Who is a Tamil?


A Tamil is not a Tamil by virtue of having the ability to speak Tamil or for being born to parents who speak Tamil. But a Tamil is one who considers this land as his, the rivers as his and the Deities who are associated with this land and rivers as his. He may move to any other land, but only as long as he considers the deities of this land as his and follows the worship of these deities and the festivals of these deities, can he be considered as a Tamil. None others who  worship other deities can claim themselves as Tamils because just by speaking  Tamil, one can not to be considered as a Tamil. By this Christians and Muslims who speak Tamil can not be considered as Tamils, just because they speak Tamil. Even we speak English but that does not make us English people, for the simple reason that  we do not follow English culture. Similarly let not all those Christians, Muslims and Atheists who do not follow the core principle of deity- culture of the ancient Tamils be not considered as Tamils.

For all those who may find this view unacceptable, let me draw their attention to what Shahi Imam told about Anna Hazare movement. He called upon the Muslims of this country not to support Anna’s movement because they can not accept this land as their God. They can not call this land as their Mother or Goddess.  Similarly the Christian organizations have opposed Anna’s movement. For these two communities, their Gods are outside India. They can not accept the Gods of this land. The same logic holds good in the case of who a Tamil is.

A Tamil is one who swears allegiance to the numerous Hindu Gods of this land. Any one taking glory on Tamil’s literary past and culture can not accept alien Gods imported from outside. Let all those who have allegiance to outside Gods, call themselves as Christians and Muslims who can speak Tamil but not as Tamils who are Christians and Muslims.

In this context I also wish to sound a warning to all those who have defied the Hindu culture of Tamils and taken refuge in alien religions, that defiance of Gods of Tamil land would only land them in trouble as those deities which were once worshiped by their Hindu ancestors are now neglected by them after they have embraced alien religions.

They want to claim yourselves as Tamils and not want to give up the language. Giving up a language would not do any harm. But giving up the deity of the land would do. More important than the language is the deity that guarded this land. By giving up these deities / by ignoring them, they have no right to claim any connection to Tamil lands and its basic culture which is Hindu.

To cite just one text, Silapapdhikaram is full of Hindu Gods, description of worship of those God and Hindu customs. One full chapter was dedicated to the marriage of Kanangi and Kovalan which was done as a Brahma Vivaha. Numerous narrations on Karma theory and many characters coming to know of the past birth happenings etc., are revealed in Silappadhikaram. This Karma theory is the very core of the Hindu Concept. Even the decision of the Cheran King to found a temple for Kanangi was made after a discussion with his wife on concept of Godhood of Hinduism.

The entire story of Kannagi was narrated to the author by Kannagi Herself according to this text. In the last chapter of this book,  Kannagi in Deity form (after consecration) delivers an advice to the author which is full of Hindu Thought. She begins by calling people to know what is God  and search for God in order to get a better understanding. Her last advice is to do good karma in order to get a better rebirth! This certainly can’t have any resonance with the Christians and Muslims. Any one shifting to these two religions, automatically forfeit their connection to Tamil culture and therefore to Tamil language.

(Given below is the full text of Kannagi’s advice to Ilango in the last chapter of Silappadhikaram)

”தெய்வம் தெளிமின் தெளிந்தோர்ப் பேணுமின்
பொய்யுரை அஞ்சுமின் புறஞ்சொல் போற்றுமின்
ஊனூண் துறமின் உயிர்க்கொலை நீங்குமின்
தானம் செய்ம்மின் தவம்பல தாங்குமின்.
செய்ந்நன்றி கொல்லன்மின் தீநட் பிகழ்மின்
பொய்க்கரி போகன்மின் பொருண்மொழி நீங்கன்மின்
அறவோர் அவைக்களம் அகலாது அணுகுமின்
பிறவோர் அவைக்களம் பிழைத்துப் பெயர்மின்
பிறர்மனை அஞ்சுமின் பிழையுயிர் ஓம்புமின்
அறமனை காமின் அல்லவை கடிமின்
கள்ளும் களவும் காமமும் பொய்யும்
வெள்ளைக் கோட்டியும் விரகினில் ஒழிமின்
இளமையும் செல்வமும் யாக்கையும் நிலையா
உளநாள் வரையாது ஒல்லுவ தொழியாது.
செல்லும் தேஎத்துக் குறுதுணை தேடுமின்
மல்லல்மா ஞாலத்து வாழ்வீர் ஈங்கென்”

5 thoughts on “Who is a Tamil?

  1. This is outstanding! Your arguments are emphatic, but I would suggest more evidences to support your reasoning. In fact, on the track of your argument every Hindu, be he lives in any part of India or even outside, can be called a Tamil! Because in one of your earlier blogs, you have derived that many languages in India have connection with Tamil! This will not get acceptance, especially from many political outfits. But our duty is to put forth facts. Thanks for this new line of thinking!

  2. I think it is the other way – A Tamil is a Hindu! A Hindu can speak any language – one among being Tamil language. My argument is that language is not the identifying feature of a Tamil, but the culture is. And Kannagi vouchsafes what that culture is – that is Hinduism.

    There are more evidences from Manimegalai, which you can read in my old post here: http://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.in/2015/08/bodhidarma-in-kanyakumari-buddhism-as.html

    Giving here the salient features from that post, Manimegalai was the daughter of Kovalan born to Madhavi. She wanted to know the different paths of Liberation and visited the heads of 10 different Thoughts that were prevalent in Tamil lands at her times. I am giving them below for quick reading.

    1. ALavai-vaadhi (அளவைவாதி) – everything in some measurements. The religious head of this Thought identifies Veda Vyasa, Kruthakoti (Bhodayana) and Jaimini as the teachers of this Thought.

    2. Saiva-vaadhi (சைவவாதி) – Saivism. Shiva as the supreme Lord

    3. Brahma-vaadhi (பிரம்மவாதி) – Brahma as the supreme Lord

    4. VaiNava- vaadhi (வைணவவாதி) – Vaishnavism. Here there is a specific mention of Vishnu Purana. The author says ‘the one who had read and understood the Purana of Vishnu explained Vaishnavism to Manimegalai. (“காதல் கொண்டு கடல் வண்ணன் புராணம் ஓதினன்” – Manimegalai 27- 98)

    This shows that the text of Vishnu Purana had existed before the start of the Common Era. It was not a later day text as claimed by many.

    5. Veda-vaadhi (வேதவாதி)– Vedas as supreme.

    6. Aseega-vaadhi (ஆசீகவாதி) – The narrator, the chief of Aseega sect quotes his views from his religious text called “Nava kadhir” (நவ கதிர்) authored by “MaRkali devan” (மற்கலி தேவன்). The precepts sound close to Jainism. This could have been a branch of Jainism.

    7. Niganda-vaadhi (நிகண்டவாதி) – Jainism. The narrator claims his Lord as Arugan (அருகன்).

    8. Sankhya-vaadhi (சாங்கியவாதி) – Sankhya philosophy.

    9. Vasisedika-vaadhi (வைசேடிகவாதி) – Vaiseshika philosophy.

    10. Bhootha-vaadhi (பூதவாதி) – Charvaka philosophy.

    Having heard from 10 different Heads of Thought, the chapter closes with a line that Manimagalai had thus learned about 5 religions! (“ஐவகைச் சமயமும் அறிந்தனள் ஆங்கென்.” Manimegalai 27 – 269). The 10 Thoughts or precepts have been shrunk into 5 religions. They have been listed above. The 6th religion is Buddhism.

    The 5 religions from the above 10 could be
    1. Charvaka
    2.Jaina (Aseega +Niganda)
    5. Veda (Brahma + Vaiseshika + Sankhya + ALavai)

    The 6th was Buddhism.

    But by the end of the first Millennium of the Common Era, the Tamil society (Azhwars and Nayanmars) had rejected Jainism and Buddhism also as they did not concur with Vedic Thought. So what it conveys is that Vedic Thought alone forms the basis of culture of Tamils from antiquity. Any attempt to derail it was resisted until Vedic culture was restored in toto. Only Saivism and Vaishnavism continued as they are two sides of the same Vedic culture.

    So every attempt to resist other religionsists trying to appropriate Tamil and Tamil culture has sanction of approval from our ancestors born in this land. Other religiosnists cannot claim themselves as part of this Tamil stream.

  3. You are a great scholar, but, in this research article, you are giving a colour of Holy Land (Jerusalem Narrative) to Tamilnadu.

    In the same piece of land different culture thrives at different times, like you said Buddhism , Jainism before the end of first millennium common era. Overtime, it would be faulty to see a particular society divided on the basis of majority, minority, or majority religion of a place as the only true identity of the people of that region. Multi-culturism thrives now everywhere in world. Even Chennai has become a cosmopolitan place. Then why this orthodoxy, sectarian , narrow view? It suits only to crooked politicians with ulterior motif of votes bank.


    Akshat Agrawal

  4. Thanks for your compliment.

    There is no colour of Holy land in my article. Whatever you have written is of a recent idea that works for the favour of abrahamic religions to be rooted here permanently by displacing the native culture of this country called Bharat of which Tamilagam is a part. Multiculturalism does not mean the native culture can be displaced and destroyed. Multiculturalism had existed in the past in this country but that was never a threat and was never allowed to be a threat to native culture which is Sanatan or Veda dharma. Buddhism and Jainism were off-shoots of Hinduism and that is why they were part of old Tamil (Indian) lands. But when they severed their roots from veda dharma, they were resisted. More than any place in India, proofs for resisting them and pushing them out from existence or domination can be found only in Tamilnadu.

    Chennai being cosmopolitan is not a new idea. Any ‘Pattnam” (chennai is a Pattnam) was cosmopolitan in nature as is known from old Tamil texts. Pumpuhar was a Pattnam as per Silappadhikaram. Many foreigners visited that place for trade and for seeking jobs also. But they were allowed to stay in a place which was different from the local city. Their city was known as ‘Maru-oor paakkam’ meaning place for people from other places. They enjoyed all facilities, followed their practices but did not proselytize their religion and culture. Even Yavanas (arabs or greeks) were employed in security service in the palace according to Silappadhikaram but they did not spoil or try to change the native culture, nor they claimed rights of such nature. You will find the same tolerance and accommodation throughout India or else from Portuguese to British, who came as traders initially, no one could have found a foot-hold in India. That they misused it is what history tells us and cautions us against such forces that are coming in different hues today.

    Jains and Buddhists were also tolerated in this way after they deviated from Veda dharma. But when they tried to influence the kings and spread their religion, they were stopped from doing that. The very basic cause for the development of the so-called ‘Bhakti movement’ was only to drive away Jain and Buddhist forces that tried to vitiate the culture from being Sanatanic. Today similar vitiating clouds are appearing all around in the name of secularism, modernity and cosmopolitanism – all of which can lead to only one casualty – that is Veda dharma or Sanatan dharma of this land which was the innate identity of Tamils too.

    Tamil culture was basically Vedic only and no Tamil king or subject deviated from that at any time in the past. The disruption has been fueled by politicians post 1967 for selfish ends and now in connivance with abrahamic religions.

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