralathan, who placed the bow emblem on the Himalayas.  They dis3333 his victory as a repetition of his ancestors conquest.


Grass Eating Yak :


The yak (Bos grunniens and Bos mutus)  is long haired bovine found throughout the Himalayan region.  Sangam texts refer to a herbivorous animal called Kavari twice.  Traditionally the animal Kavari is considered a deer.  Tiruvallvar says that the Kavari ma would not remain alive if it loses its hair .  But this is not the trait of a deer , it is the trait of Himalayan Yak.

Pur .132 refers to high reaches of Himalayas where kavari taking rest with its pair under cool shade of a takaram tree having grazed aromatic grass called narantai. Similarly in Patirruppattu there is a reference to kavari in the context of the Himalayan, referring to the animal sleeping after having grazed on narantai grass.

Kavari slepping on slopes filled with coral trees, dream of the

Narantham grass they ate, and of wide waterfalls from which

They drank,  in the well renowned Himalayas where Aryans live.

In the land between that mountain and southern kumari,

You have ruined the strength of arrogant kings . (Patir.11)

Patirruppattu (43) refers to kavari mucci kar viri kuntal – of women’s hair dressed up with the hair of kavari, attached as false hair to their locks.  In this reference it is obvious that the hair of kavari has to be long enough to be attached to the hair of women to dress-up. Even today in Tamilnadu, the false hair used by women to extend their hair is called cauvri muti, even though only human hair is used for making it.  


The question arises as how Sangam poets could authentically describe Himalayan animal with specific references to the type of grass it grazed and tree under which it slept and so on.  Author emphasis on utmost authencity of Sangam literature which describes elements of landscape in graphic details.  


There is no scope for any wild imagination and fantasies.

Hence reference to the yak in Sangam has to be taken seriously as authentic internal evidence to prove that the geography of Sangam texts was larger than geography of sangam polity.

The inputs on Himalayan yak probably came to Sangam texts through an oral tradition, the genesis of which probably belonged to the prehistory of  Tamils involving the northwesterngeographies. Apart from the accuracy of narration with references to yak, the identification of Himalayas as a a place from where Aryans came and the Juxtaposing of Himalayas in the north and the Ay clan in south provide insight into the Sangam Tamil mind that recognizes north – south and Aryan- Tamil binaries.


6.Himalayan Yak

Fauna and Flora in Sangam texts /Dravidian West:

Author provides brief details about fauna and flora in Sangam texts and fauna and flora of Dravidian west.  Description of various animals and their behaviour in Sangam literature are not based on hearsay or poetic exaggeration but based on keen observation.

The reference to northwestern and northern animals such as the bone –eating camel, the grass eating yak and the lions and its implication in reconstructing the migratory past of the Tamils has to be appreciated in the context of fact that the early North Indian literature has hardly any reference to the flora and fauna that are unique only to southern India.  For example, there is  no reference to teak (Tectona grandis) in Vedic literature because teak was not known to Vedic people.  Northern literature (Valmiki Ramayana) places saffron as a flora of Western Ghats which has never been the case.  


Perumpeyar : Name and Fame :

Sangam poets use, in numerous instances, perumpeyar (literally meaning ‘big name’ ) –an epithet to celebrate the glory of places, gods and chieftains.  Madurai, KaverippumpattinamKallurKutal(Madurai), PantilParampu and Mutur are places and towns glorified by the Sangam poets with an epithet Perumpeyar.


The practice of giving the name of the grandfather to the grandson (peyaran – one who carries the name) is a practice that prevails even now in south India. We have literary evidence to hold that this was a practice during the Sangam Age as well (Kalit.75). The emphasis given to the worthy names of the fathers and forefathers is also evident in Sangam texts ( Ak. 162, Pur. 174).  The personal name Nannan Cey Nannan i.e Nannan, the son of Nannan, a chieftain in whose praise the Sangam work Malaipatukatam is written bears evidence to the practice of a son bearing the name of the father.  Thus the name itself gets revealed and gets transferred.  By this analogy the name becomes the umbilical cord and the connecting thread that explains how the names are taken down through generations.   


Names being a part of the language and ancient people attached considerable value to names  and the fact that place and personal names as communal endowment(Social value/quality for inheritance) is passed on from one generation to another generation as patrimony, encourages us to posit the corpus(put forward as fact  from collection /database of word/names) of a given society as intangible heritage material. A careful compilation of place – name specifics and generics, names of geographical features, names of tribes , clans, kings and chieftains would give a credible glossary of Sangam names which can be used as a baseline template for comparison with the place- names of northwesterngeographies to verify the validity of the Dravidian Hypothesis.

We propose that onomastic studies involving toponyms and anthroponyms of the Sangam literature and place-names of Harappan geographies will proven to be a litmus test for the Dravidian Hypothesis of the IVC, and the results of such a study will be presented in the coming chapters. 


                                        V. Pushpalatha Poongodi    

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