My duty is to impress upon you again and again that it is your responsiblity to keep the Vedic tradition alive. Whether or not you listen to me, whether or not I am capable of making you do what I want you to do, so long as there is strength in me, I will keep telling you tirelessly: "This is your work. This is your dharma. " It is for the sake of the Vedas that the Acarya established this Matha. So, no matter how I keep deceiving you in other ways, as one bearing his name I should be guilty of a serious offence if I failed to carry out with all sincerity at least the responsibility placed on my shoulders of protecting the Vedic dharma. That is why I keep speaking again and again, and again, not minding the tedium, about the need to sustain this dharma.
It has not been all talk. A number of concrete schemes have been and are being implemented in pursuance of our ideal. I have come here to beg of you for your help. If you think I am not begging for your help, take it that I am issuing you a command to serve the cause of the Vedas. However it be, the work I have undertaken must be done.
Vedam odiya Vediyarkkor mazhai
Niti mannar neriyinarkkor mazhai
Madar karpudai mangaiyarkkor mazhai
Madam munru mazhai enappeyyume
According to this well known Tamil poem, the earth will become cool and the crops will grow in plenty only if it rains thrice a month. It rains once for the Brahmin who chants the Vedas in the right manner; it rains once for the king who rules justly; and again it rains once for the woman who ramains true and constant to her husband.
It is not in my hands to make sure that the rulers rule justly, strictly adhering to dharma. Sannyasins like me have nothing to do with the government. But I believe that, as the head of a Matha with the duty of protecting dharma, I have a responsibility with regard to the other two matters. How does a religious head see to it that a woman adheres to her dharma, remains true to her husband? The trends seen today are contrary tc stridharma (code of conduct for women). I have the title of "guru" and so it is my duty to warn womanhood against things that are likely to undermine their dharma. When child marriages were prevalent there was little opportunity for women to go astray. If a girl is already married before she attains puberty she will develop strong attachment for her husband. If she is not married at this age she is likely to feel mentally disturbed. But our hands are tied because of the Sarda Act.
But, if I have not entirely washed my hand of the subject, it is because of the hope that public opinion could be created against the Sarda Act and the government compelled to respect it. After all, so many other laws have been changed in response to public opinion or otherwise. Unfortunately, the attitude of parents and of women in general has become perverse. Instead of trying to conduct the marriage of their daughters in time, parents send them to co-educational colleges and later to work along with men. When I see all this I inwardly shed tears of blood: I am losing my confidence in my ability to arrest this trend.
If Brahmins keep chanting the Vedas, the rulers will rule justly and women will remain steady in their wifely dharma. It is in this hopw that all my efforts are turned to maintaining the Vedic dharma.
You must make a gift of your sons for this purpose, also of your money. Well-to-do people must help children of the poor with cash so that they may be encoruaged to learn the Vedas. We need money to pay the teachers, to buy books, to administer the Vedic schools. We have drawn up a modest scheme to raise funds. You pay one rupee a month and in return you will receive (by post), apart from the belssings of the Veda Mata(Mother Vedas), the prasadas of Sri Candramaulisvara after the puja performed to him at the Kanci Matha. If you send your donation mentioning your naksatra [the asterism under which you are born] the prasada will be sent to you every month of the day on which the asterism falls.
Nowadays, we receive "chain letters" invoking the name of Sri Venkatacalpati (of Tirupati) and with the threat added, "if you don't send copies of this letter to such and such number of people, you shall turn blind or shall be crippled. " Out of fear many people make copies of the letter to be sent to various addressees. I too sometimes wonder whether we could do something similar to promote the Vedic dharma!
I do not ask you much- just one rupee a month. Don't you pay the government taxes, whether or not you like to do so? Take this - the one rupee- as a levy imposed by me. It is a tax you pay to run my government, my sarkar which is no bigger than a mustard seed. You deny yourself a bit of your pleasure for this, your outing to beach or your visit to the cinema. You will thus carry out a fraction of your duty and my duty will have been fulfilled.
Greatness of the Vedas
The glory of the Vedas knows no bounds and it is manifested in the affairs of the world in a manner that defies comparison.
Of all the sacred places on earth Kasi comes foremost. When we speak in praise of other hallowed centres, we say that they are equal to Kasi in holiness. From this we know the importance of that city. In the south there is a pilgrim centre which has come to be called "Daksina Kasi (Southern Kasi). There is an Uttara Kasi (Northern Kasi) in the Himalaya. Vrddhacalm in Tamil Nadu is also known as "Vrddha Kasi". In Tirunelveli district (of Tamil Nadu ) there is a town called " Tenkasi" (this also means " Southern Kasi"). When we speak in praise of a sacred place it is customary to describe it as being "equal to Kasi". But Kumbhakonam is considered greater than Kasi (" in greatness it weighs one grain more than Kasi"). Here is a stanza that speaks of the high place accorded to Kumbhakonam.
Anyaksetre krtam papam punyaksetre vinasyati
Punyaksetre krtam papam Varanasyam vinasyati
Varanasyam krtam papam Kumbhakone vinasyati
Kumbhakone krtam papam Kumbhakone vinasyati
"The sin committed in any (ordinary) place is washed away in a sacred place. That committed in any sacred place is washed away in Varanasi (that is Kasi). The sin committed in Varanasi is wiped away in Kumbhakonam. And the sin earned in Kumbhakonam, well it is destroyed only in Kumbhakonam. "
The glory of Kasi is that all other sacred places are likened to it. Even when a place is said to be superior to Kasi the implication is that Kasi is uniquely great. It has acquired a distinction by being made an object of comparison. A great man has composed a poem on Kasi. " ksetranam uttamanam api yad upamaya ka pi loke prasastih, " so it begins. It means: "By being likened to it even highly esteemed places become famous- that is Kasi. "
Similarly, when you speak highly of scared tirthas you liken them to the Ganga or say that they are more holy than that river. We must conclude from the foregoing that Kasi comes first among the sacred places and that the Ganga is the holiest of the tirthas.
It is in this way that, when any work is to be extolled, it is said tob e " equal to the Vedas". The Ramayana is a very famous poetic work. There are many versions of it. Take any language in India: the story of Rama will be seen to be a theme in drama, poetry, music, etc, in its literature. The greatness of the Ramayana is such that it is exalted to the position of a Veda. "Vedah Pracetasadasitsaksadramayanatmana. " The Veda itself was born as Ramayana to Valmiki, the son of Pracetas.
The Mahabharatha too is celebrated as a Veda: in fact it is called the fifth Veda ("pancamo Vedah").
Vaisnavas glorify the Tiruvaymozhi as a Veda. It is the work of Nammazhvar, who is also called Sathakopan and Maran. They say: "Maran Sathakopan composed the Tamil Veda. " The famous Tamil work on ethics, the Tirukkural, is also called the "Tamil Veda. "
During the time of the author of the Kural, Tiruvalluvar, there was the "Kadai Samgam" in Madurai. In that city there was a seat received as a gift from Sundaresvara. Only the worthy could sit on it. The unworthy would be pushed aside. Was such a ting possible? We cannot believe it; but we do believe that when a coin is inserted in a machine we get a ticket.
[Here the Paramaguru tells the story of Tiruvalluvar and his Kural and how the poets of his time came to regard Tamil as great as Sanskrit since it had now come into possession of a work like Kural which, they said, was equal to the Vedas. This story occurs in Chapter 5, Part Two, "The Vedas in their Original Form. "]
Saivas [in Tamil Nadu] regard the Tiruvacakam as the Tamil Veda. To the Christians in India the Bible is the "Satya - Veda. " Thus we see that the Vedas have a special place of honour. The Vedic river is ageless and it traverses the length and breadth of our land as the very life-blood of our culture. This river should not be allowed to dry up. There is no greater responsibility for a Hindu than that of keeping the Vedas a live and vibrant tradition.
The sound of the Vedas must pervade everywhere, must fill all space. The truths enshrined in them must be spread far and wide and the rituals enjoined on us by them must be made to flourish. Sufficient it would be if the Vedic dharma remains vigorous and is maintained atleast in our land. If a man's heart is stout he will survive even if all other parts of his body are afflicted. In the same way, if the Vedas flourish in this land all nations will prosper and live in peace and happiness. This is the prayer of the Vedic dharma.
"Lookah samastah sukhnio bhavantu. "
Sadanga : Introductory Discourse. The Six Limbs of the Vedas
Among the basic texts of Hinduism, the six Angas or limbs of the Vedas are next in importance to the Vedas themselves. The Vedapurusa has six limbs or parts- mouth, nose, eye, ear, hand, foot. These are called "Sadanga". The Tamil term "cadangu" denoting any ceremony is derived from this word. The Tamil Tevaram refers to Sadanga in this line, "Vedamo(du) aru angam ayinan. "
In the past all moral and religious edicts were inscribed on the stone walls of temples. In a sense the temple in ancient and medieval times was the "subregistrar's office" that "registered" all [acts of, contribution to ] dharma. In the princely state of Travancore there used to be an official called " Tirumantira olai". In the old days all kings in Tamil Nadu had such an official. He was like the present-day private secretary. His duty was to write down the ruler's orders or communication and the royal message would be sent to the people concerned.
In those days the raja had to be informed about all private charities. In fact they required the royal asent and were instituted on royal orders. These were written down by the olai with these concluding words, " to be inscribed on stone and copper. " The royal command was passed on to the place which received the charity. The authorities there had all this inscribed on the walls of the local temple. Most of the stone inscriptions to be found in temples are of this nature.
Inscriptions were also made on copper- plates. If more than one plate was needed, the plates were pierced and held together with a ring. The local council or assembly had to accept these inscriptions. The copper-plates were kept underground in the temple premises in a place called "ksema". The life of a land, its destiny, was entrusted in the hands of the lord and it was natural that the temple was considered the standing monument to its life. It had something of the function of the registrar's office, the epigraphy department, and so on.
Let me now come to subject of the local assembly.
Every village had a Brahmin sabha or assembly. Its membership was open to those who knew the Vedas and the Mantra-Brahmana. People guilty of certain offences and their relatives were debarred from membership. The names of candidates wanting to be members were written on pieces of palm-leaf and a child would be asked to pick one from the lot. The one whose name was inscribed on it was adopted as a member. Details of such elections to the local assembly are mentioned in theUttaramerur Inscriptions. There were a number of divisions of the sabha to look after different subjects like irrigation, taxation, etc. All charities, whether in the form of land or money, had to be made through the sabha. So too cattle offered to the temple or the lamps to be lighted there. The members of the sabha had to give their written consent for all this. This is how we have come to know the names of some of them. We also learn the titles conferred on some Brahmins like "Sadanganiratan" and "Sadangavi", the latter being an eroded form of "Sadangavid" "Sad+anga +vid" = one who knows the six angas or limbs of Vedic learning. From these old inscriptions we come to know that there were many such Brahmins even in small Villages, Brahmins proficient in the "Sadanga". That is why Vedic rites themselves came to be called "cadangu" in Tamil Nadu. The Brahmin who gave away his daughter in marriage to Sundaramurtisvami was called "Cadangavi Sivacariyar. "
The six Angas are Siksa (Phonetics); Vyakarana (grammar); Nirukta (lexicon, etymology); Kalpa (manual of rituals); Chandas (prosody); Jyotisa (astronomy-astrology). A Brahmin must be acquainted with all. That he must be well- versed in the Vedas goes without saying. He must first learn to chant them and proficiency in the six Angas will later help him to gain insights into their meaning.
Siksa is the nose of the vedapurusa, Vyakarana his mouth, Kalpa his hand, Nirukta his ear, Chandas his foot and Jyotisa his eye. The reason for each sastra being identified with a part of the body will become clear as we deal with the Angas individually.
Hindu Dharma: Siksa : -
Nose of the Vedapurusa
Siksa comes first among the six limbs of the Vedas, the nose of the Vedapurusa. The function of the nose here is not be taken only as that of perceiving smells. It has also the function of breathing; in fact it is one of the organs of breathing. Siksa serves as the life-breath of the Vedic mantras.
Where is the life of a Vedic mantra centred? Each syllable of a hymn is to be enunciated strictly according to its measure. Clarity of pronunciation is what is intended. Apart from this, each syllable is raised, lowered or pronounced evenly -- udatta, anudatta, savarita. If attention is paid to these points, there will be tonal purity. A mantra yields the desired fruit if each syllable is vocalised with clarity and tonal accuracy. The phonetic and tonal exactitude of a mantra is even more important that its meaning. In other words, even though the meaning is not understood, if the tonal form takes shape correctly, the mantra will bring the intended benefit. So the life-breath of the Vedas, which are a collection of mantras, is their sound [the "sound form" ].
There is a mantra to cure scorpion sting. Its meaning is not revealed. Its potency is in its sound. Certain sounds have certain powers associated with them. It is sometimes asked: Why should the sraddha mantras be in Sanskrit? May they not be in English or Tamil? Those who raise these questions do not realise that it is the sound that matters here, not the language as such. If the teeth of a sorcerer were knocked off, his witchcraft [magic] would have no effect. Why? Because the man would not be able to recite this spell properly.
Enunciation of the mantras is most important to the Vedas. What do we do about it? Siksa is the science that deals with the character of Vedic syllables it determines their true nature. The science of the sounds of human speech is called phonetics and it is more important to the Vedic language that to any other tongue. The reason is that even if there is a slight change in how you vocalise a syllable the efficacy of the mantra will be affected. [The result sometimes will be contrary to what is intended ].
It is because of the importance of Vedic phonetics that Siksa has been placed first among the six Angas. It is dealt with in the Taittiriya Upanishad. Its "Siksavalli" begins like this: "Let us now explain the Siksa sastra ". The name of the sastra occurs here as well as in many other Vedic texts with a long "i" ("Siksa"). Sankara observes in his commentary: "Dairghyam Chandasam": it means that the usually short "i" occurs as long [in the Vedas]. (Such examples are to be found in Tamil poetry also. ) I told you that the Vedic language is not called Sanskrit but Chandas. "Chandasam", from "chandas", denotes here a Vedic usage.
Yoga and Speech
When you play the harmonium, the nagasvaram or the flute, the sound is produced by the air discharged in various measures through different outlets. Our throat has a similar system to produce sound. It is not that the throat alone is involved in this process. How do we speak and sing? Speaking or singing is an exercise that has its source below the navel in the "muladhara" or "root-base' of the spinal column. From this point the breath is brought up in various measures as we speak or sing. The human instrument made by the Lord is far superior to the harmonium, the nagasvaram or the flute. These latter can produce only mere sounds and cannot articulate the syllables a, ka, ca, etc. Man alone possesses this faculty. Animals can produce one or two types of sound but do not have the ability to articulate.
We may gauge the importance of articulate speech form the fact that the Lord has bestowed this faculty only on man. Such a wonderful gift of Isvara must not be squandered or abused in idle gossip or useless talk. We must use it to grasp the divine powers and endeavour to create the well-being of mankind thereby. And we must also try to raise our own Self with it. All these lofty purposes can be served with the Vedic mantras that the sages have gathered from space for our benefit.
If you recognise this fact you will realise why there should be a sastra called Siksa specially for the purpose of guiding us in the enunciation of Vedic mantras. This science as developed by our forefathers arouses the wonder of linguistic scientists even today. It teaches us how the syllables are to be produced accurately and describes in the minutest detail how the passage of the breath coming from the pit of the stomach is to be controlled. Further, it tells us on which parts of the body the breath must impinge and how it must be discharged from the mouth.
In a sense, air going into our body in different ways is a manifestation of the yogic science: it is because of the vibrations caused in our nadis as a result of the passage of our breath that our emotions and powers take shape. There is a saying, "What is in the macrocosm is present in the microcosm. " As mentioned before, the vibrations within us produce vibrations outside also and these are the cause of worldly activities. That is why those who have mastered the mantras have the same powers as those who have achieved yogic perfection controlling their breath. The one is mantrayoga, the other is Rajayoga.
Siksa explains how each syllable of a mantra is to be produced by the human voice, what its tone should be like. It lays down the duration or matra for each syllable. In determining the matra the short and long syllables (the "hrsva" and "dirgha") are taken into account. Siksa also describes how words that are joined together (according to the rules of "sandhi" ) are to be enunciated without breaking them. All such matters as help in the correct chanting of the mantras are included in this sastra.
Siksa explains in very fine detail how the sounds of the various syllables are to produced. A sound like "ka" is to be created from between the neck and the throat; another like "na" is nasal. To produce the sound of 'ta" the tongue should come into contact with particular teeth - this is mentioned in this sastra; so too how the tongue should touch the upper palate for a sound like "na". Phonemes like "ma" arise from completely closing the lips together and those like "va" (labia-dental) are produced using both the lips and the teeth. It is all scientific and at the same time part of mantrayoga and sabdayoga.
Root Language – Sanskrit
In speaking about the Vedas I stated that the sound of a word was more important that its meaning. That reminds me. In the Vedic language called "Chandas" and in Sanskrit which is based on it, there are words the very sound of which denotes their meaning. Take the word "danta". You know that it means a tooth. We have to use our teeth to produce the sound of the word "danta" - the tongue has to make an impact on the teeth. You will note this phenomenon when you ask a toothless person to say "danta". He will not he able to vocalise the word clearly.
From such small observations comparative philology can discover an important fact : which word has come first in what language. Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, German, French, etc, have been jointly referred to as belonging to the Indo-European group and derived from one mother language. Western philologists do not accept Sanskrit as the original language, the mother of all Indo-European tongues. But words like "danta" point to the fact that Sanskrit is the root language.
Consider the English word "dental". There is so much similarity between "dant" and "dent". In languages like French and Latin also the word for tooth is akin to "dent", though it is "da-kara" and not the "da-kara" of Sanskrit. "Why shouldn’t you derive the Sanskrit word 'danta' from 'dental'? " it might be asked. But you must consider the fact that to say "danta" you have to make use of your teeth. Not so to say "dental". You get the sound "dental" as a result of the tip of your tongue touching your upper palate. It is only in Sanskrit that the sound of the word itself signifies its meaning. So that must be the root form of the word. Hence languages like English, French, Latin, etc, must have been derived from Sanskrit.
By interchanging the letters of some words you get other words which are related in meaning to the original. What is the nature of the animal called lion, the quality you associate with it most? It is violence. "Himsa" is violence and the word turns into "simha" to denote the lion. Kasyapa was the first among the sages. Celestials, non-celestials, human beings, all may be traced back to him. He knew the truth or, rather, saw the Truth. Jnana is also called "drsya". Kasyapa is thus a seer, "Pasyaka": "Pasyaka became Kasyapa".
In Tamil one who sees, the seer, is "parppan". It is in this sense, as men who know the Truth or Reality, that Brahmins in the Tamil land came to be called "Parppans". But now the word is used in a pejorative sense
Siksa deals with "uccarna", "svara", "matra", "bala", "sama" and "santana". The sound of each mantra is determined with the utmost accuracy. How different sounds have their source in different parts of the body and how they are vocalised, all such details which are of scientific and practical importance are dealt with in this Anga. If it says, "Join your lips in this way and such and such a sound will be produced as you speak", you may verify it for yourself in practice and find it to be true.
Here I am reminded of an interesting fact. The lips come into use in "pa", "ma", "va". They are not used in "ka", "nga", "ca", "na", "ta", "na", "ta", and "na". A poet has composed a Ramayana which can be read without using your lips. It is called "Nirosthya- Ramayana". "Ostha" means "lip". "Austraka", the word for camel, is derived from it and the Tamil word "ottagai" has the same origin. "Nir-osthya" means without lips. Nirosthya-Ramayana was perhaps composed by its author to demonstrate his linguistic ingenuity. But another reason occurs to me. The poet must have been very much concerned about ritual purity and felt that the story of Sri Ramancandra must be read without bringing the lips together.
There is a beautiful verse in Paniniya Siksa(its author, as the name itself suggests, is Panini) which tells us how careful we must be in pronouncing Vedic syllables.
Vyaghri yatha haret putran
Damstrabhyam na ca pidayet
Tadvad varnan prayojayet
"The Vedic syllables must be pronounced with clarity. The character of their sound should not be distorted a bit. But no force must be used in vocalising the syllables. There should be no damage done - no erosion of the sound - and no violence should be suggested in the pronunciation. How does a tigress carry its cubs? Tigresses and cats carry their young ones by holding them firmly with their teeth, yet in doing so they do not cause any hurt to the little ones. The Vedic hymns must be chanted in the same way, the syllables enunciated gently and yet distinctly. Panini, the author of the above stanza, has written the most important work on grammar, a subject which comes next(after Siksa) among the Vedangas. Apart from him many others written on Siksa. There are thirty works in this category. Panini's and Yajnavalkya's are particularly important.
Each Veda has attached to it a "Pratisakhya" which examines Vedic sounds. There are also ancient commentaries on them and these too are included in Siksa.
The evolution of the script of any language must be based on symbols or signs denoting various "units" of its speech(phonemes). Most of the European languages including English are written in the Roman script. There is a script called Brahmi and the Asokan edicts are in it. In fact it is from Brahmi that the scripts of most Indian languages have evolved and these include not only the Devanagari script in which Sanskrit is written but also the Tamil and Grantha scripts.
The Brahmi lipi or script has two branches. Of the two, the Pallava Grantha script was prevalent in the South and it is from it that scripts of most of the Dravidian languages evolved.
The Telugu script has a unique feature. While in all other scripts the letters are written in a clockwise fashion, in Telugu there are letters written in an anticlockwise fashion, that is the loops are shaped leftward. Parasakti, the Supreme Goddess, is to the left of Isvara and there is leftist worship associated with her( "vama-marga"). For this reason it is believed that some of the letters of the Sricakra should be written in Telugu. The Andhra language itself is said to have a Saiva character. In most parts of India, the child is first taught to write the "Astaksari", [prayer to Vishu] but in Andhra Pradesh it is the "Siva Pancaksara". There are places sacred to Siva in three corners of this state: Kalahasti in the south, Srisailam in the west and Kotalingaksetram in the north. It is because this land is within the area marked by these lingas that it is called "Telungu-desa" (from "Trilinga"). Appayya Diksita has composed a stanza in which he expresses his regret that he was not born in Andhra.
Andhratvam Andhrabhasacapyandhradesa svajanmabhuh
Tatrapi Yajusi Sakha na 'lpasya tapasah phalam
Appayya Diksita was a Samadevin by birth. "Of the Vedas I am the Samaveda, "so says Bhagavan in the Gita. But Diksita, a great devotee of Siva, regrets that he was not born in Andhra, and that too as a Yajurvedin, and states that the reason for this was his failure to perform austerities in sufficient measure. The Yajurveda, it will be remembered, contains the Siva-Pancaksara mantra.
Let me revert to the question of script. As I said before, almost all the scripts in India today have evolved from Brahmi. But it is hard to make out elements of the original Brahmi in them. So anything that we find difficult to understand or make out is referred to as "Brahmi-lipi". Later this came into usage as "Brahma-lipi", the Creator's "writing" on our forehead [our destiny]. Now anything we find difficult to understand or cannot make out is called "Brahma-lipi". Another old script is "Kharosthi". "Khara-ostham" means the lips of a donkey - these resemble bellows. The loops protrude in the script. Persian is written in Kharosthi.
Brahmi was our common script just as Roman is today for most European languages. Now Devanagari [with variations] is the common script for most Northern languages. We do not realise that each letter or syllable represents a particular sound or phoneme. There are two different letters in Tamil to represent "na". Why should there be two to represent the same sound, we wonder, thinking it to be unique to that language. But there is a subtle difference between the two "na"s.
In Telugu there is only one "na". So is the case with other languages. There are two types of "r" common to Tamil and Telugu. But the two types differ in the two languages. In Tamil, two 'r's together of one of these two types form a consonant with a special sound value (kurram, marrum, sorannai). In Telugu it is different. The Tamil word for horse is "kudirai"; in Telugu it is "kurram" - the two r's are pronounced fully. In Tamil there is no such phoneme. There are some other unique phonemes in Telugu. In some words "ja" is pronounced as "za". Andhras pronounce "sala" as "tsala". The Devanagari and Grantha alphabets have 50 letters. In Telugu there are 52(including the additional letters in the "ja" and "ca" groups. The Telugu-speaking people sometimes interchange "tha" and "dha". I am told you find this in some of the compositions of Tyagaraja himself.
When we transliterate passages from one language into another we must keep these peculiarities in mind. In English also for the same labial there are two letters, "v" and "w". A professor told me that there is a difference between the two. The English "v" should be pronounced with the lower lip folded and the upper row of teeth coming into contact with it. When "w" is pronounced the lips do not come into contact with the teeth but are turned round. Words like "Sarasvati" and "Isvara" must be written with a "v" (not as "Saraswati" and "Iswara").
Sanskrit, more than any other language, exemplifies the principle of phonetic spelling. In English the spelling is erratic and confusing. I remember reading a newspaper heading recently: "Legislature wound up. " Absent-mindedly I read the word "wound" in the sense of a hurt or injury. Of course it was actually used as the past participle of "wind". Now the word "wind" can also mean a breeze but then it is pronounced differently. So it is all confusing. Is the word "put" pronounced in the same way as "cut" or "but"? In "walk" and "chalk", the "l" is silent.
Seemingly, such is not the case with Tamil which contains many words from other languages like Sanskrit. In other Indian languages for each series of consonants there are four different letters in place of the one in Tamil. For instance, the same "ka" is used for "kan" (Tamil for eye) and the Sanskrit "mukha" (in Tamil it is written as "mukham") while "Ganga" is written as "kanga" and "ghatam" (pot in Sanskrit) is written as "katam". In Tamil the word for mace ( the weapon wielded by Bhima) and for story are written alike as "katai", instead of as "gadai" and "kathai".
In Tamil, unlike in other Indian languages, "ka" serves the purpose of "kha", "ga", and "gha". "ta" serves for "da" also. Words that have almost opposite meanings are spelt identically: "Dosam" and "tosam" meaning blemish and happiness respectively are written identically. Letters from the Grantha script are added in Tamil for proper pronunciation _ "sa", "ha", "ja", "ksa", etc. In the past these letters were not used in Tamil poetry following the tradition of poetic usage. But now some authors do not use these Grantha characters even in prose. Since they find it difficult to get rid of Sanskrit words from the Tamil vocabulary, the next best thing they can do perhaps is to rid the language of the letters representing the phonemes of Sanskrit which have no equivalents in the Tamil alphabet. This causes confusion. If an author writes "catakam" in the strict Tamil manner it can read also as "sad(h)akam" or "jatakam". From the very beginning Tamil has not had all the consonants. But why should characters added to meet this deficiency be dropped? Does it mean "victory" for Tamil and "defeat" for Sanskrit? Why should there be a fight over languages? There is no need to nurse any bitterness against languages that we think are not our own.
The Tamil script is adequate to write words that are strictly Tamil. The difficulty is when it comes to its adopting words from other languages with sounds representing "kha", "ga", "gha", etc. In Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and so on, there are letters for the entire "ka-varga", "ca-varga", "ta-varga", "ta-varga", and "pa-varga". In English, as we have already seen, we cannot pronounce the words according to their spelling. It is not so in Tamil. But in that language too the script is not entirely self-sufficient. You may not agree. But I will tell you what I learned from my own experience.
A Northerner learned the Tamil alphabet sufficiently well, that is he learned to read the individual letters of the alphabet. But he had no one to help him in pronouncing the words properly. He wanted to learn Tamil because he was keen to read the Tevaram and the Tiruvacakam in the original. After learning the alphabet he tried to read the Tevaram from a book. Though he had no knowledge of the language he thought he could earn merit by reading the hymns of the great saints even without understanding their meaning. Then, one day, he came to me and announced: "I am going to recite the "Tevaram". " I felt happy and asked him to go ahead.
His recitation caused me amusement. The passage he had was a famous one - what Appar had sung at Tiruvaiyaru of his experience of seeing everything in the form of Umamahesvara [ that is the entire cosmos revealed as Siva ] and the song was "Madar piraikkanniyanai. . . " He got the very first word wrong. Instead of "madar" he said "matar". It sounded so strange to me. Then he said "malaiyan makalotu" for "malaiyan mahalodu" laying stress on the "k" and the "t". For "padi" he said "pati". I was on the verge of laughter. His recitation went on in this fashion. He said "pukuvar" instead of "puhuvar".
I heard him silently because I thought a Northerner learning a Tamil song deserved to be encouraged. But soon I found that I could no longer suffer his erratic reading. So I told him in a friendly manner that his pronunciation was faulty. To this he said: "What can I do? It is all in the book. " What he said was right and it showed that in Tamil too the words are not always written according to how they are pronounced. Letters that come in the middle of a word are not pronounced as they are written. We write "makalotu" but say "mahalodu"; we write "atarkaka" but say "adarkaha". "Ka" becomes "ha" in the middle and end of the word. "Ta" in the beginning of a word remains "ta" but in the middle becomes "da". For instance, "tantai" (father) is pronounced as "tandai" and "Katavul" (God) and "itam" (place) pronounced as "Kadavul" and "idam". Such matters are dealt with in detail in Tamil grammar books.
Like Sanskrit, Tamil too has excellent works on grammar - for example, the Tolkappiyam and Nannul. They deal with the morphology of words and their vocalisation. For instance there are such rules: After such and such a syllable "sa" becomes "ca", "ka" becomes "ha".
Generally speaking, if "ka" is the initial letter of a word in Tamil it retains its sound of "ka". In the same way if the initial letter of a word is "ta" it retains its true sound, but in the middle or end of a word it sounds "da". "Pa" is "pa" if it is the initial letter of a word but sounds "ba" in the middle of a word. (In Tamil we do not see "pa" occurring as an independent letter in the middle or end of a word. "Anpu"(love), "ampu"(arrow), "inpam"(pleasure) -"pa" in these words is joined with other letters. Words like "japa" (muttering the names of the Lord or any mantra); "sapam" (curse), "kapam" ("kapham", phlegm), "supam" ("subham", auspicious) have letters belonging to the "pa-varga" independently in the middle of the words but they are from the Sanskrit.
There is something interesting about "ca". While in Tamil "ka", "ta", "pa". etc, retain their true sound when they are the initial letters of words, "ca" as the initial letter is voiced as "sa". "Catti" (cooking vessel) and "civappu" (red) are pronounced as "satti" and "sivappu". But when the letters come together as "cca", they are not pronounced as "ssa"- for example, "accam" (fear), "paccai"(green). "Col" (to speak) is pronounced as "sol", but "peryarccol" and "vinaiccol" are not pronounced as "peyerssol" and "vinaissol". But in Malayalam which is derived from Tamil "ca" in the beginning of a word is pronounced as "ca": "civappu" is "civappu". But at other times when the "cca" comes in the middle of a word the word in pronounced as "ssa", not "cca", e. g, place names like "Kavisseri", "Nellisseri", while Tamils pronounce the same as "Kavicceri" and "Nellicceri". In words like "accan" (father) and "Ezhuttaccan", however, there is no change.
The genius of the Tamil language is to be known from its works on grammar- how a word is changed and where. However, the pronunciation is not in strict consonance with the spelling.
It is only in Sanskrit that the pronunciation is fully phonetic but for two exceptions. One is when there is a visarga before "pa". Visarga more or less has the same sound as "ha" - not a full "ha", though. In Tamil Nadu it is pronounced fully as "ha" and Northerners who slur over it are made fun of. But their pronunciation is correct according to the rules of Siksa. With the visarga occurring before it, "pa" becomes "fa".
The second exception: "Subrahmanya", "Brahma", "vahni"(fire) are pronounced as "Subramhanya", "Bramha" and "vanhi". But all words with "ha" coming as a conjunct consonant are not like this as, for example, "jahvara"(deep, inaccessible), "jihva"(tongue), "guhya"(secret), and "Prahlada" [son of the demon Hiranyakasipu and a great devotee of Visnu].
A Language that has all Phonemes
From the foregoing it is clear that Sanskrit has the "f" sound. In fact there is no sound vocalised by humans that is not present in that language. "Zha" is not, as is usually imagined, unique to Tamil. It exists in the Vedic language which is the source of Sanskrit. The "da" in the Yajurveda has to be pronounced as "zha" in the corresponding passages in the Samaveda. In the Rgveda also in some places the "da" has to be similarly pronounced. The very first word in the first sukta of the Rigveda, "Agnimile", has to be pronounced almost as "Agnimizhe" - not a full "zhe" for "le", but almost.
There is a sound very close to "zha" in French. But neither in that language nor in Sanskrit is there a separate letter to represent that sound. "Ja" and "ga" serve the purpose of"zha" in French. In Sanskrit "la" serves the same purpose
(I am told there is "zha" in Chinese. )
The three-dot symbol in Tamil, called "aytam", is present in Sanskrit also. There is a Panini sutra, "h kap pauc". According to it, if a visarga comes before a word beginning with "ka"(Ramah + Karunakarah), it will not have the sound of "h", as mentioned before, but of "h" in the "aytam". Here it is the visarga that is the aytam that becomes the "f" before "pa-kara".
Ramah + panditah =Rama f panditah. This "f" sound is called "upatmaniya". "Tma" suggests the sound created by blowing the pipe to build the kitchen fire. When you blow thus you get the "f" sound. The initial letter of the English word "flute" is "f", is it not?
One more point about "fa". We generally pronounce "fa" as "pa". But it would be wrong to think that we[ in the South] pronounce coffee as "kapi" in the same way. In Sanskrit "kapisa" means dark brown - that is the colour of coffee powder. Our kapisa is the white man's coffee.
What Tamils call kurriyalukaram is present in Sanskrit also -r and l. People write both "Rigveda" and "Rugveda" - the first letter of the word is neither "Ri" nor "Ru". It represents in fact the Kurriyalukara sound. It is between "u" and "i". We write "Krishna" in Roman. In the North some people write the same as "Krushna". It is amusing to listen to Andhras pronouncing "hrdayam" as "hrudayam". Both the "ra-kara" and "la-kara" of Sanskrit have vocalic forms. But in "la-kara" the vocalic form comes only in conjunction with another consonant. In the ra-kara vocalic form we have examples like "Rg", "rsi"; in the "la-kara" vocalic form we have "klpta".
In Sanskrit the vocalic "r" and "l" are not included among the consonants but regarded as vowels: a, a, u, u, i, i, r, l, e, ai, o, au, am, ah.
There is no short "e" or "o" in Sanskrit. I felt this to be a minus point for that language. Parasakti, the Supreme Goddess, is the personification of all sounds. So should there not be all sounds in a language (like Sanskrit)? Why should it lack these two sounds (short "e" and short "o")? On going through Patanjali's commentary on the sutras of Panini, I discovered that Sanskrit too had these short vowels and it was a comforting discovery. Patanjali says that, in chanting the Satyamugri and Ranayaniya Sakhas of the Samaveda the short "e" and "o" are used.
Thus Sanskrit embraces all sounds. It has also a script in which the sound of every letter is determined with the utmost accuracy.
Languages and Scripts : Indian and Foreign
In the languages of many other countries there is no accord between spelling and pronunciation. For the sound of "ka" there are three letters in English "k", "c" and "q". Such is not the case with our languages. The "f" sound in English is represented in three different ways as illustrated in the words "fairy", "philosophy", "rough". When you say "c" as a letter of the English alphabet, it sounds like a "sa-kara" letter, but many words with the initial letter "c" have the "ka-kara" sound. The "sa-kara" sound occurs only in a few words like "cell", "celluloid", "cinema". The spelling is totally unrelated to the pronunciation as in "station" and "nation".
The Roman alphabet has only 26 letters and is easy to learn. The alphabets of our languages have more letters and are comparatively difficult to learn. But, once you have learned them, our languages are easier to read and write than their European counterparts. Take English, for instance. Even a person who has passed his M. A. has often to consult the dictionary for spelling and pronunciation.
But among Indian languages themselves Sanskrit is the best in the matter of spelling and pronunciation. By saying this I do not mean that the languages of other countries are inferior to ours. At the same time, so far as our own country is concerned, I do not wish to downgrade other tongues in comparison with Sanskrit. I merely mentioned some facts to underline the point that Sanskrit fully represents the Supreme Being manifested as the Sabda-brahman.
If we develop the attitude that all languages are our common heritage, we will not run down other people's tongues. We often forget the fact that the purpose of language, any language, is communication, exchange of ideas. It is our failure to recognise this basic fact that is the cause of fanatical attachment to our mother tongue and hatred of other languages. We are often asked to be broad-minded and to develop an international outlook, but in the matter of language we remain narrow-minded. I feel sad when I think of it
"Rudraksa" means the eye of Rudra or Siva. "Rudraksa-mala" is a "garland" (or rosary) made up of such "eyes". "Aksa" means eye. In Tamil the rudraksa is called "tirukkanmani"[ the sacred pupil of the eye]
What is the meaning of "aksamala" or "sphatika-aksamala"? Here the word "aksa" is not taken to mean the eye but the letters of the alphabet from "a" to "ksa". In the Sanskrit alphabet "a" comes first and "ksa" comes last. To learn the "A" to "Z" of a subject means to have a thorough grasp of it. To convey the same idea in Sanskrit we say "a-karadi ksa-karantam". There are 50 letters from "a" to "ksa". So an aksamala consists of 50 beads. There is of course a 51st bead which is bigger than the rest and it is called "Meru". The sun, the legend goes, does not go beyond the Meru mountain during his daily journey. When we make one round thus, muttering the name of the Lord or a mantra, first clockwise up to the Meru and then anticlockwise up to the Meru again, we will have told the beads a hundred times.
Importance of Enunciation and Intonation
You must not go wrong either in the enunciation or intonation of a mantra. If you do, not only will you not gain the expected benefits from it, the result might well be contrary to what is intended. So the mantras must be chanted with the utmost care. There is a story told in the Taittiriya Samhita(2. 4. 12) to underline this.
Tvasta wanted to take revenge on Indra for some reason and conducted a sacrifice to beget a son who would slay Indra. When he chanted his mantra, "Indrasatrur varddhasva. . ", he went wrong in the intonation. He should have voiced "Indra" without raising or lowering the syllables in it and he should have raised the syllables "tru" and "rddha"(that is the two syllables are "udata"). Had he done so the mantra would have meant, "May Tvasta's son grow to be the slayer of Indra". He raised the "dra" in Indra, intoned "satru" as a falling svara and lowered the "rddha" in "varddhasva". So the mantra meant now: "May Indra grow to be the killer of this son (of mine)". The words of the mantra were not changed but, because of the erratic intonation, the result produced was the opposite of what was desired. The father himself thus became the cause of his son's death at the hands of Indra.
The gist of this story is contained in this verse which cautions us against erroneous intonation.
Mantrohinah svarato varnato va
Mithya prayukto na tamarthamaha
Sa vagvajro yajamanam hinasti
Yathendrasatruh svarato' paradhat
What was the weapon with which Tvasta 's son was killed? Not Indra's thunderbolt but the father's wrongly chanted mantra.
Versions with Slight Differences
have spoken about the importance of maintaining the purity of Vedic syllables. All over India, from the Himalaya to Ramesvaram and all through the ages, the Vedas have been taught entirely in the oral tradition, without the aid of any printed books and without one part of the country being in touch with another. And yet 99 percent of the texts followed everywhere is the same to the letter.
So it means that there is a difference of one per cent, is there not? Yes, there is, among the recensions in the different regions. Is it proper to have such slight differences? After claming that the consequences would be unfortunate even if one syllable of a mantra goes wrong, how are we to accept that the same mantra in the different recensions or in the different regions differ by one percent? If the original Vedas in their true form are one, will not the departure by even one percent mean undesirable consequences?
There is an answer to this question. You will come to harm if the medicine you take is different from what you physician has ordered. Similarly, if you chant a mantra with its syllables changed, you will suffer an adverse consequence. The rule that the medicine prescribed must not be changed applies to the patient, not to the doctor. The patient cannot, on his own, change the medicine that his doctor has prescribed. But the doctor can, cannot he? There is more than one medicine available to treat a particular ailment. So there is nothing wrong if the doctor substitutes one medicine for another. While treating two patients suffering from the same illness the doctor may, while prescribing essentially the same medicine for both, make small changes in the ingredients according to their different natures.
It is in the same manner that the sages have introduced slight changes in the different Vedic recensions, but these are not such as to produce any adverse effort: indeed, even with the changes, the mantra yield the expected benefits. As a matter of fact, the sages have introduced the changes for the benefit of people who are entitled to learn the particular recensions. The rules with regard to these are clearly stated in the Pratisakhyas.
The syllables of the mantras in the different recensions do not vary to any considerable degree. Nor are they unrelated to one another. On the whole they sound similar. Even when the letters vary there is a kinship to be seen between them.
Vedic Vocalisation and the Regional Languages
region to region, we will discover the important fact that the genius of each of these tongues and the differences between them are based on how the Vedas are chanted in these regions. I make here certain observations based on my own philological researches.
The letters da, ra, la and zha are phonetically close to one another. Ask a child to say "rail" or "Rama", in all likelihood it will say "dail", "Dama". The reason is "da" is phonetically close to "ra". Quite a few people say "Sivalatri" for "Sivaratri". And some say "tulippora" for "tulippola" (Tamil for "just a little"). Here "la" and "ra" sound similar. I spoke about how "ra" and "da" change. So "la" can change to "da". "La" is very close to "la". Usually what we pronounce as "lalita", "nalina", and "sitala" will be found in Sanskrit books as "lalita", "nalina" and "sitala". There is no need to say how "la" and "zha" are close friends. Madurai is indeed the city of Tamil but here people say "valapalam" (plantain) for "vazha-pazham". That is they use "la" for "zha", a letter we believe to be unique to the Tamil (or Tamizh) language.
Here I should like to mention an idea likely to sound new to you. What is considered unique to Tamil, "zha" [retroflex affirmative], is present in the Vedas also. Jaimini is one of the Samaveda sakhas: it is also called the Talavakara Sakha. The "da" or "la" of other Vedas or sakhas sounds like "zha' in the Talavakara Sakha. Those who have properly learned this recension say "zha" for "da" or "la". Perhaps it is not a full"zha" sound but something approximating to it, or something in which the "zha" sound is latent.
The "zha-kara" occurs even in the Rgveda in some places. Usually "da" and "la" are interchanged and where there is "da-kara" in the Yajurveda it is "la-kara" in the Rgveda. The very first mantra in the Vedas is Agnimide". "Agnimide" is according to the Yajurveda which has the largest following. In the Rgveda the same word occurs as "Agnimile". The "le" here is to be pronounced almost as "zhe". In the famous Sri Rudra hymn of the Yajurveda occurs the word "Midustamaya". The same word is found in the Rgveda also and the "du" ini the "midu" sound like "zhu" instead of sounding like "lu" - that is the "zha-kara" is latent in how the syllable is vocalised.
Generally speaking, the "la" in the Rgveda is "da" in the Yajurveda and "zha" in the Talavakara Samaveda. Now let us take up the regions where each of the Vedas has a large following and consider the social features of the language spoken in each such region.
The view is propagated that the Vedas belong to the Aryans, that the Dravidians have nothing to do with them. Let us take three of the four Dravidian states for consideration, that is the regions where Tamil, Telegu and Kannada are spoken.
The "zha-kara" is special to Tamil, "da" to Telugu and "la" to Kannada. Where "zha" occurs in Tamil, it is "da" in Telugu and "la" in Kannada. Take the Sanskrit word "pravala" (coral). It is "pavazham" in Tamil, "pakadalu" in Telegu and "havala" in Kannada.
"Pavazham" is derived from "pravala", so too "pakadalu" in Telegu, in which language the original Sanskrit word has changed more than in Tamil: the "va" of "pravala" has become "ka" but it is according to the genius of that language. How has the word changed in Kannada? In Tamil and Telegu the change from the Sanskrit "pra" to "pa" is but small. But in Kannada the "pra" becomes "ha" and that of course is according to the genius of that language. The "pa" in the other languages becomes "ha" in Kannada. Thus "Pampa" becomes "Hampa" and then "Hampi" (you must gave heard of the ruins of Hampi ). The Tamil "pal" for milk is "halu" in Kannada and the Tamil "puhazh" (fame) is "hogalu" in Kannada. In the same manner "pravala" becomes "havala" in Kannada.
It was not my purpose to speak about the "pa-ha" relationship. All I wanted to point out was how the "la" of Sanskrit is the "zha" of Tamil and the "da" of Telugu. In Kannada, however, there is no change. The "la" remains "la".
You see this difference not only with respect to words of Sanskrit origin but also with respect to those belonging to the Dravidian group. The word "puhazh"(or pugazh) cited earlier is an example in this connection- it is not a Sanskrit word.
(From our present state of investigations we know this: our people belong to one family. They are not racially divided into Aryans and Dravidians but are divided into those speaking languages related to Sanskrit on the one hand and those speaking Dravidian tongues on the other. Further research is likely to reveal that even this linguistic difference is not real and that both Sanskrit and Dravidian languages are from the same parent stock. Some linguists are known to be examining the possible bounds that unite Sanskrit and Tamil. If we go back to very early times, we may discover that the two languages are of the same stock. But during the thousands of years subsequent to that period, the Dravidian languages must have evolved separately. It is in this sense that I speak of the "Dravidian" languages as being distinct from Sanskrit. )
I wondered whether there was any special reason why the "zha" of Tamil should be the "da" of Telugu and the "la" of Kannada. I came to the conclusion that the differences were related to how the Vedas are chanted in the regions where these languages are spoken.
The predominant Veda in the western region [of Peninsular India], including Maharastra and Karnataka, is the Rgveda. In the region from Nasik to Kanyakumari, the Rgveda has the widest following. Kannada is one of the languages spoken here and "la" has a unique place in it. And this "la", special to Kannada, which is considered a Dravidian regional language, is Vedic in origin.
If we go to that part of the eastern seashore and the hinterland that form Andhra Pradesh, we find that 98 out of 100 people (Brahmins) here are Yajurvedins. The remaining two percent are Rgvedins. There are practically no Samavedins in Andhra Pradesh. Since Yajurvedins are the predominant group the Rgvedic "la" is "da" here, so also the "la" of other languages.
In Tamil Nadu also Yajurvedins are in a majority though not to the same extent as in Andhra Pradesh. Here 80 percent are Yajurvedins, 15 percent Samavedins and 5 percent Rgvedins. In ancient times, however, the Samavedins formed quite a large group- there is evidence for such a belief. It is likely that there were Brahmins belonging to all the 1,000 recensions of the Samaveda in the Tamil land. Isvara is extolled in the Tevaram as "Ayiram-sakhai-udaiyan" (one with a thousand Vedic recensions).
Among the Samavedins those belonging to the Kauthuma Sakha form the majority. But in the old days the followers of the Jaiminiya or Talavakara Sakha were quite large in number. Cozhiyar are people of the Cola land. Even today they are all Samavedins and they follow the Talavakara Sakha- the Cozhiyar residing in Tirunelveli(which is identified as a Pandya territory) still belong to this recension. Originally the Samaveda had a great following not only in the land of the Colas but also in the land of the Pandyas.
"Cozhiyar" may be understood as Brahmins belonging to the Tamil land from very ancient times. They are indeed the Brahmin "Adivasis" of that region. I will tell you how. Among Tamil Smarta Brahmins there is a sect called "Vadamas"(Vadamar ). They must have come to the Tamil land from the North, specially from the Narmada valley. Their very name suggests that they are from the North. Cozhiyar must have been inhabitants of Tamil Nadu from the earliest times.
From what I have said about "Vadamar" I should not be taken to mean that I believe that all Brahmins in the South came from the North as is suggested by some people today. As a matter of fact, in the very word "Vadamar" there is proof that all Brahmins did not come from the North. If all Brahmins in Tamil Nadu or in the rest of the South had their original home in the North, why should one sect have been singled out for the name of "Vadamar"? The rest of the Brahmins must have belonged to the Tamil land form the very beginning Cozhiyar are among these first Brahmins.
There is one proof to show that "Vadamar" originally belonged to the Narmada valley. Only they, among the Brahmins[in the South], recite the following verse in the sandhyavandana.; it is a prayer for protection from snakes.
Narmadayai namah pratah Narmadayai namo nisi
Namostu Narmade tubhyam pahi mam visa-sarpatah
Among the Cozhiyar there was a great man called Somasimara Nayanar who was one of the 63 Nayanmars. Somasi is not an eatable, but means a "somayajin", one who has performed the soma sacrifice. Sri Ramanujacarya's father had also performed the same sacrifice and he was called "Kesava Somayajin". The Samaveda has an important place in the soma sacrifice.
If there were a large number of Cozhiyar Brahmins in the very early times in Tamil Nadu, it means that the Talavakra Sakha of the Samaveda must have had a large following then. I have spoken about the Cola and Pandya kingdoms but not of the Pallava and Chera lands. In the dim past there was no Pallava kingdom. The "Muvendar" are the Cheras, colas and Pandyas. The region where the Pallava kingdom arose later was then part of the cola territory. So the early Brahmins who had come form the North, the Vadamar, settled in the northern part of Tamil Nadu, that is the Pallava territory. Subsequently they came to be called "Auttara Vadamar". There are Samavedins among the "Vadamar" also, but they do not belong to the Talavakara Sakha but to the Kauthama Sakha. The "Vadamar" came to the Tamil land long after the Tamil language had developed into its classical stage. So their Vedic chanting is not germane to out subject. The same could be said about the Pallavas after the Sangam literature came to flourish.
Let us now turn to the Chera land. Malayalam is spoken in Kerala. If I did not touch upon this language when I dealt with Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, it was because of the fact that it appeared much later than the other three. Until about a thousand years ago, Kerala was part of the Tamil land and its language too was Tamil. Malayalam evolved from Tamil. If the Tamil "zha" is "da" in Telegu and "la" in Kannada, it remains "zha" in Malayalam. Tamils say "puzhai" for a river. Malayalis say "puzha". If the former say "Alappuzhai" and "Amblappuzhai"[both names of places in Kerala], the latter say "Alappuzha" and "Amblappuzha".
Leaving aside the question of the Malayalam language, let us turn to the subject of the Vedic tradition of Kerala. The Malayala Brahmins called Namputris have a long tradition of learning the Vedas in the sastric manner. There are among them Trivedins(those well-versed in the Rgveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda, and among the last-mentioned a number of people following the Talavakara Sakha). The Pancanmana family is one such and it has behind it a fine Vedic tradition. They belong to the Talavakara Sakha. Today those who follow the Kauthama Sakha are in a majority among the Samavedins in Tamil Nadu but in Kerala the Samavedins belong to the Talavakara Sakha.
From generation to generation, the Namputiris have been chanting the Talavakra Sakha. They pronounce the "da" or "la" of other sakhas as "zha"- which means they follow the same practice as in Tamil Nadu. Both the palm-leaf and printed versions of the Talavakara Sakha, in Tamil Nadu as well as in Kerala, have "zha" in the relevant places.
Thus we see that from early times the Talavakara Sakha of the Samaveda has had a following in the Tamil land larger than in any other part of the country. And with this recension has come the "zha" which is a phoneme not found elsewhere. Naccinarkkiniyar is among the commentators of the Tamil Samgam works. In his commentary on the Tolkappiyam(famous Tamil grammatical treatise), he mentions "four Vedas": "Taittiriyam, Paudikam, Talavakaram and Samam". He mistakes recensions for full-fledged Vedas. However, we note from his list that the Talavakara Sakha had the place of a full-fledged Veda in Tamil Nadu. "Taittiriyam" is a recension of the Krsna_Yajurveda. The Kausitaki Brahmana of the Sankhayana Sakha of the Rgveda is called "Pausa". What Naccinarkkiniyar calls "Paudiyam" is referred to by the Azhvars as "Pauzhiyam"- here again you see the relationship between "zha:" and "da".
All told the phonemes unique to the languages spoken in the different regions have evolved on the basis of the differences in pronunciation in the various Vedic recensions.
So far I have confined myself to the languages of the Dravidian region. Now I will speak on the same theme with reference to the other parts of India and to other countries of the world.
It is customary in the North to use "ja" for "ya" and "ba" for "va"- both in literary and colloquial usage. The use of "ba" for "va" is noticeable particularly in Bengal and "ja" for "ya" in Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab, etc.
In Bengal they follow the dictum, "vabayorabhedam" - there is no difference between "va" and 'ba". In Tamil too"Bhisma" is sometimes referred to as "Vittumar" and "Bhima" as "Vima". In Bengali, all "va's" are vocalised as "ba's". Indeed "Bengal" itself is from "Vanga".
Bengalis say "Bangabasi" for "Vangavasi"( a resident of Bengali). Once they realised that changing all"va's" universally into "ba's" was not right and called a parisad[ a meeting of scholars] to consider the question- it was called the "Vanga Parisad". According to one of its decisions all "ba-kara" in Bengali books to be printed thenceforth was to be changed to "va-kara". They strictly carried out the decision. But in doing so they also changed what should naturally be "ba" into "va"- for instance, "bandhu" into "vandhu", "Bangabandhu" into "Vangavandhu".
As observed earlier, in other regions of the North too "ba" is used for "va". For example, the name "Bihar" itself is from "Vihar". (Once there were many Buddhist viharas, temples or monasteries, in this region) The name "Rasbihari" is from "Rasavihari". How would you explain this practice? Such usage is laid down in the Pratisakhya of the Vedic recension followed in these parts. People there applied the rule of the Pratisakhya to their ordinary writing and speech also. It also follows that the rules laid down by the Vedic sastras have been faithfully followed in this region.
Yajurvedins, it will be remembered, from the majority in the country taken as a whole. The Krsna-Yajurveda is followed in the South and the Sukla-Yajurveda in the North. There is a sakha of the latter called "Madhyandina" and it has a large following in the North. In its Pratisakhya it is said that "ja" may be used in place of 'ya", and "ka' in place of 'sa". we say in the South "yat Purusena havisa"(from Purusasukta); the Northern version of the same is "jat Purusena havika". We are amused by such chanting and we even feel angry that the Vedas are being distorted. At the same time we feel proud that we in the south maintain the purity of the Vedic sound. However, the "ja" and 'ka" in the Northern intonation have the sanction of the Siksa sastra.
It is only phonemes that are close to one another that are interchanged. There are examples in Tamil also to show that "ja" and " ya" are closely related. "Java(the "Javaka" island) is referred to in Tamil works as "Yavaka". Generally, if 'ja" comes as the initial letter of a word it is spelt as 'sa" in Tamil, but if it comes in the middle it becomes "ya'- "Aja(n)" and "Pankaja(m)" become "Ayan and Pangayam". "Sa" is a form of sa. If "sa" and 'ka" are interchangeable so too, it seems, "sa" and "ka". In keeping with this what is "kai" (hand) in Tamil is "sey" in Telugu. "Doing" (performing some work) is the function of the hand(in Tamil "seyvadu"). So better than the Tamil "kai" is the Telegu "sey" which denotes the function of the hand. In Sanskrit the word "kara" has the meaning of "to do" as well as the hand--"Samkara"("Sankara") one who does good; "karomi" is "I do". One wonders whether in Tamil too "sey" was originally used to denote the hand and then "kai" came to be used. Now "sey" is a verb in that language. The "sa"(or "sa"), it is likely, changed to "ka" and then "kai". One more point: "sa" and "ksa" are related sounds. So for "ksa" to become "ka" is natural "Aksam" -"akkam"; "daksinam" - "dakkanam"; "ksanam" _"kanam". Such examples could be multiplied.
We have seen that "ba" becomes "va" in Tamil while in the Northern languages it is the other way round. Similarly, "ja" becomes "ya" and 'sa" becomes "ka" in Tamil while in the Northern languages "ya" and "sa" become "ja" and "ka" respectively. That is according to the Vedic recension followed there and the rules of the Siksa relating to it. That is the reason why Northerners chant "jat" Purusena havika" for "yat Purusena havisa".
This change is to be seen in so many other words in the North: "Jamuna" for Yamuna"; "jogi" for yogi(n); "jug-jug" for yuga-yuga; "jaatra for "yatra". "Sa" is changes to ka" and so "rsi" becomes "riki". As we have seen, "ksa" and "sa" are related. Even in the South we hear people saying "Lasimi for "Laksmi"- they even write like that. In the North "ka" is used for "ksa"- for instance "Khir" for "ksira". The same applies to Tamil usage also-"Ilakkumi" for "Laksmi".
Let us now turn to other countries, first to the land which saw the birth of Christianity, to the Semitic countries like Palestine and Israel. The Old Testament is basic to the Quran also. Some characters are common to Christianity and Islam, but in Arabic they are pronounced differently. Joseph becomes "Yusuf" and Jehovah becomes "Yehivah". There are differences among the Christian nations too. In some languages you see "ja-kara" to be prominent. "Jesu" and "Yesu", the name of the very founder of Christianity, is spelt differently. "Ja-kara" is a characteristic of Greek also. We could trace the root of all this to the Vedas. Jehivah or Yehovah is the same as the Vedic deity Yahvan. "Dyau-Pitar"(Dyava_Prithivi)becomes Jupiter. Sanskrit words lose their initial letter when borrowed by other languages. So Dyau_Pitar becomes "Yau-Pitar" and then Jupiter.
What were originally Yahvan and Dyau-pitar changed to Jehovah and Jupiter with the addition of the "ja-kara". In the beginning the Vedic religion was practised everywhere. It is likely that the Madhyandina Sakha was followed in Greece and its neighbourhood.
Impact of Siksa Sastra
In the foregoing we noticed that certain Vedic syllables had a special association with certain regions and that these were absorbed in the languages spoken there. We also learned from this that the Vedas flourished in all countries. There was never a period in Tamil Nadu, the land we know intimately when Vedic dharma was not practised there.
The name "Tamizh" itself has the "zha" characteristic of the Talavakara Sakha of the Samaveda. Am I right in making such a claim? Or is it all the other way around? Suppose the argument goes like this: it is the "zha" characteristic of Tamil and the "ja" characteristic of Northern tongues that are seen as the distinguishing phonemes in the Vedic texts prevalent in Tamil Nadu and the North respectively. In other words what was already present in the regional languages came to be absorbed in the Vedic sakhas prevalent in the areas concerned. Did I put the whole thing topsy-turvy when I made the statement that the Vedic "zha", "ja" and "ba" became characteristic for the Tamils, Northerners and the Bengalis respectively, that these were reflected in the speech of each of these linguistic groups?
That the rules of the Siksa sastra had their impact on the regional languages is the correct view. The rules of the Pratisakhya do not apply to one area alone but to all those parts where the Vedic recension concerned is followed. If there is a Brahmin chanting the Talavakara in Kamarupa(Assam) or Kasmir, he will use "zha" where others use "da" or "la" in the mantras. A Brahmin who chants hymns from the Krsna-Yajurveda has to use "da" instead of "zha" or "la" whether he belongs to Gujarat or Maharastra or any other place in India. In the same way, it is not only the Kannadiga, any Rgvedin anywhere will use "la" where others use "da" or "zha" in chanting the mantras. The Pratisakhya determines the sound of Vedic mantras not for a particular area alone but for the whole country. In course of time the local language takes on the characteristics of the sakha where it is practised.
The name of the month "Margasirsi" is derived from the fact that generally the full moon falls on the day to which is conjoined the asterism of Mrgasirsa during that month. Margasirsi is Margazhi in Tamil. "Si" changed to "di" and "di": to "zhi". It is according to the genius of that language that "sa" becomes "da". "Purusa" is called "purudan" in Tamil and "Nahusa" is "Nag(h)udan" in Tamil poetry. Kambar calls Vibhisana "Vidanan". But, if Margasirsi changed to "Margasirdi" and then the "sir" in the middle dropped, should not the word have the final form of "Margadi"? How do you explain the presence of the "zha-kara"? In other words, how does the name of the month finally take the name "Margazhi"? The "zha-kara" must be attributed to the Talavakara Sakha that was predominant in Tamil Nadu.
People belonging to this recension use "zha" and Krsna-Yajurvedins use "da", don't they? This habit they still retain unconsciously. The Telugu Vaisnavas sing the Tamil Divyaprabandham during worship in the temples. In Tirupati the Tamil Tiruppavai is sung before the Lord. It starts with the words "Margazhi-t-tingal". "Zhi" is difficult for Telugus to vocalise. How is it that they do not say "Margali" or "Margali" then? They say "Margadi-t-tingal", that is with the "da-kara" instead of the "zha-kara". When they chant hymns from the Samaveda that is prevalent in Tamil Nadu they unconsciously use the " da-kara" for the "zha-kara". "Da is in the blood of the Yajurvedins, so they say "Margadi" instead of "Margazhi"
Names of Months
From our inquiry into the derivation of the Tamil margazhi from Margasirsi, you must have formed an idea of how the genius of one language differs from that of another. You may note this from how the original Sanskrit names of other months have changed in Tamil. Usually, as observed before, the name of a month is derived from the asterism under which the full moon falls in that month. Citra-purnima is a sacred day. The Tamil Cittirai does not represent much of a change from the Sanskrit "Citra".
Vaishaka is connected with the asterism Visakha; it is "Vaikasi" in Tamil. Just as Madurai becomes Marudai, so the Sanskrit, Vaishaki has changed to "Vaikasi" in Tamil. (In Bengal the month is called "Baisakhi", )Visakha is the asterism under which Nammazhvar was born. Now Vaisakha purnima is celebrated as Buddha purnima.
The month Anusi is associated with the asterism of "Anusa"[ Anuradha]. The full moon usually falls under this asterism during this month. In Tamil the month is called "Ani"- the "sa-kara" of the original has dropped.
There are two "Asadhas"- Purvasadha and Uttarasadha (Earlier Asadha and later Asadha). Purvasadha is called "Puradam" in Tamil; in the Tamil name the "rva" of the original is eroded and the "sa" has dropped. Similarly, Uttarasadha is "Utradam "in Tamil. The Sanskrit "Asadhi" is the Tamil month of "Adi".
Sravana means that which is associated with the asterism Sravana. In the Tamil "Onam" the "sra" of the original has dropped and "vana" has become "onam". Since it is the asterism sacred to Mahavisnu the honorific "Tiru" [equivalent of Sri] is prefixed to its name --thus we have "Tiruvonam". (Ardra is the asterism sacred to Siva. It is called " Adirai" in Tamil and with the prefixing of "Tiru" it becomes "Tiruvadirai". It is not customary to add " Tiru" to the Tamil names of other asterisms. In the South, the is a festival of lights in the month of "Karttigai" --the original Sanskrit name is Krttika. During this time alone is " Tiru" added to "Karttigai". But to the asterisms sacred to Hari and Hara-- Visnu and Siva--"Tiru" is added. Here is proof of the fact that it is part of the religious culture of Tamils not to maintain any distinction between these two gods). To come back to Sravana. The full moon in this month generally falls under the asterism of Sravana. In the Tamil name of "Avani", the " sra" of the original has dropped.
For this linguistic phenomenon of letters dropping off in Tamil there is the example of "Izham" for Simhala [the island nation known as Sri Langa]. "Sa" and "sa" become "a" in Tamil. If "sahasra" is "sasiram" in Kannada, it is "ayiram" in Tamil.
"Ayiram" reminds me of other numbers. The Tamil numbers onru, irandu, mundru (one, two, three)seem to have no connection with the Sanskrit eka, dvi, tri. But ancu and ettu (five and eight) seem to be related to the Sanskrit panca and asta. The English "two" and "three" are related to the Sanskrit dvi and tri. Sexta, hepta, octo, nano, deca -- these are obviously connected with the Sanskrit sasta, sapta, asta, nava and dasa. But the very first number "one" seems totally unrelated to the Sanskrit "eka". But, strangely enough, it appears to have some connection with the Tamil "onru". The Telugu equivalent is made up of the "o" of the Tamil "onru" and the "ka" of the Sanskrit "eka" -- "okati". If we consider all this, just as we are one racially, in the matter of language for Sanskrit and Dravidian tongues.
In Simhala the "sa" and "ha" of "Simha" have dropped off and the word has become "Ilam" and the "la" has changed to "zha" to become "Izham".
Like Asadha, Prosthapada has also a Purva and an Uttara. Purva-Prosthapada is " Purattadi" in Tamil: "asta" changing to "atta" is already known to us. Uttara- Prosthapada is "Utrattadi" in Tamil. The full moon falls under this asterism or the one near it in the Tamil month Purattasi which name is derived somehow from Prosthapadi.
We call Asvayuja Asvini or "Asvati". The full moon conjoined with the asterism Asvayuja makes the month Asvayuji which in Tamil is "Aippasi".
The "Karttika" of Sanskrit (adjective of Krttika)has not changed much in its Tamil equivalent of Karttigai. The "Tirukkarttigai" festival of lights usually falls on a full moon. I stated with how Margasirsi changes to "Margazhi". The full moon of that month is celebrated as Tiruvadirai, the day sacred to Siva.
"Pusya" is the Tamil "Pusam". (We in Tamil Nadu have got so used to "Pusam" that we have made the asterism "Punarvasu" into "Punarpusam". Of course there is no Sanskrit equivalent like "Punarpusya") "Pausya" means what is associated with Pusya. Pusya is also known as Taisya. The Tamil name of the month "Tai" is the result of the second syllable of "Taisya" dropping off.
The month "Magha" is named after the asterism Magha -- in Tamil it is "Masi". The "si" ending is reminiscent of "Vaikasi", "Purattasi" and "Aippasi".
There are two asterisms called Purva-Phalguna and Uttara-Phalguna. In the corresponding Tamil names the important part of the Sanskrit original, "Phalguna", has dropped off. So "Purva-Phalguna" is mere "Puram" in Tamil and "Uttara-Phalguna" is mere "Utram". But the month in which the full moon falls under the asterism of Uttara-Phalguna is "Panguni" for Tamils. It is a festive day in many parts of the south. We celebrate it as Panguni-Utram Tiruk-kalyanam.
From an examination of the Tamil names of the months we form an idea of how the phonemes of Sanskrit change in Tamil.
Other Notable Aspects of Siksa
The general rule is that the sound of the Vedas ought not to be changed, that there should be no tonal alterations. But there are rules permitting slight modifications based on the differences between the recensions - and these rules are according to the Siksa sastra. Slight tonal changes are also allowed. In some hymns of the Rgveda the "a-kara" and "e-kara" are drawn out further than in the other Vedas. In some recensions we have "m" and in some others "gm" - these are called "anusvara". The differences are not so much related to letters or syllables as they are tone and accent.
Sound means so much to the Vedic tradition, so due importance must be given to it. Thus Siksa sastra is the Vedapurusa's organ of breathing.
The 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are derived from the Vedic sounds. If you add "jna" to them you will have 51. These letters are called "matrka". The word has more than one meaning. Importantly, "matr" or "mata" means Amba, the World Mother. The 51 letters make up her form - Amba, Parasakti, personifies them. If the cosmos is the creation of this Supreme Goddess and, if it is also remembered that creation was accomplished with sound, Amba must be the incarnation of the 51 letters. The Sakta Tantras declare that the 51 letters are the limbs of Amba and correlate the letters with different parts of her sacred body. The 51 Sakti pithas [seats of the Supreme Goddess] are associated with one or another of these letters.
If siksa is particularly esteemed as the breathing organ of the Vedapurusa, we must also remember that it is made more glorious by the fact that it sheds light on the 51 letters which personify Amba
Hindu Dharma: Vyakarana : -
Mouth of the Vedapurusa
Vyakarana or grammar is the "mukha" of the Vedapurusa, his mouth. The Tamil word for grammar is "illakanam". Grammar deals with the "laksanas" of a language. "Laksmana(n)" is "llukkumanan" in Tamil. In the same way, "laksana(m)" becomes "illakanam" in that language.
There are a number of works on Sanskrit grammar. The most widely used and important is the one by the great sage Panini. There is a gloss - a vartika- on his "Vyakarna-sutra" by Vararuci. Patanjali has written a bhasya or commentary on Panini's sutras. These three are the chief works on Sanskrit grammar.
There is a difference between grammar and other sastras. In the case of other subjects the original sutras constituting them are esteemed more than their bhasyas. But, in the case of grammar, or Vyakarana, the Vartika is more valued than the sutras and still more valued is the bhasya.
According to one reckoning, there are six sastras. Vyakarana is one of them. Four of the sastras are particularly important :apart from Vyakarana, Tarka(logic), Mimamsa and Vedanta. Vyakarna is also one of the vedic sadanga( six limbs of the vedas ).
"Sucant sutram ", so it is said. (The sutra is just an indication of something, a truth or a principle. ) Every sastra has a bhasya and each such bhasya is known by a particular name. The vyakarana bhasya (of Patanjali) alone is called "Mahabhasya", "the great commentary ".
Grammar and Siva
Siva temples have a mandapa (pavilion or hall) called " vyakarana-danamandapa". In Tamil it has come to be called " vakkanikkum mandapam". There are such halls in many temples in the Chola territory of Tamilnadu. One such is in Tiruvorriyur near Madras. Why should there be a mandapa for grammar in Siva temples? What is Siva's connection with language? Is not Siva in his form of Daksinamurti all silence?
Nrttavasane Nataraja-rajo nanada dhakkam navapancavaram
Uddhartukamah Sankadisiddhanetadvimarse Sivasutrajalam
I will speak briefly about this stanza. The silent Siva remains still [as Daksinamurti]. But the same Siva [in another form of his] keeps dancing all the time and it was from his dance that the science of language was born.
Nataraja is the name of the dancing Paramesvara. "Nata" is a member of a troupe which also consists of the "vita" and "gayaka". The nata dances. Nataraja is the king of all dancers-- he who cannot be excelled as a dancer-- and he is also called Mahanata [the great dancer]. The Amarakosa, the Sanskrit lexicon, has these two words: " Mahakalo mahanatah". In Tamil they say " Ambala- k-kuttaduvan". We find from royal inscriptions that in the old days Brahmins too had such Tamil names-- " Ambala-k-kuttaduvan Bhattan", for instance.
There used to be a publishing establishment in Bombay called the NirnayaSagara Press. It once brought out old poetical works in Sanskrit under the general name, " Kavyamala Series ". There were some books in this series with the name " Pracinalekhamala" . Reproduced in one of them is the text of a copper-plate inscription belonging to the Vengi kingdom. Vengi is situated between the Godavari and the Krsna.
The Cola rulers of the Telugu country and the Colas of Tanjavur were related by marriage. Rajaraja Cola (Narendra) reigned in Tanjavur; it was he who built the Brhadisvara temple. Kulottunga Cola who belonged to the family of the grandson of a king of Vengi ruled as a member of the Cola dynasty of Tanjavur. Once he visited the Cola kingdom and on his return took some 500 Brahmins with him to promote Vedic learning in Vengi. The "Dravidalu" of Andhra Pradesh are the descendants of these Brahmins.
The names of all these Brahmins and their gotras are mentioned in the copper-plate inscription together with the subjects in which they were proficient and duties they had to perform. The landed property allotted to each is referred to, so also the names of the donors and of the recipients. The Brahmins from Tamil Nadu had to teach the Vedas and sastras. That is why gifts of lands were made to them.
" Rupavatara-vaktuk eko bhagah": these words are from the inscription. It means " one share to the Brahmin who is proficient in the Rupavatara. " Rupavatara is a work on grammar.
In Ennayiram, near Tindivanam (Tamil Nadu), there was a school with 340 students. Of them 40 studied Rupavatara, says an inscription of Rajendra Cola I. In Tribhuvanam, Pondicerri(Pondicherry), also there was a Vedic school supported by Rajadhiraja (A. D. 1018-1050) where the Rupavatara was taught. We also learn from an inscription of Vira-Rajendra Devam dated A. D 1067, that this grammatical work was taught at a school in Tiru, ulldal, near Kanchi.
Siddhanta-Kaumudi is a very popular treatise on grammar. It is a commentary on Panini's sutras by Bhattoji Diksita who was a disciple of Appayya Diksita. The latter was born in Adayappalam and was the author of 104 works, many of them on Saiva themes. His Kuvalayananda, a work on poetics, is also famous.
This speaks of the great joy experienced by grammarians: if they gain as much as half a matra it is a cause for jubilation like the birth of a son to a man who has been long childless.
The sutras are very brief and very precise. The Siddhanta- Kaumudi is also famous for its brevity and exactitude; there is no circumlocution in it, no beating about the bush. May be the sutras themselves are wordy but not Bhattoji Diksita's commentary on the same. Written some 400 years ago, it is very popular even today and is the first book of grammar prescribed for students. (Bhattoji Diksita also wrote the Tattavakaustubha and dedicated it to his guru, Appayya Diksita. In this he seeks to establish that there is no Truth other than the Brahman and that, to claim that there is, is not in keeping with the teachings of the Upanisads. Bidden by his guru, he also wrote an attack on Madhvacarya's philosophy of dualism. The work, Madhvamatavidhvamsanam, is a cause of dispute among philosophers but Bhattoji Diksita's commentary on grammar is acceptable to all systems. )
Before Siddhanta-Kaumudi, Rupavataram was the grammar work famous among students. "Rupam" here means the "complete form of sound"; "avataram" is descent, but in the present context "history". Rupavataram was published by Rangacari, of Presidency College, Madras.
That gifts of land were made to scholars who taught Rupavataram [the reference here is to the Vengi inscription], shows the importance attached to sanskrit grammar in those times.
The Vengi inscription dates back to 850 years ago. As mentioned earlier, the names of Brahmins who received gifts are given in it. Many of them had the title "Sadangavid" (learned in the six Vedic Angas). Some had Tamil names -- "Ambala-k-kuttaduvan Bhattan", "Tiruvarangamudayan Bhattan", etc. Of the foregoing two names the first is associated with the Cidambaram temple which is Saiva and the second with the Srirangam temple which is Vaisnava . Both Brahmins were Smartas, even the one with the Vaisnava name. There has been as much devotion to Siva as there has been to Visnu at all times. In the North and in Kerala, even today, Smartas perform puja in all temples. The man called "Tiruvarangamudayan Bhattan" is not to be taken as a Vaisnava from his name. The Sanskrit equivalent of the name is Rangasvamin. "Udayan" means "svamin", "svam" denoting possession.
The Tamil name of Nataraja is "Tiruvambala Kuttaduvan". I wanted to speak about Nataraja and his connection with grammar. Let us go back to the stanza with the first word, "Nrttavasane. . . " Nataraja performs an awe- inspiring dance. It seems to bring together all the dance that all of us have to perform, the rhythms of all our lives. The head of the Nataraja idol has something that seems spread over it, something falling down on both sides. What is it? It is the god's mass of matted locks. I am reminded of the snapshot photographs taken nowadays. A snapshot is a rapid photograph that captures an object in one of its fleeting moments. It is not a study that is static but one suggestive of motion. Nataraja dances fast, but momentarily seems to stop dancing. His matted locks give the impression of fanning out over the two sides of his face. The sculptor of those times seems to have taken a mental snapshot of that moment to create the image of Nataraja.
Nataraja has a drum in one hand, called the dhakka or damaruka. The tala of this drum (the time kept by it) is in keeping with the "footwork" of the dancing god, the movement of his feet. The beat of his drum is referred to in the words, "nanada dhakkam".
There are chiefly three types of musical instruments. Those made of skin like the dhakka, the tavil (drum accompaniment to nagasvaram music), the kanjira (a kind of hand drum), the mrdanga; stringed instruments like the vina, the violin; wind instruments like nagasvaram, the flute. The final beat of the drum is called cappu. Similarly at the end of Nataraja's dance (" nrttavasane ") the damaruka produced the cappu sound.
When Nataraja dances, Sanaka and his brother sages, Patanjali Vyaghrapada and so on stand round him. They are great ascetics, so they are able to see the dance. Nataraja's dance can be seen only by those who have the inner vision of jnana. The Lord himself bestowed on Arjuna the divine eye with which the pandava could see his cosmic form. Vyasa imparted the same power to Sanjaya so that he could describe this wondrous form to Dhrtarastra. Only they (Arjuna and Sanjaya) could see Krsna's universal form. Others on the battlefield of Kuruksetra could not. Because of the great efforts made by them, the celestials, the sages and yogins obtained the divine eye to see the dance of Nataraja. In the Gita such sight is called "divya-caksus" (divine eye).
Sanaka and others saw the dance with their real eyes. Visnu played the drum called the maddala, while Brahma kept time. At the close of the dance, the concluding beats(cappu) produced fourteen sounds. It is these fourteen that are referred to in the stanza ("Nrttavasane", etc) as "navapancavaram"; "nava" is nine and "panca" is five, so fourteen in all. "Nanada dhakkam navapancavaram. " If the number of sounds produced by Nataraja's dhakka is fourteen, the branches of Vedic learning are also the same number (caturdasavidya). If the foundation of Hindu dharma is made up of these fourteen vidyas, Nataraja'a cappu produced fourteen sounds which, according to the verse, were meant for the [Atmic] uplift of Sanaka and others. You must have seen in the sculptural representations of Daksinamurti in temples four aged figures by his side. They are the Sanaka sages. It is not Saiva works like the Tevaram and the Tiruvacakam alone that mention how instruction was given to the four but also the Vaisnava songs of the Azhvars.
The fourteen sounds produced by Nataraja's drum are the means by which the reality of Siva is to be known and experienced within us in all its plenitude. Nandikesvara has commented upon the fourteen sounds in his Sivabhaktisutra.
Among those present at Nataraja's dance was Panini. His story is told in the Brhatkatha which was written by Gunadhya in the Prakrt called Paisaci. Ksemendra produced a summary of it in Sanskrit and, based on it, Somadeva Bhatta wrote the Katha-sarat-sagara. It is the source of some of the stories of The Arabian Nights, Pancatantra and Aesop's Fables. Perunkathai is a Tamil version, the title being Tamil for Brhatkatha.
The story of Panini is told in the Katha-sarit-sagara. In Pataliputra (modern Patna), in Magadha, there were two men called Varsopadhyaya and Upavarsopadhyaya - the second was the younger of the two. Upakosala was Upavarsopadhyaya's daughter. Panini and Vararuci were Varsopadhyaya's students. Panini made little progress in his lessons. So his teacher asked him to go to the Himalaya and practise austerities. The student did so and through the grace of Isvara received the power to witness the tandava dance of Nataraja. With this divine gift of the Lord, Panini indeed saw the tandava and heard the fourteen sounds at its conclusion. For him these sounds meant the fourteen cardinal sutras of grammar and on them he based his Astadhyayi. As its very name suggests, this work, which is the source book of Sanskrit grammar, has eight chapters.
The fourteen sounds are recited at the upakarma ceremony. Since they emanated from the drum of Mahesvara(Nataraja), they are called "Mahesvarasutras". Human beings can produce only inarticulate sounds on the musical instruments played by them. The hand of Paramesvara is verily the Nadabrahman and Sabdabrahaman incarnate, so his cappu on the damaruka at the conclusion of his tandava sounded as a series(garland) of fourteen letters:
1. a i un; 2. rlk; 3. e on; 4. ai auc; 5. hayavarat; 6. lan; 7. nama nana nam; 8. jha bha n; 9. gha da dha s; 10. ja ba ga da da s; 11. kha pha cha tha tha catatav; 12. kapay; 13. sa sa sar; 14. hal-iti Mahesvarani sutrani.
When you listen to these sutras at the upakarma ceremony, you are amused. You repeat them after the priest without knowing what they are all about. They are the concluding strokes Siva made on his drum as he stopped dancing, stopped whirling round and round.
We say, don't we, that the anklets sound "jal-jal", that the damaru sounds "timu-timu", that the tavil sounds "dhum-dhum"? These are not of course the sounds actually produced by the respective drums. Even so the words give us some idea of the beats. We don't say "pi-pi" to describe the sound of a drum or "dhum-dhum" to describe the sound of the pipe. The sound produced by plucking the strings of the instruments like the veena is usually described as "toyn-toyng". From this it follows that, thought the musical instruments do not produce articulate sounds, they create the impression of producing the phonemes of human speech. If this be so in the case of instruments played by humans, why should not the drum beaten by Nataraja during his pancakrtya dance produce articulate sounds?
How did Panini make use of the fourteen sounds? He created an index from the sutras to vocalise the letters or syllables together. According to the arrangement made by him, the first letter or syllable of a sutra voiced with the last letter or syllable of another sutra will indicate the letters or syllables in between. For example, the first syllable of "hayavarat", "ha", and the last letter of "hal", "l", together make "hal". This embraces all the consonants in between. Similarly, the first letter of the first sutra, "a", and the last letter of the fourth sutra together form "ac"-this includes all the vowels. The first letter of the first sutra and the last letter of the fourteenth sutra together form "al" - it includes all letters.
"Halantasya" is one of the sutras of Astadhyayi. "Al" itself has come to mean writing.
"A-kara" is the first letter in all languages. In Urdu it is alif; in Greek it is alpha. Both are to be derived from "al". So too "alphabet" in English. Here is another fact to support the view that, once upon a time, the Vedic religion was prevalent all over the world.
We know thus that the prime source of grammar is constituted by the Mahesvara-sutras emanating from the drum of Nataraja. Since Paramesvara was the cause of the sabda-sastras (all sciences relating to sound, speech), "grammar-pavilions" have been built in Siva temples, but not in Visnu shrines.
By the side of Nataraja are Patanjali and Vyaghrapada. I had been to a temple near Sirkazhi(in Tamil Nadu). There, beside Nataraja, were Patanjali and Vyaghrapada. Beneath their images were inscribed their names. Patanjali's name was seen here as "Padamcolli" - the error must be attributed to the ignorance of the man who had inscribed the names. I was however happy that ironically enough, this name benefited the sage and that even ignorance was the cause of something appropriate. "Padam" has the meaning of grammar[as in] "padavakya pramana". Here "pada" means grammar. So "Padamcolli" [the second half of the name in Tamil] means one who "says" grammar.
When I saw this inscription I was reminded of another thing. We speak of "gunaksara-nyaya". "Guna" here means an insect like the white ants which eats into wood and palm-leaves. Sometimes in this process letters are formed accidentally. If something meaningful results from an act committed unconsciously or unwittingly it is said to be according to the "gunaksara-nyaya". This term is thus applicable to Patanjali being written as "Padamcolli"
Some years ago I happened to see the Sahitya-Ratnakara. The author of this poetical work is Yajnanarayana Diksita who composed it 400 hundred years ago during the reign of Raghunatha Nayaka of Tanjavur. Diksita was a great devotee of Siva and in one of his hymns there is a reference to grammar.
Adau pani-ninadato' ksara-samamnayopadesena yah
Sabdanamanusasananyakalayat sastrena sutratmana
Bhasyam tasya ca padahamsakaravaih praudhasayam tam gurum
Sabdarthapratipatti-hetumanisam Candravatamsam bhaje
--- Sahitya-Ratnakara, 11. 124
"Aksara-samamnayam" in this stanza means grammar, a grouping together of letters. Isvara's breath constitutes the Vedas. The wind produced by his hand [as he beats the drum] is "Aksara-Veda", the Mahesvara-sutras. It is called "sabdanusasanam". "Pani-ninadatah" means "produced sounds with your hands" or "the sounds came by to Panini". Thus the words have two meanings. The idea is that Panini created his grammar with the sounds produced by Isvara with his hand.
The stanza goes on to say: "With the movement of your hand the sutras of grammar were created and with the movement of your feet its commentary has been produced. " Patanjali, author of the Mahabhasya, was an incarnation of the primordial serpent Adisesa. Adisesa is now the anklet of Parameshvara. It is in keeping with this that the poet says that Siva created the bhasya with the movement of his feet. He concludes by remarking that sound and meaning originate in Siva.
In this way, Siva is the prime source of grammar. That is why there are mandapas in his temples where vyakarana is to be taught.
Works on Grammar
In the stanza [in the previous chapter ] we saw that the poet calls Siva "Candravatamsa". It means the god who has the moon for a head ornament. "Candrasekhara" and "Indusekhara" mean the same. Remarkably enough, "Indusekhara" occurs in the titles of two grammatical works. One is Sabdendusekharam, and the other pariposendusekharam. A student who has read grammar up to Sabdendusekharam is considered master of the subject.
If there are thirty books on Siksa, there are any number on grammar. Foremost among them are Panini's sutras, Patanjali's bhasya for it and vararuci's vartika (mentioned earlier). I make this statement in the belief that Vararuci and Katyayana are the same person. Some think that they are not. Vararuci was one of the "Nine gems" of Vikramaditya 's court.
Bhartrhari's Vakyapadiyam is also an important grammatical treatise. There are said to be nine [notable] Sanskrit grammar works, "nava- vyakarana". Hanuman is believed to have learned them from the sun god. Sri Rama praises him as "nava-vyakarana -vetta ". One of these nine works is Aindram authored by Indra. It is said that the basic Tamil grammar book, the Tolkappiyam, follows Aindram
Sanskrit and Tamil Grammar
Just as "illakanam", the Tamil word for grammar, is derived from the Sanskrit "laksana", so too a number of other words that have to do with grammar in that language are of Sanskrit origin. For instance, there are two terms used in Tamil grammar, pakuti (pahuti) and vikuti (vihuti). To illustrate in the word "Ramanukku" (for Raman ), "Raman " is pakuti and "ku" is "vikuti". Both terms pakuti and vikuti are derived from Sanskrit grammar. "How do you say so? " it might be asked. "Is it not pakuti an original tamil word derived from "pakuttal? "
Pakuti in the sense of that which has been divided is indeed a Tamil word. But I say that there is another pakuti that is a corrupt form of the Sanskrit "prakarti". It is in the sense of "prakarti" that the word "Raman" in "Ramanukku" is described as pakuti. As for "vikuti" it is from the Sanskrit "vikriti": there is no such word as "vikuttal" in Tamil corresponding to pakuttal. From the undisputed fact that vikuti is from vikriti, we may conclude for certain that pakuti is from prakrti.
(Vikrti also called "pratyaya", that which gives many meanings to the same prakrti. When it is said "Ramanai aditten"-(I) beat Raman-the pratyaya "ai" added makes Raman the person who is beaten. If it is said Ramanal adipatten-(I) was beaten by Raman-the prakrti Raman with the al makes him the one who beat. )
It is not my purpose to claim that Sanskrit is superior to Tamil. When do feelings of superiority arise to make us happy? When we are conscious of differences between what we believe is "ours" and what we believe is "theirs". Where we to have racial bias, we could be tempted to speak in appreciative terms of what is "ours" and to deprecate what is "theirs". If we realise that to harbour feelings based on racial differences is itself wrong, that our languages have sprung from the same family, from the same cultural tradition, there will be no cause for speaking highly of one language at the expense of another.
On the subject of grammar I have mentioned certain facts and it is not my intention to elevate one language above another.
Sanskrit : The Universal Language
Sanskrit is the language of all mankind; it is an international language and also the language of the gods. The gods are called "girvanas"; so Sanskrit is called "Gairvani". While the emperor of Tamil poetry, Kambar, describes it as the "devabhasa", the Sanskrit poet Dandin calls it " daivi vak"(divine speech) in his Kavyadarsa: " Samskrtam nama daivi vak. "
Sanskrit has no syllable that indistinct or unclear. Take the English "word". It has neither a distinct "e-kara" nor "o-kara". There are no such words in Sanskrit. Neither is the "r" in "word" pronounced distinctly nor is it silent.
Sanskrit, besides, has no word that cannot be traced to its root. Whatever the word it can be broken into its syllables to elucidate its meaning. Sanskrit is sonorous and auspicious to listen to. You must not be ill disposed towards such a language, taking the narrow that it belongs to a few people.
To speak Sanskrit is not to make some noises and somehow convey your message. The sounds, the phonemes, in it are, as it were, purified and the words and sentences refined by being subjected to analysis. That is why the language is called "Sanskrit"[Samskrtam]. The purpose of Siksa, and in greater measure of Vyakarana, is to accomplish such refinement.
To speak the language of Sanskrit itself means to be refined, to be cultured. As the language of the gods it brings divine grace. The sounds of Sanskrit create beneficial vibrations of the nadis and strengthen the nervous system, thereby contributing to our health.
Linguistic Studies and Religion
Siksa, Vyakarna and the subjects I have yet to deal with -Chandas and Nirukta-are Vedangas-(limbs of the vedas)connected with language. After I said that I would deal with matters basic to our religion, I have been speaking about linguistic studies and grammar. Next I am going to deal with prosody. By works on religion we ordinarily mean those[directly] relating to God, worship, devotion, jnana, dharma and so on. Would not the right thing for me then be to speak about such works?
When we dealt with the vedas a number of matters cropped up, matters regarded as germane to religion. Religion will find a prominent place in the subjects that I have yet to speak about, Kalpa, Mimamsa, the Puranas and Dharmasastra., But in between has arisen the science of language that has apparently no connection with religion.
In the vedic view everything is connected with the Lord. There is no question of dividing subjects into "religious" and "non-religious". Even the science of medicine, Ayurveda, which pertains to physical well being, is ultimately meant for Atmic uplift- or for that matter, military science(Dhanurveda). That is why they were made part of traditional lore. So too political economy which is also an Atma-sastra.
Why are works belonging to these fields held in great esteem? All subjects, all works, that teach a man to bring order, refinement and purity in every aspect of his life and help him thus to take the path to liberation are regarded as religious in character.
Sound is the highest of the perceived forms of the Paramatman and language is obviously connected with it. It is the concern of Siksa and Vyakarana to refine and clarify it and make it a means for the well-being of our Self.
Grammar is associated with Sabdabrahman. Worship of the Nadabrahman which is the goal of music is a branch of this. If sounds are well discerned and employed in speech they will serve not only the purpose of communication but also of cleansing us inwardly. The science of language is helpful here.
I have already mentioned that Pathanjali's commentary on Panini's Sutras is called the Mahabhasya. The prefix "Maha" in the name of the work is an indication of high degree of importance given to grammar in our tradition. Illustrious teachers have written commentaries on the Vedas, on the Brahmasutra, on the Upanisads, on the Bhagavadgita, and so on. But none of these has "maha" prefixed to it. There is a saying that a scholar derives as much happiness from learning the Mahabhasya as from ruling an empire.
Mahabhasyam va pathaniyam
maharajyam va sasaniyam
I recently came across another piece of evidence like the Vengi inscription to prove how in the old days our rulers nurtured and propagated the science of grammar.
Dhar was a state in the formal Central Provinces(now a part of Madhya Pradesh). It is the same as Dhara which was the capital of Bhojaraja who was a great patron of arts and who made lavish gifts to poets and artists. There is a mosque in the town of Dhar now. Once a cave was discovered in the mosque which on examination revealed some writings in Sanskrit. But the department of epigraphy could not carry out any investigations until some years after freedom. Then, with the permission of the authorities of the mosque, they studied their finding.
To their amazement they saw a wheel inside with verses dealing with grammar inscribed on it in the form of a chart. The mosque stands today where a temple to Sarasvati stood during Bhojaraja's time. The idea behind the wheel is that the science of language (grammar)must form part of the temple to Sarasvati, the goddess of speech---and grammar is the Vedapurusa's mouth. They say that grammar could be learnt at a glance from this wheel. It is because the science of language is worthy of worship that the wheel inscribed with grammar was installed in the temple. With the blessings of Vagdevi(Sarasvati) we have obtained the wheel, though long after the mosque was built at that site. The department of epigraphy has published the text of the inscription with an English translation.
We learn thus that sastras like grammar were not regarded merely as of worldly interest but in fact considered worthy of worship. That is why rulers promoted them.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the lotus feet of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswami ji and my humble greatulness to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and great Devotees , Philosophic Scholars, for the collection)