Q: intervocalic -k- preserved as intervocalic -g-

RM.Krishnan poo at GIASMD01.VSNL.NET.IN
Sun Oct 24 10:38:48 UTC 1999

Dear Nanda Chandran,

At 10/19/99 5:03:00 PM, you wrote:

>RM Krishnan writes :
>>These pro-sukra Brahmins practiced a modified form of vedic
>>yagnas. They also included many native practices including that of Agamas
>>originating in the south. These people
>>were called Brihacharanas. They settled first around Thiru ANNamalai, about
>>125 kilometres from the present CheNNai. Subsequently, when Buddism and
>>Jainism became popular in the Magath kingdom (600BC-200Bc) and perhaps the
>>entire north and northeast India, quite a number of pro-Brhaspathi
>>Brahmins, especially from Kashi (BeNAras), also moved into the south and
>>further into Tamilnadu. They were called the vadamAs (northeners). Even
>>today, philosophically there are differences between the two groups and
>>marriages are entered into reluctantly. There is now a gradual assimilation
>>between the two groups, due to modern influences.

>I'm not at all sure this reflects the true reason for the friction
>between Vadamas and other brahmins in Tamil Nadu. As far as I've
>observed the 'superiority' of the Vadama, springs mostly from the
>perceived closer connection to Vedic culture and Samskrutam, than
>the other brahmins in Tamil Nadu (probably because they were the last
>to come into Tamil Nadu).

I have not stated otherwise. What I have said was that there could have been at least two migrations into Tamilnadu.
The earlier migration group, (probably the BrihatcharaNam) got very much aligned with the Tamil traditions
(dropping some of their own original traditions and modifying certain others) and the last (mainly Vadamas) less so
during the Sangam period. (There have been beautiful exceptions, like the three Vadama poets of the Sangam period,
viz., vadama vaNNakkan thAmOtharanAr, vadama vaNNakkan perunjcAththanAr, vadamavaNNakkan
pEricAththanAr). I have never said that the BrihatcharaNam are anti-vedic (and I would be the last person to say so).
There might also have been conversion from Tamil intelligentia into Brahminism.

I now quote from Prof.N.Subrahmanian (The Brahmin in the Tamil country,p31).

"Now, the first arrivals created a sympathetic interest among the native Tamil wise men many of whom converted
themselves to Brahminism through a sociological process proved possible by Visvamitra. The early arrivals settled
down in certain important centres to pursue their hieratic activities and along with the converts who followed the
Brahmins in every respect like wearing the sacred thread, performing the yagas etc., established the Tamil
Brahminical tradition. This was the earliest phase of Sanskritisation in the Tamil country.

These earliest settlers and the earliest converts constituted the largest Brahmin lineage in the Tamil country in those
times and was therefore called the Brihatcharanas, and they were designated with reference to their native
settlement, as the malanAdu*, Thiru aNNamalai**, Satyamangalam etc. The lack of sufficient communication in
those times which made most Indians stay-at-homes added to a native tendency to extend endogamy to its utmost
limit prevented intermarriages even within these sects, though they were all pro-sukras, and therefore, Kappias. A
particular group which settled in a village called eNNAyiram of which we have later epigraphic reference as a centre
of vedic study came to be called eNNAyiravar, sanskritised into ashtahasrAs. The anti-sukras who arrived perhaps a
couple of centuries or more later were treated by other arrivals as the northeners or the vadamas; it was not so much
the direction from which they came which gave them the name as the tradition they followed and represented. The
difference in tradition between these two groups related rather to their attitude to certain religious affliations and
social customs; but the difference was emphasized by distinct modes of dress etc., and total ban on intermarriage
between the northern groups as a whole and the rest a tradition which largely holds good even today."

{* - malanadu is also called mAngudi - a village in the Trichirappalli district.
** -I  have wrongly stated the distance from CheNNai as around 125 KM; Mr.Anbumani has given the correct distance
as around 200KM.]

I narrated the analogy of migration into Tamil country mainly to highlight the plausible split of the then Aryan
intelligentia as pro-Brhaspathi and pro-Sukra groups during the later vedic times.  I only said that one group identified
themselves with Asuras (who, as Parpolo had suggested, could also have been Indo-Europeans but merged into the
dravidian sub-strata) rather than with DEvAs (who were the later arrivals). (I would like to elaborate on this point; but
then it would be a digression of the topic we are discussing; perhaps  I would take up in another posting.)

This division might have got accentuated leading to a deeper division during the puraNic period and forcing a
migration to the south from the Aryavartha.  Hence the vedic Agastya could not be identified with the puraNic
Agastya of the migration myth. This is the basic premise for me to suggest a  different etymology of the name
'Agastya', rather than the traditional etymology offered by Sanskritists. I surmise the name to be closely related to the
word 'Athan' in Tamil whose allographs are also prevalent in other Indo-European and Dravidian languages.

>But note that the bruhacharanam, AshtashAstram, VAthimA etc are
>themselves stauch smarthas and followers of Adi ShankarAchArya. And
>considering the strong anti non-brahmin attitude which is revealed
>in samskrutic and especially VedAntic literature concerning the
>non-eligibility of non-brahmins to study the Vedic literature, the
>argument that they were anti-Vedic or anti-Brhaspathy doesn't find
>much support.

 I do not say that the brahmins other than vadamAs are non-vedic. I have also not said that non-brahmins were
encouraged to study vedic literature. But still you cannot stop somebody from studying. Through out the history in the
south, there has always been brahmins like RamanujAchArya tolerating this un-holy practice of baptising the heathen
by fire. (A remnant practice now-a-days is to make the non-brahmins temporarily wear the sacred thread during
shrardhA ceremony after performing certain rites.) To say otherwise of conversions would be against history. All this
earlier frictions between different sects of brahmins (including vadamAs, non-vadamAs and converts, coloureds, pure
and impure etc.) does not prevent them to become stauch smArthAs. (Incidentally, the brahmins history does not jump
from the vedic period to the period of Adi Shankara; and once becoming smArtha, one cannot say that every other
thing is of no consequence.)

>And also there's hardly any evidence that the non-vadamas married
>into non-brahmin groups. There are as casteist as the vadamas. And
>though there's some reluctance for marraige alliances between the Vadamas
>and non-vadamas, it's not unusual either.

I have not clearly alluded to any marriage alliances. At the same time, it might be a sweeping statement to say that
there is non-evidence for that. Classical example could perhaps be the SivAcharyas in the temples. These are the
people who have been often ostracised because of their defence of Saivism and earlier Tamil traditions.  But then, my
arguement of the schism is not through marriage alliances. The mix of the traditions could be through simple routes of
assimilation, namely  when you are in Rome, you do as Romans do. This is what earlier non-vadama sects might have
sensibly done. In turn, to vadamAs, coming before Adi shankarA, might have wanted to protect the pure vedic
traditions without localisation; this might have been the friction point between them and the non-vadamas.

>That RAmanujAchArya was a vadama and probably quite a few of his
>immediate followers (VedAnta DesikA too) were Vadamas and that
>it's generally considered that the Vadamas would *mature* into
>Vaishnavism (read VisishtAdvaitam), might have been one of the
>reasons for the friction between vadamas and other brahmin sects.

Not all vaishNavaits are vadamAs and vice versa.

>But also note that the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, has had some Vadamas
>as ShankarAchAryas too. The present pontiff Jayendra Saraswati, too,
>I think is a Vadama.
>And Vadamas don't look down upon other Tamil smarthas only. I've even
>heard vadamas who reside in Palaghat, speak with contempt about
>Namboodaris too! And Madhvas and also Vadama Iyengars too don't find
>much favor.
>I think it's just a case of the "one who's preserved the pure tradition".

This is precisely what I was emphasizing. The friction is between the ones following the so called pure traditions and
the ones who compromised with the natives.

>So reading an Aryan-Dravidian clash in the friction between Tamizh
>brahmins is stretching it a bit too far!

I think, it is quite a sweeping statement. Perhaps you are reading between the lines.

The basic question was about the etymology of the name 'Agastya'. I gave reasons for not accepting the traditional
etymology. Before giving a new etymology, I had to emphasize that the migration of Aryans could have occurred more
than once. Subsequently, friction could have developed within the intelligentia of the Aryans and the alluded split
could have occurred. I also gave an anology of brahmins migrating into Tamilakam in the puraNic period, with the
frictions carried along. Let us put the facts straight. The dravidians were only in the sub-strata and the conflict I
suggested was between two groups of Aryans. Agastya of the puraNic period belonged to the group following the pro-
SukrA traditions.

Often myths do indicate the outlines of proto-history. And Indian myths do talk about three groups of yonder years: the
dEvAs, the asurAs and the manithAs; unfortunately, the silent manithAs were always in the background without
protoganists :-).

With regards,

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