Tamil Culture

தமிழ்த்தாய் வாழ்த்து

நீராரும் கடல் உடுத்த நில மடந்தைக் கெழிலொழுகும்
சீராரும் வதனமெனத் திகழ்பரதக் கண்டமிதில்
தெக்கணமும் அதிற்சிறந்த திராவிட நல் திருநாடும்
தக்கசிறு பிறைநுதலும் தரித்தநறும் திலகமுமே!
அத்திலக வாசனைபோல் அனைத்துலகும் இன்பமுற,
எத்திசையும் புகழ்மணக்க இருந்த பெரும் தமிழணங்கே!
தமிழணங்கே!
௨ன் சீரிளமைத் திறம்வியந்து
செயல் மறந்து வாழ்த்துதுமே!
வாழ்த்துதுமே!
வாழ்த்துதுமே!

TAMIL FESTIVALS

HINDU FESTIVALS

THAI PONGAL

Pongal is one of the major festivals for Tamils and often referred to as “thamizhar thirunaaL”. At the beginning of the tamil month “thai” it is celebrated for three days: first day devoted to getting rid of old things (Bhogi), second day involves main Pongal celebrations followed by Maattu Pongal on the third day. Many extend these to a fourth day called “kannip pongal” or “kaaNum pongal” when youngers go around and seek the blessings of the elders. On Bhogi day, a bon fire is lit with all the agricultural and household wastes.

On the Pongal day, Sun makes its moves towards north/enters Makara raasi (the zodiac sign of Capricorn the goat) and marks the beginning of Uttaraayana punyakaalam. Traditionally, this period is considered an auspicious time and the veteran Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. After he fell to the arrows of Arjuna Bhishma used his boon to choose the time of his death. He waited on a bed of arrows to depart from this world only during this period. It is believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth.
To farmers Pongal marks the beginning of the harvesting season. People take oil bath early in the morning and wear new clothes. Sweet pongal and special sweets are prepared for the occasion. Freshly cut Sugarcane is used for decoratation and later consumption by all.

Mattu Pongal is a celebration by the agrarian community that thankfully acknowledges the participation of the animals mainly bulls in ploughing the fields and assisting the farmers in raising a good crop. The animals are decorated and are included in some races, both to entertain and to boost their endurance capacity. The festival is known as “Jallikattu”. These races include cock fights, bull fights and ram fights. “Thiruvalluvar Day” is celebrated on this Mattu Pongal day when Tamilnadu Govt announces awards for best tamil literary works.

THAI POOSAM

Kartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati is worshipped in Tamil Nadu on Thai Pusam. Special Poojas and festivities take place on this Poosam day in the Murugan Temples of Palani, Thiruttani,… and also at the Vandiyur Mariamman Temple (near Madurai). Many temples have the boat festival (theppa utsavam) on this day when the Lord would be coming out over a float on the temple pond. As a mark of dedication and respect, people engage in “fire walk”- walk over a path of burning coal. They exit the path miraculously without being scorched, signifying KartikeyaÕs everlasting protection. A webpage on thaipoosam

MAASI MAHAM

Celebrated on the Makam day in the tamil month of Maasi. On this day, the deities are taken around in procession to the nearby rivers/tanks/sea for bath. It is an important festival day for Lord Muruga. Once in 12 years, the Maham festival is celebrated in a grand manner (known as Mahamaham) in Kumbakonam.

MAHA SIVARATHRI

Maha Sivarathri is a festival day devoted to Lord Siva, celebrated on the amavaasai day in the month of Maasi. Sivaratri also signifies the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Unlike each Hindu festival which begins with the ritualistic worship of the presiding deity followed by a feast, Sivaratri differs in that one dedicates the entire day of twenty-four hours to the worship of Lord Siva. In the evening people generally go to a nearby temple where in the company of many others they listen to recitals of the legends and their meanings. They do not sleep that night, but remain awake. The worship continues throughout the night either by way of chanting the Rudram, singing in eulogy of Lord Siva or/and listening to religious discourses interpreting the legends associated with the festival. Mahasivarathri is celebrated in a grand scale in the temples of Madurai and Rameswaram. In the rituals, leaves of a forest tree Bilva (Aegle marmelos/wood apple) are traditionally used in the services.

UGADI, TELUGU NEW YEAR’S DAY

It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation on this Ugadi day. Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya’s calculations proclaimed the Ugadi day from the sunrise on as the beginning of the new year, new month and new day. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion: Mixed rice made with a specially made spiced Tamarind Paste (known as Puliyotharai /pulihora/puliogure in Tamilnadu, Andhra pradesh and Karnataka). As with the Pongal day for Tamils, Ugadi day celebrations are marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations (kavi sammelanam) and recognition of authors of literary works through awards.

SRI RAMA NAVAMI

Sri Rama Navami as a festival marks the birth of Lord Rama but is celebrated and worshipped in the form of re-creating the wedding between Lord Rama and Sita by the Hindus seeking well being of all people. Such community celebrations are held in not only Rama temples but also in many other temples too. Usually such ritualistic wedding celebration in homes is quite uncommon. The ritual of Rama’s wedding is concluded with prasadam of ‘vada pappu’ (soaked lentil) and panakam (sherbat made of jaggery dissolved in water to which pepper powder and cardamom powder are added).

PANGUNI UTHIRAM

Panguni Uthiram is celebrated as the Wedding day for the Gods/Celestial couples in all temples of Tamilnadu. It is celebrated over a 10-day period in many Murugan Temples. Inscriptions indicate existence of these celebrations as early as that of the Chola King Rajaraja Chola.

TAMIL NEW YEAR DAY

As the name indicates, this day marks the beginning of the Tamil New Year (and the tamil month Chithirai). · Baisakhi The Hindu Solar New Year Day. People bathe in rivers and go to temples to offer puja (worship). Baisakhi is of special significance to the Sikhs. On this day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh organised them into the ‘Khalsa’, brotherhood of man. In Punjab, farmers start harvesting on this day with great fanfare. Villagers perform the ‘Bhangra’ folk-dance.

CHITHRA POURNAMI

The pournami day in the tamil month of Chitrai is celebrated in a grand manner for nearly a week (“chithirath thiruvizha”) in Madurai Temples. Located 21 kms northwest of Madurai is a Vishnu temple called Azhagar Temple. Here ‘Vishnu’ presides as Meenakshi’s brother ‘Kallazhagar’. During the Chitrai festival when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswarar is celebrated, Azhagar travels to Madurai. A gold processional icon called the Sundararajar is carried by devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for wedding ritual. Hundreds of special Mandapas are erected all along the route to Madurai to welcome Kallazhagar. According to the Legend, Kallazhagar arrived late for the marriage of his sister Meenakshi. Taking note that the marriage has already taken place, he plunges into the river Vaigai and walks through to nearby Vandiyur. Adults and children join together in spraying water at Lord Kallazhagar as he walks towards the river bank of Vaigai in total disappointment. The whole city of Madurai takes on a festive mood for this whole week. In Srivilliputhur, Chaitrotsavam festival takes place for 9 days. On the day of chitra pournami Andal in Sesha Vahanam and Rangamannar in Kudurai Vahanam stop near a stream on the way to Thiruvannamalai where the “Vayyali” function takes place.

VAIKASI VISAKAM

The pournami day of the tamil month Vaikasi is celebrated in grand manner in Murugan Temples (Palani, Thiruchendoor,…) when large number of people go to the temple carrying “Kavadi”. Valli Kalyanam is celebrated in Murugan Temples on Vaikaasi Visaakam day. Vaikasi Visakam also marks the birthday of Alwar Saint Nammalwar and this is celebrated in Kancheepuram Varadaraja Perumal Temple as “Garuda utcavam”. Lord Varadaraja is taken in a Garuda vahana to Nammalwar sannadhi for blessing of the latter.

AADI PANDIGAI / AADI PERUKKU

Celebrated on the 18th day of the tamil month Aadi in Kaveri River basin districts of Tanjore and Trichi when the water level in the river rises significantly high. Prayers are made and offerings given to Goddess Kaveri deities made out of clays.

AADI AMAAVAASAI / AADI POORNAM

Andal, the incarnation of Mother Earth, Bhoodevi, is one of the twelve Alwars, great devotees of Vishnu. “Aadi Pooram” and “Aani Thirumanjanam” are important festivals to Andal.

KRISHNA JAYANTHI / GOGULASHTAMI

The birth of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu in the Dwapar Yuga, is celebrated all over India as Krishna Janmashtami. This day is marked by religious festivity and devotion. Lord Krishna or “He who is all-attractive”, descended on this earth to subdue the rakshasas ruthlessly and save mankind from all evils. He is regarded as the epitome of transcendental qualities which made him the most loved one.

The modern day festivity recreates the birth of the Lord. It is celebrated with utmost gaiety and fervor in Mathura and Brindavan. The towns are colorfully decorated wearing a festive look. The main temple at Mathura and Brindavan are bedecked with flowers and Lord Krishna is clothed in jewellery. The rituals begin ahead of time in the evening and culminate at midnight, the time of Krishna’s birth. A crawling image of Krishna is cradled amidst singing of bhajans and chantings of Hare Rama Hare Krishna.

In South India, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, as it is called, is celebrated with prayers, devotional renditions and offering of fruits and special prasadams to Lord Krishna. People usually observe fast on this day. In the houses, mango leaves are tied to the doorways to mark the auspicious occasion. Colorful floral designs are drawn on the front yard. Inside the house, a small woodden mandapam is erected and decorated with flowers and plantain leaves. An icon of a crawling Krishna in a silver cradle or leaf is placed in the mandapam. In some houses, a typical setting of Gokulam is arranged with mud images of Devaki, Vasudeva with little Krishna perched in a basketon his head, a cow, besides other things related to Krishna’s legends. Small foot marks produced by impressions with rice powder mixed with water are believed to symbolically recreate the coming of Krishna into peoples’ homes.

Janmashtami

The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu and the author of the Bhagavad Gita (Song Celestial), is observed all over. It is celebrated with special eclat at Mathura and Brindavan where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Night-long prayers are offered and religious hymns are sung in temples. Scenes are enacted from Lord Krishna’s early life.

GANESHA CHATURTHI

Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati is widely worshipped as the munificent god of wisdom. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival in his honour and is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Ganesha (also called Ganapati /Vighneshvara or Vighnahartaa) is the Lord of and destroyer of obstacles. People mostly worship Him asking for siddhi, success in undertakings, and buddhi, intelligence. He is worshipped before any venture is started. He is also the God of education, knowledge and wisdom, literature, and the fine arts. Throughout India the festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm and devotion, even lasting for nearly 10 days in Maharashtra and Andhra pradesh. During long periods of anti-British rule protests and freedom struggle of the 19th Century, more and more people become unduly religious, particularly in Maharashtra. This lead to development of religious events such as Ganesha Chaturthi as a major community event. To appreciate this occasion, one must go to Mumbai where preparations begin months in advance. Images of Ganesha are installed within homes as well as in places of assembly. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting and decoration and Ganesha is fervently worshipped for about 7-10 days. On the day of the Chaturthi, i.e. the last of the days dedicated to the elephant-headed god, thousands of processions converge on the beaches of Mumbai to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This immersion is accompanied by drum beats, devotional songs and dancing.

DASARA / NAVARATHI, SARASWATHI POOJA, VIJAYA DHASAMI

This is among the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar and comes as the finale of the nine-day festival, Navaraatri. this festival of victory is preceded by worship of Saraswati the Goddess of Learning and of Durgaa the Goddess of Strength. Grand processions of all Gods and goddesses are taken out in every town and village on this day, signifying the victory of the forces of righteousness over those of wickedness. Vijaya Dashami is preceded by the Aayudha Pooja on the Mahaanavami day, when not only the weapons are worshipped by the warriors, but the blacksmith, the potter, the carpenter, the tailor, the mason, the typist, the musician, the artist and every type of technical worker – worships his instruments and tools. Buses, trucks and huge machines in factories are all decorated and worshipped

DUSSEHRA AND DURGA PUJA

Among the most popular of all festivals, it symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Every region observes this 10-day festival in a special way. In the North, ‘Ram Lila’ recitations and music recall the life of the legendary hero, Rama. Large fire cracker–stuffed effigies of Ravana, symbolising evil, explode to the cheers of thousands of spectators. In Kulu against the backdrop of snow-covered mountains, villagers dressed in their colourful best assemble to take out processions of local deities accompanied by music on pipes and drums. In Karnataka, Dussehra is celebrated with magnificent pomp and pageantry. In Bengal and the East, it is called ‘Durga Puja’. Images of Goddess Durga are worshipped for four days and, on the last day, taken out in a procession and immersed in a river or the sea.

VIJAYADASHMI OR DUSSERA

Vijayadashmi or Dussera, the day of victory, after nine days of battle is celebrated by all Hindu families. Dussera is one of the four auspicious days of the year. On the same day, Rama, an avatar of Vishnu fought Ravana, a ten headed demon and restored dharma (righteousness ) on earth. In rural India, children returned to school on Vijayadashmi which is also dedicated to Saraswati. On this day their teachers would draw the symbol of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning on their slates. On Vijayadashmi, people worship weapons, tools and implements of their trade. In the second half of Ashwin, Diwali lights up the sky, the festival of lights that celebrates the return of Rama and his coronation in Ayodhya. People light lamps and adorn doorways with flower garlands to welcome Rama, Sita and Lakshmana home after fourteen years of exile. Dhanteras follows Diwali when wealth in worshipped. Narakchaturdashi is a festival that honours the heroic Krishna who rescued 16,000 princesses from Naraka’s bondage.

DEEPAVALI / DIWALI

Deepavali, the festival of lights, comes close on the heels of Dasara. It is a festival that marks the victory of good over evil. Deepavali means a “row of lights”, and it brings along with it glowing happiness and the touch of sparklers all around. In India, Deepavali is synonymous with the nightly bursting of fire- crackers and the beautiful decoration of the houses with earthenware lamps which is a feast for the eyes. In Sri Lanka, Deepavali celebrations begin at dawn as early as around three in the morning. The family members are given an oil massage, followed by aarti and then the children burst crackers to mark the joyous day. New clothes and exchange of gifts goes without saying. On Deepavali day, everywhere in India, at dusk when darkness unfolds itself, you can see a spectacular illumination of tiny flickering lamps adorning in rows – at homes, buildings and streets. And watch out as you look up to the sky ! Hundreds of fire crackers can be seen glowing and then bursting as though it was a battle of glows and sparks in the skies. Deepavali is incomplete without the multi-colored and noisy fire crackers. From simple colored sparklers, pencils, flower pots, ground chakras (wheels), Vishnu chakras, rockets to the long ladi / garland crackers, you have a wide range to choose from.

The festival of lights is one of the most beautiful of Indian festivals. It comes 21 days after Dussehra and celebrates the return of Rama to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile. Countless flickering oil lamps and lights are lit in houses all over the country making it a night of enchantment. Worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and fireworks and festivities are an essential part of the occasion.

VAIKUNTA EKAADASI

Ekaadasi, the 11th day of the lunar fortnight is auspicious to Vishnu. Vaikunta Ekaadasi, falling in December- January, is celebrated as a special festival when the “gates of Heaven” ceremoniously open for devotees to enter.

HOLI

Full moon in the month of Phalgun (late February or early March). This is pre-eminently the spring festival of Bharat. The trees are smiling with their sprout of tender leaves and blooming flowers. With the harvest having been completed and the winter also just ended, it is pre-eminently a festival of mirth and merriment. Gulal (colored powder) is sprinkled on each other by elders and children, men and women, rich and poor alike. All superficial social barriers are pulled down by the all-round gaiety and laughter. The most boisterous of all Hindu festivals, observed all over the North. It heralds the end of winter. Men, women and children revel in throwing coloured powder and squirting coloured water on each other. Greetings and sweets are exchanged.

ONAM

Kerala’s most popular festival, celebrated with great enthusiasm, it is primarily a harvest festival. The most exciting part of the festival is the snake-boat race held at several places in the palm-fringed lagoons. Onam festivities honor the ancient Asura king Mahabali. According to legend, the gods were jealous of the king and sent him into exile in the nether world, permitting him to return to his people only once each year, during Onam. An over-the-top welcome is prepared in every town. Dances and songs proclaim the munificent reign of the king, and elaborate carpets of flowers and colored powder are laid out on floors and streets.

TRICHUR POORNAM FESTIVAL

The incomparable festival of festivals, held every year in April- May in the cultural capital of Kerala is to be celebrated on 25th and 26th of April this year. Spectacular pageant of fully caparisoned elephants, sonorous percussion, ensembles like Panchavadyam and Pandimelom and scintillating fireworks are the main features of Pooram.

BUDDHA PURNIMA

The poornima or the full moon in the month of Vaishak is an auspicious day when one of the Dasaavataras the Buddha avatar came into being. The poornima is significant for more reasons than one in the life of the Buddha. There are at least five reasons for this. The first concerns his birth. He was born to serve a mission, a “Karana purusha or janma”. It was a full-moon day when Prince Siddhartha (the name means one whose purpose has been achieved) was born under the shade of a flowering Sal tree, in the beautiful grove of Lumbini in present-day Nepal. He was born to Suddhodana, the ruler of Kapilavastu, on the Nepalese frontier, and his queen Mahamaya, the princess of Koliyas. Lumbini or Rummindei, the name by which it is now known, is 100 miles north of Varanasi and within sight of snow-capped Himalayas. The prince’s family name was Gotama. Buddhists from all over the world converge on Bodhgaya and Sarnath to commemorate the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. Sarnath has a colorful fair and procession of relics, at a temple on the site where the Buddha preached his first sermon. Buddhists in Sri Lanka celebrate this festival.

MUSLIM FESTIVALS

RAMZAN

The holy month of Ramzan is very auspicious to the Muslims the world over. It is believed that God will shower His blessings on those who pray to God whole heartedly, with complete devotion, surrendering themselves totally to His will. It is believed that the holy Quran, the holy book of Muslims, came into existence during this month. Prophet Mohammad who compiled this was an illiterate person. But he was chosen by God to be His messenger. Whenever any problem arose, He would get “Vahi” (inspiration from God). He would become red and would speak out spontaneously. All these utterings were jotted down by His disciples and during this month they were compiled in the form of the holy Quran. It is a message from God to the mankind. This is the holy month of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Soum (fasting) is called Rozah in Urdu. Fast is observed for the entire month (Lunar) of Ramadan every year by the followers of Islam. Fasting through out the month of Ramzan is compulsory for all Muslims. But exceptions are made in the case of the sick and the travelling.

ID-UL-FITR

Celebrates the end of Ramzan, the Muslim month of fasting. It is an occasion of feasting and rejoicing. The faithful gather in mosques to pray; friends and relatives meet to exchange greetings.

BAKRID

Bakrid, the festival of sacrifice is an important celebration, which falls on the last month of the Islamic Calendar. The Muslims traditionally offer the sacrifice of goats/sheep/camels as part of the festival. Bakrid, also known as Id-Ul-Zuha coincides with the Haj pilgrimage at Mecca. The significance of the festival is the commemoration of the ordeals of Prophet Ibrahim. According to popular belief, Prophet Ibrahim was put to a tough test by Allah to prove his faith. He was asked to sacrifice his son Ismail and without any hesitation Prophet Ibrahim blindfolded himself and made the offering on the Mount of Mina near Mecca. When Prophet Ibrahim opened his eyes, he was astonished to find a goat lying upon the altar and his son Ismail standing in front of him. Ever since, faithfuls of Islam the world over offer sacrifices on the festival day.

MUHARRAM

Muharram is about the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (Raji An) and his family by laying down their lives at Karbala (in present day Iraq) for the protection of democracy. Their selfless sacrifice, service to humanity and protection of their religious order resulted in their giving up their own lives. Remembering him and following the path shown by him is the greatest tribute that humanity can pay him. This in fact is the greatest message of Muharram. Commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the holy Prophet Mohammed, and observed by the Shi’ite Muslims, who take out processions of colourfully decorated ‘Tazias’, which are paper and bamboo replicas of the martyr’s tomb at Karbala in Iraq. The processions are specially impressive at Lucknow. In parts of the South, tiger dancers–men painted over with stripes and wearing tiger masks–lead the procession.

MILAD-UN-NABI

Milad-un-nabi marks the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). It is believed that Muhammad (PBUH) was sent by God as the last messenger for the renaissance of Islam.

CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS

GOOD FRIDAY

Services and recitals of religious music are held in hundreds of churches all over India and Sri Lanka.

EASTER

The Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ is celebrated with enthusiasm by the members of the community. Processions are taken out in some parts of the country.

CHRISTMAS

Born nearly two thousand years ago, Christians believe Him to be the Son of God. Whether Jesus was really born on December 25th, no one can say for certain. It was chosen because it already was a holiday in ancient times -a pagan feast. But pagans did not believe in Jesus. Around the third century there was an attempt to fix the day of His birth by tying it to a festival of the Nativity kept in Rome in the time of Bishop Telesphorus (between A.D. 127 and 139). Some Christmas observances of the Roman Church are said to be of Bishop Telesphorus’ appointment. There was also a story of Christians being massacred in the catacombs on the day of the Nativity between A.D. 161 and 180 but the exact year, again is not known. In A.D. 300, a similar event is said to have taken place at Nicomedia in the reign of Diocletian. Neither of these stories seem reliable as a measure of the day Christ was born.

It was believed the Nativity took place, indeed, on the 25th of the month; but which month was uncertain and every month at one time or another has been assigned. During the time of Clement of Alexandria (before 220) five dates in three different months of the Egyptian year were said to be the Nativity. One of those corresponds to the December 25th date. During the third century, it was a common belief that Christ was born on the winter solstice based on an interpetation of some prophetic scriptures and an idea that the Annunciation and the Crucifixion both occured on the same day – March 25th. Another third century set of writings, The Apostolic Constitutions, indicate the Apostles ordained that the feast be kept on the 25th day of the ninth month which, at that time meant December. The works of John Selden, published in 1661, suggested that in the early Christian ages the winter solstice fell on the 8th of the Kalends of January, that is, December 25th, though not accepted universally by modern day students who put the day between the end of July and the end of October.

The Roman Church finally fixed December 25th as the birthday of Jesus Christ after the great persecution that took place around A.D. 310; which connects the visitation of the wise men from the East, being celebrated twelve days later. Though questioned for several generations by the Eastern Church, the Roman day became universal in the fifth century.

TAMIL WEDDING & CUSTOM

Hindu Wedding Rituals

Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu Wedding

ARRANGED MARRIAGE

protestent_marriage

Each time I hear the phrase “Arranged marriage”, it brings to mind the song of Apache Indian’s of the same name. He goes on to describe the girl he wants to get married to “me want gal, to look after me, to make me roti…”.

Arranged marriages, which are so the norm here in India, always seems to faze the non-Indians. One simply can’t fathom how practical strangers can be married to each other and settle down for a life together. No matter how westernised our country may have become, arranged marriages are still how a majority of the weddings in our country are carried out. The first stage is the search for horoscopes – through friends, marriage brokers as well as the horoscope matching centres, parents start procuring the horoscopes of eligible boys / girls. The horoscopes have to be matched according to various parameters. Once a horoscope matches, then the parents of that girl / boy are contacted and the horoscopes will be exchanged. If both sides find the horoscopes compatible, then the second stage begins – ‘seeing’ the girl.

After choosing a nalla naal (auspicious day), the parents of the boy visit the girl and her family and if both sides are pleased with the state of affairs, they things like how much silver, gold etc will be given by the girl’s family to the girl. then they fix the date for the engagement (nitchayadaartham). After the engagement, the boy and girl are allowed to go out – sometimes chaperoned, sometimes not, depending on the individual families. During the engagement, the rough date for the wedding is fixed.

The wedding will usually take place 3 – 4 months after the engagement.

Hindu Weddings (South Indian Brahmin) – Religious significance and practices

Marriages in South Indian Brahmin families are performed according to Vedic rites as prescribed. The rituals other than marriages such as Upanayanam, Namakarnam are normally religious functions only. In the case of marriage, however, there is a social content also. Social aspects of marriages are (a)Reception by procession of the groom (Janavasam or Mappilai ashaippu) (b)Exchange of garlands (Maalai matruthal) (c) Oonjal ( Swing on which the young to be married are made to sit and rocked gently.) (d) Nalangu (Passing coconut shape brass ball between the couple).

In the olden days marriages used to be performed on four days apart from the afternoon on the day previous to the first (Muhurtham) day and the period till afternoon of the day subsequent to the last day of the marriage. Religious rites will be performed both morning and evening of the three days subsequent to the marriage day. The intervening time are spent in social functions. Nalangu forms part of these functions. Processions of bride & bride groom separately except on the last day when the two used to sit side by side while on procession It used to be in a carriage drawn by two horses. With the advent of cars the processions were in open top cars. On the third day normally the procession used to be in a palanquin fully decorated. Nathhaswaram plays an important part in marriages, from the evening of the day before the muhurtham till the afternoon of the day before the last day. These functions enable both the brides’ and the grooms’ party to know each other better.

Normally marriages used to be conducted at the residence of the bride. Big pandal is erected in front of the house. It may cover neighbours house fronts and major portion of the street. The whole village used to be involved in the arrangements. Personal assistance for the bride’s family used to be just for the asking. This is another social aspect. With the disposal of the family members in various parts of the world and also due to lack of space in the cities and towns marriages are conducted in Kalyana Mandapams now-a-days.

The main events of the Hindu Brahmin wedding are:

Janavasam

The bride and grooms party less the bride assemble at a nearby temple where the groom is offered new dress befitting the occasion and then he is taken in a procession in an open car to the mandapam. This function is becoming extinct now-a-days.

Vritham :

The groom has to perform certain religious rites relating to bramacharya asramam and for entering grahastha asramam.

Kasi Yatra:

The groom is supposed to proceed on a long tour. On the way he is stopped by the bride’s father, who requests the groom to abandon his tour and accept his daughter as his wife.

Exchange of garlands ( Malaai matruthal):

The groom accepts the proposal and he is brought to the mandapam where the bride awaits in brilliant clothes and ornaments, flowers. In addition to a big garland she will be wearing three garlands. The groom will be in two garlands besides the big one. The bride removes one of the three garlands and puts it around the neck of the groom. The groom in his turn removes one of his garlands and puts it round the bride’s neck. This is done three times. In performing this both the bride and the groom are helped by their respective maternal uncles. This function used to be full of fun and frolic in the olden days. The girl and the boys used to be young. The uncles lift them on their shoulders and it is the skill, how the garland is put around the neck of each other. Now-a-days it is enacted in a lack lustre way. The awkwardness being felt by the couple especially the bride owing to their age stands out. This may also fade away as “Janavasams” did.

Oonjal :

The couple is made to sit on the “Oonjal” which is rocked gently. The spectators ( relatives and friends) get a chance to exhibit their talents in music. Suitable songs are sung. In the olden days these rendering used to be repeated in the nathaswaram. This doesn’t happen now, probably due to lack of time, while these go on the couple is offered milk and plantain and the ladies from both the families (particularly elders) throw coloured rice balls in four directions to ward off the evil spirits.

Kannika Dhanam :

After the couple is led to the platform where preliminary religious rites are performed, the groom is referred to by the father of the bride as “matavishnuswarupi” ie., resembling Lord Maha Vishnu- After washing his feet the groom is invited to accept the bride as ” Kannika Dhanam” In this the bride sits on the lap of her father. Her hands twined upward are placed on the upward turned hands of the groom. A coconut, betel leaves, nuts are placed on the hands of the bride. In the olden days gold coins used to be placed. (This is because any Dhanam is to accompanied by some Sambavanai in cash.) This aspect no longer exists. It is possible that this ” Sambavanai” turned into “dowry” which used to be taken in advance. ——- is not offered in kannika dhanam now-a-days. Water is poured on the brides’hands by her mother. Then the father releases his hand from that of his daughter thus placing the hand of the bride over the hands of the groom who accepts the Dhanam.

Mangalya Dharanam :

The bride is offered new clothes by the groom, after his accepting her. While the bride is away changing the dress prayer is offered to the “Tirumangalyam” before giving. It is taken around the hall to get the blessings of elders in the assembly. Now -a-days every individual touches these as their blessing. Actually the intention is the old couple has to bless the new ones to be. As soon as the bride comes with the new dress, she sits on the lap of her father. The groom has to perform some religious rites and then he ties the Mangalyam around the neck of the bride. He puts one knot. His sister standing behind the bride completes the three knots. Flowers are showered on the couple. (supposedly, for these flowers normally lands o0n the heads and shoulders of those (relatives) who stand round and covering the couple.

There is a paradox in this. Although the mangalyam as well as tying it are considered sacred no vedic mantras are recited for this. Only a sloham is recited. There is a misconception these days that this tying of the mangalyam completes the marriage. They start dispersing and in doing so they go and shake the hands of the bride and groom. This prevents very important religious functions of the marriage. Immediately after tying of the mangalyam the couple sit beside the homagundam. “Panigraharam” is then performed with the recital of mantras. this is an important function because the groom grasps the hand of the bride officially after accepting her as dhanam. In fact if one sees the invitations issued by the father of the groom the boy one will see that the invitation like anupasanam, lagya homam etc., are performed. Then Saptha Sathi is performed.

Saptha sathu :

In this function the groom lifts the right foot of the bride and helps her to stand over a stone placed on the north side of the homa kundam to the recital of mantras. Then the couple comes round the homa kundam fire. This is performed seven times. The marriage is complete only after the performance of this Saptha Sathi.
No one is expected to intervene from the tying of the magalyam and saptha sathi by shaking hands. After panigrahanam the groom performs aupasanam for the first time. This recital is one every individual is required to perform daily in the morning and evening. To enable such performance the “agni” from this homam is placed inside a mud pot in which rice husks are already placed. The fire has to be rekindled every time aupasanam is performed and after the aupasanam the fire is again placed inside the pot. This is not being done since no one (perhaps a few) performs aupasanam these days. A pot is, however, carried when the groom leaves for his home.

Arundhadhi darsanam :

The groom is to take the bride now his wife) outside the pandal/mandapam after night fall and show her arundhathi shining in the sky as a bright star. This is to show her the faithful devotion and “—barlthu surushai—” as an example.

A TAMIL PROTESTANT WEDDING

catholic_marriage

The church has to be booked as soon as a date for the wedding is fixed by paying a token sum of money. Usually the church which the bride or the groom belongs to is booked for the marriage ceremony. The Christian weddings usually take place only in the evenings and days like Wednesday, Friday and Sunday are most preferred.

Before the marriage can take place a 3 week engagement period is a must. During these 3 weeks the match between the bride and groom will be announced to the congregation. This time period is maintained so that if anybody objects to the union then they can present a written complaint to stop the marriage.

The bride is presented by her father as the groom waits at the altar to receive her. The whole service begins with the marriage ceremony where the bride and groom are first asked whether they agree to this union and then they repeat the vows. The bride and the groom each wear a lily garland sideways- with their one hand on the outside. And then the groom ties a thali around the bride’s neck- a golden cross hangs from the thali. After this they wear the garland around their neck- hanging in the front. Then the holy communion for the bride and groom is conducted where they are given the symbolic bread and wine. Then the bride and groom sign the marriage certificate with two witnesses, however the parents of either the bride or groom are not allowed to sign as witnesses, it is usually the uncles or friends. Then a certificate of marriage is issued by the pastor of the church and it is signed by the highest authority thus sanctifying the union. If requested a special service can conducted for the newly weds by the priest.

With this the marriage ceremony comes to an end and the bride and groom exit to the wedding march played on the pipe organ. It is customary that they take a ride in a car before the reception festivities begin.

The church decorations can be left to the sexton who will put the usual streamers and others. But if you are particular then you can buy all the necessary decorations, enlist the help of your all those eager relatives and deck the whole church to match your taste. The reception is conducted in the hall which is available on the premises of the church or in a hotel.

TAMIL CATHOLIC WEDDINGS

city_style

A Tamil Catholic’s pre-wedding preparations have certain things in common with that of the Hindu weddings. Much like their Hindu counterparts, parents start spreading the word around to their friends and family members that they are looking for a suitable match for their son / daughter. When they hear of a girl / boy fitting their expectations, they set up a meeting with the parents of the boy / girl to talk further.

Once the two families meet and they like each other, then they finalise the wedding talks in front of their family elders. Next, the two families register the match in their own local parish churches. At this time, they must get a certificate from their Church. This certificate contains details like the Church the family’s registered with, details of their confirmation / Holy Communion etc. Once these details have been registered, the baans are read in the two Churches. If anyone has anything to say against the match, they speak up at this time. The banns are read out for three weeks and after the third week, the wedding date is finalised. If the reading gets no objection, it signifies that the match has got the complete blessing of the Holy Church. On the wedding day, the bride and groom are decked in all their finery and are brought to the Church by their families.

The brides don’t wear the wedding gowns like their western counterparts – they wear special lace sarees or silk sarees and wear a veil and also a small crown on their head. The groom is dressed in a tuxedo. In the presence of the priest, they exchange their wedding vows. Instead of exchanging rings, the groom ties a thaali (mangalsutra) around the bride’s neck. After this, the priests reads out certain passages from the Bible.

The wedding is solemnly registered in the Church register, citing the name of the couple as well as the date. Two witnesses also sign the register, along with the bride and groom. The couple cut the wedding cake and with this, the ceremony in the Church is over. Next, the parties proceed to the reception site.

MARRIAGE – CITY STYLE

arranged_marriage

He ignored me as he scanned the invitation card and frowned at the marriage programmed according to which the reception was fixed first and wedding the next day. “Nowadays the reception is more important and attending the marriage is not compulsory. And the reception timing is given as 6p.m but we need not go that early.” I ventured. “I never go late to marriage functions. Besides, I am going to meet my childhood friend,” he announced.
At 6 p.m., we were at the marriage venue, only to find that they were still unfolding the chairs. As we helped ourselves, my great uncle soundly cursed the marriage party for their hopeless punctuality. Around 7 p.m. both the marriage parties arrived . My uncle was greeted warmly by his friend and his wife for a brief while. After that they vanished from the scene to spend the rest of the evening with the would-be -couple. Around the same time, in one corner of the reception hall one small stage was created in five minutes and a music party started testing the mikes. The orchestra leader wished us loudly and spoke eloquently about his troupe and about the wonderful time we were going to have. ” Is he a man or a woman? Why does he have such long hair and rings in his ears?” My uncle enquired disgustedly. I explained to him that this was the latest fashion trend for singers in orchestras. That was the last piece of quiet conversation we had. Thereafter, we our voices were drowned in a noise called “music”. It appeared as though the orchestra had descended with the sole aim of making the gathering deaf for the rest of their life.
“What’s that long queue towards the stage?” My uncle asked me with great difficulty, shouting his question into my ears.
“That’s the queue for wishing the couple and giving the gift. Shall we join the line?” I shouted back into his ears.
“No! I won’t! Let them call me.” He seemed to have become displeased by the inattention being paid to him by his friend. His friend was all busy sharing the video-limelight with his son. Some men were roaming around aimlessly. Several jewel-bedecked women were walking along pretending to be very busy but in reality enjoying the display of their jewels and sarees. No one took notice of us. Finally, when the music gave us brief respite, I convinced him that it was the order of the day in this city not to expect to be called personally to the reception-stage. He cursed for sometime and finally relented after some more persuasion. As we neared the couple, a teenage-girl behind the bride-groom literally dragged the gift packet and put it on a table and then we were made to stand along with the couple in front of the video and shake hands. It all happened in a trice and by the time we came down the stage, my uncle was fuming.
“What sort of marriage is this? No courtesy at all. Neither the groom nor my friend enquired about my arrival, where I am staying. Let me thrash it out with him, when he comes for inviting me for dinner” “Uncle! Nobody is going to invite us for dinner. We have to find our way to the dinning hall ourselves “. My uncle was aghast.
“Then I won’t take any marriage dinner.” Between micro-seconds of the breaks of music, I explained a little more on the latest trends of marriage in the city and the futility of searching for a hotel at that hour. He relented stating that he would settle all the scores with his friend leisurely. In the dinning hall, my uncle faced some more not-so-pleasant scenes. We missed three rounds as he insisted on waiting outside. Finally like all others, we stood inside the dinning hall behind those who were already eating quickly occupying their seats, as they started getting-up. Then we sat there still inspecting the left-overs and the leaves. For a few minutes there was some lull and the action started again. The next round of dinner being served at cyclonic speed. I could do nothing but watch uncle in sympathy. He simply could not keep pace with the servers who were fast disappearing. “Why are they serving samples of all items?” He enquired.
” They are not samples. That’s how dinner is served here”
As usual we were promptly ejected out of our seats as we came to our last item. By the time we came out, uncle was all heat and steam . He directly headed for his friend and burst-out.
“That’s it. I am bloody- well not going to turn-up for the marriage tomorrow”
The music of the orchestra was not relenting. I really don’t know what his friend had heard, but I could barely hear him reply.
“Oh! Thank you, thank you so much. It’s all my pleasure.”
Courtesy ‘Eve’s Touch’

BRIDAL MAKE UP

bridal_makeup

Marriage, one of the most special occassions in a woman’s life, naturally imparts a special glow to the bride, who will definitely want to look her best on that day. While friends and relatives used to help the bride to dress up today there is wide choice of professionals for taking care of every aspect of her appearance, from special bridal outfits to make-up and hairdo.
A couple of major advantages of opting for professional attention are their working to a plan and attention to detail. Each bride is dressed and made up according to her taste and preference in line with which a detailed plan is laid out. Gone are the days when make-up consisted only of rose powder, kajal and bindi. No longer also are routine sets of make-up and hairstyles used anymore. They are chosen carefully taking into consideration a bride’s face structure and suitability. With rising awareness about make-up, different concepts of beauty and individuality, women of today know what they want.
First the make-up is completed and only then is the hairstyle decided. Mrs. Krishna, owner of Shy’s Nest beauty parlour, on V K Iyer Road , Mandevelli says, “After putting on the make-up we decide the best suited hairstyle. This way we give the make-up the time needed to set (ice cubes are rubbed over the face to help the make-up set) and also we will be able to choose the correct hairstyle according to the way she looks.”
The face is first thoroughly cleaned and then a concealer applied in areas where the skin colour is patchy or not uniform. It is mainly used to conceal dark circles and other blemishes in the skin. Pancake is then applied next to the skin texture giving the face a uniform base on which the next layer of make-up can be built upon. According to the skin tone, the correct shade of foundation is smoothed over. It should beapplied in such a way that it blends in with the skin colour. The concealer, pancake, and the foundation are applied both on the face and neck. Next the eyeliner, the mascara and the eye shadow are applied and then compact and translucent powder added to hide the shine, as touch-up. The lips are outlined with a lip liner and then filled out with lipstick. To give the bride a special glow, light touches of ‘glitters’ are added over the eyebrows, cheekbones and the chin.
Mrs. Krishna lists some absolute no-no’s in bridal makeup, “Eye shadow colours must suit the skin colour, so daring colours like blue and green must not be used. They tend to give a weird look to the face. Maroons and browns are the best lipstick shades for our skin types, therefore pinks should be avoided, as they clash with our dusky skin colour”. She says that gold tones are the best for our skin types, they highlight the face and make the bride look luminous and attractive. The make-up will last for 4 hours and the bride is advised to blot out the beads of sweat and not rub or wipe it, because then the make-up will be removed from that spot, and the original skin colour will show as a patch.
Hairstyles range from the simple French braid to the complex buns and rolls. Readymade hair switches are also available for elaborate hairstyles. Pearls, rhinestones, flower buds, golden lace, satin ribbons, jewelled hair bands, are used for decorating the hairstyle. The hair ornaments differ from beautician to beautician. As Mrs. Krishna says, “we choose the hairstyle according to the hair type and the bone structure of the face. For example, some brides still insist on wearing a long plait which may not suit them. So I arrange her hair in a more suitable way, but if she still insists on a plait, then I do it for her.”

It is better that the bride has a trial session with the beautician before hand. This will help her to select the correct make-up and hairstyles, saving time. Usually bridal make-up is a whole package consisting of make-up, hairstyle and tying the sari, both in the Gujarathi style and the regular way. The entire process can take anywhere between 45 minutes to 2 hrs. Many of the beauticians also come to the marriage hall and dress up the bride. Apart from beauty parlours many women also operate from their houses. In these cases, you should definitely check the credibility of the person and also examine the brand of cosmetics she uses. “All the products of the same brand must be used, only then they will blend in perfectly. Another advantage is that in case of an allergic reaction, we will know which brand to avoid. If we use products of different brands, then it becomes difficult to recognise the cause of the reaction,” says Mrs. Krishna.

THE STORY OF THE SAREE

by Jyotsna Kamat

saree

The Indian Saree (a.k.a. Sari, Seere, Sadi) boasts of oldest existence in the sartorial world. It is more than 5000 years old! It is mentioned in Vedas, the oldest existing (surviving) literature (3000 B.C.) Patterns of dress change throughout the world now and then but, the Sari has survived because it is the main wear of rural India. 75% of the population (now a billion as per official estimate) wear versatile sari. We can certainly call this cloth versatile because it could be worn as shorts, trousers, flowing gown-like or convenient skirt-wise–all without a single stitch! Saree (original–Chira in Sanskrit, cloth) is of varied length. From 5 yards to 9.5 yards tied loosely, folded and pleated, it could be turned into working dress or party-wear with manual skill. For day today dress of middle class women, 5-6 yard sari is comfortable to manage household chores. Working class tucks the same length above the ankles and if they have to work in water or fields, they would tuck the front pleats between the legs to the back, and tie the upper portion round the waist. This left them free movement of hands and legs.

One Saree. Many Incarnations

A nine yard Saree used to be a connoisseurs pleasure with Saree embellishments, embroidery and gold designing. At the same time it was as safe a dress as trousers. It was worn in the similar way as working Saree. But, some pleats covered the ankles as well. A gold silver or cloth belt was fastened which kept pallu, (upper cover) pleats and folds in tact. Jhansi’s Queen Laxmibai, Belawadi Mallamma and Kittur Chennamma fought enemy troops on horseback, wearing Saree this way. Tight tucking of the front pleats in the back was called Veeragacche or soldier’s tuck.
Generally the climate of Indian subcontinent is warm and humid. Saree and its male counterpart dhoti was most suited for this land. Earlier there was hardly any difference between Saree and dhoti because men also liked to flaunt colorful Sarees with brocaded borders (see: Sarees for Men!). They could perhaps be interchanged in needy times. Only the upper portion of the Saree-length which covers the chest, left shoulder and at times head, is missing in Saree for men.
Styles in wearing Saree vary from region to region. Gujarat style and Bengali style are different. So are Mangalorean, Kannadiga, Kodava, Tamilian, Malayali, etc. The Saree is worn in at least 10 to 15 styles throughout the India, though the ways of wearing above used to be common. In Maharashtra and North Karnataka region, wearing a nine yard Saree (without a petticoat — long underskirt –which was superfluous) was in vogue till 20th century. My mother who was a good swimmer, used to wear a nine yard Saree tightly and swam in river Kali or Arabian sea along with my father. Wearing swimming costume could just not be dreamt of. But the versatile Saree was good enough to move through the waves.
Some people think that Indian Saree is influenced by Greek or Roman toga which we see on ancient statues. This is not correct. Saree is essentially Indian and designed to suit local conditions. Cotton was cultivated in India centuries before Alexander the Great landed on the borders of India and Indian cloth (chira or Saree) was a wonder to Greek eyes. In fact, Herodotus and other ancient western historians thought there were cloth-growing trees in India!
Raja Raviverma, the distinguished painter of 19th century, toured the entire sub-continent in search of the ideal female-wear. He wanted the best dress for the various goddesses he was asked and commissioned to paint. He selected the a yard Saree which drapes the body beautifully at the same time exhibiting contours of female anatomy–bust, waist, hips. Most of the female deities he painted are in this style.
Woman Wearing SareeFrom a Wall Painting in Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh14th Century A.D. An old or worn-out Saree is equally utilitarian. Grandmothers used to stitch quilts folding soft and worn-out Sarees and putting bright new cloth on cover, for children which kept them warm. Worn-out thicker Sarees were used as bed covers or blankets in the cradle (as the babies wetted it frequently). For village women, folds of Sarees serve as pouches, bags and haversack to carry grocery and at times babies as well. Some used to make a stand-by cradle out of Saree length for the baby. Tying the ends to a nearby tree. White Sarees could be turned into towels, napkins, diapers etc., even after they are worn out.
Dhoti is an abridged version of the Saree sans pallu (the throw of the Saree). Many Hero-stones (memorials for dead heroes) show the dhoti worn like breeches or shorts with Veeragachche; dagger and other weapons were tucked in dhoti folds.
With globalization, the dress of Indians is also getting westernized. But being most utilitarian, and multi-purpose Saree is still reigning in rural India and for all rituals and ceremonials it shines supreme to this day. Colorful Sarees are worn as pugrees, turbans and tribals haunt invariably women’s Sarees in dances. Yakshagana dancers wear Saree designed clothes.

TAMIL LANGUAGE

Thamil Thai Valthu

Old Dravidian

In the historical past Proto-Dravidian was spoken throughout India. When the Turanians and the Aryans came to India through the Khyber and the Bolan Passes respectively, and mingled with the local population of the North, the North Indian languages of Proto-Dravidian origin changed to a great extent. As a consequence Praakrit and Paali emerged as the languages of the masses in the northern part of India. Despite the commingling of local and foreign ethnic elements, a section of Proto-Dravidians maintained their ethnic and cultural identity in some isolated areas, spoke corrupt forms of Proto-Dravidian languages and these have survived, to this day, as living examples of ancient Dravidian languages. Languages such as Kolami, Parji, Naiki, Gondi, Ku, Kuvi, Konda, Malta, Oroan, Gadba, Khurukh, and Brahui are examples of Dravidian languages prevalent in the North. Today Proto-Dravidian speakers are increasingly mingling with other linguistic groups and learning their languages. Therefore, their numerical strength is on the decline. People living in the Rajmahal mountains in Bengal and in the areas adjacent to Chota Nagpur are good examples of the intermingling. A section of people living in Baluchistan speak Brahui, which has many linguistic features similar to the Dravidian languages spoken in South India. Scholars are surprised today to note many linguistic similarities between Tamil and Brahui, especially in numerals, personal pronouns, syntax and in other linguistic features. The Indian Census report of 1911 classified Brahui as a language belonging to the Dravidian family. It was then spoken by about 170, 000 people, although this number over the years dwindled to a couple of thousands. Whatever be their numerical strength now, they are proof of the fact that the Dravidians in some age of the historical past were spread in the region between Baluchistan and Bengal and spoke the Proto-Dravidian idiom.

North Indian Languages

Since the Dravidians lived throughout the Indian subcontinent at some historical past, certain syntactical affinities are noticeable even today between the South and a large number of North Indian languages.

When Praakrit and Paali became popular in the North, the Proto-Dravidian language lost its ground there, and confined itself entirely to the South. Even in South India it did not remain as one single language for a long time. Dialectical differences arose partly due to the political division of the Tamil country into three distinct Tamil kingdoms and partly due to the natural barriers created by rivers and mountains. The absence of proper land communication among the three Tamil kingdoms also accentuated this process of dialectal differences. As a result the Dravidian language spoken by the people. who lived in the regions north and south of the Tirupati mountains, varied to such an extent as to become two independent languages, Tamil and Telugu. The language spoken in the region of Mysore came to be known as Kannada. Malayalam emerged as yet another distinct language in Kerala. All these far-reaching changes occurred at different periods of time in the history of the Dravidian languages. Among these four languages, it is only the Tamil language which has a long literary tradition.

The term Dravidian, which refers to the language of South India, is of a later origin. Originally it was derived from the word tamil /tamiz . This word in course of time changed into dravida after undergoing a series of changes like tamiza, tramiza, tramiTa, trapida and travida. At one time the languages spoken in the regions of Karnataka, Kongu and Malabar were respectively known as Karunaattut-tamil, Tulunattut-tamil and Malainattut-tamil. Today however, these regional languages are classified under the blanket term "Dravidian family of languages".

South Indian Languages

Many common linguistic features are still discernible among these Dravidian languages. Some five thousand words are common to these languages. Many grammatical forms are common. The overwhelming influence of Sanskrit scholars and the indiscriminate borrowing of Sanskrit words resulted in the emergence of Kannada and Telugu as distinct languages from Tamil some fifteen hundred years ago. The influence of Sanskrit on Malayalam language came to be felt only about eight centuries ago, and therefore, the areas of difference between Tamil and Malayalam are not many. Tamil was the language of bureaucracy, of literati and of culture for several centuries in Kerala. In fact, fifteen centuries ago the rulers of Kerala were all Tamils. Up to the tenth century the Pandya kings ruled Kerala with royal titles such as "Perumaankal" and "Perumaankanar". It was a Tamil poet from Trivandrum who in fact presided over the academy of Tamil scholars, when they met to evaluate the famous Tamil grammatical work Tolkappiyam. From the third century 13.C. to the first century A.D., many poets from Kerala composed poems in Tamil and their compositions are included in Tamil anthologies such as Akananaru and Purananaru. All the one hundred poems in the anthology PatiRRuppattuextol the greatness of the kings of the Kerala region. The author of the famous Tamil epic Cilappatikaram was a poet from Kerala. The shrine in honor of KaNNaki, the heroine of Cilappatikaram, was built at Tiruvancikkulam in Kerala. Among the Saiva and Vaisnava composers, CEramAn PerumAl Nayanaar and KulacEkara Alvaar respectively, belong to the Kerala region. AiyanEritanaar, the author of the tenth century grammatical work PuRapporul VeNpaamaalai, hailed from Kerala. Many scholars and pundits from Kerala contributed much to the Tamil language and literature and the historical evidence shows that the region now known as the State of Kerala was once an integral part of Tamil Nadu at some period of time. Because of these reasons there is greater affinity between Tamil and Malayalam than between Tamil and Kannada or Telugu.

Contact with Foreign Countries

Tamil occupies a distinctive position among the Dravidian languages owing to its geographical expansion, for it has spread beyond the frontiers of India. Apart from being the language of forty million people in Tamil Nadu it is the spoken and written language of several millions of Tamils living in Ceylon, Burma, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Fiji Islands and Mauritius.

That the Tamils were well advanced in sea-borne and inland trade is evident both from Tamil literary sources as also from the accounts of foreign travellers.* Even as early as the tenth century B.C., articles of trade such as peacock feathers, elephant tusks and spices intended for King Solomon were sent in ships belonging to the Tamil country. Some words in Hebrew, Greek and English point to the existence of trade between Tamil Nadu and the countries around the Mediterranean region. Classical Hebrew terms like tuki and ahalat are close to the Tamil words tokai and akil respectively. Although English words like "sandalwood" and "rice" are borrowed from the Greek language, their origin is in fact Tamil. Likewise the Greek words for ginger and pepper also owe their origin to Tamil. Sea-borne trade flourished between the Tamil country and the Roman Empire during the period of Emperor Augustus. This fact is borne out by numerous coins issued during his reign, which were unearthed by archaeologists in the Tamil country. Iron age finds in Philippines also point to the existence of trade between Tamil Nadu and the Philippine Islands during the ninth and tenth centuries B.C. This apart, Tamil traders frequented the shores of Burma, Malaya and China with their wares and bartered them for Chinese silk and sugar. The Tamil word ciini for sugar indicates its origin. In Tamil classical works, Chinese silk is referred to as ciinattupattu.

For an interesting account of the ancient Tamils refer, P.T. Srinivasa Iyengar, History of the Tamil from the Earliest Times to 600 A.D., Madras, 1929, pp. 36-43.; and A.L. Basham, The Wonder that was India, London, 1954, p. 62.

Foreigners who toured India gave an account of the flourishing trade between the Tamil regions of India and other countries. Periplus and Pliny mention that since articles from Tamil Nadu such as pearls, elephant tusks and muslin were bartered for gold, and that the trade balance was more in favour of the Tamils, the Emperor Vespasian viewed especially the drain of gold as a serious threat to his countrys economy and took the extreme step of terminating the two-way trade between Rome and the Tamil country. References to the ports of trade in the Tamil country such as ToNTi, MuciRi, KoRkai and Kaavirippumpattinam are also found in the writings of Periplus. Ptolemy writing in A.D. 150 speaks about Ceraas, Cholaas and Paandyas as the rulers of Tamil Nadu. He also mentions the important trading centres like Karur, NagappaTTinam and Pondicherry in his travel notes. Ali these references to the trading activities of the Tamils in foreign writings correlate to those found in the early Tamil classics.

The business acumen of the Tamils is shown in the special terms used by them to refer even to the minutest fractions in calculation. To cite some examples, the term immi referred to the fraction of 1/320 x 1/7. And one-seventh of this fraction was termed as anu. One-eleventh of an anu was known as mummi and one ninth of a mummi was termed kuNam.

The renowned Sanskrit epics the Raamayanaa and the Mahaabhaarata also speak about the Tamil country and in particular the importance of Madurai as the capital of the Paandyaa kings. Megasthenes, who came to India during the period of Chandragupta Maurya, refers to the Paandya country and its polity. The edicts of the famous Indian Emperor Asoka also mention that during his rule the Tamil kings in the far south of India enjoyed political independence.

Antiquity of Tamil Grammatical Works

Among the ancient grammatical works available, the Tolkappiyam was the earliest and it was written around the third century B.C. There are over two hundred and fifty references in Tolkaappiyam which, provide substantial evidence of the existence of many classical and grammatical works in Tamil prior to Tolkaappiyam itself. It classifies Tamil words into four categories, iyarcol, tiricol, ticaiccol, and vatacol. Iyarcol refers to the words in common use, while tiricol refers to the words used specifically in poetry. Regional words are known as ticaiccol. Words borrowed from Sanskrit are called vatacol. Certain specific rules were stipulated in borrowing words from Sanskrit. The borrowed words were to strictly conform to the Tamil phonetic system and to be written in the Tamil script. All these indicate the sound grammatical basis on which the Tamil language has evolved over the years. Besides, Tolkaappiyam also classifies the Tamil language into centamil and kotuntamil. The former refers to the classical Tamil used exclusively by literati in their works and the latter refers to the colloquial Tamil, spoken by the people. This shows that even in those distant days differences had grown to such an extent as to enable the Tamil grammarians to classify the language into written and spoken.

Tamil Scripts

The earlier Tamil inscriptions were written in braahmi, grantha and vaTTezuttu scripts.* Inscriptions after the seventh century A.D. contain Tamil characters similar to the one now in vogue. This prompted some scholars to argue that vatteluttu and Tamil scripts originated from braahmi scripts. This view has no solid base, for one can see a copious description of Tamil scripts in Tolkaappiyam, which belongs to third century B.C. It is obvious therefore, that Tamil language had a distinct script of its own even at that early period. In fact vaTTezuttu is none other than the old Tamil script. Even the southern braahmi was a corrupt form of vaTTezuttu . Distinct differences exist between the southern and the northern braahmi script, for the southern one had its genesis in vaTTezuttu . Much before brahmi scripts could become popular the Tamils possessed a script of their own which they put to use in their commercial transactions and in their writings.

--- * According to Professor M. Varadarajan, vaTTezuttu was nothing but the scripts inscribed on stones. They had been known as veTTezuttu or letters inscribed on stones. But in course of time and by usage it was transformed into vaTTezuttu . For an in-depth study of Tamil scripts refer, M. Varadarajan. Moli Varalaaru (The History of Tamil Language), Madras, 1954, pp. 425~37. The view of a historian on the same subject is as follows: "What the vaTTezuttu is and how it came into being and how it was practiced we cannot say definitely. But we can say almost with some definiteness that it represents a very ancient cursive alphabet, perhaps the primitive South Indian alphabet which existed long, long before the inscriptions of Asoka." V.R.R. Dikshitar, Pre-Historic South India, Madras, 1951, p. 218. Yet for another view of the origins of Tamil scripts refer, John R. Marr, "The Early Dravidians" in A.L. Basham (ed.), A Cultural History of India, London. 1975, pp. 32-34. --

The Tamii characters which are in use today also can be deemed to have originated from vatteluttu. There are twelve vowels in Tamil consisting of five short vowels, a, i, u, e, and o («, –, ¯, ±, ); their corresponding five long vowels, aa, ii, uu, ee and oo (, ®, °, 2, µ) and two letters ai and au (3, Ç) for the prevention of hiatus. There are eighteen consonants made up of six surds k. c, T, t, p, and R (ì, î, ð, ò, ô, ü) and their corresponding six sonants g, j, N, n, m, n2 (í, ï, ñ, ó, õ, ý) and six medials y, r, l, v, z and L ( ö, ÷, ø, ù, ú, û) . The two short vowels e and o (±, ´) which are not in Devanagari are essential to Tamil and other languages of the Dravidian family. There is a world of difference in meaning between the words eTu and ETu (±Î, 2Î); koTu and kOTu (|¸¡Î, §¸¡Î), teL and tEL (|*û, §*û ); as well as koL and kOl (|¸¡û, §¸¡ø). It is therefore, needless to emphasise the importance of short and long vowels like e and ee/E (±, 2); as well as o and O (, µ ) in Tamil. There are no aspirated consonants like gha or cha in Tamil. Likewise the letter h ( Ý ) is also absent in Tamil. But a corresponding leter k (· ), known as aytam is used to soften the surds in Tamil. The trilled consonant R (ü) is quite different from r (÷).The consonant n (ý ) has a nasal sound and it is different from other dentals. The consonant l ( ø ) is equally essential like that of the consonant L ( û ). These two different ls exist both in Telugu and in Kannada. The consonant z (ú) is found only in Tamil and Malayalam. It had existed in old Kannada but not now. The two vowels ru ( Õ ) and lu ( Ö), which are there in Devanagari, are not there in Tarr.ih The short-nature u (¯) and i ( – ) sounds are in Tamil, but there are no letters to indicate them.

If the letters ka, ca, Ta, ta, pa (¸, º, *, *, À) appear at the beginning of a word, after hard vowel consonants. and after doubling they will be pronounced like surds. In other places they will be pronounced like sonants. Although there are no distinct letters for surds and sonants in Tamil, the vowel consonants themselves are pronounced like surds and sonants depending on the place in which they appear. Therefore the one Tamil consonant ka (k) is pronounced like gha depending upon its placement in a word. Likewise other hard vowel consonants ta (* ), ca (º), Ta (*) and pa (À) are pronounced differently like ( dha, cha, tha, bha) respectively according to the place where they appear in a word. There are no sibilants like sa, sha, Sa in Tamil.

There are distinct letters in Tamil to indicate numerals and fractions. There are evidences to show that the present roman numerals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 originated from Tamil.

Classification and Formation of Words

There are four kinds of words in Tamil. Among them the root words or uriccol which were used in ancient poems are not popular now. If we exclude them then there exist only three types of words namely nouns, verbs and itaiccol or particles. The nouns indicate animate and inanimate categories of things, gender, number and person. tiNai is classified into uyartiNai (nouns denoting personal class of beings, including men, gods and demons) and akRiNai (inferior class of beings whether animate, inanimate, or neuter). Higher categories of animate beings like human beings fall under uyortiNai. Others, both animate and inanimate come under the category of akriNai. There are three genders in uyartiNai: masculine, feminine and neuter. Palar paal or neuter plural gender indicates many in number. Masculine and feminine genders in Tamil indicate only singular number. AkRiNai is classified into onRan paal (singular of the impersonal class) and palvin pal (plural of the impersonal class). Again, number is classified into one and many. Unlike Sanskrit there is no dual number in Tamil. There are three "persons" in Tamil, namely, first person, second person and third person. Case inflexions are many in Tamil and their indicators form as suffixes in words. Distinction between animate and inanimate things, and masculine and feminine genders are usually made according to the meaning of words. Verbs are classified into finite and infinite verbs. Most of the finite verbs are formed with suffixes which indicates this animate or inanimate quality, as also gender. The gender is not distinguished both in abstract nouns and in relative participles. Both verbs and nouns are formed from verbal roots. But very few verbs are formed from noun roots. Particles have no meaning of their own but acquire meaning when added to other words and help to differentiate their meanings too. Even meaningless words are regarded as particles. Most of the words in Tamil are agglutinative in character, i.e. case indicators, time and gender markers are affixed to root words. As a result, the formation of words become clear. Even the words in the classical literature are agglutinative in character. There is no distinction between the roots that were. used in ancient classics and those which are now in vogue. The root word which was used to mean "food" in ancient classics was una. The one used in medieval period was either uN or uNTi. Whereas the modern word for food is uNavu. In all these words whether ancient, mediaeval or modern, the root word un is clear. Only the suffixes differ. Therefore, the Tamil of ancient poetry too begins to seem familiar after a while if one reads the ancient classical poetry for a time. This is the reason why the Tamils of this century find little difficulty in understanding the Cankam classics. It also accounts for the continuity that exists in Tamil literary growth. One finds it used in the poems of the hymnodists and Kampan, composed in the seventh century and the twelfth century respectively. There is little difference in syntax between ancient and modern Tamil. Although over a period of time word forms have changed the formation of syntax remains intact in all the Dravidian languages. In this respect there exist similarity between the languages of the South and the North, though they fall under a different category known as Indo-European languages. The fact that syntax changes very little, while other aspects of a language do, is brought out in the similarity one finds in the formation of syntax between the Dravidian languages of the South and the languages of the North of India. This explains why syntactical differences exist between the languages of North India on the one hand and Sanskrit, Greek and Latin on the other; and why there exists similarity between north and south Indian languages. This unity in syntactical formation becomes obvious if one analyses all the four major Dravidian languages of South India. If one analyses the continuos growth of Tamil language the perceivable truth is that there is little change in the formation of syntax both in the classical Tamil and the Tamil used in modern short stories.

Unnecessary Polemics

Among the spoken languages of India, Tamil achieved perfection even during the pre-historic period. Literary growth in Tamil took place at the same time when there was similar growth in Sanskrit. Literary works came to be written only at a later period in all other Indian languages. Therefore there was considerable antiquity for Tamil language and literature. Besides, the ancient classical Tamil literature originated and blossomed from the folk song and poetry of the Tamil country. The forms of such poetry were also not borrowed from any other language, but were culled from the folk poetry and songs that was in vogue among the people of Tamil Nadu. The existence of such combination of antiquity and individuality in Tamil literature, was forgotten by later day Sanskrit scholars. As such they not merely denied the greatness due to the Tamil language but began to look upon it on the assumption that it borrowed immensely from Sanskrit from its very inception. Therefore, Sanskritists indulged in unwanted polemics by arguing that Tamil had no intrinsic merit of its own because it borrowed heavily from Sanskrit. To establish this assumption, Caminata Desikar, a Sanskrit scholar and author of a grammatical work entitled ilakkaNakkottu compared the alphabets of Sanskrit and Tamil and found that all, expect five alphabets, the two short vowels e (±) and o (´) and three consonants Ra, na and za (È, É, Æ ) are common to both the languages. Therefore he argued that all the characters common to the two languages essentially belonged to Sanskrit and the five rare symbols which are absent in Sanskrit belonged specifically to Tamil. Based on his findings he wrote an unusual verse in which he posed insolently a question whether Tamil with only five letters of its own could ever be called a language. Intelligent persons will be ashamed To call it a language That possesses only five letters.* -- * Arumuka Navalar (ed.), llakkanakkottu (Madras). p. 9, lines 27-28. -- This scurrilous verse only indicates the irrational attitude of the Sanskrit scholars of the seventeenth century. Such unreasonable attitude became obvious in analysing the origin of words that were common to Sanskrit and Tamil. Basic words like niir (water) and miin (fish) which had been in use from time immemorial in Tamil language was interpreted by Sanskrit scholars as having originated from Sanskrit roots. They refused to consider the possibility that Sanskrit would have borrowed these common words from Tamil, the most ancient language of the region, and even propagated that most of the words in Tamil had been borrowed from Sanskrit. The Tamil scholars were perplexed by such unfounded claims. However with the arrival of linguists like Caldwell from Europe, and with the publication of books in English refuting the claims of Sanskritists, Tamil scholars gained confidence in the intrinsic value of Tamil language. Despite this, the biased views held by Sanskritists held sway ir the world of letters even up to this century until linguists in England like Burrow falsified these erroneous claims by their researches. This controversy persisted even in analysing the names of places in the Tamil region. After translating certain names of places from Tamil to Sanskrit, the Sanskrit scholars argued that they were borrowed from Sanskrit. One classic example was Vriddhachalam which is a literal translation of the Tamil place called MutukunRam. Likewise, several names of deities were translated into Sanskrit. The devotional hymns of the Nayanmars in fact mentioned these names in their pure Tamil form. Instances are not wanting that while translating names of places from Tamil into Sanskrit, the Sanskrit scholars failed to comprehend the real meaning of the criginal Tamil words and translated them erroneously. Without knowing the actuai meaning of the name of a town ArkkaTu (Arcot), the Sanskrit scholars translated it Sataranyam, which literally means six forests, whereas the Tamil word arkkaTu literally means a forest of fig trees. To perpetuate these Sanskritised names, they wrote stories as well. Despite their efforts Sanskritised names failed to gain currency among the people. The Sanskrit scholars, for example, tried to Sanskritise the name of the river Paalaaru as Ksra Nati. It could not be perpetuated. Thus the Sanskrit scholars unnecessarily sowed the seeds of dissension in the Tamii country.

Tanit-Tamil Iyakkam (Pure Tamil Movement)

Sanskrit scholars attempted to Sanskritise Tamil several centuries ago by the liberal use of Sanskrit words. They argued that such a liberal mixture enhanced the beauty of the Tamil language and compared the hybrid language to an ornament made out of equal number of pearls and corals. They called the hybrid style as manippravala style and attempted to popularize it in the country. Some of the Jain and Vaisnava Sanskrit scholars employed that style using grantha scripts Their attempts, however, failed because of the naturally rich vocabulary and literary wealth of the Tamil language. Sanskrit scholars, however, refused to acknowledge the real merit of Tamil literary works. Although they were born in the Tamil country, spoke the Tamil language, and lived as Tamilians, they seldom read such important works as the TEvaram and the Tiruvaacakam. They treated lighty those who attained scholarship only in Tamil. Even the hymns of Nayanmars, which found a pride of place in remple rituals during the Chola period, lost their importance at a later stage. They went to the extent of denigrating Tamil as the language of the mortal and extolling Sanskrit as the language of gods. If the Sanskritists found laudable ideas in Tamil works, they tried to belittle their merit saying that those were borrowed ideas from Sanskrit works. They tried even to underrate the importance of Tiruvalluvars Tirukkural by running it down as a compendium of ideas translated from Sanskrit works. Likewise they considered that Tolkaappiyam, the first grammatical work by Tolkappiyar was based on Sanskrit. To substantiate their view, they assigned the work of Tolkappiyar to Tiranatumakkini who was a scholar in Sanskrit. The RaamayaNaa, Mahaabhaarata, PuraaNas and other philosophical works were no doubt borrowed from Sanskrit but the Sanskrit scholars tried to camouflage the very existence of great literary works in Tamil like the Cankam classics, didactic and devotional literature. But their efforts were halted only when scholars like V.K. Curiyanaraayana Sastriar and Maraimalaiyatikal focussed the attention of the people on the literary treasures of the Tamil language.

Two Different Types of Tamil Style

Though the efforts to Sanskritise Tamil no longer exist, the repercussions of those earlier efforts are still felt in society. One effect, of course, was the virulent opposition to the use of Sanskrit words in Tamil, and this opposition has not subsided even today. At a time when all merit and greatness were attributed to Sanskrit alone, Tamil scholars like cUriyanarayana Sastriar and CuvAmi Vetaacalam preferred to use only the Tamil equivalents of their Sanskrit names, Paritimarkalainjar and MaRaimalaiyaTikal respectively. Despite their stance, their earlier Tamil prose works contained many words of Sanskrit origin. When the Sanskritists claimed that Tamil could not exist without Sanskrit, the two Tamil scholars addressed themselves to the task of writing Tamil without borrowing from Sanskrit. Curiyanarayana Sastriyar, the pioneer of this style of writing died at a very young age. His contemporary, MaTaimalaiyaTikal lived longer and crystallized this attitude into a movement in 1916. Since then the movement has been popularly known as the Tanit-Tamil lyakkam or the Pure Tamil Movement among the Tamil scholars. Its impact still persists among the Tamils. Those who have interest in m ai n tai n ing the purity of Tamil language even now prefer to substitute a Tamil equivalent for Sanskrit names given by their parents. With vengeance they totally reject borrowines from Sanskrit. Instead they prefer to borrow from English. The Tamil scholars consider it their duty to write in chaste Tamil free from Sanskrit and have been writing like this since the inception of the Pure Tamil Movement. The virulence of the movement was due to the past pride of the Sanskritists in their knowledge of Sanskrit language. The blunders committed by them have given rise to two different views as well as controversies in the use of Tamil. One group preferred to use as far as possible a pure Tamil without the admixture of Sanskrit words; others preferred to write in a hybrid language. Even now many writers to daily newspapers, weeklies and monthlies write in a hybrid language. Therefore the Tamil scholars denounce their writing as faulty. The writings of the Tamil scholars are criticised as too difficult to read, lifeless and artificial. Thus the effect of the old controversy still exists, although in a different form. In the historic past, Sanskrit played the role of a communication language among the scholars, who lived in different parts of the Indian sub-continent. Therefore it was learnt avidly by scholars at Kanchipuram as well as at Banaras. The sum-total of human knowledge available from Kaveri to the Gangetic plains was written in the Sanskrit language. Ideas relating to literature, religion and theories of art were found elaborately set forth in Sanskrit. Many forget that quite a lot of authors of these Sanskrit works were scholars from South India. For example Dandin the author of the Kavyadarga in Sanskrit, was a scholar from Kanchipuram in the Tamil country. Sankara the exponent of Advaita philosophy, was again a South Indian. He mentioned in his works Saint Njanacampantar, the crusader against Jainism in South India. Raamanujar, the originator of Visishtaadvaita philosophy was a Tamillian and he lived every close to Kanchipuram. Scholars who analysed the life-style and arts of the people of the Tamil country, wrote many works on the Bharata Naatyasastra, the Carnatic music and on astrology. Therefore, if one considers these facts dispassionately, it was unrealistic on the part of later day Sanskrit scholars to denigrate Tamil language and literature. It is equally true in the case of Tamil scholars to think that theories and ideas found in Sanskrit were alien to Tamil. The Tamil scholars took the cue from the old commentators for writing prose. The commentators including Parimelazakar and others, who were known for their scholarship in Sanskrit, wrote in pure Tamil with the least borrowing from Sanskrit. Their style of writing was similar to the one now in vogue, for the present-day Tamil scholars adopted only their style. The journalists style has been based on the spoken language of the Tarnils. In spoken language, foreign loan words are mixed freely and syntax corresponds to emotional situations. Poet Paaratiyaar composed pooms largely in pure Tamil. He followed the same method while writing essays too. Tiru. Vi. Kaliyanacuntaraar moved very closely with Tamil scholars and journalists. He was himself a distinguished scholar and a seasoned journalist. He wrore many literary works and also edited a number of daily newspapers and weeklies. He was a link between the Tamil schoiars and the journalist of his day. His earlier writings abound in Sanskrit words. With the advent of the Pure Tamil Movement, he began to write without the admixture of Sanskrit words. He used foreign words only when there were no suitable Tamil words to express a particular idea. He gave up long and stilted sentences and largely used emotionally charged short sentences common to spokon language. Thus his writings and speeches, tried to bridge the chasm that existed between the scholars and journalists. Even now two different types of styles exist: one adoptod by the scholars and the other followed by the journalists.

Dialectical Conventions

There exist slight regional differences in the spoken Tamil of the people living in various parts of the Tamil country. In the nineteenth century, in the absence of transport facilities, dailectical differences would have been more pronounced than it is now. Now they are on the decline because of increased transport and educational facilities. Besides mass-media, such as daily newspapers, journals, radio and television are also contributing factors. However, there are some differences between the Tamil spoken at Tirunelveli and Coimbature. These two dialects differ distinctly from the Tamil spoken in Thanjavur and Tiruchirappalli. The Tamil spoken in the city of Madras on the other hand differs from all of them, because of the liberal borrowing of words from Telugu, Urdu and English languages. Similar differences exist in the phonetics also. The vowel consonant ca ( º ) is distinctly pronounced in Tirunelveli, whereas in the northern part of Tamil Nadu it is pronounced as sa (… ) at the beginning of words. The letter za (Æ), which is unique to the Tamil language is pronounced differently from one district to another. In the southern districts it is pronounced as la (Ç ), in Salem as ya (  ) and in the city of Madras it is pronounced in both the ways. The verb izu (–Ø) is pronounced as icu (–Í ). In spoken language vaazaippazam (Å¡¨ÆôÀÆõ ) is pronounced to the detestation of scholars as vaaLappaLam (Å¡ÇôÀÇõ) and Vaayappayam (Å¡ÂôÀÂõ). Certain classes of people pronounce the verb irukkiratu (–Õ츢ÈÐ) as irukku (–ÕìÌ). Others pronounce it is irukkutu (–ÕìÌÐ) and the illiterates as kiitu (¸£Ð). The verb ceytuvittaar (|ºöÐÅ¢ð*¡÷, has done it) is pronounced in spoken language as ceynjiTTaar, cenjiTTaar and cenjipuTTaar (|ºö»¢ð*¡÷, |ºïº¢ð*¡÷, |ºïº¢Òð*¡÷). Likewise the verb eTuttukkoNtan (±ÎòÐì|¸¡ñ*¡ý, has taken it) is pronounced as etuttukkinan, etuttukNan, and etuttukkittan (±ÎòÐ츢ɡý, ±ÎòÐìÉ¡ý, ±ÎòÐ츢ð*¡ý). Some words have altogether a different meaning in the Tamil used in Sri Lanka. The known meaning for the word aRutalaka (Ú*Ä¡¸) is comforting. But in Sri Lanka "calmly" and "leisurely (amaitiyaaka and kaalataamatamaaka) («¨Á*¢Â¡¸, ¸¡Ä*¡Á*Á¡¸). The Tamils in Sri Lanka use the word kataippOm (¸¨*ô§À¡õ) instead of pecikkoNTirappOm (§À¡º¢ì|¸¡ñÊÕô§À¡õ) which means will be talking. Likewise they use caTanku (º*íÌ, rituals) for tirumaNam (*¢ÕÁ*õ, marriage); kaNakka (¸*측, heavy or weightly) for niRaiya (¿¢¨ÈÂ, full); vaTivaai(ÅÊÅ¡¸, beautiful) for nanRaaka (¿ýÈ¡¸, better or well); and kantOr (¸ó§*¡÷, office) for aluvalakarn («ÖÅĸõ, office).

Foreign Loan Words in Tamil

Words borrowed from English are phonetically changed and used as such in Sri Lanka. For example pan (bun) is written as pan (Àý); kappi (coffee) as koppi (¸¡ôÀ¢), kOrt (court) as kot (§¸¡ð); Sart (shirt) as set (|ºð), taarc (torch) as rOc and taval (towel) as tuvaai. Likewise many Tamil words are phonetically changed and used as such in spoken and written Tarnil of Sri Lanka. English and Hindi words are used in spoken Tamil of the people who live in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu. Such loan words are not phonetically changed but written in the same way as they are pronounced in the concerned languages. For example such words as bus, cycle, car, office, late, post, bank, and coffee (pas/ÀS , caikkil/¨ºì¸¢û, kaar/¸¡÷, apis/À£S, let/§Äð, post/§À¡Sð, pank/À¡íì and kaappi/¸¡ôÀ¢ respectively) are written in Tamil characters in the manner they are pronounced in English. Script writers, novelists and short story writers use these Tamilised forms in their writings. Some of them use such loan words frequently in their writings,.while others use them only when their Tamil equivalents are non-existent. Although in spokon Tamil such English words as leave, stamp, rail, station and telephone are commonly used, in written Tamil their equivalents vitumuRai (Å¢ÎÓ¨È), tapaaltalai(*À¡ø*¨Ä), pukaivaNTi nilaiyam (Ò¨¸ÅñÊ ¿¢¨ÄÂõ) and tolaipEci (|*¡¨Ä§Àº¢) respectively are used. Some Urdu words like calam and capacu found place in the devotional poems of saints Arunakirinˆtar and Kumarakuruparar, who lived in the seventeenth century. As a result of North Indians contact some words from the Hindi language are used in the present-day spoken Tamil. For the same reason many sweets prepared in hotels of Tamil Nadu bear Hindi names. From time immemorial a few Sanskrit words had been intermixed with Tamil. Prior to the second century A.D., and during the Cankam period only one per cent of Sanskrit words intermingled with Tamil. This increased to three to five per cent in the devotional songs of Alvars and Naayanmaars who lived in the seventh and eighth centuries respectively. During the period of the epics also the intermixing of Sanskrit words with Tamil continued to increase. It reached its high water mark in the thirteenth century when the maNippravaala style became popular. As a result the number of Sanskrit loan words increased phenomenally in the religious prose works of the Jains and the Vaisnavites. But the commentators of grammatical and literary works wrote in chaste Tamil with the least number of Sanskrit loan words. As a result the maNippravaala style fell into disuse. However in the Puranas, Talapuraanas, Ulaas and Kalambakams the percentage of Sanskrit loan words continued to remain at five to eight per cent. In the subsequent centuries the frequency increased with the advent of certain new types of versifications like yarnakam, ciletai and matakku. They, however, became obsolete in course of time. Most of the devotional songs of Raamalinka Cuvaamikal contain very few Sanskrit loan words. Their percentage is very high in his prose work. Certain new usages peculiar to the Christians found their place in the Bible. A new translation of the Bible in chaste Tamil is now available. Certain Arabic words were frequently used by Muslim writers in their works. Even today stories written on Muslim families contain some words of Arabic origin. Stories about anglicized families or families living in metropolitan cities contain many words from English to reflect the spirit of their spoken Tamil as well as to give realism to the story. Though foreign loan words were used in Tamil in lesser or greater degree for various reasons and at different periods of time, the Tamil language itself retained its individuality. It can be said that among the living languages of India, it is the Tamil language which has the least number of foreign loan words. Source of the articTransliteration Scheme used: In place of the transliteration scheme used in the book (Tamil lexicon scheme with diacritical markers), I have used the following transliteration scheme: a, aa/A, i, ii/I, u, oo/U, e, ee/E, ai, o, O, au, q k, g, c, j, T, N, t, n, p/b, m, y, r, l, v, z, L, R, n2 le:

"A HISTORY OF TAMIL LITERATURE",

by Mu. Varadarajan, (Translated from Tamil by E.Sa. Viswanathan) Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1988, p. 1- 17

Tab2

Tab3

Tab4