A Tamil by Nature….
A Tamil by Nature….
We Tamils (in general and those who came from Ceylon, in particular) boast of a great “civilization” and “culture” that spans over centuries. In recent years, however, I have had the opportunity to travel and have been exposed to other cultures around the globe. Consequently, I began to wonder if there is anything truly “superior” in our culture as we proclaim. To me, even the people from a remote settlement have their “culture” and “societal standards”. So is there anything Tamils can cherish about, our culture? If so, how can we define it? And how do we maintain a link to a culture which originated centuries ago, in an environment that is vastly different from what we are living in today? This article, seeks to determine why it is important to connect to our culture, even though we live in increasingly diverse and evolving societies, and how we could do it.
Our forefathers said to have lived in this land called “Kumari Kandam” thousands of years ago. There are no archeological evidence for this claim. However, many ancient scripts talk about events and names of places which could have been submerged in many deluges . Recent upsurge in the quest to find our past is revealing many interesting evidences that have been ‘hiding’ for thousands of years. My point is, if Tamils have been around for thousands of years and still remain as a leading society, then they must have developed a sophisticated system that would have helped them to achieve that in spite of all the invasions and efforts to subjugate us.
The role of culture in a society is to provide “guidance” for the people to carry on their day to day life in an amicable and enjoyable manner. If someone thinks that there is no role for Tamil culture in this new environment, then they will live according to the culture of the people around them.
Culture or ‘Pannpaadu’ ( பண்பாடு) in Tamil, denotes பாடறிந்து ஒழுகல், which in simpler terms ’சூழலை மதித்து நடத்தல்’;. That is “respect the environment and people around you”. I still remember what our Principal Mr Selvadurai at Udupiddy American Mission College used to say in his address in the weekly assembly ‘பாம்பு தின்கிறவன் ஊருக்கு போனால் நடுமுறி வேணுமென்று கேள்’ Later this turned out as “ When in Rome do as the Roman do”
Kural, one of our greatest gifts to the world, which was written 2000 years ago says;
ஊலகத்தோ டொட்ட வொழுகல் பலகற்றுங்
கல்லா ரறிவிலா தார் :140
Which means: Those are fools however learned _ who have not learned to walk with the world.
Can anyone say ‘old Tamil books are useless?’
There are two aspects of culture. One is the ‘values’ of a society and the other is their ‘customs and beliefs’. Values are the core of a culture. These are considered to be noble goals that people aspire to. Values guide the society in day to day life. For example, Tamils consider virtues such as ‘விருந்தோம்பல்’, ‘அறம்’ as some of their core values. A society that wants to be identified by its core values resists any changes in them. Whereas, Customs and Beliefs are dynamic and they change over time. As the environment varies and societies transform, customs and beliefs evolve, accommodating these changes. So when we say “they have deviated from our culture” what are we referring to? Is it ‘values’ or ‘customs and believes’? As stated above, ‘customs and beliefs’ change over time as societies transform. Thus deviations in these can be expected as a part of a society’s evolution. However, it is when we ignore the core values of our culture that we are likely to become distanced from our culture and Lose our Identity as “Tamils”.
செல்விருந் தோம்பி வருவிருந்து பார்த்திருப்பா
னல்விருந்து வானத்தவர்க்கு :86
இடிப்பாரை யில்லாத வேமரா மன்னன்
கெடுப்பா ரிலானுங் கெடும் :448
In each society, elders are the first to guide us in learning our culture. Next, the responsibility lies with Religion and religious institutions. Not everyone will agree with this. However, if you take a serious look at our way of life since our fore father’s time, it is evident that we Tamils who follow Hinduism have been slipping into a deep hole called “Religion”. One of our great poet Kannathasan said “it was the ( ஆசை வந்து வேதியனை ஆட்டி வைத்தது…). (The Brahmin, the one supposed to be a teacher). The purpose of religious teaching is to guide us in our day to day living and to live an amicable and enjoyable life.
Now many of us will wonder where we can find this ‘guidance’. The answer is –Tamil poems- called ‘Thevaaram, Thirumuraigal, sivapuranam,Thirukural, Thirumanthiram and so on. Our blunder is that we have neglected these ancient texts because we were given an impression that these are “for Koyil and God only”. Today, when a child goes to Koyil he or she will hear ‘manthiram’ that NO ONE (some time even the person who is reciting these manthirams) understand. Many of us do not know what these ‘prayers or manthirams’, which are typically in Sanskrit, actually mean. Thus, we put our “TRUST” in those ‘Agents’ (Priests) to ‘connect’ us to God. There is also some silly theory by some people to say that Sanskrit is ‘God’s language”
Our great Saint Appar said : சலம்பூவொடு தூபம் மறந்தறியேன் தமிழோடு இசை பாடல் மறந்தறியேன்….
Appar never wanted Sanskrit and so did all our great saints. You want to praise the God , he said ….
நமச்சி வாயவாழ்க நாதன்தாழ் வாழ்க….The Tamil poems ‘ பதிகங்கள்’ also praise the god . However, they are in the language we speak, so we easily understand what we say giving us a direct link to god.
Now the question is Can Thevaram for example teach us anything to live amicably in a new society? I say a resounding YES. Take any subject and there will be reference in one of many Tamil poems we have. A very clear and precise answer to many questions can be found in these ancient texts. Is it not what we want in our daily life? Imagine you go to our ‘koyil’ and be able to discuss your question and find some guidance. Rather than paying ‘ Kaanikai’ for someone to perform a ritual for us and come home with a false satisfaction, thinking “ OK I have done a good archanai. God will help me now”. If this is the way god is going to help people then I am 100% sure God will help who has the most money -like Mahinda?
You want to know what is அறம்? : அழுக்காறு, அவா, வெகுளி, இன்னாச்சொல் நாலும் ……
You want to know how all the planetary forces are made to align for you.
வேயுறு தோளிபங்கன் …………. The Supreme one who taught us that man and woman are Equal ……….முடிமேல் அணிந்தென் ( அணிந்து என்) உளமே புகுந்த அதனால்…… For the god or the ‘wisdom’ to come to you, you better keep your ‘inside clean’. Then …. அவை மிக நல்ல நல்ல அடியாரவர்க்கு மிகவே. ………… All these “ Ragu ,Keathu etc “ are going to be extremely
good to THESE GOOD SOULS. ( If you don’t believe these then please don’t waste time). Go ahead and lite oil lamp on Saturday (in September) and be happy. This poem is NOT about ‘lighting oil lamp on a Saturday in September’ But See how we have been “reduced to SUBMIT our self to the religious establishment rather than to GOD”.
This is just a tiny example of the treasure that we have. With the above excerpts, it is explicit that, in each word and phrases there is so much to learn for the REAL LIFE. My question is why can’t these ‘agents’ at least explain the meaning of these songs at least during the festivals. A friend of mine once said ‘we had noble life and wealth of knowledge about life when we practiced our religion in Tamil. Now we have put those treasures in a golden box covered it with velvet, sprayed perfumes, and lit incenses and celebrating the box with pooja and taking it around once a year.”
எம் வள்ளலுக்கு நாம் செய்யும்
மந்திரங்கள் ஏதுமற்ற மனமொழி வழிபாடு.
காயமே கோயிலாக கடிமனம் அடிமையாக…..
What I am trying to say is that our culture is precious and we Tamils have a lot to cherish and to offer to the society we live. When we accept our core values, and put faith in the guidance found in our ancient texts, we become stronger, more productive members of society.
PS: This is my view only. This is not intended to diminish the importance or hurt anyone. If anyone has any comments to make on this article please feel free to do so.
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