Origins of Tamils?[Where are Tamil people from?] PART :34

[Compiled by: Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]

"The role of women in ancient Sumer"

In ancient Sumer, women's rights varied and were dependent on their social status. While royal women had considerable power in the political and economic system, common women did not participate in literary or political life. Women of high status, such as priestesses and members of royal families, could learn to read and write. These high-born women were given some administrative authority. Women of lower social status, however, were occupied with child rearing and running the household.

Women in Mesopotamia were not treated as the equals of men. Women's position varied between city-states and changed over time. In the early periods of ancient Sumer, women were respected more and had more rights.For example,Thorkild Jacobsen, and others have suggested that early Mesopotamian society was ruled by a "council of elders" in which men and women were equally represented, but that over time, as the status of women fell, that of men increased. Many powerful goddesses were worshipped and they were the primary deities (gods) in some city-states.For example,the goddess of war and love, Inanna/Ishtar, who was the patroness goddess of the ruling city-state of Sumer, Uruk. The widely accepted scholarly view is that most if not all kings (ensis or ens) were male. However, the title “en”[EN (king/ruler)] was some times also elusively assigned to women, as in the case of Enheduanna, the priestess, scribe & poetess princess .Enheduanna served as the High Priestess
during the third millennium BC and daughter of King Sargon  Enheduanna has left behind a corpus of literary works, that include several personal devotions to the goddess Inanna.Also women singers pervaded both the  temple and the palace. In the temple, singers were musical priestesses charged with leading the chants and/or playing the lyre. They also seem to be likely associated, at least in part, with sacred sexual rituals. (Holy sexual rituals were common in Sumer).

If you study the old Tamil society as portrayed in the famous Sangam literature, you will immediately conclude that the Tamil society, like sumerian society, was a strongly male-oriented culture, revealing the unquestionable super-ordinate position of the male.

"Do not cry, my friend!
Did he not tell us
that jobs are life to men,
and men are life to women
with bright foreheads?
He will avoid leaving you!"[Kurunthokai 135]

Here,Kurunthokai 135 clearly conveyed us that, “Man’s life rests on duty of earning while woman’s life rests on him (her husband)”.Another celebrated Tamil work Tirukkural also insists that learning
 (education) is for the male group only (Kural 67, 69 and 70). On the other hand, it narrates the duties of a housewife as follows: A woman should be chaste in character, true in devotion to her husband, regular in house-hold work, take care of her husband (who owns her) and give birth to good children (Kural 51).

When we see the role played by a man as depicted in the classical sangam
literature, he was a scholar in the educated assembly, he was a warrior in the battlefield, and he was a trader when he was involved in earning money. And he used to leave his home in connection with higher studies, military expedition and embassy.A woman's work was naturally confined to her home and family,We also find from sangam literature that  arivu[அறிவு] 'knowledge', niRai[நிறை] 'strength of mind or determination', oorppu[ஓர்ப்பு]' firmness decision' and kaTaippiTi [கடைப் பிடி] 'confidence' are ascribed to males.[ie அறிவு, நிறை, ஓர்ப்பு, கடைப்பிடி ஆகியன ஆண்பாலர்க்கு உரிய குணங்களாக வழங்கப்படும்.].naaNam[நாணம்] 'shyness' maTam[மடம்] 'ignorance,' accam[அச்சம்]
 'timidity' and payirppu' [பயிர்ப்பு]. 'delicacy'  are the qualities ascribed to females.[ie அச்சம், மடம், நாணம், பயிர்ப்பு ஆகிய நான்கும் ஒரு பெண்ணிற்கு இருக்க வேண்டிய அடிப்படை குணங்கள் என  சொல்வர்] .In other words, man is entitled to get wisdom and strength whereas woman lacks wisdom (hence foolish) and strength (hence weak), thus indicating the superior and inferior status of men and women respectively

There are several terms used in sangam literature to denote woman. Of these, the terms Pethai[பேதை]. madanththai[மடந்தை] and madavaar[மடவார்] also have the meaning 'foolish person'.On the other hand, the term denoting man is Aan[ஆண்], which is related to the term Aanmai[ஆண்மை], which means valor, boldness, etc.The terms manai, manaivi, illaaL,[மனை, மனைவி, இல்லாள்]etc, associate a wife with the house. On the other hand, the term kanavan[கணவன்]'husband' literally means, 'he who is like an eye to his wife'[ie கண் + அவன்.]The proverbs pen puththi pin puththi[பெண் புத்தி பின்  புத்தி], ie 'women realize quite late' and 'thaiyal sol kelel'[தையல் சொல் கேளேல்/ஆத்திசூடி63]. 'Don't listen to a woman's advice' illustrate this point.A man who listens to his wife will be referred
 to badly as Poddaiyan or Pendaaddi Thaasan[பொட்டையன் or பெண்டாட்டி தாசன்] ie,'hen-pecked husband'. Now Consider the following examples 1]அறிஞன்,'scholar 2]சான்றோன்,'scholar/reputable men of good conduct, etc.',3]வைத்தியன் 'doctor',4]ஆசான் teacher',' 5] அமைச்சன் minister',There are no female counterparts for these above terms in sangam or even present tamil.

The development of agriculture required men, not women, to work in the fields, as they had more physical strength. Women ran small-scale farms, producing foods such as yoghurt and cheese from the milk of domestic animals. Sculptures in Ancient Sumer show that while men tended the flocks and milked them, the women often did the churning. Women were responsible for grinding grain, and women also weaved cloth.

Unlike women in later periods, who stayed at home, women of this period could go out to the marketplace to buy wools. These women were allowed to deal with the donkey drivers who transported their textile products. Women could own property and sometimes attended to legal matters when their husbands were away.

பகுதி/PART :35 தொடரும்/WILL FOLLOW


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