SV: Classical languages of India

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Mon Oct 2 06:19:00 UTC 2000

But when rAmAnuja praises viSNu as "O nArAyaNa, beloved consort of zrI and of
bhUmi, and nILA", the name nILA suggests a link to the Tamil source of

Similarly, one can get indirect evidence that non-Tamil scholars did know
Tamil. John Marr says the following:
The commentary of taruNAVAcaspati on daNDin's kAvyadarza includes what is
probably a Sanskrit notice of the eight Tamil anthologies. Commenting on
kAvyadarza 1,13 he states:
"saGghAtaH ekArthaviSayaH, ekArtRkaH, padyasaGghAtaH, zaratsaGghAta
dramiDasanghAtAdivat" (The Eight Anthologies, 1985, p.12-13)

George Hart (1976), in his analysis of the shared elements in the use of
suggestion in Sanskrit and Tamil, stated, "Sanskrit did not borrow from Tamil
because clearly the Sanskrit writers were not acquainted with the Tamil
tradition" but from the mahArASTri Prakit tradition which, in turn, came from
a Deccani megalithic tradition. However, Siegfried Lienhard (1984) attributes
more direct influence by Tamil on the Prakrit tradition when she says, "
hAla's reign coincided with the flowering of Tamil caGkam lyrical poetry
which, having already reached perfection in form and content, quite possibly
exercised an influence on creative writing in maharASTra." My work on "uraga"
and "AlavAy" has established that Kalidasa was knowledgeable about the
literary elements found in CT referring to Pandyan kings. The motif of
sandal/malaya mountain breezes affecting separated lovers is another clue
that Sanskrit poets must have been familiar with Tamil motifs.  After all,
potiyil mountain is in the Tamil country and the motif appears early in Tamil

The following discussion in tantravArttika of kumArila bhaTTa also indicates
some knowledge of Tamil among the Sanskrit scholarly elite: "As for example,
in the drAviDa language, though all words are used as ending in the
consonant, yet the Aryas are found to assume in them affixes, &c., that can
be appended only to words ending in vowels, and thence make the words give a
sense, in accordance with their own (saNskRta), language."

Thus, Tamil seems to have been "used" by non-Tamil elites in ancient India. I
hope George Hart's eloquent statement posted by Kumar and the above
discussion are enough for Lars to call Tamil a classical language.

S. Palaniappan

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