“It is a literary and cultural monument of great importance”
Tolkappiyam is not dependent on Sanskrit sources and a work that demanded not only vast knowledge but also a lot of thinking from its author, according to Alexander Dubyanskiy, veteran Tamil scholar from Moscow State University.
“Many scholars (have) pointed out that Tolkappiyam is dependent on Sanskrit sources. It is said that its author, Tolkappiyanar followed the Aindra School of linguistics. Subrahmanya Sastri, a scholar who studied Tolkappiyam, even stated that some parts of the work were translations of some portions of Panini's Ashtadhyayi, Yaska's Nirukta, Rigveda Pratishakya, etc., which according to me is not right,” he said in his paper presented at the World Classical Tamil Conference on Sunday.
“I think it is not correct because at those times the process of interaction of texts was connected not with translating but with rendering and, speaking generally, there was nothing unusual in borrowing or using ideas from other sources.”
The author of Tolkappiyam was a well educated person who used the works available to build a construction of his own and place the same in the mainstream Indian theoretical linguistic thought.
He said that it was known that Tolkappiyanar did not try to conceal his indebtedness to his predecessors and often used – around 150 times – expressions which clearly signified them.
“I am sure that Tolkappiyam is a work which demanded not only vast knowledge and a lot of thinking but a considerable creative skill from its composer.”
Dr. Dubyanskiy also said, “Interestingly enough, there are cases when Tolkappiyanar himself shows his independence on the Sanskrit tradition.” He quoted a verse to underscore his point.
“Besides, one should not forget that Tolkappiyanar described not an Indo-Aryan [language], but Tamil, a language of a different family with its own phonetics and grammatical structure and he could not copy the sources blindly.”
In his tribute to Tolkappiyanar, the professor said that though nothing much was known about him, he seemed to be a person of great intellect, deep thought and an open mind.
On Tamil and its classical status, he said any classical language presented itself in a fixed verbal form that was in the form of a certain kind of treatise, a text describing and analysing the structure and specific features of the language or literature, prescribing rules and regulations for them.
Like Greek, Latin and Sanskrit, Tamil too had such texts, he said and added “during more than 2,000 years of its development, Tamil tradition produced a great quantity of such texts. Many of them are very famous like ‘Nannool,' ‘Yaaparunkalam,' ‘Agapporul,' among others.”
“Together with commentaries they made a vast section of literature of a special kind, very important and interesting. And, in the beginning of the theoretical tradition stood Tolkappiyam, a treatise connected with Tamil classical poetry.”
Dr. Dubyanskiy further said that the authority of the text was undeniable. “It is a literary and cultural monument of great importance.”