Myth of Christian contribution to Tamil – 2

via Thamizhchelvan published on July 24, 2010

Caldwell the Racist!


Another missionary who inflicted massive damage on Tamil Hindus was the Scot Robert Caldwell (1814-1891) who, along with his wife Elissa Mault, resided in Tirunelvelli and made huge conversions. While he focused on the male population, she converted the womenfolk.


He sowed the poisonous seed called Dravidian Racism. He fully utilised the Aryan-Dravidian theories concocted by German linguist Max Mueller and imposed them on Tamil Hindus as true history. He abused the word ‘Dravida’ to the hilt and projected Tamil Hindus as a separate Dravidian Race. His book, Dravida Mozhikalin Oppilakkanam (A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages, Harrison: London, 1856), which gave him the reputation of a great champion of Tamil, spewed venom on Brahmins and accused them of spreading lies. If Ziegenbalg was the founder of anti-Brahmanism, Robert Caldwell was responsible for spreading it throughout the region, giving a stimulus to the radicalization of the Non-Brahmin movement.

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Ironically, ‘A comparative grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian family of languages’ cannot be termed his own work as he allegedly took lots of passages from Francis Whyte Ellis, who wrote “Dravidian Language Hypotheses”. To understand why Caldwell resorted to ‘research’ South Indian languages, one should read Dr. K. Muthaia’s article, Caldwell Oppilakkanaththin Arasiyal Pinnani (The Politics Behind Caldwell’s Comparative Grammar), published in the April 1997 issue of the Tamil monthly magazine Kanaiyaazhi.


Muthaia states, “Many research conclusions found in Caldwell’s book on comparative grammar of Dravidian languages have political reasons and undertones. The motive behind his arrival was to convert the South Indians and Christianise the southern region. He was also considerably successful in his religious mission… A detailed and in-depth study of his work would make us understand that he had had Sanskrit hatred, anti-Brahminism and denigration of Hinduism as objectives, but not establishing the antiquity of Tamil and the individuality of Tamil people… Knowing pretty well that he would not be able to spread Christianity among Tamil people unless their mindset on Hindu culture and Sanskrit language was changed, he indulged in creating hatred for North Indians in the minds of the Tamil Hindus. As a first step in that direction, he created the concept of ‘Dravidian Language Family’ ” (Dravida Maayai, Subbu, op. cit., pp. 26-28).


Caldwell’s infamous book Tinnevelly Shanars (Printed by ‘Reuben Twigg’ at ‘The Christian Knowledge Society’s Press’, Church Street, Vepery, Madras – 1849)  proved to be his nemesis. Though his focus for conversion was mainly on Shanars (Nadars), the dominant community in Tirunelvelli, he literally denigrated them and their lifestyle in the said book. The outraged and agitated community allegedly decided to punish him which forced him to shift base from Tirunelvelli to Ootacamund, where he breathed his last.  


Robert Caldwell was instrumental in creating anti-Brahmin, anti-North, anti-Sanskrit and anti-Hindu feelings among the Tamil people and dividing them through Aryan-Dravidian racial theories. His activities laid the foundation for Tamil separatism, which badly affected the national integration. His Comparative Grammar of Dravidian Languages also played an ugly role in creating racial differences between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka, for he argued in that book that “there was no direct affinity between the Sinhalese and Tamil languages”. There is not even an iota of truth in the propaganda that he was a lover of Tamil and helped the development of Tamil. That is a misinformation campaign floated by the Church and supported by Dravidian racist parties.  


At a seminar on the last day of the recent Classical Tamil Conference, Prof. Parveen Sultana said, “Protecting our Mother Tongue is very important. We have come across many instances in world history where nations are conquered by capturing and dominating their languages. For example, a famous quote doing rounds in Africa says, ‘When they came here, they had the Bible and we had our lands. Now we have the Bible and they have our lands’! This has happened wherever Christianity has landed”.


That she spoke this truth in a conference where the likes of Caldwell were eulogised shows her courage! Delving into the great culture of this land, the learned professor spoke about the construction of temples and their greatness. Parveen Sultana’s speech was one of the rare highlights of the conference which was otherwise dominated by Christianity, Dravidian racism and eulogies for Kalaignar Karunanidhi.


More on Padires’ love for Tamil!


The history of Tamil Nadu has many more evidences of the ‘divide and dominate’ policy of the White Church. During the reign of ‘Kizhavan Sethupathi’ in the kingdom of Ramanathapuram, a Portuguese Padire by name John-De-Britto indulged in heavy harvesting of souls. He even converted the close kin of Sethupathi Raja, but was finally punished by the King. V. Gopalan has written a detailed essay on this missionary and his activities:


Sri Thyagaraja Chettiar was a great exponent of Tamil literature and had great love for the language. Once a European missionary who claimed to have mastered Tamil Grammar came and showed some changes he had made to a few verses of Thirukkural. Outraged by the audacity of the Padire to change verses of such a great work, adored as a Tamil Veda, Sri Thyagaraja Chettiar scolded him and literally drove him away. This incident is mentioned in “Dr. Vu. Ve. Swaminatah Iyer Urainadai Noolkal” (Dr. U.V. Swaminatha Iyer’s Prose Works, Vol.-3, pp. 520-523).   


Sri Pandithurai Thevar of Madurai, another great exponent of Tamil language and literary works, learned that a British missionary had made changes to the very first verse of Thirukkural and printed the same. He immediately purchased the entire lot and burnt them! (Dravida Maayai, op. cit., pp. 21-22).


Baptising Thiruvalluvar and Blaspheming Thirukkural


Christians who had the temerity to lay their hands on Thirukkural then, have now gone to the extent of baptising Thiruvalluvar!!! Taking a cue from G.U. Pope’s atrocious introduction to Thirukkural, a fanatical evangelist called Deivanayagam, supported by the Madras Catholic Diocese, has been on a relentless campaign that, “Thiruvalluvar was a disciple of St. Thomas and most of the teachings in Thirukkural have been either taken from Bible or from the preaching of St. Thomas.”

The Roman Catholic Dioceses of Kerala and Tamil Nadu had announced in 2008 that they would be producing a film on the life and times of St. Thomas, wherein they would depict Thiruvalluvar as a disciple of St. Thomas.


Later, as confirmation of the unholy Christian-Dravidian nexus, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi graced the occasion of the said film’s inaugural function as Chief Guest. Though himself an expert on the Thirukkural, the Chief Minister chose to participate in the inauguration of a film falsely portraying Thiruvalluvar as a disciple of St. Thomas, a complete concoction and an audacious expression of extremist evangelism.


Tamil prose and Christian farce!


An oft repeated propaganda is that Christian missionaries introduced “Prose” writing in Tamil. A blatant lie! When Tamil Hindus have been adept at art, literature, music, architecture and theatre, wouldn’t they have been good in prose too? Is it not outrageous and insulting to say that people from Europe came and introduced prose writing to Tamil Hindus?


Tamil as a language is at the least 2000 years old. Starting from the Sangam Era, Tamil tradition has been a literate tradition with written records, preserved down the centuries by late classical and early medieval Tamil Brahmin and Saivite Hindu scholars. It was not an ‘oral’ legacy as alleged by Christians and Dravidian racists.


We have had commentaries on almost all ancient literary works, Sangam and post-Sangam, in prose, by learned scholars such as Ilampooranaar, Senavaraayar, Peraasiriyar, Parimelazhagar, Nachinaarkkiniyaar and Deivachchilaiyaar. Saivite Hindu Adheenams have helped preserve the Classical Tamil literary tradition down the centuries. The important fact to be noted is that the continuance and preservation of written Tamil literary heritage happened despite repeated invasions and unsettled political conditions.


The rich tradition continued in more modern times by devout Hindus such as U.V. Swaminatha Iyer, Ramachandra Dikshidhar, Neelakanda Shastri, P. Narayanaswami Iyer and Raghava Iyengar, etc in Tamil Nadu and staunch Hindu activists such as Arumuka Navalar, C.W. Thamotharam Pillai and Swami Vipulananda in Sri Lanka.


The so-called contribution of Christian missionaries comes nowhere near the contribution of these devout Hindus to Tamil scholarship in recent times. That is mainly because these devout Hindus had Bhakti, involvement in the growth of Tamil language, passion towards the culture of the soil and the mind to sacrifice everything for the development of the language, continuance of the culture and preservation of the tradition. The missionaries focused destructively on the Christianisation of the native culture. They had ulterior motives unlinked to the Tamil language – consolidation of European rule in India and conversion of the natives to the religion of Europe.


The Lexicon story!


The website
says, “The task of setting down on paper the alphabet, grammar, rules and vocabulary of the Tamil lexicon began in Christian schools, towards the end of the 19th century. It was pioneered by Father Swamy Gnanapragasam, who transcribed hundreds of ancient scripts into print. A statue in his honor can be seen in Jaffna city. His work was continued by Father Hyacinth Singarayer David, a master in Indo-Aryan languages and doctor in linguistics, who published six volumes of the lexicon…”



This is an inappropriate claim – the alphabet, vocabulary and rules of Tamil lexicon by far precede the Christian colonial missionary era. It seems Tamil Scholars in Sri Lanka are divided over the acceptance of Father Gnanapragasam as a scholar and historian. Some say he had made claims on history and linguistics that were not backed by historical evidences. For example, he said Tamil was the mother of all languages in the world! They also say that none of his works were peer reviewed by well known academics on the subject or published in reputed journals of history; he lacked post-graduate training in the historical method and was hardly a scholar of note.


Long before the arrival of Christian missionaries we had “Nigandus” or dictionaries. Tamil scholar/poet  and Maha Vidwan Dandapani Desikar’s direct student Sri Maniyan, who had written lexicons for many ancient Tamil literary works, says, “Nigandus were in the form of poetic verses, which made the students, teachers and research scholars to remember them easily. These Nigandus have been there since 11 century CE. But, the dictionary of alphabetical order was introduced by Foreigners”. (Interview in Rasanai monthly magazine, July 2010, Chennai)

But to claim that “Prose” writing itself was introduced by Christian missionaries and only because of their contribution Tamil got a second life in the 18th century and survived is outrageous. The motive behind making such a claim is quite obvious! For the great scholars who have written commentaries in prose for ancient literary works, and for the scholars who have produced ‘Nigandus’, would it have been difficult to come out with a lexicon of alphabetical order in due course of time?

Padires; Proselytisers; Printers!


The fact of the matter is that the white Christians imported ‘printing machines’ from their countries and introduced printing technology here. What for? To help them in proselytisation works and to speed up the process of conversion!


Before the introduction of paper and printing, valuable books in Tamil language were written on both sides of “palm leaves” and committed to memory. Writing on the palm leaf, a common practice in those days, was a difficult work which only a trained person could do (so also writing on stone, copper plates etc). Several written leaves were bound together with wooden or brass boards at each end and tied up into a book. For referring to anything in a book, it had to be untied, the relevant page spotted, and the matter read. This laborious process was quite easy to Tamil Hindus.


But the missionary found it extremely difficult. So he transported the printing machine, the paper and the techniques, from his native west. Another great handicap with the palm leaf was that only one copy could be written at a time; it could be duplicated only by hand copying one at a time. Every pupil under a teacher copied his own book in manuscript. But for the proselytizing missionary, many copies had to be taken at a time for distribution among prospective converts. Hence the printing machine was essential for them.


We may note that printing for the first time in India was in the Tamil language. Printing machines were imported by Jesuit priests and the first books in Tamil Nadu were printed in Tirunelvelli. The books printed through German collaboration for Danish Protestant missionaries were in vogue in the east coast around Tranquebar in Thanjavur district. (We have already seen that the German Protestant Padire Barthalomaus Ziegenbalg printed the Tamil Bible through a German machine owned by Danish Church in Tranquebar).


Similarly, the British established a printing press at Vepery in Madras for their own missionaries. The East India Company had a law which prohibited natives from opening any printing press or from printing any book. Only foreigners and missionaries (including native Christians) were permitted printing. The admirers among native Christians say the missionaries did great service to Tamil by introducing printing. But, it was done with an ulterior motive. In the matter of printing, only missionaries were encouraged by the Company. Printing in local languages helped the missionaries in their conversion work and the Company wanted proselytisation. The history of printing in India, as of any other progressive enterprise like education, shipping or even medicine, is the history of suppression of Indian activities.


Ellis, who was a civilian, and Munroe, who was governor of Madras, both took great trouble to get the Press Law annulled, but this was done only in 1835. But for this ban, printing of Tamil books by eminent Tamil Hindu scholars of the day would have commenced even in the 18th century, and a great volume of classical Tamil literature could have been preserved through print.


The Company positively helped only in the loss of a vast literary wealth in the whole of India. The loss is said to be the greatest in Tamil, because Tamil had the largest heritage of ancient classical literature in the whole of India, barring perhaps Sanskrit. (‘History of Early Printing’ from “Christ
anity in India – A Critical study” by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan)


This being the truth, the claim by Christians and Dravidian racists that Christian missionaries helped the development of the Tamil language is outrageous, atrocious, and simply fallacious. It is evident that the Christian establishment in fact destroyed the Tamil language and culture to a great extent by not allowing natives to own printing presses and print books by promulgating a law to this end. Ergo, this is the “great Christian service” to Tamil!!!


(To be concluded…)

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