TAMIL NATION LIBRARY:
Published by V.Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1973, 378 pages.
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Dr. Kamil Vaclav Zvelebil
From the Dedication and Preface:
The great drums beat
As Asura warriors marched.
Their burning rage cut asunder
Scorched with a spark from your
O leader of men
With leaf-edged spear
Valli the gypsy
O lord who resides on Tiruttani hills!
(Arunakiri, Tiruppukal 5.7I) Transl. S. Kokilam
or other, Murugan, the youthful god of victorious war, is ubiquitous
in Tamil writing and culture; he is present in the earliest
classical poems of Tamil as well as in the splendid "Lay of the
Anklet", in the ruby-red and sea-blue and golden songs of Arunakiri
as well as in the very recent prayers to Murugan by A. K. Ramanujan.
His wars are, of course, not only victorious, but just. He destroys
evil, decay, death. His smile is the light of life and eternal
youth. "His face shoots forth myriad rays of light, removing
darkness from the world" (Tirgmurkarruppatai 91-92)." [see also
Suran Por, a poem in Tamil by Raj Swarnan]
"The Dravidians, and in particular the Tamils, have contributed a
great deal to the cultural riches of the world:
Pallava and Chola temple architecture,
bronze sculpture, the dance-form known as Bharatanatyam,
so-called Carnatic system of music.
But probably the most significant contribution is that of
Tamil literature, which still remains to be "discovered" and
enjoyed by the non Tamilians and adopted as an essential and
remarkable part of universal heritage. If it is true that liberal
education should "liberate" by demonstrating the cultural values and
norms foreign to us, by revealing the relativity of our own values,
then the "discovery" and enjoyment of Tamil literature, and even its
teaching (as a critical part of the teaching of Indian literatures)
should find its place in the systems of Western training and
instruction in the humanities.
However, frankly speaking, I
do not think that anybody is capable, at the present state of
affairs, of bringing out a sufficiently formalised, detailed and
exhaustive synthesis of Tamil literature comparable to such
magnificent works as, say, Jan Rypka's Persian Literature or Maurice
Winternitz's History of Indian Literature....
Distinctive features of Tamil Literature...
".... it is clear that Tamil literature did not develop in a
cultural vacuum, and that the evolution of the Tamil culture was not
achieved either in isolation, or by simple cultural mutation. The
very beginnings of Tamil literature manifest clear traces of Aryan
influence - just as the very beginnings of the Indo-Aryan
literature, the Rig vedic hymns, show traces of Dravidian influence.
This, too, is today an undisputed fact.
On the other hand, there are some sharply contrasting features
which are typical for Tamil classical culture alone, for the Tamil
cultural and literary tradition as opposed to the non-Tamil
tradition - and in this respect, the Tamil cultural tradition is
independent, not derived, not imitative; it is pre-Sanskritic, and
from this point of view Tamil alone stands apart when compared with
all other major languages and literatures of India.
It is possible to express this fact briefly but precisely by saying
that there exist in India only two great specific and independent
classical and historically attested cultures - the Sanskritic
culture and the Tamil culture.
Historically speaking, from
the point of development of Indian literature as a single complex,
Tamil literature possesses at least two unique features.
First, as has just been pointed out, it is the only Indian
literature which is, at least in its beginnings and in its first and
most vigorous bloom, almost entirely independent of Aryan and
specifically Sanskrit influences. This primary independence of Tamil
literary tradition has been, incidentally, the source of many
Second: though being sometimes qualified as a
neo-Indian literature, Tamil literature is the only Indian
literature which is both classical and modern; while it shares
antiquity with much of Sanskrit literature and is as classical, in
the best sense of the word, as e.g. the ancient Greek poetry, it
continues to be vigorously living modern writing of our days. This
fact was expressed in a very happy formulation by A. K. Ramanujan in
his excellent book The Interior Landscape (1967):
'Tamil, one of the two classical languages of India, is
the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably
continuous with a classical past.'..."