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Friday, June 03, 2005

[Book Watch] History of Tamils..follow up

'History of Tamils, From the Earliest Times to 600 A.D' by P.T.Srinivasa Iyengar.

I had blogged the initial opinion about the book here

The book tries to reconstruct the 'history' by whatever discernible evidences of culture/life-style is made available via the ancient literature/poetry. It is scary to realise that what we all call as 'history' is what was passed via hearsay for generations of ages till writing/scripture became part of our culture. What is to say the disciples did not 'change the meaning or add new text' the original information :-(

For the better part of the book, poetry fills the pages up. Gosh, reading that poetry stuff makes your head go round in circles, like a battery powered train, never coming to a stop, but forced to sulk when the battery runs out ;)

It is also funny to observe how the author takes potshots at other contemporaries and their conclusions despite the fact that his modus-operandi is no different than others. However, one has to appreciate the 'logical' conclusions the author attempts to arrive at.

This books leaves you bit tired because of the way it is organized. There is no coherence/flow of topics as noted in the initial thoughts

Some politcal parties of TN would be happy to agree with the content of the book, which says that 'Aryas' were not native to Tamil Soil. However Aryas slowly but surely worked their way down via 'culture infiltration' rather than 'physical' i.e. Arya culture was inculcated into the lifestyle and making people 'think' in Aryan lifestyle, especially the use of 'fire' as the mouth of 'God' which explains why all 'yagnas' and 'funerals' are conducted with 'fire' as the ultimate vehicle of transportation to God (i.e. the mouth of God)

There is nothing that is very controversial in the book that enlivens the subject matter except for attempting to persistenly define the culture of people in various ages.

It is a valid, nonetheless amusing, point that the author makes while saying 'all the references in poetry of the lifestyle of citizens must be tempered or taken in moderation, since bards were beggarly, in the sense they did not have any other means of earning their food & drink, but by singing the praises of the chief-tain'

Very sobering and not-so-disagreeable argument.

The author uses this to rubbish many claims as to how 'ascendants' of various dynasties like Chola, Chera & Pandya, were called as Gods themselves, were nothing but the hyper-imagination and exaggeration of the bards for want of recognition of livelyhood :-)

Another interesting remark is that of 'names'. Agastya was a common name then, and there could have been many rishis who took that name but were not the 'real' Agastya and he uses time-factoring from various literature to say all references to 'Agastya' were not essentially the same person. Like this, the author attempts to 'assign' ages to people which makes it very reasonable.

Not till the end, did the major speculation or conspiracy theory come. It was about 'thiruKuRaL'. Thirukural is considered as 'THE' treatise on 'life'. The author devotes an entire section titled 'The indebtedness of Kural to Sanskrit culture' claims (based on V.R.R Diskhitar's (then) upcoming book) that Thirukural is heavily influenced by the works of Sanskrit writers on the four objects of human life, the Purusarthas of the Aryan scared books.

'But whether he borrows his material from Sanksrit or follows Tamil tradition, he displays an originality of treatment and a sequence of ideas entire his own, which contributes much to the merit of the poem'

'It is reasonable to assume that Tiruvalluvar follows mainly in his Arappal the most popular Dharma Sastra of Manu, and in his Porutpal the well known Artha Sastra of Kautalya. Though these works seem to be the main sources of information, it can be conclusively proved that the poet was familiar with the Panchatrantra and Hitopadesa, the slokas included in the Satakas of Bhartrhari, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Kamandaki nitisara, and other allied literature'

There are very many examples cited (including references to Sanskrit literature had already expressed what kural attempts to ) to support this theory.

On the whole, at the end of this mega-book, 600 odd pages(thankfully the poems save the day by eating up more than 30% of the pages ;) ) one leaves the book with a mixed feeling.

One gets to understand how life, culture, civilization evolved, how identities were developed & associated with religion etc.

Would rate this book quite high. It is a 'should-read' for people interested in 'history/civilization/tamil literature'. Not recommended for 'mystery/conspiracy theory seekers'

A very refreshing break from the monotony of books I had. Have to profusely thank XX (he knows who he is-Thank you !!) for lending me this book, the age of which, by itself is ancient history (1928-29).

Happy Reading !


Anonymous said...

Sure no probs. Enjoy the next book.

Arvind said...

Will do :-)

Shiva said...

who is this XX (anonymous?) - a private librarian ?

Arvind said...

good samaritan :-)