How the Dravidianists Destroyed Sanskrit in Tamil Nadu: A Slice from Real Life History

How the Dravidianists Destroyed Sanskrit in Tamil Nadu: A Slice from Real Life History

In hindsight, the only “justice” that the infamous Justice Party delivered to Tamil Nadu was to snuff out the soul of the Tamil people. The Justice Party ensured that the land permanently lost its capacity to produce iconic sons like Raja Raja Chola, Rajendra Chola, Pallava Narasimhavarman all the way up to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Its impressive infrastructure is now a vast and glimmering soulless desert where nothing cultured and refined grows because all the good and the noble and the lofty and the spiritual has been scorched by the flames lit by generations of Dravidian cultural genocidalists. Needless, the learning, nourishing and preservation of Sanskrit was among the first casualties to burn in this Dravidian fire-cauldron. And the story of its near total annihilation needs to be told in a detailed volume. But here is a real-life slice from recent history.

The period is the 1960s decade and the space is the prestigious Presidency College, Madras.

The manner in which it was done resembles the manner in which fanatical Muslim sultans made appointments in officialdom: kicking out Hindus and replacing them with Muslims or with Hindus who fell for the lure of converting to Islam for such benefits.

It might seem incredible and even unbelievable today but even as recent as the 1940s, the learning of the Sanskrit language and literature was deemed as a mark of high culture. Even in Tamil Nadu. Even in the selfsame Presidency College, Madras. For the longest period, Kanchipuram was one of the renowned and prestigious centres of Sanskrit scholarship, which boasted several lineages of Sanskrit Pandits and Vidwans. But the state hadn’t reckoned with the Messianic, caliginous sword called Dravidianism which was lurking at the borders during the aforementioned period but was making slow but sure inroads. The rowdy denizens of the Justice Party, in their rabble-rousing speeches essentially made variants of the same clamour: “What is there in Sanskrit that’s not there in Tamil? The wicked Aryas and Sanskrit invaded our pure Tamil land and destroyed its literature and culture and threw us into backwardness. We must liberate our pure Tamil land and culture from these Aryas—the south Indian Brahmins—who continue to oppress us.”

For all the self-righteous Dravidian breast-beating done even today by the appropriately-christened M.K. Stalin and the splinter groups and petty factions that collectively constitute political parties in Tamil Nadu, the Justice Party and its predecessors didn’t really have it easy. The early role played by the Church, especially by Bishop “Kaltuvel Aiyar” (Robert Caldwell) in seeding and fomenting Tamil separatism is too well-known to repeat here. The “lower castes and classes” in Tamil Nadu today hollering about evil Brahmins and Sanskrit and Aryas only need to remember two important facets of their own cultural and social history. The first is the fact that a dominant portion of these classes have become cannon fodder for Christian cultists to the sickening extent that they are proud to worship the son of a Ghost who preaches a religious imperialism in the tongue of piety and compassion. The second is the fact that they have defiled the memory of and the valiant fight that their own ancestors put up against these Christian cultists.

Much before the arch-fanatic “appa” Caldwell shot to fame, he devoted several patient years to mine the Sanatana society for potential souls to harvest. One outcome, about a decade before his infamous A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-lndian Family of Languages was published, was a spurious pamphlet titled The Tinnevelly [Tirunelveli] Shanars, published in 1849. Today, the Shanars are more commonly known as Nadars whose main and traditional profession was toddy-tapping. Among other things, Caldwell’s tract imputed “non-Aryan origins” to the Shanars, a fact that caused immediate outrage among the Nadars. By this time, a substantial section of the Shanars had obtained English education but had firmly stuck to its roots, saw through Caldwell’s divisive game. In the space of about twenty years, they launched massive and widespread agitations, which included riots, against Caldwell’s pamphlet. As a result, his vile book was withdrawn from circulation. As history tragically shows, it appears that Caldwell ultimately triumphed: a significant section of the Nadar community is now in the fourth or fifth generation as Christians worshipping an alleged virgin mother who has replaced their traditional Kula-Devi, the strength-giving, life-nurturing and foe-destroying Bhadrakali who had enabled their ancestors to fight the selfsame soul-sapping soul harvesters. Sadly, Christian predators like Caldwell & Co are akin to deities and role models for these fifth-generation Christian Nadars, some of who have also become Bishops, Pastors, and missionaries out to culturally consume their own fellow Nadars.

The Remote Origins of Sanskrit Destruction in Tamil Nadu

But the Church-ordained rot called Bishop Robert Caldwell had nearly three centuries’ worth of precedent. The first is the well-known phony “Roman Brahmin” Roberto Di Nobili (1577-1656) who used the sacred Sanatana city of Madurai for his soul-vulturing activities. But more than Nobili, it was his predatory successor, the Italian missionary Constantius Beschi (1680-1743) who decisively changed the direction, focus, and tactics of preying on Hindu souls in Tamil Nadu. Beschi was well-versed in Sanskrit but he consciously avoided using Sanskrit terms in his Tamil compositions in praise of St. Joseph, for example. Pompously titled Thembavani (The Unfading Garland), an “ornament of poems as sweet as honey” (sic), it has 3615 stanzas tracing the history of Salvation and the life of St. Joseph.  

Beschi is perhaps the first Italian missionary to sow the predatory seeds of destroying Sanskrit in Tamil Nadu. He wrote a series of Tamil grammars and linguistics profusely praising the grandeur and greatness of this ancient language. Beschi is also the first European scholar of the Tamil language who elaborately delineated the distinction between chaste and colloquial Tamil and expounded in detail on Tamil classical literature. With this, Beschi laid solid foundations which would endure for more than three centuries.

Cut to the late 1920s. Dravidianist politicians rediscovered Beschi and hailed him as a great model of a European who had been incredibly impressed by the sophistication, beauty and intricacy of the Tamil language that he devoted his entire life to master it. Along with Caldwell, Beschi is another figure greatly revered in the annals of Dravidian separatism, which elevated him to cult status, christening him, Vīramāmunivar (literally: The Warrior Sage). On 2 January, 1968 the DMK Government erected the continuing eyesore also known as the statue of Vīramāmunivar at Marina Beach. It is equally unsurprising that as recently as 1954, Thomas Srinivasan wrote a laudatory article (Beschi, the Tamil Scholar and Poet: Tamil Culture III, 1954) about Beschi’s contribution to Tamil.  

And so, the aforementioned enduring foundations laid by Beschi would come to bite the Sanskrit Department of Presidency College, Madras after India attained “independence.” Roughly in this period, the department was sanctified by a distinguished lineage of extraordinary Sanskrit scholars including Sri Rangacharya, Kuppuswami Sastri, P.P. Subramhanya Sastri who left behind an equally illustrious scholarly progeny such as C. Kunhan Raja, V. Raghavan, T.N. Ramachandran and others.

It took about a decade for the Dravidianists to annihilate this glorious legacy root, branch and leaves. This depressing tale will be narrated in the next part of this series.

To be continued

Cover Illustration Courtesy: Old Book Illustrations

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