Saturday, May 31, 2008

Payyannur Pattu -1

It takes ten minutes for me to read a single line of a Malayalam text and another ten minutes to decipher it. As of now, I have read two lines of payyannUr pATTu. But I am happy that I have come across 'ba' instead of 'va' in the first line itself. According to the editor notes, 'va' and 'ba' interchange freely in the poem.

Incidentally, oldest extant Malayalam works (vaDakkan pATTugaL) come from north Malabar (Kolathunadu or present day Kasaragod and Kannur districts) region or particularly from Kannur region. They are dated from 13th century to 16th century. These folk songs or so-called ballads are about personalities from merchant, cultivator and toddy tapper communities. However, the bards who created them need not be from the same communities. Payyannur Pattu, a story involving a merchant woman, was developed, performed and preserved by washermen[1].

In my previous post, I quoted that Vadakkan Pattugal do not show any Sanskrit or Tamil influence. However, I am not sure about Payyannur Pattu(part of Vadakkan Pattugal or northern ballads). I suppose it shows Sanskrit or Prakrit(that reached the region of Kerala) influence.

1. Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia By Sheldon I. Pollock (Google Books, limited preview)

Update: I made a mistake (that I have deleted). I thought Payyannur is in Kasaragod district but it turns out that it's in Kannur district. I visited Payyannur during my primary school days to attend a wedding. At that time all the distance I travelled within Kerala was Kasaragod. Or so I thought. So I had this notion that Payyannur was in Kasaragod.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Origins of Malayalees-?.2

Another proof that spoken form at least in Malabar (north Kerala) wasn't influenced by Tamil.

Vaddakkan Pattu: Collection of ballads of medieval origin. These present the saga of heroes like Aromal Chevakar, Tacholi Otenan, Tachola Chandu, Palattu Koman and heroins like Unniarcha, Mattu, etc. The oldest compositions do not date earlier than 16th but their idiom and vocabulary seem older. The Malayalam used is devoid of Tamil or Sanskrit, thus is probably close to the spoken idiom.

In my opinion, Proto-Kannada that reached the region of Kerala and Tamil Nadu branched into Proto-Malayalam and Proto-Tamil(need not be Proto-Tamil-Malayalam). However, Tamil and Sanskrit exerted superstrate influence on Malayalam because of Tamil political rule and religion respectively.

*Copied from:
A Dictionary of Indian Literature By Sujit Mukherjee (Google Books, limited preview).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tapasam and Payyannur Pattu

I was searching for supposedly the earliest extant Malayalam work 'Payyannur Pattu'. I found editor Dr. Scaria Zacharia's email address on web and mailed him. He is part of an organization called "Tapasam". Dr. Zacharia has been very helpful in sending the books.

About Tapasam(from their site);

The Association for Comparative Studies (ACS) is an academic forum, meant to promote culture and knowledge. In Kerala the Association is popularly known as TAPASAM.

It is a society registered (Reg. No.K.472/95) under the Travancore Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Regn. Act XII of 1955. The ACS seeks to promote excellence in the academic life in Kerala, especially among post-graduate students, research scholars and teachers by encouraging comparative and interdisciplinary studies in different fields and by facilitating effective communication among scholars of different disciplines. It seeks to emphasize and promote Kerala studies. The Association intends to provide facilities for research work; encourage research publication; and organize seminars, lectures and orientation courses. The annual conference of the Association gives an opportunity for young scholars to present papers on different themes and interact with senior experts.

We are interested in collaborating with similar academic organisations. We are already working in academic collaboration with Hermann-Gundert-Gesselschaft, Germany.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Antidote to Pakistan's ills

I think Pakistan should change its name to Meluhha. Probably, people east of Indus calling it "Melusha" and west of Indus "Meluhha". By population genetics the biggest block of Pakistani population is native South Asian. According to my loose calculations, around 35% of Pakistanis have native South Asian lineages( the lineages that do not have any identity outside South Asia). The rest 65% must be divided between West Asia, Central Asia, Europe and East Asia and I don't think any of them match up South Asian numbers on their own.

I hope this name change would trigger an entire new outlook about their identity. This new realization may liberate them from their present identity.

But the greatest change I would expect among irrationally irritating Homo Heidelbergensis from Lemuria.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Buddhism and Untouchability

Generally, Buddhism has been viewed favourably by erstwhile untouchable groups in India. I have argued that in India Buddhism was never an exclusive identity. Hence it is tough to identify its true nature. The castes that followed Buddhism generally took their purity-pollution concepts to this religion too. My previous post illustrates that phenomenon. My opinion is that there were no true Buddhists(as a religious identity) but for few Buddhist monks. Few families might have followed Buddhist way of life but were known by their caste identity.

In addition to that there were incidences of untouchability in Nepal and Japan that appear to have a common factor in Buddhism.

But I have come across many studies that point out that many professions were considered low and hence the people in many societies. In other societies it was just a social phenomenon but in India it was religiously sanctioned feature.

With this background, I feel, there exists ambiguity about Buddhist attitude towards untouchability. The problem is compounded as the development of Untouchability that included slave farmers may be post Buddha. When it comes to untouchables who were slave farmers*, I think that it has something to do with Vaisyas(free common men like farmers, herders, smiths) becoming Sudras thus further pushing Sudras(slaves/serfs) into Asprishyas(who probably during Vedic period included undertakers, forest tribes etc... only).

Recently I came across this message at Indo-Eurasian_research Yahoo group. It's about Untouchability in historical China.

"Untouchables" long existed in China in the form of various groups of jianmin
"lowly people". They were clearly separated from regular, "good households"
(liangmin) in official population registers. Their exact components varied from
place to place. But most were in such universal "untouchable" professions as
entertainers, undertakers, prostitutes, professional beggars, garbage
collectors, etc. Some groups had fancy stories about their origin not unlike
that of Roma people/Gypsies (re. the nails to be used to crucify Jesus). Those
lowly people were forbidden to marry with "good households". Nor were they
allowed to go to school and to participate in civil service examinations.

From 1723 on, Emperor Yongzheng (reign 1723-1734) issued repeated edicts
abolishing such "lowly households" in government population registers. Two
particular remarks can be made here:

1. It took a "Barbarian" Manchu emperor to legally abolish "untouchability" that
had existed in China for centuries.

2. Emperor Yongzheng's decision was inspired by the Buddhist maxim that "all
lives were created equal," a notion that came from the Indian subcontinent among
all places.

Naturally, Qing legal actions could not eliminate many or perhaps most of those
"lowly people" who continued to engage in their traditional professions. For
instance, in Shaoxing (Zhejiang province), even on the eve of the Cultural
Revolution, many undertakers still came from traditional "duomin" families.

A somewhat meek point is that, because China's "lowly people" almost never
engaged in farming (which in Confucian ideology was the second most respectful
profession), untouchability in premodern China represented a very small and
mostly urban social component.

(Emphasis mine)

Buddhism in the hands of nomadic people (who didn't show much interest in purity-pollution) probably showed its true face at least in one aspect.

Note: Farming might have been noble profession in China but not so according to purity rules of Hinduism. Though it wasn't as low as the so-called low professions like scavenging, leather works etc... it wasn't an exulted profession. However, it was never deemed too low as almost all sections of the castes engaged in it.

Buddha's parents

Sage Publications allows free download until 31st May. There is a wealth of information on Indian social/cultural aspects. I have been busy downloading and hopefully I'll read them all. Now to the main topic.

I was reading "The Goddess Pattini and the Lord Buddha: Notes on the Myth of the Birth of the Deity" by Gananath Obeyesekere. This paragraph caught my eye and I thought of posting it.

Scholars have reconstructed the historical Buddha on the basis of the myths recounted in the Pali Canon. There is not the slightest doubt about the historicity of the Buddha and some of the suttas do indeed give us useful historical and sociological information of the society and the period in which he lived. But there are real dangers in extrapolating or rationalizing history from myth, which as we have shown, provide symbolic solutions to problems of a very different order. Practically every historian of Buddhism has rationalized the myth of the death of Buddha’s mother seven days after his birth to mean that the Buddha’s mother died seven days after his birth and he was brouqht up by Maha Prajapati Gotami, the Buddha’s mother’s sister and co-wife of his father.We have shown that the necessity for eliminating the mother springs from a different set of motives. It is conceivable that the myth is a symbolic elaboration of a real event, but there is no independent evidence to justify this. Furthermore,take the names of the Buddha’s father and mother, Suddhodana and Maya, which practically all scholars believe were the real names of his parents. From the point of view adopted in this paper this is highly unlikely, and these names have to be viewed in relation to the mythmaking process. Maya means "illusion";, and in the Upanishadic view current in the time of the Buddha, the whole phenomenal world was an illusory manifestation of a true underlying reality or essence. Thus it is highly appropriate that she whose body bears the Buddha, a spiritual being, should be viewed as; "illusion";. Her husband’s name, Suddhodhana, means "pure-rice". But rice is also seed and symbolically means "semen". In many Indian languages the word for "seed" can also denote "rice", "egg"; or semen. It is likely that the attempt here is once again to maintain the purity of the Buddha’s mother, i.e., how could someone who bore a "Peerless One" like the Buddha ever have been polluted with sexual intercourse ? The solution is to deny that his sperm was of the normal kind "pure rice ( seed )". The name Suddhodhana is an attempt to bring a historical personage into the mythic scheme of events centering on the Buddha. Maya, however, consistently maintains a mythic nature in the texts, for the Mahapadana Sutta of the Digha Nik√§ya says that the Buddha was visible in the womb of his mother "as a thread through a precious stone."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Terror Risk in India

I think terror risk in India is plainly exaggerated. I have arrived at this conclusion after observing cricketers from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand who are currently playing in IPL T20 tournament.

Compare the terror risk in Pakistan and in India. A popular view is that terrorists in Pakistan are controlled by the powers in that country. Coincidentally, terrorists in India are also controlled by the same people. This is a view probably shared by all countries except Pakistan. Fittingly, every now and then terrorists and government call a truce in that country that probably goes well with the popular belief.

However, if there is any terror strike in Pakistan those cricketers either won't tour or will pack their bags and go back home. Mind you this is in a country that controls its terror and probably may not like to embarrass itself.

Let us see India's case. Most of the times India does not have much clue about the terror attacks. Its record in solving the past terror cases is even worse and whatever it has done is very superficial. Unlike Pakistan it can't even call a truce with the terrorists.

For me, under these circumstances it is safer to tour Pakistan than to India. However, cricketers from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have more faith in India than Pakistan.

This contradiction drives me to think that majority view need not be the right view. Probably India controls the terrorists than the other way round. Though terrorists may think India is their play ground unbeknown to them they are mere pawns of the powers in India.

Approach to Comparative Anthropology - I

This blog's approach to comparative anthropology takes the following steps.


1. Distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroups and mtDNA haplogroups in diverse groups
2. The isolation of these groups in the historical past
3. The common cultural motifs among these diverse groups
4. Application of "convergent evolution" or "common beginning" on (3) based on (1)