தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 


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A Video Essay on Tamil
M. V. Bhaskar and K. T. Gandhirajan, 19 June 2006

Raja Raja Cholan - Video
Milestones in Tamil History UNESCO Courier, March, 1984

Aryan/Dravidian Question

The Dravidian Problem -M.D.Raghavan
Interrogating India - a Dravidian Viewpoint - V.Geetha and S.V.Rajadurai, 1991
Demise of Aryan Invasion Theory - Dinesh Agrawal

Towards a Re-Appraisal
of the Dravidian/Non-Brahmin Movement
V.Geetha and S.V.Rajadurai

Vedic "Aryans" and the Origins of Civilization: A Literary and Scientific Perspective - Navaratna S. Rajaram and Davis Frawley1995
Aryans & Tamils - Swami Vivekananda
The Origin of the Non-Brahmin Movement, 1905-1920 - K.Nambi Arooran in Tamil Renaissance and Dravidian Nationalism
Demand for Dravida Nadu - K.Nambi Arooran, 1980
Tamil Renaissance and Dravidian Nationalism - K.Nambi Arooran, 1980
Constitution of Self Respect League
Periyar E.V.RamaswamyPeriyar
Dravida Munetra Kalagam
Decaying of the Dravidian Movement - Shan Ranjit, 2000
Sikhs and Tamils: The Indus Connection - Dr.N.Muthu Mohan
Hinduism: Native or Alien to India? - Shan Ranjit, 2000

Early  History

Tamil Coins - Sangam Age, Chola Period...
Ancient rock art dating back to 1500 B.C. found in Tamil Nadu, 27 May 2007 
3,500 Year Old Indus Script Found in Tamil Nadu, May 2006
Rewriting Indian History - Hindu Timeline
Sarasvati-Sindhu civilisation (c. 3000 B.C.) - S.Kalyanaraman
Harappa Civilisation
Harappa: Basic Signs - Clyde Winters

The Scientific Dating of the Mahabharat War by Dr.P.V.Vartak

Writing Tamil History:Post National Perspectives - Ponnampalam Ragupathy, 11 May 2006

Pandya Rule at the Beginning of Ancient Lankan History - Dr.A.Velupillai,  26 July 2006

The Pandyans - J.R.Sinnatamby
Tamil Civilization - the Origins, J.M.Rajaratnam
Pallava Grantha Inscriptions of South East Asia - (c.7th century onwards)
Pallavas of Kanchi  - Jyotsna Kamat
Chola period idols found near Pudukottai , 6 August 2006
Some aspects of South Indian cultural contacts with Thailand – Historical Background. - S.Singaravelu, 1966  
Tamil Language Inscriptions in Thailand
Interactions of the Chola empire in the Chao Phraya delta - G.Deivanayagam
Epigraphy - Tamil inscriptions from the Tambaram area, 1973 - Gift Siromoney
Tamil Language Inscriptions in China - Dr.S.Jayabarathi
Ancient Ports and Maritime  Trade Centres in Tamilnadu and
their Significance

Presentation by
T.S.Sridhar, IAS
Special Commissioner,
Department of Archaeology,
Government of Tamil Nadu - 6 October 2005
Ancient anchors off Tamil Nadu coast and
ship tonnage analysis
N. Athiyaman and P. Jayakumar,
10 May 2004
Three granite pillars with inscriptions of Pallava and Chola kings

Gingee - the Fort with a 1000 Year History -  

N.Nandhivarman, General Secretary Dravida Peravai

Antiquity and Sacred Writing: Tamil Literary Histories in the late 19th - early 20th centuries - Srilata Müller, 1998
Who is a Tamil - C.Sivaratnam, 1968
Literary History in Tamil - Karthigesu Sivathamby, 1986 "Literature... creates the mode of consciousness and this can in a historical perspective become an indicator of national consciousness... In fact consciousness of the literary heritage was a cause and an index of Tamilian nationality consciousness... "
Early Tamil Cultural Influences in South East Asia - S.J.Gunasegaram, 1985
Tiru-p-pavai, Tiruvempavai in South East Asia - T.P.Meenakshisundaram, 1966
Tamil Studies: Research in South East Asia and in the Far East - Jean Filliozat, 1966
Religious Traditions of Tamils - Professor Velupillai, 1995
Feudalism & Chola Rule - V.Annamlai, 1968
Chola Empire -  Columbia Encyclopedia
India's Parthian Colony - On the origin of the Pallava Empire of Dravidia -Dr. Samar Abbas, 2003 "The Pallava Empire was the largest and most powerful South Asian state in its time, ranking as one of the glorious empires of world history. At its height it covered an area larger than France, England and Germany combined. It encompassed all the present-day Dravidian nations, including the Tamil, Telugu, Malayali and Kannada tracts within its far-flung borders.."
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century - W.H. Schoff (tr. & ed.), 1912

Kappal Oddiya Thamilan
- The Overseas Exploits of the Thamils & the Tragedy of Sri Lanka - G.K.Rajasuriyar, 2002

Dynasties of the South

Tamil Renaissance

Veerapandiya Kattabomman
Elite Formation in 19th Century South India - An Interpretative Analysis - Robert Eric Frykenberg
National Movement in Tamil Nadu, 1905-1914 - Agitational Politics and State Coercion, N.Rajendran
Subramaniam Sivam
V.O.Chidambaram Pillai
U.V.Swaminatha Iyer - S.Thangavelu, 1996

Tsunami Disaster & the Tamil People - Catastrophes of the past in Tamil Aham : poetic exaggeration or scientific facts?, 7 January 2005

Caste & the Tamil Nation

Eelam Tamils

History of Tamil Eelam Flag - Video Presentation
Ancestry of the Ceylon Tamil - M.D.Raghavan
History of the Tamils in Ealam and The Jaffna Kingdom - Dr Mathi Chandrakumar
Tamils & the Meaning of History - Dr Hellmann-Rajanayagam, 1996 "..And that leads us to the final question, whether, if this was the case, the Tamils in Ceylon were not really somewhat unique, different from those in India, the close proximity notwithstanding, whether the undoubted fact of their political autonomy had not generated a degree of cultural, religious and linguistic independence as well, but an independence which has become, in the late 20th century, extremely limiting and downright dangerous. There have been attempts to reverse this trend: Followers of Arumuka Nċvalar's religious tradition always saw India and Jaffna as one and unseparated and stressed the unity. The dilemma of being torn between South India and Jaffna is most evident in the writings and ideology of the militants for whom India again became the vanishing point when things in Jaffna got too hot, in the good old tradition, but who now have changed their song again and consider themselves as primarily belonging to Sri Lanka. That is the dilemma of the Jaffna Tamils..."
Pandara Vannian
Sri Lankan Tamil Society & Politics - Karthigesu Sivathamby, 1995
Sri Lanka Tamils - Brian Pfaffenberger, 1991

The Tomb of Elara at Anuradhapura - Dr.James Rutnam, 1981

The Vallipuram Buddha Image - Peter Schalk
புராதன இலங்கை சரித்திரம் - ப. கணபதிப்பிள்ளை

Tamil Rulers of the Kandyan Kingdom - G.Amirthalingam, 4 March 2006

Beginnings of Tamil Rule in Eelam (Ceylon, Sri Lanka) - Nallur Swami S. Gnana Prakasar O.M.I.
Arya Chakravarties of Tamil Eelam - M.D.Raghavan
Matrimonial Alliances between Tamilnad and the Sinhalese Royal Family in the 18th Century and the Establishment of a Madurai Dynasty in Kandy - Lorna Srimathie Dewaraja, 1974
The Tamil Kingdom in Jaffna - Early Beginnings to the Court of the Ariya Chakravartis - Dr.H.W.Tambiah, 1968
A Critical Study of Tamil Documents Pertaining to the History of Jaffna - K.S.Nadarajah, 1966
Tamil Consciousness in Eelam - K.Kailasapathy, 1979
The Five Ishwarams in Eelam - Shruthi Laya Shangam, London and Shri S. Arumugam, 1999
Munnicuvaram (Munnesvaram) Kovil: Its History, Ceremonies and Layout - Professor A. Velupillai, 1995
Our Temple: Thirukoneswaram
Welcome to Thirukoneswaram
Trincomalee - Holy Hill of Siva - S.J.Gunasegaram, 1985

Contribution of some leading Ceylon Tamils to the Constitutional and Political Development of Ceylon during the 19th and 20th centuries -A. Jeyaratnam Wilson, 1966

Boundaries of Tamil Eelam

Ceylon Tamils

Work on ancient history of Batticaloa released, April 2005

“We should write the people’s history of the northeast. It is important to discover and publish old palm leaf manuscripts such as ‘Mattakkalappu Poorva Sariththiram’ (Ancient History of Batticaloa) to bring out the history of the communities that live in this region. We have to search and preserve valuable primary sources of our history”,  Prof. S. Mounaguru, former Dean of Fine Arts, Eastern University, Tamil Eelam

யாழ்பாணப் பாரம்பரியம்
Jaffna Heritage - Traditional Buildings of Jaffna
- R.Mayuranathan -  "On studying the various civilizations of the world we come to know their architectural heritage their temples, tombs, palaces, and other public buildings which can be considered as the products of high civilizations. Although these buildings reflect the technological developments and the economic and social power of the ruling elite of the respective periods, they rarely have any relevance to the culture and the economic realities of the majority common masses. Domestic houses and other smaller buildings of the ordinary people reflect the soul of the common man's culture, as these building types had evolved in the respective communities for longer periods through trial and error and generally retain the basic characteristics unchanged for longer time . The above characteristics make these buildings as potential sources for information relevant to longer period back in history...Traditional buildings of Jaffna are potential sources of essential information about the life and history of the community in which these were evolving for several hundreds of years..."

War & Martial Arts

Thamizhar Martial Arts - Alex Doss
Valari - An Unique Weapon of the Tamils - Dr.S.Jayabharathi
Self-Sacrifice or NavaKantam - Dr.S.Jayabharathi "Self-sacrifice or Navakantam was an ancient practice among the Tamils in which a person sacrifices his own self with his own hands. It is a form of ritualistic suicide. Though outwardly resembling the Japanese Hara-Kiri, it differs in several ways from it. In Hara-Kiri, sometimes, the best friend cuts the head off, while the Samurai warrior slices his abdomen with his dagger. But the Tamils did it absolutely unassisted...The warriors are usually honoured with a Hero-stone called  'Viirak Kal..'"
Dolmens, Hero Stones and the Dravidian People - Dr.R.Nagaswamy

Varalaaru - A Monthly Magazine on Tamil History

Tamil Nadu in Word IQ
S..J.Gunasegaram - Selected Writings
Tamil Heritage Centre, Auroville
Itihaas:Chronology Ancient India
Maps of Tamil Nadu
World History Archives Tamil History
The East India Company
History of Madurai
Tamil Iyers of Kerala
The Dravidian Connections of Japanese


'I Remember...'  I.P.Thurairatnam
Journey Down Memory Lane - R.Shanmugalingam

Mauritius Tamils

Brief History of Tamils in Mauritius


History Section
of Tamil Nation Library


the Tamils are an ancient people

Indus Civilisation

The Tamils are an ancient people. Their history had its beginnings in the rich alluvial plains near the southern extremity of peninsular India which included the land mass known as the island of Sri Lanka today. The island's plant and animal life (including the presence of elephants) evidence the earlier land connection with the Indian sub continent. So too do satellite photographs which show the submerged 'land bridge' between Dhanuskodi on the south east of the Indian sub-continent and Mannar in the north west of the island.

Some researchers have concluded that it was during the period 6000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. that the island separated from the Indian sub continent and the narrow strip of shallow water known today as the Palk Straits came into existence. Many Tamils trace their origins to the people of Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley around 6000 years before the birth of Christ.  There is, however, a need for further systematic study of the history of the early Tamils and proto Tamils.

"Dravidians, whose descendents still live in Southern India, established the first city communities, in the Indus valley, introduced irrigation schemes, developed pottery and evolved a well ordered system of government." (Reader's Digest Great World Atlas, 1970)

Clyde Ahmad Winters, who has written extensively on Dravidian origins commented:

"Archaeological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Dravidians were the founders of the Harappan culture which extended from the Indus Valley through northeastern Afghanistan, on into Turkestan. The Harappan civilization existed from 2600-1700 BC. The Harappan civilization was twice the size the Old Kingdom of Egypt. In addition to trade relations with Mesopotamia and Iran, the Harappan city states also had active trade relations with the Central Asian peoples."

He has also explored the question whether the Dravidians were of African origin. (Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "Are Dravidians of African Origin", P.Second ISAS,1980 - Hong Kong:Asian Research Service, 1981 -  pages 789- 807)

Other useful web pages on the Indus civilisation (suggested by Dr.Jude Sooriyajeevan  of the National Research Council, Canada)  include the Indus Dictionary.

At the same time, the Aryan/Dravidian divide in India and the 'Aryan Invasion Theory' itself has come under  attack by some modern day historians. (see also Sarasvati-Sindhu civilisation; 'Hinduism: Native or Alien to India') 

Professor Klaus Klostermaier in 'Questioning the Aryan Invasion Theory and Revising Ancient Indian History' commented: 

"India had a tradition of learning and scholarship much older and vaster than the European countries that, from the sixteenth century onwards, became its political masters. Indian scholars are rewriting the history of India today.One of the major points of revision concerns the so called 'Aryan invasion theory', often referred to as 'colonial-missionary', implying that it was the brainchild of conquerors of foreign colonies who could not but imagine that all higher culture had to come from outside 'backward' India, and who likewise assumed that a religion could only spread through a politically supported missionary effort.

While not buying into the more sinister version of this revision, which accuses the inventors of the Aryan invasion theory of malice and cynicism, there is no doubt that early European attempts to explain the presence of Indians in India had much to with the commonly held Biblical belief that humankind originated from one pair of humans- Adam and Eve to be precise ..."

Hinduism Today concluded in Rewriting Indian History - Hindu Timeline:

"Although lacking supporting scientific evidence, this (Aryan Invasion) theory, and the alleged Aryan-Dravidian racial split, was accepted and promulgated as fact for three main reasons. It provided a convenient precedent for Christian British subjugation of India. It reconciled ancient Indian civilisation and religious scripture with the 4000 bce Biblical date of Creation. It created division and conflict between the peoples of India, making them vulnerable to conversion by Christian missionaries."

"Scholars today of both East and West believe the Rig Veda people who called themselves Aryan were indigenous to India, and there never was an Aryan invasion. The languages of India have been shown to share common ancestry in ancient Sanskrit and Tamil. Even these two apparently unrelated languages, according to current "super-family" research, have a common origin: an ancient language dubbed Nostratic." 


Tamils were a sea faring people

Robert Caldwell wrote in 1875:

"... From the evidence of words in use amongst the early Tamils, we learn the following items of information. They had 'kings' who dwelt in 'strong houses' and ruled over 'small districts of country'. They had 'minstrels', who recited 'songs' at 'festivals', and they seem to have had alphabetical 'characters' written with a style on palmyra leaves. A bundle of those leaves was called 'a book'; they acknowledged the existence of God, whom they styled as ko, or King.... They erected to his honour a 'temple', which they called Ko-il, God's-house.

They had 'laws' and 'customs'... Marriage existed among them. They were acquainted with the ordinary metals... They had 'medicines', 'hamlets' and 'towns', 'canoes', 'boats' and even 'ships' (small 'decked' coasting vessels), no acquaintance with any people beyond the sea, except in Ceylon, which was then, perhaps, accessible on foot at low water.. They were well acquainted with agriculture.... All the ordinary or necessary arts of life, including 'spinning', 'weaving' and 'dyeing' existed amongst them. They excelled in pottery..." (Robert Caldwell: Comparative Grammar of Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages   - Second Edition 1875 - Reprinted by the University of Madras, 1961)

The Tamils were a sea faring people. They traded with Rome in the days of Emperor Augustus. They sent ships to many lands bordering the Indian Ocean and with the ships went traders, scholars, and a way of life. Tamil inscriptions in Indonesia go back some two thousand years. The oldest Sanskrit inscriptions belonging to the third century in Indo China bear testimony to Tamil influence and until recent times Tamil texts were used by priests in Thailand and Cambodia. The scattered elements of ruined temples of the time of Marco Polo's visit to China in the 13th century give evidence of purely Tamil structure and include Tamil inscriptions.

"Tamil Nadu, the home land of the Tamils, occupies the southern most region of India. Traditionally, Thiruvenkatam - the abode of Sri Venkatewara and a range of hills of the Eastern Ghats - formed the northern boundary of the country and the Arabian sea line the western boundary. However as a result of infiltrations, made by peoples from other territories, Tamil lost its ground in the west as well as in the north.  In medieval times, the country west of the mountains, became Kerala and that in the north turned part of Andhra Desa. Bounded by the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Desa, the Tamil Nadu of the present day extends from Kanyakumari in the south to Tiruttani in the North....

Chola EmpireIn early times the Pandyas, the Cheras and the Cholas  held their pioneering sway over the country and extended their authority beyond the traditional frontiers. As a result the Tamil Country served as the homeland of extensive empires. It was during this period that the Tamil bards composed the masterpieces in Tamil literature.....

"In the first decade of the 14th century the rising tide of Afghan imperialism swept over South India. The Tughlugs created a new province in the Tamil Country called Mabar, with its capital at Madurai which in 1335 asserted independence as the Sultanate of Madurai. After a short period of stormy existence, it gave way to the Vijayanagar Empire... Since then, the Telegus, the Brahminis, the Marathas and the Kannadins wrested possession of the territory. Between 1798 and 1801, the country passed under the direct administration of the English East India Company." (History of Tamil Nadu 1565 - 1982:  Professor K.Rajayyan, Head of the School of Historical Studies, M.K.University, Madurai - Raj Publishers, Madurai, 1982)

The East India Company website contains interesting information about the efforts of the early English rulers.

Today an estimated 70 million Tamils live in many lands - more than 50 million Tamils live in Tamil Nadu in South India and around 3 million reside in the island of Sri Lanka.

up British conquest & Tamil renaissance

The response of a people to invasion by aliens from a foreign land is a measure of the depth of their roots and the strength of their identity. It was under British conquest that the Tamil renaissance of the second half of the 19th century gathered momentum.

It was a renaissance which had its cultural beginnings in the discovery and the subsequent editing and printing of the Tamil classics of the Sangam period. These had existed earlier only as palm leaf manuscripts. Arumuga Navalar in Jaffna, in the island of Sri Lanka, published the Thirukural in 1860 and Thirukovaiyar in 1861. Thamotherampillai, who was born in Jaffna but who served in Madras, published the grammatical treatise Tolkapiyam by collating material from several original ola leaf manuscripts.

It was on the foundations laid by Arumuga Navalar and Thamotherampillai that Swaminatha Aiyar, who was born in Tanjore, in South India, put together the classics of Tamil literature of the Sangam period. Swaminatha Aiyar spent a lifetime researching and collecting many of the palm leaf manuscripts of the classical period and it is to him that we owe the publication of Cilapathikaram, Manimekali, Puranuru, Civakachintamani and many other treatises which are a part of the rich literary heritage of the Tamil people.

Another Tamil from Jaffna, Kanagasabaipillai served at Madras University and his book 'Tamils - Eighteen Hundred Years Ago' reinforced the historical togetherness of the Tamil people and was a valuable source book for researchers in Tamil studies in the succeeding years. It was a Tamil cultural renaissance in which the contributions of the scholars of Jaffna and those of South India are difficult to separate.

Again, not surprisingly, it was a renaissance which was also linked with a revived interest in Saivaism and a growing recognition that Saivaism was the original religion of the Tamil people. Arumuga Navalar established schools in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka and in Chidambaram, in South India and his work led to the formation of the Saiva Paripalana Sabai in Jaffna in 1888, the publication of the Jaffna Hindu Organ in 1889 and the founding of the Jaffna Hindu College in 1890.

In South India, J.M.Nallaswami Pillai, who was born in Trichinopoly, published Meykandar's Sivajnana Bodham in English in 1895 and in 1897, he started a monthly called Siddhanta Deepika which was regarded by many as reflecting the 19th century ' renaissance of Saivaism'. A Tamil version of the journal was edited by Maraimalai Atikal whose writings gave a new sense of cohesion to the Tamil people - a cohesion which was derived from the rediscovery of their ancient literature and the rediscovery of their ancient religion.

up Bharathy, Periyar E.V. Ramasamy & Tamil nationalism

The cultural renaissance of the 19th century led to an increasing Tamil togetherness and was linked with the thrust for social reform and political power - a thrust which at the same time, sought to marry a rising Tamil togetherness with the immediate and larger struggle for freedom from British rule.

In South India, no one exemplified the marriage of this duality more effectively than Subramania Bharathy whose songs in Tamil stirred the hearts of millions of Tamils, both as Tamils and as Indians. The words of Bharathy's Senthamil Nadu Enum Pothinale, continue to move the hearts of the Tamil people today. It was his salute to the Tamil nation that was yet unborn. His Viduthalai was the joyous song of Indian freedom and there he reached out beyond the Tamil nation to the day when Bharat would be free.

Bharathy sought to consolidate the togetherness of his own people by his ceaseless campaign against casteism and for women's rights. The Bharathy birth centenary celebrations of 1982 served to underline the permanent place that Bharathy will always have in the hearts of the Tamil people, whether they be from Tamil Nadu, Tamil Eelam, Malaysia, Singapore or elsewhere.

Two other Tamils will be always associated with the rise of Tamil national consciousness in the first two decades of the 20th century - lawyer, Tamil scholar and revolutionary, V.V.S.Aiyar and the Swadeshi steam ship hero, Kappal Otiya Thamilan, V.O.Chidambram Pillai.

Aiyar was a lawyer who joined Grays Inn in London to become a barrister but became a revolutionary instead. Later, he wrote many books in Tamil and in English and is regarded by many as the father of the modern Tamil short story. He was a pioneer in Tamil literary criticism. His major works included a translation of the Thirukural and 'Kamba Ramayanam - A Study'.

In the years after the first World War, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi reached out to the underlying unity of India and sought to weld together the many peoples of the Indian subcontinent into a larger whole. But the attempt did not entirely succeed. The assessment of Pramatha Chauduri who wrote in Bengali in 1920 was not without significance:

"...You have accused me of 'Bengali patriotism'. I feel bound to reply. If its a crime for a Bengali to harbour and encourage Bengali patriotism in his mind, then I am guilty "But I ask you, what other patriotism do you expect from a Bengali writer? The fact that I do not write in English should indicate that non Bengali patriotism does not sway my mind. If I had to make patriotic speeches in a language that is the language of no part of India, then I would have had to justify that patriotism by saying it does not relate to any special part of India as a whole. In a language learnt by rote you can only express ideas learnt by heart.

"It is not a bad thing to try and weld many in to one but to jumble them all up is dangerous because the only way we can do that is by force. If you say that this does not apply to India the reply is that if self determination is not suited to us, then it is not suited at all to Europe. No people in Europe are as different, one from another, as our people. There is not that much difference between England and Holland as there is between Madras and Bengal. Even France and Germany are not that far apart...If you ask why this simple truth is not evident to all the answer is: because of circumstances. The whole of India is now under British rule...therefore, the main link between us is the link of bondage and no province can cut through this subjugation by its own efforts and actions...So today we are obliged to tell the people of India, 'Unite and Organise'...

"People will recognise the value of provincial patriotism the moment they attain independence...Then the various nations of India will not try to merge, they will try to establish a unity amongst themselves... To be united due to outside pressure and to unite through mutual regard are not the same. Just as there is a difference between the getting together of five convicts in a jail and between five free men... Indian patriotism then will be built on the foundation of provincial patriotism, not just in words but in reality..."(Pramatha Chaudhuri: Bengali Patriotism - Sabuj Patra 1920, translated and reprinted in Facets, September 1982)

In Madras Presidency, which was the largest province of British India, and which included parts of that which is Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala today, the Suya Mariyathai Iyakam (Self Respect Movement) of  E.V.Ramasamy  (Periyar) started initially, in the early 1920s, as a social reform movement aimed at a casteless society. It later developed into a vehicle for a rising Tamil nationalism.

"The Tamil Renaissance took place at the same time as the Nationalist Movement. The outcome of this interaction of the renaissance and the Nationalist Movement was the genesis of a consciousness of a separate identity resulting in Dravidian Nationalism.... In philology the term 'Dravidian' was used to denote a group a group of languages mainly spoken in South India, namely, Tamil Telegu, Kannada and Malayalam. Later when the term was extended to denote a race, again it denoted the peoples speaking these four languages. But in South Indian politics as well as in general usage since the beginning of this century the term 'Dravidian' came to denote the 'Tamils' only and not the other three language speaking peoples. ... Hence it may be observed that the terms 'Tamil Nationalism' and 'Dravidian Nationalism' were synonymous" (K.Nambi Arooran - Tamil Renaissance and Dravidian Nationalism, Koodal Publishers, Madurai, 1980)

The establishment of Annamalai University in Chidambaram and later the Tamil Isai Sangam in Madras were manifestations of a rising Tamil self consciousness. The students at Annamalai University were to become influential political leaders of the Tamil people in the years to come.

As early as 1926, Sankaran Nair, a nominated member of the Council of State in Delhi, pleaded for self government to the ten Tamil districts of the Madras Presidency, with its own army, navy and airforce.

Scholar politician V. Kaliyanasundarar writing in 1929 urged that Tamil Nadu constituted a nation within the Indian state. He declared that the correct English translation of the word Nadu was nation and not land and pointed out that the early Tamils had their own government, language, culture and historical traditions. (V.Kaliyanasundarar, Tamil Cholai, Volume 1, Madras 1954)

In 1937, Periyar E.V. Ramasamy took over the leadership of the South Indian Liberal Federation, commonly called the Justice Party. At the Justice Party confederation held in Madras in 1938, Periyar Ramasamy put forward his demand for Dravidanad. This was two years before Mohamed Ali Jinnah set out the formal demand for Pakistan at the Lahore conference. In 1944, the Justice party changed its name to Dravida Kalagam and C.N.Annadurai functioned as its first General Secretary.

These early manifestations of a Tamil national consciousness influenced Tamils outside India as well. Periyar visited Malaysia in 1929, and his visit led to a proliferation of Tamil associations, dedicated to religious and social reform - associations which were often led by journalists and teachers. The writings of Annadurai and other leaders of the Dravida Kalagam were avidly read by ordinary Tamils and marked a watershed in the literary heritage of the Tamil people .

But, in the end, Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, the undoubted father of the Dravidian movement failed to deliver on the promise of Dravida Nadu. E.V.R. failed where Mohamed Ali Jinnah succeeded. It is true that the strategic considerations of the ruling colonial power were different in each case - and this had something to do with Jinnah’s success. But, nevertheless, if ideology is concerned with moving a people to action, the question may well be asked: why did E.V.R’s ideology fail to deliver Dravida Nadu?

Two aspects may be usefully considered. One was the attempt of the Dravida movement to encompass Tamils, Malayalees, Kannadigas and all Dravidians and mobilise them behind the demand for Dravida Nadu. Unsurprisingly, the attempt to mobilise across what were in fact separate national formations failed to take off.

It was one thing to found a movement which rejected casteism. It was quite another thing, to mobilise peoples, speaking different languages with different historical memories, into an integrated political force in support of the demand for Dravida Nadu.

At the same time, the Aryan/Dravidian divide propagated by German scholars such as Max Weber, encouraged by the British, and espoused by E.V.R. paid insufficient attention to the underlying unity of India and the enduring links that the Tamil people had with the other peoples of the Indian sub continent.

That was not all. E.V.R extended his attack on casteism to an attack on Hinduism - and indeed to all religions as well. Periyar E.V.R threw out the Hindu child with the Brahmin bath water.

E.V.R was right to extol the virtues of pahuth arivu, common sense. He was right to attack mooda nambikai, foolish faith. His rationalism was often a refreshing response to religious dogma and superstition. His attack on casteism, his social reform movement and his Self Respect Movement in the 1920s infused a new dignity, thanmaanam, amongst the Tamil people and laid the foundations on which Tamil nationalism has grown. The Iyer Heritage Site serves to show that even today, the self perception of at least some Brahmins is that they are   "Aryans".

It was the pioneering work of EVR that led to the growth of the Dravida Munetra Kalagam (DMK) led by C.N.Annadurai and later by M.Karunanidhi,  to the All India Dravida Munetra Kalagam led by M.G.Ramachandran and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munetra Kalagam (MDMK) led by V.Gopalasamy.

But, having said that, the refusal of EVR to recognise that casteism was one thing, Hinduism another and spiritualism, perhaps, yet another, proved fatal. His belligerent atheism failed to move the Tamil people. In the result even within Tamil Nadu, EVR's Dravida Kalagam became marginalised, and the DMK which was an offshoot of the Dravida Kalagam and the ADMK which was an offshoot of the DMK, both found it necessary to play down the anti religious line and adopt instead a ‘secular’ face. One consequence of EVR’s atheism was that spirituality in Tamil Nadu came to be exploited as the special preserve of those who were opposed to the growth of Tamil nationalism.

Furthermore, the anti-Brahmin movement tended to ignore the many caste differences that existed among the non-Brahmin Tamils and failed to address the oppression practised by one non-Brahmin caste on another non-Brahmin caste. It is a failure that continues to haunt the Tamil national movement even today. Caste divides and fragments the  togetherness of the Tamil people.

Support for the positive contributions that E.V.R. made in the area of social reform and to rational thought, should not prevent an examination of where it was that he went wrong. Again, it may well be that E.V.R. represented a necessary phase in the struggle of the Tamil people and given the objective conditions of the 1920s and 1930s, E.V.R was right to focus sharply on the immediate contradiction posed by 'upper' caste dominance and mooda nambikai. But in the 21st century, there may be a need to learn from E.V.R. - and not simply repeat that which he said or did.

up Growth of Tamil national consciousness  in Sri Lanka

In the island of Sri Lanka, the separate national identity of the Tamil people grew through a process of opposition to and differentiation from the Buddhist Sinhala people. The Sinhala people trace their origins in the island to the arrival of Prince Vijaya from India, around 500 B.C. and the Mahavamsa, the Sinhala chronicle of a later period (6th Century A.D.) records that Prince Vijaya arrived on the island on the same day that the Buddha attained Enlightenment in India. However, the words of the Sinhala historian and Cambridge scholar, Paul Peiris represent an influential and common sense point of view:

"..it stands to reason that a country which was only thirty miles from India and which would have been seen by Indian fisherman every morning as they sailed out to catch their fish, would have been occupied as soon as the continent was peopled by men who understood how to sail... Long before the arrival of Prince Vijaya, there were in Sri Lanka five recognised isvarams of Siva which claimed and received the adoration of all India. These were Tiruketeeswaram near Mahatitha; Munneswaram dominating Salawatte and the pearl fishery; Tondeswaram near Mantota; Tirkoneswaram near the great bay of Kottiyar and Nakuleswaram near Kankesanturai. " (Paul E. Pieris: Nagadipa and Buddhist Remains in Jaffna : Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, Ceylon Branch Vol.28)

The Pancha Ishwarams of Eelam   were important landmarks of the country and S.J.Gunasegaram's 'Trincomalee - Holy Hill of Siva ' reveals the antiquity of Trincomalee as an ancient Hindu shrine.

The Tamil people and the Sinhala people were brought within the confines of a single state by the British. The struggle for freedom from British colonial rule, did lead Tamil leaders such as Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Ponnambalam Arunachalam to work together with their Sinhala counterparts in the Ceylon National Congress. But it was largely a dialogue between the English speaking Tamil middle class and its English speaking Sinhala counterpart.

Professor Kailasapathy in a paper presented at a Social Scientists Association Seminar in Colombo, traced the growth of  Tamil consciousness in Eelam from the time of British rule, through independence and upto 1979. The paper affords many insights into the continuing growth of Tamil Consciousness today, not only in Eelam but in the Tamil diaspora as well:

"Both the reformers and the revivalists came from the Hindu upper castes, but while the former were not only English educated but also used that language for their livelihood and for acquiring social status, the latter were primarily traditional in their education and used their mother tongue for their livelihood and social communication.. .most of them wrote in English... In doing so they probably had a particular audience in mind, an audience to whom they wanted to prove the antiquity and greatness of their tradition...In contrast the revivalists were mainly highly erudite in their mother tongue and wrote in it..."

The Pan Sinhala Executive Committee of the Ceylon State Council in 1936 and the formation of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress led by G.G.Ponnambalam were some of  the early manifestations of the growth of a separate Sinhala nationalism and a separate Tamil nationalism  in the political arena of the island of Ceylon (as it then was known).

It was a Tamil nationalism which eventually found expression in the formation of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi led by S.J.V.Chelvanayakam in 1949 and later in the 1970s in the Tamil armed resistance movement, led today by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Velupillai Pirabaharan.

The 'thiyagam' of  the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, gave poignant expression to the cultural values of the Tamil people, rooted in the Purananuru and Cilapathikaram. At the same time, the armed resistance movement in Tamil Eelam, also brought about a fundamental cultural transformation in Tamil society. It helped to break down casteism among the Tamil people. It  helped to liberate Tamil women from the structures of oppression that had been deeply embedded in sections of Tamil society - and help create the Puthumai Penn that Bharathy had sung about.

"The historical storm of the liberation struggle is uprooting age old traditions that took root over a long period of time in our society... The ideology of women liberation is a child born out of the womb of our liberation struggle... Our women are seeking liberation from the structures of oppression deeply embedded in our society. This oppressive cultural system and practices have emanated from age old ideologies and superstitions. Tamil women are subjected to intolerable suffering as a consequence of male chauvinistic oppression, violence and from the social evils of casteism and dowry." (Velupillai Pirabaharan, 1992, 1993)

That the armed resistance movement of the Tamil people should have originated in Tamil Eelam and not in Tamil Nadu is not altogether surprising. It is the nature of the discrimination and oppression which often determines the nature of the response.

"Liberty is the life breath of a nation; and when life is attacked, when it is sought to suppress all chance of breathing by violent pressure, then any and every means of self preservation becomes right and justifiable...It is the nature of the pressure which determines the nature of the resistance." (Aurobindo in Bande Mataram, 1907)

Suffering unites a people and the suffering of the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka, in their struggle for freedom and justice, has also served to bring together Tamils living not only in Tamil Eelam and Tamil Nadu but also those living in many other lands. At the same time, in Tamil Nadu poverty and corruption have weakened confidence in existing political structures.

"As programmes and reforms failed... repression appeared as the direct method of dealing with peasant unrest. Between 1975 and 1982, the police forces launched a series of operations against the Naxals. Either in what was called encounters or under police custody nineteen young men died and about 250 people were jailed. The green turbanned peasants led by Narayanaswamy Naidu launched agitations in 1972 and 1980. In Coimbatore, Dharmapuri, South Arcot and Madurai there were serious disturbances.. Between 1972 and 1982 fifty four peasants were killed in police firings and more than 25,000 were taken into custody." (History of Tamil Nadu 1565 - 1982:  Professor K.Rajayyan, Head of the School of Historical Studies, M.K.University, Madurai - Raj Publishers, Madurai, 1982)

up Indian Union & the Tamil nation

The Tamil cultural renaissance of the second half of the 19th century, the rise of the Dravida Tamil national movement of the first half of the 20th century, and the armed struggle for Tamil Eelam are but tributories flowing into one river - the river of the growing togetherness of the Tamil people - and it is unlikely that this is a river that will  flow backwards.

Here, not many will question that the future of the Tamil people lies with the peoples of India. In 1973, Kamil Zvebil, Professor in Tamil Studies at Charles University, Prague wrote in 'The Poets and the Powers', of the Tamil contribution in shaping and moulding the great Indian synthesis :

"...Many and variegated are the contributions of the Tamils of South India to the treasures of human civilisation, the early classical love and war poetry, the architecture of the Pallavas, the deservedly famous South Indian bronzes of the Chola period, the well known Bharata Natyam dance, the philosophy of Saiva Siddhanta, the magnificent temples of the South - for more than two thousand years have the Tamils been contributing to Indian culture and taking part in shaping and moulding the great Indian synthesis."

Sylvain Levi George Coedes and La Valee Poissin wrote in the 'The Indianisation of South East Asia' in 1975:

"Without being aware of it, India determined the history of a good portion of mankind. She gave three quarters of Asia a God, a religion, a doctrine, a art. She gave them her sacred language, literature and her institutions... All the regions contributed to this expansion and civilisation, but it was the South that played the greatest role."

The Indian union in an emerging post modern world, will be a free and equal association of states, that will be rooted in the heritage that the Tamil people, (whether they be from Tamil Nadu or Tamil Eelam or elsewhere) share with their brothers and sisters of India - a shared heritage that the Tamil people freely acknowledge. It is a shared heritage to which the Tamil people have contributed and will continue to contribute - and from which the Tamil people also derive strength.

Milestones in Tamil History UNESCO Courier, March, 1984
 "The Tamil Language is the official language of the State of Tamil Nadu (population over 48 million) in southeast India and is also spoken by some 4 million people living in Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, as well as parts of east and south Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific and the Caribbean.

There is a scholarly literature in Tamil dating back to the early centuries of the Christian era. The language is of Dravidian origin. The Dravidians were the founders of one of the world's most ancient civilizations, which already existed in India sometime before 1000 BC when the Aryans  invaded the sub-continent from the north.

The Aryans, who spoke the Sanskrit language, pushed the Dravidians down into south India. Today 8 of the languages of northern and western India (including Hindi) are of Sanskrit origin, but Sanskrit itself is only spoken by Hindu Brahman priests in temple worship and by scholars. In southern India, 4 languages of Dravidian origin are spoken today. Tamil is the oldest of these.

The History of Tamil Nadu begins with the 3 kingdoms, CHERA, CHOLA and PANDYA, which are referred to in documents of the 3rd century BC. Some of the kings of these dynasties are mentioned in Sangam Literature and the age between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD is called the Sangam Age. At the beginning of the 4th century AD the Pallavas established their rule with Kanchipuram as their capital. Their dynasty, which ruled continously for over 500 years, left a permanent impact on the history of Tamil Nadu, which was during this period virtually controlled by the Pallavas  in the north and the Pandyas in the south.

In the middle of the 9th century a Chola ruler established what was to become one of India's most outstanding empires on account of its administrative achievements (irrigation, village development) and its contributions to art and literature. The Age of the Cholas is considered the golden age of Tamil history.

Towards the end of the 13th century the Cholas were overthrown by the later Pandyas who ruled for about a century an d were followed by the Vijayanagara Dynasty, whose greatest ruler was Krishnadeva Raya (1509-1529), and the Nayaks of Madurai and *tanjore. The Colonial Age opened in the 17th century. In 1639 the British East India Company opened a trading post at the fishing village of Madraspatnam, today Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu. In 1947, India achieved Independence. The overwhelming majority of the population of Tamil Nadu is Hindu, with active Christian and Muslim  minorities.

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