Black and Bright and Beautiful

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 10 13:39:42 EST 2000

N. Ganesan wrote:
>>Lord Ramar is described as Black, Bright and Beautiful
>>by our own KambanaTTalvar.

>>   veyyOn2 oLi tan2 mEn2iyin2 viri cOtiyin2 maRaiyap
>>   poyyO en2um iTaiyALoTum iLaiyAn2oTum pOn2An2;
>>   maiyO! marakatamO! maRikaTalO! mazai mukilO!
>>   aiyO! ivan2 vaTivu en2patu or aziyA azaku uTaiyAn2.

Samar Abbas  wrote:
  This is very interesting (could we have a translation of the above
verse for the non-Tamils please), and apparently confirms the claim
put forth by the Revival Movement for Dravidian Religion
( that Rama and Krishna were
Dravidian gods/leaders, and that Vishnu was hence a Dravidian. It
sounds bizarre because Rama is nowadays so generally depicted as
Caucasian (see the TV serials Jai Hanuman and Mahabharata) that
nobody seems to question that he was an `Aryan God', but it does
seem that Rama was always depicted as a Black in the ancient period.
How is this apparent paradox resolved ? Have the TV producers
explained their usage of lily-complexioned boys for
Krishna and Rama ? Surely, they must be aware of the incongruity - at
least for Krishna. Do the likes of Mr. Murli Joshi accept such

Kamban, the master poet, sees Black color in shimmering Light.
His verse can be rendered by people who are more
talented in translation. The meaning is something like:
In this poem, Kamban talks of the black god rAma spreading his body
light that even dims the sun light and makes it disppear! (maRaital =
to hide, to die etc.,) Here the episode of Raaman leaving with his
brother and wife for the forest is told. Even if someone says
Sita has a waist, "it is a lie" acc. to Kamban.

Raama's black color is explicitly compared (as in 100s of poems in old
Tamil literature) with collyrium (the black anjanam), deep green
emerald, black sea, and dark monsoon clouds. The black sea motif is
common in sangam Tamil. In Greek, someone with the name starting as
H.. is credited for discovering monsoon to aid seafaring. Well, the
ancient Tamil poem credits a king for that (naLiyiru munnIr nAvAy ...)

In (old) Tamil literature, "mAl"= black refers to Vishnu. nALagiri,
nADagiri of the Buddha legends refers to the elephant called
"black mountain". So also is Mahabharata nala myth is intricately
tied with "blackness". In Telugu, nalla means black;
nalla mala range gives birth to the river KrishNaveNi.
(vENi < peNNaa).
In ancient CT, "nAL mIn" refers to nakshatrams. Srivaishnavas
have the name, "nallAn" refering to black Krishna, Vishnu, ...
Nallaa Reddy, Karuppaiyaaa Thevar are common in the South.
The caste name, kaLLar has to do with Black, rather than
the colonial designation as 'thiefs'. The kuladeivam
of KaLLars is the Vishnu of ThirumAliruJcOlai near Madurai.
There Vishnu is "kaLLazakar", literally "Black Beauty".
Dumont studied a branch of them. nArAyana/ appears
to be from Drav. nal-/naL- = 'black'. There is later
theological speculation about nARAyana with nArA 'water'.

What is interesting in Kamban's poem is the ratio in which
Raama is compared with 3 similies of "black" and 1 simile of "green".
This pattern can be seen in Alvars' paasurams also.
Vishnu is in some poems "paccai-maal"(='green-black').
Alvars praise Vishnu sleeping on the serpent couch as
'black jewel' (karu-maNi). I was told the Nala episode
in the MBh.  and 'black'; Vishnu as black or green
in Tamil will have to do with astronomy/astrology.
In the Jaimini Grhyasutra, Vishnu is related to Mercury
which is green in color. Someday, collecting all
the "black" and "green" vishnu quotes from Alvars'
poems will help. Vishnu, being called hari (yellow/green)
and mAl (black) and the nala myth's connection
to astronomy and blackness is a fascinating field.
I am waiting for publications from a Sanskritist
for the origins of Vishnu in Vedic, MBh, .,
and about nala myth. Note that Draupadi whose personal
name is the Black one (Krishnaa) was in the previous
birth nalaayinii. Vishnu called black and green
has an analogy in the great Goddess. Zyaamalaa
is some times green also. The Dravidian kinship
makes Vishnu, a brother of Meenakshi comes down
from his abode to give his sister to Sundareshvaran
in wedding. The ceremony watched by millions
in Madurai has been filmed and described in a
book by William Harman.

Vedic preference for night rituals, contrary to
the Iranian diurnal rituals, may be from acculturation.
The ingressing Aryans had little astronomy.
N. J. Allen, Hinduism as Indo-European,
p. 26, Aryan and Non-Aryan in India
"It would be wrong to leave the impression that
comparativists only identify I-E material in Indian
history by demonstrating  the three- or four-
functional 'signature'. Many exceptions come to mind:
Dumezil on figures such as Yama and Suurya whom
he does not relate to a function, Sergent (1997: 340-3)
on astronomy, Vielle (1997) on warrior heroes."
Can I take it then that Sergent (Genese del'Inde)
discusses that Astronomy (and its daughter, astrology)
does not play a big role among incursive Aryans.

Dravidian contribution in ancient Indian astronomy
and astrology is significant. Prof. A. Parpola
discusses this in a lengthy chapter in his book -
Deciphering the Indus script, 1994. gaNita, karNi
has a good Drav. etymology.
In Tamil, kaNi(yan) means astrologer.

In the second millennium BCE, Hebrew God had both
good and evil and the contrast was not well brought out.
Until their contacts with the Persians
(Cyrus released them from Mesopotamia), the
good is equated with white/light and evil with
black/dark. Since this sharp divide in the
black vs. white duality is unknown earlier,
it is highly likely that this idea in Hebrew Bible
is an influence from Indo-Iranians. In the
monotheistic religions of the Jews, good is well
contrasted with evil and brought into sharp focus.
IE invasions took place in Europe, Iran and lastly
into India after the PIE breakup (acc. to D. Anthony,
in between inventions of wheel and chariots,
anywhere between 3500-2000 BCE). Only in Iran and India,
the incursive IE folks meet with Black folks;
What is happening on the ground is reflected in
priestly productions of religion. Metaphorically
black/dark is loathed and despised both in
OIA and OIr. material. The Hebrew people then
coming in contact and developing a sharp distinction
between Good(God) vs. Evil(Devil) seems to
have appropriated the Indo-Iranian idea
of Light/White vs. Dark/Bright.

Tamil texts, on the contrary, praise the shining
Black and its beauty. Few textual examples
were given from ancient period.

N. Ganesan

PS: Modern color preference has to do with elite dominance,
intro of color in print and film, too much makeup,
White dominance, etc. etc.,

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