Karunanidhi and the politics of Tamil culture
03/07/2010 09:56:44  Iqbal Mohideen - Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan newspapers have had no coverage of the World Classical Tamil Conference that begins in Coimbatore on June 23. The Karunanidhi administration in Tamil Nadu is sponsoring the event. 2011 is an election year in Tamil Nadu. Karunanidhi, allied to the Congress party in New Delhi, just celebrated his 87th birthday. His DMK is on a strong wicket until such time that he retires. That would likely lead to a split in the party between his two sons, Stalin and Azhagiri. This conference is an effort to bolster the image of his party in the run-up to the state polls.

Karunanidhi played a significant role in upholding the then minority Congress party as the Sri Lankan military crushed the Tamil Tigers in the run up to the Indian general elections in May, 2009 . Had Karunanidhi insisted that India exert pressure on Rajapakse, the Congress Party, which depended on his support in the Indian parliament, would have been forced to do so. Prabhakaran anticipated Karunanidhi to bail him out. Karunandhi chose not to provide that help to the LTTE. Despite the public pretense of concern at the situation of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians for electoral reasons in Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi helped Sri Lanka by his deliberate and calculated inaction. This allowed Manmohan Singh to provide the strategic space for Sri Lanka to pursue a determined military option despite western pressure.

For once, Colombo, New Delhi and Chennai were on the same wavelength. While Karunanidhi went through the public motions of expressing alarm on behalf of Tamil IDPs caught in the cross fire, his disingenuous inaction served Sri Lanka. The Congress led administration could not have covertly supported Sri Lanka and survived in office without his explicit backing. Karunanidhi despite the public posture had no real interest in the Sri Lankan Tamils. His understandable priority was the political consolidation of his legacy.

The upcoming Tamil Conference has a similar objective. It is intended to leverage Tamil ethnic pride on the eve of the state elections. It will consist of pageants, exhibitions, awards, literary speeches, poetry sessions, dance operas and music performances to showcase Tamil history. It even includes a marathon race. There is very little in terms of academic research. There have been eight earlier conferences between 1966 and 1995 held at roughly three year intervals. The Tamil political establishment uses such conferences to boost its political standing.

English, French, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Russian and perhaps Hindi-Urdu have had more international literary, scientific and entertainment clout in the contemporary world. And yet, one does not witness regular conferences to pander to the self-esteem of the speakers of these languages. This appears to be a Tamil phenomenon.

The pomp and pageantry in Tamil Nadu appears to be directly inverse to the real influence of the Tamil language in scientific research, 20th century literature and contemporary academic discourse, all of which is conducted in the English language in Tamil Nadu! The contrast with contemporary Chinese or even Hindi-Urdu can not be more pronounced. The Chinese dialects are spoken by 1,200 million people while Hindi-Urdu is spoken by at least 700 million individuals in India and Pakistan. The political imperative in Tamil Nadu explains the need to link the Indus valley civilization with Tamil history despite no real evidence and repeatedly showcase the Tamil literary past when little has been achieved in the 20th century.

A particular discussion on Thiruvalluvar and his Thirukural would be relevant here. Much of the Karunanidhi administration's cultural policy is to celebrate the classical Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar. Professor Vaiyapuri Pillai, a noted etymologist, dates Thiruvalluvar to 600 AD based on internal textual evidence including its syntax and vocabulary. The dating is contested by some with widely discrepant alternate dates provided.

However, what is clear is that unlike the earlier Sangam era Tamil literature, the Thirukural owes much to the ideas and cultural motifs prevalent in the Indo-Gangetic plains as encapsulated in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Pali literature. The text itself is divided into three sections - Aram/Dharma, Porul/Artha and Inpam/Kama which follows the Dharma Shastra. The imprint of the Manu Dharma Shastra, Kautilya's Artha Shastra, Kamandaka's Niti Shastra, the Panchatantra, the Jain scriptures and the Pali Buddhist texts is all too visible in the Thirukural. The Thirukural represents the pan-Indic civilization. Unlike earlier Tamil literary works of the Sangam era, it has a far greater proportion of Sanskrit and Prakrit derived words.

The reason for this is simple. The Buddhist Kalabhra dynasty had invaded and ruled Tamil Nadu between the 4th and the 6th centuries AD. Inscriptional and literary evidence indicates that the Chola, Chera and Pandya kings were ruthlessly eliminated. The Kalabhras supported Buddhism and the Pali language, not Tamil. Many Tamil Buddhist monks of that period chose to write in Pali alone. This included Buddhadatta Thera from Uragapura (Uraiyur) and Dhammapala Thera from Tambarattha (Tirunelveli) who traveled to Sri Lanka to translate the Sinhalese commentaries into Pali. Even the celebrated Buddhist commentator Buddhaghosha lived for a while in Madhura-sutta-pattana (Madurai) en route to Sri Lanka. The Buddhist Kalabhra dynasty facilitated the wholesale import of motifs from the Indo-Gangetic plains. This reshaped Tamil literature. The imprint of Prakrit redefined the Tamil language during the Buddhist Kalabhra period. The Thirukural with its pan Indic motifs was one cultural consequence. It represented the adoption of a broader Indic world view in Tamil literature.

The motto of the 2010 World Tamil Conference is derived from verse 972 of the Thirukural that begins with the words 'Pirapokkum ella uyirkum'. This verse states that all men are alike at birth and that their deeds differentiate them. This is similar to verses 21 and 27 of the Vasala Sutta as taught by the Buddha.

The Buddhist zeal of the Kalabhras triggered a home-grown Saivite Hindu revival in the 6th century. This in turn saw the eclipse of Buddhism and Pali scholarship in the Tamil land, not to mention a renewed pride in the Tamil language. But the Kalabhra inter-regnum had ended the earlier Sangam epoch of Tamil literature, one that was to never resurrect. Few contemporary Tamil Nadu politicians are aware of the historical background behind Thiruvalluvar. The ever increasing pitch of singing the glories of that undoubtedly great literary work and the repeated Tamil conferences are intended to serve a narrow partisan purpose, one of political consolidation.

Bookmark and Share

Share on Facebook

04/07/2010 13:38:12
Iqbal Mohideen attributes verse 972 of the Tirukural to the Buddha. The verse can also be linked to the Dharma Shastra and I quote "Janmana jayate Sudrahe, Karmana jayate dvijahe'.

An approximate translation means that 'all without exception are born Sudra; their actions alone make them twice born'.

In other words, one's actions alone and not one's birth defines one's varna.

On a different note, the Tirukural is also known as the Tamil Veda given its importance in the Tamil Hindu tradition despite its non-sectarian origins. While the Jain imprint can not be denied, it is not an exclusive Jain work in that it extols farming as a highest livelihood. 5
Hindu culture is not such a weak and fluffy thing as to be easily stamped out; it has lasted through something like five millenniums and is going to carry on much longer and has quite enough power to survive.

Shri Aurobindo

Watch NaMo latest interview.
No one can stop the rise of a visionary. Must watch interview of NaMo.
Jihadi call to support AAP & Congress to defeat Narendra Modi.
Protest : Big Bazaar advertisement insulting Hindu Dharma
Man murdered by Muslim friends over live in relationship with Muslim woman
Renowned Surgeon Dr.Devi Shetty: "Narendra Modi can deliver, has clear vision on how India should be run
Modi's today's explosive and exhaustive interview to ANI
No wonder, Antonia is able to get away with NONSENSE
'Modi is not a politician. He is a Statesman'. - Dr.B.M.Hegde
SDPI terrorists attack BJP candidate in Tanjavur
The Biggest Interview of 2014 with Narendra Modi in TV9
Christian Vishu - Heights of Inculturation and Hypocrisy.
Result of rise in Muslim demography; Jihadi fight among themselves in Taliparamba riots
Final leap towards Janam TV - Suresh Gopi to launch logo, in the presence of socio-cultural leaders
Opinion poll: BJP and allies cross 272 mark
Priyanka Gandhi drinks too much alcohol and has a bad name, says Subramanian Swamy.
Kudos to Nationalist tweeples; #AbKiBaarModiSarkaar continuously trending in twitter.
Exclusively for secular Hindus.
Narendra Modi : Give me 60 Months and Will give you a Life of Peace and Happiness.
I won't have any issues in taking support from Mukhtar Ansari: Kejriwal
Narendra Modi in Aap Ki Adalat 2014, Full Episode
Celebrity Tamil novelist supports Narendra Modi, gets threat
Modi effect: 2,000-odd RSS shakhas sprout in 3 months
CPM's secret circular espouses Anti Hindu agenda
Narendra Modi in Aap Ki Adalat, Full Episode.
Sanjay Baru's book puts forth sensational claims about UPA govt
'Informer-Cop Nexus Behind TN Islamic Fundamentalism'
Bill on Banning Conversion - Sign the petition
Ishrat Jahan Conspiracy, the full untold story. Disseminate widely in the interest of our national security.
Muslims won Kargil for India, not Hindus:SP leader Azam Khan
AAP candidate against Sonia Gandhi withdraws.
AAP Ka Sach jhoot bole kauwa kaate
Secular Exam paper - Which holy book teaches 'Love'?
British Army Given a talk on the Bhagavad Gita
Muslims frown over Kumar Vishwas' pro-RSS comments
Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat - BJP Manifesto 2014
Now we know what is happening with Ford foundation's hefty donations to AAP
Sashi Tharoor hobnobs with Christian power brokers, Ask them to threaten laity by demonising Modi
Tale of two Manifestos: BJP vs Congress
AAP wants to strike a deal with largest party: AAP leader
Family of deceased Keralite MBBS student urges for fresh probe.
NaMo - The visionary.
Why India needs a strong government at the centre
Possible scenarios for UPA-3
Don't be a fence sitter! Vote! Vote Responsibly! Vote for Namo !- Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Narendra Modi's Vision and Priorities - Interview
Aadhar - biggest Social Scam on the Planet Earth, says Dr Swamy
Why BJP?
Kerala Demograhy - 'Islamic Surge' across Kerala
VHP launches, India Health line in Delhi
Kerala Home Minister's inflammatory article against Narendra Modi
Muslim goons on a rampage against Hindus in Ullal
They Divide, We Unite
Decoding Modi : Watch unseen aspects of Modi's life
Parameswarji on - Why Janam?
Journalist and ex-Congress MP M J Akbar on why he chose to join BJP
Chetan Bhagat's Analyse on ''The Modi Effect'
Congress Panic at “Whirlwind” Muslims Support for NaMo
BJP launches Raksha app to aid women security
Yogendra Yadav on Gujarat development before he became AAP leader
Before Voting please remember the following statements
14 Myths about RSS : writes Kiran Kumar S.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind's constitution is unconstitutional, Kerala govt says
Christian Good News Vs Hindu Good News ; Explained by Rajiv Malhotra
Kannur Seva Appeal - Stand up for the families of those who sacrificed their lives for the nation.
Trader launches 'The Namo Store' for Narendra Modi merchandise
Kerala Church showers praises on Modi
Will Joyalukkas make-up mother mary an ad figure ?
Their Last Journey - Heartbreaking cattle trafficking in Kerala
HK Seva update- Thanks for your support!
We are not interested in 2002, We are interested in 2022
I respect Sangh Activist's dedication for the Nation - Justice VR Krishna Iyer
Ready to join hands with HK ? - An Appeal
Nandettan exposes Marxist hatred towards Swami Vivekananda - Janam Video Report
13.45% growth rate in Muslim dominated Mallapuram while Kerala only have 4.86% growth rate
At Tirunelveli, 200 Christians Come Back to Hindu Fold

About Us | Contribute | Feedback
All rights reserved. © 2005 - 2011. www.haindavakeralam.org