An analysis of history of Tamil religion/Part:15

The initial stage of Tamil cultural and literary tradition in south India is connected with the so-called Sangam,a poetic academy held by kings of the Paṇdiya dynasty,in which the word Sangam signifies a congregation of monks,scholars,or disciples.Historians regard the Sangam period as the ‘classical age’ of the Tamils analogous to the age of the classics in Greece and Rome and to that of the Renaissance of later period in Europe.Some even consider the Sangam age as the ‘Golden age’ of the Tamils,which marked a unique epoch in the history of the Tamilakam.It is not a religious poetry (in the sense of praising gods),with the exception of the anthology Paripadal and the poem Tirumurukaṟṟupadai,but the religion of the age,the main mythological figures,and the forms of worship are reflected by it.On close inspection,many poems can be associated with religious rituals or have roots in a certain cultic activity.A notion of the sacred is also present.Three mythological persons stand out prominently in the poetry: Murukaṉ,Tirumal, and (much less) the goddess Koṟṟavai.The people of Sangam age also believed in ghosts and spirits.There is the mention of the
“Pootham”[Chathukka Bootham/பூதம்/goblins] in Silappathikaram.Many believed in demons residing on tress,battle-fields and burning ghats “drinking blood and combing their hair with hands soaked in blood.” The same text also refers to minor deities like guardian deities of Mathurai and Puhar.They also believed in the village gods.The term Saivism[Saivavaathi/"சைவவாதி"-One who argues for Saivism] is mentioned only in Manimekalai.Though Siva as a deity is not mentioned in other texts,However,he is referred to by his attributes like – “the ancient first Lord”, “the Lord with the blue beautiful throat” and “the god under the banyan tree”.So,in early times Saivism seem to have existed in the Tamil region only in principle and not by name.The Sangam age people also believed in dreams and influence of planets on human life.Certain ominous signs were popularly observed.For example,the cawing of the crow was considered as an omen of the coming guest,who was eagerly waited.Kurunthogai mentions that the crow was considered a good harbinger and was fed with rice and ghee. Sneezing was held inauspicious.The sophisticated aspect of the Sangam religion was the worship of gods and goddesses in temples.Manimekalai refers to a very big brick called Chakravalak kottam[சக்கரவாளக் கோட்டம்].However,in many cases,as till today,the deities were often set up under trees.The method of worship generally consisted of dancing and offering flowers,rice and meat to the gods.Dead were disposed either by cremation,burial or by being left in open to vultures or jackals.Tamil literature ‘Manimekalai,' one of the twin epics of post-sangam period‘ mentions about the methodology and burial practices followed by Tamils in ancient Tamilakam in order ,When,Sutamati asked to know the reason why the goddess called the place by that name.'Sudukattu Kottam',The goddess said along with the other things that,this place,a cemetery or graveyard ,where
,A small space is set apart for burning corpses;another where the corpses are simply thrown;a third where the corpses are actually buried in graves dug in the earth;others where corpses are set in small chambers made in the earth,their mouths being closed afterwards;and lastly another part where corpses are left covered over by huge earthern pots.[Manimekala/(6-11-66-69)/"சுடுவோ ரிடுவோர் தொடுகுழிப் படுப்போர்......."].We also learned from sangam literature that the popular god of Tamil living in mountain as in Sumeria,where,temple at the very top of the Ziggurats & people worshipped him with offerings to cure their distresses.One such poem-  Akananuru 22- is given below:
"He’s from the country where gods live
in tall mountains and forests abound
with huge waterfalls...............................
A pavilion is well erected,
a spear is garlanded, and
our big house reverberates with loud 
music.  Offerings with beautiful red millet
mixed with [goat’s]blood are given to invite
Murukan ......................................."[Akananuru 22]

A Talisman is an inscribed ring or stone,supposed to be endowed
with magic powers,especially averting evil from or bringing good luck to its holder.It is also a charm or amulet which is capable of working wonders.Ancient Tamils used talismans from young age.Tamil children were given talismans made up of tiger nails or tiger tooth.That gave them courage to fight the evil.Tamils called it Aimpatai Thali or simply Thayathu.Tamil Women wore talismans in yellow thread (Purananuru 127 ( "ஈகை அரிய இழையணி மகளிரொடு" )  and Tamil epic Silappathikaram [1-47 & 4-50) when they got married.Even in ancient Mesopotamia,It is understood that people worn necklace with stone chiefly as a talisman against diseases.One of such Amulet discovered in Dibba,Oman,which contains letters 'De' 'Jo' 'La' and were found engraved on an eye-shaped stone.

Ainkurunuru 247
I understand why mother brought velan 
to your beautiful home to peform rituals on new sand 
and tie the talisman on your arm. 
If he says Murukan is the reason for your distress , 
I wonder whether that’s the name 
of your precious mountain country lover.  

We find Purananuru 192 clearly reject division of mankind into various categories and emphasised the universality of all men.The Tamil bards and intellectualists of the time of Kaniyan Pungunranar and those preceding his age considered that all men,whatever their rank or station in life,were alike.Further Pungunranar states that the wooden log is carried by the water in its direction and similarly postulates that everything in life will also follow Natural law.This he calls 'Way of Order'.Four of such 'Way of Order'[முறை வழி] is given below :Every human of every town is of the same value because they are கேளிர் (related). Hence,all people should be bound by one,same moral and legal code.good (நன்று) and evil (தீது) do not come from others.Hence,humans are liable for both the pleasure and suffering they feel.Death is a natural part of the cycle of life,it is not new.Hence,this life must be made use of to its full potential.Yet, life should neither be full of pleasure (மகிழ்ச்சி), nor full of storms (புயல்) [of suffering]. Hence, life should be full of plenitude.He further goes onto explain these principles with an example of a raft.He compares birth to lightning,suggesting it can happen spontaneously anywhere.He gives an example of a raft which is allegorical to human life going downstream a steep hill, having a perilous journey through boulders and faces its climax just as Wisemen's vision[means fate)],which is death.He concludes that since everyone's life is like the raft's journey, it is irrational to magnify the accomplished people [பெரியோர்] and even worse to diminish less accomplished people[சிறியோர்],because everyone goes through similar tribulations whatever their social estate might be.

"All places are ours, all our kith and kin;
  Good and evil come, not caused by others;
  Pain and relief are brought likewise, not by others;
  Dying is not new; nor living gave us joy;
  Misery we hated out.  As in the flood,
  Caused by clouds that poured in torrents
  On a mountain top with lightning flash.
  A raft goes in the direction of the stream,
  So the swarm of lives move onward
  In the way of destiny.  This we have discerned
  From the teachings of sages strong in wisdom
  So we admire not the great; nor scoff at the churl."

Any village, we can live in.
All people are relatives.
Harm and happiness will never come from others.
Likewise, sorrow and relief cannot attain from others.
To die is not new.
So, I do not say ‘the gift of living’ is sweet. On the same time I do not confess it sorrowful.
The life in which we are enjoying is float that is moving, floating on the flood that flow dashing on rocks with sound after the rain-fall.
I infer the truth after the living of energetic men (of struggling).
So, I do not wonder the Man of Great by famous. Again I do not humiliate the Man of Littleness by virtue. 
The above verse sums up effectively the important aspects of the social, cultural, religious, and philosophical traditions in Tamil 

[By:Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]

Part16 Will follow......


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