vaTakalai and ten2kalai (3)

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Thu Jun 17 00:11:05 UTC 1999

Consider the literal interpretation of the terms vaTakalai and ten2kalai by
Paul Younger and Vasudha Narayanan.

Paul Younger's
ten2kalai - Southerners
vaTakalai - Northern sect

Vasudha Narayanan's
ten2kalai - southern culture
vaTakalai - northern culture

> From the sectarian differences described by both, clearly there is a
difference in emphasis between the two sects, i.e., between Sanskrit and
Tamil traditions. Philology,  establishes *beyond any doubt* the meanings of
the terms as has been used from 8th through 16th centuries. I think the
sectarian leader who first used the terms vaTakalai and ten2kalai to denote
the sects must have been well-versed in the Tamil tradition. While the
differences in emphasis may have been minor for others, for him it must have
been significant enough to identify the sects by the terms indicating
Sanskrit and Tamil texts. The geographic factor is an independent factor
altogether. (The differences seem to have existed even before varadAcArya set
up his base in kAncipuram.) If varadAcArya  had been from zrIvilliputtUr
(like periyAzvAr and ANTAL) and he had left zrIrangam and set up his base in
zrIvilliputtUr, still the sects could have been called vaTakalai and
ten2kalai. In this case, vaTakalai would have been based in a southern
location and the ten2kalai would have been based in a northern location!
After all, there have been a considerable number of vaTamas in Tirunelveli
and Kanyakumari regions.

On the other hand, when the tradition uses the term "ten2n2AcArya" it could
be interpreted literally in a geographic sense. Thus while ten2kalai is
language-based, ten2n2AcArya could be geography-based.

What is surprising to me is this. If what Lakshmi Srinivas says about the
traditional interpretation is correct, given the level of Tamil scholarship
that has prevailed among ten2kalai scholars, how  could the tradition
interpret "kalai" in vaTakalai and ten2kalai as "type" or "category"
assigning an intra-Tamilnadu geographic basis for the terms? Is it due to a
lack of rigorous philological approach among later scholars that led them to
miss the very deliberate choice made by the early sectarian scholars?  Or has
there been a deliberate attempt by later traditional scholars to interpret
the origin of differences as geography-based so that the significance of the
differences can be minimized leading to the unification of the community?

S. Palaniappan

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