Linguistic fights: Sanskrit vs Tamil
mmdesh at UMICH.EDU
Wed Nov 11 11:34:16 UTC 1998
Here is an article from today's Times of India:
TIMES OF INDIA
Wednesday 11 November 1998
Lingua franca of Tamil gods: Sanskrit
By Sudha G Tilak
The Times of India News Service
CHENNAI: What do the gods in Tamil Nadu temples want to hear
from their devotees? ``Only Tamil,'' say Dravidian
ideologues and Tamil scholars.``Nothing but Sanskrit,''
contend saffron groups.
The issue heated up recently with petitions and
counter-petitions being filed in the Chennai High Court.
In the first week of October, president of the Hindu
Temples' Protection Committee V S Sri Kumar filed a writ
petition in the high court seeking to restrain the state
government from interfering in the temple rituals. He argued
that though Sanskrit was the language prescribed in the
agama (mode of worship) texts, the Hindu Religious and
Charitable Endowments Act (HR&CE) secretary under the orders
of the state government had directed that pujas and archanas
in temples be conducted only in Tamil.
This, he said was in violation of Articles 25 and 26 of the
Constitution which stated that rituals and mantras could not
Following his writ, the Madras High Court led by Chief
Justice M S Liberhan issued a notice to the HR & CE
secretary on October 15.
The secretary had earlier claimed that there was no
compulsion to perform pujas only in Tamil.
On October 30, Pazha Karrupiah, a social worker made a
counter plea in the high court that Sanskrit as the mode of
chanting mantras was redundant as it was not understood by
many, including Brahmins who since long conducted prayers in
Tamil and Sanskrit.
Tamil scholars point out that the agamas prescribe Tamil and
18 other Indian languages as a means of worship. Karuppiah
contended in his petition that by insisting on Sanskrit, Mr
Sri Kumar was giving the impression that the gods knew only
Sanskrit and hence all other languages were inferior.
Adding fuel to the court battles, a day later at a public
meeting in Salem, state minister for Tamil culture and
language M Tamilkudimaghan said the state needed a god who
`listened' to Tamil prayers and there was no place for those
who did not want the Tamil mode of worship.
``It is important that the government concentrates on
solving problems like caste clashes rather than decide on
the people's mode of worship,'' says L Ganesan, district
secretary of the BJP.
Asks Cho Ramaswamy, political commentator: ``If those using
Sanskrit to worship in temples are asked to leave the state,
will the minister ask Allah to leave since mosques conduct
prayers in Arabic?''
Says Rama Gopalan, president of the Hindu Munnani: ``The
DMK's language policy is now being thrust upon the temples,
following their long-standing anti-north, anti-god tenets.
God understands all languages, even those of the dumb. Hence
the choice should be of the people's.''
``Devotees should have the choice to conduct worship in
traditional or non-traditional mode. A secular government
has no business to dictate how devotees should act in
religious matters,'' reiterates Mr Cho Ramaswamy.
Ironically, Tamil and Sanskrit are known to have links in
their structure and growth.
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