தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 


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Journey Down Memory Lane To Reach 'tamiz Izam'

Chapter 16

Our Sincere and Warmest Healthy, Wealthy, and Peaceful 1996 To All Especially Those Suffering Thousands in the Name of and for ‘tamiz.’

My New Year Resolution is a re affirmation of my earlier resolve in placing my future and my life at the feet of our ‘tamiz anny,’ and work diligently to restore lost sovereignty and safety of our people.

Rituals of varying kinds are practiced even today in almost every corner of the world. Some generate divine power, some in worship and reverence to a God concept, honoring fallen warriors by erecting monuments, an old ‘tamiz’ tradition known as ‘Nadukal’ worship. I have to admit that intimate and well-informed knowledge on the subject of religion of the ‘tamizar’ is well beyond my knowledge and priorities.

I could recollect some of the rituals as discussed in a dinner table atmosphere and as they were and are practiced today. There is a sort of ‘kuru kula’ tradition in a modern sense, that gives an advantage to scholars to pursue research and deep study relating to ‘tamiz’ culture of which religion is an integral part. There is no governmental or large foundation supported study of classical ‘tamiz’ as a language and a race. There does not seem to be any controversy as to the claim that ‘tamiz’ is a classical language. Serious study is required to prove or disprove claim by some ’tamizar’ that the Indus Valley Civilization was ‘tamiz’ civilization.

Until such time, the tendency is for scholars to reject any such claim and rightly so. I am sure some of you have read some of Professor Peter Schalk work in the field of History Of  Religions in relation to Hinduism-Saivism and Vaishnavaism- and Buddhism. There are a few ‘Izat tamiz’ scholars who, given the financial support could fill the need for extensive research to decipher and interpret the seals among the archaeological excavations. Attempts have been made and my memory does not serve me well to recollect the names of at least two recent attempts by ‘tamiz Nadu’ scholars. Because of the inconclusive or lack of confirmation their claims are more or less dismissed as wishful thinking.

I am a practical ‘liberal’ or am I entering into hot waters? What do I mean by a practical liberal? Refraining from imposing my will on others. This does not preclude nor did this preclude me from imposing certain norms of social order, or behavior or rules of ethics or code of conduct on my children and on those whose welfare and services are my direct responsibility by virtue of a delegated authority. I am sometimes charged as confrontational in my approach to matters particularly pertaining to ’tamiz.’ I believe that at times under the right circumstance confrontation is a form of shock therapy and it had worked very well in most situations if not all situations.

I have had my life and body threatened a few times. One has to be prepared to meet such threats when one resorts to my way of approach. I have heard it said, "If you want to be a lumberjack you must learn to hold the end of a log." ‘tamiz’ equivalent will be, "vEdam pOddAl tEvadijAL vEdamum pOdavEnhum." There are times and situations any show of opposition encourages finite resolve that may prove to be even fatal, than when allowed the affected or involved parties find out for themselves.

The purpose of life is to grow, to sense, to feel, to gain wisdom. One should learn to find out one’s own limits that will give individual responsibility.

It is my experience that vested interests always ‘buck up’ the wrong elements to spearhead any disinformation, sabotage, even disruption. They do not constitute a number of any significance. Yet they stand out and hence dangerous. One could easily identify these rascals if one knows where to look for. Most of us do not bother about the presence of such dangers and by the time we decide to do something about it, it may be too late. I have put the so called miscreants in their place by admitting that I like the bad guys calling me a bad guy. Because they know only to identify bad things.

Considering this I always insist on my technical associates to operate or drive a new machine or vehicle and get the feel of the machine, so that they have a fair idea of how that particular machine should work after working on it in the shop. Naturally when good guys support me it does not get to my head. When bad guys talk well of me my antenna that is usually in the operating mode begins to oscillate in search of the reason for change in their estimate of me and am prepared to meet the sometimes "cloak and dagger" scenario or accept them as bona fide converts. The difficult part to deal is when the good guys start talking bad about me as there must be something wrong in my action. I start from scratch to make sure I have not miscalculated nor misjudged.

During WW II. in the early forties, there was an epidemic of Cholera and Small pox, I am not sure whether it was an all island outbreak or only to Jaffna. The outbreak was of an epidemic proportion. People were dying in the hundreds. Because of the war and we had just completed building our house we were living in Chankanai. We had a ‘villu vanhdil,' an introduction to more sophisticated mode of transport to come.

Cars were available but then my father believed that if you want to ruin somebody, present him with a LEMON. Petrol was rationed, and in the black market, it cost anywhere between Rs. 50.00 to Rs. 60.00 per gallon whereas the control price was about a rupee or even less. Later one of our relatives who had a car for hire found out my father could get a permit for petrol if he owned a car. Anyway, a car was parked in our porch and we went to school among another 15 or 20 in that car. Until then we had to cart it to Manipay Hindu College.

Between Manipay and Chankanai there were detours, health check points where they checked for our vaccine and inoculation certificates against those deadly diseases, a curse from ‘tukky amman.’ Dr. Patricia Lawrence of the Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder presented a paper on the, "Work of Oracles: {Overcoming Political Silencing in Mattakkalappu} I take the liberty of quoting a passage from her article.

"Kali mainly has this angry appearance (‘tottam’)."

If you are using CPDYTE ‘tamiz’ in English Alphabet Table, (tottam) is transliterated as ‘tORRam.’ Now you will see the need to set a standard for writing ‘tamiz’ for the internet in particular.

A long time use of a Madurai method has not solved the ambiguity in such a method and lacks the definite way of representing the three Ns, three Ls. Another method used is to use the Websters Dictionary method for Guide to Pronunciation and Key to Pronunciation. e-g. Jaffna is written Yalppanam with an -on top ofa, a - at the bottom of l, and a . at the bottom of n. I do not know how to insert these symbols or diacritical marks in a QWERTY keyboard.

Hence my need to devise a simple method. Jaffna in "tamiz’ is represented with the help of the QWERTY keyboard as follows ‘jAzppAnham’. The former method involves at least, not taking into account the use of shift or any other keys to place the symbols on top and bottom of letters, are 14 and the number for CPDYTE is 12 including the use of only the shift key for upper case letters...

"Kali mainly has this angry appearance (tottam). Kali is there with the capacity to control the ferocious activities of the people. Kali is burning during the -catangu- (‘cadangku-PDYTE.) {her annual propitiation for 10-days and nights} so devotees bring -kannimar- (‘kannimAr’} as a ritual for "cooling" Kaliyamman.* If the army enters into the temple wearing boots she will be angry and her face will change."

* The -kannimar or kannipillai- are girls who live within the goddess’ territory(ur-’Ur’)who are "caught" by the teyvam dancers to perform duties of service for the goddess inside the temple during the days and nights of her Propitiation. Their primary duties include waving of lamps and receiving a ritually cooked meal of "cooling" foods, which is eaten inside the temple. As the Kannipillai eat this meal, they represent the goddess herself and are treated with utmost respect and care. This ritual is said to be most important for the protection and well-being of the -ur-. If it is not properly enacted , local people believe death and destruction will come to their area. There are many elaborately kept rituals involving -kannipillai- in Mattakkalappu. These have been enacted every year of the war, except in 1990, when the fighting was so intense people could not move about.

Kali, ‘tukky amman,’ ‘amman,’ ‘pattira kAli,’ all names given to ‘umAtEvi’ the consort of Siva, in her capacity as the wrathful goddess wielding the rod of discipline. ‘tamiz’ culture did not believe in, "Spoiling the child by sparing the rod." ‘kOdy kAlam’ the hot summer months are the hay days for disease and pestilence. ‘kuLirttik kagnci’ as I remember is to not only to "cool" ‘kaLi’ , it is a rice based porridge cooked in large steel or iron vessels called ‘kadAram’ in the temples.

The ingredients in addition to rice are, coconut milk, diced coconut, onion, green chilly lime juice and of course salt to taste. During the epidemic almost every temple offered ‘kuLittik kagnci’ of which we were debarred from partaking because of the chances of getting infected.. Shanmugam also known as Raju the one eyed as he was popularly known,- he lost an eye as a child while playing with an open pen-knife, was returning from a late show at the Chankanai Pakiyalaxmy Theater alone. He was a little scared he said, but it could be he was ‘excreta scared.’

From the ‘AcArimAr vyra kOvil’ an elderly man joined him and kept him company till he reached his home. He believed that it was the ’vyravar’ who helped him. He vowed then to thank ‘vyravar’ for the timely help. He organized a ‘kuLittik kagnci’ festival. We collected money mostly from passers by in every form of transport. The buses were a very good source for collection. The neighborhood helped us to cook the ‘kagnci’ and at least over a hundred people were served in a palmyra leaf receptacles called ‘piLA.’ This story brings into focus another incident involving Shanmugam.

Any association with castes or regional inferiority or such carries a sense of inferiority in the minds of the aggrieved party. As most of you know, Jaffna had its share of an evil and pernicious caste system. The anachronism of such a system was well understood by my father in our early days. My use of the term ‘AcArimAr’ accepted by artisans when we addressed them as carpenters, goldsmiths and so on is for the same reason as to differentiate between a hereditary caste name to give a more vocational slant. We had a caste called ‘kOvijar.’

Dr. Colvin R. de Silva when he appeared in defense of the ‘kovijar’ in one of the worst inter caste ‘war’ between the ‘kOvijar’ and ‘cAnhdAr’ the oil mongers in Chankanai, more than five people died tried   to mitigate the crime and perhaps to win sympathy from Sinhala Judges, said the ‘kOvijar’ were actually Goviyas or Sinhala farmers brought to Jaffna to farm for the rich land lords and were assimilated into the caste system to serve the ‘vELALar.’ This seems to be a plausible explanation to me based on punning on words. ‘kovijAr’ in ‘tamiz’ means, they will not get angry.

Anyway, after one of our community meetings some post meeting analysis was going on. Shanmugam said something and one of those present was a ‘kOvijar.’ He said if Shanmugam insisted on changing things or whatever the man did not like, he will thrash Shanmugam to death. Shanmugam, I am certain did not realize and did not mean it literally when he said, "If I die, then you cremate me."

Now in addition to helping with the farm work, the women do the household work of the so called high class ‘tamizar’ and the men are the pall bearers at funerals. Naturally that man thought Shanmugam was making fun of his caste and punched Shanmugam so hard, he was unconscious for several minutes. Low self-esteem lowers threshold for tolerance, I know.

The social standing of the deceased was also judged by the number of the pall bearers one could muster in addition to the number of ‘paRy mELam’ number of women paying their respects extolling the virtues of the dear departed in the traditional ‘oppAri.’ On the way to the cemetery the professional women will also make sound by blowing into earthen pots and throwing them into the air and catching them. This was something like a cheer leaders’ performance on parade. Instead of the flag or staff, these women carried earthen pots. This was followed by the family barber, dhoby, and of course relatives.

Our women do not go to the cemetery. Kavingar Kannadasan's song, ‘vIdu vary uRavu, vIty vary manyvi, kAdu vary piLLy, kadyci vary jArO?’ explains the funeral procession.

Then the advance party in the cemetery , who having helped the Dhoby and the professional bier makers- ‘pAdy kaddal,’ in cutting down a couple of arecannut trees for the frame of the bier, and decorated with coconut leaf buntings and intricate trellis of paper work, and traditional ‘veLLy kaddal.’ A couple of banana trees with the ripening fruits decorating the entrance to the funeral home also the home of the deceased. The advance party sets up the funeral pyre with local timber, mostly thespesia-’ ‘pUvarasu’ in the open cemetery. The actual cremation rites in the cemetery are performed by the barber. This still fascinates me.

In every religion the cleric is their to perform the last rites. Not in a so called non Brahmin Hindu funeral. The ‘pUcAri’ keeps away from any religious duties until the thirty-first day, when him and several of his associates including a few ‘kurukkaL’ depending on the ability of the deceased family to meet the ritual demands of the ‘pUcAri’. Such demands include, cooking items from Rice to vegetables, a pair of traditional dress worn by men-’vEddi cAlvy’ and cash. Here again it is a chance to show the public how the heirs to the estate can show their love for the dear departed and also show the world their material worth. In many cases these apparent show of affluence is the downfall of many families.

The high class Brahmins and the ‘pUcAri’ among them perhaps do not want to recommend the dead non-Brahmin for a place in heaven, as no blabbering in an alien language is uttered at the cremation, the language according to many Hindus’ it is the language god understands and therefore it was important that they pay the ‘pUcari’ well so that he will recommend them to god to get a better seat in the other place even at the expense of ‘tamiz and tamizar,’ not realizing that imminent danger to ‘tamiz and ‘tamizar.’


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