Monday, March 24, 2008

Vedic practices of Tamils - Darbha, pindadaan…

No Aryan – Dravidian divide. It was one Aryavartha (17)

The practices with reference to death rites and belief in life after death,

in the ancient Tamil land was the same as Vedic practices.

The Vedic practices are still in vogue in this country, among all Hindus,

irrespective of the languages they speak.

The commonalty of the practices is not a later development,

but had been in vogue for all times in the past.

The olden Tamil texts bring out these features,

making a strong plea that there is nothing called

Dravidian religion or Dravidian practices

as far as Tamils are concerned.

PuranaanUru is one text that gives lot of inputs to show

how Tamils were Vedic based only.

PuranaanuRu as reliable text.

Of the different texts in Tamil, Pura naanUru stands apart in that,

it includes verses written in different times in the past 5000 years.

The very compilation of these verses written by different poets,

already existed as early as before the advent of Christendom.

There is no record of who compiled these verses.

But we are fortunate to have the explanation for 243/400 verses

given by the compilers themselves.

The explanations must have been there for other verses too.

But they are presumably lost.

But the verses and the existing explanations give enough pointers

not only to the social life of those times but also the way the language existed.

It is because what we have today of PuranaanUru is about “Ara vazhi”

the Dharma part of the 4 purusharthas.

From the retrieved palm leaf manuscripts, it is known,

that Compilations have been done for the other 2, namely,

artha and kaama.

But what we have as ‘ara vazhi’ is about the social norms and social life of Tamils.

Olden practices from PuranaanUru.

PuranaanUru seems to be oldest text we have,

Some of the verses going back to 5000 years ago.

The compilation seems to have been done twice in the past.

What we have got now is the second and the latest one

which was done as per the guidelines of

Tholkaappiyam, the grammar book of Tamil.

But not all the poems and their respective explanations

were written after Tholkaappiyam times.

According to Nacchinaarkkiniyaar,

some of the poems must have been written well before Tholkaappiyam

as they do not comply with the sutra-rules of Tholpkaappiyam. (1)

This is being said here to stress the fact

that some of the verses such as the one quoted on

Palyaagashaalai Mudukudumi Peruvazhuthi in the previous post in this series

have been very old, during the times when Kumari-kandam existed.

From the verse on the Cheran king who supplied food

to the armies engaged in kurukeshethra war (2)

we come to know that this poem was written when Krishna lived –

which was some 5000 years ago.

I mention this here to stress the point that PuranaanUru verses are excellent indicators

of life in very ancient Tamil lands.

The compilation has also been done thoughtfully that

one can find grouping of the verses into specific aspects of social life.

As such we see quite many verses on death related ceremonies

as they were done in those times.

Another interesting feature is that the compilation includes

these issues with reference to Royals and ordinary folks as well.

So we get a good amount of information for comparison and elucidation.

PuranaaNuru is thus a rich source of information on these aspects in ancient Tamils’ life.

Based on them, we find that the Tamils were entirely of one culture –

the culture we call as Sanatana Dharma

and the people at large know as Hinduism

whose base is Vedas.


We have seen in many posts earlier (labeled under ‘Pithru tarpaN’), what pindam is.

In shraddha ceremony, what is meant as pinda (rice balls)

reaches the ancestors as sa-pinda particles (constituent particles).

These particles are as they are drawn when one is at womb.

The explanation that used to be commonly said

on how oblations reach pithrus is that of

how the food offered to a pregnant woman is taken by the foetus in her womb.

The foetus which is shapeless, very soft and too small to be seen is known as ‘pinda’.

From Garbhopanishad, we come to know that

the embryo which is 15 days old is known as ‘pindam’ (3)

It is soft and made of primary particles of food clustered together.

That pinda shareeram is made up of just food.

Poet Kuda Pulaviyanaar explains Pindam in his poem on Pandyan Nedumchezhiyan.(4)

“uNdi muthatrE vuNavin pindam” –

pindam is drawn from food.

This food has its constitution in prithvi (earthen) and water particles.

ManimEkalai also states that the human body is made of Pindam

drawn from food

“makkaL yaakkai vuNavin pindam

The vedic idea of Pindam is thus the view of Tamils too.

We find another verse too

that expresses the grief of a household that lost its man

and had just done pindOdaga- kriya.

The young son had just finished offering pindam to his departed father,

how will he be able to drink milk, wonders the poetess, ThaayangaNNiyaar (5)

The preparation of the place for shraddha.

The preparation of the place for offering pinda is described in sastras.

According to Varaha purana, the place must be cleaned.

Usually a small place is chosen and cleaned by smearing cow-dung.

In the 11th day ceremony after death, which is the same for all varNas,

it has been stipulated that the place chosen must be away

from the reach of animals

and be washed with cow-dung

and then only darbha grass must be spread.

We find 2 verses from PuranaanUru mentioning this.

The poet Thumbiser keerannar describes the pathos

that enveloped a household

that lost its man.

He describes how the weeping wife of the dead person

is preparing the ground

for offering food to her departed husband,

by smearing cow-dung on the designated place.

vuyar nilai vulagam avan pugal..

ari neerodu, suLAgil seerida neekki


mezhugu maappikaN kaluzh neeraanE” (6)

That the place chosen to offer pindam is small

and that place has to be washed with cow-dung

is also mentioned in another verse.

Expressing his sadness on the death of VeL Evvi,

the poet veLLerukkilaiyaar describes the place

as a small one smeared with cow-dung. (7)


The mention of darbha comes in quite many verses in PuranaanUru.

It is made out in all those verses on pinda-daan,

that pindam was offered on the spread of darbha grass.

“pullagatthitta silavizh valsi” (8)

says poet Sanga varuNar in sarcastic tone about

what will happen to the enemies of king Thandumaaran.

The enemies conquered by this king are so many

that the pindam offered on darbha grass

made quite a huge quantity all put together.

This also goes to show that shraddha ceremonies were done for all

those who were killed in the battle.

In another verse we find the poet lamenting the death of his beloved king.

The poet VeLLerukkilaiyaar could not bear the sight of

such small balls of pindam offered on the darbha grass,

to the departed king, VeL Evvi,

who was never known for eating alone and eating so less! (9)

He cries,

“pun mEl vaittha in siru pindam,

yaangundanam kol?”

(How did you eat such a small quantity of pindam kept on darbha?)

Darbha is not just meant for keeping the pindam.

Darbha is spread even for laying the dead body.

This is the vedic practice.

This finds mention in a verse by the famous Auvaiyaar.

In praise of how the opponents of King Adhiyamaan Nedumaan Anji

run away from him fearing for their life,

the poetess says that since they did not die in the war against him

(dying in the war was considered as the reward for a Kshathriya

that was capable of giving them swarga loka –

something found in Mahabharatha too

in which those who died in the war reached the swarga loka or heavens),

their bodies (after death due to diseases)

would be kept on the bed of darbha grass

and their body cut with a sword, so that they could be cremated

with the satisfaction that they died of sword

(presumably in a war)! (10)

References :-

(1)Foreword by Dr U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer in his book“ PuraanUru moolamum uraiyum” page-5.

(2) PuranaanUru -2

(3) Garbhopanishad – 3 “Artha-maasaBhyantharENa PindO bhavathi”

(4) PuranaanUru -18

(5) PuranaanUru -250

(6) PuranaanUru -249

(7) PuranaanUru -234

(8) PuranaanUru -360

(9) PuranaanUru -234

(10) PuranaanUru -93

(to be continued)

No comments: