Democracy in old India

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 25 09:21:58 UTC 2000

>What you are talking is about the post-sangam era. Pallavan rule
>marks the definite break with the Classical Tamil sangam period,
>and the nascent feudal society with land-owning castes being formed.

Yes, I noticed.

But the tone of the argument out here seems to be that at one point in time
Tamilagam was democratic and "secular" (whatever this word might mean!) and
Tamils were fiercely patriotic about their language and protected it from
Sanskritic influence. And it is later that the evil influence of the
Brahmanical system corrupted Tamil values.

If I remember right KA Nilakanta Shastri quotes from the Sangam texts to
prove the existence of the Tamil caste system - so the "fuedal" system is
foreign to Tamil culture is not too convincing.

If the Tamil caste system had its origins in its brahmanical counterpart,
why was the traditional - priest, warrior, merchant, servant - formula not
followed? Why is a farmer (VellALar) superior to a warrior (maravar)?

And if Sangam poets prove their patriotism to Tamil by protecting it from
the influence of Sanskrit, so are the bhakti poets to be taken as less
patriotic, since they accepted Sanskrit?

It would be more logical to think that Tamil wise men questioned
Brahmin/Sanskrit notions of supremacy at the early stages. But with the
passage of time both the streams reconciled and accepted each other, with
brahmins composing works in Tamil and Tamil scholars appreciating and
endorsing the religious literature in Sanskrit.
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