“Breaking India” — with friends like this….
My attention has been drawn to a new book entitled “Breaking India” — see http://breakingindia.com/?page=home. Mr. Ram Jethamalani, in releasing the book, said, ”Sanskrit language in the past united the bonds between the north and the south of India. But today a move is on to remove Sanskrit words from the Tamil language, to make Tamil a separate language altogether not belonging to the group of languages which were sourced from Sanskrit. There are religious groups who are carrying on this false propaganda and this must be understood.” (see http://www.hinduismtoday.com/blogs-news/hindu-press-international/book-release—breaking-india–/10808.html). Among other organizations, the Berkeley Tamil Chair is listed in the book as a phenomenon that is “subversive” to India and Hinduism. Very well, let’s look at some of the projects of our students.
1. A Study and translation of Āṇṭāḷ’s works. This is done with the greatest respect and reverence.
2. A study of the Tirumantiram.
3. A translation and study of Krishnadevaraya’s great Telugu poem the Āmuktamālyadā, showing how it is indebted to the Tamil works of the Āḻvār saints.
4. A respectful study of Puja practices in the great temples of Tamil Nadu, showing how they differ.
5. A translation of the Maturai Mīṉāṭci Piḷḷaittamiḻ, which glorifies the goddess Minakshi.
6. A study of the great medieval commentators on the Tolkāppiyam (most of whom, like Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar, were Brahmins and who used a pure Tamil without Sanskrit borrowings).
7. Reading and appreciating the greatest work of Indian literature, Kampaṉ’s Rāmāyaṇa, in class.
8. Reading and appreciating the great Sangam classics, including the great bhakti works of the Paripāṭal and the Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai, classics that use 98% pure Tamil (not Sanskrit-derived) vocabulary.
Many other endeavors that attempt to appreciate, respect, and understand Hinduism and India and the role the Tamil language has played in their history.
Note that above, Mr. Jethamalani, who apparently considers himself an expert on such things, states that Tamil and the other Dravidian languages are derived from Sanskrit. Perhaps if he learned to count to 10 in any of these languages, he would discover that they are actually separate and come from a different source than Sanskrit.
I am at a loss to understand why some feel threatened by something that makes Indian and Hindu culture richer: that Tamil, like Sanskrit, is a classical language and that its ancient literature is a source of many of the important features of Hinduism. The Āḻvārs derived their conventions from Sangam literature and used them to glorify God (Viṣṇu)—while at the same time taking much from the great Sanskrit epics and the Vedas. Subsequently, as the Bhāgavatam says, this bhakti worship spread from the Tamil area north and influenced such great works as Tulsi’s Manas.
To suggest that the Tamil Chair is in any way involved with “breaking India” is libelous. Its purpose and its mission have been to bring to light the great Tamil classics, many of which are among the greatest works of Hinduism and of Indian culture. Unlike some, the Tamil program at Berkeley does not try to make itself taller by cutting off the heads of others. Rather, it wishes to spread awareness of the great contributions made by the Tamils to world culture, to India—and to Hinduism.
George Hart, Tamil Chair, University of California, Berkeley