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On Sanskrit vs. tamil

From: Venkatesh Elayavalli (
Date: Sat Jan 03 1998 - 09:09:00 PST

Dear members,

To continue on the use of Tamil on par with Sanskrit,  I would like to
quote the following
from Srivaishnava ManipravAlA by Sr. K. K. A. Venkatachari.


Nanjiyar's Defence of Tamil:

As the idea of Tamil Veda increased in popularity and the hyms of the
Alvars became
known beyond Tamil Nadu, there were criticisms raised against the claims
that the
4000 was the Tamil Veda and that Tamil could be considered on a par with
as a language of religious texts.  Such objections include:

a. That tamil is a forbidden language.
b. That even the lower classes read the scriptures and hyms written in
tamil and so
    pollute them.
c. That some of the religious hyms were written by NammAlvAr a vaishnava
saint born
    in the fourth varna, considered to be of low standing.
d. Tamil is a regional language and not understood throughout the
country as sanskrit.
e. that even avaidhikas such as jains and buddhists adopt this language
to expound their
   preaching, (manimekhalai, etc).
f. That the vaishnava hymms and writings do not elaborate on all four
objects (dharma,
   artha, kAma and moksha) needed for a full life, but concentrate only
on kAma and
g. That the hymms contain a number of references to nAyakanAyakibhAva,
where God
   is considered as Nayaka and the soul Nayaki and thus prostitutes such
holy hymms
   to bare erotic feelings.

Nanjiyar in his onpathinAyirappati (9000) effectively refutes these
charges and argues for
the greatness of Tamil.

a. It is nonessential to contend that Tamil is a forbidden language, as
any language is
    appropriate for praising God. He quotes from matsayapurAna the story
wherein a
    king orders that kaisika, one of the devotees was singing the
praises of the Lord in
    a language other than Sanskrit, to be banished from his kingdom.
Yamma, the Lord
    of death tells the King that his attitude is wrong and that any
language is appropriate
    for praising God.

b. Scriptures do not become polluted by the lower classes reading them,
on the other
    hand, this is a boost for God's apostolic work, since propagation of
religion through
    such means is necessary for the good of the world.

c. That a person born in a lower varna is no fault of his. What makes
him worthy and
    venerated is his erudition and moral rectitude. Nanjiyar says, he
(NammAlvAr) had
   such a learning and was so pious and venerable that even God Himself
    NammAlvAr's vast store of knowledge and wisdom.

d. Tamil may be a regional language, but it is understood by all men of
real learning in
    other languages in other regions of India. Such learned men who do
not know Tamil
    actually regret that they do not have the good fortune to know it.

e. That even the Avaidhkas used Tamil as the medium of their preachings
is actually a
    credit to the Tamil language.

f. That the hymms of alvArs do not elaborate all the four objects cannot
be considered
   a discredit to the hymms of teh AlvArs , since their intention is
only to guide the people
   towards the attainment of eternal salvation and they do not consider
the other elements
   necessary for a full life.

g. The view that nAyakanAyakibhAva gives the Alvar's hymms a taint of
eroticism and
    thus makes them inferior is not correct. for the nAyakanAyakibhAva
should be
    interpreted as signifying the spiritual union of soul and God and
not erotic lovers. The
    nAyakanAyakibhAva is only a stage of devotion which helps the
ordinary mortal to
    understand and appreciate the concept of devotion to God.

Nanjiyar's defense of the use of Tamil explicitly makes scriptural
knowledge available to
all varnas. This view is opposed to the earlier view of the Bhraminic
orthodoxy which
states that only twice born may know the vedas or Upanishads. Therefore,
of the scriptures becomes no longer an opportunity defined by brth, but
rather one
defined by participation in the Srivaishnava community.


I'll follow up with Sir PeriyavAccAnpillai's defence of Tamil, which
appears to be
stronger than that of Nanjiyar's defence.

AchAryarkaL ThiruvadigalE SaraNam