March 21, 2017 § Leave a comment
Can a saint be a political administrator of the State? Interesting question it is. In the past, in India, the State and religion had functioned as one unit. Vasishta was not only the prohit but also was a political adviser to King Dasaratha. Only after his approval, Dasaratha decided to make Rama as the crown prince, although the Rajaguru knew very well of Dasaratha’s promise to Kaikei when he married her that her son would succeed him on the throne.
Yogi Adhityanath has the administrative skill of running a religious establishment like the Gorakpur mutt and an aggressive seasoned parliamentarian frequently spitting fire and brimstone against those professing a different religious point of view. What more you need for establishing a Hindu Rashtra? Probably, the ‘Vatican’ elders in Nagpur feel that the Hindus have suffered enough for the last thousand years and it is time for them to assert themselves!
March 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
Once a saint was cursed to be a pig. He felt humiliated. So he asked his son to kill him soon after the transformation. The moment his father became a pig, his obedient son approached him to put an end to his’ cursed state’. But his father had second thoughts. He told his son ‘ let me experience being a pig . You may come after a few months to kill me.’
When the son came after six months to carry out his father’s order, the saint- turned- pig told him that he really enjoyed being a pig and that he was reveling in the company of other boisterous pigs. ‘ If you feel ashamed, you may kill yourself’, he added.
This is a story from one of the Upanisads, which Mahakavi Subhramaya Bharati narrates in a poem addressed to the goddess of poetry. He likens himself to the saint in the story. He says ‘ when I was a young poet, I was committed to the Muse totally. But circumstances have led me to renounce my absolute dedication to pure poetry ‘
What does Bharati mean by ‘pure poetry ?’
Apparently, Bharati had two voices in him and one was his private voice, rhapsodic, lyrical and spontaneous and the other, his public voice that led him to identify himself with the political and social causes of his slumbering nation.
In a poem addressed to ‘Parasakthi’ (‘Primeval Power’) he says: ‘ When I pray to my you with the burning fire of intense love and appeal to you to bless me with words of power that will usher a new era of social progress, you tell me with a mysterious smile on your face that a poem well-written is by itself the message and it should have no other thematic burden’
What is ‘Parasakthi’?
Bharati describes it variously as ‘ the sparkling soul of the Dark Night’, ‘Wisdom in stone’, ‘when time has a stop, the Eternity of the Moment’ and ‘ pure ecstasy well-expressed ‘. When he is in this mood, his voice is free-flowing, not given to any homiletic pressure.. This is his private voice which has been. unfortunately, least studied by most of the Bharati scholars.
‘Kuyil Paattu’ ( ‘Cuckoo’s song) remarkably illustrates his private voice. It deals with neither a political nor a social issue. The poem reads like as though it wrote itself. It is in direct conversation with the reader, emanating, as it does from the inner voice of the poet.. Bharati calls it ‘ a dream’ and mischievously adds, which reads like a challenge, ‘ if the learned Tamil scholars are able to find a philosophical meaning for this poem let them tell me’.
And ‘the learned Tamil scholars’ did not disappoint him! One tried to find ‘the Paramatma and Jivatma relationship’ syndrome in the poem and another called it ‘ the poet’s spiritual journey from the known to the unknown’. . Many more such stuff and nonsense followed, while interpreting this poem.
What, then, the poem tells us? It reads like a fairy tale,not committed to logic or reason. It is a fantasy, a dream a la Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’. The dream constructs a story and there is a story within that story. The whole thing is an illusion and there are illusions within that illusion. It is like a wheel within a wheel and one is at a loss to know which is an illusion and which is reality. The reality comes at the end , as the poet wakes up to find himself ‘ living in his old house, surrounded by his ancient mat , writing pen and scattered manuscripts and magazines’.
The recurring theme of love is expressed in exquisite poetry in a universal language, unburdened by thematic or critical conventions .It is a pure poem of sheer aesthetic charm that does not assume the moral responsibility of offering any message to the reader.
The medium is the message.
March 14, 2017 § Leave a comment
When Dr.Padma Subhramanyam decided to found an Institute in the name of Bharata, the ‘ legendary ‘author of ‘Natya Sastra’, the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu suggested the name of Ilango, no less ‘legendary’ for that matter and the author of ‘Cilappadikaram’, one of the foremost epics in Tamil, be also included. The celebrated and scholarly exponent of ‘Bharata Natyam’ did not hesitate to add his name,( the more the merrier), as what we know ,as of now, about our ancient Indian theatre is primarily from these two books, though it cannot be ruled out that both names ‘Bharata’ (‘actor’) and ‘Ilango’ (‘younger prince’) could be fictitious.
Though it becomes a loaded political debate in the contemporary context to discuss to what extent these two ancient languages Sanskrit and Tamil influenced each other, there is no denying the fact that the concept of a pan-Indian theatrical vision, existed in the collective cultural consciousness of the people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari from time immemorial.
Sanskrit was never a spoken language but was only a ‘cultivated language’ to function as the lingua franca among the intellectuals belonging to the whole cultural region called Bharat, like English is in our contemporary India. There was a steady and uninterrupted flow of cultural exchanges in the field of Art, literature and theatre in those eras between the various regions of the country, ,which, then ,was not broken up by narrow linguistic walls.. The cultural integration between the various ethnic groups in this country had taken place in the dim periods of pre-history and proto-history.
‘Natya’ (Sanskrit) and ‘Koothu’ (Tamil) both meaning ‘theatre’ are as ancient as the literary culture of these two languages It is not impossible to believe that the Tamil word ‘koothu’ has its origin from the word ‘koorru’ ( speech). Tolkappiyam, the most ancient Tamil grammar, has codified under what circumstances and situation the hero can speak(‘koorru’), the heroine can speak, the friend of the heroine can speak, the foster-mother of the heroine can speak etc. So it looks like the entire gamut of ‘akam’ literature was
conceived as theatre by Tolkappiyam and the speech could be either a monologue or dialogue, in which case, the words ‘koothu’ and ‘koorru’ are synonymous.
The foremost and enduring aim of any Indian art form in Tamil or Sanskrit, be it theatre ,music, literature, sculpture or painting is to elevate the recipients by arousing their emotional response, which is precisely called or categorized as ‘rasa’.. The word ‘rasa’ has its etymological root in ‘ras’ (to taste, to relish) and these sentiments are enumerated as eight in number such as rati(love), hasa(mirth) soka (sorrow),krodha( anger), utsaka( valour), bhaya (fear), jugupsa (disgust) and vismaya (marvel) and this codification is with reference to theatre, according to Bharata’s ‘Natyasastra’.
The Tamil grammar Tolkappiyam calls ‘rasa’ as ‘suvai’ and also classifies it as eight and although, by and large the sentiments are the same as in Sanskrit, , Perasiriyar, the 14th century commentator for Tolkappiyam, includes ‘Naduvu nilamai’ (detachment) as one of the emotional states for a successful portrayal of a character in a drama. This is not ‘Santha rasa’ as prescribed for the epics in Sanskrit poetics but akin to the concept of ‘alienation’ as postulated by the German playwright and Director Brecht, as the bottom line of good acting. The actor should alienate himself emotionally from the character he is portraying so that he would be in a better position to consciously project that character well on the stage.
Rasa, the plot and the hero/heroine constitute the intrinsic aspects of any ancient Indian play. It is the main thread of the plot and the experiences of the hero/ heroine that generally determine rasa of the play and once the rasa is determined, it exercises in turn a strong influence on the other two effecting modifications in the plot and in the behavior of the principal character. Anything detrimental to the already established rasa of the play needs to be sacrificed and as such, the casualty is the individuality of characters. This is one of the reasons that in many of our ancient plays, characters are type-cast like the hero/heroine being endowed with all the good qualities and the villain as an incarnation of evil. This non-realistic nature of the plot and characters demands a histrionic art largely based on stylized and symbolic movements We are not very far from this dramatic convention in many of our so-called ‘realistic’ plays in Tamil produced now, as declamations and exaggerated gestures are seen much in evidence.
March 11, 2017 § 3 Comments
I am not sure, whether there is any other work in any other regional language in India except in Tamil to have so much in common with Sanskrit, in regard to the theory and practice of musical and theatrical forms , dating from the early centuries of the common era.
And that singular, unique work is ‘Cilappadikaram’ written by Ilango Adigal, a Jaina monk. Story-wise, it is strikingly original, not outsourced from Sanskrit, but the classical dance and theatrical forms it portrays have close affinity with the codified regulations ,as stipulated in the theatre manual written in Sanskrit ,presumably, by Bharata Muni.
We know very little about our ancient authors, though myths about them are aplenty and as such, for all we know, it may not be a far-reaching speculation to think of Ilango and Bharata as one and the same person, who could have besides writing a manual (‘Natya Sastra’) by way of illustrating it through fictionalization ,also composed the story of ‘Cilappadikaram’.
According to Dr.Zimmer, ‘Sanskrit being the common language of communication among the intellectuals of India in those days,, it would not be surprising to attribute South Indian authorship to many of the metaphysical and theoretical works in Sanskrit’ Giving a date to our authors and works, from the western concept of history is a futile exercise, as our concept of history is cyclic and not linear as in the west.
Is ‘Cilappadikaram’ a play or an epic? It is both. It is this distinction that what makes it different from all other literary works in other Indian languages including Sanskrit. Ilango, a consummate dramatist and innovative literary master that he is, he initiates a new genre that is called as ‘ Muththamizh viraviya pattudai ceyyul’, which means,’ a cultural form that integrates poetry, music and drama’ Like Shakespeare, he knows that each word has two values, one dramatic and the other literary. Only in the hands of a genius, these words acquire their appropriate literary or dramatic identity, depending upon the context , whether you read it as a poem or see it as a play in your mind’s eye. . In other words, a ‘literary word’ , when it is read as literature acquires a new incarnation as ‘dramatic word’, when it is performed as aplay on the stage and one can visually experience it, as if it is one of the actors in the play.
Shakespeare is lucky as he had large number of good directors and actors to project him on the stage as an unparalleled playwright and also a larger number of literary critics to establish his credentials as a poet extraordinaire. But, Ilango is unfortunate in this regard that there has been no analytical in-depth study of his innovative work as an epic-drama of its own kind. Even the dance-dramas that have been attempted so far ,supposedly, based on the theme of this work have not done enough justice to capture its vigor and multi-faceted brilliance.
ILango is an unusual playwright ,who has given an unusual title for his monumental work, which is, ‘Cilappadikaram’, meaning ‘The story of the anklet’. ‘Cilambu’ is an anklet that was worn by young Tamil girls in ancient days, before they were married., which was removed on the wedding night before the nuptials. So ‘cilambu’ is a metaphor for their ‘virginity’ and ‘innocence’ that later becomes the insignia for the ‘pathni cult’ ( the cult of worshipping the deity for chastity) .
This particular anklet that provides the title belongs to the protagonist of the story. It proves to be the agent of destiny for the heroine, the hero and the Pandya king ,who unjustly kills the hero for a crime he has not committed, and also dies on hearing that he has committed a judicial blunder. The wrath of the heroine sets the capital city of the Pandyas on fire. Later, the Chera king invades the North and brings rocks on the heads of the defeated North Indian kings , for installing an icon and building a temple to deify the heroine. The anklet proves to be the pivotal instrument for all such events. Any production of ‘Cilappadikaram’ as a play, should have a surrealistically huge image of the anklet as its backdrop. It represents ‘Destiny’.
‘Fate’ is the bottom line of any Greek tragedy, as we see it ‘Oedipus Rex’ So also we find ‘destiny’ plays a significant role in the events that happen in ‘Cilappadikaram’. As Ilango says, it announces itself in the ‘yaazh’(harp) that Kovalan ,the hero, plays on, that leads to his separation from Madhavi, the
courtesan and to his subsequent death in Madurai, the Pandya capital. Again, it is Destiny that visits the tongue of the Pandya king, who, instead of saying, ‘bring the culprit, enquire and if he is the one who stole the queen’s anklet,kill him,’ blabbers without being aware of it, ‘kill him, if he has the anklet and bring it to me’.
Matalan, a brahmin and a friend of Kovalan, functions like the chorus in a Greek tragedy. He appears in two cantos, the Madurai Kantam and Vanchi Kantam. He provides the connecting link for all the events that happen off stage, like the Greek chorus. Only in ‘adaikalakathai’, we come to know all the noble qualities of the hero (Kovalan) courtesy Matalan and the dramatic value for this scene is the admiration the audience would develop for the hero for the first time in the narration of the story and the traumatic shock they would experience when he is killed for wrong reasons in the very next scene.
A great artist that he is, Ilango to enhance the tragic intensity, brings Kovalan and Kannagi together in the last scene before Kovalan’s death, when Kannagi serves him the delicious food she has prepared for him. They seem to be enjoy the blessings of a happy ,married life after a long gap, when Destiny has the last laugh! This lunch proves to be ‘The last Supper’ for Kovalan!
As in Shakespeare’s plays, after an emotionally-charged scene, there is ‘dramatic relief’ in the form of comedy, Ilango provides relief by a pastoral dance ( “Achiyar Kuravai’) that succeeds the death scene of Kovalan.,
With the death of Kovalan and followed by the deaths of one too many, including the citizens of Madurai, ‘Cilappadikaram’ is not a tragedy.
One cannot write a tragedy in the Indian context, as all our villains, along with the heroes and heroines reach heavens!. They are not classical, blue-blooded villains by their choice, like Satan in the Christian mythology, but, they are villains, cursed to be so by an angry saint or by divine wrath with a rider that they would be redeemed. Hinduism is a religion of optimism and hope.
March 9, 2017 § Leave a comment
What is ‘Mammon’? It represents the Devil of covetousness, derived from the Greek word ‘mamonas’ indicatin g ‘riches’. But for the majority of the people in India, a happy thought on “World Woman’s Day’ that a goddess symbolizes ‘wealth’. And it is an irony, in the West they are rich and we are poor!
Mammon wins his way, when seraphs might despair! And the bottom line of contemporary philosophy the world over is ‘Money’ with capital ‘M’ in neon signs. No one does a thing these days, because he enjoys it. Writers, musicians, actors, social activists or whoever.
No wonder Milton got only fifty pounds , a paltry sum,for his magnum opus ‘Paradise Lost’ because he pictured Mammon as a Devil. And Mahakavi Bharati died in poverty although he had saluted Lakshmi as the goddess of wealth and prosperity in several poems! Irony again!
As of now, it is the ad-copy that arbitrates the value of things, be it in the field of art, literature or sports.
Mehistopheles and Mammon, alliteration apart, they have this in common, they enslave those, whom they possess wholly. Milton was right calling it Devil! The genesis runs like this, talent begetteth visibility, visibility begetteth popularity, popularity begetteth the notice of for-ever news-hungry visual media, and Mehistopheles in the incarnation of corporate sector, takes over.
A young boy all of just fourteen years, played the game of cricket in a fabulous way, for the love of it and soon he became a phenomenon. He came in for national reckoning, and international glare. The corporate sector made him a ‘one-man industry’. From the first sip of tea he drank in the morning to the night wear he put on before retiring to bed, he became the human bill-board for consumer products. I used to wonder whether that wonder kid ever enjoyed his morning drink or cricket aftertha!
And then this story of a veteran rural artiste, who performed theatre in the villages, stories from evergreen Mahabharata, Ramayana and such epics. Stepped in the city folks and their funding allies, the agencies from abroad. They were brought to the cities and what used to be night-long performances were abridged to two-hour plays so that the metropolitan elite did not miss their dinner, They were taken abroad for one hour shows in the shopping malls. The old man was not at all happy but he had to yield to the pressures of other fellow-artistes and said to have commented in Tamil ‘ எல்லாம் சைத்தான் பணம்’ ( All for the sake of Devil called ‘money’). I am sure he had not read ‘Paradise Lost’!
March 7, 2017 § Leave a comment
தலைவன் (கண்ணன்) குழல் ஊதுகின்றான். இடையிடையே அவன் எண்ணங்களை வெளிப்படுத்தும் சொற்களையும் வைத்துக் குழலில் அற்புதமாய்ப் பாட்டிசைக்கிறான். அந்த இனிய கானம் என்னை வதைக்கின்றது.` தனக்குத்தானே ஆபரணமாய் இருக்கும் கண்கள் மூலம் தன் கருத்தை வெளியிடுகிறான். இடையிடையே அவளிடம் உரையாடும் சொற்களையும் இசையாக்கிக் கண்களாலும், இசையாலும்,,என்னை நெகிழ்விக்கின்றான். அவன் நான் படும்பாட்டை அறிந்தவன்போல் அவன் முகத்தில் தெரியும் பரிவும் இசையொடு இசைந்து என்னை எதையும் தரிக்க மாட்டாமல் செய்து விடுகிறது! மாலையும் வந்தது , மாயன் இன்னும் வரவில்லை’ 1
‘மாலை நேரம், மல்லிகைப்பூ மணம், தென்றல், இனிய இசை, இவையெல்லாமே காதலர்களைப் பிரிவின்போது சித்திரவதை செய்யும் யமன்கள். ‘How beautiful, if sorrow had not made Sorrow more beautiful than Beauty’s self’ என்றான் கீட்ஸ். இந்தத் திருவாய்மொழிப் பாட்டைப் படிக்கும்போது கீட்ஸ் சொல்லியிருபதுதான் நினைவுக்கு வருகிறது. பிரிவின்போது துன்பத்தைப் புலப்படுத்தும் பாடல்கள்தாம் இனிமயானவை. ‘The sweetest songs are those that tell us the saddest of thoughts’ என்றான் இன்னொரு ஆங்கிலக் கவிஞன் ஷெல்லி.
ஈடு என்ன சொல்லுகிறது?
அவன் குழலூதும்போது சில சொற்களையும் உரையாடலாகச் சேர்த்து இசைக்கிறான். அதைத்தான் ‘’இடை இடை அது மொழிந்து’’ என்கிறார். ‘அது’ என்பதை எதை என்பது நியாயமான கேள்வி.
ஈடு சொல்வதைக் கேட்போம்: ‘பிரிந்தேன், ஆற்றேன்’ என்றாற்போல சொல்லுகிற இழிச் சொற்களை இடையிடையே சொல்லி ஆயிற்றுப் பாடுவது. ‘தாழ்ந்த செயலையும் (பிரிதல்) சொற்களையும் ( ஆற்றேன்) தன் வாயாலே சொல்லமாட்டாமையினாலே ‘அது’
என்கிறாள். பிரிவு, ஆற்றாமை இவையெல்லாம் இழிச் சொற்களாம்!. ஆகையால் அவற்றை அச்சொற்களாகவே குறிப்பிடாமல் ‘’அது’ என்கிறாள்.
தன்கோலம் செய் தூது செய் கண்கள் கொண்டு ஒன்று பேசி =- தனக்குந்தானே ஆபரணமாய்த் தன் கருத்தினை அவர்களுக்கு அறிவிக்க வல்ல திருக்கண்கள்………………… என்றது, ‘மனத்திலே உள்ள மறத்தாலே ‘கிட்டக் கடவ அல்லோம்’ என்று இருக்கிற பெண்களுடைய கால்களைச் சென்று பிடியா நிற்கும் கண்கள்’ என்றபடி.
வேறு ஆபரணம் தேவைப்படாமல் தானே ஆபரணக் கருவூலமாய் நிற்கும் அவன், கண்களையே மொழியாக்கி அவளிடம் பேசுகிறான். (ஒன்று மனத்தில் வைத்துக் கொள்ள வேண்டும். அவன் பிரிந்திருக்கும் நிலையில், அவள் காண்பன தோற்ற மயக்கங்கள்.) என்ன பேசினான் என்ற கேள்வி எழுமல்லவா? பெண்களுக்கு மனம் மிகவும் வலிமையானது. அவளை விட்டுப் பிரிந்து, விரைவில் திரும்பிவிடுவேன் என்று அவன் எவ்வளவு சொல்லியும் அவள் மனம் சமாதானமடையவில்லை. இரும்பு மனம். அதைத்தான் ‘மனத்திலே உள்ள மறம்’ என்கிறது ஈடு. ஊடல் தீர்வதற்காக,த் தலைவன் இப்பொழுது அவளுடைய கால்களைப் பிடிக்கத் தயார் என்ற செய்தியைத்தான் இப்பொழுது அவனுடைய கண்கள் சொல்லுகின்றன.
‘நம்பி மூத்தபிரான் செய்பவற்றை அடையச் செய்யா நிற்குமாயிற்று’ என்கிறார் உரைகாரர் ’நம்பி மூத்தபிரான்’ கூறும் வார்த்தைகளால் அவள் முன்னொரு சமயம் சமாதானம் அடைந்தது போல் இப்பொழுது, கிருஷ்ணன் கண்ணால் பேசியவற்றை உணர்ந்து தெளிந்தாள்.. நம்பி மூத்தபிரான் யார்? பலராமன்.,,,நச்சினார்க்கினியர், கலித்தொகைச் செய்யுளுக்கு உரை எழுதும்போது, பலராமனை ‘நம்பி மூத்தபிரான்’ என்றே குறிப்பிடுகிறார்.
‘பேச்சிலே பிறக்கும் தெளிவு, நோக்காலே பிறக்கையைத் தெரிவித்தபடி. என்கிறார் உரைகாரர்.
தூமொழி இசைகள் கொண்டு ஒன்று நோக்கி- அழகிய பேச்சுக் களோடு கூடிய இசையாலே கண்களாலே நோக்கி ஈடுபடுத்துமாறு போல ஈடுபடுத்தி இங்குப் பேச்சைக் காட்டிலும் உறுதியான மொழி இசை என்றும், அதைவிட வலிமையானது நோக்கு என்பதும்
‘நினைந்தமுனி பகர்ந்தவெலாம் நெறிஉன்னி அறிவனும்தன்
புனைந்தசடை முடிதுளக்கிப் போரேற்றின் முகம்பார்த்தான்
வனைந்தனைய திருமேனி வள்ளலும்அம் மாதவத்தோன்
நினைந்தவெல்லாம் நினைந்துஅந்த நெடுஞ்சிலையை நோக்கினான்.’
இங்கும் பேச்சு ஏதுமில்லை. மிதிலைமாநகர் அரச சபையிலே ஜனகன் சிவதனுசின் வரலாற்றைக் கூறி அதை எடுத்து வளைது நாணேற்றுபவனே சீதையின் கழுத்தில் மாலையிடலாம் என்று கூறுகிறான்.. அப்பொழுது, அங்கு இராம, இலக்குவனோடு அமர்ந்திருந்த விசுவாமித்திர முனிவர், ஜனகன் கூறிய வரலாற்றின் பின்னணியில் அந்த வில்லை வளைத்து நாணேற்றும் வல்லமை உனக்குத்தான் உண்டு என்ற எண்ணம் மனத்தில் ஓட இராமனைப் பார்க்கிறான். இராமனும் அந்த எண்ண ஓட்டத்தை நன்கு புரிந்து கொண்டவன்போல், அங்குப் பொலிவுடன் கம்பீரமாய் வீற்றிருந்த அந்த வில்லைப் பார்த்தான்.
பேதுறு முகம் செய்து நொந்து நொந்து- தலைவிக்குப் பிரிவாற்றாமையினால் ஏற்பட்ட துயரத்தைக் கண்டு தலைவனுக்கு ஏற்படும் வேதனையை, அவன் நோக்கைக் கொண்டு அவள் அறிந்தால் அவள் மனம் இன்னும் என்ன பாடுபடும் என்று தலைவன் நினைக்கின்றான்.
அம்ம! அம்ம!- பூசல்! பூசல்! ( அபாயம் நெருங்கி விட்டது.)
மாலையும் வந்தது – இனி வருந்த வேண்டாதபடி,இது முடிந்து விடும்போல இருந்தது.என்றபடி. மாலை நேரம் துயரத்தை அதிகரிக்கும் என்பதால் அவள் வாழ்க்கையே முடிந்து போய்விடலாம்.
மாயன் வாரான்= தன்னைப் பிரிந்தார் நாணமுறும்படி தaனே இழவாளனாய் வந்து காலைப் பிடிக்கும் ஆச்சர்யமுடையவன் என்கிறது ஈடு.
வருகின்றானிலன்.- அவளைப்பிரிந்த இழப்பு அவனுக்குத் தான் என்பது போல வருந்தி என் காலைப் பிடிக்க வருவான் என்று நான் எதிர்பார்க்கின்றவன் இன்னும் வரவில்லை. அவன் ஆச்சர்யாமானவன். ‘மாயன்’ என்றால் ‘ஆச்சர்யமானவன்’ அதனால் அவன் வரக்கூடும் என்ற நம்பிக்கையை நான் இழக்கவில்லை.வந்து என்னை ஆச்சர்யப்படுத்தக் கூடும் என்ற அர்த்தம்.
March 6, 2017 § 2 Comments
The Tamil language has this distinction of being not only the oldest spoken language in India with a long literary The continuity ,but also this uniqueness of not having the aspirated sounds in its phonetic scheme as in all other major Indian idioms.
Tamil has been the only language among the South Indian dialects that stood against the overwhelming influence of Sanskrit and throughout the long history of literary and cultural interactions between these two languages, Tamil managed to keep its linguistic identity with the help of its own distinctive traditional ,grammar that had laid down the rules of dos and don’ts, while assimilating the Sanskrit words. It was not because of hostility towards Sanskrit, but because of a desire to maintain the singularity of their mother tongue, as a distinctive language not overwhelmed by Sanskrit.
Here is the rub. This, what was once a distinction, when the cultural priorities were different, has now become an embarrassment.. In a federal political set-up, in which most of the languages have almost common phonetic identity, to exist in splendid linguistic isolation means, a situation of opting out of the cultural and social mainstream, though unwittingly.
In the pre-colonial period, as in the medieval or earlier eras, Sanskrit was the intellectual lingua franca for the whole country. Since language was not an emotional and as such, a political issue during those periods,, there was an uninhibited, unself-conscious free interaction among the different linguistic sections of the people of this country, Sanskrit/Prakrit providing the common forum..
During the colonial period, in Tamilnadu, many, of the Tamil brahmins, influenced by the pseudo-ethnic theories as Dravidian and Aryan, projected by the agenda-driven western missionaries and historians, began to associate themselves with Sanskrit language and its linguistic culture, deserting their mother tongue, which was Tamil. . And also, since they were on the top of the ladder of social hierarchy, they had the advantage of opting for the English education to earn their bread.
Nowhere in the other parts of India, a bulk of English-educated, Sanskrit knowing intellectuals ,who were, by and large the brahmins, distanced themselves from the literary heritage of their own mother tongue, as in Tamilnadu .Of course, there were a few rare exceptions .
I remember, when I was reading in what was known then as II Form (now 7th class), during the colonial rule, the pupils were to opt for Sanskrit or Tamil ,as the vernacular language of their choice. Most of the Brahmin boys chose Sanskrit, following the dictum of their parents.. From this time on, the two images that became the settled political theme of Tamilnadu was, Sanskrit-Aryan- Brahmin –pan-Indian nationalism and in contrast to this was Dravidian- non-brahmin – Tamil –regional nationalism. This kind of thinking is what that decides the political attitudes of the people of Tamilnadu even today!