Wednesday, March 29, 2006

on temples and on cholas -- and on the south in general

mar 29th

kapidhwaja, thanks for the materials. i didnt see the whole discovery film, it was too big to download. also thanks for the pointer to bharat rakshak and the great military heroes

the wikipedia article on cholas was very good. i liked it except for the stray reference to the 'aryans'

i have great respect for ancient tamils. the sangam era, karikala chola, rajaraja chola, the bhakti saints, the great thanjavur delta manufacturing center.

just look at the following:
0. sangam literature: some of the most beautiful indian poetry comes from this period. read ak ramanujan's translations; i remember in particular "red earth and pouring rain" -- absolute masterpieces
1. chola bronzes: the epitome of indian art, superlative pieces that have no equal
2. rajaraja/rajendra chola: the epitome of indian imperialism, with their naval armada that was the biggest ever assembled before the era of the steamship
3. karikala chola: his grand anicut across the kaveri is the *oldest* waterworks in the world, and it is *still* working after 2000 years
4. bhakti saints of tamil country: they (and sankara) revived hinduism. what we all know of as hinduism today was created by the nayanmars and azhvars such as manikyavachakar and avvaiyyar

however, modern tamils do not deserve any particular respect. they are loud (they dont believe in speaking, they only shout) and sort of imperialistic. ev ramaswamy naicker was trying to create 'dravidianism' as a new religion whereby tamils would dominate southern india. his goal probably was to have everyone in south india (which of course would secede from the north) bow 5 times daily and pray in the direction of chennai, which would be the imperial capital of 'dravidian' india which would be everything south of the vindhyas.

christism = expression of white imperialism
mohammedanism = expression of arab imperialism
marxism = formerly expression of russian imperialism, now expression of chinese imperialism

naicker was hoping to add

'dravidianism' = expression of tamil imperialism

alas, other south indians found this business hilarious. in fact, they have made a conscious decision to tolerate hindi (bihari ? :-) imperialism rather than go with the evr plan of tamil imperialism.

i also think a classical language needs a classical civilization. for the tamils, there was the sangam civilization and also the chola era. for telugu, there was the vijayanagar empire. kannada, i am not sure. but malayalam did not have a classical civilization other than the sangam civilization: in fact, two of the greatest tamil works were written in kerala -- silappadikaram and manimekhala. this is why i believe tamil is clearly a classical language, perhaps telugu is; i am willing to be educated about kannada, but i dont think malayalam is.

however, interestingly enough, as *modern* languages, kannada and malayalam are streets ahead of telugu and tamil. both have produced many world-class works, more so than tamil and telugu. in modern tamil, in my opinion it's only the epic works that are remarkable, such as ponniyin selvan and sivakamiyin shapatham. kannada has its karanth, ananthamurthy et al. malayalam has its thakazhi, vijayan, pottekkat, bashir et al. someone knowledgeable about telugu is welcome to correct me.

here are my tongue in cheek opinions on various southern languages:
1. telugu, sweet language, lots of sanskrit, but it also has a predilection for 'g' and 'nta', both harsh sounds. look at place names: gudur, guntur, gooty, guntakal, guntur, gummidipoodi.
2. kannada, also a sweet language, very sanskritized, it is mellifluous and easy on the ear
3. tamil, i would be able to tell if it is sweet or harsh if only they stopped shouting! i once had the misfortune to travel by bus from bangalore to trivandrum through tamil nadu in a bus which had a blaring tamil movie video. i almost died.
4. malayalam, a nasal and rapid-fire language, the most sanskritized of the lot, about 80% of malayalam is pure sanskrit. it was explicitly created from tamil to be able to express sanskrit characters and sounds

ok, i said semi-serious, so don't get your knickers in a twist, all right?

indian history needs to be rewritten to give the south its due. after all, the south is pretty much where the action is: a per capita income map of india shows a distinct southern/western advantage except for punjab.


Kaunteya said...

Happy Guddi Padwa [new year] to all the maharashtrians.
One more year sans puran poli,kadhi, wadeys et al. for me :(

pennathur said...

EVR Naicker was no Tamizh lover and very radical in his rejection of the "past glory" of any culture. He was a Telugu/Kanndiga (I am not sure) and termed Tamizh a kattumirandi bashai or barbarian tongue. That he chose to use the term katturmirandi as a matter of abuse also tells you that he was no proponent of the rights of "indigenous peoples". EVR was pretty much what the lefties would term a "petit bourgeois" radical. As for his atheism his survival instincts were very strong - make what you will out of it. He was almost contemptuous of Tamizh literature (the TirukkuraL was one of the many works he criticised strongly). His rationalism was a much needed dose of reality for the stuck up middle classes of TN who have taken heed and moved on as was his forceful rejection of caste barriers was also. His critique of caste was in fact a little less strident than that of Swami Vivekananda's. Among the many interesting and lesser known things he did - conferring the title Sivaji on VC Ganesan after watching his play on the Maratha warrior.

And don't get me started on my Mallu jokes - I am Tamizh and we can joke too!

KapiDhwaja said...

You are welcome, Rajeev. Always glad to help in your good work in whatever small way I can.

In one of your prior posts you had mentioned an analogy of a sticky managerial situation of 3 people, where one supports you, the other opposes you, and the 3rd is fence-sitter, regarding BJP's failed strategy. That analogy was great.

Look forward to more such managerial gems from you in the course of educating us illiterates.:-)

lazysusan said...

Being a non-South Indian married to a multilingual South Indian....I can safely say I dont agree with any of Rajeev's attributes to South Indian languages.

To my non-South Indian ears, they sound as follows :-

Kannada : Too 'strict' listening to a 'march past drumroll' rather than a sweet melodious song. Too many un-couth sounds like 'hha' 'khha' etc...

Telugu : Half the words sound like gaalis !!

Tamil : Too harsh. All the wonderful rich Tamil culture Tamilians are proud of, is nowhere to be seen in their movies & the way the characters speak in them ! Cant stand the movies.

Malayalam : Havent heard much to form a opinion.

Sorry folks ! And please dont fall on me like a ton of bricks...

nizhal yoddha said...

pennathur, thanks for supporting my point that evramaswamy naicker was trying consciously to emulate mohammed and jinnah. he *was* trying to get us all to bow to chennai like mohammedans do to mecca.

like mohammed: evr's claim that everything before him (the era B.EVR -- Before EVR?) was trash; the urge to destroy images; the willingness to make tactical adjustments for long-term benefit (in mohammed's case, the battle of hudaibiyah, in evr's case, the alliance with christists).

like jinnah: evr despised the people who he claimed he represented, like jinnah. he just used them for personal profit, while not being concerned one bit about them.

evr's rationalism was a crock. "survival instinct" indeed -- he was plain scared silly of mohammedans, so he never dared critique them. what a hypocrite! if *one* hindu had stood up and said, "i'm gonna blow you away, mother!", evr would have shut up about hinduism too. as i said, coward and bully.

evr's criticism of caste was simple: his caste was not top dog. therefore he made his caste (and other middle castes) top dog. didnt make one bit of difference to the guys at the bottom that it was not brahmins oppressing them, but naickers and nadars and suchlike. so his achievement: nil.

i tell you, evr is one hell of a role model. for the congress and marxists. on how to screw everyone and make money for oneself.

nizhal yoddha said...

lazysusan, i'm fine that your mileage varies. mine is strictly personal observation as an insider. as an outsider, i should also tell you that i find urdu harsh and uncouth: all those 'q' sounds and those abrupt consonant endings. it sounds like they're -- like arabs -- gargling, or trying to cough up some phlegm. mulaqat, haqeeqat, zaroorat, etc. sanskrit words sound so much nicer.

nizhal yoddha said...

kapidhwaja, thank you, thank you. posting good stuff sure helps.

btw, i didn't say you guys were all illiterates. i was pretty specific about whom i called semi-literate, and that too with good evidence. :-)

re triage, it wasn't one person, it was roughly one-third of the people in each category. thus tri- and thus tri-age. this is pretty commonsensical and well-known in management practice. so you spend your effort where it can be of some value, not trying to change people's minds when they are made up. just

lazysusan said...

NZ/Rajeev, :) Well Urdu has got nothing to do with me. But I am really surprised you find Urdu (Hindi version of Urdu) harsh. I mean seriously, even Oriya or Bengali is alien to me, but I never found it harsh. Only SI languages oh yes also the Bihari style dialects sound uncouth...depends on how they are spoken too ofcourse...tone etc. Even a good sounding language can sound harsh if spoken in a uncultured tone.

nizhal yoddha said...

yes, lazysusan, hindis have the idea that urdu sounds sweet. this is a conditioned reflex: you've been told this, so you believe it. to an outsider who just listens to the sounds, urdu (like its parents arabic and persian) sounds unpleasant. one of the reasons is the paucity of vowel sounds: they are all consonant-heavy, thus the abrupt endings too. this is also why urduized 'buddh', 'arjun', 'karn', etc. sound harsh and incomplete to those used to the original sanskrit 'buddha', 'arjuna', 'karna' etc. similar languages can have very different sounds. chinese sounds extremely harsh, while japanese is quite euphonious.

nizhal yoddha said...

pennathur threatens me with malayali jokes. but all the rest of the south indians have plenty of tamil jokes. so there's not much oneupmanship possible there.

i do have to say that i enjoy some tamil film music. when i was a child, the nearby theater (now sadly demolished and turned into a shopping center) used to play 'kalangalil aval vasantham' every night, along with 'rajavin parvai raniyin pakkam', and i enjoy those two. i found the recent 'alai payuthe' incredibly moving. and so also a couple of songs from 'roja' like 'chinna chinna aasai'.

tellingly, these were all low-decibel :-) and didn't have anybody saying 'daaay!' so if only tamil people could control themselves a little the language is sweet :-)

indianpatriot said...

Eventhough my mother tongue is not Kannada (In fact none of other souther Indian languages) I spent most of time in Karnataka.
Here are some wikipedia links regarding earliest rulers of present day Karnataka.
I have to disagree with Rajeev that Kannada does not qualify as a classical language. As a language it has history dating back to Chandragupta Maurya.
However I agree with Rajeev that Kannadigas can live with Hindi imperialism than Tamil imperialism. When I was in high school in Central Karnataka in 1983 while celebrating independence day some Tamils (in that region they constitue less than 1 percent of population)showed black flags to protest massacre in Sri Lanka that year. I remember present day analogy Indian Mohamaddens protesting cartoons in Denmark.
Destruction of Belur and Halebid (Hoysala dynasty) by Mohammaden in invaders in 9th century was predessor of what happened in vijayanagar in 16th century.

Sailesh Ganesh said...

Rajeev, might I suggest all songs of AM Raja? They all sound soft to the ear. I personally feel Rehman has made a mess of Alai Payuthe, as good as it sounds! The original by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyar is way better. And I agree with you, if only we tamizh could tone down a bit, the language might be more appreciated. Even I hate all those high-decibel songs/scenes.

pennathur said...

No Rajeev. EVR's rejection of caste and caste discrimination was timely and very forceful. Before becoming an atheist he gave the Congress and Gandhi a try - even participated in the Vakkam satyagraha - after spending a year in Kashi with ascetics. He is believed to have turned away from the Congress and Hindu reform movement when he found a leading light of the movement discriminating between brahmin and non-brahmin students at an ashram run by him. He was a lifelong friend of Rajaji on whose advice he is believed to have married in hte late 1940s (precipitating the split of the DK and the formation of DMK). Not much is known about his interactions with Dr.Ambedkar whom he reportedly advised against leaving the Hindu fold. EVR was not the best known Tamizh leader of the depressed classes (can't be since he did not belong to one). That honor must go to Erattaimaal Srinivasan who lived in Chennai and accompanied Dr.Ambedkar to the 2nd Round Table in London (and I am not name dropping here - was a very close friend of my grandfather in the 30s and 40s) a man of great learning and piety. Many others such as Muthuramalinga Thevar (a compatriot of Netaji) and leaders of the Nadar community fought their own battles for dignity and justice. EVR is not known to have contributed to these struggles.

nizhal yoddha said...

pennathur, i agree that evr did nothing for anybody else's struggles, he was mostly trying to line his own pockets, metaphorically speaking.

regarding vaikom, he was a complete nonentity there and did nothing for the emancipation of the ezhavas and others who led the vaikom struggle. evr did not actually oppose casteism,

he only didn't like others being casteist, he was perfectly willing to be casteist against the brahmins, for instance.

altogether, a complete charlatan.

if as you say, the reason for his bile against hinduism was a single instance of someone being casteist, well then it was pretty hypocritical/stupid (take your pick) for him to line up with the christists (what about apartheid and Jim Crow segregation in the US at that time?) and with mohammedans (what about the treatment of women and all dhimmis?).

the more i read about him, the more evr shoots up in my opinion. what a perfect role model for the congress!

pennathur said...


Tamizh has certainly suffered from the excesses of parochialism of the 20th century thanks to the DMK. Of the many Tamizh modernists Akilan and Jayakantan stand out followed by Indra Parthasarathi. Reflecting our high brow disdain for popular culture we have ignored Kannadasan who chose the medium of film lyrics to pen some of the most memorable popular poetry to have come out of India. His literary allusions reach back deep into classics. Malayali and Kannada litterateurs know how to quaff spirits and talk like airheads - Tamizh and Telugu writers prefer to keep their own counsel. Ananthamurthy, Karnad and Co., haven't produced anything of note for a looong time. Karnad especially is poorly read and his revisitiations of classic Sanskrit literature are terrible. Thakazhi, Basheer, Pottekat are to be treasured but are history. Anyone still active?

Madhwa said...

I am amazed by the omission of Dasa sahitya, a major literary movement that followed in the wake of Madhwacharya's Dwaitha(dualism) philosophy!

Saints like Purandara, Kanaka, Vadiraja, Raghavendra, et. al., energized the kannada literature with thousands of compositions in the Karnatik style of music. In fact, Purandara is hailed as the "father of Karnatik" music.

Before the Dasa sahitya movement, old kannada poets like Pampa, Ranna, Janna, ponna (all Jain poets but well versed in Sanskrit), Kumaravyasa contributed immensely to kannada literature.

After the Dasa sahitya, it was the turn of Lingayat movement that contributed immensely to kannada literature. Basaveshwara, Akka Mahadevi, are well known. Sarvgna's "padagalu" are a house hold name in karnataka.

In the modern era, it was Dr.Bendre, Kumempu, Dr.Gopala krishna adiga, Dr. Shivarama Karanth, to name a few, who make up the literary scene in Kannada.

Also, don't forget the "Shudra Sahitya" that is a unique genre in Kannada literature!

BTW, Krishna devaraya is proven to be a Kannada King. If you want scholarly proof, please read Dr. Bhaskar Saletore's works! The vijayanagar empire was founded by Kannada kings Hakka and Bukka....

abhiha marathe said...


I would like to add that Marathi has a lot of classic literature, too. Tukaram wrote a lot of hymns (abhang) which are sung today, Dhyaneshwar wrote his treatise on the Geeta which is called Dhyaneshwari, and Ramdas wrote Dasbodh. People study this literature today.

Shivaji is credited with introducing an idea in the 16th century that Hindus of that time could rule themselves and overthrow the Muslim rule. Aurangzeb accepted the Shah of Iran as his superior. Although Shivaji's reign was not long he started a movement that spread around the country. One example is the Peshawas who captured Delhi. I am not aware of the details of this conquest.

I would like to add that Rani Laxmi bai of Jhansi was originally from Maharashtra. The freedom movement was established by Maharashtrians like Gopalrao Gokhale and Lokmanya Tilak. Pl take cognizance of their contributions.


bhattathiri said...

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BangaloreBlogger said...

EVR was a kannada chettiar and kannada is the sweetest followed by telugu