Tamil's contribution to Paninian grammatical tradition

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Thu Nov 13 07:05:06 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-11-12 14:56:49 EST, aklujkar at UNIXG.UBC.CA writes:

<< Despite its proximity to Sri Lanka, despite its
 connections with Southeast Asian countries and despite the  pigrimages of
 Buddhists to Naagaarjuna-ko.n.daa etc. recorded in inscriptions., South
 India seems to have lost interest in studying exclusively or typically
 Buddhist works for a long time. Its living and sustained interaction with
 Buddhism seems to have ceased early in the first millenium A.D. (Is there
 any Buddhist philosopher after Dharma-kiirti, 6th-7th century A.D., who is
 said to be of South Indian origin?) >>

Vajrabhodhi came after DharmakIrti. Shu Hikosaka says that he "was one of the
three famous teachers of Esoteric Buddhism..According to the Chinese
chronicle, vajrabodhi was born in Malaya kingdom in South India." After his
stay in India and Sri Lanka, he went to China and propagated Buddhism and
died in 741 A.D. After his death, his disciple amoghavajra and came to Sri
Lanka and India. The association of Esoteric Buddhism with the avayagiri sect
of Sri Lanka which flourished among the Tamils there was due to the
activities of vajrabodhi and amoghavajra. Apparently, amoghavajra collected
more than 500 Esoteric texts, sUtras, zAstras, and other texts from South
India and returned to China in 746 A.D. In 772 A.D., he got specific
buildings for maJjuzrI bodhisattva constructed in each temple in China and
the image of maJjuzrI installed in them.

In a pre-publication version of a paper, R. Nagaswamy says the following.
Epigraphical and archeological evidence suggests that Buddhism survived in
Tamilnadu upto the end of 16/beginning of 17th century. nAgappaTTin2am on the
coast had a famous vihAra which seems to have faced some crisis around the
beginning of 14th century which caused them to bury their icons and leave.
The nAgappaTTin2am icons (there are 350 of them including avalokitezvara,
lokezvara, SadakSari Lokesvara, tAra, and khadiravAni tAra) have inscriptions
in Tamil (no Sanskrit or Pali). Epigraphical records indicate the existence
of a vihAra in Tanjavur in the year 1579. Quoting I. K. Sharma, Nagasamy also
says that Tamil monks were in zrI parvata in nAgArjunakoNDa during the time
of the ikSvAku king, vIrapuruSadatta.

One possible reason for lack of discovery of Buddhist texts in
Tamilnadu/Kerala area might have been the persecution by the followers of
Bhakthi cults and the close proximity of refuge in Sri Lanka. It is a miracle
that maNimEkalai, the Buddhist epic survived. Even in this century, scholars
like U. V. Saminathaiyer and Vaiyapurippillai faced opposition from some
orthodox zaivas for publishing non-zaiva Classical Tamil texts.  We should
probably look to Sinhalese, Chinese, and other sources for materials with
information on Buddhism/Buddhist philosophers in Tamilnadu. Does anybody know
if mayilai cIni vEnkatTasAmi refer to any Buddhist works that are lost?

Is there anybody out there who can throw some conclusive light on the actual
location of "potalaka"? It is really perplexing how "potalaka" can be
identified as two places so far apart, one in the northwest of India and one
near Cape Comorin.

By the way, according to R. Ghose, "It is significant that the tyAgarAja
temple in tiruvoRRiyUr has a vyAkaraNamaNDapa, a pavilion for the teaching of
grammar and the God is called vyAkaraNadAnapperumAL or the "Lord who has
given grammar as his gift." Inscriptions connect this temple with the
kALAmukhas of Kashmir.

Of course, if candracArya is not the same as candragomin, then we have two
similar and possibly separate traditions linking grammar and gods.


S. Palaniappan

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