இக்கட்டுரையை அச்செடுக்க To print this article
On seeking classical status to Malayalam language, (Indian languages and classical status by M.A. Baby, The Hindu, 26th Sep 2008) the author ambiguously posed his view with regard to the classical part of Sanskrit. Differentiating Vedic lore and the ornate form of its language and by subsequent mention, ‘the older literary form of any language’ as classical he slides to the view that Vedic lore is classical.
Orientalist scholars have clearly distinguished Vedic lore from the later sanskrit. The later sanskrit was termed as classical. The word Sanskrit itself means classical (i.e. cultivated). The famous orientalist Max Muller has mentioned that the Vedic dialect had many tribal features and so it was proper to mention it by the term Vedic language or Vedic Indo-Aryan. They were wise enough to distinguish Sanskrit from Prakrit dialects (Prakrit means natural) and Sanskrit was never a spoken language. In the second paragraph he has catalogued Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic, Greek and Latin as the five classical languages of the world. It was wrong on his part to have included Arabic; it must be Hebrew.
Let us come to the central point of the said article. He cites Silappadikaram to buttress his argument that the contribution of Kerala towards Tamil culture and history is not negligible and so Malayalam has every right to claim classical status. His argument is ridiculous; if we extend his argument to its logical limits, he has to answer many valid questions. Why shouldn’t they merge the state with Tamil Nadu? Why shouldn’t they hand over the Kannagi temple to Tamil Nadu? Why should they interfere in strengthening and raising the level of Mulla Periyar? Etc.
While he claims Sangam literature as common to all of south India, conveniently he forgets the fact that the Sangam literatures are in Tamil language and similarly while claiming that Kerala preserves its purity in Vedic chanting, he conveniently forgets the classical status of Sanskrit and claims Malayalam language, the admixture of both classical Tamil and the classical Sanskrit to be accorded such a status.
Up to 16th century Malayalam didn’t evolve as a separate language and it was only a form of Tamil, called malainattuk kodun thamizh. We hasten to add that the process of evolving in to separate language took nearly 1000 years and took full shape in the 16th century. Even the Malayalam script evolved out of the vattezhuththu that prevailed in southern Tamil Nadu and the grantha (script) used for writing Sanskrit. The Leelāthilakam, earliest grammar in Malayalam attests to the fact that the so called lower caste Malayalees spoke Tamil slang; but the so called upper castes (i.e. Nambuthris and Nayars) spoke Tamil with a heavy admixture of Sanskrit words and Sanskritik semantics. For e.g. People like Ezhavas and Pulayas used person, gender and number markers in verbs (ňaan varuňňæn, nii varuňňaai, avan varuňňaan, aval varuňaal, athu varuňu, ayaaL varuňaar etc.). But the so called upper caste people didn’t use the specific markers in verbs. They used to express ňaan varunnu, nii varunnu etc. without any distinct markers for person, gender and number.
Even the catholic and protestant missionaries, who were active in proselytizing activities in the 16th and 17th centuries, used the Tamil alphabet only in their printed works. Even as late as 1680 a Dutch compiled Horticus Malabaricus Indici with the help of one Ezhava, Itti Achchuthan by name and 3 Brahmins. In that book the captions are given in Latin and Tamil alphabets. It becomes clear now that the Malayalam script did not become popular up to the end of 17th century. Concerning Malabar, Nambuthris devised a script for writing Tulu and used it for their daily local correspondences etc. But we have to agree with Mr. Baby that many Sanskrit classical works (e.g. Arthasasthra by Kautilya, Maththavilasa prakasana by Mahendravarama Pallava) in their manuscript forms were discovered in Kerala only. This itself shows that Nambuthris and Nayars and other Samantha kings who had matrimonial as well as sambanda alliances with Nambuthris patronized Sanskrit language and Sanskritik art forms.
Even the chakkiyar kooththu, an art form in kodun thamizh got Sanskritized on the model of Kathakali. Even kathakali, in its original form might have had a kodun thamizh flavor as revealed by its name, i.e. kathai-story and kali-play.
First of all it seems, Mr. Baby bases his claim, on the strength of the fact that lobbying for Telugu and Kannada to get accommodated in the berth of classical languages has succeeded. In fact this subject has been politicized to such an extent that Dravidian politicians who were in the habit of shouting from the roof tops about the hoary past of Tamil have not protested against this farce. Dravidian linguists are unanimous in their opinion that Tamil is the only language among the Dravidian linguistic family to claim classical status. Historians and epigraphists are also aware of Tamil having been the administrative language along with Indo-Aryan Prakrit under the Sathavaahana regime (1st century BC) even up to Maharashtra has attested by coins with bi-lingual legends. i.e., “rājňo vasiti puthasa siri sathakanisa” on the obverse, and “aracanku vaciti makanku tiru sathakaniku” on the reverse. Emperor Asoka (3rd century BC) mentions triumvirate of Tamil country, i.e. the Chera, the Chozha the Pandya, whom he couldn’t subjugate. These Tamil kings formed a confederacy from the time of Asoka’s father and it existed for nearly 113 years. It was finally broken by Karavela, the Chedhi king of Kalinga (parts of present day Orissa) (2nd century BC). This fact has been recorded in the Udayagiri inscription of Karavela as ‘tramira desa sangatha’ (confederacy of Tamizh desam).
Even the term, Dravidian languages, owes its origin to the term dravida basha mentioned by Kumarila Batta in the 8th century AD. The word Tamil was pronounced variously by the northerners as Thramira, Dramida, Dravida and Drāvida. It is pertinent to notice that the three southern states Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra have discarded the term Drāvida; whereas in Tamil Nadu it is still in vogue, thanks to the repeated (of course worn-out) usage by the Dravidian politicians of Tamil Nadu. But it is really pathetic to observe that the Dravidian politicians are neither well informed nor honest enough to assert this historical fact in the proper fora. It is also pathetic on the part of Kerala comrades to have deviated from the path of class war to the path of warfare concerning classical status to their language.
A curious historical fact that we suspect most of the self-proclaimed Dravidian savants are not aware is that the first written record in Telugu language is an inscription by the Telugu Chozha kings of Renadu, who traced their origin to Uraiyur, i.e. the present day Trichirappalli. Up to that period the language used in administration in Andhra was Indo-Aryan Prakrit. Of course, classical Tamil was also used side by side. Mr. Baby regrets that Tamil protagonists are relying solely on certain inscriptions to prove the antiquity of the Tamil tradition. We have given ample evidence for establishing the fact that the only non Indo-European language that was used in administration in India up to 5th century AD was Tamil. It’s not a minor matter to be simply brushed aside.
It is no wonder that the protagonists for Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam are lobbying for getting a berth in the classical languages category. Any conscientious south Indian scholar would be aware that Tamil is the fittest among the Dravidian languages to claim the classical status. It doesn’t need the certificate of dwarfs. Tamil, by its nature itself is a classical language. The famous Tamil short story writer, Puthumaippiththan of yester years once remarked that, critiques of his stories are in fact verifying the correctness of their yardsticks against his short stories and not vice-versa. Tamil is such a colossus, too magnificent to be measured and certified by any institution.