Democracy in old India

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Mon Aug 21 06:58:18 UTC 2000

Literacy is not merely the acquisition of reading and writing skills. To be 
meaningful and creative, literacy has to be based on one's own mother tongue. 
In this sense the early Tamil society had achieved true literacy with a 
popular base rooted in the native language. On the other hand, Upper South 
India had in this period only elitist literacy based on Prakrit and not the 
native languages of the region.
The main reason for the contrasting developments in the growth of literacy as 
between the two regions appears to be the political independence of the Tamil 
country and its absence in Upper South India at the relevant period…As a 
direct result of political independence, Tamil remained the language of 
administration, of learning and instruction, and of public discourse 
throughout the Tamil country...That is, while the Brahmi script was borrowed, 
the Prakrit language was not allowed to be imposed along with it from outside.
References to self-governing village councils like ambalam, potiyil and 
man2Ram in the Sangam literature and to mercantile guilds (nigama) in the 
Tamil-Brahmi records show that there was a long tradition of local 
self-government in the Tamil society. In such an environment literacy would 
have received special impetus as it would serve to strengthen local 
self-government institutions and mercantile guilds." (Studies in History, 11, 
2, n.s., 1995, p.182-5)

Vidyasankar said, "Well, there are people who read socialism and/or communism 
into the philosophical stance that everything is the one Brahman, from the 
god brahmA to a blade of grass." The universalist ideals of Tamil society 
were not based on such an unrealistic  view of life. They were grounded in a 
very pragmatic attitude. (see puRam 189). Thus, Classical Tamil culture was 
different from the Indian culture as it is usually understood.

S. Palaniappan 

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