Tamil's contribution to Paninian grammatical tradition

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Tue Nov 11 20:15:19 UTC 1997

In an excellent article in JAOS 117.3 (1997) entitled, "Who Inspired PANini?
Reconstructing the Hindu and Buddhist Counter-Claims", M. M. Deshpande traces
 the competition of the zaivite  claim on PANinian grammar with claims of the
Buddhists and "points out that the competing claims on behalf of ziva and
avalokitezvara can be best understood as originating specific local
traditions in the northwestern part of the Indian sub-continent, where the
same local divinity was recognized by the zaivas and Buddhists as ziva and
avalokitezvara, respectively. He also suggests that the "participation of the
Buddhists in the transmission and interpretation of the PANinian grammar
eventually led the PANinian grammarians gradually to separate the Vedic rules
from the rules for colloquial Sanskrit, and that this has resulted in an
attenuation of interest in the Vedic rules, and greater prominence for
colloquial rules." 

I am not a Sanskritist. But based on the evidence presented by Deshpande, the
Tamil grammatical and literary traditions, and Chinese accounts of  Tamil
region, a case could be  made that the zaivite and Buddhist claims originated
not in the northwest of Indian subcontinent but in the southern portion of
 ancient Tamil region which includes present Tamilnadu and Kerala. For this
to be resolved, the critical problem is the identification of a mountain
called "potalaka". Deshpande has used S. Beal�s report of Yuan Chwang�s
travelogue. Other scholars such as Lal Mani Joshi and Shu Hikosaka based on
Thomas Watter's work on Yuan Chwang's travels, have identified the
"potiyil/potikai/potikai" mountain in Tamilnadu as "potalaka". According to
Joshi, maJjuzrimUlakalpa was discovered from Manalikkara Matam near
Padmanabhapuram in South India. Cunnningham, Nandolal De, and N. Dutt all
suggest that  "potiyil" is "potalaka". 

If all these scholars are right, and Beal is wrong, then there are many
reasons to believe that we should look to the "potiyil" region for
considerable grammatical contribution. After all the relationship between
Tamil, potiyil, and a sage at potiyil  is part of Tamil tradition. Even MBh
associates potiyil with agastya. Tolkappiyar most probably hailed from the
area near potiyil. The preface to his grammar states that he based his
grammar on "vazakku" and "ceyyuL", i.e, "(common) usage" and "poetry". So the
contribution to PANinian tradition by Buddhists may very well have been due
to the Tamil grammatical tradition. "potiyil" is also known as "malaya" which
can be translated as "parvata". So the preservation of Paninian tradition by
candragomin may have been from "potiyil" as well. There are other interesting
resonances as well.


S. Palaniappan

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