வியாழன், ஜூலை 24, 2008

An Introduction to the History of Tamil People

An Introduction to the History of Tamil People
-by Prof. A. Velupillai
Religious Traditions of the Tamils
The Tamils can be defined as people, having Tamil as their mother tongue. Tamil language is a member of the Dravidian/ South Indian family of languages. The four southernmost states of India- tamiz Nadu, kERaLa, karNAdaka, and Andra Pradesh- are predominantly linguistically Dravidian, each state carved out on the basis of predominance of the four major Dravidian languages. The Dravidian languages are mother tongues of about a quarter of the Indian population. Though about 80% of the speakers are found within the borders of these four South Indian states, a number of Dravidian languages have been identified in other parts of South Asia. Among the tribal languages of Central India, almost extending to the borders of Bengal, distinct from the Austro-Asiatic family of languages, many Dravidian languages have been identified. The northern reaches of this family have been located in isolated settlements in Nepal and Pakistan. The Brahui speakers are found in the hills of Baluchistan, almost on the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. So, the Dravidian family of languages is a South Asian family of languages in one sense. About 22 languages are classified as belonging to the Dravidian family and on linguisic criteria, sub-division as North, Central and South Dravidian are made. Tamils alone number about 60 million people.South India and Sri Lanka have been homelands of the Tamils, from the beginning of recorded history. The region, roughly covered by the modern states of tamiz NAdu and Kerala are identified as ancient tamizakam up to about 10th century AD. Even though some evidence exists for Tamil influence , and Tamil presence in Sri Lanka is noticeable from very early times, strong Tamil presence and influence in Sri Lanka, from about the 10th century. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Tamils migrated to some British colonies in search of employment and thus there are substantial Tamil populations in Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Fiji and South Africa. After the World War II, a movement of Tamil professionals to UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand is proceeding continuously. Due to the recent civil war type situation in Sri Lanka, many thousands of Tamils in about 20 countries, with large numbers in Canada, Germany, France, and Switzerland. Within the Nordic countries, Norway and Denmark have more Tamils than Sweden.2. Present Situation regarding religious affiliations of the Tamils.Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are the major religions among the Tamils in that order: Hindus are counted as forming more than 80% of the population and the other religions are reckoned to be less than 20% of the population. Some of the other religions like Jainism, Buddhism have relatively few adherents. The Tamil Christians include both Roman Catholics as well as the Protestants. The Muslims are mainly Sunni. The situation is fairly stable, only Christian missions, said to be marginally successful in making new converts. The general atmosphere is religious toleration and harmony.The official policy of India is secularism,,,. Overall, Hinduism is neither a missionary nor an exclusive religion. To put it in a negative way, the Hindus withdraw into themselves and don't react except when they feel threatened. Many scholars have commented on the tolerant attitude of the Hindus. Some recent developments in India challenges this view. But tamiz Nadu and the Tamils, generally keep up the Tamil tradition of tolerance, There is no Hindu extremism worth mentioning among the Tamils. No serious claim is put forward that Hinduism should have special privileges, compared to other religions.3. The Dravidian Hypothesis about the people of the Indus valley Civilization.The Tamils have legends that their ancient history extends up to about ten thousand years, sea swallowing up their lands twice and kings establishing new capitals and fostering Tamil in three successive academies. The legend is first mentioned in the commentary of kaLavijal, which is assigned to about 8th century AD. This legend is one of the reasons- one of the excuses- for connecting up the Tamil civilization with some prehistoric ancient civilizations, whose identity and continuity poses special problems.The records of the Indus Valley Civilization have not been satisfactorily deciphered. Material remains have been interpreted by archeologists. There cannot be finality, till a satisfactory reading of the records. Material remains are generally interpreted in the light of elements in the later Hinduism. Siva worship in the form of pacupati and NadaRajA, Sakti worship and some other deductions are made. In the 1950s, Father Heras argued for the Dravidian identity of the Indus Valley people. In the 1960s, the Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies issued many announcements, trying to establish this identity. This hypothesis is still defended seriously by Japanese Professor Noboru Karashima, President of the International Association for Tamil Research in 1994.4. The Dravidian Identity of the Sumerians.This is another hypothesis that is strongly advocated by certain scholars. The Sumerian records have been deciphered and material remains have been interpreted satisfactorily. Linguistic and cultural affinities between the Sumerians and the Tamils, separated by much more than a millennia, are pointed out. The late Professor A. catAcivam (A.Sathasivam) from Sri Lanka and Dr. ulakaNAtan muttarAjan (Loganathan Muttarayan) from Malaysia are examples. Eminent historians of the caliber of K.A. Nilakanda cAttiri (Nilakantta Sastri), have pointed out similarities in temple worship. A hypothesis, connecting the ancestors of the Dravidians, if not the Tamils. to the Mediterranean area, is still advocated by certain scholars. ◦
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