:-) Happy Pongal & Solution for India's language problem :-)

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sat Jan 15 05:59:31 UTC 2000

Happy Pongal everybody. On this Tamil festival day, I would like the members
to consider the following.

Based on the recent and past discussions in Indology, I offer a solution to
the language problem in India. Given the multilingual ability of Indians, we
should make Tamil also an official/link language of India as well as a
classical language.

Why give this status to Tamil? Tamil has the least number of letters. If even
that is a problem, all Indian alphabets can be romanized. Since many
non-Tamils already show interest in the Tamil texts like Tirukkural,
Kambaramayanam, etc., and the zrIvaiSNava philosophy treats Sanskrit and
Tamil as equals, having Sanskrit and Classical Tamil as classical languages
is justified.  Then, it is only natural their descendants, Hindi and modern
Tamil, should be link languages. Also, as even Vishalji would agree, Tamil
had been exceptional in maintaining a language-based identity and Tamilians
have always been the main ones opposing Hindi. By co-opting Tamil this way,
the opposition to Hindi will lose its steam. We do not have to worry about
the extent of Asoka's or Aurangazeb's empire. (Also, north Indians can enjoy
the devotional hymns of AzvArs and nAyan2mars in the original, unmediated by
English.) Since north and east Indians have no problem with Hindi anyway, we
should be only worried about the reaction to Tamil, especially from the

Here I do not think Malayalis will object very much. Apart from shared
history, almost every Malayalam movie has a Tamil character whose dialogue is
not subtitled. In a video store where I check out Malayalam movies, I find
Malayalis checking out more Tamil movies. As for Telugus, unlike some former
Indology members, Rama Rao, the founder of Telugu Desam Party liked and spoke
Tamil fluently. In the past, his house in Madras used to be a popular spot
for Andhra tourists visiting Madras. Many Tamils thought he was a Tamil and
that Lord Krishna looked just like him. I heard even Naidu knows Tamil.
Moreover politically, Tamilnadu and Andhra have collaborated a lot in the
recent years. Also knowing some Tamil, Telugus will be able to enjoy the
AzvAr hymns in the Tirupati temple rituals.

That leaves Kannadigas. There we have a problem. But even there we can point
out the advantage of having Kannadigas learning Tamil rather than the other
way around. If Tamils learn Kannada, the Tamil influx into Bangalore will
increase much more. On the other hand, if Kannadigas learn Tamil, they can
come and settle in Tamilnadu and get jobs in the growing software industry in
Chennai. That should satisfy Kannadigas.

May be I should address the case of Maharashtra after all. Shiv Sena's
resentment of Tamil immigrants is well-known. As I pointed out, Tamil
identity is based on language use. Take the case of Shivaji Rao Gaikwad, a
Maharashtrian and erstwhile Bangalore bus conductor. As Rajnikant, the film
actor, he is the kingmaker of Tamilnadu politics. So if Maharashtrians learn
Tamil, sky is the limit for them in Tamilnadu. Moreover, they can come and
visit their brethern settled around Tanjore from the days of Maratha rule. We
also have to consider the advantage for Gujaratis. They can link up with
their long-lost relatives, the Saurashtras settled in large numbers in
Tamilnadu. For a very long time, a Saurashtra, T. M. Soundararajan, was the
leading playback singer of Tamil films.

What about Sanskritists, the mainstay of Indology? Many Sanskritists wish
they had learnt Tamil also. At least now, they can look forward to future
Indologists with a good knowledge of Tamil. And they do not have to trust
what guys like me say about Tamil texts.

But what is in it for BJP? As you may know, Tamilnadu Chief Minister has
requested Vajpayee to declare year 2000 as the year of Tamil. By making Tamil
also as a link/official language as well as a Classical language, BJP will
immediately strengthen the ruling coalition. BJP can satisfy the Hindu
aspirations by implementing what the zaiva and vaiSNava bhakti saints wanted
-- parity between Sanskrit and Tamil. They can also achieve the strategic
goal of coming to power in Tamilnadu by outdoing the Dravidian parties. Of
course, for this, they will have Tamil along with Hindi for all official
transactions. This means even Air India, and Indian Airlines will have to
include announcements in Tamil. However, by doing that they can compete with
Singapore Airlines which is patronized by many Tamils.

Internationally, this will have important consequences. Seeing the position
of Tamil in India, Sri Lanka will make Tamil an official language also. That
will mean the end of civil war in that country. Further all Indians will feel
quite at home visiting  Singapore and Sri Lanka where Tamil enjoys some
official status. They can also visit Thailand's royal ceremonies where Tamil
hymns are part of the ritual. Indian government can cut down on the security
expenditure for people like Jayalalita.

Non-Indian Indologists tired of Dravidian-IA conflict can pursue other topics
without rancor on the list and off the list. Indology will also benefit from
a collaboration of  Tamil and Sanskrit studies. All in all, it will be a
win-win situation for everybody.

Oh, I forgot an important thing. With Chennai being the leading center of
Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music, non-Tamils who want daughters-in-law
trained in these arts, will be able to communicate with them easily. But
Tamils would like to make sure this is not a north-south hypergamy. Like the
non-Tamil Rashtrakuta princess marrying the Tamil Chola, north Indian females
should be given in marriage to Tamil  grooms also.

I request Vishalji and Bharatji to convince the Indian Government of the
merits of this solution. :-) :-)

S. Palaniappan

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list