Saturday, October 14, 2006

Textual Criticism of 'Cilappathikaram'

Textual Criticism is a critical study directed towards determining the true reading of a text. It is a basic literary enterprise. Its aim is to establish as closely as possible what an author wrote, by assaying and correcting the sources of error and confusion in the various printings of a work. Fredson Bowers lists the four basic functions of textual criticism. They are (1) to analyse the characteristics of an extant manuscript, (2) to recover the original text of the old manuscript. (3) to study the transmission of a printed text and (4) to present an authentic, established and edited text to the public.

Textual criticism is quite essential to understand a literal y work. Without a reliable text, no critic has anything definite to evaluate, judge and criticize. Editing an ancient Tamil text has its own peculiar problems. Tamil texts were written on palm-leaves even as late as 19th century. The most difficult problem in deciphering the text is caused by the omission of dots, as the dot may pierce the palm-leaf. Hence it is difficult to distinguish between a consonant and a syllabic letter. Another problem is the nature of Tamil Orthography. It is difficult to distinguish between shorter and longer vowels like "a1 s V s. The confusion was cleared in the 1 8th century by the reforms of the script introduced by the Italian Jesuit priest, Joseph Constantinus Beschi. The reform "did not1 percolate to the masses till the introduction of printing. Under these circumstances the correct reading of a text can be arrived at through a knowledge of the matter on hand and through subtle intuition.

Even after the introduction of printing, most texts did not see the light of day till the 19th century. Till 1835 printing presses were owned by Christian missionaries. In 1835 Charles Metcalfe's Act became law, lifting the ban on printing and opening the gates of the free press. Even before lifting of the ban, Arumuga Navalar successfully published Thirukkural' and Thirumurugarrupadai'. Rev. Miron Winslow in his preface to his famous Tamil Dictionary wryly comments in 1862; 'Many natives, who write poetry readily, cannot write a page of correct prose.'

It was in this milieu that U.V.Swaminatha Iyer had to edit the classical texts and to write commentaries in prose so that the significance of the texts could be comprehended by scholars and laymen alike. In 1887, he published 'Chinthamani' and opened the floodgates of Tamil Renaissance. "Cilappathikaram" followed suit in 1892. When he published "Cilappathikaram1, the epic was known to quite a few. Many wondered if it was "Cirappathikaram". Such was the prevailing darkness enveloping Tamil literature in which he operated. He learnt Tamil under the old "gurukulam1 system. His teacher Minakshisundaram Pillai was just a prolific versifier. Pillai's contacts with the mutts of the day helped him acquire manuscripts. When Swaminatha Iyer went on a quest for manuscripts, many did not understand the worth of manuscripts. His pathetic struggle to acquire manuscripts is pictured in his autobiography. In an age where transport was a luxury, he went round searching for manuscripts. It was the age of hurricane lamps not electricity. He had to study the manuscripts with their oddities under these tiring circumstances. His errors are surprisingly minimal despite these difficulties.

He had no grounding in the western discipline of textual criticism. With his ingenuity he evolved his own techniques. Instead of the card system, he adopted a box system. This helped him in indexing. His editions invariably contained indexes.

Index was conspicuously absent in all the editions of 'Cilappathikaram' that followed his. The solitary exception is the edition of S.Rajam in 1957. In his second edition, S.Rajam too omitted the index for reasons best known to him. It is a matter of regret that despite the proliferation of Universities no serious attempt has been made to have a refreshing relook at the classics edited by Swaminatha Iyer with the help of palm- leaf manuscripts and with the knowledge of new historical facts and epigraphical and numismatic discoveries. A textual criticism of "Cilappathikaram1 is attempted here to evaluate Swaminatha Iyer's text and to offer guidelines for the future. For, a definite edition of 'Cilappathikaram' is long overdue.

A typically Indian problem is the confusion planted by interpolators. Such an interpolation in Tamil/is named as 'Velli patam' or the text of Velli who added
his own lines with gusto little realising the havoc caused to the original Tamil text. The perfect interpolator is one Sornam Pillai who forged an entire text, named it Innilai' and passed it off as one of the 18 ethical works of the Classical Age. Even the shrewd freedom - fighter V.O.Chidambaram Pillai was the victim of this literary forgery. He set about editing the forged text in high seriousness with exhaustive commentaries.

Interpolation often occurs where emotions are involved. Caste is a reality of Indian life and evokes emotions. No wonder,"Azharpadukathai', the scene of Kannagi setting fire to the city of Madurai contains more than 59 lines of interpolation. The poet describes the 'bhutas' or the patron saints of the four major castes, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and farmers leaving the city on fire. Interpolators were quick to seize the opportunity and added the lines. Swaminatha Iyer put the lines within brackets. Most manuscripts have omitted the lines enabling Swaminatha Iyer to fix the correct text.

Similarly stanzas in "Venba1 form are appended to the 'Kathais' in the first two cantos like the \enbas' after the text of each of Ihc Ten Songs or Taththupattu'. Swaminatha Iyer considers some of them as interpolations as they are not uniformly found in all the manuscripts. But some choose to admire them for their literary merit. Late K.A.P.Viswanathan even extols them and considers Elango as the master of 'Venba' form. 'Pathigam', the prefatory chapter, is found in most of the manuscripts, though some consider it an interpolation.

Swaminatha Iyer scrupulously adopted certain norms of textual criticism. He adhered to the manuscripts available. When there are textual variations, he chose the correct one by analysing them with the help of other manuscripts and the commentaries of Adiyarkunallar and Arumpathavuraiasiriyar. He never introduced any words of his own in the text by sheer guesswork. Such an addition is really an interpolation. Hence he avoided this at all costs. Unfortunately, Adiyarknnallar's commentary is now available for only 18 "Kathais" of a total of 30. His commentary on the climactic 9th chapter "Kanal Vari1 is missing. Hence at first Swaminatha Iyer was a little confused over even the structural arrangement of the stanzas. To add to his woes the palm leaf manuscripts contain variant readings. His confusion is revealed in his first edition in 1892. Later he came across three paper manuscripts which helped him overcome the confusion. Probably with their help 'Kanalvari1 attained structural unity and textual fixity in his second edition in 1920 only.

For instance his first edition contained the words 'Chon mada VannanY. Only in the second edition he corrected it as the beautiful line "Cheral mada vannam' . Obviously he was confused by the peculiarity of the writing of the day which could not distinguish between "cho" and 'chera' . Both were written in the same form. Only the editor's ingenuity could datect the correct reading.

Commentary is a unique literary system in Tamil. Some grammarians add their own commentaries to their own texts to ensure the correctness of the texts • Commentary and interpretation have their own role to play in Tamil textual criticism and particularly in 'Cilappathikararri.

Swaminatha Iyer painstakingly examined the manuscripts and found 1276 variant readings. Unfortunately he has not given the full complement of textual variations in the manuscripts. In "Arangerru Kathai', he has given just 31 variant readings. But in one of the manuscripts he himself has consulted, the manuscript of Mylai Annasami Upadhyayar now available in the library named after him, there are 70 variant readings which he has not recorded. This is just an illustration only.

A definite edition with all possible readings is quite necessary to set right this anomaly.

No doubt some readings are frivolous and can be omitted without harming the text. But others are really useful to have a clear understanding of Tamil culture.
Tamil music is a difficult field of study where even a minor variation can suggest
reliable clues. For instance, 'Vedhirpadu kilamai' in line 87 of the 'Kathai' can be substituted by 'Verpadu kilamai', a variant reading of Mylai Annasamy manuscript according to Vibulananthar who made a deep study of 'Yazh' in his 'Yazh Nool' (p.325)

Some readings though erroneous, have linguistic value as clues to linguistic archaeology. Most manuscripts contain the word 'Kelvi' (zh) instead of 'Kelvi'.

The word contains special 'l' (zh) the 15th consonant instead of the correct letter 1, the sixteenth consonant. Swaminatha Iyer correctly chose 'Kelvi' with the 16th consonant. But "Kelvi1 with the fifteenth consonant seems to have been sanctioned by common usage in the 18th century Tamil prose. The famous diarists of the age, Anandarangappillai and Viranaiker (edited by O.M. Gopalakrishnan in 2004 and 1992) used only 'Kelvi' (zh), and not 'Kelvi'. The usage of 'Kelvi' (zh) in the manuscripts of 'Cilapathikaram' is quite common. The scribes adopted the usage of the time only. They are not to blame. A study of the usage may be of use to linguists.

Even Homer nods. Adiyarkunallar too has adopted both wrong readings and interpretations in some places. He preferred "Katignai" to "Kadigai" in the poet's description of Kaunti Adigal's paraphernalia. 'Katignai' is a begging bowl. 'Kadigai' ia a pike-staff, In India it is a common sight to see ascetics of all religious persuasions carrying pike-staff. From personal observations during my stay in a Jain monastry in Gandhinagar and from personal discussions with Jaina ascetics and professors, I have found that 'Kadigai1 is the correct reading. The ascetics who are bound by the tenets of their religion to walk distances carry the staff measuring upto their nose in order to gauge the depth of the streams they have to cross. Besides it is ridiculous to picture Kaunti carrying a begging bowl on her hands throughout her journey. It is customary for the ascetics to collect food from a single house only. Hence the use of the phrase by "Orilpichai1 by "Orilpichayar', the author of Kurunthokai 277. The ascetics collect the food in a bowl and put the bowl in a two-tiered hoop on the shoulders, one for the liquid diet and another for the solid food. Besides, 'Katigai' suits the adjective 'Thorn aru' meaning 'without causing grief or pain'. The staff wielded by the ascetics believing in 'ahimsa' will not injure any living organism.

Wrong interpretations lead to a misunderstanding of the text. Kovalan's last meal consisted of 'koli pahal'. 'Pahal' is the jackfruit, the favourite fruit of Kerala. 'Koli' is interpreted by Adiyarkunallar as the tree that yields fruits without flowering. But it is the female receptacle that develops into a fruit. The flower of the jackfruit is known to "Tholkappiar" and his commentator (Ezhuthmu 227, commentary). Similar is the geographical misrepresentation of 'Uttara' (which is really Uttara Kosala) and " Vajra' encircled by the waters of the rivers on three sides and the Himalayas on one side. The commentator has mistaken "Onguneer veli' and Veenguneer veli1 for the sea surrounding the concerned areas. It is a matter of common geographical knowledge that the sea is not found near the Himalayan foothills. While the poet is exact in his botanical and geographical descriptions, both the commentator and the editor Swaminatha Iyer are wrong on facts. Unfortunately this kind of interpretation is followed even by modern editors who ought to know better Similarly Chedi is a real geographical entity of ancient North India and not the land of" Vidyadaras', or heavenly beings as imagined by both the commentator and Swaminatha Iyer. The famous Kalinga king Kharavela belonged to the Chedi dynasty.

These are just misunderstandings of an ancient text. Unfortunately such misunderstandings continue to be adopted even today without questioning, Interpretation is a part of textual criticism especially in the Tamil context, and cannot be ignored in a textual analysis. Interpretative analysis seems to have stopped with Swaminatha Iyer. Analysis of various readings may help to study the transmission of a text from palm-leaf to printed form. During the passage of centuries an ancient text accumulates incremental incrustations. These incremental incrustations caused by the scribes of successive centuries should be carefully
studied to arrive at the correct reading to recover the original text, and to present an authentic version, the two important functions of a textual critic. An example will suffice to bear this out. In 'Kanal vari' there is a famous line "nammai maranthaarai naam marakkamaattomaal" On the basis of the first person plurarnam' Vaiyapuri Pillai justly concluded that the word is of late origin, Instead of a through study of the available manuscripts he came to the hasty conclusion that the epic belongs to a later date. In the very first edition of "Cilappathikaram1 by Subbaraya Chettiar in 1876, and in the manuscript of Mylai Annaswami Upadhayar consulted by Swaminama Iyer himself, only "Yam ' occurs. Unfortunately U.V.Swaminatha Iyer failed to mention this alternative reading in his edition. He has also not taken into consideration the incongruity of the word "emmai1 in the second line and "nammai1 in the fourth line of the same stanza. This led Vaiyapuri Pillai to relegate the text to a later date. Fixing a date of the text should be on a more solid basis than the study of words and expressions which bear the scars and incrustations of centuries gone by.

Historical texts are of use in determining a correct reading. "Mantharam1 is described in 23rd chapter,' 'Katturai Kathai1 1. 84. 'Mantharam' is really "Marantharam1 in the light of Ptolemy's 'Marounda'. Both the words cannot be easily distinguished in ancient orthography. The rhyme scheme in "Akananuru1 376 confirms 'Maranthai' as the correct reading, as 'Maranthai' rhymes with "Kurangu" in the line before. "Maranmai1 from Elango's description and Ptolemy's
description in chapter 87 of his 'Geography' seems to be located near modern
Thiruvananthapuram. Vaiyapuri Pillai also in his edition of Sangam poetry uses the phrase 'nal maranthai nahar'.

There is one particular reading of Swaminatha Iyer which has damaged the character of Kovalan, the hero of the epic. The 16th Kathai speaks of his association with 'Vamba paraththar' or the new debauchees. Adiyarkunallar and Swaminatha Iyer accept this reading. But Arumpathavurai-asiriyar understanding the absurdity of the reading suggests an alternate reading 'Vamba manthar' meaning disinterested people. But three manuscripts contain a sensible reading "Vampa parathar1 newly rich merchants "Parathar1 is used earlier by the poet and other Sangam poets on many occasions to mean 'merchants'. Only in the previous "kathai1 Kovalan's heroic virtues are extolled by Madalan, the Brahmin. To push him down in the estimate of his character by a single phrase that too, on the eve of his cold-blooded murder is against the tenor of the previous "Kathai' and against the tragic atmosphere so assiduously and artistically built up by the poet.

Swaminatha Iyer consulted 18 palm-leaf manuscripts and 3 paper manuscripts. Of these only 4 palm-leaf manuscripts are preserved in the library named after him. Of the four two are in a miserable condition. They could not withstand the havoc of time. These manuscripts also will disappear in the next 25 years. Hence the urgency of the need for a thorough textual criticism, and for a definite edition to preserve the incomparable beauties of the great epic ' Cilappathikaram'.
Rare Tamil Palm Leaf Manuscripts in Gujarat

Tamil Manuscripts found in Ahemedabad, Gujrat, Efforts should be made by Tamil Scholars to search the libraries in other States like Karnataka, Andhra, Kerala and in the North.

If enough funds are not available to depute Scholars to foreign countries to search for Tamil Manuscripts, could we not send one or two to the States nearby and in the North!

Intense propaganda to focus on the greatness of Tamil has to be matched by action. Dr. Ganesan, a Professor of English spending his money has done his bit, for the growth of Tamil, his report follows


Sri Mahavir Aradhana Kendra, Koba, Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, houses a precious library of 1,00,000 books and thousands of manuscripts in almost all the languages of India. There are 3400 unidentified palm-leaf manuscripts in Kannada, Telugu, Oriya etc. While staying in the Kendra in September 2003, the author identified and catalogued 440 palm-leaf manuscripts in Tamil. Most of them are well-preserved. Of these 440, 120 manuscripts are of literary value, 100, on medicine, 51, on Astrology, 100 pertain to accounts of temples, individuals etc., 10, documents of sale etc. and the remaining deal with rituals etc. Acharya Ajay Sagarji Maharaj, a Tamil-knowing Swetambara sage and visionary is in charge of the priceless collection.

'Tholkappiyam' with Senavarayar's commentary leads the list, followed by 4 copies of 'ThirukkuraP, one with Parimelalagar's commentary. 'Naladiyar' and 'Muthurai' are other ethical works. Along with 'Sulamani Nigantu' (I part only), 3 unpublished 'Nigantus' are found. One is untitled. The others are '11th Nigantu' (2 copies) and 'Agasthiyar's Agarathi Nigantu'. There is a mini-dictionary with a few pages titled 'AthinooF. It is the first Tamil dictionary, though quite tiny in size.

There are 5 copies of 'Chinthamani', the epic. One contains the well-known commentary of Nachinarkiniyar and the other, of Subrapatha Swapnasudi. The latter remains unpublished The other epics are Sundarar's 'Thiruthondar Thogai', 'Periapuranam' (2 copies) and 'Kambar's Ramayana' (upto Sundarakantam only). There are Puranas like 'Arichandra Puranam' and 'Arunachala Puranam. 'Mahabharatham' is represented by 2 different versions, and one voluminous 'Mahabharata Ammanai' in a pleasing style by a native of Kalahasthi. There is a different version of 'Ramayana' along with Ramayana in Prose and one 'Ramayana Vasagam'. Besides there are 'Harivamsam', 'Sri Balacharitham' (Tales of Krishna's boyhood) and 'Sri Ramavijayam' with commentary.

There are unpublished dramas like 'Harichandra', 'Ramayana Natakam' or "' 'Kusalan Natakam', 'Punanthira Natakam', 'Kurma Natakam' and 'Kabila Pasu Natakam'. Besides, there is a Jaina epic 'Chulamani' followed by 'Sri Puranam' Second part only and 'Merumanthira Puranam'. There are Jain devotional works like'Thiruvirutham', Thirukalambagam', 'Thirunoorranthathi' (with commentary), 'Kalukunramalai' and 'Subhadevi AgavaT. There are Saivite devotional works like 'Thevaram', 'Thiruvasagam', Arunagiri's 'Thirupugazh' and 'Thiruvaguppu' and the
hymns of Kumaraguruparar and Thayumanavar.

Grammar is represented by 'Nannul' (3 copies) and 'Neminatham', prosody, by 'Yapparunkalakarikai', and poetics, by 'Akapporul Vilakkam', 'Puraporul Venba Malai' and 'Muthuviriyam'. There is 'Kutrala Kuravanji' accompanied by the unpublished 'Gnana Kuravanji' on Kutrala Nathar. There are Jaina ethical works like'Needhillakkanam' and 'Gunamarilam'. There are poems of Siddhars like Bhogar, Pulipani and Konkanar, along with 'Viveka Chinthamani' of Kuzhaikathar.
There are also unpublished poems like 'Unjal Song', 'Nenjari Vilakkam', 'Thirumuruga Vilasam', 'Sri lochuvanool', 'Annan Thiruvadigal', 'Thooyavarnika I', Dakshinamurthy's epic and 'Chenthil Malai.

The most astonishing discovery is that




The history of Tamil Prose is to be rewritten in the light of this discovery which needs a deeper probe.


Iravatham Mahadevan. 2003. Cre-A Chennai & Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University. U.S.A.: Cambridge, pp. 719 + xxxix. Rs. 1.500/-

Brahmi is an ancient script. In the centuries before Christ it was found in epigraphs from Nepal to Sri Lanka. The North West was an exception. As D.C. Sircar says, 'it is not only the mother of all the alphabets of the Sanskrit and Dravidian languages prevalent in various parts of India today, but is also the origin of many alphabets of south East Asia including Tibetan, Singhalese, Burmese, Siamese, Javanese..." (Inscriptions of Asoka, 1998, Reprint, p.16).

Brahmi antedates the Mauryans. Citing the authority of Rhys Davids, Macdonell and Winternitz Will Durant affirms that in 'the eighth or ninth century B.C. Hindu - probably Dravidian - merchants brought from Western Asia a Semitic script akin to the Phoenician and from this "Brahma Script"... all the later alphabets of India were derived'; ('Our Oriental Heritage', 1963, Reprint, p.406). He reiterates the statement of Rhys Davids, "merchants, not priests developed this basic art", (ibid, p.407). A.C. Cunningham, S. Langdon and D.C. Sircar trace its origin to the Indus script. Iravatham Mahadevan debunks the theory, and rightly so. The Indus script is pictographic, while Brahmi is not. Similarities between Brahmi and some early North Semitic tribal scripts are more striking. In 'Non-Roman Ancient Foreign Coins from Karur' R. Krishnamurthy adduces a mass of numismatic evidence for the early contacts between Tamil Nadu and West Asia. Brahmi is a product of "catamaran" revolution in the early waves of globalization.

References to writing occur in the Pali scriptures of the Buddhists. Buddhist legends credit Buddha with the invention of Brahmi. Jain myths associate Brahmi, the daughter of Rishabhadeva, a Jaina Thirthankara, with the script. Buddhists and Jains adopted Brahmi much earlier than the Mauryans. Most Brahmi epigraphs in Tamil record donations to Jaina caves. Hence the earlier appellation, 'Tamil Nadu Cave Script'.

The Asokan inscriptions are the earliest important written documents of India. Undoubtedly, as A.L. Basham asserts, Brahmi would have 'had many years, perhaps many centuries, of development before the days of Asoka', ('The Wonder That was India', 1967, Reprint, p.396)

Asoka's inscriptions aim at propagation of his ideas among the common populace. He deliberately chose local dialects and scripts. The thenexisting Brahmi was his natural choice. He adopted regional variations of the script where necessary. His inscriptions are not in Tamil. The regional, linguistic variations of Brahmi in Tamil make Iravatham Mahadevan adopt the phrase 'Tamil - Brahmi'. Interestingly, V. Kannaiyan, considering the other varieties of Brahmi as variations from the Tamil script, came to the startling conclusion that 'the script employed by Asoka seems to be but a sophisticated variety of the "TamilNad Cave Script" (and) Asoka borrowed the script from the Tamils' ('Scripts', 2000, Reprint, p.3). Perceptions and perspectives vary. Dr. Nagasami calls the script 'Tamili' only. Srinivasa Ritty is against the usage of the very term 'Tamil-Brahmi'. T.N. Subramaniam holds the view that Brahmi was specially created for Tamil. Gift Siromoney suggests that the Asokan Brahmi followed from the Tamil-Brahmi I out of the three systems.

The Jains called the Tamil script 'Dramili', 'Dravidi' or 'Damili'. The Jains came to Karnataka with Asoka's grandfather Chandragupta. Bhadrabahu, the Jain sage, who accompanied them sent Visakacharya to propagate Jainism in Tamil Nadu. It accounts for the Kannada colloquial expressions so assiduously pointed out by Mahadevan in the Tamil inscriptions. It also explains the name of Visaka occurring in some inscriptions. Visaka may not be named after the asterism, as suggested by Mahadevan, but may convey the memory of the Digambara teacher who introduced Jainism in Tamil Nadu. The Jaina contribution to education is immense. Even today, schools are called 'Palli' retaining the rich association with the Jains. The Jains stayed in cavebeds donated by kings and merchants. Hence the endurance of the epigraphs on stones. The Jaina epigraphs are found on the ancient trade routes. The merchants were the patrons of Jainism and Buddhism. It accounts for the coins and inscriptions bearing the word 'Mahasattan' in Sri Lanka and the inscriptions bearing the legends, 'MahasathuvaT and 'Mahanavika' in Andhra echoing 'Masathuvan' and 'Manayakan' of the Tamil epic 'Silappathikaram'.

Mahadevan's 'Early Tamil Epigraphy' is a monumental work. It is the fruit of his devotion and dedication for forty years. But for his book, ancient Tamil kings would have remained mere shadowy figures. He unearthed their past by deciphering the so-called cave script. His findings created an epigraphical revolution, just as R. Krishnamurthy and A. Seetharaman launched a numismatic revolution leading to a better understanding of the classical age of the Tamils. He launched epigraphical expeditions to obtain tracings and estampages of inscriptions which form an invaluable data for scholars to reassess the past.

Part I of his book describes the saga of his epoch - making discoveries. Part II examines the palaeography, orthography and grammar of Tamil Epigraphy. Part III presents the corpus of early Tamil epigraphy, 89 of them in Tamil - Brahmi' and 21 of them in early Vatteluthu. The inscriptions are elucidated with his own interpretations followed by commentary in flawless English that can be understood by laymen and appreciated by scholars.

The book bears the stamp of a genius with intuitive insights. His most perceptive discovery is the prevalence of village autonomy from the earliest times. He interprets the short inscription at Mudalaikulam (Nq^35, ca 2nd century B.C.) as 'the earliest lithic record of village assembly3, 'Uf. His discovery is corroborated by classical literature. There are frequent references to 'manram' and 'podhiyil', 'the public assembly hall or square'. 'Akananuru' (77) mentions 'kuzhisi olai' (1.7) the selection by lot in the pot. Hitherto the Historians considered the system being practised in the age of the imperial Cholas only.

The village autonomy accounts for the vitality, endurance and continuity of Tamil culture despite the seemingly unending wars. Kharavela's inscription (ca. 1st century B.C.) attests to the united fight put up by the Tamils against the northern intruders. Literature offers standing testimony to the fact that cities and kingdoms were well organised for both war and trade. Champakalakshmi seems to be far from the truth, when she remarked that state institutions then were 'less evolved'.
Local autonomy, absence of priestly hierarchy, political independence and the missionary zeal of Jains and Buddhists are listed as facilitating factors for the spread of literacy in early Tamil society. 'Purananuru' (183) highlights another factor, the royal patronage extended to education as evidenced by the assertion of Pandian king Nedunchelian. The presence of early literacy in Tamil Nadu, that can be compared to the glorious days of ancient Athens is, according to Dr. V.C. Kulandaisamy, 'an astonishing discovery5.

Mahadevan identifies 'ilayar' of Sittannavasal (49) with the ancient martial clan of 'ilankocar' of Kongu hailing from the Tulu country. Early literature describes the Kocar as aiding the Mauryan invasion. The martial tradition of Tulu country continues even today, and the heroic Coorgs arc much preferred in the Indian armed forces.

The Tamil inscriptions on pottery found at Salihundam in Andhra reveal the extent of Tamil influence. Mahadevan from the linguistic evidence convincingly establishes the fact that the language of the legends on the reverse of the Satavahana silver portrait coins is Tamil and not old Telugu. As the reason for the employment of Tamil in the coin-legends, he suggests that Prakrit and Tamil were the only two languages used for political and administrative purposes in South India at the turn of the Christian era. He omits the formidable literary evidence in 'Silappathikaram' (26:148-149) about the enduring friendship of Chera king Chenguttuvan and the Satakarnis 'without any differences whatsoever'. 'Pathirrupathu' explains how the coins were found in the northern and northwestern parts of Satavahana dominions. The Cheras are described as rooting out pirates on the West Coast, seizing the Yavanas and fighting in the Dandakaranya region. The prosperity of both the Tamils and the Satavahanas was based on the lucrative sea-trade. They had a common interest in ridding the coast of pirates. They seemed to have put up a united fight against the Saka ruler Nahapana and the Kardamaka ruler Rudradaman. The coins must have been issued to pay for the services of the soldiers of both kingdoms, stationed at the border areas. The issue of bilingual coins has thus strategic considerations as well.
Early Tamil epigraphy has enriched classical Tamil literature and early history of Tamil Nadu by referring to Neduncheliyan, Athiyaman and the Irumporai dynasty. It is a signal contribution. Mahadevan identifies the poet Ilavettanar in Alagarmalai inscription (46). Viramangalam inscription (18) mentions 'EyiP which is mentioned in 'Cirupanarrupadai' (1.152) and noted by Ptolemy as 'Sopadma'.

Mahadevan's contribution to classical semantics is equally perspicacious. To him 'Anthai' is an honorific. He derives 'munriP from 'munru-il', 'munru' meaning forecourt, unlike the traditional grammarians who derive 'munriP from 'il-mun'. He correctly identifies 'kapi' as the name of a clan. It implies it is not a 'gotra'. 'Kapiyur' occurs in Kunnakudi epigraph (74).

U.V. Swaminatha Iyer's reading of Tyakan' in Puram 71 gets corrected as 'Viyakan' mentioned in Alagarmalai inscription (39). Viyakan, a friend of Bhoothapandian is a salt merchant. He also concludes from Tiruparankunram epigraph (53) that a learned family of Antuvans were attached to the hill.

His interpretation of 'Panattu' of Paraiyanpattu (115) as 'the country of the Panan' agrees with the interpretation of 'Akam' (155:6-7) by U.V. Swaminatha Iyer (unpublished notes), R. Raghavaiyangar, N.M. Venkatasawamy Nattar and R. Venakatachalam Pillai. But some old manuscripts give the variant reading, 'Palnattu' for 'Panattu'.

His explanation of 'aratta' as the personal name, meaning 'the haughty one', illumines 'Arat-tan chetti' of 'Silappathikaram' (30:49). 'Aratta' is found in Anaimalai epigraph (60). But his etymological derivation of 'Kaviti' in Mangulam epigraph (3) from Sanskrit Grahapati and Prakrit Gahapati is far from the mark. Classical literature mentions 'Kaviti' or 'etti' as the title conferred mostly on merchants. Paranavitana is correct in identifying 'Kutumbika', (Tiruparankunram, 55), a householder with 'gahapati'. 'Kutumbika' is found in Sri Lanka also.

Similarly, 'Saiyalan' of Muthupatti (57) is interpreted as 'saimhalaka' or the man from the Sahyadri mountain. Dr. T.V. Mahalingam taking note of the masculine suffix 'an' considers it a proper name. He notes the currency of the name 'Siyalan' around the area of the epigraph even today. He concludes it may refer to 'Sayalan' of 'Silappathikaram'. Dr. Vedachalam too shares his view. Unfortunately, Mahadevan does not even mention the alternative interpretations.

Another glaring error of elucidation refers to 'lanko' of Mannarkoil (89). He says 'lanko' is a merchant. He adduces 13th century inscription to buttress his view. But there is neither literary nor inscriptional usage of the contemporary age warranting this conclusion. He himself interprets 'lanko' of Pugalur inscription (61 & 62) as prince / heir apparent. Besides he is silent over the Chera royal emblem that 'Aavanam' 13 (2002) clearly men-y tions in p.2. The rock on which the epigraph occurs is called today the king's rock, 'Rajakkal Parai'. Obviously it refers to Ilango, a Chera prince. With the adjective, 'Kunavin', it may refer to Ilangovadigal of 'Kunavayil Kottam', the celebrated poet.

The dating of early Tamil epigraphy is uncertain. There are no clear references to dates. Mahadevan solves the problem by arriving at certain conclusions based on orthographic features and palaeographic conventions in the inscription. But these are not totally reliable. Mahadevan himself raises the question in p. 234. 'How did two parallel, mutually exclusive and competing systems of medial vowel notations appear at about the same time and within a relatively small and homogeneous linguistic community? No solution to this problem is yet in sight'.

Mahadevan assigns Nedunchelian of Mangulam inscription to 2nd century B.C., Dr. M.D. Sampath to 4th to 2nd century B.C. and Dr. Nagasamy to 1st century B.C. No wonder, Prof. M. Radhadrishna Sharma remarks, 'Palaeography is guessing'. To arrive at dating Dr. M.D. Sampath lays down broad guidelines:

'It is more often seen that palaeography is not the only consideration in determining the date of the early inscriptions. While suggesting a date, enough care has to be taken, that too, if no other internal evidence is not available. It is safe to suggest a date with a plus or minus hundred or atleast 50 years. We often come across the difficulty in writing, since the writing is much affected or influenced by the style and skill of a scribe' (J.E. S.I. Vol. XXI, 1985, p.89).

Mahadevan's dating of Tolkappiyam' to Ca. 2nd - 4th centuries A.D. based on the absence of 'Pullf or dot does not take into consideration the scribe's conventional caution in inscribing 'pulli', be it on stone or palm-leaf. It does not take into consideration Ganapathy Subhiah's assertion (in 'Roots of Tamil Religious Thought', PILC, 1991, p.126) that 'for many of the themes mentioned by Tol (kappiyar) there are no illustrative examples in the extant classical corpus'. However, it may be in fairness asserted in favour of Mahadevan that he attempts at dating on certain rational principles. 'Early Tamil Epigraphy is an invaluable guide to an understanding of the beginnings of Tamil culture.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

My Wiki page.

Created a Wiki page today so i can post lengthier articles. Find it here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi
Entry on Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi contains errors.

- Beschi went to Madura Mission in 1710, not the Mandura Mission
- "Paramartaguru Kadey" is not a "poem". It is the FIRST PROSE FICTION IN TAMIL