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Valmiki and Tamil

Valmiki and Tamil



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Published by Ravi Vararo

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Published by: Ravi Vararo on Mar 19, 2009
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(The following is an English translation of the Tamil book “Vanmeegarum Thamizhum” by late Thiru. Narayana Iyengar, my grandfather, and Editor of Senthamizh, published by Madurai TamilSangam. It came in the form of a series of articles in 1938. He was honoured with thepresentation of a golden “Toda” (which is still in our possession) and a shawl during the visit of the Prince of Wales in January 1922 “for his literary eminence in Tamil”. It was published in bookform two years back with the monetary help given by the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam, by hisgrandson and my brother, A. Rajagopalan, ACA, auditor, 22, Tamil Sangam Road, Madurai, whereour grandfather, Thiru. Narayana Iyengar, lived for 46 years and served the Tamil Sangam asEditor, “Senthamizh”, Manager of the Tamil Sangam for some years, Principal of the Tamil SangamCollege, teaching students, including Na. Mu. Venkatasami Naattar, A. Gopala Iyer, LP. KR.Ramanathan Chettiar and a host of others. He was widely respected as letters written to him bythe great scholar and patron of scholars, Pandithurai Thevar, “Thamizh Thatha” U. Ve. SaminathaIyer, Srinivasa Pillai of Thanjavur, who wrote the “Thamizh Varalaru”, Pandithamani KathiresanChettiar and others, which are in our possession now, show. He has established through thesearticles that Tamil was the spoken language throughout Bharath or India, during the Ramayanaperiod and even earlier while Sanskrit was the language of the litterateurs and it was in Tamil thatLord Rama and others conversed in Ayodhya).( I, T. A. Srinivasan, the eldest of his grandsons, who retired on April 1, 2004 as an Assistant Editorin “The Hindu”, translated the book into English, which is in manuscript form now with me, as perthe request of Mr. Sudanshu Ranade, Deputy Editor in “The Hindu”, who wanted to read the greatwork, but could not do so as his mother-tongue is Marathi. I hope that it will be found interestingby the lovers of Tamil, who could read only English. I am presenting the Tamil translation here.)CHAPTER 1 - A STRAY VERSEIt is a legendary fact that Sage Valmiki wrote the Adi Kavya, the Ramayana, in Sanskrit and manyscholars have hailed his poetic excellence and following in his footsteps, many epics were writtenin Sanskrit.Before he wrote the epic, Ramayana, there were Vedas and other scriptures in Sanskrit; but theycontained the advice to people and spoke about the other worldly benefits. They spoke nothingabout the life on earth and its great attraction. Besides they lacked lustre. Hence there mighthave been good reason for Valmiki becoming a poet of great excellence. Scholars say this wasdue to the fruits of his penance, the counsel given by Sage Narada and the blessings of LordBrahma. Though this could not be disputed, one who look at his life from the historical angle
would think that he must have been well versed in another language and studied its literaryworks and enjoyed the poetic excellence.His age must have been that of Agasthiyar, Tholkappiyar, and other Tamil Sangam poets and it isthe conclusion of historians that he must have studied thoroughly the Sangam classics. This factis corroborated by Sri M. Raghava Iyengar in the Madurai Tamil Sangam journal, “Senthamizh”volume 7, issue 3, pages 119 to 132 titled “Sri Valmiki and the South”.A Sangam classic, “Purananooru”, is a collection of verses by various poets who were thecontemporaries of Valmiki. The author of one of these poems is mentioned as “Vanmikiyar” andalso as “Vanmigaiyar”. Both of them had been derived from the original name of Valmiki.Valmiki did penance for many years. He has called himself as “Valmikir Bhagawan Rishihi”.Further while mentioning the name of Sage Narada, who was his preceptor, he gives preferenceto penance by saying “Tapasvadhyaya Niradham”. Hence it could be said that he was greatlyenamoured of doing penance and he had indulged in it for many years. The “Purananooru” poem by Vanmikiyar also glorifies the importance of penance. It containsmany words and sentences, which are pleasing to the ears, have great depth, and contain manyVedantic truths. It is very much in tune with his Ramayana verses. The poem has not been commented upon by later day scholars. To help research scholars, thepoem, with its commentary, is given below:“Parithi soozhnda vippayankezhu maanilamoru pahal ezhuvar eithiyatrevaiyamum thavamum thookitravathukkuayyavi anaithum aatrathu aagalinkaivittanare kaathalar adhanalvittorai vidaall thiruvevidaa thorivall vidappattore”“Parithi soozhnda vippayankezhu maanilam”_This world is surrounded on all sides by Sun, whodrives away darkness.“Oru pahal ezhuvar eithiyatre”_One day is divided into many parts and each one is looked afterby Sun’s seven deputies.“Vaiyamum thavamum thookitravathukku”_If the benefits of worldly life and penance are put in abalance.“Ayyavi anaithum aatrathu aagalin”_Fruits of penance would be so great that the benefits of worldly life would be very miniscule.
“Kaivittanare kaathalar adhanal”_Hence many kings, who thought this earth was theirs, forsookher and took to ascetic life).“Vittorai vidaall thiruve”_Those who forsook the worldly life were saved by Goddess Mahalakshmi,who pleaded with Narayana to grant them eternal bliss.“Vidaa thorivall vidappattore”_Those who laid stress on worldly life had to face the cycle of birthsand deaths). The meaning of this poem is that the world is surrounded by the Sun who drives away darkness. This earth is full of worldly pleasures, which are not eternal, and many kings claimed possessionof this world as a day is divided into many parts and each part (Horai) is looked after by a “HoraiNayagan”. Some of them are big, others small. Some of them are inauspicious, while others areconsidered as auspicious and some of them are considered as enemies of each other. They arethe masters of their own time and cannot interfere in other’s time. The worldly life is soimpermanent, but what gives one permanence is penance. If one puts the benefits of worldly lifein one plate in a balance and that of penance in the other, he will find the former stands nocomparison with the latter. Hence many kings who ruled this world renounced it and becameascetics. Those who renounced worldly life were not let down by the Goddess who recommendedtheir case to the Lord and She appealed Him to forgive them for their past sins and grant themeternal bliss. Those who refused to renounce the worldly life were let down by the Goddess andthey suffered births and deaths (After this, the author gives word-by-word meaning for the poemand draws parallels from other literary works.).“Vittarai vidall ThiruveVidathorivall vidapattore” These two lines stand comparison with the Valmiki Ramayana sloka about Jayanthan, son of Indra,who came as a crow and harmed Sita. When the crow surrendered at the feet of Sita, She saved itafter turning its head towards Rama and thus making him surrender at the Lord’s feet. Ravana gotkilled, as he did not surrender at Her feet.As Lord Narayana is the Supreme Authority who grants bliss, why the poet says that Mahalakshmirecommended their case to the Lord? He is more attracted towards the Goddess (Sita) than theLord.Sage Valmiki also airs the same view in the verse beginning with ‘Maa nishadha’. The word ‘Maa’here refers to Goddess Mahalakshmi. Further he says that “Kaavyam Ramayanam kruthsnamSeethayaaccharitham mahath”.

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