Language of the People in the World of Gods: Ideologies of Tamil before the Nation

2021-06-06 09:29:53
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Key Components of Nationhood

A nation comprises four elements namely, a permanent population, a defined territory, a political authority or government, and sovereignty.

A Permanent Population

A nation is an organization of people living together as a community. The population of a country comprises all human beings who, in principle, live in a territory in a permanent way. Notably, it may consist of nationals and foreigners. As Hobsbawm (3) points out, the need of a population is not necessarily an equivalent of the requirement of nationality. Similarly, the population need not be entirely homogeneous in culture, race, or language. Notably, it is even rare to find a State with a homogeneous people

A defined Territory

The functions of a state must be exercised in a defined territory. A territory is a geographical area that is possessed and controlled by a government or a state to exercise such countrys sovereignty. Accordingly, one can conclude that a territory refers to and comprises land that belongs to a state and people, internal waters and territorial seas that the state claims for sovereignty, and the airspace above that territory. Note that, it is a requirement that the State must comprise particular coherent region governed. However, it need not be fixed by definite frontiers. Similarly, no minimum size is required for the land.

Government

The government refers to the executive branch of the state that administers it uniformly in political, economic, cultural, social, environmental protection, foreign affairs, national defense and security, and the use of natural resources.

Sovereignty

This refers to the quality of having supreme and independent authority over a territory. One can find it in power to rule and make laws that rests on a political fact and beyond which no other legal power exists. It has two aspects, namely, inherent sovereignty, which means that the State is supreme over all its citizens and external sovereignty, which means that the state is independent and free from foreign control.

The Tamils

The Tamil people are an ethnic group with a population of over 76 million inhabitants in the world. They speak Tamil as their native language and trace their ancestry to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Tamils comprise one of the oldest existing ethnolinguistic cultural groups of individuals in the modern world. Similarly, among the languages spoken today, the Tamil language is one of the oldest written languages in the world. Notably, Tamils are ethnical, linguistically and culturally related to the Dravidian people of South Asia. Historical evidence traces their presence in both India and Sri Lanka. Possible proof of the earliest presence of Tamil people in Tamil Nadu are the megalithic burials that date back to 1500 BC, which conform to the descriptions of funerals of classical Tamil history. In the 10th and 11th Century, the Tamil country extended southwards past the natural boundaries of the Indian peninsula (Ranganathan, 3).

During the Classical period, the Tamils had three monarchical states, which were headed by kings named Vendhar and many tribal chieftainships, which were led by chiefs called Vel. However, the kings and chiefs were in constant conflict mostly over regional hegemony and assets. Around the 4th century AD, the invasions of Kalabhra led to the end of the classical period. They referred to this time as the Dark Ages of the Tamil country, but it ended with the rise of the Pallava dynasty.

Concerning political factors, the Tamil Sangam literature mentions three families, namely, Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras. The king of Kalinga called Kharavela ruled around 150 BCE as referred to in the famous Hathigumpha literature of the Confederacy Tamil kingdoms. Notably, the three dynasties were followers of Hinduism. After the fall of the Mauryan Empire, the Tamil populations were allied with the Satavahan Dynasty. Mainly, the governance of the Tamil land was through hereditary monarchies. However, the sphere of the states activities and the extent of the rulers powers were constrained through the adherence to the established order called dharma. In the 2nd century AD, the Pallava transformed the institution of kingship into an imperial one and strived to bring a large section of the territory under their direct governance. Nevertheless, the imperial Kannada Rashtrakutas overthrew the Pallava dynasty in the 9th century. Under the leadership of King Krishna III, the Empire was consolidated from the Narmada to the Kaveri Rivers and covered the northern Tamil country. In the 13th century, the western Tamil regions became politically separate from the rest of the Tamil areas after the Chola and Pandya empires lost control over them.

During colonialism, the British colonists consolidated the Tamil territory and integrated it into British Tamil. The Tamil speaking regions of Sri Lanka also joined with other districts in 1802, which led to the formation of the Ceylon colony (Kearney, 7). These parts remained in the political union after their independence in 1947 in India and 1948 in Sri Lanka. Tamil Eelam is the proposed independent Tamil State in Sri Lanka.

The Tamils have distinct cultural factors with they which identify. Mainly, they have a strong bond to the Tamil language referred to as Tamilannai. It has been and continues to be central to the Tamil identity. The Tamils are religious with old grammatical works, the ten anthologies referred to as the Pathuppattu, and the eight anthologies were shedding light on the early religious practices. The Tamil God called the Sivan was seen as the supreme God (Ramaswamy 12). Additionally, the cult of the mother goddess among the Tamils is treated as an indication of a society that supported femininity. Nevertheless, about 80% of the Tamils practice Hinduism while 6% are Christians and 5.8% are Muslims (Ramaswamy, 16).

It is in the Tamil culture to hold festivals in various periods of the year. The most significant festivals are Pongal, which is a harvest festival that takes place in mid-January, and Varudapirappu, the New Year that occurs on 14th April. All the Tamils celebrate these New Year despite their differing religions. In rural Tamil Nadu, ancient traditions still exist, for example, the worship of local deities referred to as Aiyyanars, which is a form of worship around stones erected in memory of Tamil heroes who died in battle. Similarly, some Tamils also worship Munis, a group of guardian gods.

The Tamil culture also incorporates martial traditions that include arts like Kuttu, Silambam, and Kalarippayattu. The warm-up stages include yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Traditional weapons listed in the Tamil martial arts are Valai, a throwing stick, Savuku, a whip, Maduvu, deer horns, and Veecharuval, a battle machete. The Tamils culture also incorporates visual arts and architecture. The Tamil sculptures, particularly the medieval Chola bronzes comprise of the Indias greatest contributors to world art. Film, music and theater arts form part of the professional culture among the Tamils. This culture dates back to the classical age. Similarly, traditional sports are common in Tamil Nadu, for example, Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport believed to be over 2000 years old. The Tamils hold this game once a year during the Pongal festival. Silambam is a martial art recognized by the Tamil Nadu government as a traditional sport. In the modern culture, Tamils play cricket, hockey, and chess (Bandyopadhyay, 13). The Tamil cuisine forms a significant part of their culture. Mainly, it comprises vegetarian food due to religious affiliations. The Tamils eat very spicy food.

Tamil as a Nation

Evidence from the previous literature proves that one can consider Tamil as a nation. Hobsbawm (6) uses an example of the Tamil in his literature. Notably, he states that the Tamil-speaking people constitute a distinct nation characterized by a separate historical past, being a linguistic entity, having a unique classical heritage, a modern development of language, and a territorial habitation in Tamil Nadu and southern region of Sri Lanka.

Therefore, the first prove that Tamil is a nation is a regional occupancy in two geographically separate areas in India and Sri Lanka. As previously seen, a defined territory is an element of nationhood. As previously stated, the British colonists consolidated the Tamil area and integrated it into British Tamil. The Tamil speaking regions of Sri Lanka also joined with other districts in 1802, which led to the formation of the Ceylon colony. These areas remained in the political union after their independence in 1947 in India and 1948 in Sri Lanka. Tamil Eelam is the proposed independent Tamil State in Sri Lanka.

The second proof of Tamils being a nation is the presence of a permanent population in the above-defined territory. As Hobsbawm (7) asserts, the linguistic entity supports the notion that the indigenous Tamils, whether immigrant Indians and Moors, are a homogeneous population. The population has a distinct language called the Tamilannai, which is central to their identity. Similarly, Tamils share a culture characterized by unique sports and martial arts, cuisine, festivals, and religious practices most of which are common among all the Tamils despite their religious affiliation.

The third element of nationhood that supports the argument that the Tamils are a nation is the presence of a Government. All through history up to the present, Tamils have been under the rule of a powerful government, a king, a dynasty, or an emperor. For example, the imperial Kannada Rashtrakutas overthrew the Pallava dynasty in the 9th century. Under the leadership of King Krishna III, the Empire was consolidated from the Narmada to the Kaveri Rivers and included the northern Tamil country. In the 13th century, the western Tamil regions became politically different from the rest of the Tamil areas after the Chola and Pandya dynasties lost control over them.

Finally, Tamil is sovereign as an independent state that has control over its population and no external powers have control over it. Furthermore, Tamil Eelam is the proposed independent Tamil State in Sri Lanka (Ranganathan, 5) while Tamil Nadu is the independent Tamil State in India. Particularly, the Tamil Nadu government is the supreme power over the Tamil Nadu territory beyond which no other legal power exist. To conclude, the Tamils are a nation because they depict the four elements of nationhood.

Work Cited

Bandyopadhyay, Anirban. "Religion, caste and nation in South India: Maraimalai Adigal, the neo-saivite movement and Tamil nationalism 1876-1950, V. Ravi Vaithees." (2016): 428-432.

Hobsbawm, Eric J. Nations and nationalism since 1780: Programme, myth, reality. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Kearney, Robert N. "Language and the rise of Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka." Asian Survey 18.5 (1978): 521-534.

Ramaswamy, Sumathi. "Language of the People in the World of Gods: Ideologies of Tamil before the Nation." The Journal of Asian Studies 57.01 (1998): 66-92.

Ranganathan, Maya. "Nurturing a nation on the net: The case of Tamil Eelam." Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 8.2 (2002): 51-66.

 

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