Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rama and Seetha spoke Tamil (Spoken language of ancient India – Part 4)

Disclaimer: I hereby declare that there is no chauvinistic intention of promoting Tamil, which happens to be my mother tongue, in this series. The intention is to bring to the notice of readers, the presence of Tamil alongside Sanskrit in the Indian Subcontinent for many thousands of years. A deeper analysis might give us leads on why a fused Tamil and Sanskrit presence can be seen from India to Ireland to Ice land and from Polynesia to the Incas. 

Previous articles:-

“Madhu” or “Madhuram” – the other name of Tamil appears often in Valmiki Ramayana suggesting it to be a lingua franca of people across ancient India. That name appears predominantly in the conversation between Seetha and Hanuman as the human tongue (Manushya Bhasha). Numerous instances in support of this from different chapters of Ramayana were highlighted in Part 3.
In the current part, we will be focusing on a strong evidence for the presence of Tamil in a conversation in Valmiki Ramayana.

The context occurs in Ashoka Vana after Hanuman had caused havoc in the grove. After having met Seetha, Hanuman went about destroying the grove. Seeing his might and the gigantic body, the female-demons surrounding Seetha were terrified. They started taunting Seetha and wanted to know who he was and what she was talking to him.

Seetha gave a reply that contains a Tamil proverb!

She said,
“You alone can recognise who he is and what he does. A serpent only can recognise the feet of another serpent. There is no doubt about it." (VR: 5-42-9)

She said, “अहिः एव अहेः पादान् विजानाति

अहिः एव (ahi: eva) – serpent alone
अहेः (ahe) – of serpent
पादान् (pādān) – feet
विजानाति (vijānāti) – can know

“Ahireva ahe pādān vijānāti” means – Only a serpent knows the feet of the serpent.

This is the exact translation of the Tamil proverb,
“Pāmbaŗiyum pāmbin kāl” (பாம்பறியும் பாம்பின் கால்).

The word by word meaning of this proverb is,

Pāmbu – serpent
Ariyum – knows
Pāmbin – of serpent
Kāl – feet.

The exact replication in Tamil is surprising. One can say that the Sanskrit proverb had entered Tamil language. But this cannot be so, as this proverb is not found in Sanskrit.

Proverbs of this kind are known as ‘Lokokti’ in Sanskrit - owing to the fact that they have come up among common people. The beliefs and ideas prevailing among a group of people and coming down for ages get crystallized as lokokti. One can find similar types of lokoktis across many cultures, but the above one pertaining to serpent and its feet cannot be a common one across cultures and language systems, for, it is about the non-existent ‘feet’ of the snake. It is unlikely that people from different cultures and different places had conceived the same idea.

There is another proverb found in Valmiki Ramayana in the words of Hanuman. That proverb is in Tamil and also in English or perhaps in many other languages. The proverb is ‘face is the index of the mind’.  The expanded version of it is found in Manu smriti too where it is written that ‘the internal (working of the) mind is perceived through the aspect, the motions, the gait, the gestures, the speech, and the changes in the eye and of the face (8-26). Among the various features, face alone is picked out in the proverb in Tamil which says, “the nature of the inside (mind) is seen on the face” 
அகத்தின் அழகு முகத்தில் தெரியும்

The same expression is found in the dialogue of Hanuman in his justification for accepting Vibhishana into their fold. He says “It is not possible to hide expression of the face, even if it is concealed. By force, the internal intent of the persons certainly gets revealed.” (VR: 6-17-64)

आकारः चाद्यमानो अपि शक्यो विनिगूहितुम् |
बलाद्द् हि विवृणोति एव भावम् अन्तर् गतम् नृणाम्

The gist of this verse told by Hanuman is that antargatam will be revealed in one’s appearance or in facial expression. This can be rephrased as

आकारश्छाद्यमानोपि भावं व्यङ्ते मुखं नृणाम् 

to mean "Even if body language is restrained & covered, face will uncover/unveiled emotions that one tries to cover-up". {Rephrasing and meaning courtesy: Dr.S.Venugopalan , Professor, Dept of Sanskrit & Indian culture, SCSVMV University, Kanchipuram}

The Tamil proverb is an exact replica of this idea. However it is not correct to say that this was exclusive to Tamil speakers,  as this idea is about human nature and could have been picked up by any in any culture. But the proverb on snakes cannot be generalised like this.

Snakes do not have feet. But the way a snake recognizes the location of another snake or appears in a place where another snake is there had been perceived by the people of a common denomination as though the snake knew the steps or the feet of another snake and therefore had appeared suddenly from nowhere.

This kind of perception of the feet of the snake is not universal but had come up within a community. This perception found in Seetha’s words make it known that the community had spread across India from Videha and Kosala to Lanka where she has actually spoken this. This perception having its presence among the speakers of Tamil gives rise to another perception that this vastly-spread community had conversed in Tamil!

In other words, Tamil, in whatever form – crude or refined – had been spoken by people across India covering north and south India. This proverb appearing in the conversation with the female demons of Ravana reiterates the possibility that Ravana and his subjects also had spoken Tamil. This is not surprising given the fact that sea-bound Southerner (Thennan) namely the Pandyans had close proximity to Lanka. And there is an episode involving  Ravana and the Pandyan king in which Ravana bought peace with the Pandyan king. This is found mentioned in Raghu Vamsam and Sinnamanur copper plate inscriptions (read here).

The proverb in Tamil.

Lokokti or proverb is known aspazha mozhi’ (olden saying) or “Mudhu mozhi” (wisdom of the old or ancient sayings) in Tamil, thereby conveying the antiquity of it and the wisdom contained in it.
A Tamil Sangam composition (“Pazhamozhi 400”) exclusively on such proverbs describes 400 proverbs, each with an analogy. The analogy helps in understanding the exact purport of the proverb. The proverb used by Seetha appears in the 8th verse of this composition and it is reproduced here:

புலமிக் கவரைப் புலமை தெரிதல்
புலமிக் கவர்க்கே புலனாம் – நலமிக்க
பூம்புனல் ஊர பொதுமக்கட்(கு) ஆகாதே
பாம்பறியும் பாம்பின் கால்.

Meaning: The wisdom of the learned is palpable only to the learned, like how the feet of the serpent is known only to the serpent.

In a striking similarity Seetha uses the proverb in the same kind of comparison as found in the verse form Sangam text produced above. She compares the female-demons with Hanuman equating him with a demon (in an attempt to project Hanuman as unknown to her) and asks how she can know about the demons. Only the female- demons around her can know about him like how a serpent can know about the feet (movement) of another serpent.

This comparison by Seetha is exactly as in the above quoted Sangam verse on this proverb. This Sangam verse is more recent, say about 2000 years ago, but the idea it conveys is no different from what Seetha had conveyed in her conversation.  This shows that the idea appropriate to this proverb had been in vogue for all times in the past.

Probing further, a cross-check can be done in the Tamil version of Ramayana by Kambar (Kamba Ramayanam). When we look up for the same proverb in the same context, we are in for a surprise. Kambar did not translate that conversation of Seetha verbatim, but uses another comparison.

Seetha does say that the bad deeds done by bad people can be understood only by the bad people and not by pure persons like herself. But she does not continue to reiterate this with the snake-proverb. She gives a contrasting scenario - on how good people like her fail to understand the bad people. She says that only bad people understand the bad intentions of the bad people, whereas she being a pure person could not understand the bad intentions of Maricha and fell into his trap by desiring the golden form of Maricha. Thus we find Kambar retaining the same idea of Valmiki’s Seetha, but adding an expression of lamentation by Seetha by comparing herself in a similar situation.

தீயவர்  தீய  செய்தல் தீயவர் தெரியின் அல்லால்,
தூயவர்  துணிதல் உண்டோ, நும்முடைச் சூழல் எல்லாம் ?
ஆய மான் எய்த,அம் மான், இளையவன், "அரக்கர் செய்த
மாயம்" என்று உரைக்கவேயும், மெய்என மையல் கொண்டேன்,' (5476)

The omission of this Tamil proverb by Kambar is a bit intriguing, and can be interpreted to mean that Kambar did not see anything special with this Tamil proverb. But a search into other verses of Kamba Ramayanam reveals that the presence of Tamil in Rama’s times was taken for granted by Kambar or by the people of Kambar’s period (12th century CE).

Kambar had certainly taken note of this proverb but had felt that it may not do justice to the emotions that Seetha was undergoing at that moment. Valmiki’s was original –for, he had conveyed the actual conversation between Seetha and the female- demons. He did not tamper with any dialogue mouthed by the original characters – something known from the verses 3 & 4 of 3rd sarga of Bala kanda. So, one cannot doubt the presence of the Tamil proverb in Valmiki’s version as an imagined one.

Kambar uses the same proverb in another context – in the dialogue of Surpanakha. The encounter with Surpanakha is quite long in Kamba Ramayana and there are additional dialogues that are not found in Valmiki Ramayana. Surpanakha of Kambar tries to lure Rama by offering to help him in defeating the demons. She as a demon knows the tricks of demons like how a serpent knows the feet of another serpent. So she reminds Rama of the proverb ‘Pāmbaŗiyum pāmbin kāl’ (Ahireva ahe pādān vijānāti)

'காம்பு அறியும் தோளாளைக் கைவிடீர் எனினும் ,
யான் மிகையோ ? கள்வர்
ஆம் , பொறி இல் அடல் அரக்கர் அவரோடே
செருச் செய்வான் அமைந்தீராயின் ,
தாம் பொறியின் பல மாயம் தரும் பொறிகள்
அறிந்து , அவற்றைத் தடுப்பென் அன்றே ?
பாம்பு அறியும் பாம்பின்கால் '' என மொழியும்
பழமொழியும் பார்க்கிலீரோ ? (2967)

Surpanakha asks Rama, “don’t you know the proverb – the serpent knows the feet of the other serpent?’” This is a remarkable positioning of the proverb, as it conveys that Rama is expected to know of this proverb.

In Valmiki, Seetha is shown to have known that proverb and she used it in the context of the female-demons.

In Kambar, Rama is shown to have known this proverb from the dialogue of a female- demon.

This cannot be treated as a poet’s way of expression as there is yet another Tamil connection to Rama, given by Kambar. That occurs in the conversation between Rama and Lakshmana in Ayodhya Kanda at the time of exile. On coming to know of the exile, Lakshmana gets terribly angry and goes to the verge of harming his own father. Rama pacifies him in many ways. In that context Kambar describes Rama as one who has surpassed the limits of Tamil and has analysed the limits of Sanskrit literature!

நன் சொற்கள் தந்து ஆண்டு, எனை
நாளும் வளர்த்த தாதை
தன் சொல் கடந்து, எற்கு
அரசு ஆள்வது தக்கது அன்றால்;
என் சொல் கடந்தால், உனக்கு
யாது உளது ஊற்றம்?’ என்றான் -
தென்சொல் கடந்தான்,
வடசொல் - கலைக்கு எல்லை தேர்ந்தான் (1741)

The word given here is ‘Thensol’ meaning ‘southern word/ language’. It’s complementary word is ‘vadasol’, meaning Sanskrit (northern word / language). By bringing in ‘vadasol’, it is made clear that ‘thensol’ refers to Tamil, the language identified with south and southern Pandyas. There is no need to describe Rama as a knower of Tamil, unless that is what the people of the times of Kambar had thought so. Such a thought could have come up from the reference to Manushya Bhasha spoken by Seetha and Hanuman.  

There is likely to be a dispute here in this verse, that the word is not ‘thensol’ (தென் சொல்), but ‘thEnsol’ (தேன் சொல்), meaning sweet word/ language.

ThEn means honey or sweet. Honey or sweetness is precisely what Tamil was meant to be – something discussed elaborately in the previous part for “Madhuram’. If it is argued that ‘thEnsol’ does not refer to Tamil, but only to Rama’s sweet words, one can see that such a meaning is absurd in this context. In this verse Rama is questioning Lakshmana why he is so eager to ignore his (Rama’s) word of acceptance of father’s order (to go to the forest). An admonition of such a kind cannot be told in sweet words. So the word cannot be ‘thEnsol’

Another reason is this word does not align with the poetic measure called ‘monai’ (மோனை) if taken as ‘thEnsol’. On the contrary, ‘thensol’ aligns with the poetic rule of monai. Therefore it is very clear that Kambar had used the word ‘thensol’. Moreover the meaning of the line implies the knowledge of a language than the sweetness or otherwise of the word spoken by Rama.

Even if it happens to be ‘thEnsol’ it does not negate the reference to Tamil language as we have a parallel in Valmiki Ramayana wherein Hanuman describes Rama as one who speaks sweet language, like Vachaspati, the lord of speech. We established in Part 3 how this refers to Manushya bhasha, the language of the humans, which is nothing other than Tamil.

Having highlighted the presence of Tamil in Rama’s times, and in the speech of Rama and Seetha we will move on to the stronger evidence that can be established from the fact that Agastya, the originator of Tamil grammar was a contemporary of Rama. That analysis will be taken up in the next article.


Arun said...

Hanumān definitely knew Tamil. He has been called knower of 9 grammars which must have included Tamil which was language of Rameshvaram region.
सर्वासु विद्यासु तपोविधाने, प्रस्पर्धतेयं हि गुरुं सुराणाम्। सोऽयं नव-व्याकरणार्थ-वेत्ता, ब्रह्मा भविष्यति ते प्रसादात्॥
(वाल्मीकि रामायण, उत्तरकाण्ड, ३६/४६)
But there is doubt about Sītā. Originally she didn't know Tamil or language of Tamilnadu or Simhal (politically then part of Lanka). When Hanuman meets her for first time, he thought that if he used standard Sanskrit, Sītā would take him to be spy of Rāvaṇa. Rāvaṇa definitely had different language which could be Tamil. For talking with Sītā, he used standard Sanskrit which was link language in that era. So, Hanumān used popular language (used in Mithilā or Ayodhyā region at that time).
वाल्मीकि रामायण, सुन्दरकाण्ड, अध्याय ३०-
यदि वाचं प्रदास्यामि द्विजातिरिव संस्कृताम्। रावणं मन्यमाना मां सीता भीता भविष्यति॥१८॥
अवश्यमेव वक्तव्यं मानुषं वाक्य मर्थवत्। मया सान्त्वयितुं शक्यानान्यथेयमनिन्दिता॥१९॥
During stay in Lanka and by talking with local attendants like Trijaṭā, Sītā might have picked up working knowledge of Tamil and some proverbs.
Present Lanka have more persons speaking Simhali than Tamil people. That could be due to Attack of Vijay Singh with 700 sailors from Tāmralipti port described in a Hindi epic Padmāvata by Rasakhān of 16th century. Persons with Vijay Simha married local ladies and their descendants were called Simhal. Time of this is uncertain, but its effect exists.

jayasree said...

@Mr Arun,

Read the 3rd part of this series where you will get the reply to your comment. Read other parts as well to get a complete understanding.

athma said...

Jayasree's love for Tamil knows no bounds. Taking great pains to explain Tamil was Manushya basha in the olden days. If only the Vairamuthu and this at least we can expect them to tone down their rant against a particular community

Saminathan said...

Madam please write about Shambuka story in Ramayanam

jayasree said...

@ Mr Saminathan,

Already written about Sambuka in Tamil. Read here

vrajavala said...

Namaste, as I tweeted to you. I quoted your article on the "Planetary Aspects of Baldness", as I was rectifying a chart for my book. Michael Shrimpton, March 7, 1957, London, England. I used a birth time of 17:00, as that puts Moon in Krittika Nakshatra 1st pada and Lagna in Leo, 7th from his Sun.
Shrimpton has been labeled a 'conspiracy theorists", but I think he's pretty accurate in his insights.
Very interesting about your comment of the "serpents knowing the feet of the serpents". I think I will use that too, as Queen Elizabeth II has her Moon in Aslesha Nakshatra, and she certainly knows about all the evil going on in England, and yet does nothing about it.
thanks again.
Your servant
Vrajavala devi dasi