During my visit to the Dutch National Archives, I got to read a Dutch East India Company travel journal.
The book was fully in Dutch, and when I was flipping through the musty old pages of the huge book, I saw an introduction to the Tamil language, with the alphabet and basic grammar, running for 10 long pages! My head started spinning instantaneously. I couldn’t digest the fact that the Dutch had meticulously recorded the Tamil alphabet and grammar with substantial detail, in their book in 1672! There is also an illustration showing Tamil people practising to write, on sand. I was totally awestruck, and had to rest for a few moments before I could get back to normal. I assume, had the Dutch people’s language been Tamil, they would have even made all their children learn Tamil Vatteluththu script and Tamil Brahmi script along with the contemporary Tamil, at school!! Well, now, what is the current situation in metropolitan cities in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu? -Most school students are learning English as first language and French as second language. Fantastic.
|Ancient Tamilians learning to write on sand|
This is the world’s last classical language that is still in usage today. We don’t have the other classical languages such as Latin, Attic Greek, Sanskrit, and Classical Chinese in day-to-day usage. All we have today is the ancient language that originated as early as 1500 BCE - endured the tests of time - grew in all wealth of literature, art and science, without any boundaries to prosperity- Tamil. Excavations(ab) in Southern Tamil Nadu unleashed the world's largest three-tier pre-historic cemetery dating back to 1500 BCE- 500 BCE, with rudimentary Tamil Brahmi engravings on burial urns (the spoken-language's origin should be of a much earlier period). Moreover, artifacts dating circa 100 BCE with Tamil Brahmi engravings have been found in large amounts in Egypt(c), Srilanka, Thailand, etc. This is indeed the language of the Cholas who ruled the Indian peninsula, up to the Kalinga (Orissa) and rising high up to Bengal, and also comprising what are today’s Srilanka, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Maldives together!
|The Chola Empire during 900-1300 CE|
|Vatteleththu Tamil script on a Tanjavur temple's walls|
The unfounded passion towards the English language could have originated since the colonial period when there was a high demand for English-speaking Indians for jobs. The Germans, Japanese and French are never lured by foreign languages, and this speaks volumes as to why these countries flourish and also why some foreign countries study their languages! Well, not just with Tamil, it's high time all other Indian languages also saw an elevation in people’s own attitudes towards their languages. One who speaks low of his own land, culture and language can only be someone who feels low of himself (lacking self-esteem). Such a person would certainly feel everything external to him and distant to him to be much worthier. But why would we choose to be such a person, we can rather be dignified of ourselves to be the descendents of a long and rich cultural heritage- by all means!
Bringing huge hopes, this decade sees the youth deeply comprehending the worth of Tamil, showing rays of prosperity after long! History is a cycle; the prosperity in all its grandeur is to be repeated again! The next Golden age of Tamil literature and culture is in the near horizon. It is soon to rise up again, with all its magnificence and power!