Are we ( Tamils) "Narrow minded" people?

Topic started by Kabilan (@ on Wed May 8 23:54:56 .
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

Against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Tamil people conducting an armed struggle for secession it is possible to conclude erroneously that the Tamil people are an exclusivist, anti-social people, incapable of breaking out of ethnic barriers and preferring to confine themselves to self-imposed boundaries rather than merge with other people, other cultures rather than build together if necessary new structures of state sans the bondage of race, religion, caste and creed.

Sadly, the image projected of the Tamil people in their current ‘avatar’ of being “Narrow Minded” does not do justice to the underlying principles of Tamil political philosophy that are deeply embedded in the collective Tamil psyche.

Yet, it may come as a surprise to a westerner or to non Tamils a Tamil poet of the Pre-Christinan Sangham era Kaniyan Poongundranar sang “Yaathum Oore, Yaavarum Kelir which the renowned Srilankan Catholic Tamil Scholar Rev Fr. Xavier Thaninayagam ( Mrs. Indira Ghandhi opened his statue on his honour in Madurai , Tamilnadu) translated as “All the world is my world, all humanity is my fraternity”.

Unbelievable as it may be to those judging Tamils within the framework of contemporary politics a Tamil poet was able to evolve a global consciousness and conceptualise such lofty maxims at a time when the greater mass of humanity had not transcended tribal tendencies and parochial perspectives.

Global outlook two millennia before globalization!

Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi provided a sense of pride to the Tamil people all over the world when she quoted these memorable lines of Kaniyan Poonggundranaar when she addressed the United Nations in 1980.

Other gems of classical Tamil literature like the ‘Thirukkural’ for instance illustrate the higher levels of universality and humanism that Tamil thought was capable of achieving in the past.

Why, then are the Tamil people caught up now in the throes of a raging conflict that threatens to undermine all these noble principles propounded by their sages and poets centuries ago?

The answer to that is also revealed by another Tamil poet and holy man who strode the spiritual-literary scene several centuries after Kanianpoongundranaar.

This was Thirunaavukkarasa Naayanaar generally referred to as "Appar" who spearheaded the Saivite Tamil renaissance. Poongundranaar was able to dream about humanism and universalism at a time of prosperity, Appar thundered at times of adversity ‘Naamaarkkum Kudiyallom, Namanai Anjom’ meaning “We are slaves of no one, we shall not fear death”.

Thirunaavukkarasar who along with Gnanasambandar, Suntharamoorthy and Manickavasagar comprised the premier quartet of the 63 ‘Naayanmaar’ or Saivite Tamil saints also sang ‘Thamilodisaipaadal Maranthariyen’
(I will never forget Tamil and its music and songs).

If Kaniyanpongundranar’s immortal lines epitomised the pinnacle of Tamil magnanimity, Appar symbolised the spirit of Tamil defiance at times of peril and the fervent desire of the Tamil to preserve and protect his or her beloved language and culture against forces threatening it.

This then is the essence of Tamil political philosophy as propounded by Poonkundranaar and Appar. In peace universal amity and goodwill towards to all beings. But when danger threatens and war becomes inevitable then courage and defiance.

This philosophy finds resonance in western thought too.

As Shakespeare said in ‘Henry V,’
“In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the Tiger: stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage; then lend the eye a terrible aspect.”
The Bard of Avon was certainly not thinking of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam when he composed these lines.

But yes, they certainly do echo powerfully the thoughts expressed by the Tamil visionary poet and a holy Tamil activist.

Most Tamils of the present day too would subscribe to these views and as an independent people we cannot and will not be ashamed of asserting our linguistic and cultural rights wherever we are on the Globe.


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