Monday, August 4, 2008

'Anna daanam' or 'Soru daanam' – which is correct?



A tele-news from Thuglak (16-07-2008) caught up my eyes.

It was about Prof Nannan’s talks on Anna daanam

in his Tamil class, telecast in Makkal TV.



Prof Nannan had said that

it is erroneous to say “Anna daanam vazhanginaar”.

The reason he had given was,

it gives rise to questions like,

“annatthai vazhanginaara?”

or “daanatthai vazhanginaara?”

Therefore it is right to say “anna danam seidhar”.




The Professor went on to say

that aanam is a Sanskrit word

and therefore can be replaced by the Tamil word, ‘sOru’.

and said as Soru – daanam.

But somehow people do not use this term

as they seem to think that

‘sOru’ is the language of the down-trodden people.

This is the evil result of Varnasrama dharma.




After reading this,

I was at a loss for words.

If this is what a respected Professor of Tamil like Mr Nannan

had known of Tamil and the history of varna dharma,

what to say about the whole lot of others

who claim that they know Tamil very well.


Before going into unraveling the absurdity of these claims,

let me say in brief the following facts.


SOru is not the word of the down-trodden people.

It is the word used even in Sangam literature.



Annam, though a Sanskrit word by origin,

is very much part of Tamil lexicon

and has been given as a synonym to food in

Nigandu or Thesaurus in Tamil.

If there is one thing that binds the people of

all the four varnas and all the ashramas (from brhamchari to sanyasi),

it is this anna daanam.

Even an ascetic depends on anan daanam given by a grahastha.




Now coming to dispute the wish of Prof Nannan that

Annan daanam must be called as sOru daanam,

I have to start from the reasons

why food (aanam) has to be given as daanam.


There are 3 reasons for giving food to others.

(1) As Athithi bhojana, in Pancha Maha yajna.

Every day one can eat food only after giving food to an athithi,

or a traveler, or an unknown person in need of food.

(Details of this in http://jayasreesaranathan.blog.com/?page=7)


(2) Food is given to others for ‘marumai-p-payan”-

to get better results in the next birth.

To quote Thiruvalluvar,

in the chapter on Eegai -9,

it is ordained that one must remove the hunger of people,

so that it will be counted as an investment for the future birth.

The person will be comfortable in the future birth.

PaNNan, who was praised as ‘Pasi-p-piNi marutthuvan

in Purananuru comes in this category


(3) Another reason why food is given to others is

to remove the ill-effects of a past karma.

The past karma is manifest as disease.

The mechanism of disease formation is to be found in the food we take.

In the chapter called “Marundu” (medicine),

Thiruvalluvar treats food as medicine

and lays importance on the nature of food we take

for healthy body.


In the introduction to this chapter,

the renowned commentator of olden times,

‘ParimElazhagar’ says,

“Pazha vinaiyaanum, kaaraNamgaLaanum,

makkattku vaadam mudaliya pinigaL varum..”

(translation of the introduction :-

People get diseases due to past karma and other reasons.

The disease due to past karma will get rectified only after undergoing them.

The other diseases can be treated by food, as they are caused by imbalance of food.”)


Since past karma, disease and food are related to each other,

one of the propitiatory acts recommended in jyothisha sastra

is to offer food to others.

This reduces the sting of the past karma to some or greater extent

depending on the severity of the prarabhda karma.

So, giving food to others, popularly known as ‘anna daanam’

is a widely recommended parihara for relief from past karma.




There is a vachan,

“poorva janmaarjitham paapam vyadhi roopENa bhadathE/

tachchanthir aushadhair daanai japa homa kriyadhibhihi//”

The past karma gets manifest as disease.

It can be treated with ‘daanam’ (giving alms)

‘Japa’ and ‘homa’.

It is said that it is possible to

reduce the severity of the previous karma to 40%,

by man’s efforts and by divine blessings.

Aasashtam manusham proktham,

saptamat daiva chinthanam”

Of the remaining 60%,

30% can be resolved by human efforts

and the other 30% by invoking god’s blessings.

The human efforts include good deeds to benefit the society

of which anna daanam or daanam of any kind is one,

that is given with sincerity and empathy.

The Divine intervention is facilitated by

poojas, homas, japa and vrathas.

This is as per Jyothisha sastra.




Among the daana, anna daana is the foremost.

This can be understood by etymology of the terms annam and daanam.

Contrary to what Prof Nannan thinks,

there is no substitute for these two words in Tamil.

These two words exist in Tamil lexicon for all times.




To accept this, we must first know that Tamil flourished along with Sanskrit.

As early as 9990 BC Tamil existed as a finely developed written language,

so also did Sanskrit.


The years (9990BC) is derived from Adiyaarkku nallar’s explanation of the period

in years for the 3 sangams (4440 +3700+1850 =9990).

Agastheeyam was the grammar book even as early as 9990 BC.

Agastheeyam was considered as ‘anaadhi’ (having no beginning)

(refer Azhagiya manavala perumal naayanar’s “Acharya Hrudhayam” verse 41.

written after the time of Ramanujacharya –

Chen thirattha thamizh engaiyaalE Agasthiyamum anaadhi”).




It is also possible to deduce that Tamil was known as Agastheeyam

in those times, owing to Agasthiyar’s contribution

in developing the language into written form.

It was the time of Vedic culture in its full bloom

and Sanskrit and Tamil existed together.

The learned were supposed to know both Tamil and Sanskrit

in those days.




In this scenario certain commonalities were inevitable between the two languages

particularly pertaining to veda, vedantha and vedanga practices / terminologies.


That is why the terms annam and daanam which have origin in Sanskrit

were in usage in Tamil without any deviation.


As such these two words (and there are many others too)

are part of Tamil language.

Thiruvalluvar has used them –

daanam tavam irandum thanga viyanulagam”

(vaan sirappu -9)


Both ‘daanam’ and ‘tavam’ in this kuraL are Sanskrit ones

used in the same way in Tamil.


Taking up the root of the word ‘daanam’,

it is explained in Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad. (5-2.1to3)


The root word is ‘da’

The 3 sons of Prajapathi, (devas, manushyas / humans and asuras)

on completion of their Brahmacharya-hood

approaches Prajapathi asking for a piece of advice from him.


To the Devas, he said, ‘da’ as his advice.

They understood it as “daamyathethi”

It means ‘control of the senses’.

Since devas are known for lack of control over indriyas / senses,

they understood ‘da’ as control of the senses.

By controlling their senses

the devas can prosper.




To the humans, Prajapathi said, ‘da’.

Since humans have a weakness in greediness,

they understood it as ‘dattha’ (give )

Dattha is root word of daanam.

By giving daanam, the humans can prosper.




To the asuras, Prajapathi said, ‘da’.

Since asuras have an irresistible tendency to harm others,

they understood it as ‘dayathvam’ – merciful.

By being kind to others, the asuras can prosper.




Here the 3 sons are personification of human beings only,

with three dominant traits, says Adi shankara in his commentary.

All of us have deva, manushya and asura tendencies.

People are divided into these 3 as

Deva, Manushya and asura Ganas in Gana-p-poruttham

of the dasa-vidha-poruttham

(10 point compatibility for marriage) in astrology.


Devas are those who lack control over their senses –

Indra is foremost among them!

Humans are those who hesitate to give,

and would not part off with their belongings so easily.

Asuras are those who take pleasure in showing cruelty to others.

Overcoming these tendencies require Himalayan efforts

and when one overcomes them, one becomes an elevated one.


Thus ‘daanam’ is special for humans.

By giving daanam, one reduces the effects of past karma.

Anna daanam has special place among daanams.

It is not ‘vuNavu’ daanam, nor ‘sOru’ daanam.

It is anna daanam.


There are many words to denote food in Tamil.

They all have their respective application for usage in a context.



Sutra 22 in chapter 6 of Choodamani nigandu gives

the different words as synonyms of food.


They are

Adisil, bOnakam, mooral,

Amalai, ayini, pommal,

Madai, misai, vuNaa,

Puzhukkal, valsi, paaLitham,

Annam, padam, midavai,

Paatthu, thuttru, vuNdi,

sOndri, pungam, saru,

asanam, vooN, koozh,

vodhanam, puga, sOru.

Though they all denote food,

there is some difference in them.




Adisil means food.

BOnakam is a type of ‘appam’.

Mooral is type of eatable made from milk.

Amalai is a huge quantity of food.

This is derived from the word ‘amaluthal’

which means ‘to gather together in huge quantity’.

Ayini means ‘that which is eaten’.

Pommal means ‘poliyum’ food – that which is good.

Madai is food made for god –

the place where it is made is called as ‘madaipali’.

This is found in temples.

Misai means ‘very good food that is eaten’.

vuNaa means ‘that which is eaten’

Puzhukkal is boiled food.

Non vegetarian food is also known by this name.

Valsi is rice.

paaLitham is the semi-liquid ‘kuzhambu’.

Padam means the food that is cooked well.

Midavai is ‘uLuttham kaLi’ the ball made of urad flour.

Paatthu means ‘parukkai’ or porridge.

Thuttru means ‘kavaLam’ or big balls of food.

vuNdi means that which is eaten.

pungam means the food made from a tree ‘pungu’

saru means the food made from leaves.

Asanam also is a food made from a tree sap.

vooN is that which is eaten.

Koozh is thick porridge whose contents are smothered well.

Vodhanam means liquid food.

Puga means food that is swallowed

sondri means sOru

sOru means the inner food / sap that is cooked.


These two words, sondri and sOru are used in Sangam texts.

‘yEttruga ulaiyE, aakkuga sOrE’ (Puranaanuru – 172)

(boil the water, make sOru)

Varagin sondriyodu perum sittrur’ (Puranaanuru – 197)

Varagu is a grain.

Here it is said varagin sondri.

It means the food / sap contained in the grain is sondri.

This sondri is another name for sOru.

sOru also means the food / sap contained in something.

The sap is known as sOru.




But the word annam has a unique meaning.

It does not mean food!

It means that which eats and which is eaten!

The derivation of this word is from Sanskrit.


It is explained in Taittriya Upanishad. (2-2)

“AdhyathE atthi”

therefore it is annam.

This means,

‘beings grow from it,

it grows from beings.’

Therefore it is annam!

The food that goes into body- building is annam.

This gives rise to the ‘anna-maya-kOsham’-

the basic physical structure for the body.


Not all food goes into body building.

but annam does that.

That is why the mother is known as ‘annai’ in Tamil.


She feeds the child so that it grows.

The annam that is given as daanam

must therefore be a balanced and rich food

that will become body parts in the eater.

This daanam is not given just to offset hunger,

or to give strength to do work.

The food must be rich enough to build the body.

This term annam denoting this, has no substitute in Tamil.

That is why annam is part Tamil lexicon

indicating this meaning.




Usually anna daanam is done at the end of some pooja or propitiation of devathas.

Once after the devathas are satisfied,

humans must be satisfied to the level

that the food they are given

must transform into

Anna-maya-kOsha - the physical sheath of the being.

Therefore it is ‘anna- daanam’ only –

not sOru daanam.


Since daanam means giving, one can not ‘give’ daanam.

One can do daanam.

In Tamil it is apt to tell

anna daanam seidhaar’.

This is certainly not for the reasons that Prof Nannan had said

(in the beginning of this post)






3 comments:

jayasree said...

From MK Krishnaswamy,
http://kirtimukha-mkk.blogspot.com/
http://kirtimukha.com/

“I was impressed by the power of words as revealed in two
which I had not known or guessed earlier:
annai = mother because she nourishes the child; annam is not merely food.
Madappalli because it is the kitchen-room where we cook for offering to the Perumal.
Madi also means 'very clean, without contamination'.
What a pity that the anti-aryan feeling has resulted in throwing away the baby with the bath-water!”

jayasree said...

From Shanti Sampath of Sr. Citizens Group in Los Angeles;

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article on Anna Dhanam.
It was like a research paper and was wondering about the amount of time went in that research.
Some of the words that denote 'food' like 'Adisil' & 'Voon' are used only in poems or very formal write-ups.
I'm reminded of the times that I studied Tamil Literature as part of my undergrad.

It was great ! Thanks for sharing it with us.”

Anonymous said...

It is amazing. Enjoyed the everyword of this article. I can imagine amount of effort spent on making this article. Thank u for enlightening.