New discovery in Tamil Nadu

George Hart glhart at BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Jun 28 04:06:33 UTC 2009

There is, to my mind, a serious problem with the notion that the  
Dravidians had no advanced culture and that the development of  
civilization in the South was entirely inspired by and imported from  
the North.  Surely this is part of a colonial narrative that has, one  
hopes, been discredited.  The vocabulary of old Tamil evidences a  
highly developed, intricate culture, especially regarding music,  
performance, and the like.  Old Tamil also possesses an considerable  
native vocabulary describing multi-storied houses and buildings.  (The  
word nakar meaning "many-storied house" is native; the Dravidian word  
is probably the source of Sanskrit nagaram). To my mind much of Indian  
culture developed symbiotically both in the South and North, with both  
areas influencing one another from at least the first century BCE (and  
probably earlier) to produce a hybrid culture in both areas.  I don't  
know how many historians of Britain would buy the argument that  
everything advanced or noteworthy in old English culture came from the  
Romans, but there is little likelihood that the great cities of the  
Sangam era -- all of which had Tamil names -- were built as outposts  
by invaders as London was.  What is true is that from at least the  
Mauryan period, travelers and merchants went between north and south  
pretty much as they do today.  They carried ideas and cultural themes  
back and forth all the time, so that by the first century BCE the  
Aryan north and Dravidian south had much in common and owed a great  
deal to one another. The process was (and continues to be) an  
extremely complex one, and whether a feature of Indian culture is  
ultimately "Dravidian" or "Aryan" is often determined by the cultural  
inclination of the person writing about it rather than by solid  
evidence.  There are, however, areas in which old Tamil sheds  
important light on Indian culture: it suggests, for example, that the  
existence of caste (jaati, including Dalits) was pre-Aryan and that  
many literary conventions made their way from a Southern folk  
literature through Maharashtrian Prakrit into the Sanskrit canon.   
Palani is the site of one of the most famous (and second richest)  
temples in India.  It is near Madurai and has been a site of Murugan  
worship for almost 2000 years -- see  G. Hart

On Jun 27, 2009, at 7:04 PM, Dipak Bhattacharya wrote:

> The report is hardly realistic in its socio-cultural assessment but  
> the findings are interesting. I tried Palani in the map without  
> success.Has anybody any idea about its location?. The dating, if  
> correct, might place it within the lifetime of or as linked to  
> Arikamedu whose modus vevendi, according to the first reports (quite  
> old now and may be outdated),  was limked to the urban centres of  
> the North.. Its cultural-economic independence, too, was as much as  
> that of Britain during Roman occupation and the few years that  
> followed. The follow up of excavations is often not very  
> encouraging. But link to proved Mauryan expeditions must be sought.
> DB
> --- On Sun, 28/6/09, George Hart <glhart at BERKELEY.EDU> wrote:
> From: George Hart <glhart at BERKELEY.EDU>
> Subject: New discovery in Tamil Nadu
> Date: Sunday, 28 June, 2009, 6:12 AM
> See
> This is quite interesting, because it suggests that writing followed  
> commerce into a rather remote area of Tamil Nadu around the 1st  
> century BCE.  (It should also be noted that there is some dispute  
> about whether the symbols are actually writing -- a disagreement  
> quite familiar to most of us who have been following the IV  
> "writing").  In any event, writing or not, this find is consistent  
> with what is described in Sangam literature. Also notable is the  
> word for "diamond" (if the writing decipherment is correct) as vayra  
> < vajra, through Prakrit.  But the most interesting part of this is  
> something no one mentions in the article -- the discovery of  
> stirrups.  I'm hardly an expert on this, but Wikipedia says that  
> stirrups are depicted about the 1st century BCE in Sanchi, and that  
> is 500 years before anywhere else.  G. Hart
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