OF THIS SECTION
Balakrishnan, 13 December 2006
Jahawir Iqbal, Kattankudi, Batticaloa,
Tamil Eelam, 12 June 2006
5 June 2006
Rajan Sriskandarajah, 2 September 2002
Thangavelu.V 2 September 2002
1 September 2002
Na. Kumaran in the Tamil Circle on Eelam and the Dalit Question
29 August 2002
Pon Kulendiren, 29 August 2002
28 August 2002
M.Nadarajan, 27 August 2002
Chandra 19 March 2001
Mahadevan USA, 12 March 2001
Manjunath,16 January 2001
Backer, Emirates 13 July 2000
- Canada, 2 May 2000
Shanmugalingam - USA, 7 May 2000
Thangavelu - Canada, 30 April 2000
|Thamilselvan - Australia, 29 December 1999
Sampanthar - UK, 29 December 1999
Rajappa - November 1999 including response from tamilnation
- Canada, 12 September 1999
Kothandaraman, 21 June 1999
- Canada, 29 May 1999
- Tamil Nadu, 21 March 1999 including response from tamilnation
|Sam Sampanthar - UK, November
1998 including response from tamilnation
Caste & the Tamil Nation
From: Sundaresan Balakrishnan, 13
I was born to a Brahmin family in Tamil Nadu. But I have abhorred the
caste system from my early days. My grandmother who loved me dearly used to sit on the porch and ask any
and every one of my friends whether they are "good" meaning they are from upper caste or
not. She would admit some of my non Brahmin friends who she considered "good" and not others. To
get my friends I used to throw a dry cloth on her and she would go to take a bath. This let me
admit my friend inside without the embarrassment. She would get upset but would not scold me.
Later in my life, I was asked to find a place to burn my dead grandfather at
Mylapore. When I went to the burning ground I was told that the one place where Brahmins burn their
bodies is already used and I should come next day. I told him my grandfather is dead and does not care for
caste. The man told me that people of other non Brahmin castes are strictly adhering to their caste
and he wanted to be absolutely sure that it will be OK. I had to tell him that my grand father was a
devotee who used to celebrate the marriage of Radha with Krishna in several houses and they go out singing
devotional songs and later have meals together. Several of the people who accompany him were non
Finally he relented.
Similarly, one of the person who worked at a shop owned by my late father got
married. His mother tongue is Telugu and he was a non Brahmin. I went to the marriage and when I sat for
the meals I asked the Nadaswaram people to sit with me. Immediately the bridegroom (who worked in our
shop) came rushing to me that the in-laws of his will get upset if an untouchable eat with the rest
Caste system has gotten into the Tamil population (as it has in the rest of
India including sometimes the muslim and christians in India. One of my cousin got married to a Sikh and her
mother proudly told me that the bridegroom is a brahmin Sikh).
I have great problem with the caste system especially when those who practice it
do not even do the job that caste is supposed to do. For example I do not consider myself a Brahmin
since I am neither a teacher or a priest. But segregation and untouchability are beyond the pale in modern
society. Even the delienation based on job classification is stupid in a modern societal context.
It is surprising to note that the Great Tamil scholars were so much ahead of
their time when they mentioned that there are only 2 castes upper and lower and the upper caste is
for those that share their possession and the lower those that do not share.
To day caste system has no place in any society. But to delve on it does not
help anyone. India and the Tamil people change slowly. We are not revolutionaries in that sense. We
are traditionalists and hence we change slowly but change is occuring surely. Let us
celebrate the shared Tamil culture without deviding ourselves into multiple fractions.
Tamil is a great tradition which we all share and we can all contribute for its future. Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.
The article "Caste & the Tamil Nation - Dalits, Brahmins & Non Brahmins"
appears to be reflecting everything but the reality of the state of Brahmins
and others condemned to be born as "forward castes" in Tamil Nadu today.
The line "In India, Brahmins, who are 3.5 per cent of the
population, hold 78 per cent of the judicial positions and approximately 50
per cent of parliamentary seats" for instance represents the "fairy
tale" nature of the reality conveyed by the article. Just walk up to any
government office in Tamil Nadu and one can see if this is true.
Today the so-called forwards which include Brahmins and Mudaliars do not
have political representation. They are convenient scape goats for miseries
of the caste system. When you go to southern Tamil Nadu and see the discrimination
such as 2-tumbler system, separation of well and drinking water sources, is
it not obvious that the perpetuators of this are no one but influential
"backward" castes such as Thevars, Vanniars etc. There is virtually no
Brahmin population in Southern Tamil Nadu and to continue to call Brahmins as
oppressors is basically same as denying plain reality. The comments made by Prof Hart regarding influence of Brahmins in present
caste system is absolutely true.
The present Tamil political class in reality appear to a bunch of Tamil
traitors who do not have guts to promote unified society within the Tamil
state. The first step in this would be stop treating Tamil Brahmins (and
other forwards) as non-Tamils while giving higher benefits Hindi speaking
Muslims as Tamils.
We too agree with the views of
Hart in the Forum on Brahminism & the Tamil Nation -
"..Yes, of course Brahmins have had their own political agenda to
push. They have been responsible for many things that I feel are
entirely unconscionable. But is this any different from the other high castes? I have heard many many stories of high non-Brahmin castes killing and abusing Dalits. You can't blame the Brahmins for this. In fact, the most pernicious example of the caste system was in the
Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, where there are virtually no Brahmins and never have been....Tamil culture has not suffered because of one group. It
has suffered because of the caste system and
because of its treatment of
women... Let's promote inter caste marriage,
let's get rid of dowry and give women independence and self-respect, and above all, let's avoid a victimization complex which only plays into the hands of those who have a vested interest in continuing the inequities that exist in Tamilnad. If every Brahmin were to disappear from Tamilnad, the Dalits and others who are exploited would
benefited not one iota..."
More generally our response to
Mr.S.Ranganathan in June 2006 may
be of relevance.
Sachi Sri Kankatha, Japan, 30 August 2006
On the Maviddapuram Temple Entry (1968) Conflict and C.Suntheralingam
I appreciate the comments provided by V.Thangavelu and his interaction with
in 1966, which was in reference to my note on caste supremacy theme with
Sunteralingam's politics as a loose cannon of yester generation. I partly agree with Mr.Thangavelu that Suntheralingam may not
have been a caste supremacist in his heart; nevertheless, his actions were
mischievous and abetted anti-Tamil political interests in late 1960s. This
is why I tagged him as a loose cannon of yester generation, in Eelam Tamil
Suntheralingam represented the Vavuniya constituency from 1947 to early
1960. Then, in the aftermath of the Maviddapuram Temple Entry conflict, he
attempted to fish in troubled waters by openly challenging the Federal Party
leader S.J.V.Chelvanayakam in Kankesanthurai constituency (within which
Maviddapuram was located) during the May 1970 general election.
Suntheralingam's unsuccessful and divisive campaign slogan ('Siluvaiyaa -
Velaa?'; i.e., 'Are you for the Cross or for the Vel?') against
Chelvanayakam was tasteless, sophomoric and unbecoming of a senior
politician. He polled only 5,788 votes and came third against
Chelvanayakam's (FP) 13,520 votes and V.Ponnambalam's(CP) 8,164 votes, thus
demonstrating that he was indeed a loose cannon. Suntheralingam's tasteless
campaign of 1960s provides fodder even now for anti-Tamil polemicists like
H.L.D.Mahindapala, the ex-editor of Ceylon Observer.
For the record, I provide below excerpts from Bryan Pfaffenberger's paper on
this explosive issue which was entitled, 'The political construction of
defensive nationalism: The 1968 Temple-Entry crisis in Northern Sri Lanka',
which appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies, Feb.1990, vol.49, no.1,
"...The spokesman of the 'Defenders of Saivism, C.Suntheralingam, did not
put the point quite so strongly. He stated that the objection was not to
untouchable temple entry per se but rather to any attempt to coerce the
temple management into changing its views (and to any interference by the
Colombo government in Hindu religious affairs; Ceylon Observer, July 5,
1968, p.2). He declared to a reporter that he had in fact played a role in
the voluntary opening of another major Jaffna temple, the Nallur Kanthacami
temple, to Minority Tamils some years before the Maviddapuram fracas and had
campaigned for temple-entry reform in his youth. 'Even now I am for temple
entry', he said, 'but not by force' (Ceylon Observer, July 20, 1968, p.4).
Suntheralingam may very well have been sincere, but his statements were
widely taken as just so much rhetoric intended only to sugarcoat the
Faced with the temple-entry conflict, the Federal Party found itself in a
no-win situation and, in the face of contradictory pressures, showed signs
of attempting to avoid the issue. The member of parliament for the district
in which Maviddapuram is situated, S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, attempted to keep a
low profile during the conflict, but conservative Vellalars wanted to force
the issue; they demanded that Chelvanayakam resign his seat and contest it
on the temple-entry issue 'because the public had lost confidence in him'
(Times of Ceylon, Aug.9, 1968, p.1).....Chelvanayakam, the MP whom
conservative Vellalars had asked to resign, soundly beat Suntheralingam in
the 1970 election, just two years after the Maviddapuram conflict."
From: Chudar P.
Vanakkam! I found your website to be of a laudable purpose and as a great
knowledge repository in the web. Hats off to your great work! That being
said, I wish to point out a minor anomaly in your website. In 'Tamil
Dispora - a Trans State Nation' page under "Related
Sites" heading, you have provided hyperlinks to websites that serve the
interests of specific castes like Parpanar (Brahmin), Vellalar etc. For
thousands of years, the caste system has been
the greatest hurdle to the economic and the cultural development of Tamils
and Tamil nationalism. It’s my strong view that encouraging these websites
by providing their hyperlinks does not help but works against your
Also, I am curious about the order in which the hyperlinks are provided in
that page. It starts with Parpanar (Brahmin) and ends with Dalits. Also the
title "Caste & the Tamil Nation - Brahmins, Non
Brahmins & Dalits" lists the castes in the same order. It is neither the
Tamil nor the English alphabetical order nor is it a perfect random order.
Has the aryan vedic varna system been encrypted into our unconscious minds?
How may more millennia and how many more struggles it will take before we
get out of this caste mess?
Many thanks for your comments. We agree with you that the caste system
has been the greatest hurdle to the growth of Tamil national identity.
We have changed the order in which the castes were listed (in the pages
that you referred to) so as to remove any doubt that visitors to this
website may have had that the 'order' reflected some sort of a
hierarchic ranking. On the question of including hyper links to sites
that serve specific castes, whilst we understand the concerns you have
expressed, we ourselves believe that the way forward is to recognise the
current reality, and at the same time
examine the pernicious caste system and the need to transcend caste
based divisions. We seek to adopt an inclusive approach. Brahmins,
Non-Brahmins and Dalits are also Tamils (whatever order that we may
mention them) - and in this way we seek to encourage a growing
V.Thangavelu, Canada, 22 August 2006
Vanakkam. I read the
comment by Sachi Sri Kantha that Prof.C.Suntharalingam gave "overt expression of caste supremacy." In
Prof.C. Suntharalingam let me straighten the record. It
was in 1966 I believe, Prof. C came to the Jaffna Municipal Council to look
into some municipal records. He was then one of the Trustee of Jaffna Sivan
temple and I was the acting Commissioner of JMC. We discussed many topics of
common interest at that time. One of the topic is about the pernicious caste
system. I asked him how come he opposed temple entry (Maviddapuram Temple)
by the so called "low castes" and whether it is not a fact that the
caste system itself is outdated and a curse of Hinduism and by extension the
Thamil society. He laughed loudly and told me he himself does not believe in
caste system and he is opposed to it. He opposed temple entry because
Communists, who don't believe in religion or God, were trying to enter the
temple and create trouble! I don't know whether he meant what he said, but
this is what he told me. I have no reason to disbelieve him.
From: S. Govender, South Africa, 31 July
I recently read the comments
on your website by S. Ranganathan, in a correspondence to you
regarding Brahmins in India.
May I say at the outset that I am a
South African and that while my father is Tamil and my mother is a
descendent of Hindi-speaking people from Uttar Pradesh, I consider
myself Tamil and have done much to learn about the history of
Tamil-speaking civilisation. I recently watched a series of music videos
that were exclusively of Tamil origin and also a travel and tourism
television programme that visited the 'Chollywood' of Tamil cinema. I
was struck and disgusted that the main characters were, it seemed to my
eyes, exclusively fair skinned, whilst the dark skinned Tamils were
merely background dancers or extras.
Speaking from experiences in
South Africa, I have never seen anything to refute my belief that
Tamils, the Dravidians as it were, are a dark skinned race. There may
exist some lightening of complexion through invasion and intermarriage
of millenia, but to display to the world the type of obvious racial
propaganda as displayed in these music videos would be as if Nigerian
cinema had White lead actors.
It is a disgrace that we Tamils do
not celebrate our status as an ancient dark skinned people. As the
African-Americans once preached, 'black is beautiful', and no amount of
propaganda can change that simple fact.
From: Jahawir Iqbal, Kattankudi, Batticaloa,
Tamil Eelam, 12 June 2006
has taken on the issue of caste is highly commendable . In every society,
there is a system of gradation and stratification. In white meritocratic
societies one finds the class system. However it is at the brink of extinction.
The problem with the Tamil nation is that Hindu thought seems to propagate
the caste system. It is therefore a guilt-ridden trip for Hindus
to actually push themselves out of such a tyrannical system of thought which has
plagued them for centuries. I'm told in Jaffna conservative society - no matter
whether you are Hindu or Christian (Catholic or Protestant) you are bound by
this straight-jacket. If they bump into a new person the first question to ask
"Thambi neengal avedum?" They ask from which village they have come from...the
next question is: Are you related to so and so...then the "cat" is out of the
bag! A human being is treated as to where he finds himself in this system of
It is excellent that
is openly speaking about this curse of a system. Because a society is judged by
its taboos. When we don't bring it to the open this matter will never be gotten
In Jaffna even many TULF stalwarts (excluding
Tantai Chelva) in the past
supported the move to refuse certain castes' entrance to the temple. It was like
the Jews keeping the Gentiles away in the outer-court of the Temple.
We can't exclusively blame the Brahmins for the folly of demented religious
reasoning. However, all this fuss centers around "control". Brahmins have the
monopoly on God and they are the only ones who have the legitimacy to "speak"
God-tongue: Sanskrit. One time the Catholics had a hold on "Latin mass." These
are all mechanisms to have a firm hold on society. God always seem to stay out
of these man-made pet-doctrines and play toy-boxes. The Tamil revolution that is
occurring right now has already legislated against the caste system. That action
is good but not enough to uproot the centuries-old "tree of curse". Perhaps
there needs to be enlightenment.
But the worry is, it is among the so-called "cerebral classes" that this caste
system thrives. Why? Don't you think all this is interlinked with property,
human rights, control and monopoly? Why is it that in a
marriage proposal caste is a dominant issue? If the proposal is successful what
needs to occur is transfer of wealth: both immovable wealth and liquid assets in
the form of dowry! These assets must therefore
ought to stay within the caste. The question is in the process of emancipation
which needs to be dismantled first.
As a young Sufi-Muslim in Batticaloa I've listened to
Kasi Ananthan's poetry
reading. In one of his poems he asks a pertinent question..."Does a Vellala
woman have three breasts?" [Vellalan Pennuku moontru marpa? Veruthum angangal
angum undara?] Poets always dig deeper and hit at the heart of the problem: they
call a spade a spade. Others simply eat the fruit of the "Tree of curse" and go
Ambedkar's fine mind was attracted to the rationality of the Buddha. I'm
interested to learn more about the emancipated 'Brahamin'-woman who married
I wonder whether
would kindly furnish more information on her as I've come to
as an open-university in Tamil studies. The editor of
is not only wide awake, he is undoubtedly keeping the Tamil Nation on their
toes. Making them to think on their feet as it were. Many thanks, Salam!
From: Dr. S. Ranganathan, 10/11 June 2006
Dear fellow Tamil Brother, Vannakam. Thank you so much for
your frank and open
communication in response to
email. I deeply appreciate it. Let us stand united as proud Tamilians
and work towards the enrichment and betterment of our mother language and
our Tamil culture. Nanri
I have a question: This is pertaining to “who is a Tamil”. The way I
understand it, a “Tamil” is somebody whose mother tongue is Tamil; that
he/she speaks that language at home. Therefore, how could
Mr. E.V. Ramaswamy
Naicker (‘Periyar’) be considered as “Tamil”? I am told he spoke Telugu at
home. This question arose when I was delving deep into your outstanding
website, which is full of educational and interesting information and I was
looking at notable Tamils during the 21st Century.
Response by tamilnation.org
On the question of 'Who is Tamil' you may find the discussion at
One Hundred Tamils
of the 20th/21st Centuries - Who is a Tamil? of interest and in particular
the question raised
by Vijay Pillai in relation to EVR in February 2000 and
From: Rajan Sriskandarajah <email@example.com>
2 September 2002
In trying to determine whether casteism is a Tamil phenomenon, or whether it was
something introduced by
the Aryans (Brahmins) into the Tamil society, a couple of questions need to be
1. When we talk about casteism, are we talking about differences in occupations,
or is it about social
class (caste) defined by birth?
2. When we quote ancient Tamil literature, how accurate are these books? More
accurately are we in interpreting them?
All societies have had occupational classes, and some occupations have been
treated as lowly. Ancient Tamils
have also had this type of occupational classes, and some occupations have been
considered as 'lowly'.
This is about "social class" and "class differences."
Ancient Tamil books do describe the "Pulayans" and the
"Parayans." The occupations that these groups engaged
in were indeed 'dirty' and 'smelly' and they were
segregated from those who considered themselves as
'clean'. Should we be ashamed of this behavior of the
ancient Tamils? It is certainly not something that we
can be proud of. However, one must remember that
'dignity of labor' and 'respect for all occupations'
is a recent phenomenon, even in the so called liberal
This is different from 'caste' being defined at birth
- based on one's Karma. This is the phenomenon that
was introduced by the Aryans, with the Laws of Manu.
According to Vedic legends, Manu (the
great-great-grandson of Lord Brahma) decreed that the
Brahmins originated from the head of Brahma and
therefore superior to all other beings. Kshatryas
originated from the arms of Brahma, and were
designated the duty of protection. Vaisyas came from
the abdomen, and were assigned the duty of creating
wealth - trade, agriculture, etc. Sudras came from the
therefore became the slaves.
This classification was defined at birth.
There was no hope of changing one's caste except in
the next birth, and that too only if a Sudra behaved
well in this birth! Manu also prohibited marital
interactions between the castes. Even sex was
explicitly prohibited between castes.
The ancient Tamil society, on the other hand, was
classified based on occupation, and occupation was
based on land use. Ancient Tamil land was
classified as Kurunchi, Mullai, Marutha, Neithal, and
Palai. This was not defined at birth.
Tholkaapiyam, for example,
is clear on this. Book III Verse 22 states:
பெயரும் வினையும் என்று ஆயிரு வகைய
திணைதொறும் மரீஇய திணை நிலைப் பெயரே.
Peyarum Vinaiyumenru Aayiuru Vakaya Thinnaithorum
mareea thinnai nilaip peyare.
There were no restrictions on marital interactions
between the groups (except for slaves?). Verse 25
அடியோர் பாங்கினும் வினைவலர் பாங்கினும்
கடிவரை இல புறத்து என்மனார் புலவர்.
Adyor paanginum vinaivalar paanginum Kadivarai ila
puraththu enmanar pulavar.
Having said this, I must admit that there are sections
in Thokaapiyam that talks about caste. These are in
Verses 615-619 in Marapiyal section on Varnashrama
Dharma. Many who have studied Tholkaapiyam well (I am
certainly not one of them) consider these verses to be
Interpolations have been a problem with ancient books.
People who have come later have added text into older
books. This has occurred in the bible too. Mudaliyar
Rasnayagam laments about the interpolations into
the Yalpana Vaivapa Malai.
"Varnashrama Dharma" is not a pure Tamil word. Verses
615-619 do not conform to the general trend of
Tholkaapiyar's writing. They are contextually
inappropriate and most likely interpolations.
Therefore, trying to interpret the nature of ancient
Tamil society, based on ancient books is pure
Casteism as it is practiced today in Tamil society,
however, is as decreed in the Laws of Manu, where one's
caste is defined at birth and is unchangeable. This
practice must go.
From: Thangavelu.V <firstname.lastname@example.org>
2 September 2002
I wish to add further comments to my earlier piece.
The word Varnaashrama consists of two words. Varna
refers to the four-fold (Chadur) divisions of people
according to colour Viz the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas,
the Vaishyas and the Sudras; deemed to have come forth
from the mouth, the arms, the thighs and the feet of
the Brahman respectively. The Brahmins were at the top
of this hierarchy, and after the emergence of Brahman
concept, the Purohits styled themselves as Brahmins
since the Brahman concept was their contribution to
society. The Tamils who were black in complexion,
irrespective of their occupation, were classed as
The Sudras have to serve the first 3 Varnas. In one
sense Varna could be classed as racism rather than
casteism! In course of time of another Varna was added
viz the Panchamar (Untouchables).
The chart shows the major divisions and contents of
the system. The basic castes are called "varnas," or
"colours." Sub castes, or "j‚tis,"
are subdivisions of the varnas.
In Bagawat Geetha, Krishna says that even He cannot
alter the Varnaashrama Dharma, even if he wishes so,
because it was in existence at the time of creation.
He advocates the practice of Suya Dharma, one doing
the duty (occupation) allotted to him.
Ashrama refers to the four "stages of striving" in
Purucharthas (Uruthipporul) viz Righteousness (Aram);
Wealth (Porul); Pleasure
(Inpam) and Liberation (Veedu).
It is the practice of Varna that gave rise to a
multiplicity of castes
through cross marriages between the Varnas. The influx
invaders like Huns, Greeks etc. who inter-married with
the locals resulted
in multiplication of castes. The present day Rajputs
are descendants of
Huns and locals. When the twice born (The first 3
Varnas) come of age,
they enter into the four ashrams or "stages of life."
The first is the brahmacarya (1-24), or the stage of the student
boys, the student is supposed to go live with a
teacher (guru), who is a
Brahmin, to learn about Sanskrit, the Vedas, rituals,
etc. The dharma of
a student includes being obedient, respectful,
non-violent. "The teacher is God." For girls, the
stage of student hood coincides
with that of the householder, and the husband stands
in the place of
The second stage is the g‚rhastya (24-48), or the
stage of the
householder, which is taken far more seriously in
Hinduism than in Jainism or
Buddhism and is usually regarded as mandatory, like
Arjuna's duty to fight the battle in the Bagawat
Geetha comes from his status
as a householder.
The third stage is the v‚naprastya (48-72), or the
stage of the forest
dweller. This may be entered into optionally if
(ideally) one's hair
has become grey, skin wrinkled, and grandchildren
exist to carry on the
family. Husbands and wives may leave their affairs and
their children and retire together to the forest as
The fourth stage is the sanny‚sa(over 72), or the
stage of the
wandering ascetic, the sanny‚sin (or s‚dhu). If a man
desires, he may continue
on to this stage, but his wife will need to return
she cannot stay alone as a forest dweller or wander
the highways as an
ascetic. The sanny‚sin has renounced the world
completely, is regarded
as dead by his family (the funeral is held), and is
finally beyond all
dharma and caste.
The deceptive Brahman concept (Brahminism) was
introduced by Aadi
Sankarar, a Nambuthiri Brahmin from Kerala, under the
name of 'Advaita'
philosophy in the 9th c. A.D. By writing voluminous
to the Vedas, he brought the 'Six-fold' religions viz.
Vaishnavism, Saktham , Gowmaram, Kanapathyam and
Sowram into the Brahman
concept, and got them under the control of the
Brahmins. This is presently
known as Hindu religion.
Caste divisions among Tamils got solidified between
the 9th and the
13th centuries during the Chola period. This is also
Hinduism/Saivaism gained ascendancy and wiped out the
non-caste religions Jainism
and Buddhism. During the Thevaara period of Appar,
Sunderar, Thamils were allowed into the sanctum
sanctorum for worship, but
they lost this right later.
The Hindu religion explains low birth, poverty etc to
one's deeds in
his/her previous birth. Those who performed
meritorious deeds are born as
Brahmins and those who did evil deeds are born as
lower castes and
untouchables. Also the Hindu religion exhorted its
followers not to feel
jealous about the high and wealthy nor feel sorry for
the low and the
poor. In one word it said it is their fate! Reaping
the fruits of the
previous birth. Thirukkural composed by Valluvar was
an attempt to define
the Tamil traditions, culture and believes as opposed
to Aryan culture,
though not in any revolutionary manner.
He says "All beings are equal at birth, there worth or
varies according to their occupations "(Kural 972). He
also refutes the
claim for any one to call himself a Brahmin based on
birth only. He says "
Brahmins are those who are virtuous; because they are
kind to all
The Siddhas who lived in the 14-17th century came
Brahmins, idol worship and caste system. Thirumoolar
(7th century) in his
Thirumanthiram (10th Book in Thirumurai) declares "if
a Brahmin only in
name is allowed to perform pooja to God Siva, it will
disease to the warrior kings and famine to their
domains. So says Nandhi (the
Bull) the learned!"
Sivavaakiyaar outpourings against temple worship,
caste etc. was so
radical, special efforts were made to collect and burn
his works by Saiva
Adheenams. He pointedly asked where is caste, and
whether there is any
difference when you have sex with parachchi and
Unfortunately the radical but individual efforts of
the Siddhas failed to have any
impact on the entrenched Hindu caste system.
One reason why caste system survives is due to its
structure. Those who want to abolish the higher
castes, which are counted as
superior to them, are at the same time like to
superiority over the castes below them. When the
statue of Naavalar was taken in
procession in the seventies to Valvettithurai, the
stoned and driven away. But those who stoned Naavalar
did not allow
other castes to enter their temples! Chellachchannathi
temple was one of
the last to throw its doors open to untouchables!
There was no organized religion during the Sankam
period. But by the
2nd century AD, several temples for Siva, Murugan,
Balaraman, and Vishnu
have cropped up. This is evident when one reads
later work by Ilango.
I have read the excellent research article written by
Prof George Hart
who has quoted extensively from the Sankam literature
to establish that
caste existed among the ancient Tamils as well.
It should be remembered that the Sankam literature is
a collection of
selected poems spanning at least 5 centuries from 300
BC to 200 AD.
There was time lapse between the composition of the
poem and its inclusion
in the selected works later. During this period the
was slowly but steadily creeping into the Tamil
society and reflected
in the later works. Kudi based on one's occupation was
rise to caste based on birth. So the poems in
Purananooru, Ahananooru and
Kalithokai (a very much later work) should be read in
There was no caste system among the early Sankam
Tamils. What they had
was occupational guilds based on the type of work they
did. Prof Hart
misinterprets the word Kudi to mean caste. Even today
speak of Kudi (also Kulam) meaning traditions of a
group of families
related by blood. Caste is rigid. One is born into
certain caste and it
cannot be changed even if you change your vocation.
One of the strongest arguments in support the theory
that the concept
of caste was foreign to Tamils is the word j‚tis
itself. It is not
Tamil, but Sanskrit.
The poets of the 3rd or the last Sankam came from all
walks of life
cutting across social barriers. Royals, Kusavar,
Kuravar, Paanar, Petty
traders, Teachers etc. Surprisingly 53 Thamil
poetesses adorned the
Sankam demonstrating equal opportunity to women in the
sphere of education.
Avvayar who is a Kuravar was one of the best poets of
this age. In
later period some of these 'castes' fell from grace
and treated as
|40. குறிஞ்சி - தலைவன் கூற்று
யாயும் ஞாயும் யாரா கியரோ
எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம்முறைக் கேளிர்
யானும் நீயும் எவ்வழி யறிதும்
செம்புலப் பெயனீர் போல
அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாங்கலந் தனவே.
There is a poem (40) by an unknown poet in
Kurunthokai. The girl thinks
her lover might forsake her and go away without
marrying her. The boy
then allays her fears. He asks,
My mother and your mother, how they are related! My
father and your
father, in what way they are related! Me and you, did
not know each other
before! Like the rain that mixes with the red soil Our
hearts full of
love have got mixed with one another!
This poem indicates that marriage can take place
outside the family
circle. In discussing the relationship with the two
families, the boy
never asks about what caste they belonged to or what
professed. This is evidence that no caste as
understood now was in existence
during the Sankam age.
In Canada the younger generation has nothing but
contempt for the
archaic and irrational caste system based on birth.
Social barriers that
existed in the caste- based Jaffna society are
breaking down fast.
Inter-caste and inter-racial marriages, especially
when they are love
marriages, are becoming .
From: D.Rajanayagam <email@example.com>
1 September 2002
This has been an interesting article and discussion. The article in Himal was
well-written and well-informed, though it contained some errors particularly
regarding the present situation and the LTTEĻs actions.
I have written a
detailed article regarding 'The Jaffna Social System: Continuity and Change
under conditions of war' in Asien Forum 24 1993, which discusses precisely
the actions of the LTTE regarding caste. Another article on the topic is coming
While discussing about caste system of South Asia we have to learn to
differentiate between Varna and Jati. 'The Portuguese word Casta that became
Caste in English combines them both.' No, it does not, and that was the problem.
Portuguese casta comes from pure and chaste and thus gave a totally unreal
perception to the Europeans of what jati (or varna) was about, both of which
stem from quite different etymological roots. If you want to find an equivalent
for jati at all, the best might be the ancient concept of (natio which refers to
birth and tribe)
"So we cant blame anyone including the Brahmins (both the imported and local
variety) for the existence of this archaic evil amongst us."
No doubt about that, but the Brahmins exploited and exacerbated the system no
end and robbed it of its flexibility. Incidentally, there were other reformers
(religious ones, too) besides
Arumuka Navalar who were not so rabid about caste
as he. Think of Marai Malai Atikal whose admittedly quaint cure consisted in
making everybody in the Tamilland into a Vellalar (which is of course a
One should not forget that the so-called kind-hearted
efforts by the Sinhalese to convert the low castes to Buddhism were by no means
disinterested. Moreover, caste exists in Sinhala society, too, and low castes as
From: Na. Kumaran in the Tamil
29 August 2002
Subject: Eelam and the Dalit Question
'Caste of the Tiger: Dalits among Sri Lankan Tamils' by Ravikumar (Translated from Tamil by R
Azhagarasan) in HIMAL
South Asia, August 2002 and published also in the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Island of 26 August 2002.
"In 1981, the UNP leaders, who shout themselves hoarse about democracy, summoned
their military thugs and burnt down the Jaffna library, the biggest library in
Southeast Asia. About the same time, caste fanatics in a small village,
Ezhudumattuval, near Jaffna, threatened Dalit children at a school, seized their
books and notebooks and set them afire."Why did Tamil society choose to condemn one incident and remain
silent on the other?" - Dominic Jeeva, Dalit author from Eelam
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief V Prabakaran's two and half
hour press conference on 10 April this year is regarded as a turning point in
the ongoing peace initiatives in Sri Lanka. Prominent among the issues raised at
the press meet were those concerning Muslims and Estate Tamils (also called
Hill-Country Tamils, Tamils of Indian Descent or New Tamils, since a majority
came over from India as plantation workers). Responding to these queries,
Prabakaran and LTTE ideologue Anton Balasingam said they had invited leaders of
these two groups for talks on issues concerning their future and, as expected,
an agreement has now been arrived at. However, the press conference was
disturbingly silent on the question of Dalit-untouchables who constitute nearly
15 percent of the Tamil population in Eelam. No one saw fit to raise the matter
and the Eelam leadership too chose not to dwell on it. The silence of the
assembled press corps is understandable. But the reticence of the Tamil
leadership is deliberate neglect. A problem that has been awaiting a resolution
for decades was simply glossed over as if it did not even exist.
The primary reason for this neglect is that contemporary Sri Lanka lacks an
energetic Dalit organisation that can exert the necessary social pressure to
ensure that the issue gets the prominence it deserves. This current absence of
Dalit political leadership is conspicuous in an otherwise forceful history of
assertion. In fact, Dalit political consciousness among Sri Lankan Tamils
predates the mobilisation of their counterparts in Tamil Nadu. The militant
struggle against untouchability by Sri Lankan Dalits gives them the distinction
of being among the earliest to wage war against casteism. But over the years the
Sri Lankan Dalit movement has lost its organisational drive, and so while the
Muslims and the Estate Tamils have ensured that their issues remain prominent on
the Eelam agenda, the most oppressed of the Tamils do not evoke even a passing
mention from the Jaffna Tamils, who lead the armed separatist struggle.
Roots of violence
It is customary for Tamil nationalists to regard the Jaffna Tamils as role
models, particularly because of their `achievements' in the armed struggle. But
Eelam and the Jaffna Tamils have an unsavoury tradition that does no credit to
their claim to special status. They have produced casteist, chauvinist scholars
such as Arumuga Navalar of the early 19th century, who, echoing Manu, the
preceptor of the varna system, declared that the parai (Dalit drum), the woman
and the panchama (Dalit) are "all born to get beaten".
Navalar is just one among
a large company of Jaffna Tamils who stoked casteism and helped it take strong
roots in the island. The history of caste Hindu atrocities on Dalits is long and
shameful. The significant moments in the Dalit struggle for self-respect and
upper caste reprisals merit recapitulation if only to demonstrate why this
problem will not be easily resolved.
Those who celebrate the greatness of the Tamil armed struggle are of course
careful to avoid mention of when Jaffna's earliest episodes of armed violence
took place and against whom these were directed. Violence began to inform the
Tamil landscape as early as 1944 when some caste Hindus gunned down a Dalit as
he tried to cremate the body of an old woman of his community at the Villoonri
cremation ground in Jaffna. This anti-Dalit violence was to continue
sporadically over the years. Thus, it can be said that the culture of armed
struggle began in Sri Lanka in the form of attacks on untouchables. However,
Eelam's panegyrics to itself and its armed revolution cannot accommodate such
In the circumstances, it is not surprising that Dalits in Sri Lanka were forced
to form political organisations much earlier than Tamil Nadu Dalits. In fact,
they were pioneers in political mobilisation even among Sri Lankan Tamils. Tamil
nationalism acquired a real political edge only in the 1940s with the formation
of the Tamilar Congress in 1944 and the Tamilarasu Party in 1949. Dalit
mobilisation preceded this by a quarter century, with the formation of the Forum
for Depressed Class Tamil Labourers in July 1927. The forum launched an
agitation for "equality in seating, equality in eating" in 1928 in protest
against caste discrimination in schools where Dalit children were forbidden from
learning or dining with other children. Two years of sustained struggle resulted
in an administrative order that in grant-aided schools low-caste children should
be allowed to sit on benches instead of on the floor or outside on the ground.
In retaliation, caste Hindu Tamils burnt down 13 schools that implemented the
new regulations. And by way of political follow-up, the elite of the Vellala
community from Urelu, Vasavilan and Punalakkattavan petitioned the government in
1930 to rescind the equal-seating directive.
The next major effort to thwart Dalit rights took place in 1931, when the then
British government of Sri Lanka set up the Donoughmore Commission to look into
the changes to be introduced in the country's constitution. The commission
recommended the introduction of universal adult franchise in Sri Lanka. As a
result, the Dalits gained voting rights. Unable to tolerate this development,
caste Tamils, headed by prominent leaders like S. Natesan, launched an
agitation. They were ready to give up their own voting rights to prevent Dalits
from getting theirs. To demonstrate their social power, they went one step
further and imposed several new restrictions on Dalits. According to the new
draconian strictures: "Untouchable women should not cover their torso and (must)
remain half-naked. They should not wear jewels, not use an umbrella, nor use the
caste thread in marriages. Their children should not bear the names used by
dominant castes. They should not cremate, but bury the dead bodies. They should
not use footwear; should not get water from public wells; should not sit in
buses; nor send their children to schools". These restrictions were even harsher
than the restrictions imposed in the 1930s on Dalits of Tiruchi, Ramanathapuram
district in Tamil Nadu by the dominant Kallar, Maravar and Thevar communities.
Sri Lankan political parties, including caste Tamil leaders, advanced several
reasons to oppose universal franchise. They argued that the extension of voting
rights to all would increase corruption; that only landowners are patriotic so
voting rights should be restricted to them; that voting rights would be misused
by the illiterate and that women should not get involved in politics and hence
should not be given the right to vote. However, the Donoughmore Commission stood
firm, and Dalits attained voting rights in 1931.
Suffrage gave them some political leverage and was a boost to
their struggle, as is evident from some of the limited changes that came about
in the economic sphere. For instance, S Natesan, who was at the forefront of the
opposition to voting rights for untouchables, under compulsion of seeking Dalit
votes, had to introduce measures such as the legalisation of the tree tax (mara-vari
scheme) in 1936. This helped the Dalits involved in the toddy business gain
economic independence from upper caste Tamils. This and other successes
stimulated further attempts at forging Dalit political unity for agitational
The Conference of Oppressed Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka was
organised in August 1943. One of the outcomes of this conference was the
formation of the Northern Sri Lankan Minority Tamils Mahasabha. In order to
unite Dalits all over Sri Lanka, the Northern Sri Lanka Minority Tamils
Mahasabha was renamed the All-Sri Lankan Minority Tamils Mahasabha and its
demands were enlarged to include protection for arrack production, improving
educational opportunities for untouchables, reservation for untouchables in
teacher training and representation for untouchables in the legislature.
Meanwhile, the agenda to suppress Dalits was being continuously pursued in the
constitutional sphere. Sri Lankan political parties, dissatisfied with the
recommendations of the Donoughmore Commission, demanded a new constitution for
Sri Lanka. In 1942, these parties asked that the British send a mission to Sri
Lanka to initiate the process of writing a new constitution for the country. In
response to such pressures, London dispatched a commission to Sri Lanka to
elicit the views of the various communities on the proposed new constitution.
The Commission, headed by Lord Soulbury, conducted its deliberations from
December 1944 to April 1945, and held discussions with representatives of
various communities. The Minority Tamils Mahasabha decided to submit a separate
memorandum to the commission. But the Tamilar Congress Party and its president,
GG Ponnambalam, insisted that a separate submission would affect the unified
Tamil cause. To decide the issue, the Minority Tamils Mahasabha organised a
meeting in Jaffna, to which Ponnambalam was also invited. The Mahasabha made it
clear that if the Congress memorandum included issues of Dalit welfare,
particularly those concerning education, professional rights and eradication of
untouchability, it was ready to give up its plan to submit a separate
memorandum. With Ponnambalam rejecting this demand, the Mahasabha was forced to
go along with its original plan to submit a separate memorandum.
In the hostile climate that prevailed, with the Tamilar Congress and caste
Tamils assuming a threatening attitude, the Dalit leadership was forced to
smuggle members of the Soulbury Commission to their villages in order to show
them the wretched conditions of living. But all this was of no consequence,
since the caste Hindu sentiment prevailed and the welfare of Dalits found no
place in the newly drafted constitution. Instead the `unified Tamil' cause found
safeguards in the `Soulbury Constitution', which proscribed any legislation that
would affect a community or religion. This constitution was in force till 1972,
when it was redrafted. Ironically, the constitution that caste Hindu Tamils
believed would safeguard their interests exclusively, to the detriment of the
Dalits, was later to pave the way for their own marginalisation, as Sinhala
chauvinism rode roughshod over the clauses designed to protect minority rights.
As recommended by the Soulbury Commission, elections were held in 1947 in which
the United National Party (UNP) and the Tamilar Congress were the main
contenders. The third force was constituted of the left, represented primarily
by the breakaway factions of the sole pre-war left party - the Lanka Samasamaja
Party (LSSP). One faction of the LSSP set up the Sri Lankan Communist Party in
1943. When M Karthikeyan introduced this party to the Jaffna Tamils, a large
number of Dalits joined it. Dalit writers like Daniel, Dominic Jeeva, ML
Subramaniam, and K Pasupathi were part of this group. Though they joined the
communist party, they continued their work with the Minority Tamils Mahasabha,
with which they had been associated in the past.
As political consciousness among the Dalits evolved, two trends emerged within
the Minority Tamils Mahasabha. Some accepted the communist ideology while others
were content with agitating for small privileges. On the electoral strategy,
there was unanimity of opinion that they should not vote for the Tamilar
Congress, which had not only actively campaigned against the inclusion of Dalit
rights in the Soulbury constitution but had also failed to nominate Dalit
candidates in the election. There was however a difference of opinion between
the moderates and others on whether they should vote for the UNP or the left
parties. The majority of the Minority Tamils Mahasabha campaigned for the UNP,
which had appointed a Dalit to the senate. The UNP programme was more pro-Dalit"
than that of the Tamilar Congress. The UNP campaigned against untouchability,
announced several schemes for Dalit welfare and promised to nominate a Dalit
member to the assembly. For many moderate Dalits, these assurances were
aufficient ground for supporting the UNP.
In contrast to the stand taken by the Tamilar Congress, the Tamilarasu party,
which first raised the slogan of Tamil `right to self-determination', initially
embarked on a policy of Dalit accommodation. The Tamilarasu decided to take
Tamil nationalism beyond Jaffna and unite Tamils from all the areas, focusing on
the racist attitude of the Sinhala government. As a Tamil nationalist party it
was forced by the presence of independent-minded Dalit political organisations
to address the problem of untouchability and casteism, at least nominally. The
Tamilarasu included `abolition of untouchability' as one of its resolutions at
the party's fifth conference held in July 1957. The accommodationist compulsions
of an inclusive nationalism are evident in Tamilarasu leader Thanthai Selva's
speech at the time of the party's founding:
"If we want to qualify ourselves to win, we have to
eradicate the evils in society and purify it. Among the Tamils, there are
untouchables. They think they are oppressed by others. Ethically speaking,
if we do harm to others, someone will do the same to us. If Tamils want to
attain liberation, they must give the same to those who are deprived of
their rights in our society".
The promises and resolutions however, did not add up to much in
real terms. The Tamilarasu did not make any effort to implement them in their
parliamentary programme. Meanwhile, developments in the larger Sri Lankan polity
were to have adverse consequences for both upper caste Tamils and Dalits. This
was particularly the case with the government's chauvinist Sinhala Only Act of
1956, which deprived all Tamils of their fundamental rights. Despite such openly
discriminatory developments, the communist party continued to support the UNP
and since by now the communists dominated the Minority Tamils Mahasabha, many
Dalit leaders had no option but to join Tamilarasu. A new organisation, the
Minority Tamils United Front was formed with the support of the Tamilarasu
Tea and temples
In order to consolidate its support among the Dalits, the Tamilarasu pushed for
the introduction of the Prevention of Social Disabilities Act in April 1957.
This act treated caste-based discrimination in public places as a crime but
imposed a fine of `not more than SLR 100' and a jail term of six months for
perpetrators of such crimes. Just how lightly the problem of untouchability was
taken is evident from a comparison with the situation that obtained in Tamil
Nadu in the 1930s. Raobahadur `Rettaimalai' Seenivasan (a Tamil Dalit leader who
attended the Round Table Conference with BR Ambedkar) says in his autobiography
that a fine of INR 100 was imposed on those who prevented untouchables from
using public wells, ponds and the market. In 27 years the real value of the
rupee had declined, but there obviously was very little change in the legal
attitude to untouchability. In the interest of condign punishment, if nothing
else the depreciation of the currency could have been factored into punitive
With such weak protective laws to help them survive with dignity, Dalits had to
increasingly address their own social issues through direct action to force
political parties to heed their plight. In October 1958, the Minority Tamils
Mahasabha gave a call for a "teashop entry movement". The Mahasabha delivered an
ultimatum demanding that teashops should begin admitting Dalits before 13
December, failing which they would agitate in front of the offending
establishments. This movement put pressure on the Tamilarasu Party, which
responded by announcing an "annihilation of untouchability week" from 24
November. The party, keen to prevent the division of its Tamil base, initiated a
dialogue with the teashop owners in Jaffna. As a result, two teashops run by
non-Tamil south Indians admitted untouchables. Others soon followed suit.
It is a singular irony of Sri Lankan politics that Dalits
attained the right to vote in 1931, but had to struggle for another 27 years
before they could drink tea in public with dignity. But though teashop doors
had opened, school gates remained shut.
It was only through the efforts of the Communist Party leader
Pon Kandaiah that 15 schools for the children of the Dalit community were
opened. Competitive politics involving the communist and the Tamilarasu parties,
in the context of organised Dalit activity, was clearly a determining factor in
securing some limited policy gains. Changes in the nature of competitive
politics were to have adverse consequences for the Dalits. This is most clearly
evident from the developments in the aftermath of the split in the Communist
Party in 1964 and the subsequent participation of Tamilarasu in the UNP-led
government in 1965.
As part of its constituency building, N Shanmugathasan's communist party led the
popular temple-entry movements, apart from launching agitations to seize
untitled lands and access water from public wells. Newspapers almost daily
carried stories about Dalit agitation - among others, the burning of Kandasamy
temple chariot in April 1968 and the riots that took place during the staging of
the play Kandan Karunai in June 1969. In response, Tamilarasu, the Tamil
nationalist party, strongly criticised this agitation. The Tamilarasu leadership
had become concentrated in the hands of a Colombo-based group with
representatives from the dominant communities in Jaffna. The political
resolutions of the party were drafted in accordance with the interests of the
dominant caste of Jaffna, the Vellalas.
By the 1970s, Sri Lankan politics had taken a turn for the worse, acquiring an
increasingly ethnic character, as the politics of Sinhala-Tamil accommodation
began giving way to conflict. Tamil nationalism intensified in response to the
continuous Sinhala racist policies. The Tamilarasu, having compromised itself by
participating in the government, began to lose its base among Tamils. The major
racist attack of 1983 opened a new trend in the country's politics, particularly
Tamil politics. While Sinhala politics continued to be competitive, Tamil
politics became the monopoly of a nationalism that subsumed every other division
within society in the interest of an overarching unity that refused to admit
Caste and the Tiger
The rise of armed struggle after 1983 and the consequent fall of democratic
movements became a major hurdle in the way of an independent Dalit movement.
Since nationalism could not concede even the slightest hint of an inner
contradiction, writers who continuously focused on the problem of `panchamars'
were dubbed enemies of the Tamil nation. The Tamil national liberation movement
suppressed the voice of the Dalits. The discrimination that followed from
Sinhala majoritarianism in education and employment largely affected caste
Tamils. But the ethnic conflict drew Dalits into the circle of violence. As the
conflict heightened, well-to-do caste Tamils fled to foreign lands, but Dalits
who lacked the resources to follow suit remained in Eelam, and consequently were
recruited into the armed struggle. This trend intensified in the 1990s and today
the majority of LTTE cadres happen to be Dalit.
The increased participation of Dalits and women in the armed struggle had the
paradoxical effect of loosening some of the more rigid strictures of Hindu
society that are incompatible with the flexibility required by armed combat. But
this did not lead to Dalit issues being addressed in any formal or concrete
sense. The changes that have taken place are merely pragmatic adaptations
dictated by necessity. Even so, caste Tamils, who see themselves as the sole
representatives of all Tamils, are uncomfortable with this new state of affairs
since they fear that the rigid rules of subordination will be permanently
breached. As if to reinforce the orthodoxy, while limited social change has been
taking place in the Lankan Tamil homeland, emigre caste Tamils have reinforced
caste distinctions in their adopted countries.
Clearly, migration to foreign lands has not mitigated the effects of caste;
caste feelings remain strong and there is little reason to believe that the
pragmatic concessions that the Tamil society in the home country has made in
conditions of war will last when and if peace arrives. Hence, it is important to
ask whether the (interim) government that will be formed after the peace
initiatives will address the problems of the Dalits. Dalits have played a
crucial role in the powerful struggle that forced the Sinhala government to
negotiate, but it is increasingly looking like the LTTE will abandon the Dalits
when there is no longer any need for their services. Caste Tamils in Eelam could
well give vent to their caste feelings once the climate of fear is dispelled. To
avoid such a situation, the Dalits need to procure some assurances.
The details of the LTTE's understanding with the Estate Tamils and Muslims are
not very clear. Yet, the concessions that the latter have managed to extract
over the last two decades is instructive at least as a modular specimen to be
imitated. On 21 April 1988 an agreement, based on talks held in Madras on 15, 16
and 19 April 1988, was reached between the leaders of Muslim United Front and
the Tigers. The 18-point agreement, signed by Kittu alias Sadasivam Krishnakumar
for the Tigers and MIM Moheedin for the Muslim United Front, recognised the
cultural and social distinctness of the Muslims and provided constitutional
safeguards to them. 33 percent of the population in the eastern territory is
Muslim and the figure is 18 percent for the northeast. Hence, the agreement
stated that not less than 30 percent of state assembly seats should be given to
them, besides giving them an unspecified representation in the ministry. Based
on the percentage of Muslims living in each district in the northeast,
proportional reservation would be given to them in jobs in the public sector. It
was also agreed that an Islamic university would be started with special
educational facilities. The chief ministership of the northeastern province
would rotate between Muslims and `others'.
Such an agreement is important for the Dalits. A similar agreement could now be
chalked out to provide education, jobs and land to the Dalits. The demands made
in the resolutions of the Minority Tamils Mahasabha and the plan of action put
forth in the movements for eradication of untouchability (by the communists in
the 1960s) should also be taken into account in such an agreement. If the future
is to be insured against social conflict, the Tigers will have to come forward
unilaterally to provide a solution to the Dalit problem. The current absence of
a Dalit movement is no indication that there will not be one in future. The long
war has paved the way for change, and the long negotiation for peace has forced
on the LTTE many unprecedented changes in their policy. This new found
flexibility can be the basis for a long-term vision to secure genuine democracy.
And that can happen only when the problems of the most oppressed are
substantially addressed. This is the primary duty of
a democratic dispensation and to fulfil that the Tiger must lose its
From: Thangavelu.V <firstname.lastname@example.org>
in the Tamil Circle,
28 August 2002
Subject: Dalits among Sri Lankan Thamils
The response by M.Nadarajan and others to the article "Dalits among Sri Lankan
Thamils" is factually misleading in many respects and does not reflect
accurately the practice of the pernicious caste system among the Thamils from a
historical perspective. The response tends to paint a rosy picture of the
prevalent caste system; though it is true the liberation struggle had blunted
its ill effects. So let me correct the half-truths that have crept into the
response by Nadarajan and others and set the record straight.
Half truth- "There were no untouchables as such in Sri Lanka, except perhaps the
Rodiyas of the Sinhalese. The manifestation of un-touchability amongst Tamils
was in the refusal of entry of a few castes to temples and drawing water from
public wells. This is no longer the case."
Truth: There were many castes among Thamils that were
considered "untouchable" by untouchable it is meant not only denial of
temple entry and drawing of water to a section of the Tamils, but also
denial of education, inter-marriage etc. I don't want to list the relevant
castes, which is not a pleasant job to do.
Half-Truth-" The few who call themselves Brahmins confine their
work to the temple and other Hindu religious rites. Castes were divided
according to the work performed by each groups members."
Truth: Yes the Brahmins were confined to performing poojas
in temples and other rituals, but the fact that a certain caste monopolise
the priesthood, and continued to do so without any protest whatsoever solely
on the basis of birth confirms the prevalence of the caste system. The claim
"Castes were divided according to the work performed by each group" is not
true. Hindu caste system stigmatise one caste by birth not according
to the type of work you do!
In effect the caste system is a product of Hinduism and its
offshoot Saivaism. The Agamas that govern the practice of Saivaism in
temples denies entry of low caste Hindus into temples.
Arumuga Navalar was a keen
adherent of Agamas and that explains the reason why he practiced and
advocated the perpetuation of casteism in temples. He even denied entry of
so called low castes to schools started by him! He vehemently opposed the
worship of Kannaki (Paththini worship to Sinhalese, first introduced by
Vijayabahu 1, contemporary of Cheran Chenkuttuvan) by Saivaits calling her
derisively as "Chettichi Magal" (daughter of Chetti)!
The four great Saivait Saints (Nayanmaars), noted for their extreme devotion
and dedication to Lord Siva, treated persons of all castes as equals, but
they never called for the abolition of the caste system itself! The story
about Nanthanaar, an untouchable, who went to Thillai to witness the
Blissful dance of Siva was supposed to have entered the flame praising the
Holiest of the holy things, His graceful feet amidst the shower of flowers
by the Devaas. This is a myth. The reality is the Thillai Moovayiravar burnt
him to ashes for daring to pollute the sanctum sanctorum! The door (9th)
through which Nanthanaar gained entry into the temple is still kept locked
because of the "pollution" caused by an untouchable! I am narrating all
these to establish the connection between Hinduism/Saivaism and caste
Half truth- "In Sri Lanka they were not banned from entry to
temples or drawing water from public wells."
Truth- In reality, however, many low castes Hindus are still
denied entry into village temples. My village is an example.
Half-truth- " If women were not allowed to wear blouses or had
to be half naked, not wear jewels etc. The practice must have vanished in the
Truth- " This practice did not vanish in the 19th century.
It continued till the middle of the 20th century.
Half Truth- "Today they are in all the professions such as
doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, and hold senior government jobs."
Truth- " The number of professionals in proportion to the
population of Dalits is negligible even today.
Half truth- "The reason why it is still a major problem in India
is due to attempts at legislation and granting of privileges, which helps
Truth- One cannot right inequality perpetrated over many
centuries without conferring special privileges on the Dalits. Without
legislation and special privileges it will take many more centuries to right
We should not attempt historical revisionism, but boldly admit past mistakes
and injustices done to a sizable section of the Thamil society in the name
of religion and move forward. The Tamil Eelam national liberation struggle
and the consequent social revolution it has triggered has helped to blunt
the practice of centuries old caste system. If not for the national
liberation struggle we will be in the same boat as the Thamil Nadu Thamils.
Inter marriage and education are the key to the eradication of Hindu caste
system and that includes Brahmin caste as well. Overall the caste system is
dying, but it is still not dead. An independent Thamil Eelam should confer
special privileges on Dalits for a specified period to bring them on par
socially and economically with the privileged castes.
Let me conclude by quoting Malathy who is a regular contributor to the
Thamil Circle on "Historic Revisionism" that is constructed to avoid
culpability and self-criticism about perpetuating the caste system.
"The "Historical Revisionism" explained above by Prof. Schalk is used not
only by the Sinhala but also by Caste Hindus, and probably by many other
groups to avoid culpability and self criticism. Here is how Caste Hindus
construct their "historic revisionism" to avoid culpability and
self-criticism. They say:
" Hinduism preaches, "God is Love", but then they ignore the close
connection Hinduism has to Casteism. They say it was not Hinduism per se but
some powerful group in "those days" who is responsible for the practice of
Casteism. They give explanations based on "caste based economic model" which
they say started with good intentions but has unfortunately turned bad. They
say Casteism is really an import from north-India and we Tamils had a more
egalitarian religion called "Saivaism"
From: M.Nadarajan <email@example.com>
27 August 2002
The 'Island' has published an article by one Ravikumar on the question of 'Dalits
among Sri Lankan Tamils'. This has been both written and published with the
sinister motive of creating divisions amongst the Tamils. In this connection I
wish to point out that a similar article was sent to a "Dalit Magazine" in India
for publication. The Editor of that that magazine had the commonsense of sending
it to an expartiate Tamil for his comments before publishing it. Our response to
that article is given below and would be an appropriate response to this aricle
Eelam and the Dalit question
The author who is obviously from India does not understand the 'dalit' problem
in Tamil areas of Sri Lanka. The caste system did exist amongst Tamils as well
the Sinhalese carried over as baggage from India, but nowhere near as prevalent
as in India. There were no untouchables as such in Sri Lanka, except perhaps the
Rodiyas of the Sinhalese. The manifestation of un-touchability amongst Tamils
was in the refusal of entry of a few castes to temples and drawing water from
public wells. This is no longer the case. There are no Brahmins in Sri Lanka who
claim superiority over other castes. The few who call themselves Brahmins
confine their work to the temple and other Hindu religious rites. Castes were
divided according to the work performed by each group's members.
In India there are several castes that are bunched together as 'Dalits'
and there are arguments amongst politicians who call themselves leaders of
different castes or group of Dalits, eg.the Vanniyanars and Pallars. More and
more people claim to be Dalits in order to benefit from the facilities and
reservations made for them in educational institutions and employment.
For the sake of these notes we will call the lower castes
amongst the Sri Lankan Tamils, 'Dalits'. It is evident from the article that
dhobies and barbers are considered Dalits in India. In Sri Lanka they were not
banned from entry to temples or drawing water from public wells. There are
several sub-castes amongst the Vellalas who are not considered lower castes. In
the past high caste Vellalas may have frowned on marriage even with lower caste
Vellalas. Nowadays inter caste marriages amongst the different groups of
Vellalas are quite common. Inter caste marriages with non-Vellalas are also
taking place as in India.
The article is acceptable if it was captioned 'the history of
the emancipation of the low castes in Sri Lanka.' The article speaks of what
happened before the 19th century. The article refers to what Arumaga Navalar who
lived perhaps in the 19th century had said. If women were not allowed to wear
blouses or had to be half naked, not wear jewels etc the practice must have
vanished in the 19th century. Only banning of temple entry and teashop entry
(meaning they were served, but they had to use different cups), prevailed into
the 1940s. That too, as the author himself points out, is a thing of the past.
Christian missionaries, the left movement, and later in 1949,
the Tamil Arasu Kachchi (Federal Party) was responsible for reducing
discrimination. The Federal Party was even responsible for legislation which
made it a crime to discriminate. As the author says, the Federal party passed a
resolution proposing the abolition of untouchability and even helped to form the
Minority Tamils United Front. It also held successfully an 'annihilation of
Mr.C.Suntheralingam, a onetime minister in the UNP government was one of the few
high caste Tamils who opposed temple entry. He lost his deposit at the next
election he contested.
No amount of legislation or special privileges given can eradicate the system.
It is only by educating the people and by example that it can be got rid of. It
can be only done gradually over a period of time. With the LTTE openly saying
that they are against the caste system it has been virtually eradicated. This,
the opposition to the dowry system, and the emphasis on equality of men and
women are some of the social revolutions brought about by the LTTE. The author
wonders why no one asked any questions at the International News Conference on
the subject of Dalits and no answers were given. This is because it is no longer
an issue. The leader of the LTTE himself is from the fishermen caste. I do not
know if he would be considered a dalit in India. It is totally incorrect to say,
'the wave of Tamil national liberation movement suppressed the voice of the
There is no need for a reserved seat for Dalits. Due to adult franchise all
Tamils have the same right to vote and politically have equal status. They are
not prevented from contesting elections or from going to schools. Today they are
in all the professions such as doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, and
hold senior government jobs. It must be admitted that in the remote villages it
may still exists to some degree. In my own village the LTTE official in charge
of issuing passes was from a so-called 'lower caste'. The LTTE did not think
twice about appointing him. However some villagers felt squeamish about going to
him for passes.
Crocodile tears are being shed that there are no political organizations for
Dalits, although in the past they had several and staged numerous protests.
There is no need anymore for separate organizations for them. There seems to a
mischievous attempt at splitting Dalits away from the bulk of the Tamils. This
will not help the Dalits or Tamils in general. 'Dalits' if any may be
called that, are not a separate community like the Muslims. We do not need 'dalit
movements and dalit intellectuals in Tamil Nadu to create pressure to discuss
the (non-existent) problems of Dalits in Jaffna and safeguard their fundamental
rights'. Thank God for that.
Who asked them to do so? This is like President Chandrika saying
that she wanted to 'release the Tamils from the clutches of the LTTE', as if any
one asked her to! The author gives the gratuitous advice to the LTTE not to
abandon the Dalits as the Federal party did, (in fact it did not) and to come
forward to provide solutions to the problems of Dalits .He talks about the
political power of the Hindus as against that of the Dalits. Unlike in India
where many Dalits have become Muslims or Buddhists almost all Dalits in Sri
Lanka, except for a minuscule minority, are Hindus! There are four paragraphs in
the article about Muslims, again trying to stoke the fire. The reason why it is
still a major problem in India is due to attempts at legislation and granting of
privileges, which helps perpetrate discrimination."
From: Pon Kulendiren <firstname.lastname@example.org>
29 August 2002
The article titled "The Dalits among Sri Lankan Tamils" in the news circle and
subsequent views by Mr V Thangavelu, has prompted me to give my observations on
The National liberation struggle in Eelam has partially removed many stigmas
like Male Chauvinism, Dowry system, Temple entry, Animal sacrifice in Temples
and Caste system in Eelam. There is more work to be done on social changes and
prove to the Indians and specially the Tamil Nadu population that we are far
ahead of them in social reforms.
When I say partially it is because there are still many issues in Eelam that are
still linked to the dirty word CASTE. Still Caste plays an important part in
proposed marriages among Eelam people. It is immaterial whether the family live
abroad or in Eelam. Many roads and areas in Jaffna carry the caste name.
Examples are Thattar Theru, Pandarakulam, Siviyar theru, Vannarpannai,
Kusavankulathadi, Kollankallatty etc. In Colombo many Roads that carried
colonial names were changed to the local names ( Eg: Buller's Road, Parsons'
Road , Mcallum road, Duke Street etc). Then why was no action taken in Jaffna
and other towns in Eelam to erase Caste names from roads and areas?
When it comes to caste, society still has restrictions by not allowing low caste
people to sit with the high caste crowd at a meal after a wedding or age
attaining ceremony or family event.
For a very long time low caste people were prohibited from drawing water from
Veeramakali Amman Temple well in Nallur. There may be similar restrictions in
other temples. Many high caste families do not allow low caste men to draw water
from their well but employ them to drain the well and clean it. While draining
the well, unnoticeably, the well cleaner's sweat gets mixed with the water. The
so-called high caste well owner drinks the same water.
This applies in case of a local toddy tavern ( Kallu Kottil).
Many high caste men are frequent customers of the local tavern owned by toddy
tappers. They also taste the fried prawns and crabs prepared by the tavern
owner. Caste system is overlooked in that situation. Still people hesitate to
buy lands in areas populated by any low caste community. The area name itself
carries a stigma (eg: Arasavelli.). During weddings it is still a custom to
donate the two bunches of Bananas; that decorate the entrance to the Dhobi and
Barber caste people. They are termed "Kudimahan".
This system still exists in many villages and has not changed
much. Few decades ago in Puttur many low caste people were converted to Buddhism
because of the discrimination they faced among the high caste. It is an accepted
fact that many Hindus were converted to other religions because of caste
discrimination. We have seen that the Indian and Sri Lankan media have used
caste system as a weapon to criticize popular leaders.
In India Jegajeevan Ram, a senior Congressman was denied the opportunity to
become Prime Minister of India by the Brahmins, in the Congress, just because he
was an untouchable. Devadasi system permitted High Caste rich men in many Indian
villages to have sex with women from low caste but not to marry them. The
freedom movement in Eelam has eradicated much of the dirty work done by the
so-called low caste people - beating of drums at funerals, the barber
officiating at funerals and so forth amounting almost to every aspect of their
work. Their work even otherwise was not defined in any religious literature but
had been adopted to keep them in bondage.
Chandra 19 March 2001
I recently came across this website. I am not Tamil. Although I appreciate and respect the rich
Tamil heritage and culture, I fail to understand why
the mythical 'Aryan-Invasion-Theory'
should be a basis for Tamil nationalism. I can enumerate several points which modern researchers have put forth to debunk
(1)No Evidence of any Aryan-Dravidian conflict or any war is available.
(2)There is nothing called an 'Aryan' race. Arya just means a noble one.
(3)How do you explain that Ravana in Ramayan was an accomplished Brahmin? Wasn't he a "Dravidian"?
(4)How come Tamil and non-Tamils both believe in the Vedas, worship similar Gods etc.? How come Tamils have Sanskrit origin names?
(5)The minor differences in skin color are not prominent enough, that north-Indians can be said to be belonging to a distinct race. There are
similar variations even among Europeans. For example East Europeans look different from West Europeans, the Germans from British and so on.
(6)Skin variations can also be caused due to different climatic conditions and diet.
(7)Why hasn't it been ever considered that Vedic Hinduism is essentially native to India (Indus-Sarasvati culture)? Maybe it was just comprised of a
federation of different ethnic groups, following the same philosophical principles, culture and religion.
(8) The original Varna system was supposed to be flexible, so that a person could change his/her caste based on merit.
It is indeed sad to see that a false
Aryan Invasion theory propagated by the colonial missionary zealots aimed at dividing and denigrating Hinduism
is being so blindly accepted by us Indians.
We agree with you that the Aryan Invasion Theory and the
'Aryan/Dravidian divide' has been increasingly questioned by many
researchers. Dinesh Agrawal's essay
on the Demise of the Aryan Invasion Theory has appeared at this website from the
date of its launch. Again,
Navaratna S. Rajaram and Davis
Frawley have also explored the question in their
"Aryans" and the Origins of Civilization: A Literary and Scientific Perspective.
We do not seek to found Tamil nationalism on the basis of the Aryan invasion theory -
nor for that matter, on notions of race. A nation is not a race. To
assert that it is, would be to be found a nation on elusive (and often non existent)
physical characteristics. A nation is a togetherness
rooted in the past
and which has grown through
a process of differentiation and opposition. It is not nature or nurture - but, it
is both. It is a togetherness given expression in a
distinct language and a culture but it is
simply a cultural togetherness. Neither is it simply an
economic togetherness. It is also
a political togetherness concerned both with the structure and the exercise of power in a world frame."
We have attempted to explain the elements of that
togetherness in 'What is a nation?' and it is
that togetherness that we seek to nurture. Here, it is perhaps, also important
for us to point out that in our view:
"...the growing togetherness of the Tamil people,
is but a step in the growth of a larger unity. We know that in the end, national freedom
can only be secured by a voluntary pooling of sovereignties, in a regional, and ultimately
in a world context. ... we recognize that our future lies with the peoples of
the Indian region and the path of a greater and a larger Indian union is the direction of
It is a union that will reflect the compelling and inevitable need for a common market
and a common defence and will be rooted in the common heritage that we share with our
brothers and sisters of not only Tamil Nadu but also of India. It is a shared heritage
that we freely acknowledge and it is a shared heritage to which we have
contributed and from which we derive strength..."
And this is a view that was declared at Thimpu
in 1985 and which we expanded upon recently in the Tamil
Nation & the Unity of India.
Mahadevan USA, 12 March
I would like to point out something on the
discussion on 'Brahmanism and Tamil Nation'. Of the four
Tamil Saivaite saints, three were Brahmins. The entire Tamil Saiva community
rate their work above the four Sanskrit Vedas. Would it
not be nice to come together as one Tamil people instead of separating ourselves
based on caste and creed? Yes, I am born as a Brahmin. My best friends are not
Brahmins. My two brothers married outside caste and race. My parents and
grandparents taught me not discriminate on the basis of caste. They instilled in
me reverence for Nandanar who merged with Siva due to his devotion. Often times
I become tired of these discussions because of some of the negative connotations
associated with it. Would it not be a good effort bring everybody together,
whosoever they may be, under one Tamil fold?
We share your views. Caste divides. It weakens us. We cannot
build on narrow (and divisive) foundations. Yes, there is a need to
transcend caste and nurture the
growing togetherness of the Tamil people
we believe that each one of us has something meaningful to contribute, however
small that contribution may be. Postmortems about the past are useful only to
the extent that they guide our actions in the future. Here, we have
found Jacob Pandian's assessessment in
nationalism, and ethnicity :
an interpretation of Tamil cultural history and social order, helpful:
"Ethnic systems arise from the self-conscious, organized use of ethnicity
to conceptualise self and/or collective identity. This self conscious, organized use of
ethnicity may be characterized as identity summation. Individuals seek consistency and
coherence in their formulation of identity, but ethnicity qua ethnicity does not have
systemic consistency or coherence. Within the same cultural tradition, a number of political and religious symbols of greater
or lesser importance exist, and some of these have more continuity and have greater
relevance as representing cultural boundaries. It is not necessary for these symbols to be
interrelated as a systemic whole. It is true that these symbols often fuse each other's
meanings and are transformed to convey a collective or synthetic meaning; but the fusion,
transformation and synthesis occur in their use to conceptualise identity..
..the Tamils use the symbols of
Panchayat, Chenthamil, Amman, Nadu Veadu and
Karppu in the conceptualization of
collective identity. Some of these symbols are directly related to jati group identity and
others to Tamil ethnic identity. But jati and Tamil ethnic identities are not opposed;
in fact, both jati and Tamil ethnic identities have common epistemological roots, although
Tamil language serves as the emblem of Tamil identity and distinctive ritual/political
emblems represent jati identity..."
Manjunath,16 January 2001
These are the Tamil Brahmins who have contribute to Tamil: C.V.Raman, (Nobel
Prize Winner), Chandrashekar (Nobel Prize Winner), Subramaniam (Nobel Prize
Winner), M.S.Subbulakshmi (Bharatharatna), Subramaniya Bharathi (Poet &
Freedom Fighter), T.N.Sheshan (Politics). Many, many musicians, may be more than
100 and thousands of scientists and IT professionals who have made Tamil popular
on the Web are Tamil Brahmins.
M.S.Subbulakshmi may not have been a Brahmin, though she was married to
one. But be that as it may, many hundreds of Brahmin Tamils have contributed to
the growth of Tamil togetherness. The foundations of the Tamil renaissance of
the 19th century were laid by the work of
Aiyar and Thamotherampillai. Another Brahmin, the mathematician
Ramanujan is still remembered, and honoured, at Trinity College, Cambridge
University. Kalki Krishnamurthy was
'a colossus striding the Tamil journalistic field' and for many his Ponniyin Selvan
served as a window to the mighty Chola empire. Again, as you rightly point out,
today, many IT professionals in many parts of the world are making an enduring
contribution to the Tamil digital revolution.
Jacob Pandian's Caste,
nationalism, and ethnicity :
an interpretation of Tamil cultural history and social order is an important contribution to further our understanding of
the Tamil collective identity.
Backer, Emirates 13 July 2000
Caste and Religious Chauvinism: This website is very nice. One of the viewers quoted
some remarks such as Brahmins are not Tamils. Such kind of chauvinism - caste or religious
should not be encouraged. In fact, the contribution
by Brahmin communities to Tamil language is remarkable. I request the owner of the
site not to publish such articles which creates hatred feelings on the basis of caste or
religion. We are in the internet age.
Thangavelu Canada, 12 May 2000
Vanakkam. Till today. I did not had the opportunity to read the
response of my friend Ramalingam Shanmugalingam to my piece
"Brahminism and Tamil Nationalism." ....
I judge others purely on their deeds, not words. It does not matter who that person is
or how great his standing in the political or literary world. In short I dont hold a
brief for someone because he happens to be my friend, relative, mentor, idol, guru or what
else. I scrupulously follow Valluvars advice "After lending ear to many
expositions by several persons, one should be able to weigh them all and determine the
beneficial element in them. That which helps in this alone is to be called wisdom"
The problem with Shan... (is that) he does not analyse the subject with a critical mind
.... At this point I want to make a distinction between the Tamil scholar Kalaignar
Karunanidhi and the politician Dr. M. Karunanidhi. The former has a place in history for
having given new poise, style and vigour , on par with Anna, to spoken and written Tamil.
It still amazes me how a school dropout managed to master the Tamil language and use it
with such deadly effect! But the political Kalaignar is a different "kettle of
fish" altogether, and a total disappointment. When the history of Tamil Eelam is
written he will be referred to as the modern day Nero who fiddled while Tamil Eelam was
Shans drawing a comparison between Pazh Nedumaran and K.Veeramny does not hold
water. In fact it is a poor comparison and shows a lack of knowledge about Tamilnadu
politics. Pazh Nedumaran did not mount AIADMKs political platforms to canvass votes
for Jayalalitha! . Nor did he confer the title "Samookaneethi Kaaththa
Veerangkanai" on Jeyalalitha! Today Jeyalalitha is the most virulent critic of the
LTTE just like the maverick Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, N.Ram and Thuklak Cho.
She raises the bogey of LTTE "destabilising" Tamil Nadu at the drop of a hat!
It is she who cries wolf all the time about LTTE cadres infiltrating into Tamil Nadu
which she knows is false.
She exploited the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi for her own political ends. She
literally and metaphorically rode to power in 1990 over the corpse of Rajiv Gandhi. She
accused the DMK of a hand in the murder of Rajiv Gandhi which she knows very well is
Only the year before she was singing a different tune. Jeyalalitha declared that if
anything was to happen to Prabhakaran at the hands of the SLA, the whole of Tamil Nadu
would rise like one man to defend him!
As far as I know only once did Pazh Nedumaran accompany Jeyalalitha to Delhi to canvass
support for the implementation of the Mandala Commission report. As an indefatigable and
committed supporter of Tamil Eelam cause Pazh Nedumaran and Jeyalalitha stand at opposite
poles! So with K.Veeramany who has toned down or given up totally his support for Tamil
Eelam lately. In an interview to Kumudam, Veeramany declared that it was true he supported
the LTTE once up on a time, but he had since given it up. I can understand his fear of
My assessment of Kalaignar, Shan might claim, is not representative of majority Tamil
opinion. So let me quote for the benefit of Shan what Muthu Kannan from Tamil Nadu has to
say about Chief Minister Karunanidhi. I took this from Tamil Canadian web site (Talking Point) .
"I am very disappointed with our CM Karunanidhis speech
today. He says that he will welcome Tamil Eelam if LTTE wins it in a war or in a peace
talk by its own. But he says that there is a ban on LTTE in India and therefore he
wont allow Tamil Nadu to be used as a base for Eelam activities. Also he says that
he has put 60 checkpoints over the Tamil Nadu coast so that essential things like
medicine, food and petrol are not taken to Eelam for injured Tigers or their use. I have
lost all the respect I had for him. If he cant help the Eelam Tamils at this
critical stage when is he going to help the TAMILS? May be his desire to help the Tamils
is reduced by the fact that his nephew Murasoli Maran is a Minister in the BJP government.
Murosoli Maran is known here as careerist and he is not bothered about TAMIL peoples
plight in TAMIL NADU or EELAM. M. Maran is only concerned about himself! I have got
nothing against Murosoli Maran but just telling what the ordinary people are talking here
in Tamil Nadu! ......."
Let me tell my friend that unlike Karunanidhi, if MGR was alive today, he would have
sent train loads of food, medicine and clothing to the Tamil people reeling under the
military jackboot of President Chandrikas Sinhala army! He would not have cared a
damn for the Central government when the issue is about offering humanitarian assistance
to alleviate hunger and thirst of fellow Tamils.
As for Shans claim that Kalaignars government got "dismissed twice for
his alleged support for Freedom Fighters " it is not true... On the contrary in 1990
Karunanidhis government was dissolved not because of his support to freedom
fighters, but in spite of Karunanidhi locking hundreds of wounded LTTE cadres who had
earlier gone to Tamil Nadu for medical treatment at his invitation.
The then erstwhile socialist Prime Minister Chandrashekar who wanted to become the PM
at any cost though he had less than 35 MPs in Parliament, at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi,
dismissed the DMK government though Karunanidhi went to Delhi and fell at his feet to save
These unfortunate boys are still locked up in the notorious Tippu Mahal Special camp at
Veloor along with those acquitted in Rajiv Gandhis murder case by the Supreme Court!
Kalaignar Karunanidhi also refused to admit the crew of Ahat ship who got
acquitted by the Vizhakapattanam Court.
Again did not Kalaignar expel Vaiko from the DMK on the spurious charge the latter
conspired with the LTTE to assassinate him? A blatantly unfounded and un-substantiated
charge just to get Vaiko out of the way and make room for Stalin? How can anyone in his
right mind hatch such a conspiracy theory about someone who thought it is dis-respectable
to talk to Kalaignar while seated?
Only last week he banned the Conference organized by Pazh Nedumaran and his supporters
at Chithamparam to celebrate the fall of Elephant Pass to the LTTE. And after all these he
calls himself "Thamizh Inath Thalaivar! O Tempore! O Mores!
In regard to Jains Commission, Kalaignar had nothing to fear. He was not a proxy
to the conspiracy or murder of Rajiv Gandhi although Jeyalalitha and Dr.Subramaniam Swamy
were pointing the accused finger at him for ulterior motives. The assassination took place
when Tamil Nadu was under governors rule. But Kalaignar did not have the courage to
tell the Commission that he did not go to receive the returning IPKF because their hands
were soaked with the blood of thousands of innocent Tamils! Instead he told a white lie
that because IPKF was returning home after losing thousands of soldiers he simply did not
have the stomach to see them or receive them!
Now to Kalaignars "new line of interpretative ability re Tamil literature is
unparalleled and unheard of" is an over reaction. Churning of such plethora of
adjectives comes only from those who see the stone not for what it is but as god! Probably
Shan is mixing Kural Oviyam with Kalaignar's latest commentary on Thirukkural! These are
two different works. As for his Thirukkural commentary it is a hotchpotch which is neither
fish nor fowl! I like Shan to read the book "Thirukkuralum Thiravida Iyakkamum"
by K.Thirunavukkarasu to get a balanced view. If he does not have a copy I am prepared to
The Tamils dont expect anything from a person like Jeyalalitha whose entry to
politics is an unmitigated disaster for Tamils and Tamil Nadu. She had no qualification or
experience for such a job. MGR made the biggest mistake of his life when he brought
Jeyalalitha from obscurity to fame. But mercifully Jayalalitha does not claim she is the
leader of the 60 million Tamils. The fall is greater when the pedestal is high! But
Kalaignar and Veeramany (Thamizhr Thalaivar) both make bombastic claims. That is why my
disappointment is very profound when I find both whom I worshipped are gods
with clay feet! As for his protest over receiving Bill Clinton, well if Shan wants me to
thank him for small mercies I will. But unlike him I will not sing praise or write
eulogies about those who dont deserve such praise.
Finally I wish to remind Shan that it is Valluvar who exhorted freedom fighters to take
care of the internal enemies first. It is no coincidence that Dr.Subramniam Swamy wants
the Indian government to send its army to arrest the LTTE leader, or The Hindu editor to
declare that the fall of Elephant Pass is a "threat to peace" or N.Ram to give
space to Rohan Gooneratna, the well know LTTE baiter to denigrate and belittle the LTTE!
"It is easy to pluck out a thorny tree while it is yet growing. The attempt to cut
it down, after it is fully-grown will only cause harm to the hand (Kural 879)
From: Ramalingam Shanmugalingam USA 7 May 2000
Vanhakkam Tamilnation. I have pleasure in
appending below my effort to say some of the untolds in Thangavelu's
"Brahminism and Tamil Nationalism".
Time and place, I have said many times, should determine policies and practices...
During British rule, things were not the same as they are today, everywhere,
including India and Ceylon.
Census Superintendent W. R. Cornish wrote in 1871 that, "politically it is not to
the advantage of the government that every question connected with the progress of the
country should be viewed through the medium of Brahmin spectacles. . The true policy of
the state would be to limit their numbers in official positions and to encourage a large
proportion age non-Brahmin Hindus and Muslims to enter official service so as to
allow no special preeminence or preponderance of particular caste" (Report on the
Census of Madras Presidency 1871 Vol. P. 197)
Though affirmative action existed on paper, the inequality was maintained even after
E. V. R. Periyar was not an
exception to changing positions when expediency dictated change. In 1919 Periyar
relinquished his position as Municipal Chairman, District Board Member and Taluka Board
member in one resignation to join the All India Congress and was subsequently elected
Chairman of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee. Later, because of internal caste and class
squabbles Periyar left the Congress.
When Periyar made Hindi fanatics withdraw from demanding official or national language
status for Hindi as a link language, 'aRignar'
C. N. Annadurai - 'anhnhA' wrote in his book 'perijAr oru cakAptam' (Periyar -
an Epoch) and I give my
interpretation as follows:
"The language issue was a simple problem to him. He was more concerned about
cultivating humanity among the people of Tamil Nadu; their belief in savagery, policies
that transcend the country, policies that make man an animal, and those destructive
policies that were discarded by the rest of the world some two to three centuries ago
should be made to vanish; these undesirables should be removed and Tamils should engage in
clear thoughts, and should shine with distinction with rationality and culture in their
deeds; he was convinced in the need for a knowledge revolution and centred his vision on
that. That keen vision personified is Periyar."
Lamenting the betrayal of Periyar by his strong followers and disciples today is
anachronistic. Even 'anhnhA' broke away from the Dravida Kazham and formed the DMK. The AIADMK is a
break away from 'anhnhA's' DMK. Political expediency of the times dictated changes and not
disloyalty to the policies of Periyar. Many blame K. Veeramany for his association with
Jayalalitha. Why even 'paza' Nedumaran, the long time "mentor" of the freedom
fighters has not done anything different from Veeramany in looking up to Jayalalitha for
help. In fact Eelam Tamils are indebted to Nedumaran for his continued support. It was
Churchill at the peak of WWII declared that he was prepared to join the devil for a
larger cause. So what is wrong with Veeramany joining the devil Jayalalitha? If it is all
right for Nedumaran it should be good for Veeramany.
It is uncharitable to impute motives for somebody's omission or commission in the
Tamil struggle in Sri Lanka. Even MGR in the
early days of Tamil militancy kept aloof on the grounds that as a film star he had fans
among the Sinhalas and hence would not like to alienate them. But, subsequent events
proved that he has done his part well.
On the other hand, Kalaignar is the most abused of Tamil Nadu leaders. It is of no
consequence that Kalaignar unashamedly or advisedly compromised the lofty ideals of
Periyar, since MGR was the first Dravida Kazhakam offspring to include a Brahmin in his
cabinet. His extra marital passion fashioned a Brahmin non-Tamil to become the Chief
Minister of Tamil Nadu. Fate had no hand in these anomalies. It is hate and the good going
rate for the biggest noise in Tamil Nadu politics.
Periyar in his 'iLygnarkaLukku azyppu' took to task those who pay lip service to
anti-Arya rhetoric. I give my interpretation from "Invitation to Youth":
"....The reason for the subjugation of Tamils to Aryans are the epics and
sacred narratives. What else can it be? Muslims and Christians are not trapped into Aryan
subjugation like Tamils, because they hate and undermine Aryan yarns, sacred narratives
and theories worse than human excretion. We can also realise this through history.
The obvious is evident. We pretend to hate the Aryans and their philosophy in our
rhetoric. In effect our praise of the Aryans and their philosophy is very evident in our
praise of Ramayanam and Periya Puranam."
But, today, things have changed. Some Brahmins are reluctant to call themselves
Brahmins as much as some non-Brahmins are reluctant to call themselves Tamils. In a
changing world, it is what I believe and it is my work towards realizing my aspirations
that counts and if that has a following so much the better.
I had an interesting experience with Kalaignar. I was demonstrating the Character
Phonetics Yarzhan Tamil Editor to Kalaignar and his colleagues and emphasized on the
retention of the traditional letters before the Periyar improvement to some odd letters
for reducing the number of characters.
Kalaignar was not in favor of going back to the traditional style and he said,
"How can we go back on what Periyar has caused?" I could have asked the same
question: then why did you "compromise on Periyar's lofty ideals?" But
that was not the purpose of my visit. I appreciate his position vis a vis the Tamil
Freedom Fighters. His government was dissolved twice for his alleged support for the
Freedom Fighters. There is no evidence of any worthwhile protests. The "Sword of
Damocles" was hanging over his head during the Jain Commission investigations with
every conceivable anti-Kalaignar force working overtime to remove him from the political
scene. Again, political expediency is prompting Kalaignar to react to situations within
It was Kalaignar who raised his voice against Prime Minister Vajpayee's Hindi narration
during Clinton's visit to India. It is said that as Lenin gave teeth to Karl Marx's work,
Kalaignar has given a new light to Thirukkural with his 'kuRaLOvijam'. Kalaignar's new
line interpretative ability re Tamil literature is unparalleled and unheard of. For that I
salute him. After all he is also human and perhaps give in more easily at times to minor
human urges such as anger, or disappointment, but his record as a
young Dravida leader is unsurpassed.
Tamils have to consolidate their energies to stop the war and establish Tamil Eelam.
Tamils have more than what Tamils can chew in the opposition. India, is in a better
position to help give peace a chance in Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam. The Sinhala Government
in their arrogance derived from borrowed strength will even try to bite the hand that
This is the time for Tamils to be careful with words that will meliorate
rather than indulge in pejoratives. Let us sing songs of praise and not amphigory, however
legitimate our anger may be. Let us rise above "Gallery Theatrics". If we have
to pin point
something, let us be balanced. What may seem friendly may change with time and place and
turn enemy. The haves try to control the have nots - even their spirit. Such is the time
and place in which we live. But whatever the climate may be, Tamil aspirations should not
be shaky. The means to the end may change but the end should remain in tact.
Tamils should never forget the fact, that Tamils learn Tamil and come to know Thirukkural but foreigners come to know the
gift of Tamil through Thirukkural. Today, the
freedom fighters are in an advantageous position, but the war has still got to be won
and I would like to remind my fellow Tamils to look up to Valluvar for guidance and
for starters like to give you all,
'perukkattu vEnhdum panhital ciRija
curukkattu vEnhdum ujarvu."
Humility in Prosperity
Dignity in Adversity.
Thangavelu Canada, 30 April 2000
[Others] have commented on the role of Tamil Nadu Brahmins and the press controlled by
them to denigrate, belittle and ridicule the national
liberation struggle of the Tamil people. Publications like The Hindu and Frontline are
in the frontline in this sordid campaign against Tamil nationalism in general and the
national liberation struggle spearheaded by the LTTE in
E.V.R.Periyar, the greatest reformer in the history of Tamil Nadu, advised Tamils that
if they see a Brahmin and a snake at one and the same time, they must thrash the
Brahmin. first. Though Periyar did not literally mean what he said, he was driving
home the point that the Brahmins as a social group, with notable exceptions, have
continuously opposed, oppressed and exploited the Tamils for the last two thousand years.
They claimed superior caste status for themselves as something divined by God (s) and
Vedas, called Tamils Sudras, eulogised Sanskrit as Deva Bhasha and dubbed Tamil as Neesha
Bhasha not worthy for worship in the temples Tamil themselves built!
Periyar before he died lamented the fact that his mission to uplift Tamils was
half-finished and still leaving the Tamils the stigma of being called Sooththirar! His
successors though invoking his name to capture and consolidate political power have turned
their backs on Periyar and betrayed his ideals paying only lip service to him now and
then! These days DK leader K.Veeramani is playing an ignoble role as the Rajaguru of
Jayalalitha (described as such by Ananthi of BBC Thamil Oosai), though the latter heading
a Dravidian political party had turned her Poes Garden residence into a Yakasalai for
performing moth-eaten Hindu rituals.
Jayalalitha, when she was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (1990-96), publicly declared
on the floor of the Tamil Nadu state assembly that she was proud to be called a Paappathi!
Jeyalalitha rose to politics exploiting her closeness to MGR, but she had jettisoned
MGRs policy of unstinted support for the Tamil Eelam cause overboard. She and her
party are now easily the most vicious critics of the LTTE. Apparently her caste
consciousness and her hatred for Tamil nationalism got better of her!
As for Kalaignar Karunanidhi he has unashamedly compromised the lofty ideals of Periyar
and the Dravidian movement to gain political power. He no more speaks about the evils of
Brahmins or Brahminism....
As rightly pointed out the Brahmins control 90% of the print media in Tamil Nadu with a
total monopoly on English language newspapers. Those who want to know the machinations of
Brahmins should read the recent Hindu editorial captioned Turning point in Sri
Lanka. On the capture of Elephant Pass by the LTTE, true to form the Hindu editorial
proclaimed The moment for collective political action has arrived. The capture of
the strategically vital pass by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is the most serious
setback that peace has suffered in the island in the past five years.... and must
considerably enhance the bargaining power of the LTTE.
Last week when the Madras High Court ruled against the Government Order issued by the
Tamil Nadu state government making Tamil language the medium of education in Kindergarten
schools upto standard V, a move vigorously opposed by
Jayalalitha, the Hindu could hardly suppress its glee! It gloated over the discomfiture of
the Tamil Nadu government. Not only The Hindu, other Brahmin owned or controlled
publications like the Thinamalar, Thinamani, Frontline, Kalki, Ananda Viakadan, Kumudam,
Chos Thuklak, just to name a few, were equally hilarious in claiming the judgement
as a rebuff to Tamil extremism!
The same publications have now turned their guns against Vaiko for his speech at the
human rights rally held in Geneva. Not to be left out the notorious LTTE baiter Dr.
Subramanian Swamy, who polled less than 25,000 votes and lost his deposit during the last
general elections to the Lok Saba in Madurai constituency, said he would seek an
appointment with President Mr. K.R.Narayanan to apprise him of the MDMK chief's
So while fighting for our national liberation , let us also at the same fight against the
internal enemies of Tamil Nationalism and make Periyar dreams a reality. We should not
forget the saying of Tamil sage Valluvar It is easier to pluck out a thorny-tree
while it is still young and growing! Any attempt to cut it down after it is fully gown
will only cause harm to ones hands ( Kural 879).
Australia, 29 December 1999
I have been a regular reader of Tamil Nation. We are
thankful for the excellent information provided by your web site. But this section
about the Aryan Invasion Theory, stands in stark
contrast to all other valuable information provided in your web site.
My grandmother used to say " Arya Koothu" for actions which are disguised to
hide their ulterior motives. I feel the writings
by some of these people about this Aryan Invasion Theory is also an "Arya
Koothu" to disguise their true motives of keeping Bharatha together and for
propagating Pan India sentiments.
But the real danger is, in this process the true history gets distorted and we will be
the ultimate losers as ever. These people have their own vested interests in propagating
this anti Aryan Invasion Theory to advocate their own ends.
Their writings are in stark contrast to what ever is known in real history and what
ever is recorded in authoritative information bases such as Encyclopaedia of Britannica .
For example, in the Encyclopaedia of Britannica a search on the word 'Agastya' discloses:
"The history of Tamil Nadu begins with the establishment of a trinity of Tamil
powers in the region--namely, the Chera, Chola, and Pandya kingdoms. By about AD 200
the influence of northern Aryan powers had progressed, and the Aryan sage Agastya had
established himself as a cultural hero."
There is no doubt this is an authentic record of real history. To this day, we are
reeling under this impact of our 'Aryan Cultural Heroes'.
These Aryan cultural heroes from the very beginning, have been systematically
destroying Dravidian culture by demeaning Dravidian culture and Tamil language.
We can see at the Tamil temples even the Tamil God - Lord Muruga needs Sanskrit
translators to interpret our pleas. It is unthinkable that the ancient Tamils at their
height of civilisation would have tolerated a foreign language such as Sanskrit to
converse with their gods. This is only a strange phenomenon encountered in our
contemporary Tamil life. The reason is, the Aryan invasion is well entrenched and goes
very deep into Tamil psyche.
The Tamils have been indoctrinated to believe that their language is inferior (Neecha
Pasai) to converse with the higher echelons such as gods and only the Aryan language
Sanskrit (Theva Pasai) is suitable for this purpose. It was even drilled into them that
the Vedic chants will have their real power only if it is pronounced in chaste Sanskrit.
Then of course, you need the middle man or our famous Parpan (Brahmin) to do the
translation for us. This is when the rot or decline started for this ancient Dravidian
civilisation. The foreign Brahmins dominated in all our cultural spheres and brought the
decline of our civilisation.
The Aryan north Indians and Dravidian south Indians are ethnically different by their
culture , physical look and languages. There is no escape from this simple truth. The only
common thread is Hinduism. But even in Hinduism there are lots of differences. For
example, god Muruga is not worshiped in North India. In fact, the warrior Tamil god Muruga
may have been a later day Tamilian answer to the North Indian warrior gods such as Rama.
There are also other historical evidences such as the following piece of recorded
Rajendra Chola (reigned 1014-44) outdid Rajaraja's achievements and sent (1023) an
expedition to the north that penetrated to the Ganges River and brought Ganges water to
the new capital, Gangaikonacolapuram.
In Tamil historical records, it was recorded that Rajendra Chola also captured two
Aryan Kings and brought them back. So it can be seen that the ancient Tamils themselves
were calling these usurpers as Aryans who were very different to them.
Even today, from the shrill cry emanating from the Aryan mass media such as the Hindu,
Indian Express, (Vaa-santhy? pugal) Front Line, India Today, Ananda Vikatan, Kumutham, Cho
Parpan's Thuglak, infact any publication churned out by the Brahmin mass media Inc,
including the TV programs are vehemently against our National liberation struggle or
anything good for Tamilians is evidence of this great divide between the mainstream
Tamilians and the Aryan invaders even after a millennium.
Even today these Aryans adhere to their own tradition (or Pura Nadai) while paying lip
service to Tamil and it's culture. They are even ashamed to have Tamil names and are very
proud to Sankritize their own names such as the famous Vaa-santhy instead of Vasanthy.
So it is my humble opinion that this section on Aryan Invasion Theory was planted in
your web site by these vested interests to gain credibility and legitimacy ...
It would be a great service for our common cause if this Aryan Invasion Theory
section could be removed from your esteemed Tamil Nation web site. I have written this
letter after carefully thinking over this topic for years.
In addition, if these writers have any backbone they should fight against and prove
that their version is correct with the official information bases such as Encyclopaedia of
Britannica, Encarta etc, rather than writing like this for our own local consumption.
Sampanthar UK 29 December 1999
A subversive thought -
Initially the ancient peoples all over the world worshipped various forces of nature. By
the time of the Upanishads it seems to me that most of the thinking Rishis had come to the
conclusion that there is in fact nothing beyond our existence. However they were afraid to
proclaim the truth indiscriminately to everyone. They were aware that belief in the Law of
Karma helped create an orderly society. Just as a blind man needs a stick to help him walk
so do most people require some form of religious belief to get through life. Hence the
Rishis were prepared to reveal the truth only to those who were ready to receive it. Time
and time again you will see this refrain.
You must have heard of Chithambara Irahasiam- there is nothing behind the
curtain hiding the innermost sanctum! Sai Baba says I am God and so are you. The only
difference is that I know it and you do not.The implication may be that there is nothing
Even today one hesitates to speak the truth.
It may be best to say that there is only One God but many paths and
mention the Law of Karma. The one difference between Hinduism and some of the other
religions is that Hinduism is only concerned with the salvation of the self and not with
saving of other souls. To that extent it is selfish.
Other religions have dedicated orders whose vocation is serving the less
fortunate or they demand that a certain percentage of ones income is given to charity.
Hindus spend vast sums building temples and installing images in magnificent attire while
ignoring the destitute as it is easy to assuage the conscience saying that it is due to
their Karma that they are in that state. Less pomp and more charity may be in order and
should be encouraged. In other words Karma Yoga is the only acceptable path in the modern
Rajappa, November 1999
I was very impressed with you site. After years of Aryan domination we have tried to break
out on our own (thanks to people like Periyar). Inspite of never having been a part of any
North Indian kingdom why should Tamil Nadu be a part of the Indian Union. Is there
any legal basis on which Tamil Nadu can ask to be a separate country or is it legally
Response from tamilnation:
Whilst it is true that Tamil Nadu was never a part of any North Indian kingdom, there may
be a need to revisit the whole Aryan invasion
theory. There is much that the Tamil people share with
their brothers and sisters of India. This is not simply a 'cultural' affinity - it has
also something to do with the unifying influence of the single Indian market.
Again, whilst Periyar's contribution to social reform and anti-casteism
are considerable, we may also need to ask why it was that he failed
in his demand for Dravida Nadu. Support for the positive contributions
that E.V.R. made in the area of social reform and to rational thought, should not prevent
an examination of where it was that he went wrong.
As to the question of the legality of a demand for separation, the short
answer is that such a demand would violate the Indian Constitution. In Sri Lanka
too, the struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam violates the 6th Amendment to the Sri Lanka
constitution. However, the comment of the International Commission of Jurists in 1984
is of some relevance:
"The freedom to express political opinions, to seek to persuade others of their
merits, to seek to have them represented in Parliament, and thereafter seek Parliament to
give effect to them, are all fundamental to democracy itself. These are precisely the
freedoms which Article 25 (of the
International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights) recognises and guarantees - and
in respect of advocacy for the establishment of an independent Tamil State in Sri Lanka,
those which the 6th Amendment is designed to outlaw. It therefore appears to me plain that
this enactment constitutes a clear violation by Sri Lanka of its obligations in
international law under the Covenant..." (Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka-A Mounting Tragedy
of Errors - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the
International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984)
Again, the real political question may not be one of separation or division but one of
determining the terms on which different nations may 'associate' with one another in
equality and in freedom - and this may be the issue that
the 21st century may have to confront. The growing togetherness of the Tamil people,
is but a step in the growth of a larger unity. The words of Sumantra Bose in Reconceptualising State, Nation and
Sovereignty merit attention:
"The clash between the ever-increasing clamour of
claims to nationhood and aspirations to sovereignty, on the one hand. and the persistence,
indeed consolidation, of visions of a monolithic, unitarian, and indivisible statehood, on
the other, certainly represents one of the most striking contradictions, and one of the
most fundamental moral and ideological conflicts, of our times...
Demands for 'national self≠determination' are in one sense, therefore, also a struggle
for a higher form of democracy....
The poetical and philosophical vision that is required
today has been eloquently articulated, ironically enough, by radical Tamil
nationalists ('chauvinists' and 'separatist terrorists', according to the official
wisdom), in l985: 'We know that in the end,
national freedom can only be secured by a voluntary pooling of sovereignties, in a
regional and ultimately in a world context. And we recognise that our future lies
with the peoples of the Indian region, and that the path of a greater and larger union is
the (eventual) direction of that future....'"
Thangavelu, Canada 12 September 1999
I have just read the comments by Thiru Ramkumar
Kothandaraman regarding my observations on Kural vs the
I can understand ... his attempt to dismiss my criticism of Geethai as
the "illusion of (those) who are brain washed" etc. Well, it is the Brahmins
(not all of them) who brain washed the Tamils into believing they are Sudras the
fourth and the last caste created by god. They were brainwashed to believe even that
their own language Tamil originated from Sanskrit. Tamil was called disparagingly as
"neesha paashai" while Sanskrit was reverently referred to as "deva
paashai". How a language supposed to be "deva paashai" became a dead
language will remain a mystery!
To assert that the Geethai does not advocate "Varnashram" is
to hide a whole pumpskin in a plate of rice. I have in my possession a dozen Tamil
translations of the Geethai including that of Bharathi and one copy in English by Swami
Prabhananda and Christopher Isherwood (1996 edition) . In Chapter 4 Verse 13 this
is what Krishna (reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) says to Arjuna (Translation from
Bhagavad Gita page 25)
"I created the four castes which corresponds to the different types
of Guna and Karma. I am their author; nonetheless you must realise that I am beyond action
In other words " Though I am the creator, know Me to be incapable
of action or change" - that is I cannot change the four fold division of caste even
if I wish....
Below is the original text in Sanskrit.
"Sathurvarnayam Maya Sirushdam Guna,
Karma Vipasaga Thasya Kartharamabi Mam Vithyakarthara, Mafvyayam " ( Chapter 4,
Slokam 13 )
There are other slokams which promote this caste system to absurd
lengths. Krishna claims that "one cannot arbitrarily assume the duties which belong
to another caste". "Prefer to die doing your own duty" exhorts Krishna.
"The duty of another will bring you into great spiritual danger". "
Socially the caste system is graded; but spiritually there are no such distinctions."
" Everyone can attain the highest sainthood only by following the prescribed path of
his caste duty". "Doing of duty honours the Devas"
Again Krishna claims that "in every age when Dharmam declines
and Adharmam raises its head I come to destroy the evil and restore Dharmam" (Chapter
4 Slokam 7) meaning the restoration of the Sathurvarnayam (Sloka 8). The more than
4000 Hindu sub-castes are a by-product of this Varnashrama Dharmam or more aptly Adharmam!
"Most contemporary Brahmins are more pragmatic and liberal than
Dravidian chauvinists..." asserts my friend.
This may or may not be true. But judging from Brahmin chauvinists like
"Thuklak Cho" the journalist, N. Ram, editor
of Frontline, Subramanian Swamy, the politician, Ms. Jeyaram Jeyalalitha, the Aiyangar
Tamil woman from Kannada the Brahmins as a social group are vehemently opposed to
Not a single Brahmin owned journal (e.g. the Hindu, Dinamani, Dinamalar,
Kalki, Ananda Vikadan etc.) supports the just struggle of the
Tamil Eelam Tamils. This despite the fact that the majority of Tamils are
The Brahmin establishment feels threatened that the rise of Tamil
nationalism will destroy their claim for caste superiority and social status. It was not
for nothing that the Sudras were forbidden to study the Vedas!
The Geethai unashamedly makes the claim that women, vaishiyars and
sudras were born out of the womb of sin (paapayoni)! Even a protagonist of Geethai - like Swami
Chinmayananda could not stomach such blasphemous calumny though it came from the mouth
of a Divine Avathara. In the Geethai Commentary that he wrote (page 158 -Chennai 1979) he
makes the comment -"Born out of the womb of sin (Papayoniyah) this term
qualifying women, traders and workers, would be a blasphemous calumny against a majority
of mankind an unpardonable crime, even if the statement comes from the Divine mouth
of a prophet."
This concept is diametrically opposed to the lofty teachings of the Kural. Valluvar refutes the central teaching
of Geethai about birth and declares that "All beings are the same in birth. But work
decides their varied worth" (Kural 972). Hence my contention is that unlike
Thirukkural, Geethai represents a value system fundamentally foreign to Tamil culture. At
this point I rest my case for the present.
Kothandaraman 21 June 1999
Thiru Thangavelu has directly
attacked the Geetai and says that it preaches something that is not preached by
Thirukkural and goes on to repeat the usual Dravidian rhetoric about Brahmins, Varnashram
Most of us, who call ourselves proud
Tamilians or proud Hindus or proud Indians or proud Sri Lankans or
whatever, and who at the drop of the hat compare the
Geetai and the
Thirukkural, most probably have never
completely read and understood the Geetai or the Thirukkural.
Geeta has never talked about varnashram and it is actually an illusion
of (those) who are brainwashed to believe that the Geetai has some elements of varnashram
in it. The intent is to attack anything that is associated with Brahmins. Most
contemporary Brahmins are more pragmatic and liberal than Dravidian chauvinists...
Canada 29 May 1999
I find the
Gitai is being quoted
extensively to drive home the point that one has to do his duty and not runaway from
it. That is fine, but then the Gitai reinforces the varnachrama 'tharmam' and ipso facto
the superiority of the Brahmin. It is the varnacharma tharmam that has given birth to the
4000 or more castes in Tamil society.
The gospel of
Gitai runs contrary to
Thirukkural which clearly states that it is
right conduct that determines ones status not birth.
I need not tell you that the Tamils lost their direction and became slaves of the Brahmins
after the Sangam period. The rot that started during and immediately after the Sangam
period continues to this day. If not for Rev.Caldwell, Tamils would not have known that
the Tamil language is "uyar thani semmozhe' Should we then exalt Gitai at the expense
of Thirukkural? Gitai and Kural cannot co-exist.
Vijay, Tamil Nadu,
21 March 1999
"As a Tamil from India, I have often felt like a second rate citizen.
Tamil language and Tamil people do not count in the
affairs of India. Very often I feel that if Tamils all over the world had a nation of
their own, they would preserve some of their dignity... How I wish the dream comes true.
Tamils must feel proud of their race and
culture. That is
the first step towards a Tamil nation. The days of Periyar and Anna have given way to
youth only interested in films and fun. How can we instil in them a sense of pride for
their race and language and their nation."
For Tamils to yearn for an independent Tamil state is natural. A sense of pride will
grow in us as a people, as we work together to translate that yearning to political
reality. A sense of pride will grow as we surmount the differences amongst ourselves,
whether they be based on the accident of so called 'caste' or the district or province of
our birth. Ram Ravindran explored some of the issues in his contribution titled "How to build Tamil Pride" in November
The togetherness of the Tamil people is a
growing togetherness. In the latter
part of the 19th century, the work of
Aiyar and C.W.Thamotherampillai laid the foundations for a Tamil renaissance.
Subramaniya Bharathy gave vibrant expression to
the togetherness of the Tamil people. His songs like Senthamizh Nadu Ennum Pothinale and
Yamarintha Moligale.. continue to move Tamil minds and Tamil hearts today. Periyar
E.V.Ramasamy and Annadurai gave a social and political impetus to this Tamil
renaissance. And, today Velupillai Pirabaharan
with his single
minded determination and heroism is fertilising the growing togetherness of more than
seventy million Tamil people, living in many lands and across distant seas. Distress is
binding the Tamil people together and so bound, we are finding our strength.
The Tamil cultural renaissance of the second half of the 19th century, the rise of the
Dravida Tamil national movement of the first half of the 20th century, and the armed
struggle for Tamil Eelam are but tributaries flowing into one river - the river of the
increasing togetherness of the Tamil people - and this is a river that will not flow
backwards. What is a nation? Seton-Watson's words are
"The belief that every state is a nation, or that all
sovereign states are national states, has done much to obfuscate human understanding of
political realities. A state is a legal and political organisation, with the power to
require obedience and loyalty from its citizens. A nation is a community of people, whose
members are bound together by a sense of solidarity, a common culture, a national
consciousness... All that I can find to say is that a nation exists
when a significant number of people in a community consider themselves to form a nation,
or behave as if they formed one. It is not necessary that the whole of the population
should so feel, or so behave, and it is not possible to lay down dogmatically a minimum
percentage of a population which must be so affected. When a significant group holds this
belief, it possesses 'national consciousness'." (Hugh Seton-Watson,
of Russian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of
London, : Nations & States - Methuen, London 1977)
Today, the Tamil people are
a transtate nation
of more than 70 million people - a nation without a state. And we are engaged in building
that state. However, we are not chauvinists. We do not say that we are 'better than' but
that we are 'as good as' and we say that we, too, have
contribution to make to world civilisation.
We do not deny the heritage that we share with our brothers and sisters of India. We
recognise the compelling push towards inter-dependence in an emerging post modern
world. But true inter-dependence will come only between equals. There cannot be
inter-dependence without independence. We need to stand perpendicular before we can shake
hands - and associate with dignity. In the longer term, it is true that the growth of
nationalism will lead to a voluntary pooling of sovereignties, in a regional, and
ultimately in a world context - but, always, the crucial element must remain the
of the process.
Sampanthar, United Kingdom, November 1998
"I do not think the reference to 'Tamil Brahmins ' adds anything to
your brilliant response in Ram! O Ram!. After all
there may be some Brahmins who are sympathetic to the cause. Why hurt their feelings?
Attack the message not the messenger. You must by now have read Ram's interviews in the
Response from tamilnation
The matter you raise is an important one. Admittedly, the need to be sensitive to the
feelings of those who may continue to regard themselves as Tamil Brahmins cannot be
denied. The article Ram! O Ram! was written in 1992,
when the writer was six years younger and that may partially (though, not totally) explain
the somewhat combative language!
Having said that, there may be a continuing need to address the question as to how to
'nurture the growing togetherness' of the Tamil people and at the same time include those
Tamils who continue to hold themselves out as Brahmins.
On the one hand, there is ofcourse, the need to recognise the contributions made to Tamil
language and literature by a host of Tamil Brahmins such as
Swaminatha Aiyar and many others. On the other
hand, the problem is that the Brahmin community is a caste based community. Caste is
rooted in birth. Unlike religion, it is not simply a matter of belief. A Tamil may change
his religion, but he may not change his caste. Caste denies equality amongst the
Tamil people. It has served to divide the Tamil people - and it is often directed to keep
them divided, and it may be necessary to point this out, even though this may be hurtful.
A Brahmin who is truly sympathetic to the Tamil cause may also need to
recognise that his caste identity is not relevant to the age in which we live. There may
be a need for more 'Tamil Brahmins' to follow in the illustrious foot steps of
Subramanya Bharathy who was born of Brahmin
It is no accident that it was Periyar E.V. Ramasamys
Suya Mariyathai Iyakkam, with its goal of
abolishing casteism, that laid the foundation for the growth of Tamil nationalism through
the Dravida Kalagam and later the DMK, the AIDMK and the MDMK.
Again, that is not to say that
EVR's anti-Brahmin movement
itself did not have its shortcomings. For one thing it tended to ignore the many caste
differences that existed among the non-Brahmin Tamils and failed to effectively address
the oppression practised by one non-Brahmin caste on another non-Brahmin caste. For
another, E.V.R extended his attack on casteism to an attack on
Hinduism - and indeed to all religions as well. Periyar E.V.Ramasamy threw out the Hindu
child with the Brahmin bath water. One consequence of EVRs atheism was that
spirituality in Tamil Nadu came to be exploited as the special preserve of those who were
opposed to the growth of Tamil nationalism.
the struggle for Tamil Eelam led by the
Liberation Tigers has taken the attack on casteism further
and has helped to eradicate, to a large extent, caste based divisions in the north and
east of the island of Sri Lanka.
Much more, ofcourse, needs to be done.
Ravindran's reflections on how to build Tamil pride are not without relevance:
"It is my feeling that people do certain things deliberately to
perpetuate the casteism.
When everyone learns standard Tamil, why perpetuate caste Tamil. Is it like the black
English spoken in America? Why wear clothes in a certain way for no reason except to
declare one's caste?
Why do different caste groups.... avoid eating certain kinds of food (whether vegetarian
or non-vegetarian) and tell the kids that a certain group has to eat certain food and so
The Bhavad Gita says that to a self-realised man a Brahmin, an elephant
rider, a dog, and a dog eater all are the same - there is a part of Brahman in all of
them. Why not practice it. Just imagine the impact if the Chief Minister or Shri
Shankaracharya, if Rajnikanth or Simran or the local MLA would go to a place where there
is a two glass tea-shop and would take tea from the untouchable tea glass (after all even
THAT glass is sipped from just like the OTHER glass too) a cup of tea and have it video
broadcasted. What an impact it would have, just imagine! ..."
A Brahmin, who in this day and age, continues to hold himself out as a
Brahmin also sends a message. The message is that to him, caste divisions matter and caste
interests matter - and in this way, the messenger merges with the message. The article
Ram! O Ram! was written, in response to an interview by Mr.Ram in the Sinhala owned Sri
Lanka Sunday Island, which introduced him as 'a scion of the Kasturi Ranga Iyengar
family. This was seventy five years after
Subramanya Bharathy had sung:
It would seem that Mr.Ram's recent interview with President Chandrika
Kumaratunga continues a project he started with Sri Lanka Minister, Gamini
Dissanayake in 1987 and the
Indo Sri Lanka Accord. Today, his language may be different
from that which he used in his 1992 interview in the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Island (when
he declared that "Tamil Eelam is a pipe dream") - but no one will
accuse Mr.Ram of being inconsistent. Six years after the 1992 interview, the message and
the messenger remain the same - and one cannot escape the feeling that the real need may
be for those who hold themselves out as 'Tamil Brahmins' to be more sensitive to
the feelings of the people of Tamil Eelam, who are struggling to free themselves from
in 1997 on Tamil, Brahmins, & Sanskrit " ....here are some facts: 1. Brahmins are only 2% of the population, yet they have contributed much more to Tamil literature than their number would indicate.
2. The purest (i.e. least Sanskritized) Tamil was written by the medieval Saiva Brahmin commentators on Tamil. For example, Parimelazakar translates the yoga asanas into Tamil, and the only way anyone can figure out what he is saying is to read the
sub commentary (by Gopalakrishnamachari), who gives the original Sanskrit terms. You will find no Tamil any purer than that of Naccinarkkiniyar et al.
3. Brahmins have contributed to Tamil from Sangam times. Kapilar is one of the greatest Tamil poets.
4. Yes, of course Brahmins have had their own political agenda to push. They have been responsible for many things that I feel are entirely
unconscionable. But is this any different from the other high castes? I have heard many many stories of high non-Brahmin castes killing and abusing Dalits. You can't blame the Brahmins for this. In fact, the most pernicious example of the caste system was in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, where there are virtually no Brahmins and never have been.
5. You cannot blame the Brahmins for Sanskritizing Tamil. Tenkalai Aiyengars often use Tamil words where most non-Brahmins use Sanskrit ones. The Sanskrtization of Tamil is a very old process and cannot be understood except in an all-South-Asian context. The Bengali used in Bangladesh is highly Sanskritized, and the Muslims are quite proud of their language.
The fact is, Sanskrit was the lingua franca of South Asia for intellectual purposes, much as Latin was in
Europe. Buddhists used it, Jains used it, much as Spinoza, a Jew, wrote his philosophical treatises in Latin. The Tamil of Ramalinga
Swamigal, a non-Brahmin, is highly Sanskritized.
6. Sanskrit and Tamil are part of the same intellectual and literary tradition. The fact is, Sanskrit literature owes an enormous amount to
Dravidian -- much of its syntax, its literary conventions, vocabulary. When we come to the great kavya of Sanskrit (e.g. Kalidasa), it is
definitely part of the same stream as Tamil literature, just as French, English and German belong to a Western European literary tradition. This is even true of Sangam literature -- it is clearly of the same cultural tradition as, say, the Sanskrit Mahabharata.
7. Tamil is richer because it has many styles. It is the only Indian language that has a pure, unsanskritized style (well, there is a pure
Telugu, called accu telugu, which was cultivated mainly by Brahmins). This style is very rich, no doubt. But Tamil has innumerable other styles -- many dialects, a highly Sanskritized style, a style with many English words, etc. etc. All of these add to the richness and expressiveness of the language -- why impoverish the language by removing its resources?
8. ... a personal note from an outsider. Tamil culture has not suffered because of one group.
It has suffered because of the caste system and because of its treatment of
women... Let's promote inter caste marriage,
let's get rid of dowry and give women independence and self-respect, and above all, let's avoid a victimization complex which only plays into the hands of those who have a vested interest in continuing the inequities that exist in Tamilnad.
If every Brahmin were to disappear from Tamilnad, the Dalits and others who are exploited would
benefited not one iota.
9. Please note that I am not pro- or anti-Brahmin. I am acutely aware of the negative role Sanskrit has played in the development of the Indian regional languages. Indeed, A. K. Ramanujan, a Brahmin, once told me that the worst things that ever happened to South India were Sanskrit and English. A slavish devotion to Sanskrit has had a negative effect on Tamil and, even more so, on other South Indian languages. But we cannot change the past. There is nothing inherently good or bad in a word, whatever its origin, so long as it has been adopted for general use in a language. What is bad -- and what I deplore -- is the mindless assumption that Sanskrit is somehow superior. It is not. Indeed, Sanskrit is a very limited language,
because it has no spoken substratum. But where Sanskrit words have come into common usage in South India, they have acquired broad connotative powers that enhance the spoken languages that have borrowed them (much like Latin and French words in English).
It is insulting to Tamil to claim that the language cannot borrow words without being
corrupted. Tamil has a long, powerful
it is a very rich
language. Judicious borrowing can only enhance, not spoil it..."