puLLi, a "negative" letter

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 7 19:35:22 UTC 1999

>In the thread under Tamil Heritage, Nanda Chandran writes:
>>[...] "the "ku" - ka + u, is used for spelling"..

  In Tamil, "ku" is *not* "ka + u". Actually, ku = k + u .

  In Tamil orthography, an important symbol is in use and
TolkAppiyam has several sUtra (ta. "nURpA") for it.
It is called "puLLi" (dot). The role of 'puLLi' (dot) over
the 18  tamil letters  (ka, Ga, ca, Ja, Ta, Na, ta, na, pa, ma, ya, ra, la,
va, za, La, Ra, n2a) is to subtract the inherant "a"
from them giving rise to pure consonants ('mey'/body) k, G, c, J ..


            ka - a = k

And, a "puLLi" plays the role of "-a" (subtracting "a" out).
             "puLLi" = -a

We often hear that Indians invented "zero" and the mahayana concept of
shunyavAda. The use of the concept of the "negative letter" (puLLi)
to subtract out "a"s in Tamil orthography for 2000 years makes
me pose a question:

When did Indians start using symbols for subtraction? And, zero?
Once they knew the difference between + and - signs, zero falls
in place.

N. Ganesan

PS: The 'puLLi' is the important historically to distinguish between
kumArashambhava/kumArshambhav, bhagavAn/bhagvAn, ...

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