Sanskrit, centamiz, and diglossia

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Mon Jul 6 01:07:03 UTC 1998

In a message dated 98-07-05 07:08:20 EDT, jlc at CCR.JUSSIEU.FR writes:

<< I would be interested to know on what basis
 you give such an early date.

 I have always thought that S.Vaiyapuri Pillai, editor
 of Tamil Lexicon (1924-1936 & 1938-39) argued convincingly
 that a big part of Sangam literature pre-dated Tolkappiyam,
 (and not the other way round).

 He proposes that what we have of Sangam litterature was composed
 after the beginning of the Christian Era (and later collected
 into anthologies) but that Tolkappiyam was composed
 in the second half of 5th century CE.

 I know he was somehow BLACK-LISTED in Tamil Nadu
 for giving late dates to Tamil classics
 [this infuriated some people:
 see the introduction to NCBH revised edition (1988)
 of his "History of Tamil language and literature" (1956)].

 This black-listing may have been part of the reason for Zvelebil
 proposing (in the Smile of Murugan, if I remember correctly)
 that an Ur-Tolkappiyam  was composed very early
 (at a date that might even agree with what you suggest)
 while the Tolkappiyam as we have it now was composed
 at a date that agrees with some of Vaiyapuri Pillai's arguments.
 (As we say in French, I thought he wanted to please
 "la ch�vre et le chou" [the goat and the cabbage]
 at the same time)

 I am personnaly interested in matters more a-temporal
 (we do not need to know precisely when a text was composed
 before we find it interesting or not ...)
 but I know that chronology cannot be altogether ignored
 (even though some questions can never be answered).
 So I would be very glad to know what you find
 most authoritative in recent literature
 concerning the chronology of Tamil corpora of classical texts.

 Best regards >>

I think it is high time scholars gave a decent burial to SVP's date for
Tolkappiyam, for the following reasons. Since I have only access to his tamizc
cuTar maNikaL I am basing my arguments on that. I think the views of SVP found
in TCM are essentially the same as the ones in HTLL because Zvelebil, in his
discussion of the date of Tolkappiyam uses TCM as well as HTTL.

There are two relevant issues here. One is the relative dating of T with
respect to Classical Tamil texts and the absolute dating based on the relative
dating of T w.r.t to Patanjali.

1. In his discussions, whenever there is a similarity between a feature in
Sanskrit and Tamil, SVP assumes Sanskrit is the donor and Tamil the borrower.
Take for example the etymology of the word "mAlai" garland. In page 25, he
says it is borrowed from Sanskrit into Tamil. However, with their
comparative/historical linguistic perspective Burrow and Emeneau, in DED 3954,
derive it from Dravidian.

2. As for similarities between Tolkappiyam and any specific Sanskrit
Grammarian, there is a problem here as well. I do not have access to V. S.
Rajam's dissertation. But this is what the dissertation abstract says. "The
question of the relation of the first available Tamil grammar TolkAppiyam to
various Sanskrit grammatical works remains unresolved.
Divergent views proposing Sanskrit sources for the Tamil grammar and vice
versa have been expressed in the past by Western and non-Western scholars.
However, there is no single, comprehensive, systematic and unbiased study that
brings out the methodological differences or similarities between the grammars
of the two traditions-- Tamil and Sanskrit.
The present study ias an attempt in that direction, and it lloks at the
methods of grammatical description adopted by the authors of various
grammatical works representing the two traditions.....
The study shows that: (1) The TolkAppiyam and each one of the Sanskrit texts
considered here share some characteristics regarding their methods of
description. (2) There are also significant dissimilarities between the
methods  of grammatical description found in the TolkAppiyam and those of
Sanskrit works. (3) The Sanskrit works vary considerably among themselves in
their approach in describing Sanskrit. At the same time, they are not totally
divergent from one another.
Considering all this, this study proposes a 'galaxy model' for the ancient
Indian grammatical tradition. This 'galaxy model' considers the authors of the
unknown grammatical works as numerous unidentifiable stars and the authors of
the extant grammatical works as giant stars."

In short, there is no clear linkage between any one particular Sanskrit
grammarian and Tolkappiyam. Any resemblance between T and a Sanskrit
grammarian could be just due to the different grammatical traditions. Thus one
cannot really say anything about the relationship between T and Patanjali.
(For a related discussion see a post entitled Amazing Patanjali... last year.

As for the relative dating of T with respect to CT, Zvelebil's arguments are
logical as found in The Smile of Murugan, pp.142-143.

As for the 5th century date for T, SVP asumes the integrity of the whole text
which others do not. That itself opens a fatal logical flaw. For instance, he
considers the contents of the pAyiram as valid. In fact, he uses that to
establish that T is from the Travancore area. If we pursue that further, we
should accept that T was presented in the court of a Pandiyan king. If SVP's
date of 5th century is valid, then T was presented in the court of a Pandiyan
king of the 5th century. But there was no such king. That was the post-
classical period of the Kalabhra interregnum. There were no Pandiyan kings in
the 5th century. The first Pandiyan king after the kalabhras, kaTuGkOn2, came
to power in AD 560 according to K. A. Nilakanta Sastry ( A History of South
India, p.172).  That means the 5th century date SVP established based on the
latest of Natyasastra, Arthasastra, Manava Dharmasastra and Kamasutra's dates
is wrong. The only way to resolve is to allow for the possibility of
interpolations/additions to an earlier text. This is what other scholars have

As for the reasons of using 1st or 2nd century BC for T in my discussion, KZ
says, "Thus, the nuclear portions of Tolkappiyam were probably born sometime
in the 2nd or !st Cent. B.C., but hardly before 150 B.C." (The Smile of
Murugan, p. 147). The nURpAs I discussed were in the first book of T and I
think they are generally considered to be part of the earlier text.

Interestingly, the later the date of Tolkappiyam is, the more valid my
argument for a strong tradition of a Standard/high Tamil becomes. If we take
SVP's date of 5th century AD, it means almost a millennium after pANini, Tamil
had still maintained the distinction between l and L rather successfully, with
deviations from the standard being discouraged on the whole quite well.

S. Palaniappan

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