An analysis of history of Tamil religion/Part-01

[An analysis By:Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]

Nobody knows with accuracy how the first religions evolved.By the time that writing had developed,many religions had been in place for many millennia and the details of their origins had been forgotten.However,there is speculation that the first religions were a response to human fear.They were created to give people a feeling of security in an insecure world,and a feeling of control over the environment where there was little control.During their evolution from proto-human to full human,they developed questions about themselves and their environment:What controlled the seasonal cycles of nature -- the daily motion of the sun; the motion of the stars, the passing of the seasons, etc.What controlled their environment -- what or who caused floods,rains,dry spells,storms, etc?What controls fertility -- of the tribe,its
domesticated animals,and its crops.What system of morality is needed to best promote the stability of the tribe?And above all,what happens to a person after they die?Living in a pre-scientific society,people had no way to resolve these questions.Even today,with all of our scientific advances,we still debate about the second last question,and still have no way of reaching an consensus on the last. But the need for answers (particularly to the last question) were so important that some response was required,even if they were merely based on hunches.Some people within the tribe started to invent answers based on their personal guesses.Thus developed:The first religious belief system,The first priesthood,The first set of rituals to appease the Goddess,Other rituals to control fertility and other aspects of the environment,A set of behavioural expectations for members of the tribe,and a set of moral truths to govern human behaviour.

When humans first became religious remains unknown,but there is credible evidence of religious behaviour from the Middle Paleolithic era (300–500 thousand years ago) and possibly earlier.Though some scholars believe that,the closest Human Relatives,chimpanzees and bonobos may have the precursors for culture and spirituality,for example, some chimpanzees may “dance” at the onset of heavy rain or when they come across a waterfall,and this “elemental” displays may be precursors of religious ritual.While grief is common to many animals,funeral rituals are not.However,one cannot ignore the elaborate burying behaviour of elephants as a similar sign of ritualistic or even religious behaviour in that species.When encountering dead animals,elephants will often bury them with mud,earth and leaves and in addition,Elephants have [been] observed burying their dead with large quantities of food fruit,flowers and colourful foliage.There is no evidence that any non-human animals believe in gods,pray,worship,or many other behaviours typical of human religion.However,These may be the reason why some ancient tribes or races includes these animals,chimpanzees or monkeys and elephants in their epics or religious or god stories and later promoted them as one of their gods,for
example,Hanuman & Ganapathi or Pillaiyar.The earliest evidence of religious thought of human is based on the ritual treatment of the dead.Ritual burial thus represents a significant change in human behaviour.Ritual burials represent an awareness of life and death and a possible belief in the afterlife.The use of symbolism in religion is a universal established is common for religious practices to involve the creation of images and symbols to represent supernatural beings and ideas.Some of the earliest evidence of symbolic behaviour is associated with Middle Stone Age sites in Africa.From at least 100,000 years ago,there is evidence of the use of pigments such as red ochre.Among extant hunter gatherer populations around the world, red ochre is still used extensively for ritual purposes.It has been argued that it is universal among human cultures for the colour red to represent blood,sex,life and death.However,there is no other evidence that religion existed in human culture before humans reached behavioural modernity.

It is also interesting to note that,though the awareness of religion and the spirit world probably began at the time of the Palaeolithic Revolution,It would have developed further alongside other cultural universals that were also evolving at this time such as art,music and language which is key to the origin and development of all the cultural universals. The first farmers belief to began to cultivate crops over 10,000 years ago.Driven by necessity or just convenience,the nomadic hunter-gathers of the time began to settle in the one location and learn the art of farming.It is considered that Farming may have given us the building blocks of organised religion with the traces its roots in the Near East but may have occurred independently in several other locations around the world. 

Part;2 Will follow.....


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