Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Contemporariness of Agastya and Rama is proof of presence of Tamil in Rama’s times. (Spoken language of ancient India – Part 5)

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:-

Sage Agastya, a contemporary of Rama was known to have enriched Tamil grammar, as per Tamil sources.  The two have met at Agastya’s hermitage situated near Panchavati, in the 11th year of Rama’s exile. In what language they conversed at that meeting? There is no reference to ‘Madhuram’ anywhere in those chapters on the meeting in Valmiki Ramayana. It goes without saying that they had conversed in the language of the learned (Pandita), namely Sanskrit.

Looking at Kamba Ramayana, Kambar’s account of Rama- Agastya meeting is longer than that is found in Valmiki Ramayana. For a greater part, Kambar has delved into instances of Agastya’s greatness among which two are related to Tamil. The rest are on episodes related to Vātāpi, Vindhya etc that are well-known across India. Though one may be tempted to down-play the Tamil connection to Agastya as fictitious or an add-on from the local tradition of Tamils, due to lack of reference to it in Valmiki Ramayana and the north Indian sources, there is indeed a reference to Agastya’s connection to Tamil lands in Uttara kanda, which will be discussed later in this article.  

Kambar on Agastya’s expertise in Tamil

Coming back to Kamba Ramayana, Kambar gives an introduction to Agastya by listing out the feats associated with Agastya. In contrast, Valmiki gives the narration on Agastya’s feats through the mouth of Rama and there is no reference to Tamil knowledge of Agastya in that narration. Kambar’s direct narration on Agastya’s greatness contains a couple of references to his association with Tamil.
He says that Agastya measured the world with Tamil, implying either the presence of Tamil over a vast region or the vastness of the corpus of Tamil itself. There is reference to Vishnu in this verse on measuring the world with his steps.

நீண்ட தமிழால் உலகை நேமியின் அளந்தான் (1)

Meaning: Like Vishnu he measured the world with Tamil.

The next reference is on how he got the knowledge of Tamil from Lord Shiva. Sanskrit grammar authored by Panini was said to have been revealed by Shiva. The same idea is found in the Tamil tradition too with reference to receiving the knowledge of Tamil grammar. Kambar repeats that idea by saying that Agastya imparted the nuances of Tamil that was originally given by Lord Shiva.

உழக்கும் மறை நாலினும், உயர்ந்து உலகம் ஓதும்
வழக்கினும், மதிக் கவியினும், மரபின் நாடி,-
நிழல் பொலி கணிச்சி மணி நெற்றி உமிழ் செங் கண்
தழல் புரை சுடர்க் கடவுள் தந்த தமிழ்-தந்தான் (2)

Meaning: On the basis of the four Vedas, the wisdom of the learned, the poems that are the product of the mind and by tradition, Agastya analysed and imparted Tamil that was given by the one who has the third eye and who glows like fire.

This verse by Kambar implies mainly 3 features, namely,

(1) Lord Shiva was the originator or the imparter of Tamil letters in the same way He imparted Sanskrit letters,

(2) Poetry in Tamil and a tradition of expression of the same had already existed when Agastya had taken up the work of refining Tamil and

(3) Vedas have a role or connection with the way that Tamil or grammar of Tamil is framed.

Expanding these features, Lord Shiva is associated with generating sounds through the beating of his drum in his non-stop dance. The one who meditates on Him to gain the knowledge of those sounds, acquires it. Panini and Agastya had acquired their knowledge in respective languages in this process.

The 2nd feature shows that literary Tamil had existed even before Agastya of Rama’s times. The time-scale of the three Sangams show that Agastya of Ramayana can be positioned at the 2nd Sangam. There exists a reference to the Pandyan capital at Kavātam in Valmiki Ramayana (3) by which it is deduced that Agastya had taken part in the 2nd Sangam at Kavātam. He has also revealed his grammar ‘Agattiyam’ in this Sangam period. By this it is also deduced that Agastya of Rama’s times was different from the Agastya of the 1st Sangam period.  There existed another one by name Agastya (Agattiyar) during the 1st Sangam when it was inaugurated around 9990 BCE. It will be explained in the course of this series.

 The 3rd feature shows that there is a connection between Vedas and Tamil or Tamil grammar. This will be discussed at another context in this series.

Time of origin of Tamil and Sanskrit.

Not many know that there is textual reference to Tamil as existing side by side with Sanskrit. This idea is a very old one – being found in old texts and also coming by tradition. There is even a time period for this, mentioned in Tirumandiram given by Tirumular. The verse runs as follows:

மாரியும் கோடையும் வார்பனி தூங்கநின்று
ஏரியும் நின்றங்கு இளைக்கின்ற காலத்து
ஆரிய முந்தமி ழும்உட னேசொலிக்
காரிகை யார்க்குக் கருணைசெய் தானே (4)

Meaning: There was a time when rainy season and summer season ceased to exist. There was snow everywhere that made the lakes to shrink. At that time Lord Shiva taught Sanskrit and Tamil to Karikai (कारिका).

The time corresponds to the Ice age or pre-Holocene. For Sanskrit, the word used is ‘Arya’ - the way it is often referred in Tamil. The knowledge of these two was originally imparted to Karikai – his concert Parvati, in popular understanding.

The popular abode of Shiva being Kailash, it is possible to interpret the location to be Kailash in pre-Holocene days when monsoon season had not yet started. But looking at the tradition of Tamil being nurtured by Southerner- Pandyan, the most likely place is somewhere in the South where mankind was thriving during Ice age.

The start of the first Tamil Sangam around 9990 BCE (refer Part 1) at a place that later got submerged into the ocean places the location of the origin of Sanskrit too somewhere in the Indian Ocean, perhaps in Sundaland. Sundaland could in all probability be Shaka Dweepa of olden times whose lord was Shiva (5). All these are subject to multi-disciplinary research, but what is not to be missed is that a tradition had existed in Tamil that Shiva had given both Sanskrit and Tamil sometime in a remote past. A self contradicting feature in the above discourse is how a language (Sanskrit) that is supposed to have originated in the south could have gained a name as Northern language (Vada sol) in Tamil lexicon. A discussion on this is reserved for another article.

Panini and Agastya on the same plate but at different times.

The idea that Lord Shiva revealed the grammar of the two languages is found in another text called “Tiruvilaiyaadal Puranam” that describes the pastimes of Lord Shiva in olden Pandyan domains.

 விடையு கைத்தவன் பாணினிக் கிலக்கண மேனாள்
வடமொ ழிக்குரை தாங்கியல் மலயமா முனிக்குத்
திடமு றுத்தியம் மொழக்கெதி ராக்கிய தென்சொல்
மடம கட்கரங் கென்பது வழுதிநா டன்றோ. (6)

Meaning: In olden times, the lord who rides on the bull had given Sanskrit grammar to Panini. In the same way He established the Southern language (then-sol), as a complement to the Northern language (vada-sol) in the great sage of Malaya. The Pandyan land is the stage for that damsel of Southern language.

This verse conveys that Panini preceded Agastya which is not true. Perhaps the name Panini was used by the author as a symbolic representation of Sanskrit grammar.

These references could not have come to stay without some truth in it, say, by means of some kind of prayer or penance to Lord Shiva by which Agastya had written down the grammar for Tamil. Basically what this conveys is that Agastya was a knower of Tamil.

Kambar continues to recognise Agastya’s connection with Tamil in the scene that Rama was welcomed by Agastya.

நின்றவனை, வந்த நெடியோன் அடி பணிந்தான்;
அன்று, அவனும் அன்பொடு தழீஇ, அழுத கண்ணால்,
நன்று வரவு' என்று, பல நல் உரை பகர்ந்தான்-
என்றும் உள தென் தமிழ் இயம்பி இசை கொண்டான். (7)

Meaning: (On seeing Agastya) Rama fell at the feet of Agastya. Agastya affectionately embraced Rama and uttered ‘welcome’ and many good words with tears swelling in his eyes – Agastya who became famous by uttering the ever present southern Tamil.

Agastya in Valmiki Ramayana

There is no evidence from non-Tamil sources on Agastya’s association with Tamil language. The only available  non-Tamil source, namely, Raghu Vamsam written by Kalidasa  attests to Agastya’s association with the Tamil kings (Pandyan) in the southern quarter (dakshinasya disha),  surrounded by the girdle of ocean studded with gems (8).  But nowhere in Valmiki Ramayana there is any allusion to Agastya’s expertise in Tamil. His association to Tamil lands in south India is however found in Valmiki Ramayana from which we are able to get vital clues to link him with Tamil.

Agastya’s location is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana in 3 Kandas, Aranya, Kishkindha and Uttara Kanda, but all these are different from one another, though the direction is the same, namely, the South. When Rama went to meet Agastya along with Seetha and Lakshmana (Aranya Kanda), the sage was in the southern most part of the hermitages in Dandaka forest. It was closer to Panchavati.

This location was in the south of Vindhyas and also was part of a location where demonic daityas like Vātāpi and Ilvala lived once. The south is always identified with death and lorded by Yama. Valmiki Ramayana says that by conquering death in the Vātāpi episode, Agastya made South a liveable region.

From the words of Rama to Seetha and Lakshmana:-

“Sage Agastya with meritorious deeds, who wishing well-being of the world, controlled death by his efficacy, and who made this southern region a liveable region..’ (9)

 "He who impeding death by his yogic might and wishing well-being for worlds made this southern extent a liveable province by his pious deeds, his hermitage is this" (10)

"This very worthy southern quarter is known in the name of that godly saint Agastya and this remained unattackable to the demons with cruel deeds." (11)

This description of Agastya’s location comes in the 11th year of Rama’s exile, just after he has completed 10 years in exile. Rama meets Agastya at this time and after describing his greatness as above to Seetha and Lakshmana. There is no reference to Madhuram in the conversation between them.

Agastya’s residence at Kaveri

The next reference to Agastya’s abode comes in Kishkindha Kanda, but the abode is not the same as above. Agastya’s residence has moved further south.

To know the background, in the beginning of the 14th year of exile Seetha was abducted by Ravana and Vanaras went in search of Seetha. In that context Sugreeva gives the landmarks in all the four directions for the search teams. In the case of southern direction he mentions two places as Agastya’s location. The first one is where Kaveri springs up in the Western Ghats and the second is in Deep South, which is now in the Indian Ocean. Of the two, Sugreeva mentions the first location at Kaveri as where Agastya was residing at the time of his narration.

The first location is on Mount Malaya where Kaveri is mentioned. Strangely enough, Kaveri is not mentioned as a river but just as ‘Aashaya’ (आशय) of ‘aapagaam’ (आपगाम्) (12)

It means Kaveri was a receptacle of water!

Sugreeva says that Agastya can be seen on top of Mount Malaya.

This is a crucial piece of evidence of Agastya’s relocation to Malaya at a time when Kaveri was just a receptacle of water and not yet flowing as a river. Kaveri looks exactly like a receptacle at its origin. It is a huge pot-like structure of the mountain (Brahmagiri hill / Kodagu) with a mouth-like opening inside which water can be seen coming out of a spring. Therefore the myths of how Kaveri flowed as a river are post-Ramayana developments.

To the question what Agastya was doing on top of Malaya at Kaveri has a reply in Ramayana itself. The background of it is given below.

Sometime after ascending the throne, Rama meets Agastya. This episode mentioned in Uttara kanda has a perfect continuity to this location of Agastya found in the 14th year of Rama’s exile.

In Uttara kanda Rama goes to meet Agastya after his encounter with Sambuka in Saivala mountain.  Saivala Mountain was originally the southernmost border of Dandaka forest (13).  There is a “Saiya” Mountain in the Western Ghats in Kerala, found mentioned in the Tamil Sangam text Paripadal (14) 

This name is not a Tamil word, but seems to be corrupt form of Saivala which means a kind of moss found on wet surfaces. This name is apt, given the fact that Western Ghats are on the path of monsoon rainfall.

Ramayana says that Agastya had vowed to live within waters for 12 years and that vow was just over when Rama reached Saivala (15). In the meeting Rama keeps addressing Agastya as “Kumbhayoni”! 

This name does not appear in his previous meeting near Panchavati, but appears for the first time in Valmiki Ramayana after Agastya had finished his penance on top of Malaya. This name and the context reveal that Agastya had made a terrible penance at or near the Kumbha-like receptacle containing Kaveri. From then onwards he must have come to be known as Kumbha-yoni – a name addressed by Rama! Every myth of Agastya as having born from a pot or jar and associating him with Kaveri must have sprung up after the period of Valmiki Ramayana.

Agastya legends connecting him to Tamil lands also begin from his association with Kaveri and Kodagu. The Tamil Epic Manimegalai links the formation of river Kaveri to sage Agastya by saying that the sage overturned the Pot (kumbha) to make Kaveri flow down to Pumpukar. This has happened at the time of a Cholan king by name Kānthaman according to Manimegalai. The name is different in the Tiruvālangādu copper plate inscriptions. The inscriptions say that the Cholan King Chitradhanvan wanted to bring Kaveri to his dominion just like Bhagiratha who brought down river Ganga to earth. The underlying fact is that Tamil dynasties were already thriving in the south at the time of Ramayana, which means spoken Tamil was prevalent at that time.

Agastya’s migration to the origin of Kaveri in Saivala Mountain is the last information about him in Valmiki Ramayana and after that his life was spent in Tamil lands. His role in Tamil must have started after his birth in “Kumbhayoni”!

His association with Tamil could not have been new. For someone to have authored the grammar book of Tamil, his knowledge of Tamil must have been profound and of long standing even before he migrated to Kodagu. This pre-supposes the existence of Tamil in North India too, apart from its presence in south India, or how else a sage like Agastya known for having composed Vedic verses could have gained mastery over Tamil language as well? 

There comes another question too. Of all the Vedic sages, why Agastya alone developed the interest in mastering the refined form of Manushya Bhasha and spent rest of his life on that.
The answer for this can be found in Tirumular’s Tirumandiram which will be discussed in the next article.


(1) Kamba Ramayanam: Aranya Kandam – Agattiya Patalam – 36
(2) Kamba Ramayanam: Aranya Kandam – Agattiya Patalam – 41
(3) Valmiki Ramayana – 4-41-19
(4) Tirumandiram – verse 65
(5) Mahabharata: 6-11
(6) Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam: Tirunaatu-ch-chirappu – verse 87.
(7) Kamba Ramayanam: Aranya Kandam – Agattiya Patalam – 47
(8) Raghu Vamsam, 6th sarga, verses 59-65.
(9) Valmiki Ramayana 3-11-54
(10) Valmiki Ramayana 3-11-81
(11) Valmiki Ramayana 3-11-84
(12) Valmiki Ramayana 4-41-14 &15
(13) Valmiki Ramayana 7-89
(14) Paripadal 11
(15) Valmiki Ramayana 7-89


Gopi said...

Exceptional analysis, took me almost 3 days(!) to complete reading all the parts with linked posts(about Yuga Difference, very new and original ideas) and comments.
* I'd recommend anyone reading these posts to complete all the parts for complete understanding.*

Jayasree Madam: Here is some recent research on linguistics analytics that provide evidence that the root of Dravidian Langauge is at least 4500 BCE to 10,000 BCE.

This supports your views on Tamizh(or proto) being spoken during Ramayanam period.(5000 BCE)
Please review.

Due to lack of time, i'm putting these questions in this one comment section.

If temple structure are 2000BCE old (means started after this period) how Ramayana (5000BCE) mentions Sri Rangam temple?

Can u write abt Desh (Desam) how this is defined in ancient times,
Is (Madhya/Utara) Pradesh, BanglaDesh same as Nadu (t'ndau), treating it as a country?
Also is Stan (Hindustan, Afghanistan) same as country and how Rashtryam fits in ..

Not urgent, please take your time.


jayasree said...

Thanks Mr Gopi for your words of admiration for my Yuga articles.

I have read the so-called scientific research on Dravidian language. Lots of holes in their assumptions. If their theory is reliable, we can prove in the same lines that Chinese is equally Dravidian and even old Dravidian than Tamil! This research seems to be part of attempts to trace Dravidian roots in Eurasia. Nowadays I have started thinking that the best way to defunct them is not to refute verbatim their researches, but to bring to the fore the original information on Dravidian roots in the south. That is what I am doing in the spoken language series. Facts will drown them.

Even Mahadevan had stopped believing Dravidian (linguistic) origins in NW India and beyond. It is because there are stronger proofs to the contrary.

On your query on temple structure:

Ramayana does not mention Ranganatha swamy temple.
In Pattabhisheka sarga of Yuddha Kanda, it is mentioned that Vibhishana returned home after receiving the "Kula Dhanam" from Rama. There is no inkling on what it is. But this is interpreted as Ranganatha swamy.

In Uttara Kanda Rama tells Vibhishana,

" I should not speak any thing else. What shall I say more unto thee, O highly powerful lord of Rakshasas. Worship Jagannatha (the lord of the world), the presiding deity of the Ikshwaku race." (VR -7- 121)

From this the Ranganatha legend had come up.

Temples were there for long, there is mention of temples in the streets in Valmiki Ramayana too. But they were not massively built structures. You may read 'Kedarnath' articles in my blog where I have written about how temple concepts developed. Initially wherever an extraordinary sighting was seen, there consecration was done just in a stone. Simple roofs were made as a shade. Mostly they were kept under trees, or a tree was grown near that. By Ramayana times they were sheltered within houses. By Mahabharata times mansions sheltered the deities. Shrinath Dwaraka deity is inside a mansion. When stone cutting developed into an industry, proper temples were built - as they are seen now. Early stone cutters settled down in Sriperumbudur around 3000 yrs ago (read my article on "vedic Kurma"). Karikalan used them to build Kallanai. Then Pallavas used them to build temples. Jain monks used them to inscribe donations they received, in Brahmi letters. Taking these Brahmi letters as precursors to Tamil letters is our foolishness.

Srirangam temple is mentioned in a sangam text. It was a simple structure, literally on a mound formed by the meandering Kaveri. Devotees made annual visit on Panguni Uttiram. They made temporary camps on the surrounding sholas and left after the festival was over. It was over the years habitation in srirangam had grown.


jayasree said...

On Desh and sthan:
I am not good at historical roots of those terms. My area of interest is Tamil and Itihasas. From them I can tell the following:

Desh was known as Deyam in Tamil. Pandyan land was known as 'Kanni Deyam" (கன்னித் தேயம்) in Tiruvilaiyadal puranam. Many countries were there in India of old and they were recognized as Desha and Naadu. In Tamil the term 'nilam'(நிலம்) was also used in the place of Naadu - as பன்னிரு நிலம்.

In the description of Mahabharata, the country was Bharata varsha. It had many Janapadas (naadu).
You may read the chapter on the janapadas of Bharata varsha in English and Sanskrit.



Once in a while a king had come up and brought all these Janapadas under his single rule. Such a king was known as Chakravarthy as he used to go round the Bharat varsha in clockwise (chakram) direction to conquer. Muchukunda and Raghu were Chakrvarthys. Asvamedham was one of the ways to conquer as many countries. Dharma, sacred rivers and mountains united all of them.

There are verses in Tamil sangam giving boundary of present India as that of our country.

I have written in many blogs the language unity at early times. How that was achieved was part of olden history of India. This article will give in a nutshell major insights into Dravida and Dravidian languages. First few paragraphs are on Mk, rest are on these issues: Do read.


Gopi said...

Thanks for the detailed reply. Amazingly new insights and information on every article.
It will take an year or two to systematically read & understand your articles (this demands in-distracted reading and taking notes!)

Will catch up as much possible. My brain still unable to understand some of the deeper points about temple structure(but i'll do more reading), for e-x extremely difficult underground temples, micro carvings, massive rocks cut open to build temples (Kailasha)
music pillars etc..

Can a civilization start with simple stone cutting 4000 years ago and build a massive rock cutting temples in the next 2000 years, and then all these technology disappeard in the next 1000 years..

I've lots of such cross questions(due to mainly my lack of deep knowledge) and i'll raise these questions here and explore..

Thanks again for your time.

jayasree said...

Mr Gopi,

The same question on what constituted India of today in olden times was raised by a reader in another article. Thought my reply there would be relevant here too and so reproducing it here.


Old name was Bharata. In the sankalpa mantra we say, Bharata varshe, bharata kande, Mero dakshine parsve. Meru refers to the Himalayas. The region south of Himalayas is Bharata kanda. It had many 'janapadas' - this is the term found in Mahabharata for the different provinces of Bharat (India). You may read them all here http://ancientvoice.wikidot.com/src-mbh-06:section-9

Present day India was known as Bharata Kanda.

Bharata Kanda is part of Bharata varsha which was the extent of Vedic religion. It stretched from BMAC regions (Kekaya, Madara, Salwa )in the west to China in the east. In the south there was Suktimat - the mountain from which river Kumari flowed down once. It is submerged in the Indian Ocean.

This extent is as per Mahabharata.

In Kalidasa's Raghu vamsa, you will find the extent of the country went around by Raghu (ancestor of Rama) in his Dik Vijaya. He conquered all the regions of Bharata kanda and brought them under his tutelage. Parasika (Persia) is also mentioned as the country of the west that Raghu brought under his control. It is not known whether this is true, as Kalidasa came very much later than Raghu's times. Most things he had written could have been by hearsay and from earlier oral or written records. So it is not known whether Raghu did bring Parasika under his dominion, but the fact that it is being mentioned by Kalidasa shows that such an opinion (Parasika coming under Bharata kanda / varsha) was in vogue in Kalidasa's times (2000 ys ago).

Transliteration of the relevant chapter in Raghu vamsa can be read here: http://ancientvoice.wikidot.com/src-mbh-06:section-9

It will give an idea of the extent of Bharat in those times. It is in no way different from MB version. There are Tamil sangam verses too that define our (Tamil) country with present borders - Himalayas in the north and 3 seas on other three directions. So let there be no doubt on what was India in the past.