Sanskrit, Indian government, Aryans, Brahmin supremacists, Dravidians, Dravidam and Tamil

Indian Government Denigrates the Tamil Language

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2001 (ID.2001-06-01)

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Hindians: People whose mother tongue is Hindi (similar to Tamil speakers are sometimes referred as Tamilans or Tamilians).

Spelling of Tamil words:

Thirukural is sometimes spelled Tirukural (modern spelling)

Thiurvalluvar is sometimes spelled as Tiruvalluvar (modern spelling)

Also, Thirukural is often referred as Kural and Thiruvalluvar is often referred as Valluvar.


AICE - All India Council on Engineering


1. Introduction

2. It is a Politician's Statement, not a Scholar's Statement

3. Ulterior Motive

4. Indian Government, Sanskrit and Tamil

5. Concluding Remarks

1. Introduction

In April 2000, India's  Human Resource Development Minister, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, said that, "there are two forms of Tamil, namely, ancient Tamil and modern Tamil". This an absolutely wrong statement. There is no ancient Tamil and modern Tamil; there is only one Tamil. The oldest available Tamil literature is Tholkappiam, written over 2000 years ago. It is understandable today by anyone with a good knowledge of Tamil. We use the same grammar used in Tholkappiam. We use the same words used in Tholkappiam. The Tamil language used in Tholkappiam is in use today in business, literature, education, entertainment  and everyday life. Other old books written approximately 20 centuries ago are Thirukural, Purannanooru, Silappathikaram, etc. belonging to the Third Tamil Academy (Third Tamil Sangam or Third Tamil Kazhagam). We use today the same grammar and words used in these ancient classics. The same Tamil language has been in continual use for at least 2000 years in every sphere of life of the Tamil people. (Age of the Tamil language is undetermined except that the oldest available literature, Tholkappiam, is more than 2000 years old. This book refers to even older literature, thus Tamil is much older than 2000 years). So Indian Government Minister Joshi's statement that there are two forms of Tamil -- the ancient Tamil and the modern Tamil -- is wrong, baseless and mischievous. It should be noted that the Indian Government Minister's statement was made in the context of whether the Indian Government should declare Tamil a classical language. The minister was expressing the view that today's Tamil is not a classical language but, may be, another Tamil--"the ancient Tamil-- is a classical language. This a very calculated and cunning anti-Tamil view, as  we would discuss later in this article. 

2. It is a Politician's Statement, not a Scholar's Statement 

To my knowledge, no Tamil scholar or linguist from anywhere, at anytime has stated that there are two forms of Tamil, namely, ancient Tamil and modern Tamil. Who is the Murli Manohar Joshi to make such a statement about the Tamil language? Is he a linguist or a Tamil scholar who reached this conclusion on the basis of scholarly research? No. He is neither a linguist nor a Tamil scholar. In fact, he does not know Tamil at all! He cannot speak Tamil, he cannot read Tamil, he cannot write Tamil, he does not understand Tamil. Then what gave him the authority to make a statement that there are are two forms of Tamil: the ancient Tamil and the modern Tamil? He is Indian Government's Human Resource Development Minister with the power to change school and university curricula, fund monies for language research and development, fund the publication of books, etc. etc. Just because the Tamil speaking land of Tamil Nadu is under Indian Government rule, it does not give him the right to make profound statements about the Tamil language. Only Tamil scholars and linguists have the right to make such statements. Their mother tongue need not be Tamil. They can be from any country but must know Tamil literature, grammar and history. There are excellent Tamil scholars and linguists around the world; they may make statements about Tamil. But this Murli Manohar Joshi, who does not know Tamil at all, has no right to make statements about Tamil even if he is a minister in the Indian Government and the Tamil speaking land of Tamil Nadu is under Indian Government rule.

3. Ulterior Motive

This statement about Tamil is not just a passing remark by an arrogant Indian Minister. This is part of a calculated effort by the Indian Government to denigrate the Tamil language. Let me explain.

Ever since a small group of Aryans migrated into South Asia some 3 to 4 thousand years ago, they have set themselves as superior to the local people (Dravidians, Nagas, etc.) They called their language the "divine language" (devabasha) and their script the "divine script" (devanagiri). Aryans declared that Sanskrit is the only language that gods understand and all worship should be in Sanskrit. The small group of the migrant Aryans gained favor with many local kings and engineered Sanskrit to become the language of governance in many kingdoms in northern India. In due course leaders like Buddha opposed this Sanskrit supremacy. Eventually Sanskrit lost its place in governance but continued in Hindu religious rituals. Years passed; centuries passed.

In the 19th and 20th centuries Sanskrit supremacists, who consider themselves Aryans, spread the theory around the world that Sanskrit is the mother of all Indian (South Asian) languages. Their concentration in high level positions in the Indian bureaucracy, media and education system made it easier for them to preach and spread the Sanskrit supremacy theory. However Rev. Caldwell established that Dravidian languages, with Tamil as the elder sister, is of a different family than Sanskrit. Tamil owes nothing to Sanskrit for its existence. Even if every Sanskrit word mixed in Tamil speech and writing over the years (in the same way as English words are being mixed in recent years) is removed from Tamil usage, Tamil will still be a vibrant language. 

A major fortune fell on the pro-Sanskrit lobby in 1947. Britain relinquished its colonial rule over South Asia. The new democratic Indian Government is dominated and controlled by Hindi politicians because they form the largest group in the Indian parliament (see "Who Rules India?", TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000). Much of the Hindians consider themselves Aryans and thus they joined hands with the Sanskrit-supremacists (who also consider them selves Aryans) and use the full power, prestige and purse of the Indian Government to propagate Sanskrit (see "Hindi Imposition and Sanskrit Imperialism", TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2000). 

The only thing that stands in the way of establishing Sanskrit as the unchallenged supreme language of South Asia is Tamil. As we noted before, Rev. Caldwell has established that Dravidian languages are of a different family and that Tamil, amongst them, does not owe anything to Sanskrit for its existence. It is a vibrant living language even if every Sanskrit word mixed in it over the years are removed. Though Sanskrit supremacists' theory that Sanskrit is the oldest South Asian language is spread around the world and even accepted almost universally, there is a school of thought, with substantial evidence to support it, that Tamil is older than Sanskrit (see "Primary Classical Language of the World", book by G. Devaneyan) (Devaneyan is also known as Devaneya Paavanar). Also, thousands of Tamil words considered until a few decades ago as Sanskrit in origin are now proven to be Tamil in origin. It is also now proven that flow of words is not one way from Sanskrit to Tamil but there are thousands of Sanskrit words of Tamil origin. (See G. Devaneyan's Tamil books "Tamil Varalaru", Vadamoli Varalaru", "Chollaraichi Katturaikal", etc.) Other authors  like Perunchiththiranar (also known as Pavalareru) and Aruli, among others, have published dozens of articles establishing this. Thus Tamil has become a thorn on the side of the Indian Government intent on establishing Sanskrit as the supreme language of India. Indian Government Minister Joshi's statement is part of a dual campaign of elevating Sanskrit and denigrating Tamil.

4. Indian Government, Sanskrit and Tamil

While the full power, prestige and purse of the Indian Government is used to promote Sanskrit and Hindi, all other languages are ignored; special attention is now being made to suppress the rich heritage and history of Tamil because Tamil could challenge the antiquity and supremacy of Sanskrit. 

The Indian Government declared 1999-2000 as the "Year of Sanskrit", starting from March 18, 1999. Huge amounts of tax-payer monies were spent to popularize Sanskrit and spread the message of the richness of Sanskrit among the general public. Government funds were allocated for programs which would, according to the Indian Government, "lead to long-term and permanent development of Sanskrit". Sanskrit academies were set up in every state, even in states like Tamil Nadu, Assam, Manipur, Nagalan and Tripura whose languages have nothing to do with Sanskrit. Every state government was asked to set up committees to celebrate the "Year of Sanskrit" (There is much more but these are representative activities of the Indian Government to glorify Sanskrit.)

Seeing these "Year of Sanskrit" programs, the Tamil Nadu State Government and some political parties in Tamil Nadu asked the Indian Government to declare Year 2000 as the "Year of Tamil". The Indian Government refused. We also want to point out here that, since 1947, the Indian Government has spent more money on Sanskrit than on all other languages combined, with the exception of Hindi. But Sanskrit is a dead language and less than 0.01% of the Indian population know even a little Sanskrit (yes, you read it right; it is less than 0.01%).

Tamil Nadu State Government and some political parties from Tamil Nadu asked the Indian Government to declare Tamil a classical language (Indian Government had declared Sanskrit a classical language soon after the British left India and Hindian politicians got control of the Indian Government). Indian Government said that it had to set up a committee to decide if Tamil is a classical language. We have no problem with the Indian Government setting up a committee of expert scholars to decide if Tamil is a classical language or not. These scholars should have no political affiliations or in the employment of the Indian Government or the Tamil Nadu State Government. We would prefer that at least some members be internationally renown language scholars from outside of India and whose mother tongue is not Tamil. The committee should be established immediately and asked to submit a report within one year. Committee's recommendation should be binding on the Indian Government. That is, if the committee concludes that Tamil is not a classical language, Indian Government should not declare Tamil a classical language; if the committee concludes that Tamil is a classical language, Indian Government should declare Tamil a classical language within six months. The situation is that the Indian Government is not setting up such a committee but simply procrastinating. Indian Government made a decision to produce nuclear bombs in far lass time than in even setting up a committee to study if Tamil should be declared a classical language.

Thiruvalluvar, author of the approximately 2000 year old Tamil classic Thirukural, is hailed as one of the greatest poets by scholars around the world. Thirukural is translated into many dozens of languages. Philosophers of the caliber of Albert Schweitzer have lavished praise on it. On January 1, 2000, the Tamil Nadu Government unveiled a 133 feet high statue of Poet Thiruvalluvar in Kanyakumari. There was a gala celebration to mark the occasion (all expenses for the statue and the celebrations were paid by the Tamil Nadu State Government with no contribution from the Indian Government). Tamil Nadu Government requested the Indian Government to broadcast the celebration on television (all broadcast television in India is controlled by the Indian Government; all private television is cablecast and are thus less widely available; available mostly in urban areas to those who can afford to pay for it). The Indian Government refused. This same government is broadcasting programs in Sanskrit every day throughout the country to over a billion people (over 1,000,000,000 people) while less than 50,000 people know the language, even a little (according to 1991 census). But it refused to allocate just half an hour once in a lifetime to celebrate this world renown Tamil poet. Why? The Indian Government does not want  people outside of Tamil Nadu to know about the richness of Tamil language, literature and culture; they do not want any competition to Sanskrit. These are the same people who said that one of the aims of having a year of celebration for Sanskrit at taxpayer expense was to make people aware of the rich heritage of Sanskrit, but they want to cover up the richness of Tamil culture with a blackout. 

Though there are many more, I will give just one more example of how the Indian Government goes about its dual strategy of elevating/popularizing Sanskrit and at the same time covering up the richness of Tamil and putting roadblocks to Tamil development into the 21st century.  In 1998, Tamil Nadu State Government sought permission from All India Council on Engineering (AICE), set up by the Indian Government, to introduce Tamil as an optional medium of instruction in a few selected engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu. Only those students who opt for Tamil medium would be taught in Tamil, others would be in English medium classes. All the necessary books and class materials had been prepared with great effort and everything was in place, But AICE refused permission although it could not find any deficiency in books, course curricula or qualified professors. While the Indian Government would not permit optional Tamil medium instruction at engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu, scientists and engineers at Indian Government operated Atomic Energy establishments and Oil and Gas Commission are encouraged to make notes in Hindi and it would affect their pay-raises. There is more. In recent months (early 2001) some Indian Government Ministers are urging scientists to learn Sanskrit because, according to them, it has much to offer in science. A Sanskrit Department is being set up at one of the premier technological institutes offering post-graduate degrees in science and engineering, the Indian Institute of Technology at New Delhi; this institute is operated by the Indian Government. But, alas, Tamil could not be used as an optional medium of instruction for under-graduate engineering education in Tamil Nadu for Tamil students who want to study in Tamil.

5. Concluding Remarks

It is within the context of Indian Government attempts to prop up Sanskrit as the supreme language and at the same time cover up the rich heritage of Tamil and block its development into new fields of science and technology should one view India's Human Resource Minister Murli Manohar Joshi's statement that there are two forms of Tamil, namely, ancient Tamil and modern Tamil. As we noted before, (1) Sanskrit is widely accepted as the oldest language of South Asia (with a minority descending view that Tamil is older) and (2) Tamil is universally accepted as the oldest living language of South Asia. This credit to Tamil of being the oldest living language of South Asia bothers the Indian Government. Thus the minister's statement.The corollary of Joshi's statement is that "ancient Tamil" is dead and what lives to day is a different "modern Tamil"; thus Tamil is not the oldest living language of South Asia. See the cunning, "clever" strategy of the Indian Government

At the very same time, the Indian Government (including Minister Joshi) is propagating the false theory that Sanskrit is not a dead language but is alive. They prop up the dead corpse of Sanskrit in a chair and claim it is alive; they spend taxpayer monies to arrange conferences, etc. etc. (We have no problem with someone arranging conferences or conducting research but we do not want exorbitant amounts of our tax monies spent on it).

Unfortunately, at this time in history, Hindian politicians who consider themselves the descendents of Aryans,  have the power and purse string to do what they want. They are bent not only on propagating Sanskrit at great tax payer expense but also on doing everything in their considerable power at the Indian Government to hold down and denigrate Tamil. In the decades to come, under the Hindian rule of India, Tamil will come under extreme pressure from Hindi imposition on one side, Sanskrit imperialism on another side and covert anti-Tamil activities on yet another side

In order for Tamil to keep its rich heritage and grow into the new frontiers of science, engineering, computer technology and more, Tamil has to free itself from the Indian Government stranglehold. For this, Tamil Nadu has to achieve independence from Indian rule. Other benefits of independence are economical. According to some studies, Tamil Nadu, as well as Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra, Punjab and Mahrashtra will achieve a standard of living comparable to Malaysia and Singapore if these states were independent of Indian rule. 


Who Rules India? (Part I) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000 (44 KB)

Hindi Imposition and Sanskrit Imperialism (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2000 (18 KB)

Indian Government Blocks Tamil Development into the Twenty First Century (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 1999 (17 KB)

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