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The Sinhalese of Ceylon and The Aryan Theory

Letters of a Tamil father to his son – Section 3

by Samuel Livingstone

‘The two great facts achieved by the excavations are, first, the carrying back of concrete evidence of Indian history from 300 BC to at least 250 BC and second the establishment of  the pre-Aryan inhabitants of at least a portion of India as the possessors of an advanced civilization. Before these discoveries, antiquarians had generally taken it for granted that there was no Bronze Age in India, that the Copper Age was followed by the Iron Age, and that the Indians were little better than savages in the Age of Copper when the great civilization of Egypt and Sumer, or Crete and Asia Minor, were already well advanced.

Section 1

Section 2

Front Note by Sachi Sri Kantha

In this epistolary history of Ceylon, the author Samuel Livingstone had been vigorously critical of the Aryan-biased versions espoused by his contemporary historians (Mr. Sidney Arnold Pakeman and Dr. Garret Champness Mendis). Pakeman and Mendis had a tutor-student relationship at the then Ceylon University College (circa 1921-1942). I provide the following synopsis on the careers of Pakeman and Mendis.

Sidney Arnold Pakeman: born 1891. He served in the British army during the First World War. He had a Master of Arts degree from the Cambridge University and for many years served as the professor of history at the Ceylon University College. Pakeman was one of the six Appointed Members to the First House of Representatives (Parliament) of Ceylon.

Garret Champness Mendis: was a student of S.A. Pakeman at the Ceylon University College and graduated in 1925. After studying in London and Munich (under Prof. Wilhelm Geiger) from 1927 tto 1930, Mendis received his doctorate in Literature from the University of London for his thesis, ‘An Historical Criticism of the Mahavamsa’ Subsequently, Dr. Mendis worked as a Lecturer and Reader at the Ceylon University College and of the University of Ceylon until his retirement in 1954.

Prof. Garret Champness Mendis in 1960sAt the beginning of Jawaharlal Nehru’s Glimpses of World History (1934-35) to which I have made reference previously, he had inserted ‘A chronology of World History’ that he had prepared, and written a short note to his daughter, why he inserted this chronology. I quote,

“Indu,

Dates are not very attractive things. And yet they help in putting things in their right place, so that we may have an ordered sequence in our minds. A long list of dates is a most depressing affair. I have arranged some important dates in a different form, as you will see…It represents a few days’ hard work. [dots have been added by Sachi, to indicate omission.]

Papu

Dehra Dun Jail,

August 22, 1933”

Unfortunately, the author Samuel Livingstone had failed to follow Nehru’s style. As such, his letters are not specifically dated, to offer clues when they were written. Furthermore, unlike Nehru, Samuel Livingstone also omitted providing a comprehensive table to support his hypothesis. In this section, I provide Letters 17 to 24 below, as they had appeared.

When reading some sections of these letters, readers may sense a jingoistic tone of the author, in extolling the merits of Dravidian race and Dravidian civilization. He also fails to provide (1) a clear definition of who constitute a ‘Dravidian race’, and (2) his estimates of the time periods for the changes that occurred (pre-Aryan phase, Aryan phase and post-Aryan phase) in the Indian subcontinent. A few linguists may even quibble that Samuel Livingstone’s etymological derivation of English words directly from Tamil appears strained without supporting evidence.

Nevertheless, Samuel Livingstone’s hypothesis on the so-called Aryan non-contribution to the Indian history did receive support from the subsequent archeological and molecular genetics data, published in 1990s. As evidence, I provide the following excerpt from the review by Todd Disotell (Dept. of Anthropology, New York University), that appeared in a Current Biology journal issue in 1999. I also provide a figure that accompanied this review below.

Map on minor contribution by Aryans to Indian gene pool from 1999 Current Biology journalDisotell had inferred: “The supposed Aryan invasion of India 3,000-4,000 years before present therefore did not make (emphasis mine) a major splash in the Indian gene pool. This is especially counter-indicated by the presence of equal, though very low, frequencies of the western Eurasian mtDNA types in both southern and northern India. Thus, the ‘caucasoid’ features of south Asians may best be considered ‘pre-caucasoid’ – that is, part of a diverse north or north east African gene pool that yielded separate origins for western Eurasian and southern Asian populations over 50,000 years ago.” [Current Biology, 1999; 9: R925-R928].

mtDNA refers to mitochondrial DNA. In mammals, including humans, mtDNA is solely inherited from the mother, and not from the father. Some of Samuel Livingstone’s inferences in letters 17 to 24 are as follows:

  • “the so-called Aryan ‘conquest’ is a myth, a fairy tale, a figment of the imagination of certain Orientalists, including Max Muller, who were ignorant of the ‘great pre-Aryan civilization that has now been revealed in the Indus Valley’.”
  • “The system of caste was a Dravidian institution, and its origin lay partly in occupational and partly in social differences.”
  • “Dravidians were never ‘driven out’ by the Aryans at any time….they merely absorbed the incoming Aryans by adopting their vocabulary and language, and, on the contrary, by making the Aryans adopt their own social and religious institutions.”
  • “We always mistake language for race. The Negombo Tamils of yesterday are the Aryan Sinhalese of today. Everybody things that, once he speaks an Aryan language, he is also an Aryan by race, or once he professes a religion imported from a distant land, like the Ceylon Moor, his ancestors too originated in that land.”
  • “It is being said that the modern European civilization is an off-shoot or the result of the Roman and the Greek civilizations. I say no. It is due to the introduction of Christianity in the early stages of the Christian era and the invention of the steam engine in the later stages.”

As I have indicated previously, for convenience and stylistic reasons, I have revised the settings of footnotes (wherever they appear), at the end of each letter, in a numbered sequence. Footnotes 11 to 18 appear between Letters 17 and 24. The dots wherever they appear in the letters are, as in the original.

Letter 17

The Origin & Character of the Indus Valley Civilization

My dear Son,

All historians agree that the Sumerian civilization was the basis on which all subsequent civilizations (the Assyrian, the Babylonian, the Cretan, the Greek, the Persian, and the Roman) arose; even in regard to Egypt, as one of the earliest seats of human culture, ‘all the evidence available at present inclines towards the priority of Sumer over Egypt.’ [Lands and Peoples of the Bible] If now we find that the Sumerians went from India, it follows that the Indus civilization is anterior to the Sumerian, and it also follows that India is the mother of all the civilizations of the world, and in which, mark, you, there was no trace of any Aryan or Indo-Aryan influence.

As Sir John Marshall puts it: ‘Never for a moment was it imagined that five thousand years ago, before the Aryans were heard of, the Punjab and Sindh, if not other part of India as well, were enjoying an advanced and singularly uniform civilization of their own, closely akin to but in some respects even superior to that of contemporary Mesopotamia and Egypt, yet this is what the discoveries at Harappa and Mohenjodaro have now placed beyond question. They exhibit the Indus peoples of the third and fourth millennia BC in possession of a highly developed culture in which no vestige of Indo Aryan influence is to be found.’

And further he says: ‘The civilization revealed is not an incipient civilization, but age-old and stereotyped on Indian soil with many millennia of human endeavour behind it.’

See what another writer, B. Mahirchand (Lecturer, D.J. Sind College, Karachchi), has to say about the discoveries at Mohenjodaro and Harappa.

‘The two great facts achieved by the excavations are, first, the carrying back of concrete evidence of Indian history from 300 BC to at least 250 BC and second the establishment of  the pre-Aryan inhabitants of at least a portion of India as the possessors of an advanced civilization. Before these discoveries, antiquarians had generally taken it for granted that there was no Bronze Age in India, that the Copper Age was followed by the Iron Age, and that the Indians were little better than savages in the Age of Copper when the great civilization of Egypt and Sumer, or Crete and Asia Minor, were already well advanced. The conclusions gathered from the Vedic writings were that when the Fair Aryans, the gallant soldiers and chivalrous princes, entered India about 1,500 BC, they found there only lowly aboriginal stocks, black skinned and flat-nosed, the contemptible Dasas and the Dasyus (slaves and outlaws), with a culture no higher than Bhils and other hill tribes possess today. Hindu civilization and religion were supposed, therefore, tobe products of Aryan genius….These discoveries now upset all the received opinions about Indian history as still inculcated in our text books. Bronze implements discovered dismiss the illusion of India having had only a Copper and not a Bronze Age.

The conclusions to be gathered from the Vedic writings that the Aryans found India inhabited by uncouth savages have also for the first time been definitely proved to be unfounded. The hole purview of Indian archeology and the conception of Indian civilization as derived almost solely from the Aryans calls for complete revision.’

Before I proceed further, let me pause for a moment and describe to you in some detail what kind of city Mohenjodaro was which was occupied by the opulent and highly-cultured race living peacefully therein 5,000 years ago. In the words of the last writer, they lived:

‘in large well-planned cities with high walls, spacious buildings built of brick furnished with their own wells, bathrooms and court yards floored over with country tiles stair cases and upper storeys, broad roads at right angles to one another, an elaborate system of drainage and sanitation far in advance of anything in  India for centuries later, public baths, and other signs of marvelous culture, surpassing in many respects the splendor of Egypt and Mesopotamia. A remarkable feature of the city was the very elaborate well-developed drainage system. Every street and alley and passage had its own covered conduit. There were private and public drains for the carriage of sewage and rain water from thickly populated areas to bigger drains. The drains had at intervals manholes for cleaning. Flanged drain-pipes of pttery descending from the upper storeys were also constructed in the thickness of the walls and let down to the public conduits, or bins, in the streets which could be cleared as often as necessary by the scavengers. The houses were well separated from each other so as to receive full advantage of light and ventilation. All these arrangements betoken of a high class civic organization. This must have been a well-governed city with an elightened municipality which understood town-planning and the principles of engineering.’

Now, let us see who the author of this civilization were and what language they spoke. Lt Sir John Marshall answer this question too. He observes:

‘The Indus civilization was pre-Aryan and the Indus language or languages must have been pre-Aryan also. Possibly, one or other of them (if, as seems likely there was more than one) was Dravidic. This, for three reasons, seems a most likely conjecture – first, because Dravidic speaking people were the precursors of the Aryans over most of northern India and were the only people likely to have been in possession of a culture, as advanced as the Indus culture; secondly, because on the other side of the Krithar Range and at no great distance from the Indus valley, the Brahuis of Baluchistan have preserved among themselves an island of Dravidic speech which may well be a relic of pre-Aryan times, when Dravidic was perhaps the common language of these parts; thirdly because the Dravidic languages being agglutinative it is not unreasonable to look for a possible connection between them and the agglutinative language of Sumer in the Indus valley, which, as we know, had many other close ties with Sumer.’

The inscriptions of Mohenjodaro, as deciphered by Father Heras (vide: the Origin of Sumerian Writing, Journal of the University of Bombay, July 1938) who was supported in his conclusions by the late Father Gnanapragasar, one of the greatest philologists of modern times, show that the language used in these inscriptions was Dravidian, or rather Tamil, and also that the Tamil language of today has changed very little from its ancient counterpart of the Indus valley.

In spite of all this evidence there is still a disinclination of the part of several people, particularly the Sinhalese (who have all these years been taught to believe that the so-called Aryan civilization is superior to the Dravidian civilization), to face the truth even when it is just in front of them. For example, I have just glanced through the latest history books written about ten or twelve years ago, namely, ‘A Handbook of Ceylon History’ by L. Horace Perera. This is what he says in his book about the Mohenjodaro civilization of the Indus valley:

‘Once more we face the problem which for the present has no solution. Who were these people? The similarity of this civilization in some respect to that of Mesopotamia has led some to conclude that it is a Sumerian civilization. Others hold the view that this is a Dravidian civilization. But no definite conclusion can be arrived at till the writings found in these places on hundreds of clay tablets can be deciphered. Father Heras claims that he has deciphered them, but other scholars do not grant this. Hence for the present the questions as to who those people were remains unanswered.’

Perera does not say who these ‘other scholars’ are, no does he refer to the fact that Father Heras consulted Father Gnanapragasar in coming to his conclusion that the writing in these tablets was Dravidian. Of course since Father Heras’s discovery was several years ago, no other scholars have appeared on the scene. It is however, early in 1969 that four Finnish scientists (Dr. Asko Parpola and three others of the Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies of Copenhagen) claimed to have deciphered these scripts and after decipherment to have discovered the ‘secrets’ behind them. (vide: Hindu, Madras, 29 May, 1969). They say they have arrived at the following conclusions or rather the following ‘secrets’ as they call them:

  • That the Indus valley people were Dravidians.
  • That they knew astronomy long before other races.
  • That they practiced astro-religion and worshipped astral gods and that the main gods of the Hindus, Siva and Krishna, who are identified with planets Mars and Saturn, are of Dravidian origin.
  • That they worshipped stars and especially planets which were comprehended as malignant demons causing evil on earth.
  • That they did astronomical calculations long before the Sumerians and the Babylonians so far considered the fathers of astronomy.
  • That they in astronomy and astrology, the Indus people were the originators.

Where have we come to now? It is clear that the Dravidians were the originators of the Indus civilization and it was they who spread out to the Mesopotamian valley and further beyond. So Prof. Pakeman’s surmise that ‘it is believed that the Dravidians were Sumerian settlers from Mesopotamia and that the Sumerian were their ancestors’ is not exactly true. It is the other way about. It is the Dravidians who were the ancestors of the Sumerians.

It is also clear that the Dravidians did not come to India from anywhere else, for they presumbably were in India all the time. Dr. Mendis’s doubts too that it is not known from where or when the Dravidians came to India, can be laid at rest.

The truth is something just the reverse of all our previous anticipations. Dr. Macleane says:

‘Investigations in relation to race show it to be possible that southern India was the passage ground by which the ancient progenitors of the Northern and the Mediterranean races proceeded to the parts of the globe which they now inhabit.’

I do not know on what data Dr. Macleane bases his conclusions, but I know that it is believed by several scientists, including Professor Haeckel, that the continent of Lemuria, which is now submerged in the Indian Ocean, and fragments of which are seen in Ceylon, the Deccan plateau, Sumatra, Madagascar, parts of Australia and East Africa was ‘the probably cradle of the human race’. So that if the Dravidian ever came to India or Ceylon they must have come from the South, i.e. from the submerged continent of Lemuria and not from anywhere else.

In this connection, I should like to quote what the late Honourable Mr. K. Balasingham, has said in his book ‘Our Place in the Civilization of the Ancient World.’ Which he wrote before the discovery of the Mohenjodaro civilization. He states:

 “The Dravidian race did not come to India from the North but entered India from the South. It probably occupied the island continent of which Ceylon formed but a small part. Ancient Ceylon was rightly described in the epics and puranas as the stronghold of the great Dravidian tribes who ‘were a terror to the three worlds’. The Dravidians spread out all over India and went even as far as Baluchistan, where a Dravidian dialect (Brahui) is still spoken. Dravidian dialects are still spoken in many parts of northern India by small tribes. Probably both by sea and by land, the Dravidians migrated to Babylonia, Assyria and in western Asia and further beyond.”

The latest theory is that the Dravidians are a branch of the same cradle of humanity to whom the people around the Mediterranean belong. It is apparent that there were several waves of immigrants at different times from this same original home and that the direction was generally from the South towards the North, towards peninsular India, western Asia including Europe. Even the aborigines, such as the Veddas etc. (who were once classified as belonging to a non-Dravidian race) are now considered as an earlier Dravidian wave of immigrants.

One proof that the Dravidians overran the whole of Europe and western Asia is to be seen in the many Dravidian place names in central Europe and western Asia, which have stuck, during millennia, to old sites, rivers and mountains and demonstrated by Clemens Schoener in his ‘Armalurish’, a book whose name is a fixed compound of the Tamil words aru, malai and ur. Another proof is that several elementary words of an early civilization are found in common between English and Tamil, two languages spoken at almost opposite ends of the world, an indication of which was given by me when I referred to the word ‘Naga’, in one of my earlier letters. This question will be dealt with by me in a separate series of letters to you later.

These waves of Dravidian immigrant from the south to the north, i.e. from the submerged continent of Lemuria towards India, north east Africa, Egypt and beyond to the continent of Europe must have been at a very early stage. It is at a subsequent stage, after a very long interval, during which the Dravidians of India must have made further progress in civilization, that they moved towards Mesopotamia via Elam. This is supported by the myth of Ea, the fish relating to the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, to which I have already made reference in an earlier letter.

Yours,

S.L.

P.S.: As regards Father Gnanapragasar, to whom I made reference above, it is clear a prophet is not honoured in his own country. His ‘Etymological and Comparative Lexicon of the Tamil Language’ is one of the most outstanding works of the country on the science of philology. It has revolutionized the existing theories of Western philologists who do not know Tamil. It proves to the hilt that Dravidian is at the origin of human speech, as claimed by the late Father Clossette (vide, his Dravidian Origin and Philosophy of Human Speech). The present generation of Tamils do not seem to realise the value and international importance of this Lexicon, and have not taken any interest in getting the remaining parts of the Lexicon published. I hope and wish that the younger generation to which you belong will take interest in the matter and see that the Lexicon is published without any further delay.

*****

Letter 18

Was There an Aryan Conquest of India?

My dear Son,

In my previous letter I have shown you that the Indus valley civilization, or rather the Indian civilization, was anterior to the Sumerian, and that it was from India that civilization spread westwards to Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Mediterranean regions, and that the authors of this civilization were non-Aryans speaking a Dravidian language.

In view of these unassailable facts of the non-Aryan or Dravidian origin of the Indian civilization, what is this tall talk of an ‘Aryan’ civilization ‘growing and flourishing’ in India, as Prof. Pakeman fondly imagines? The fact of the matter is that, so far as India is concerned, there was no such thing as an ‘Aryan’ civilization, that is, a civilization for the building up of which the race of people called the Aryans were solely responsible. But, on the contrary, there was such a thing as an Aryan language. What we see in India today (at least in North India) is that even those, who at one time spoke a non-Aryan language, are speaking an Aryan language now. So I ask, does the mere fact that people speak an Aryan language necessarily imply that their civilization and culture, which are independent of language, were not evolved by them, but were brought or evolved by the same race of people that originally brought the Aryan language?

I shall illustrate to you in a nutshell what I mean. About 150 years ago, the English conquered Ceylon and the island was ruled by about 100 to 200 civil servants. This handful of civil servants were not inclined to study Sinhalese or Tamil, the language of the people. But instead, the people of the island numbering about 4 millions, started to study English, in order to be able to converse with their new masters. In about 150 years, nearly 5% of the population knew English, and at the rate we were progressing in the study of English, it will be no surprise that the wish of one of the early Presidents of the Ceylon National Congress, that ‘he loved to see the day when every farmer at his plough in Ceylon would read the Times of London will have been realized, say, at the most after another two or three centuries hence. But though speaking the English language as our mother tongue, we shall have yet remained Buddhist and Hindu, so far as our religion and our civilization and culture are concerned. But after, say, a thousand years, in AD 3000, when everything is forgotten, and when the Sinhalese and Tamil languages are no more, and when there is no other fact or record to verify or discover our past, will not the future historian be disposed to say that the Buddhist or Hindu civilization in Ceylon is English, and the people of Ceylon are of English origin, and that they came to Ceylon from Europe at some past date, and that on their arrival they had driven the original Sinhalese and Tamils out of the island, say, into Malaya Rata, probably exterminating them altogether.

I say, this is precisely what the Mahavansa says had happened in Ceylon in regard to the so-called Aryan invasion by Vijaya, or what the European scholars seem to think had happened in India, in view of the so-called Aryan languages spoken by the people of North India at present. But to test this claim you must go deeper and examine the ethnology of the people, and it is only then you will be able to disprove their claim that the people of Ceylon are of English origin or that the people of North India are of Aryan origin. This is what I want you to do at the present moment in the case of India and Ceylon.

Let us take India. I can boldly say that the Dravidians were never ‘conquered’ nor were they ‘driven out of North India into the South of the peninsula (the Madras Presidency et.)’ as Mr. Pakeman states, nor did the Aryans ‘establish themselves all over the plains of the Indus and the Ganges in the North’ without the Dravidians. If there were no Dravidians, and if the Dravidians had been bodily segregated to the ‘south of the peninsula’, then we must find only Aryans of pure stock in the North and their descendants living in the North too would be pure Aryans. But what or whom do we find in reality today? Ethnologically, we do not find any Aryan features, except in the Punjab and the North West Frontier Province. From Punjab downwards, along the Ganges to the East and along the Indus to the South West, and through the United and Central Provinces to the South, the Aryan ethnic type disappears fast, being completely absent in Bengal and in Maharashtra. It is clear that the absence of Aryan features is due to the overwhelming presence of non-Aryan or rather Dravidian people, so that the Dravidians were not ‘driven out to the Madras Presidency’, as asserted by Mr. Pakeman:

“ ‘It is curious’ writes Dr. Gilbert Slater ‘that for the most part even the foreign observers in India who have been struck with what may be termed the general racial homogeneity of the great majority of the people of India, and who have drawn the natural inference that Indians are, in the main, Dravidians by race, still tend to accept without scrutiny the popular doctrine that culture, religion and philosophy are of Aryan origin.’ ”

The truth is that the Dravidians, whatever language they may speak today, are still in the Gangetic and the Indus plains and in the Untied and the Central Provinces in the north of India. To be more accurate, let me quote the late Hon. Mr. Balasingham on this point:

“The pure Dravidian races occupy the country extending from Cape Comorin to the banks of the Ganges, and up to Agra in the west. This tract includes the Madras Presidency, Hyderabad, Mysore, Central Provinces and most of Central India Agency, Chutiya, Nagapur, and a large part of Bengal. Lower Bengal and Orissa are inhabited by a mixed race of Dravidians and Mongolians, the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh and Bihar are inhabited by a mixed race of Dravidians and Scythians. There are of course Brahmins in all parts of India but they are only a few. Whether this, classification is strictly correct or not, this much is certain that about 4/5th of the people of India have no Aryan blood in them. It may also be noted that the census of British India of 1872 showed that throughout India there were only 16 million pure Aryans and 11 millions of mixed peoples of Aryans and non-Aryans and that the rest of India was without any mixture of Aryan blood.”

That is what we find after making a careful ethnological survey of the present day inhabitants of India. Thus ethnology supports my contention that the Dravidians were not ‘driven out’ at any time by anybody to anywhere. They remain alright in the north of India from ancient times to the present day. That is all that we want. Let them speak any language they please at the present moment. That does not matter to us.

You may be tempted to ask, how then, if the Dravidian races are still remaining in north India, that they have given up their old mother tongue, Tamil, and taken up as their mother tongue, a new language derived from Sanskrit. That is easily explained. The same analogy of how, within the last one hundred and fifty years of British rule, the people of Ceylon started learned English and would have almost made it their mother tongue in another one hundred and fifty years, holds good in this case too. In any case, I shall tell you in detail later the various processes by which this Aryanisation took place. But what I wish to emphasise to you now is that there could have been no conquest, meaning thereby extermination of one race by another, particularly in the present instance, considering the disparity in culture between the two races in question, viz., the Aryans and the Dravidians.

Any conquest of the Dravidians by the Aryans was an utter impossibility. To understand this, let us once more go back to the very beginning and see what sort of people the Dravidians were, and what sort the Aryans, and what changes took place, as soon as the Aryans came into contact with the highly civilizaed Dravidians. Let Sir John Marshall say what he has to say about these matters. He writes:

“The picture of Indo-Aryan society portrayed in the Vedas is that of a partly pastoral, partly agricultural people, who have not yet emerged from the village state, who have no knowledge in life in cities or of the complex economic organization which such life implies and whose houses are non-descript affairs constructed largely of bamboo. At Mohenjodaro and Harappa, on the other hand, we have densely populated cities with solid, commodious houses of brick equipped with adequate sanitation, bathroom, wells and other amenities”;

and again

“their (the Dravidians) society is organized in cities, their wealth is mainly derived from agriculture and trade, which appears to have extended far and wide in all directions. They cultivate wheat and barley as well as the date palm. They have domesticated the humped zebu, buffalo and short-horned bull, besides the sheep, pig, dog, elephant and camel. For transport they have wheeled vehicles to which oxen doubtless were yoked. They are skilful metal workers, with a plentiful supply of gold, silver and copper. Lead too and tin are in use, but the latter only as an alloy in the making of bronze. With spinning and weaving they are thoroughly conversant. Their weapons of war and the chase were the bow and arrow, spear, axe, dagger and mace. Among their other implements, hatchets, sickles, saws, chizles, and razors are made of both copper and bronze…With the invention of writing the Indus peoples are also familiar.”

You could see from the above quotations how wide is the difference in culture between the two races. Sir John Marshall concludes thus:

“As time goes on, doubtless many other salient points of differences will be revealed, but for the moment, the above will suffice to demonstrate how wide is the gulf between the Indus and the Vedic civilizations.”

Seeing how primitive and uncivilized the Aryans were, compared with the Dravidians, I ask was a conquest possible, or as an alternative, what civilization or boon could these uncivilized barbarian Aryans impose upon such a highly organized and civilized Dravidians? They had nothing to give which the Dravidians wished to take, no culture, no religion, and no civilization worth the name. On the contrary, they had everything to gain by their contact with the Dravidians. The imposition of any civilization or boon was in the opposite direction. It was a ‘conquest’ no doubt, not of the Dravidians by the Aryans, but of the Aryans by the Dravidians, and this conquest was cultural, if not political. Really the so-called Aryan ‘conquest’ is a myth, a fairy tale, a figment of the imagination of certain Orientalists, including Max Muller, who were ignorant of the ‘great pre-Aryan civilization that has now been revealed in the Indus Valley’. This great civilization of the Indus Valley, be it noted, is only a symbol of the existence of a high civilization throughout the whole of India, in all regions outside the Indus Valley too.

Yours,

S.L.

*****

Letter 19

The Aryanisation of the Dravidians and the Dravidisation of the Aryans

My dear Son,

Let us now see what changes actually took place when the Aryans came into contact with the Dravidians. In view of the fact that, the tall brawny, muscular Aryans, who had just emerged from their hunting  and nomadic stage, were good fighters, it was very likely that the Dravidian kings made use of them as mercenary soldiers, for their own subjects would have ceased to be good fighters (as it has always been the case in the history of all nations in every clime that, when they became more civilized, they became more and more non-violent, and therefore unfit for military life or war-like operations.) The kings, however, who had their quarrels with their neighbours and who had to protect their territories, had to keep a standing army and recruit even outside mercenaries for the purpose. Well, we ourselves had such mercenaries in the past, the Tamil soldiers under the early Sinhalese kings, the Kaffirs under Sri Wickrama Raja Sinha, the Malays during the British period. So this is nothing new.

Remember that the Aryan nomands did not come all in one day. It was those who came first who, being only a few in number, would have found employment under the Dravidian kings. But they were still coming and would have naturally given plenty of trouble to the Dravidian kings by devastating the surrounding agricultural districts and by committing murder and arson, for they were such barbarians. As they increased in numbers, the Dravidian kings would have recognized them as an important community and would have given them all sorts of concessions. They would have even given them important positions in the army, they would have gone even to the extent of inter-marrying with them. With further incursions, the Aryans would have come into predominance at least in the Punjab. Ethnologically that is the position today. Subsequently, when the period of tension and enmity was over, the Aryans would have settled down partly as agriculturists, but the majority of them would have preferred military life, becoming captains of the army and small chieftains governing various districts.

In course of time there would have been complete intercourse between the two races. It was at this point that the question of language would have been a problem to solve. Was it to be Sanskrit, the language of the Aryan settlers, or was it to be the Dravidian dialect spoken by the common people or was it to be a mixture of both? In this connection, see what Dr. Slater says in his ‘Dravidian Element in Indian Culture’.

“Intercourse included intermarriage, it involved a struggle for survival between languages. That the more brawny but thick-witted Aryan should learn the extraordinary difficult language of the ‘ill-speaking man’ as the Vedas term the Dravidian, was not to be supposed. The Dravidian instead had to learn Sanskrit.”

He further goes on to say, in support of his statement:

“What happened then we can infer from the experience of south India in recent times. In the eighteenth century, with the overthrow of Duplex, the English East India Company became the ruling power in the Carnatic. Mastery of the English language became a means to profit, influence and power. The Brahmin caste habituated to an intellectual life, and trained in the exercise of verbal memory to an astonishing degree, found here an opportunity. At the present day, though there still remain in the Tamil country, some ‘temple’ Brahmins, who are more familiar with Sanskrit than with English, with the Vedas than with Shakespeare, they are a very small minority of the caste. The ordinary Tamil Brahmin speaks English more accurately than Tamil, writes it more easily and rapidly, reads it much more frequently and has practically adopted English literature as his own, and accordingly, the staffs both of government offices and those of mercantile houses consist almost entirely of Brahmins and they almost monopolise the legal and the journalistic professions.”

Compare this with what happened in Ceylon within the short space of the 150 years of British occupation. The small percentage of the English-educated people started guiding the destinies of the majority of the non-English educated people and would have led them discard Sinhalese and adopt English as their home language by slow but sure degrees. Had the conditions of British rule continued for another 300 years, we shall have been an English-speaking nation, to be sure, and, as I have told you before, after another 1,000 to 2,000 years, the future historian of that day may reasonably say, as a guess work, that the people of Ceylon, in spite of their swarthy complexion, were of English extraction.

See what happened in India when the Aryan became associated with the Dravidian kings and became the military caste, called kshatriyas, controlling the administration of the country and slowly becoming merged with Dravidian royalty by intermarriage. Their patronage was therefore necessary for social advancement and for jobs and professions. This would have been an inducement for the educated classes particularly the priests, to learn Sanskrit. See again, what Dr. Slater says in this connection:

“Similar motives (i.e., similar to those that existed during the British period in regard to the study of English) existed from the time of the establishment of Aryan predominance in Punjab to induce the Dravidian Brahmins of that and neighbouring districts to adopt Sanskrit as their language and to constitute themselves as the guardians and exponents of the Vedas. They had behind them the traditions of magic and of priest craft, of which the underlying principle is the quest for any sort of recondite or esoteric learning that either tends to differentiate the sacred caste from the common people, or in any other way tends to the acquisition of power and influence. And the Brahmins, having thus taken the initiative in spreading the use of Sanskrit or Sanskrit derivatives, others less eagerly and with greater difficulty, followed by degrees, just as has happened with the spread of English in the Madras Presidency.”

Those that followed, i.e. the common people used more and more Sanskrit derivatives in their own language (rather than Sanskrit proper), for their object was merely to be able to make themselves understood by the ruling classes. This is how the popular dialects, like Pali and Prakrit at first, and Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati etc. later, originated, Sanskrit proper being relegated for the use only of the educated classes and also for literary purposes. In this connection, Sir George Grierson puts the case in another way:

“When an Aryan tongue comes into contact with an aboriginal one, it is invariably the latter which goes to the wall. The Aryan does not attempt to speak it and the necessities of intercourse compel the aborigine to use a broken ‘pigeon’ form of the language of the Aryans. As generation pass, this mixed jargon more and more approximate to its model and in process of time the old aboriginal language is forgotten and dies a natural death.”

Thus began the process of the so-called Aryanisation of the Dravidians. In other words, the process was one of Sanscritization of the Dravidian languages, which we mistakenly call Aryanization. This process was evident only in north India where the kshatriyas were rulers. Their penetration to the south and their intermarriages with the kings of south India began at a later stage, by which time the kshatriya rulers had themselves began to use the language of the people.

Let us now examine what other changes took place or could have taken place. In view of the fact that the Aryan immigrants were pursuing a military life and joined the ranks of the kings and nobles, they fitted themselves into the then existing Dravidian social system by being constituted into a new caste called the kshatriyas. At first it was the kshatriyas who were the Aryans and nobody else, all others including the priests being Dravidians. There is no evidence to show that the caste system was an Aryan institution. According to Prof. Max Muller, caste as we find in Manu did not form a part of the most ancient religious teaching of the Vedas. He says:

“There is no authority whatever in the hymns of the Veda for the complicated system of caste; no authority for the degraded position of the Sutras; there is no law to prohibit the different classes from living together, from eating or drinking together; no low to prevent the marriage of people belonging to different castes; no law to brand the offspring of such marriages with an indelible stigma…We find in it no law to sanction the blasphemous pretensions of priesthood to divine honours or the degradation of any human being to a state below the animals.”

The system of caste was a Dravidian institution, and its origin lay partly in occupational and partly in social differences. According to Dr. Slater:

“Though caste pervades all over India, it is best studied in the South…Notoriously the caste system is much stronger, much more elaborate and plays a much larger part in social life in south India than in north India and it reaches its highest development in that part of India which is most effectively cut off from land invasion from the North, the narrow strip of land between the western Ghats and the Arabian sea. This part is by itself sufficient to prove that caste is of Dravidian rather than of Aryan origin.”

The Aryans, who had no caste at first, were dragged into a system which was in existence long before their arrival. In fact they had nothing to do with it except modifying the old Dravidian class distinctions in north India, for in south India the most significant thing is the absence of Kshatriyas and Vaisyas altogether from the caste system even today.

Dr. Slater illustrates this in a nutshell by saying, ‘while the Dravidians were thus Aryanised in language, the Aryans were Dravidised in culture’. What does this mean? While the common people were adopting the use of Sanskrit words and derivatives into their spoken language, thereby creating a new language in place of the old, the Aryan invaders had begun to shed their one time qualities belonging to a nomadic people, viz. their fearless, bold, independent and democratic ways, and became a conservative, superstitious and caste-ridden people like the Dravidians themselves. When superstition and fear take hold of you, the priest becomes your ruler, if not the devil. The Aryans, though they had no priestly caste of their own at first, became in course of time really subject to the influence of the Dravidian priesthood.

See again how correctly Dr. Slater analyses the position.

“The immediate effect of the incursion into India of conquering tribes that had no specialized priestly caste and of the period of fierce warefare that ensured was to depose the priestly caste temporarily from its supremacy and to make it yield precedence to the warrior caste. Not until many generations had passed centuries during which the Indian environment had worked its effect, the terrific heat of the summer Sun, the monsoon deluges, hurricanes, pestilences, famines, all combining to teach men to honour rather those who asserted their power to control the elements and conciliate angry deities than those who wielded the sword, did the Brahmin caste succeed in re-establishing its primacy.”

Once the Brahmins became the principal caste, the work of Ariyanisation of the Dravidians, i.e. the Sanscritization of their language was a foregone conclusion. In fact, all the modern languages of north India betray their Dravidian parentage, in their structure and syntax, similar to the Sinhalese language.

To go back to where we started, the Dravidians were never ‘driven out’ by the Aryans at any time. They were still there, the Panis, the Nagas and all the rest of them, but they merely absorbed the incoming Aryans by adopting their vocabulary and language, and, on the contrary, by making the Aryans adopt their own social and religious institutions. In fact, this was the only change that took place. Even if we regard the Ayans as ‘conquerors’ it is an apt illustration of ‘the conquerors being conquered by the conquered’. The civilization that we find in India at present has been Dravidian from the very beginning, but it is found today in an Aryan garb. That is all about it. The actual truth is that in regard to the present Hindu civilization the Aryans have no place in it at all. In other words, as Rathnasamy says:

“the history of India begins in the South with the Dravidians, and not with the Aryans of the North, as some Orientatlists, who know only the Sanskrit language and literature, seem to think, for the simple reason that the South is historically and geologically the more ancient part of India.”

The fact is that we always mistake language for race. The Negombo Tamils of yesterday are the Aryan Sinhalese of today. Everybody things that, once he speaks an Aryan language, he is also an Aryan by race, or once he professes a religion imported from a distant land, like the Ceylon Moor, his ancestors too originated in that land. Let us not forget that one’s language or religion is no indication of one’s race. What I mean is the Dravidians are still living in the north of India, as well as in the south of Ceylon, inspite of the Indo-Aryan languages they may now speak, or the foreign religions they may now profess.

Yours,

S.L.

*****

Letter 20

The Process of Ariyanisation and the Brahmin Priesthood

My dear Son,

For your benefit I wish to summarize all the points I have mentioned so far, in regard to the various stages by which Sanskrit came to oust Tamil out of north India, and also the various processes adopted by the Sanskrit-speaking Brahmin priesthood to achieve the result of ‘Aryanising’ or rather Sanskritising the whole of India.

  • When the Aryans came to India, there community grows so numerically large that they get important positions in the army and become so influential as to intermarry with the Dravidian nobility and become chieftains etc. (I have already told you of how Aryans took Naga wives and how the Nagas were in course of time admitted to the Vedic pantheon.)

  • As they are not intellectually inclined to study such a difficult language as Tamil, the Dravidian priests come to their rescue, by studying Sanskrit themselves and incidentally teaching them the Hindu religion, and in course of time become the custodians and interpreters of the Aryan Vedas.

  • Wherever the Aryans go as chieftains or as rulers of kingdoms, either by conquest or by alliance of marriage, the Sanskrit-speaking Dravidian priests follow the new rulers and establish themselves in lucrative positions of importance, such as controlling the temples and other religious places and doing all educational work.

  • In view of the fact that Sanskrit is the language spoken by the new ruling classes and also their priests, the Dravidian-speaking common people follow suit and try to speak the new language themselves.

  • The result is that, in course of time, instead of speaking pure Sanskrit, the common people begin to speak a ‘pidgin’ form of it, with an admixture of all sorts of Dravidianisms, and a language like Prakrit, for instance, comes into existence.

  • The intermarriages between the Aryan chieftains and the Dravidians royalty continue and spread from kingdom to kingdom to the East and to the South. The Sanskrit speaking Brahmin priests follow the Aryan rulers wherever they go. In course of time they constitute themselves into the Brahmin caste and the royal families into the Kshatriya caste.

  • The processes continue, and after several centuries new languages appear on the scene: Hindi, Bengali, Maharatti, Gujarati etc. Each language being differentiated from the rest according to the idiosyncracies of each province or group of people.

  • Under the protection of the Kshatriya kings, the Brahmin priests monopolise the management of the temples and religious and educational institutions, wherever they go, and introduce Sanskrit as the language of religion, and thereby Tamil loses its importance in the religious education of the people.

  • The Brahmins borrow the religious thought and culture of the Dravidians and embody them, in the later Vedas, and the still later Brahmanas, Upanishads and the Epics. They simultaneously enrich the Sanskrit vocabulary with borrowings from Tamil (For almost all the words found in Sanskrit which are not found in Latin or Greek are traceable to Tamil.), with the result that the classical Sanskrit of the Upanishads is far remote and advanced from the early primitive vedic Sanskrit.

  • Meanwhile, the Brahmins themselves have married into the Aryans and make themselves the principal caste and relegate the one-time casteless Aryan Kshatriyans to the second place, and the ingenious methods they adopt to make themselves superior to all others and to make Sanskrit the predominant language are many:

  • Having made up with the Aryans in marriage, they become more fair-complexioned and so they create the varnashrama, the colour bar, similar to what the Roman Aryans did when they came to contact with the native population, whose language they called vernacular, which word carries the same significance as varnashrama.

  • To make their superiority over the other castes appear plausible in the eyes of the populace, they go to the extent of propagating the famous simile that the Brahmins originated from the head of Brahma, the Kshatriyas from his hands, the Vaishyas from his belly and the Sudras from his feet (The story or simile carries conviction to the illiterate mind.)

  • They play on the credulity of the masses and make them believe that Sanskrit is the language of the Devas and that all languages, including Tamil, was derived from it! (and thank God, we know which is the truth and which is the older of the two languages.)

  • They try their utmost to keep all knowledge to themselves and away from the masses by confining all literary works to the Sanskrit language, which they alone knew. (As an instance of their selfishness, we know the story of how a body of Brahmins approached Lord Buddha with the request that he should publish all his works and teachings only in the Sanskrit language, to which he refused by saying that his teachings should be in the language of the people at the time; viz. Pali.)

  • Though their activities receive a set back when Buddhism, the religion which treats the pariah and the Brahmin alike, is flourishing in the land, they see to it that it is driven out of the land of its birth, bag and baggage, in order to re-establish the supremacy of their caste and the predominance of Sanskrit over Pali.

Fortunately they came rather late to the South, the land of pure Tamil, and found that Tamil could stand alone against Sanskrit, without having to borrow from Sanskrit to the extent that Sanskrit borrowed from Tamil. They could not therefore do much damage, as they would have done had they had sufficient time, but the Britishers came in the meantime and the work of Sanskritization (which you call Aryanisation), which was their heart’s desire, was brought to a standstill. All the same they could not bear the thought that the greatest work of the Tamils, viz. the Kural, which was called the Tamil Veda, was written by a man of the pariah caste, Valluvar by name. So they concocted the story, that is passing current even today, that, although Valluvar’s mother was a pariah woman, nevertheless his father was a Brahmin. The story was intended to deceive the common people into the belief that without the Brahmin nothing great could ever be produced or achieved in this world. The exploitation of the ignorant masses for their selfish ends and the propagation of Sanskrit (or a language derived form Sanskrit), have been their life work.

The so-called Aryanization of the Dravidians has been right through the history of the struggle for mastery between the Sanskrit and the Tamil languages, the Sanskrit in the hands of an influential priesthood under the aegis of the Sanskrit-speaking kings, and the Tamil language in the hands of a powerless, unorganized and uninfluential common people. In the end, Sanskrit did not win, but lost, leaving a trail of destruction behind in the form of the modern languages of North India like Hindi, Maharatti, Bengali, Gujerati etc. which though related to Sanskrit, were the results of Sanskrit coming into contact with Tamil and its various provincial dialects.

No wonder that, when outsiders like Professor Pakeman find that most of the languages of India are related to Sanskrit, a language which was originally brought into India by the Aryans, they imagine that the civilization of India too was originally brought into India by the Aryans, or of which they alone were the authors. But it was not so. The truth is that the old civilization of the Dravidians remained intact, even when their language underwent a change.

Yours,

S.L.

*****

  Letter 21

The Greek and the Roman Civilizations – part 1

My dear Son,

Leaving India for the moment, let us go to the Mediterranean regions and examine the so-called Greek and Roman civilizations. In this connection let us not forget our friend Professor Pakeman. I think you remember what he had said about the ‘Aryan language’ that

“wherever the Aryans went they conquered and taught the conquered people to speak the Aryan language” (page 10 of his, Ceylon and World History)

And now speaking of the Aryan wanderers in Greece he says that,

“they had inherited from the dead civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia the art of buildings, working metals, writing etc. and much of their learning” (page 34)

And suddenly switches on to,

“this Aryan civilization, founded partly on the older civilizations which it helped to destroy, has continued to the present day. Let us be clear on some of the terms used. What is meant by (a) conquest of a people, (b) dead civilization or destruction of civilization, (c) Aryan civilization, i.e. a civilization attributed to a particular race, as opposed to  a civilization confined to a particular geographical area, as the civilizations of India or Greece or Rome?

To the learned Professor, there is no difference between Greek civilization, Roman civilization, and Indian civilization. To him, they are all synonymous with Aryan civilization.

Let us also be very clear on another point. All are agreed (Professor Pakeman included) that the Aryans, so long as they were living in the Steppes of Central Asia, were and continued to be, a barbarous nomadic tribe, and any kind of civilization associated with them appears only after they emerged into the Mediterranean sea and into India. In these regions, we also know we had had pre-Aryan civilizations, for thousands upon thousands of years; i.e. long before the race of Aryans was heard of in history.

As Professor Pakeman, so also others usually speak of old civilizations being destroyed and being supplanted by new civilizations. Is this actually true? It is possible, as we have seen in India, an old language being supplanted by a new language, but it is rather difficult to imagine an old civilization being destroyed altogether and a new one taking its place. Civilization, as we know it, is not a thing that can be created out of nothing, nor can it be brought into being in a day. Civilization is a product of slow growth, spread over thousands and tens of thousands of years. When we speak of destruction of an old civilization and the establishment of a new, we really mean the appearance of a new phase of the old civilization, due mostly to the movements of races or to the creation of new governments. Had those Aryans, who flocked into the Mediterranean regions (the Greeks first and then the Romans) destroyed the old Cretan civilization, it would have been well-nigh impossible for them to have replaced it with a new once, for, being barbarians, they had not the wherewithal to build a new civilization of their own. What we now call the Greek and Roman civilizations are not things, that the Aryans brought from Central Asia, nor things, that they themselves produced, without the aid of the indigenous people among whom they came to live.

Again when we speak of one people conquering another, we always mean that the conquered people are massacred or exterminated by the conquerors or driven out of the land altogether. This too, as you know, is not correct. When a war breaks out between two people, it is the kings who fight against each other, it is they who conquer or are conquered. In other words, as a result of a war, it is the governing classes of the country who change and not the common people, the cultivators, the traders, the artisans, the labourers etc. for the bulk of the people remain where they are, carrying on their own normal avocations as of old, without any violent or serious change. For to them, it matters little who rules.

But in their case one thing does change, and that is the language, for, if the conquerors or rather the new governing classes speak a language different from that of the common people, that language becomes the state language and perforce the common people begin to use it, and in their attempt to do so, they either give up their own language entirely or create a new dialect, which is a mixture of the old and the new. It is at this point that the old civilization takes a new phase and we begin to call it by a different name; e.g, in Greece the Cretan civilization, becomes Hellenic civilization (for there is hardly any difference between the two), and in India, the Dravidian becomes Aryan.

But civilization or culture in the abstract, this is, the knowledge men possess of all arts and crafts, the religion and morals that go to make up civilizations, is never lost or destroyed. It remains with the common people. In fact it is their property. Only the language in which men express their knowledge changes. This is what is meant by Professor Pakeman when he said that wherever the Aryans went they ‘taught the conquered people to speak their language’, whereas they really never taught.

Though expressing their thoughts in a new language, the masses of the people still continue their avocations as of old. Trade and agriculture and industries and even learning flourish as in the past, perhaps with a few additions and improvements from time to time, as a result of new discoveries and of human intercourse with other lands. Changes of government may retard these activities for a time, but they do not altogether stop them. People continue their activities in spite of political changes, transacting their business in the new language that has come into use or importance consequent on these changes. In other words, civilization is not destroyed, but a language may.

As in India, so in Greece and Rome, what really happened was that the incoming Aryans would not learn the language of the people, for they were so lacking in intellectual ability. They were by nature fierce fighters, and good warriors and gloried in military prowess, and wherever they went, they wanted to be leaders and to rule others. They would command rather than obey, like the village chandiyas [thugs], whom you know, and whom, if you wish to keep in good humor, you must propitiate with gifts, or by the conferment of the title of Ralahamy

This is what happened in Greece and Rome. The common people of those lands, used to peaceful methods of life for long periods, were not good fighters, like the Sumerians of old and the Dravidians of the present day, and the result was that the Aryans had their way. They became the ruling classes and appropriated all political power. In Rome, they became the patricians, and the common people were called the plebians. In addition there was an enormous number of slaves who had no rights of any kind and even their languages were called the vernacular (which is similar to the word varna shramam, the colour bar used by the Aryans in India). In Greece the distinction was less marked, in view of the fact that the earliest Greek settlers came gradually and had amalgamated with the pre-Hellenic races by intermarriage, but in Sparta, owing to the invasion of Dorian Greeks in later times, the distinction was similar. There were the aristocratic Spartiates, dominating over a subject population, the Perioeci, and a serf population, the Helots [footnote 19].

Yours,

S.L.

Footnote 19: Helots corresponds to the Tamil word Kizhoor (=the lowest).

*****

  Letter 22

The Greek and the Roman Civilizations – part 2

My dear Son,

As I have already told you, these Aryans of Greece and Rome brought no civilization with them nor did they create any after their arrival. Even if they did, I don’t see anything in these civilizations (Greek and Roman), which may be peculiar to them, or which had not been attained by their predecessors. Then why is it that people speak so highly of a Greek civilization and a Roman citilization as something very novel? I shall tell you why. It is due to the desire to trace them, as well as the Indian civilization, to an Aryan origin and to gloat over the delusion that it was the Aryans who were the progenitors of all the known civilizations of the world.

This in turn is due to another cause. At the moment, no doubt, the literature in which these old civilizations find expression is confined mostly to the Aryan group of languages: Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and Pali (I shall leave Tamil literature out of account for our purposes.) This fact is not sufficient to establish the theory that the civilizations too were Aryan. Let me tell you that their Sanskrit and Pali and Latin and Greek are languages of yesterday; that is, comparing them with the languages of the earliest pre-Aryan civilizations, they are of quite recent origin. The truth is that whatever old literature that is available to us being found today only in these languages is due to a pure accident, namely, the invention of the alphabet.

You know that in the dim past, men handed down their knowledge and their learning orally from teacher to disciple. They never committed it to writing, for there was no alphabet to which we are accustomed. They had their hieroglyphics and picture-writing. The invention of alphabet, to whomsoever it might be attributed, was a thing of the first millennium before Christ. It was only after the invention of alphabet that men started writing down their literatures, whether religious works or poetry, in books. They may have used papyrus or barks of trees or ola leaves for this purpose according to their convenience. The system of writing in this manner came into use only within the very period when the aforesaid Aryan languages were living languages. So the oldest literature that exists today is confined to these languages and has been preserved to us in manuscript form until the invention of priting which revolutionized everything.

My point is that, had the alphabet been invented earlier than the first millennium BC, say, when the Cretan or the Egyptian or the Sumerian civilizations were in the height of their glory, there was every possibility of the literary works, of these civilizations too, having been preserved in the languages spoken then. There is nothing incorrect or improbable in my presumption. I hope you will admit that literary works, in the sense of poetry or religious and scientific knowledge, must have been in existence when men were so civilized, as were the Sumerians or the pre-Aryan Indians. The only difference is that we do not have a record of their works in some book form.

Nevertheless, even the few hieroglyphics and pictographs that have been discovered tell us much about them and teach us the lesson that the civilization of humanity was not a thing of yesterday, but of long duration, a product of the evolution of several millennia, handed down from generation to generation, from race to race, from nation to nation and from country to country, although it has had its ups and downs and passed through many a vicissitude. The civilization that men enjoy today is not of a particular period, nor is it of a particular race, but started long long ago by men we do not know or have heard of. Five thousand or ten thousand or even twenty thousand years is not long in the history of the human race. If the Indus valley civilization, or I shall call it the Indian civilization, (for such a civilization could not have confined itself only to the particular Valley), was at its zenith in five thousand BC, how many millennia, do you think, it would have taken to reach that zenith? We have only to guess it. To be very moderate put five thousand years before it. So at least in ten thousand BC, man had learnt or discovered the rudiments of civilization and attained a fairly advanced stage in five thousand BC. Where were the Aryans then?

You will see that all this tall talk about an Aryan civilization has been a little over-done. The so-called Aryan civilization is only a stage or a phase of the civilization of humanity, in the building up of which, I should think, the Aryans contributed very little, if anything, and even this little, if at all, was only during the last two thousand years. But really did the Aryans of Greece and Rome contribute anything new at all? For the life of me, I do not see anything, notwithstanding all the vaunting and assertations of learned professors of the Pakeman variety. I say they contributed nothing new. They merely continued what had been handed down to them by their predecessors, the Cretans, the Egyptians and the Phoenicians.

No doubt, the Western Europeans think that they are indebted to them for their culture, but for us of the East there is nothing worthy of emulation. No doubt, they had their poets. Homer and Virgil have a place in the literature of the world. So do their philosophers, Socrates and Plato.  But there is nothing peculiar in their poetry or philosophy. No doubt the Romans founded an empire based on military might, and so did Alexander the Great before them. They ruled subject nations by force of arms, and their government was no doubt efficient. They have left a code of laws, for anybody to copy, if they desire to govern other races. Is there anything here by way of addition to the sum total in the true sense, or by which humanity as a whole was benefitted in the end? As Pundit Nehru says in his Glimpses of World History:

“The glory and the majesty of ancient Rome and Greece as of ancient Egypt, had for their foundation a system of wide-spread slavery.” (p. 71)

To be honest, looking at the two so-called civilizations from the immemorial East, I do not see anything in them which excites our attention or elicits our admiration. It is being said that the modern European civilization is an off-shoot or the result of the Roman and the Greek civilizations. I say no. It is due to the introduction of Christianity in the early stages of the Christian era and the invention of the steam engine in the later stages.

So these are the Aryans of Greece and Rome. They brought nothing from Central Asia, but merely became the governing classes of the Mediterranean peoples, who had already a civilization before their arrival. These Aryans came as barbarians, and in course of time became civilized. This is the same story over again, as in India. The conquerors were conquered by the conquered.

Yours,

S.L.

*****

Letter 23

Buddhism, a reaction to Brahmanism

My dear Son,

I do not know whether you agree with my findings on the Greek and the Roman civilizations. I say the acid test of the greatness of a people’s civilization is their religion, for truly religion is the highest expression and the true index of a genuine civilization. The Roman and the Greeks evolved no religion of their own. Barring Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity which are all of Eastern origin, we find no religious philosophy evolved by any people anywhere. Hinduism (the greatness of which as a religion needs no demonstration) is not the handiwork of the Aryans, for it is wholly and entirely a Dravidian edifice (I shall refer to this later.). Nor is Buddhism theirs. Your Sinhalese friends may cross swords with me here. Let me explain.

Buddhism was first and foremost a revolt against Brahminism. As Pundit Nehru, himself a Brahmin, says in his Glimpses of World History, “Buddhism was a revolt against caste and priest craft and ritualism.” Brahminism, as you know, was not Hinduism nor was it representative of the highest religious beliefs of the indigenous population. It permitted animal sacrifices to the gods. It brought into existence an irrational system of caste by which, barring the Brahmins, all others, including even the ruling classes of Kshatriyas, were given an inferior status and were deprived of privileges merely on the ground birth. The caste system adumbrated by the Brahmins was so oppressive, unjust and cruel that Lord Buddha was forced to proclaim that it was ‘not by birth, but by deeds is one a Brahmin; not by birth, but by deeds is one a pariah.’ Buddhism stood up for two things, the equality of all men and love to all living creatures. It proclaimed that men become great not by the accident of birth, but by attachment to right thought, right speech and right action.

The indigenous population knew their minds. They had already reached such an advanced stage of culture in matters religious, that they abhorred this crude exhibition of cruelty both to animals and human beings on the part of the Brahmin priesthood. The bulk of the people looked down upon the practices of the Brahmins with a feeling of disgust and loathsomeness, and the standard of protest raised by Lord Buddha was only a culmination of this feeling of the majority of the common people. It was at once a natural evolution and a revolution. Believe me, the philosophy and the doctrines of Buddhism could not have been enunciated or appreciated or accepted, except by a people who were ready and eager to receive them, and whose minds had already been prepared by their own previous traditions, inclinations and predilections.

Buddha was only an exponent of the tremendous feeling of protest and annoyance existing among the large bulk of the common people, who were non-Aryans, against these iniquitous practices of the Aryanised Brahmins. That men should claim greatness owing to birth and not achieve it by deeds was foreign to their conception of true religion. So Buddha was merely a spear-head of this counter-wave of indignation and protest that was simmering for a considerable time in the hearts of the common people. So you can see that, though Lord Buddha happened to be a Kshatriya  by caste and supposed to be an Aryan, he was strictly-speaking a non-Aryan so far as his religious convictions were concerned. Indeed he was a true Indian, representative of the past culture of his land.

For further information on this subject, I would advise you to read, some more books on the subject, such as Dr. T.W. Rhys David’s Buddhist India. My object at the moment is to show you that the claim that the Aryans, whether in India or in Greece or in Rome, were the civilizers of the human race, as maintained by Mr. Pakeman, is the biggest of frauds perpetrated on an ignorant world in modern times.

Yours,

S.L.

*****

Letter 24

The Intrinsic Merits of Dravidian Civilization

My dear Son,

If, as I claim, the Aryans brought no civilization of their own, then it is necessary to find out what is the basis on which the present Hindu civilization is founded. Prior to the discovery of the great Indus Valley civilization, it had been the fad of the English and German Orientalists to picture the Dravidians as a race without any civilization or culture of their own. Let us, however, see whether, even with the materials at our disposal prior to this discovery, the Dravidians could be adjudged as anything but civilized, and whether they were in any way indebted to any other race.

Let us first take the religion of the Dravidians, for in the past the civilization of a people was embedded in or reflected by their religion. In fact, religion was civilization and vice versa. The religion of the Dravidians was and has been Saivaism. Let us see the opinions of others, chiefly such neutral observers like European scholars, about this religion.

First, let me quote Sir John Marshall. According to him, ‘Among the many revelations that Mohenjodaro and Harappa had in store for us, none perhaps is more remarkable than this discovery that Saivaism has a history going back to the Chalco-lithis age or perhaps even further still and that it thus takes its place as the most ancient living faith in the world.’

According to Dr. G.U. Pope, one of the greatest Tamil scholars: ‘The Saiva Siddhanta is the most elaborate, influential and undoubtedly the most intrinsically valuable of all religions of India…It is the choicest product of the Dravidian intellect.’

Rev. W.F. Goudie wrote in the Christian College Magazine (Madras) nearly fifty years ago: ‘There is no school of thought and no system of faith or worship that comes to us with anything like the claims of the Saiva Siddhanta…This system possesses the merits of a great antiquity. In the religious world, the Saiva system is there to all that is most ancient in south India, it is the religion of the Tamil people by the side of which every other form is of comparatively recent origin…In the largeness of its following, as well as in regard to the antiquity of some of the elements, the Saiva Siddhanta is, beyond any other form, the religion of the Tamil people… As a system of religious thought, as an expression of faith and life, the Saiva Siddhanta, is by far the best that South India possesses. Indeed it would not be rash to include the whole of India and to maintain that, judged by its intrinsic merits, the Saiva Siddhanta represents the high water mark of Indian thought and Indian life…’

Speaking of modern Hinduism, Sir John Marshall says: ‘Many of the basic features of Hinduism are not traceable to an Indo-Aryan source at all. They come into view not in the earliest Vedic literature which represents more or less the pure Indo-Aryan tradition but either in the later Vedas or in the still later Brahamanas, Upanishads and Epics, when the Vedic Aryans had long since amalgamated with the older races and absorbed some measure of their culture and teachings.’

Dr. Gilbert Slater writes in the same vein: ‘Persistent attempts have been made to relate Hindu religion, as it is, to the deities hymned in the Vedas, but without success. Not only is it impossible to identify Indra with Bishnu or Siva, impossible to find Kali in the Vedas or the Maruts in modern Hinduism, but Vedic hymns and Hindu religion are expression of two very different attitudes of mind.’

Even a brahmin like Sir S. Radhakrishnan writes in his ‘The Hindu View of Life’: ‘Contact with the highly civilized Dravidians led to the transformation of Vedism into a theistic religion.’

The above extracts are sufficient to show that modern Hinduism is the product not of the Aryans but of the Dravidians. Let us now consider the Tamil language and its literature.

W.Taylor says: ‘Tamil is one of the most copious, refined and polished languages spoken by man.’ In the words of the late Dr. Winslow, ‘In its poetic form, the Tamil language is more polished than Greek and more copious than Latin.

Bishop Caldwell wrote: ‘There is refinement of expressiveness in which Dravidian languages appear to stand alone. Sanskrit is far less highly developed in this particular’ and again, ‘Tamil can readily dispense with the greater part or the whole of its Sanskrit derivatives, such derivatives being considered rather as luxuries or articles of finery than as necessaries, and by dispensing with these derivatives it rises to a purer and more refined style.’

The following are the observations of Dr. Slater about the Tamil language in his book ‘The Dravidian Element in Indian Culture’, to which I have made constant references. ‘Tamil language as it is known to us is the product of a very long period of a somewhat elaborate civilization. The Tamil language is extraordinary in its subtlety and sense of logic. Of all the Dravidian languages Tamil is the one best fitted to be the instrument of exact thought…Indian culture, with its special characteristic of systematic and subtle philosophical thought, must have come from a people capable of originating and developing it. That capacity would naturally be exhibited also in the evolution of languages and the purest Dravidian language does exhibit it in the highest degree, more than any other Indian language.’

Do you know that Tamil is the oldest living language today? Dr. Pope says: ‘The great antiquity of Tmil, which is the one worthy rival of Sanskrit, is absolutely plain.’ As an example of the antiquity of Tamil and of the fact that literature was in existence several millennia before Christ, I would refer you to Tolkappiam, one of the most ancient grammatical works of the Tamil language. This is what the late Mudaliyar Rasanayakam writes in his ‘Ancient Jaffna’:

Tolkappiyam, one of the earliest and extant grammars which is considered by learned authorities to be anterior to Panini’s Sanskrit grammar, is said to have been composed about the end of the first Sangam or at the beginning of the Second, and was the authority specially followed by the Second and the Third Sangams. The first Sangam was at southern Madura, the earliest capital of the Pandyas which was destroyed by the sea about 2,400 years before Christ. (footnote 20).

As another writer puts it, “Tolkappiam reflects a mature culture, a culture, for the evolution of which, it would have taken several millennia. This internal evidence alone is sufficient to prove its great antiquity and the antiquity of the Tamil language.”

You might ask me how, if Tamil is so old, its ancient literature has not been preserved to the extent that such works are preserved in Sanskrit. The fact that ancient literature is found in Sanskrit more than in Tamil could be easily explained. The Sanskrit-speaking Dravidian Brahmins, after developing Sanskrit from its primitive Vedic stage to a classical language, began to write down the philosophy and religious works of Hinduism extant in the land from Tamil into Sanskrit. Not only religious literature but even the history and traditions of the Dravidians passed gradually into Sanskrit, and this could be easily inferred from the epics and the puranas, which really relate to the feats of the heroes of the pre-Aryan period, although we usually mistake them for Aryan heroes. Even Krishna, the author of Bagavad Gita, is himself a Dravidian god. Having constituted themselves into a priestly caste, the Brahmins had the necessary leisure and facilities to preserve these works, just as the Buddhist priests had the leisure to continue the story of the Mahavansa for generations. But in the case of the Tamil literary works, in the absence of an organized priestly caste, similar to the Brahmins or the Buddhist bhikkus, to preserve them, whatever books were available were lost or neglected. This was particularly so during later times when it was the fashion for even Tamil-speaking temple Brahmins or gurukkals of south India to study Sanskrit and neglect Tamil.

That was not the only reason. The disappearance of ancient literary works in Tamil was, as Dr. Slater observes, the natural consequence of the perishable nature of the materials used and the destructive power of a hot, damp climate and superabundant insect life. He observes:

“The circumstances which has made possible the belief that Sanskrit civilization is more ancient than Dravidian and that Indian culture has an Aryan and Sanskrit origin, rather than Dravidian, is the fact that south India cannot show either writings or buildings of incontestable antiquity. It by no means follows that south India did not possess them, for their complete disappearance is the natural consequence of the perishable nature of the materials used and the destructive power of a hot, damp climate and superabundant insect life.”

In this connection, Mudaliyar Rasanayakam writes as follows:

“There is not the slightest doubt that writing was in vogue in India and Ceylon for centuries before the advent of Vijaya to Ceylon, but as that writing was committed to palm leaves they were not preserved for any length of time. That is how the Tamil works of the first and second Sangams have been altogether lost. This is not in the least surprising when we consider that some of the works extant in the 13th and 14th centuries are not now forthcoming.”

In regard to Tamil literature one peculiarity noticeable is that few literatures in the world contain such a large volume of ethical and devotional works. For example the Kural or Thirukural holds a unique place in the literature of the world. It is a handbook of conduct for all humanity and for all ages. The author, Thiruvalluvar, is considered by all scholars as the bard of universal man. Next to the Bible, it is the only book that has been translated into almost all the languages of the world. Please see below Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s comments on the Kural in his ‘Indian Thought and its Developments’. He says:

“There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find so much lofty wisdom…We already find here the knowledge that good must be done for its own sake…Maxims about joy in activity bear witness to the strength of the world and life affirmation present in the Kural…Like the Buddha and the Bagavad Gita, the Kural desires inner freedom from the world and a mind free from hatred…It has thus appropriated all the valuable ethical results of the thought of world and life negation. But in addition to this ethic of inwardness there appears in the Kural the living ethic of love. What a difference between the Kural and the Laws of Manu…On the most varied questions concerning the conduct of man to himself and to the world its utterances are characterized by nobility and good sense. So it is clear that a natural and ethical world and life affirmation of this kind was prevalent among the people of India, although nothing of it can be found in Brahminism, Buddhism and the Bagavath Gita Hinduism.”

Incidentally, it might be mentioned that no language had been the literary vehicle of the thought of so many different religions as Tamil; Saivites, Bishnavites, Buddhists, Jains, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants have all joined to accord to Tamil a unique distinction.

So much for the religion and the literature of the Dravidians. Now a word about the antiquity of their architectural art as will be seen in the construction of huge temples and stone buildings. In regard to this, please see again what Dr. Slater has to say:

“The most ancient temples cannot be accurately dated, but no one claims that they come either before or very near Christian era. But those earliest extant stone buildings, apart from domens and other rude stone monuments, unmistakably betray their indebtedness to a more ancient architectural art and tradition. Though build of hard granite rock, a most intractable material, they display the utmost elaboration of ornament. This must have been worked up slowly through centuries by workers in more manageable materials, so that the earliest builders of temples and places of stone, instead of, as in other countries, first experimenting in simple forms, attempted from the beginning a height of elaboration never reached elsewhere in material of the same character. The whole story of Dravidian temple architecture can be read in a day at the ancient sacred city of Conjeevaram where may be seen one of the most ancient stone temples of south India in ruins…But in the way of Hindu temples there is nothing in north India equal to the sumptuous greatness and elaboration of the great shrines of the south…Inspite of the absence of Dravidian architecture of anything approaching Vedic antiquity, the facts relating to it tend on the whole to point to a greater antiquity for Dravidian than for Aryan civilization. Similarly with regard to literature.”

In regard to certain material aspects of Dravidian culture and civilization, which I consider are of minor importance, but which are also marks of a great civilization, let the Rig Veda of the Aryans itself bear testimony. According to the Rig Veda, the Dravidians had fortified towns, good weapons, palatial buildings, furniture and utensils of all sorts, metal ornaments of every description made of gold and silver and copper and great wealth obtained from the possession of vast herds of animals, from agriculture, from trade and from industries of every kind. S.K. Chatterjee of the University of Calcutta admits this (vide, History & Culture of the Indian People) by saying that “The pre-Aryans of Mohenjodaro and Harappa were certainly in possession of a higher material culture than what the semi-nomadic Aryans could show.”

The political organization of the Dravidians as is seen in the village panchyat system and their social organization as is seen in their caste system are two things which require no elaboration at my hands. Please remember that these are not Aryan institutions or introduction as is sometimes supposed by some ignorant historians like Professor Pakeman. Even Katherine Mayo, in her ‘Mother India’ could not but refer to this point for she states:

“(In peninsular India)…the Tamils had developed a rich native art; and in one at least of their many and everchanging little kingdoms they had brought forth an elaborative and interesting system of village government.”

Nor is it necessary for me to refer to the height of their commercial civilization, the ramifications of their trade far and wide with distant lands and their intimate knowledge of ship building and the navigation of the high seas. See what Pundit Nehru says about in his ‘Glimpses of World History’:

“A considerable trade flourished between south India and Europe. Pearls, ivory, gold, rice, pepper, peacocks and even monkeys were sent to Babylon and Egypt and Greece, and later to Rome. Teakwood from the Malabar coast went even earlier to Chaldea and Babylonia. And all this trade, or most of it, was carried in Indian ships, manned by Dravidians. This will enable you to realize what an advanced position south India occupied in the ancient world.” (p. 80)

Finally what is peculiar to the Dravidian people is that their culture, as revealed in their literature is a realistic and religious culture. Dr. Pope, in his commentaries to the Naladiyar, an ethical verse, which he has translated into English along with the famous Kural of Thiruvalluvar, testifies to this aspect of their culture by saying:

“Pervading these verses there seems to me to be a strong sense of moral obligation, an earnest aspiration after righteousness, a fervent and unselfish charity and generally a loftiness of aim that are very impressive. I have felt sometimes as if there must be a blessing in store for a people that delight so utterly in compositions thus remarkably expressive of a hunger and thirst after righteousness. They are the foremost among the people of India, and the Kural and the Naladi have healped to make them so.”

Not only righteousness but also peace was at the basis of their civilization. H.N. Brailsford says that among the finds in the Indus Valley civilization no lethal weapons were to be seen, suggesting thereby that the people there were a pacific community. Gandhi’s ahimsa and non-violence is the direct outcome of the old civilization of the Dravidians. No surprise that owing to the love of peace and non-violence they lost politically against less civilized, and therefore more blood-thirsty races, like the Aryans and the Muslims. This clearly shows that the Dravidians were a very ancient race, who had passed through all the stages of man’s evolution towards the highest stage, when men become more peaceful and humanitarian.

I wish only to emphasize that a nation or race, that had such an ancient and highly developed literature and art, and such a splendid religion as Saivism, and so peace-loving and thirsting after righteousness can by no means be regarded as anything but a highly civilized race, even in the absence of any further evidence, as in the discovery of Mohenjodaro and Harappa, and even though they politically succumbed to the Aryans in 1,500 BC and to the Muslims in AD 1,000, and after succumbing today to the Hindustanis of the north of India and to the Sinhalese of the south of Ceylon.

Yours,

S.L.

Section 4

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