[INDOLOGY] Brahmin in Akam 337? (Re: dacoits, bandits, thugs and other unsavory characters)

palaniappa at aol.com palaniappa at aol.com
Sat Jun 15 03:35:23 UTC 2013

In connection with the priesthood of potters and brahmins, the Tamil story, Nirvikaṟpa Camāti, by Putumaippittaṉ is interesting. The story discusses how both potters and the Mukkāṇi Brahmins of Tiruchendur have forelocks and these brahmins are referred to as potters by a Śaiva Brahmin priest in the story. See  section 2 of the following link.

By the way, do brahmins in any part of India outside Tamil Nadu and Kerala have forelocks?



-----Original Message-----
From: palaniappa <palaniappa at aol.com>
To: Indology <Indology at list.indology.info>
Sent: Sun, Jun 9, 2013 6:49 pm
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Brahmin in Akam 337? (Re:  dacoits, bandits, thugs and other unsavory characters)

In the translation of Akanāṉūṟu 337, I will not use 'Brahmin' to translate 'pārppāṉ'. The word 'pārppāṉ' is reflexively and anachronistically interpreted as 'brahmin' by medieval and modern commentators who were not cognizant of socio-religious changes that have happened over the centuries. Of course, they had no benefit of historical/comparative linguistics and had not much knowledge of historical facts provided by inscriptions. 

Coming to the specific word 'pārppāṉ', there is nothing in the poem linking him with usual brahminic attributes such as Vedas or sacred thread or as a performer of sacrifices or having the staff or water pitcher. The only description we have of him is that he is a person with a stomach which had not eaten. This offers no basis to conclude he was a brahmin. There is another poem, Puṟanāṉūṟu  305, which also mentions a 'pārppāṉ' with similar emaciated stomach who serves as an emissary. There are no brahminic attributes mentioned in connection with him either. Again the medieval commentators make him out to be a brahmin unwarrantedly. 

There is a poem, Kuṟuntokai 156, where a brahmin is indicated by the term 'pārppaṉa makaṉ' who is described as one who eats after fasting. However here his brahminness is clearly identified by attributes such as the staff and water pitcher.  However, this person is not described as emaciated. More importantly, his texts are described as 'unwritten'. Clearly I doubt if such a person who learns texts that are 'unwritten' will be used an emissary for carrying written messages on palm a leaf. (We do find an example of a brahmin carrying a written message in the post-Classical Tamil work, the Cilappatikāram.)

On the other hand Akanāṉūṟu 123 refers to persons even more directly comparable to the person with the emaciated stomach. 

uṇṇāmaiyiṉ uyaṅkiya maruṅkiṉ
āṭāp paṭivattu āṉṟōr pōla			(Akanāṉūṟu 123.1-2)

The only problem is that here the reference is most probably to Jain ascetics, based on the fact they are described as not bathing. As for literacy, there is no question of Jains not being literate, given the many early Tamil Brahmi inscriptions being associated with Jains. There are two 9th century Tamil inscriptions from which we get the name of a group of persons called pāppār cāṉṟār.  Pappār cāṉṟār were responsible for the upkeep of a paḷḷiccantam, a grant to a Jain temple mentioned in SII, vol. 14, no.42.   

Considering that the form pārppār often occurs as pāppār, clearly even as late as 9th century 'pārppāṉ', its singular form, must not have been restricted to refer to brahmins.

We also have an instance of the bards being described as having 'stomach that has not eaten' in Puṟanānūṟu 180.11. But since Akanāṉūṟu 337 does not contain anything else that that can be associated with bards, we can disregard the possibility of a bard being the 'pārppāṉ'.

Apart from these attempts at trying to interpret the emaciated nature of the emissary, if one were to consider the term 'pārppāṉ' linguistically, we see that the usual interpretation that it referred to brahmins as seers based on 'pār-' 'to see' (as implied by DEDR 4091a and b as given below) is unwarranted. 

4091 (a) Ta. pār (-pp-, -tt-) to see, look at, examine, inspect, know, look for, desire, search, look after; pārval looking; pārvai id., eye, appearance, etc. Ma. pārkka to regard, behold, wait for; pārppuconsidering, expectation. Ka. pār to look for, wait for, look after, consider, regard, desire; pār(u) looking to or after; pāraysu to desire; hārayisu, hāraysu to look for, get a longing after, desire; hāraykedesire. Tu. pāra guard, custody, keeping. Te. pāruva sight, glance.
(b) Ta. pār, pārppāṉ, pārppaṉaṉ brahman; fem. pārppaṉi, pārppiṉi, pārppātti, pārppaṉatti, pārppi; pārppu the brahman caste. Ma. pārppavar the seers, brahmans; pāppān brahman; fem. pāppātti; pāppini a caste of lower brahmans. Ko. pa·rvn brahman, Badaga of Harva subcaste; fem. pa·rvty. To. o·rfn brahman, Badaga of Harva subcaste (< Badaga ha·ruva). Ka. pārva, pārba, pāruva, hāruva, hārva brahman; fem. pārviti; pārvike, pārbike brahmanism. Kor. (O.) pārne, (T.) hārne brahman. Te. pāṟũḍu, pāṟuvã̄ḍu id.; fem. pāṟuta, pāṟuṭakka; (some contamination with Skt. brāhmaṇa- and its derivatives in the following) bã̄pũḍu brahman; fem. bã̄pata; bã̄pana the brahman caste. Nk. (Ch.) pār brahman; fem. pāriya. 

Clearly not all brahmins were seers. So 'pārppāṉ' was not likely to be used as a general term for 'brahmin'.

A more appropriate derivation is to consider it as derived from the same root as that of pārāṭtu in DEDR 4092.

4092 Ta. pārāṭṭu (pārāṭṭi-) to applaud, commend, eulogize. Ma. pārāṭṭuka to extol.

 Here although DEDR does not show it, pārāṭṭu is really a compound of pār and āttu, where āṭṭu means 'to bathe' in much the same way as Ta. nīrāṭṭu 'to bathe in water'.

In my opinion, pār in DEDR 4605 pārāṭṭu is related to DEDR 4091b and DEDR 3951 paracu.

3951 Ta. paracu (paraci-) to praise, extol; paravu (paravi-) id., worship, reverence, adore, sing; paraval praising, worshipping. Ma. parikka a vow. Ko. parc- (parc-) to pray; parkym (obl. parkyt-) vow to a god, prayer. To. part- (party-) to pray; arkym (obl. arkyt-) vow. Ka. parasu to utter a benediction, bless; parake, harake, harike benediction, vow. Koḍ. parake vow. Tu. parasů benediction;parakè vow made in trouble, beseeching; harasuni to bless, wish well. DED(S) 3257.

Now consider DEDR 4605 pōṟṟu. 

4605 Ta. pōṟṟu (pōṟṟi-) to praise, applaud, worship, protect, cherish, nourish, entertain; n. protection, praise; pōṟṟi praise, applause; pōṟṟimai honour, reverence. Ma. pōṟṟuka to preserve, protect, adore; pōṟṟi nourisher, protector. 

Although DEDR does not list it, there is a word Ta. pōṛṛi which Tamil Lexicon glosses as 'Brahman temple-priest of Malabar' with the semantic basis of 'to praise, etc.'.

So the original meaning of pārppāṉ must be reconstructed to be 'one who praises/adores/worships' or in other words, 'a priest'. It does not have to be restricted to refer to a brahmin. From the times of Classical Tamil poetry till today, potters have been serving as priests in Tamil Nadu. (See Naṟṟiṇai 293.)  Some of the earliest writings of Tamil are found on potsherds.   One of the Classical Tamil poets was a potter woman named Veṇṇik Kuyattiyār. Potters have been known for their literacy and served as pre-eminent scribes/accountants during historical times and were even employed by brahmin sabhas. There are inscriptions which show they signed for illiterate brahmin priests. There is also a literary instance of a potter serving as an emissary carrying messages on palm leaf in the Peruṅkatai, the Tamil version of the Bṛhatkathā. In this, a potter named Cātakaṉ serves as an emissary going back and forth between the ministers, Yūki (<Skt. Yaugandhārāyaṇa) and Urumaṇṇuvā (<Skt. Rumaṇvān) like a shuttle in a loom. (See Vattavakāṇṭam 4.36-44) and later obtains the title 'Peruṅkuyam' (meaning eminent potter) and two villages/towns from Udayaṇa (Vattavakāṇṭam 9.47-48).

In my opinion, pārppāṉ in Akanāṉūṟu 337 was most likely a potter priest and not a brahmin. 


-----Original Message-----
From: George Hart <glhart at berkeley.edu>
To: Indology <indology at list.indology.info>
Sent: Sun, Jun 9, 2013 9:50 am
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] dacoits, bandits, thugs and other unsavory characters

Thieves are quite common in the Sangam works (probably 1st 2 centuries CE), especially in the Pālai poems, where they inhabit the wilderness and ambush travelers.  Here's my translation of a poem from the Akanānūṟu.  George

337. Pālai
The hero, who, in a time before left [the heroine] to acquire wealth and returned, speaks to his heart which is urging him [to set out again] to get wealth.

“Her body is the color of a shoot moistened by the rain
budding on a high branch of a yā tree on the hillside,
and her large, cool eyes strive with one another.
Leaving her to feel the pain of loneliness,
staying here is not a pleasant thing.
Wealth is being there, with her,” you thought, and you returned to her
while I stayed alone in the burning jungle abandoned by rain.
There, where the many little hills look like rows of donkeys of salt merchants,
a Brahmin came who often took messages back and forth,
his stomach shriveled from not eating, grasping a rolled-up palm leaf.
Cruel thieves, weapons in hand, thought he was holding gold
and killed him at once, pointlessly.  When they saw how poor he was,
wearing rags instead of decent clothes, with their arrow shafts bloody,
they snapped their fingers in frustration and went away.
A male jackal on the path among the striped hemp plants found him, 
chewed on his intestines that hung out bleeding profusely,
and then howled, staying in the shade of a kaḷḷi plant
on that road where white stones glisten and draw the eye.
You returned then because you thought of the pain
she would feel with the cold north wind
when rain clattered down in the shivering darkness.
Pālai Pāṭiya Peruṅkaṭuṅkō

6. “With her” is added.
10. The palm leaf has a message written on it.
14. “In frustration” is added.
16. “Found him” is added.
18. K2 interprets “draw the eye” (kaṇ paṟi) as “takes out (and eats) the eye.” 
19. “You returned then” is added.


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