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Penser l’histoire des savoirs linguistiques

 | 
Sylvie Archaimbault
, 
Jean-Marie Fournier
, 
Valérie Raby

Deuxième partie. Grammatisations, outillages et descriptions des langues

Snapshots of the Tamil scholarly tradition

Jean-Luc Chevillard

Texte intégral

I wish to express here my thanks to Dominic Goodall and to Eva Wilden, both members of the EFEO, for reading a preliminary version of this article and for making very useful suggestions.




(TP422p)

Introduction

  • 1 Dr. S. Jayabarathi (alias “Dr.JayBee”), from Malaysia, informed me (on 4th september 2010, through (...)

1Because it has long been impossible to preserve old records in the warm and humid climate of South India, except by engraving them as inscriptions on stone (or on copper plates...) and because such a reliable method never seems to have been used for Tamil scholarly texts, we are never in a position to directly examine ancient written artefacts which could inform us precisely and with certitude on the early stages of the native Tamil literary (profane and devotional) and scholarly (or shastric/śāstric) tradition. What we do have access to is a collection of books printed from the 19th century onwards and a number of palm-leaf MSS on which the texts printed in those books had earlier been transmitted but which do not seem capable of surviving more than two or three centuries (in the best of cases) and are, most of the time, not directly datable. As a consequence, it is probably a hard fact that no Tamil MS predating the 17th century (or possibly the 16th century) can be found1. Since, however, many histories of the Tamil grammatical tradition start in the first millenium AD–not to mention the fantastic, legendary “histories” which start much earlier–it seems legitimate to ask what the status of such reconstructions is and to examine the evidence used for giving those dates.

  • 2 Ca. Vē. Cuppiramaṇiyam, by putting together, in chronological order, in a single 800 A4-size pages (...)

2The first element of an answer, in general terms, is that no absolute chronology would be possible for South India, if epigraphists had not accumulated and analysed for the past two centuries an enormous quantity of data, which has made it possible for general historians to produce a framework, within which the historians of literature (including grammatical literature) can tentatively situate the development of their respective corpora. This is the reason for my including in the next section a chart which indicates, in column C (based on Subbarayalu [2012]), how well-known each broad period potentially could be. The column DD (based on Ca. Vē. Cuppiramaṇiyam 2009), next to column C, indicates how many “grammatical” treatises (more precisely, ilakkaṇa nūlkaḷ), preserved in totality or in fragment, are currently tentatively dated by some scholars in the respective centuries which are mentioned in that chart2.

  • 3 Samuel Pillai presents Civañāṉa Muṉivar as a direct disciple of the former, although it seems impos (...)

3Another point to be considered is that whatever is available to us nowadays in the form of books has been obtained in part as a result of the “critique” exercised on the content of 19th (and early 20th) century books, which were themselves the result of scrutinizing MSS. That critique is sometimes partly accessible to us in the shape of editorial prefaces. It may seem, in a way, paradoxical that we should be able to assert today with a degree of confidence that the three treatises called Ilakkaṇa Viḷakkam (= IV), Pirayōka Vivēkam (= PV) and Ilakkaṇak Kottu (= IK) were all composed in the 17th century whereas we read on p. 201-202 of the reprint of Murdoch’s Catalogue of Tamil Printed Books (see Section 4), originally published in 1865 that IK and PV belong to the 18th century. Murdoch himself was dependent on sources compiled by westerners such as Wilson and Taylor (see Section 3), or on books written by Tamilians such as Samuel Pillai (see Section 5), Simon Casie Chitty [1859] (see Section 6), and many others, from which he compiled information, and had to decide which one he trusted the most. The information given in each of those sources, in its turn, could reflect the conclusion of past debates, where choice had been made between several possible stands and the authority of one scholar had been declared higher than the authority of another. It seems clear, for instance, that for Samuel Pillai (see Section 5), who published in 1858 a book called Tolkāppiya-Naṉṉūl, the authority of Cāmināta Tēcikar, author of IK, and the authority of the 18thcentury Civañaṉa muṉivar3 were superior to the authority of Vaittiyanāta Tēcikar, author of IV, whom he mentions simply as “Vyithya Nadar” (sic), without a title.

4Going back further in time, we read in the “Nūlāciriyar Varalāṟu” (author’s biography), found on p. v-x of the 1971 edition by Ti.Vē. Kōpālaiyar of the Eḻuttatikāram section of the Ilakkaṇa Viḷakkam, that when Vaittiyanāta Tēcikar, in the 17th century, became a teacher to the children of a wealthy man, the problem he had to face was to resolve the contradictions (muraṇpāṭukaḷ) between the Tolkāppiyam and the Naṉṉūl, and this is why he decided to compose the IV, for which he was acclaimed, although this would later incense Cāmināta Tēcikar. Such conflicts (between schools) may have been traumatic (to some extent) for the students of grammar, who study treatises in order to learn the truths which those treatises are supposed to teach. Those students may have been puzzled by polemic works such as the Ilakkaṇa Viḷakka Cūṟāvaḷi, “cyclonic tempest against the IV”, composed in the 18th century by Civañāṉa Muṉivar, but for historians those disputes are of course highly interesting.

5For all those reasons, after providing elements of chronology for the Tamil “grammatical” literature (in the extended sense that “grammar” must have when it is used for translating ilakkaṇam), this article will contain a succession of snapshots, in which textual elements, extracted from some (datable or non-datable) sources, are cited and partly commented (by me), on the basis of more recent insights, which may of course not be themselves error-free. It is indeed clear, from a perusal of the relatively up-to-date 1995 Lexicon of Tamil literature compiled by K. Zvelebil, that much remains to be done, in order to improve our knowledge of the history of Tamil scholarly literature.

Elements of chronology

6As announced, I shall first of all briefly present the basic elements of the external (or absolute) chronological framework which results from the fact that epigraphists (and general historians) have been active in South India since the end of the 18th century and that they have so far collected 28 000 Tamil inscriptions (of a total of 44 000 inscriptions for the whole of South India). Among these inscriptions, 19 000 are estimated to belong to the 901– 1300 CE period (see footnote on column C of Chart 1). This fact makes it the period possessing the biggest number of primary sources, when compared with the other periods of Tamil history. See column C in the following chart (Chart 1), where a number of other elements, which will be discussed in the course of this presentation have also been mentioned:

  • 4 Concerning Cēṉāvaraiyar, see also Mu. Irākavaiyaṅkar [1958: p. 115-120].
  • 5 I could also have chosen 1948, publishing date of the fourth volume in the Tolkāppiyam edition by K (...)

7As already suggested, not every indication in this chart has the same degree of dependability, because of the difference in nature between the components of the evidence available to historians. Additionally, some items are difficult to place in the cells of the chart: this is the case with the Cēṉāvaraiyam, which was probably composed (as a commentary on the Tolkāppiyam) around the year 1300, and should therefore have been placed on the borderline between cells D3 and D44. Regarding the “age of pioneer editing” (row 6), the 1942 limit is arbitrary, but has been chosen as a symbolic limit, being the date of death of the most well-known Tamil philologist, U. Vē. Cāminātaiyar, whose name appears in cell D6/E65, along with the names of two other pioneer editors (one “revivalist” and one philologist). All the three have been active both for editing technical and non-technical literature, the most active for grammatical literature being probably Ci. Vai. Tāmōtaram Piḷḷai, who has edited several parts of the Tolkāppiyam (with commentaries), the Vīracōḻiyam (VC, cell D3), the Ilakkaṇa Viḷakkam (IV, cell D5), and other works.

8The names in column A are conventional designations in the broad periodization. The current usage for them fits only approximately with the time range indicated in the second column. The figures in column C (number of inscriptions available for the given period) indicate how well-known the period could be, if a sufficient number of historians worked on the inscriptions pertaining to it. The names in columns D and E have been hypothesized by historians of Tamil literature to belong to the periods indicated, but, as already indicated, we do not always have direct evidence that the hypotheses are correct. As for column F, it contains the names of external witnesses, who came from outside Tamil Nadu.

  • 6 See Subbarayalu [2012: 18], Table 1.1. He further adds that only 15 000 of these 28 000 inscription (...)
  • 7 This figure, taken from Subbarayalu [2012], should be taken as an order of magnitude and not as a p (...)
  • 8 Antaõ de Proença’s Tamil-Portuguese Dictionary is dated A. D. 1679.

Chart 1. Global chronological frame
Note
6
Note
7
Note
8

Surveys of Tamil grammatical literature in the MSS age

  • 9 I shall not discuss Caldwell (1814-1891), who represents an altogether different paradigm and belon (...)

9Among those external witnesses, many were missionaries, Catholic in the initial stage, such as those appearing in cell F4 (Chart 1), who are known for composing the first non-native grammar of Tamil and for compiling the first bilingual dictionary. Their cumulative work reached its culminating point in Beschi (cell F5). Protestant missionaries arrived later and the two most important are probably Ziegenbalg (F5) and Pope (F6)9. As they discovered, becoming linguistically competent required mastering not only one language but several, because of the Tamil diglossia and because of the persistence of a strong literary tradition. This is the reason why Beschi wrote several grammars, three in Latin (See Chevillard [1992]) and one in Tamil (See Vētakirimutaliyār [1838]), and composed religious poems in the Centamiḻ variety. Concerning the native grammars, Beschi writes:

1) The first person who wrote a grammatical treatise on this dialect, and who is therefore considered as its founder, is supposed to have been a devotee named Agattiyan, respecting whom many absurd stories are related. From the circumstances of his dwelling in a mountain called Podiamalai, in the South of the Peninsula, the Tamil language has obtained the name of teṉmoḻi, or Southern, just as the Grandonic is termed vaṭamoḻi, or Northern. A few of the rules laid down by Agattiyan have been preserved by different authors, but his works are no longer in existence [...]. One ancient work, written by a person called Tolcàppiyanàr, (ancient author) is still to be met with; but from its conciseness it is so obscure and unintelligible, that a devotee named Pavananti was induced to write on the same subject. His work is denominated Nannùl [...]. Although everyone is familiar with this title, few have trod even on the threshold of the treatise itself (Beschi, 1730, translated from Latin into English by Babington, 1822, p. viii-ix).

10Ziegenbalg (1682-1719), on the other hand, translated the gospel into vernacular Tamil (and was mocked for that by Beschi), but that did not prevent him from also exploring the poetical variety of Tamil, as seen in his attempt at translating a poetical glossary in 12 parts (See Jeyaraj [2006, p. 209]). He collected, with the help of Tamil poets, a Tamil library and this is what the catalogue of his library, which also contained the Naṉṉūl, says about the Tolkāppiyam (cell D1):

2) Tolkábiam: contains the whole Malabari poetry and other branches of learning useful to those who want to master this complicated language. It is their most difficult book, he who has studied it well will be considered a good poet by Malabari scholars. It has been the cause of a good many problems just as the writings of Aristotle have created problems in the field of European philosophy. The author was called Tolkábiam, he was king over a group of people the Malabaris called Schammaner [camaṇar {{i.e. “jains” (jlc)}}] and of whom they think as heathens. [...] (Jeyaraj [2006, p. 234], quoting Gaur [1967, p. 68]).

  • 10 Regarding those of the informants who collected inscriptions, Subbarayalu [2012: 25] remarks: “The (...)

11In the 19th century, we see the seminal characterisations provided by Beschi referred to in a simplified way by people who wanted to provide accounts of Tamil literature or were trying to give preliminary information on materials which they were cataloguing, without necessarily fully mastering the language. For instance, we find on page 247 of the first Catalogue of the Mackenzie Collection, prepared by H. H. Wilson (1786-1860) (who was to become in 1832 Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University) on the basis of documents and notes prepared by the informants10 of the late Colonel Mackenzie (Surveyor-General of India) the following preliminary description:

3) I. Tolghappiyam (palm leaves): A grammar of the Tamil language by Tolghappya who is said to have been an incarnation of Vishnu, and the pupil of Agastya, whose large Grammar, consisting of 80 000 rules, he abridged, reducing the number to 8 000. According to some traditions, this grammar is an amplification of a similar work, ascribed to Vira Pándya Raja of Madura. It is written in an abstruse and difficult style. The following short account of it is from Babington’s translation of Beschi’s grammar of the Shen of High Tamil: One ancient work, written by a person called Tolcappiyanàr, (ancient author) is still to be met with; but from its conciseness it is so obscure and unintelligible, that a devotee named Pavananti was induced to write on the same subject. (Wilson, 1828, p. 247)

  • 11 According to Penny [1922], “William Taylor was born and bred in Madras, and partly educated in Engl (...)

12A few years later, the protestant missionary William Taylor (ca. 1796-1881)11, describing the same manuscript in a much more detailed way, because of his greater knowlege of Tamil, but giving a cross-reference to Wilson’s catalogue, was to write, in the Madras Journal of Literature and Science (1838, p. 233-234) the following:

4) 8. Tolcápiyam – a grammar, No. 54. – countermark 210: Agastya (a Brahman named after the great rishi so-called) first passed the Vindhya mountains; and led on the Brahmans to the southern peninsula. He is sometimes styled the father of the Tamil language, as I imagine from forming the Tamil letters (which partake of the Tibetan and Grant’ha features), and from shaping the language into a somewhat grammatical form. A work on grammar is ascribed to him; said to have contained 12 000 sutras, or concise stanzas. Tolcápiya his disciple, reduced that work (now lost) to 1 600 sutras, in the Tolcápiyam; and Pavanandi, a later grammarian, reduced these to 460, in the Nannul, which is now the most commonly used epitome of grammar.

The Tolcápiyam, complete, should consist of three parts, on letters, words, prosody (or rather versification as an art). Of these the last part is extremely rare; perhaps cannot be found complete. The two former parts only are found in this copy, as is customary. These two parts are complete. The sutras themselves occupy a small space; the larger portion of the work being a commentary by Náchinarkinnaiyàr which, out of three different commentaries, is esteemed the best one. The manuscript is but slightly damaged by insects, and does not need restoration.

It is entered in Des. Cat. vol. 1, p. 247, art. 1, with which entry the above notice may be compared.

  • 12 Taylor has published in 1857, 1860 and 1862 the three volumes of a Catalogue Raisonné, but they are (...)

13As we can see, progress has been made in the space of ten years, in the information available in English to the general public concerning the size of the Tolkāppiyam (Taylor’s figure of 1600 is realist), concerning its division into three parts, and also concerning the importance that commentaries play for anyone who wants to understand such ancient texts, because he mentions Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar, an important commentator. He also provides us with more details concerning the nine other entries of the “Philology” section found in Wilson [1828, p. 247-253], of which item 3) was the first. We must however wait for Murdoch’s 1865 Classified catalogue of Tamil printed books for having more information and for having it in a more usable form12.

Tamil grammatical literature in the age of printing

  • 13 For instance, the first edition of a part of Tolkāppiyam with commentary is the edition, by Maḻavai (...)
  • 14 For additional explanations concerning the several varieties of Tamil, see Chevillard [2011].

14A breakthrough was coming because Tamil scholars had started to print in book form the texts which were the basis of their grammatical literature13 and that, as a consequence of that, a kind of normalization was taking place, which would make it easier for information to circulate, within the native Tamil speaking scholarly community and between that community and the group of foreigners taking an interest in the field of classical/poetical Tamil14. Murdoch [1865] was trying to provide a list of all the Tamil books which had been printed. His attempts would be followed by a number of others, some of which are incorporated in the (very much) augmented 1968 reprint. If we limit ourselves to the names of grammars (and grammarians) that have been mentioned in the section for which the general title is “Class G. Philology” (p. 210-214 in the original edition and p. 199-203 in the reprint), we see that in 1865, were available:

  1. akapporuḷilakkaṇam. “Text. Small 4to. 83 p. By Narkkavirasa Nampi. About 17th cent. Rules for composing amatory poems.” [contra D3]

  2. ilakkaṇak kottu. “8vo. 72 p. By Saminata Tesikar. 18th cent.” [contra D5]

  3. kārikai. “8vo. 90 p. 6 as. By Amirtasakarar. On versification.” [D3]

  4. naṉṉūl. “Text, Small 4to. 33 p. 2 as.”

  5. naṉṉūl. “With brief commentary (kāṇṭikaiyurai), 8vo. 240 p. 8 as.”

    • 15 He adds: “There are several editions of the Nannul. A portion of it was translated with notes by Me (...)

    naṉṉūl. “With complete commentary (viruttiyurai), 8vo. 341 p. Rs. 2. About 10th cent. It treats of the first two parts of grammar. [...]”15

  6. nēmināta mūlapāṭam. “8vo. 16 p. By Kunavira Panditar. About 16th cent. On orthography and Etymology.”

  7. pañcalaṭcaṇac curukka viṉā viṭai. 16mo. 92 p. 2 as. By Irajakopala Mutaliyar. 19th cent. Catechism on the five parts of Grammar.

  8. pērakattiyam. “This work professes to contain fragments of the treatise on grammar by Agastiyar; but it is a forgery.”

  9. pirayoka vivēkam.**. “Text. 18mo. 14 p. By Suppiramaniya Vetiyar. 18th cent.”

  10. taṇṭiyalaṅkāram. “8vo. 122 p. 1 Re. By Tandiyasiriyar. On Rhetoric.”

  11. tolkāppiyam.**. “Part I. Small 4to. 228 p. This work is noted in the introductory remarks. Part II. is very miscellaneous in character. It treats of the seasons of the year, civil, political and military customs, clandestine marriage, lawful marriage and the marriage state, & c.”

  12. tolkāppiya naṉṉūl. “8vo. 222 p. Rs. 1¼. By S. Samuel Pillay, revised by W. Joyes, Esq. A comparative reference edition of the Tolkappiyam and the Nannul, with examples and notes. A list of works on Tamil grammar is appended, p. 121—124.

  13. toṉṉūl.**. “Folio. 120 p. By Beschi. The title means, ancient scientific treatise. It is based on the Nannul; but the arrangement is different. The Tamils specially admire the part on general knowledge.”

  14. veṇpāp pāṭṭiyal.**. “8vo. 30 p. 2 as. By Kunavirapanditar. About 12th cent. About the introduction of poems.”

  15. viruttappāṭṭiyal.

  16. vīracōḻiyam.** “On the five parts of grammar”.

  • 16 A useful way to complement this is to make use of the appendices in the 1968 Murdoch reprint, which (...)
  • 17 The Vīracōḻiyam (= VC) was edited for the first time in 1881 by Ci. Vai. Tāmōtaram Piḷḷai. It is in (...)

15A drawback of this list is of course that it does not provide us with dates of publications16, and that it does not give detail on the commentaries. The chronology proposed is often far from the one received nowadays, such as seen for instance in Zvelebil. An interesting point is the mention of the Vīracōḻiyam, as a title, which probably points to its existence in MSS collections17. We have also already mentioned (in the introduction) the surprising date (18th century) given for the two 17thcentury grammarians, “Saminata Tesikar” (i. e. Cāmināta Tēcikar), “Suppiramaniya Vetiyar” (i. e. Cuppiramaṇiya Tīkkitar).

Debates during the twilight period

  • 18 Both mutts (maṭam) can be referred to, nowadays, as ātīṉam.
  • 19 For an assessment of the (small) share of Civañāṉa Tēcikar (usually referred to nowadays as Civañāṉ (...)

16We see through certain wordings found in S. Samuel Pillay (= SP)’s 1858 Tolcapya-Nunnool (item 13 in the preceding section) that memory preserved at that time the traces of a debate between scholars attached respectively to the mutt (maṭam, “college” or “monastery”, in SP’s words) of Tiruvāvaṭutuṟai and the ātīṉam (explained by SP as being a “monastery”) of Tarumapuram18. According to him (see p. 272-275 in the NCBH 2010 reprint), the initial cause of the debate was the “displeasure of the great professor Cuvāmināta Tēcikar” (from Tiruvāvaṭutuṟai). That displeasure was caused by a new grammar in five parts, Ilakkaṇa Viḷakkam “The illumination of grammar” composed by “Vaittiyanātar” (from Tarumapuram). He (= Cuvāmināta Tēcikar), who was the author of Ilakkaṇak kottu (item 2 in section 4), had “ordered his disciple Civañāṉa Tēcikar to write a refutation of the work” and the result was the composition of the Ilakkaṇaviḷakkac cūṟāvaḷi “Cyclone on the IV”. The person referred to by Samuel Pillay as “disciple” is also known as the co-author19 of the Naṉṉūl Viruttiyurai, a “brand new commentary” [= puttam putturai] on the Naṉṉūl, which amplifies the commentary by an earlier scholar, also attached to Tiruvāvaṭutuṟai, namely Caṅkaranamaccivāyar, also a disciple of Cuvāmināta Tēcikar. According to Samuel Pillay, Cuvāmināta Tēcikar (who is also known as Īcāṉatēvar) “has the credit [...] of having suggested to his fellow-student, a Brahmin, the idea of writing a comparative Grammar of the Sanscrit and Tamil Languages”, and both of them were Sanskrit students of Kaṉakacapāpati (of Tirunelvēli). The name of that fellow student was Cuppiramaṇiya Tīṭcitar and the result was the Pirayōka Vivēkam (item 10 in section 4).

17Almost all those statements (by Samuel Pillai) would require a commentary, which I cannot however provide here. The interested reader, who would like to understand the complex relationship between the Naṉṉūl, the Ilakkaṇa Viḷakkam, Vaittiyanāta Tēcikar, the Ilakkaṇak Kottu, Cuvāmināta Tēcikar, Caṅkaranamaccivāyar and Civañāṉa Muṉivar can read the editorial introductions (in Tamil) which are found in Tāmōtaram Piḷḷai [1889, p. 1-20], Cāminātaiyar [1935, p. xiii-xxxvi] and Tāmōtaraṉ [1999, p 6-99].

Erasing (or forgetting) the past with legendary accounts

18We have just examined an element for which the time interval involved, namely 200 years, was short enough for autograph MSS to have survived (I am referring to the 19thcentury remembrances of 17thcentury grammarians). Yet we saw that even in that case precise dating was difficult. This remark brings with itself another remark: how much more difficult is it to preserve an exact record of events which took place 500 years (or 1300 years) earlier? We can get a measure of the difficulty involved in trying to retrieve that type of information, once it is lost, by reading Mu. Irākavaiyaṅkar’s 1958 book, Cāsaṉat Tamiḻkkavicaritam, where, to give three examples, some elements are provided (coming from epigraphical sources) on the way to date the Vīracōḻiyam (p. 49), the Naṉṉūl (p. 91) and Cēṉāvaraiyar’s commentary (p. 115-120) on the Tolkāppiyam.

  • 20 On p. iv, Casie Chitty explains that: “These kings had three different Sangams, or Colleges, establ (...)

19However, in practice, this may not be a very popular solution, because such a presentation emphasizes the fact that the past is not well known, which may not be palatable to all. Another solution for dealing with the past is to create an axiomatically true chronology (i. e. a legendary one, which becomes an article of faith), in which a number of (literary) events, real and imaginary, will be placed together, that chronology becoming part of the teaching given to students. This is, in a sense, what we see in the 1859 Tamil Plutarch, by Casie Chitty. Almost 200 entries, on 119 pages, in which an important rôle is played by the interaction between a poet called Tiruvaḷḷuvar and the “forty-nine professors” of the Madura “College” (Sangam [Caṅkam]), sometimes referred to as an “Academy”20. Casie Chitty explains the fundamental elements of the chronology within which he operates in the following way:

5) At what period Agastiyer established himself in Southern India is not known, and it must always remain so until we shall have been able to ascertain the real date of existence of the king Kulase’k’hara Pandiyen, by whom he was patronized. All accounts concur in assigning the foundation of the Pandiya kingdom at Madura to Kulase’k’hara Pandiyen; but they are at considerable variance with regard to the time when that event happened. Some place it as high up as B. C. 1500 ‡{{Fnote: ‡Taylor’s Oriental Historical Manuscripts, vol. 1, p. 135}}, while others bring it down to a later period; but we have reason to believe that it could not have been later than, at least, the ninth century B. C. (Casie Chitty, Tamil Plutarch, 1859, p. 2-3)

20Interestingly, his partly relying on Taylor requires us to conjure up the ghost of another chronology, now mostly forgotten, but which was very much present in many minds at the time, namely the Biblical chronology, and its flood. In the passage quoted by Casie Chitty, Taylor [1835] had written:

6) From these six arguments, analytically taken, we arrive at the general deduction, that the foundation of Madura was long posterior to the flood; and probably not much more than 1,500 years before the Christian era (Taylor, 1835, p. 135).

  • 21 Interestingly, Casie Chitty seems to think that the Tolkāppiyam contains only 1 276 Sútras. Additio (...)
  • 22 The entry (on p. 57) reads: “Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar: Of the life of this poet, we have no account; but he (...)

21Coming back to grammar, the important thing from our point of view here is that among the ca. 200 names enumerated by Casie Chitty, more than twenty are names of grammarians (including the authors of Tolkāppiyam,21Naṉṉūl, IV, PV and IK, as well as the names of grammatical commentators such as Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar, Caṅkaranamaccivāyar and Civañāṉa Tēcikar). But the names of the anthologies (Eṭṭut tokai and Pattup pāṭṭu) in which the poetical compositions of the Caṅkam poets had been preserved are conspicuously absent (except for the Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai). This goes to show that, although Casie Chitty is capable of mentioning the name of Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar, he has not read his commentary on the Tolkāppiyam (which he mentions on p. 57)22, nor his commentaries on the Kalittokai and the Pattuppāṭṭu. Otherwise, he would know that the poet Kapilar (which he mentions on page 36 as the author of a verse praising Tiruvaḷḷuvar) was in the first place admired for being the supposed author of all the poems in the kuṟiñci section of the Kalittokai anthology, as well as the author one of the “Ten Lays” (Pattup pāṭṭu), namely the Kuṟiñcip Pāṭṭu. And the same absence of information on the most ancient layer of Tamil literature is also found in Murdoch, where we find, inside the section “Brief notices of Tamil authors” [p. lxxix-xcvi inside the 1968 reprint and p. lxxxii-ci in the 1865 original]”, the following two notices:

7) Kapilar is said to have been a brother of Tiruvalluvar, and one of the 49 Madura Professors. A small work, Kapila Akaval, is attributed to him; but it is probably spurious. (Murdoch, 1865, p. lxxxvii)

8) Nassinarkiniyar wrote commentaries on the Tolkappeyam, and Tirumurukarrupadai. (Murdoch, 1865, p. xc)

In lieu of a conclusion

22Time has now come for me to draw a few conclusions from the various short “aperçus” over which we have passed, all of which would really require a full-length exploration. The best way to take the measure of the changes which were to take place in the collective ongoing exploration of the Tamil classical past is to compare the 1865 original edition of Murdoch with the 1968 “reprint” by the Tamil Development and Research Council (Government of Tamilnad). The 390 pages book (cii + 288) has become a 634 pages book (xcvi + 538), printed in a larger page size, because of the addition of several appendices, which space does not permit me to describe here.

  • 23 This is for instance the impression which one gains from reading the long Patippurai “editorial pre (...)

23Instead, I would like to remark that a great part of what has been mentioned in this article seems to illustrate the fact that History is a domain where the best way to praise one’s predecessors is to prove that they were partly wrong23, and that, therefore, the best homage which a historian can expect from his or her successors is that they will show that he (or she) was insufficiently informed.

  • 24 For a detailed presentation of this point, see Chevillard (2012).

24I had originally intended, in this article meant to honour Sylvain Auroux, to explain that the main motivating factor that gave rise to the Tamil grammatical tradition, was not the desire to write a grammar of the Tamil language, but rather to capture ideal forms of Tamil literature. “Grammatical” treatises were meant as an help for those who had the desire to create, preserve, recite and/or understand “poetical compositions” (ceyyuḷ)24. As a single illustration of that function, I would like, en guise de conclusion, to include here one cūttiram taken from the Tolkāppiyam, which instructs would-be poets in the metres which should not be used while composing the type of poem called Puṟanilai. The cūttiram (TP422) is extracted from the Ceyyuḷiyal, “Chapter (iyal) on Poetical Compostion (ceyyuḷ)”, which is the eighth chapter inside the Poruḷatikāram (TP), third book of the Tolkāppiyam. It reads, in Ganesh Iyer’s 1943 edition:

9) vaḻipaṭu teyva niṟpuṟaṅ kāppap // paḻitīr celvamoṭu vaḻivaḻi ciṟantu // polimi ṉeṉṉum puṟanilai vāḻttē // kalinilai vakaiyum vañciyum peṟāa. (TP422p)

25A number of translations of the TP have been published, among which the most useful is probably the one by P. S. Subrahmanya Sastry, which reads:

10) “The puṟanilai vāḻttu of the type ‘May you prosper for generations to come with spotless fortune, you being protected by your family deity’ is not composed either in kali or vañci.”

  • 25 If I were asked to state explicitly what “family deity” (vaḻipaṭu teyvam) means in this case, I wou (...)

26I intend here to echo the same wish, mutatis mutandis25, with respect to Sylvain Auroux, who has always been an inspiration to me.

Bibliographie

Bibliography

Auroux, Sylvain, 1989, “Introduction”, Histoire des idées linguistiques, S. Auroux éd., t. I, Liège/Bruxelles, Mardaga, p. 13-37.

Babington, Benjamin Guy (transl.), 1822, A Grammar of the High Dialect of the Tamil Language, termed Shen-Tamil: with an introduction to Tamil poetry, by the Rev. F. C.-J. Beschi, translated from the Latin, Madras.

Burnell, A. C., 1878, Elements of South-Indian Palæography, from the fourth to the seventeenth century A. D., being an introduction to the study of South-Indian inscriptions and MSS, London, Trübner and Co.

Cāminātaiyar, U. Vē. ed., 1935, Naṉṉūl Mūlamum Caṅkaranamaccivāyar Uraiyum, Iraṇṭām Patippu [second edition], Chennai.

Casie Chitty, Simon, 1859, The Tamil Plutarch, containing a summary account of the lives of the poets and poetesses ofSouthern India and Ceylon, Jaffna.

Chevillard, Jean-Luc, 1992, “Beschi, grammairien du tamoul, et l’origine de la notion de verbe appellatif”, Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient 79/1, Paris, p. 77-88.

Chevillard, Jean-Luc, 2011, “On Tamil poetical compositions and their ‘limbs’, as described by Tamil grammarians (Studies in Tamil Metrics, 1)”, Histoire Épistémologie Langage 32/2, p. 121-144.

Cuppiramaṇiyaṉ, Ca. Vē., 2009 [20071], Tamiḻ Ilakkaṇa Nūlkaḷ, Meyyappaṉ Patippakam, Citamparam.

Ebeling Sascha, “The college of Fort St . George and the transformation of Tamil philology during the nineteenth century”, in Trautman, Thomas R. ed., 2009, The Madras School of Orientalism. Producing Knowledge in Colonial South India, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, p. 233-260.

Ganesh Iyer [Kaṇēcaiyar, Ci.], 1943, Tolkāppiyam Poruḷatikāram (iraṇṭām pākam), Piṉṉāṉkiyalkaḷum Pērāciriyamum, Jaffna, Cuṉṉākam.

Gaur, Albertine, 1967, “Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg’s Verzeichnis der Malabarischen Bücher”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 99, p. 63-95.

Irākavaiyaṅkār, Mu., 1958, Cāsaṉat Tamiḻkkavicaritam, [iraṇṭām patippu], Sivaganga, Sri Rajeswari Press.

Jeyaraj, Daniel, 2006, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg: the Father of Modern Protestant Mission. An Indian Assessment, New Delhi, The Indian Society for promoting Christian Knowledge.

Kōpālaiyar, T. Vē, 1971, Ilakkaṇa Viḷakkam, Eḻuttatikāram, Tañcai Caracuvati Makāl, Publication No. 136, Tanjore.

Losty, Jeremiah P., 1982, The Art of the Book in India, London, The British Library.

Madrasiana, by W. T. Munro ( [pseud., i. e.] W. Taylor), Third edition (1889), reprint, British Library, General Historical Collections (printed on demand in 2012) (ISBN: 9 781241 164249).

Mahadevan, Iravatham, 2003, Early Tamil Epigraphy, From the Earliest Time to the Sixth Century A. D., Cre-A [Chennai, India] and Harvard Oriental Series No. 62 [Cambridge, USA].

Murdoch, John, 1968 [1865], Classified Catalogue of Tamil Printed Books, with introductory notices, (Reprinted with a number of Appendices and Supplement), Tamil Development and Research Council, Government of Tamil Nadu, Chennai [Original edition was printed in 1865 by The Christian Vernacular Education Society, Vepery, Madras].

Penny, Frank, 1922, The Church in Madras, vol. III (From 1835 to 1861), London.

Pope, George Uglow, 1858, A Larger Grammar of the Tamil Language, in both its dialects, to which are added, The Naṉṉūl, Yāpparuṅkalam and other Native Authorities, Madras, American Mission Press.

Samuel Pillai, E., 2010 [18581], Tolkāppiya Naṉṉūl, Ceṉṉai, Cevviyal Tamiḻ Nūl Varicai, Niyū Ceñcuri Puk Havus.

Subbarayalu, Y., 2012, South India under the Cholas, New Delhi, Oxford University Press.

Subrahmanya Sastri, P. S., 2002 (19361), Tolkāppiyam, The Earliest Extant Tamil Grammar, with a short commentary in English, vol. II, Poruḷatikāram, Chennai, The Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute.

Tāmōtaram Piḷḷai, Ci. Vai ed., 1881, Puttamittiraṉār iyaṟṟiya Vīracōḻiyam (peruntēvaṉāruraiyōṭu), Ceṉṉapaṭṭaṇam.

Tāmōtaram Piḷḷai, Ci. Vai ed., 1889, Vaittiyanāta Tēcikar iyaṟṟiya Ilakkaṇa Viḷakkam, Ceṉṉapaṭṭaṇam.

Tāmōtaraṉ, A. ed., 1999, Pavaṇanti Muṉivar Iyaṟṟiya Naṉṉūl Mūlamum Viruttiyuraiyum, Chennai, International Institute of Tamil Studies.

Taylor, William, 1835, Oriental Historical Manuscripts, in the Tamil language, translated, with annotations, by William Taylor, Missionary, 2 vol., vol. I, Madras.

Taylor, William, 1838, “Fourth report of progress made in the examination of the Mackenzie MSS, with an abstract account of the works examined”, Madras Journal of Literature and Science 21, p. 215-305.

Taylor, William, 1857, 1860 and 1862, vol. I: A Catalogue Raisonnée (sic) of Oriental Manuscripts in the Library of the (late) College Fort Saint George; vol. II and vol. III: A Catalogue Raisonné of Oriental Manuscripts in the Government Library, Madras.

Trautman, Thomas R. ed., 2009, The Madras School of Orientalism. Producing Knowledge in Colonial South India, New Delhi, Oxford University Press.

Vēṅkaṭacāmi, Mayilai Cīṉi, 1959, Maṟaintupōṉa Tamiḻ Nūlkaḷ, Chennai, Pāri Nilaiyam.

Venkatachalapathy, A.R., “‘Grammar, the frame of language’. Tamil pandits at the College of Fort St. George”, p. 113-125, in Trautman, Thomas R. ed., 2009, The Madras School of Orientalism. Producing Knowledge in Colonial South India, New Delhi, Oxford University Press.

Vētakirimutaliyār ed., 1838, Vīramāmuṉivar [alias C.J. Beschi] tiruvāy malarntaruḷi ceyta vaintilakkaṇat Toṉṉūl Viḷakkam, Mūlamum Uraiyum, [publication patronized by Mariyēcavēriyāppiḷḷai], Pondicherry (Puthuvai).

Wilden, Eva, (forthcoming), Script, Print and Memory – Relics of the Caṅkam in Tamil-nadu, [University of Hamburg, Sonderforschungsbereich 950, Manuskriptkulturen in Asien, Afrika und Europa].

Wilson, Horace Hayman ed., 1828, Mackenzie Collection. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Manuscripts and other articles illustrative of the Literature, History, Statistics and Antiquities of the South of India, collected by the late Lieut.-Col Mackenzie, Surveyor General of India, by H. H. Wilson, Esq., Secretary to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta.

Wilson, Horace Hayman, 1836, “Historical sketch of the kingdom of Pándya, Southern Peninsula of India”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. III, London, p. 199-242, Art. IX.

Zvelebil, Kamil, V., 1995, Lexicon of Tamil Literature, Leiden, E. J. Brill.

Notes

1 Dr. S. Jayabarathi (alias “Dr.JayBee”), from Malaysia, informed me (on 4th september 2010, through personal communication) that one of the oldest Tamil MSS in his possession is dated 1645. We can read on p. 41 of A. C. Burnell’s 1878 Elements of South-Indian Palæography the following statement (concerning a Tamil Nadu Sanskrit manuscript): “The oldest MS. I have been able to discover is Tanjore 9,594, which must be of about 1600 A. D.” Jeremiah Losty, in his 1982 book, The Art of the Book in India, after explaining (p. 5) that “the usual writing palm of ancient India, the talipot (Corypha umbraculifera) [...] is indigenous only to the extreme south of the peninsula”, adds (p. 6) that: “In southern India, the home of the talipot, early manuscripts are extremely rare, but this type of palm leaf was used in the earliest surviving southern manuscripts, of c. 1112, in the Digambara bhaṇdār, at Moodabidri. However, those manuscripts from southern India which have survived from about the 16th century on, use a different palm leaf, that of the palmyra (Borassus flabellifer), a fan palm similar to the talipot, but somewhat smaller as to its leaf size”. Later in the book (p. 22), Losty mentions “the only known illuminated Digambara palm-leaf manuscript, a group of semi-canonical works on karma dated c. 1112 from southern India which has the same set of miniatures-divinities, donors, monks, etc”. The fact that it is illuminated probably explains why this jain MS is a spectacular exception to the general law that early Southern MSS have not survived.

2 Ca. Vē. Cuppiramaṇiyam, by putting together, in chronological order, in a single 800 A4-size pages book, the source texts (without commentaries) of forty-nine grammatical treatises, among which nine are known only through fragments, is partly implementing the program implicitly contained in the 1959 book, by Mayilai Cīṉi Vēṅkaṭacāmi, which enumerates 182 lost books, known only through fragments or through their title, quoted or discussed inside the commentary to other works. Among those 182, 44 are said by him to belong to the domain of Ilakkaṇam “grammar” (in an extended sense).

3 Samuel Pillai presents Civañāṉa Muṉivar as a direct disciple of the former, although it seems impossible that they could have met.

4 Concerning Cēṉāvaraiyar, see also Mu. Irākavaiyaṅkar [1958: p. 115-120].

5 I could also have chosen 1948, publishing date of the fourth volume in the Tolkāppiyam edition by Kaṇecaiyar (D6) [TEn: 1937; TCc: 1938; TPp: 1943; TPn: 1948]. See the bibliographical reference for TPp.

6 See Subbarayalu [2012: 18], Table 1.1. He further adds that only 15 000 of these 28 000 inscriptions have so far “been edited and published properly” and that “there is a big task awaiting the epigraphists to publish the remaining 50 per cent”.

7 This figure, taken from Subbarayalu [2012], should be taken as an order of magnitude and not as a precise figure. For a detailed presentation, see I. Mahadevan [2003].

8 Antaõ de Proença’s Tamil-Portuguese Dictionary is dated A. D. 1679.

9 I shall not discuss Caldwell (1814-1891), who represents an altogether different paradigm and belongs to the history of Historical Linguistics.

10 Regarding those of the informants who collected inscriptions, Subbarayalu [2012: 25] remarks: “The texts of these inscriptions [...] must be used with great care, as they are not true to the originals. The assistants of Mackenzie, who are not trained epigraphists, read the texts directly from stone and instead of reproducing the original texts transcribed them in their own spoken dialect”. The same can certainly be said of the grammatical MSS collected by Mackenzie. His assistants could certainly not evaluate them properly. Wilson himself was interested in building a chronology of the Pandya kings (see Wilson [1836]’ communication in the JRAS) but he seems not to have been able to directly work on his sources, although he objects in a “Supplementary note” contained in the same issue of the JRAS (p. 387-390) to a statement by Willam Taylor that “there must, consequently, have been a mistake in the information on which Mr. Wilson depended, from his admitted want of acquaintance with the Tamil language”.

11 According to Penny [1922], “William Taylor was born and bred in Madras, and partly educated in England. He worked under the London Missionary Society for several years, and in 1837 was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Madras. He was ordained priest in 1839 [...] He had a good knowledge of Tamil, and compiled a catalogue of the Tamil MSS in the College at Fort St. George, which is still useful to scholars. Under the pseudonym of Munro, he was the author of Madrasiana, a well-known book, but one which is full of errors. [...] He died in 1881”. However, according to page vii inside the reprint of the 1889 (Third edition) of Madrasiana, “Rev. William Taylor, was born about 1796, and came out to India in 1814-15. He returned to England in 1819, and after studying for the Ministry in a Dissenting College, came back to Madras in the service of the London Missionary Society. He subsequently received orders in connection with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. This connection after a time was severed, and Mr Taylor having become by his marriage possessed of private means, occupied himself mostly in literary pursuits”.

12 Taylor has published in 1857, 1860 and 1862 the three volumes of a Catalogue Raisonné, but they are not easy to use and not always very reliable as far as Tamil grammatical literature is concerned.

13 For instance, the first edition of a part of Tolkāppiyam with commentary is the edition, by Maḻavai Makāliṅkaiyar, in 1847, of its first book, the Eḻuttatikāram, with Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar’s commentary (see the 1968 reprint of Murdoch, p. 500). Details concerning several Tamil Scholars can be found in Venkatachalapathy [2009] and Ebeling [2009], as well as in other articles contained in Trautman [2009]. The process of going from a “Manuscript culture” to a “Print culture” is studied in detail in the forthcoming book by Eva Wilden.

14 For additional explanations concerning the several varieties of Tamil, see Chevillard [2011].

15 He adds: “There are several editions of the Nannul. A portion of it was translated with notes by Messrs. W. Joyes and S. Pillay. This is now out of print. There is an edition by Dr. G. U. Pope, beautifully printed, with English summaries, prose renderings, and a vocabulary. The abridgement for schools, by P. Savundranayagam Pillai, B. A., is a useful work”. The reference to Pope [1858] is found in the bibliography.

16 A useful way to complement this is to make use of the appendices in the 1968 Murdoch reprint, which incorporate (on p. 229-378) some informations available in the British Museum catalogues.

17 The Vīracōḻiyam (= VC) was edited for the first time in 1881 by Ci. Vai. Tāmōtaram Piḷḷai. It is interesting to note that it is mentionned as an authority consulted on the title page of the 1838 editio princeps of the Toṉṉūl Viḷakkam (= TV) by Vētakirimutaliyār and that we see indeed VC179 ( “ēṟiya mālai māṟṟē...”) cited, with mention of the grammar’s name “Vīracōḻiyam” (on p. 94 in the 1838 edition) under TV299 ( “ācu maturañ cittiram...”). Additionally, it can be noted that the Volume III (dated 1862) of Taylor’s Catalogue Raisonné has, on p. 789, under heading “XIV. Panegyrical” an entry “No. 2177. Vîra sūriyam, verse with glossary.” which could correspond to the VC, because the description reads: “A poem in praise of Vîra Cholan a king; so contrived by the author, as to exemplify the five divisions of grammar, and rethorical figures; by a selection of letters, words, & c., as proper to be used in panegyrics.// The book is long, and thick, has no boards, injured.”

18 Both mutts (maṭam) can be referred to, nowadays, as ātīṉam.

19 For an assessment of the (small) share of Civañāṉa Tēcikar (usually referred to nowadays as Civañāṉa Muṉivar) in the genesis of the Naṉṉūl Viruttiyurai, see A. Tāmōtaraṉ [1999, p. 38-49].

20 On p. iv, Casie Chitty explains that: “These kings had three different Sangams, or Colleges, established in their capital at three different periods, for the promotion of literature, more or less corresponding in character with the Royal Academy of Sciences founded by Louis xiv, at Paris, and made it a rule that every literary production should be submitted to their Senatus Academicus, before it was allowed to circulate in the country, for the purpose of preserving the purity and integrity of the language”.

21 Interestingly, Casie Chitty seems to think that the Tolkāppiyam contains only 1 276 Sútras. Additionally, he knows the names of three commentators: Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar, Iḷampūraṇar and Cēṉāvaraiyar, enumerated in this order (p. 107).

22 The entry (on p. 57) reads: “Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar: Of the life of this poet, we have no account; but he appears to have been a man of considerable attainments. His commentaries on the Tolkáppiyam and Tirumurugáttupadai are much esteemed, and they are certainly masterly productions of a logical mind. The exact period of his existence is very uncertain; but we think we shall not be far from the point in placing it before the tenth century of the Christian era”.

23 This is for instance the impression which one gains from reading the long Patippurai “editorial preface” contained in Tāmōtaraṉ [1999, p. 6-99].

24 For a detailed presentation of this point, see Chevillard (2012).

25 If I were asked to state explicitly what “family deity” (vaḻipaṭu teyvam) means in this case, I would say that it refers to the absence of pre-conceived ideas, which is well illustrated by the following sentences, extracted from Auroux (1989): “Dans les discussions méthodologiques qui accompagnent la croissance récente des études historiques sur les études linguistiques, on soutient souvent que pour faire l’histoire d’une science, il est nécessaire d’avoir une vue définie sur la nature de son objet [...], dont on suppose par conséquent qu’il correspond à une organisation conceptuelle intangible. Nous pensons plutôt qu’il est du devoir de l’historien de ne pas avoir une vue semblable, surtout s’il travaille sur le long terme et dans des civilisations différentes. Il faut situer notre objet par rapport seulement à un champ de phénomènes, saisissables au ras de la conscience quotidienne. Soit le langage humain, tel qu’il est réalisé dans la diversité des langues; des savoirs se sont constitués à ce sujet; tel est notre objet.

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