Untoucables in Classical Tamil Society? (Re: New discovery in Tamil Nadu)

Jean-Luc Chevillard jean-luc.chevillard at UNIV-PARIS-DIDEROT.FR
Mon Jul 6 07:07:45 EDT 2009

I do not think that this is a fair summary of
(or a sufficient comment on)
V.S. Rajam's article
(which appeared in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 
106, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1986), pp. 257-272
and which is available on JSTOR at


I shall simply say that
all my colleagues who can read original Tamil sources
and with whom I have spoken about V.S. Rajam's article
think that it is an excellent article
and that many of the points of view expressed by G.Hart
are superseded by the points of view expressed in this article.

Quoting the Madras Tamil Lexicon (MTL)
as a comment on VSR's article
is simply insufficient
because the MTL is a compilation based on various sources
and does not have an authority which would be independant
from the authority that those sources possess.

And the DED is itself a preliminary compilation of various dictionaries.

Therefore, the ongoing collective thought process, as far as aṇaṅku 
(அணங்கு) is concerned, is:

-- Step 1: compilation of MTL

-- Step 2: compilation of DED

-- Step 3: George Hart presents his views on aṇaṅku (அணங்கு)

-- Step 4: VSR argues that George Hart's view do not fairly represent 
the available philological data

-- Step 5: ...

However, since I have the impression that everybody on the Indology list
has had enough of that thread,
I shall simply recommend
as Step 5
to anyone interested
in the topic of aṇaṅku (அணங்கு) to read V.S. Rajam's article
and to form their own opinion.

I believe the best way a debate on a mailing list can end
is when one receives an incentive for further reading.

Best wishes

-- Jean-Luc Chevillard (Paris)

George Hart a écrit :
> [...] As for aNanku, the DED gives cognates in several languages, and 
> the Lexicon says, "1 pain, affliction, suffering 2 disease 3 fear 4 
> lust 5 killing 6 deity 7 celestial damsel 8 demoness that takes away 
> one's life by awakening lust or by other means 9 beautiful woman, as 
> resembling a celestial damsed 10 devil 11 dancing under religious 
> excitement, especially possession by skanda 12 low-caste person 13 
> beauty 14 form 15 young offspring" (Note the last meaning is given a 
> different entry in DED). As a verb, the word means "to suffer," "to 
> afflict," and is connected with Kannada aNunku, "depress, humble, 
> ruin, destroy." Rajam is a fine scholar, but I do not think she has 
> established that the word means anything other than "afflict" or 
> something similar in any of her examples. And then, of course, we have 
> the notion of aNanku in musical instruments played by performers (who, 
> yes, are low caste) and in the breasts of beautiful women (because 
> they bewitch men). And certainly, there is no commentator who sees the 
> word as meaning anything other than "afflict" in some sense.

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