Vedic Brahmin practices in ancient South India

Venkatraman Iyer venkatraman_iyer at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 7 16:29:26 UTC 2001

Sangam poem: puRam 26:
 >"... and you quickened the battle
 >  so that kings fell, and you captured
 >their royal drums and spread your fame!
 >and then, with food you had created, you
 >    sacrificed on the killing field,
 >using an oven of crowned heads after pouring
 >    out a torrent of blood
 >into the cooking pot and stirring it with the
 >    ladle of an arm still braceleted!
 >Ce_liya_n, murderous in battle! As Brahmins
 >   of the Four Vedas,
 >calm through the breadth of their knowledge,
 >devoted to restraint, surrounded you
 >and kings carried out your orders,
 >you completed the sacrifice established
 >by tradition! ..."

Dr. V. J. Roebuck wrote:
>Are you *sure* this was meant literally?  It sounds to me like a pretty
>good metaphor for warfare.

Continuing the reply:

The above poem's original words in Tamil are:

urai cela muracu vauvi
muTi talai aTuppu Aka
pun2al kuruti ulai koLIi
toTi tOL tuTuppin2 tuzanta valciyin2 - puRam 26:7-10

This theme is widely attested in sangam pomes:

poruntA tevvar arinta talai aTuppin2 [...] - puRam 372:5

"you made the field of flesh radiant with your
sacrifice on an oven of severed heads obtained
with toil from enemies who opposed you, with
kUviLam wood the fuel, with ridged guts tumbling,
as a barren sacrifical priestess stirred and turned them
with severed skulls set upon sticks and coked them
up into a ball of food that even animals would refuse
amd the male cook then intoned:
" May the fresh water poured from the burning mouth
   suffice as if for all the guests at a wedding!"
And, he lifted it on high! (Hart & Heifetz)

> From the Ten Decads, identical theme:
AN talai aNagku aTuppin2
vaya vEntar oL kuruti
cin2am tIyin2 peyarpu pogka
teRal aru kaTu tuppin2
viRal viLagkiya vizu cUrppin2
toTi tOL kai tuTuppu Aka
ATuRRa Un2 cORu
neRi aRinta kaTi vAluvan2
aTi otugki pin2 peyarA
paTaiyOrkku muruku ayara
amar kaTakkum viyan2 tAn2ai - matu. 29-39

c) From CilappatikAram:

pin2 tErk kuravaip pEy ATu paRantalai
muTit talai aTuppil piTart talait tAzi
toTit tOL tuTuppin2 tuzaIya Un2 cORu
maRap pEy vAluvan2 vayin2 aRintu UTTa - Cil. 126:241-4

Observe the word, pEy 'demon, spirit' which is worshipped by
sangam era priests, is given the strange food.

Given that A. Parpola writes that human sacrifices
were done in the IVC,
it's possible that this metaphor (?) has a hoary
memory in it.

V. Iyer

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