Friday, December 28, 2007

Tamil Identity

I have move my blog to

I never ever thought of writing on this topic i.e "Tamil identity" till I read the book written by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen "The Argumentative Indian". In that book he extensively talked about the Indian identity in general. I'm an ardent fan of his highly intellectual, intriguing and inquisitive writing about economic sciences with convergence of social science. I admire and respect him for thoughtful writings and idea but I personally felt he has focused his thoughts mainly on the perspective of northern India including Bengal ( His birth place). He augmented to Indian Identity by thoughts of Tagore, Sanskrit literature, northern moghal rulers,Gandhi, etc who basically hailed from northern India. What disappointed me was, He hasn't even cited a single thought of southern scholars, literature, Rulers, etc. He generalized Indian identity only based on north Indian perspective based on historical facts. I presume that most of the modern Indians think that north Indian Identity is different from south Indian.
I actually hail from southern state of Tamil Nadu and I personally think the south India or Tamil Identity has lots of deviations from north Indian Identity. What makes me to think so, because I have friends from most of states of India and I find their thoughts, basic instincts is different from me. I'm some times finding difficulties to have good relationship with them, this may be attributed to the difference in thoughts and idea. Most of the thoughts and ideas we possess actually have great influence of our inheritance and circumstance.So, it boggles my mind to think what's the uniqueness of Tamil Identity where I come from. To understand the identity of any man we got to look into his history and environment. Lets us first have brief look into history of Tamil people in general.
Only Tamil kingdom invaded other parts of south Asia unlike northern rulers. Tamil Kingdom was basically ruled by chera, chola and pandian. These three rulers have great influence on Tamil identity in general. These rulers established "sangam" to flourish the tamil literature. Thats one of the main reasons why there are more than 1000 Tamil sangams outside India and Srilanka to protect and flourish the tamil language. Rulers from outside Tamil Kingdom found it extremely difficult to invade them. It doesn't mean that these rulers were united but they are united when outsiders invaded them. There were frequent conflicts between these rulers but they preserved the temples, literature and everything which possess their own identity. During pre-independent era also madras presidency has seen lots of freedom fighters who fought courageously against British rule. This brief history has lot to say about tamil people in general. Most of my friends too remarked that tamils are very diplomatic, hard working, brilliant ( depends on individual too), introvert,loquacious. Every tamilian has to agree that unity, inter alia, is weak, this statement can be conceded by lots of issues happening in tamil nadu and expatriate tamil places too now.
Castetism in tamil nadu is wide spread and most of the conflicts and confrontation occurred in the past clearly depicts the arrogance of dominance of one caste on other people. In Tamil Nadu development is also spoiled by the conceited nature of the castetism among the people of tamil nadu. Today, caste is over thrown by the open mindedness of not just tamils but also Indian by western education. The unique feature of tamil culture which is pretty hard to see in other culture is loudness. If we go to any one of the festivals in village, we can see the loudness in all the activities. Lets us take an example of "Pongal" which is uniquely a tamil festival in India has long standing traditional value. Apart from worshiping sun and cow, it also has activities to outcast sixty four arts of tamil culture especially "jalikattu" which shows the men's brave. In ancient tamil culture, every men was supposed to possess sixty four arts which is pivotal for any king to rule tamil kingdom. Those sixty four arts related to gamut of subjects such as love, brave, etc.
Many Indians tend to blame Tamilians for their linguist chauvinism, other way around can also be seen now in urban areas. Let me first analyze why tamilians are very sensitive in their language. From 200 BC onwards Tamils started flourishing and protecting their via establishing "tamil sangam". Sangam literature is considered to be one of the oldest literature and it has great antiquity. One of the literature, "thirukkural" which has been translated into many different language due to its thoughts and neutrality. Its often said, language is pivotal for thoughts of a persons. Language certainly shapes the thoughts and ideal because we acquire those knowledge by default when we read, listen, and watch to the literature, conservation and movies. One of the very famous director of Tamil cinema reiterated that "He attribute his thoughts to tamil language". It all happened after independence of Indian Union that politician started choosing a language as official language of India to represent Indian Union. They wanted to chose an Indian language which represents the majority and easy to learn too. They chose "Hindi" as an official language of India which is inevitable because Hindi is spoken by majority of population of India. But this provoked the sentiments of tamilians and they agitated against this imposition of Hindi during 1960. Here is statement said by C. N Anna durai in parliament
"It is claimed that Hindi should be common language because it is spoken by the majority. Why should we then claim the tiger as our national animal instead of the rat which is so much more numerous? Or the peacock as our national bird when the crow is ubiquitous?". During agitations there were about 60 people killed and self immolated. This has changed the attitude of Union government and retained English as one of the official language of India to this date.
These incidents may sound like French people agitating against English but Tamilians like to flaunt in foreign languages. Nowadays, the scene has been changed due to the English medium education in Tamil Nadu. Most of the people who are educated are ashamed of speaking in tamil in public. This has recently provoked political parties to staging protest against English too which I personally consider insane. Expatiates Tamils who settled in western countries and south Asia established "Tamil Sangam" to promote Tamil Language among Tamil people. This is a laudable effect because through this sangam they are able to spread the awareness of Tamil culture.
There are lots of rhetoric statements about Indian Culture. People in Tamil Nadu used to say that Tamil Culture is conservative. I don't seriously understand the word conservative in the modern times because ancient tamil culture never imposed rules and regulations on women education, and freedom. Equality in the society of ancient Tamil Kingdom was clearly seen from literature and Grammar of Tamil Language. There were lots of female poets who wrote poems in praise and against the rulers, one such example is "Avaiyar". Tamil Culture has long tradition of tolerance in religious freedom. Not alone Hindus contributed to the tamil literature in ancient literature but also Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains . Tamil Nadu has a little record of communal violence unlike northern India. If culture and language has to protected and promoted, people of that race must understand their identity. I want to know your views also.


vishwanath said...

I do agree that there are a lot of misunderstandings between the north Indians and south Indians but its the image left out mainly by their predecessors. Nowadays we find even media mocking at the south culture and think they have presented a good comedy. Same is the case with sardars . We often hear jokes on them andan image has been created as such. But those are the ones fighting for our country.
For e.g the Bingo ad and few films in hindi make mockery of tamilians and the way they speak english with tamil slang as if all north people are excellent english orators.
I have seen places where in north India they refuse to speak even hindi and reply only in regional languages. The question now is not to fight and the new generation must look at it in a decent way.The facts that south Indians flourish in the software companies and IT industry is fast growing than any other place in south has enraged fear and envy amongst most people especially politicians.
Though we feel that now its time to forget our region biased identity and integrate ourselves as INDIANS.
And indeed i have developed friendly relationships with many north Indians and hope the idea flows.

sat said...

I seldom discussed about the conflicts of north and south India but I want to emphasize Tamil Identity only.But still I value your comment ..

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to comment on e content of this topic until i think about it myself. Its very much heartening to read this article written with thoughts from e heart dominating those of the mind. Such is Sathiya's passion about the Tamil language & culture. It has also not escaped my attention the vast strides he has made in his language and vocabulary skills (Just compare his previous post to this & u'll notice it). Sathiya, i feel u can become a very good writer by substantiating ur points with solid evidence and citing their sources so that people like me who are inspired to think about such topics could do so with ease.

sat said...

yes, I heed your request buddy..

K.Kalaivani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K.Kalaivani said...

Tamil identity come from the values encompassed in the tamil literature. Weather in reality it exists or not, the tamil identity is noble.

Those who read the tamil literature, would know it.

Anniyan said...

I did not mean to carry on the topic from your point of view but may be to provide an insight to what difficulties do we really face when we talk of diversity in culture and identity. I felt the discussion needed some reality facts. Thats it. I tell u, that such image creation has hurt most of my friends including me. Especially in national colleges where there is north south mix up.
If u happen to be here u would have definitely written on it.
Anyways carry on ur good work sathiya.
All the Best


sathiya, i appreciate and admire your initiative to post on this topic because it certainly deals with sentiments of a large number of people called "tamilians". its nice to hear you speak out for them.
i agree that there is a vast difference in the identity of south indians in general and tamilians in particular and its wrong to consider india without due regard to these people.
its saddening to see that caste ism, if not in the original crude form,is still prevalent in tamil nadu. i still find people identifying themselves with their castes (especially in non -chennai parts). i believe this is because casteism is still given supreme importance (esp in government activities) for everything including college entrance. you may yorself have seen how every form you fill here has a column with three or four categories. i am coming to the further classification of castes as bc, sc, obc, mbc and what not?!
and i dont think majority was the only reasn for chosing hindi. it was also because delhi was the capital and it is natural to choose the local language over one spoken hundreds of miles away! please think on that lines too.

but before i end i must say that tamilians are a very friendly set of people, very helpful and hard working. it will be really bad if the indian administration discounts their contributions.

and sathiya, keep posting such topics. it will definitely get people thinking.

sat said...

@the observer
Your very correct in pointing out rude way of identifying themselves in caste. Only way to remove casteism is educating the people but in India education too is based on caste. I don't know when Indians/we will understand our basic error in the organizational behaviour.

rt said...

hi! just read ur article..nice to see a writing with gr8 details and passion for tamil culture. I quite agree with you that tamils arent being recognised fr their worth. but i have to point out that its us who dont value our culture much these days. Now a days, tamil people feel ashamed of their back ground. Its much prevalent in cities. right from school, whether its due to the growing westernisation or lack of inculcation of values in the young minds by their familes,ppl shift to so called " modern " ways and fail to cherish our age old values.its painful to note that its mainly us ,tamils, who have a cynic view about our rare yet remarkable achievements and undermine our selves and deem us inferior. Amidst this, the political parties further destroys our respect for the land by playing the divide and rule policy with casteism. reg the divide betn the north - south indians , there are mainly factors such as language, culture etc that separates us. Yet underneath all, i feel, it mainly arises from the inferiority complex suffered by many of the tamils. We have to be proud of our past & ourselves to make others proud of it. If we can walk around with our head held high being born a tamil, respecting our heritage, surely, our country and the rest of the world too will respect us.

elamaran said...

the main reason y we are being supressed by these northy buggers is that we are a made up of a small population. honestly, i regret that since we will then become a minority... being a minority really sucks big time. infact the whole world things that india movies=bollywood. this is a example of tamilians being a minority. but tamilans have fight very hard to really stamp our authority in indian culture. thats the reason y they are making fun of our accent in hindi movies. i mean look at telugu and kanda people. these people convert their indentity or hide their identity so that people will mistaken them for north indian, and thus they will truly be considered indians by the other indians... seriously thinking, i think i do not want to call myself a indian, i am more proud to be called a tamilan. i love tamil...

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Selvam, Sivagangai said...

Please substitute the word 'Tamil' for 'Tamilian' - which, I find, is derogatory, word coined by North Indians in the same sense as 'Madarasee'.

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