Chennai

‘Indian civilization a rain forest, not a melting pot’

“I consciously chose the metaphor of the rain forest in the book to narrate the journey of civilization. Normally, we use the metaphor of 'melting pot' and..., 'Salad Bowl'. Civilizations are not made in crucibles. Salad Bowl is a post-harvest product...it places things equally but picks things carefully. Equity within the salad bowl is not harmonic, yet it is a powerful articulation, better than melting pot. But, a rain forest is real and rooted in the soil. Each layer from the ground...represents a distinct mini-ecosystem that coexists in harmony. Indian civilization is not a melting pot. It is a rain forest that represents pluralism of our Indian subcontinent,” said R. Balakrishnan, senior bureaucrat and author of Journey Of A Civilization: Indus to Vaigai, at the book launch in Chennai on Monday.

Mr. Balakrishnan said that the book addresses the twin problems in indology. “The point at which Indus Valley Civilization faded from the central stage and the point at which the Sangam corpus took off are one and the same. The twin riddles of Indology — Indus riddle and Tamil puzzle — are not only interconnected but indeed two sides of the same coin,” he said.

Speaking about his own experiences while writing the book, he said, “This book is not a result of structured research, chasing a deadline or an objective or a doctoral thesis. To be honest, it just happened. Through this journey, I found many notions that I previously held to be articles of faith crumbling before my own eyes under the weight of fresh evidence. But, luckily, new leads did not deter me but ignited my passion. This book is my own understanding of this subject. There is nothing called eternal truth when it comes to understanding history. History is a narrative - not only essential but inescapable as well.”

He said that Sangam literature should be translated in all languages with proper supervision.

“If IVC archaeologically represents first urban climax and maritime enterprise, the Sangam Tamil texts represent the corpus of Indian subcontinent that celebrates urban life, cosmopolitanism 'Yaadhum Oorey, Yaavarum Keleer' and glorifies maritime trade etc,” he said

Stating that Sangam Tamil has a sub continental character, Mr. Balakrishnan said, "Geography and the time line of Sangam Tamil polity and Sangam texts are not strictly co-terminus. Sangam texts delved into geography much deeper into North West and...the timeline is much earlier to the period of compilations of Sangam texts. In that sense, Sangam Tamil has a sub continental character."

R. Mahadevan, judge, Madras High Court, said, “This book discusses several elements in the Indus Valley Civilization using technological tools. In many parts of the book, he emphasises that they carry with them identity, language and culture.”

Tony Joseph, author of Early Indians: The story of our ancestors and where we come from, former CEC N. Gopalswami, and others also participated.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 9:20:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/indian-civilization-a-rain-forest-not-a-melting-pot/article30324596.ece

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