India is the home of 2 of the 8 classical languages - Sanskrit and Tamil. What is a classical language? -George L Hart a professor in UC Berkley says - " it should be ancient, it should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own not as an offshoot of another tradition, and it must have a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature "
Sanskrit is classified under Indo-European languages. Among the many miscellanious websites and books that I read, some claimed that DNA tests had already established that the Aryan invasion of India as true, and that the aforementioned event led to the arrival of Sanskrit in India. This is however, strongly refuted by many people within India. These people claim that the Indo-European languages originated in India and from Sanskrit. However, most experts on the subject have dismissed this theory as untrue. According to experts, only Dravidian languages, were born in India and Sanskrit shows much similarity towards Indo-Euro languages than dravidian ones. The Indian government ofcourse has no firm official position on anything important and so it is pointless to expect them to have a position on something as mundane as languages and historical origins. The oldest Sanskrit work according to most sources is the Rig Veda, which is dated at around 1250 BC (Atharvana - 800 BC is the most recent). The form of Sanskrit used in the vedas is called Vedic Sanskrit. This over the years led to Classical Sanskrit, which was a refined form of Vedic Sanskrit, refined so by Panini in 5th century BC. His Samskritham (the non-anglicized name for Sanskrit) was not called that until 5th century. It evolved into this name (Samskritham means "refined") because it was a refined form of the many dialects spoken at that time.
The orgin of languages is, obviously closely tied to the origins of civilizations in India. The highly controversial Aryan Invasion, theory, says that the Eastern Iranian invaders, the Arya, were supposed to have come through steppe, a passage from Europe to India. These invaders purpotedly brought their languages and gods with them, when they travelled to India (Incidentally they are also held responsible for arrival of horses & charriots in India). The arrival of these people, coincided with the decline of Indus Valley Civilization, which had been prevalant in India (and modern day Pakistan) before the invasion. Indus valley civilization's decline has been attributed to many causes. Apart from the invading Iranians, natural disasters were also believed to be a factor. What historians refused to believe was a complete erasure of a civilization. The pushback of the Dravidians, who existed in the northern parts of India in 1500 BC to southern parts of India is believed by many to be connected to the decline of Indus Valley Civilization. The whole theory is highly controversial. Indian historians (and a few others) believe this serves to divide the Indian community and more specifically incite dravidians to look at Aryans (N. Indians & Tamil Upper Castes) as invaders and plunderers and consider disengaging from India (which Periyaar briefly demanded in 1920s). Indian historians argue that Indian history was rewritten by prejudiced Western, more specifically Christian, historians. Their version of Indian history served mainly to ensure that Christian tenets, such as Moses and Exodus, was unaffected by the ancientness of Indian civilization. Many believe that DNA tests actually refute the Aryan invasion theory and does not support it. It is their view that Sanksrit and Tamil though are radically different languages, have a common origin. Regardless of the validity of the Aryan Invasion theory - Did the language of the Indus valley civilization become a Dravidian language?
This is where Tamizh, the oldest of the dravidian languages, comes into the picture. Tamizh, given the fact that it is completely independent of Sanskrit, has been having a very interesting tussle with Sanskrit in terms of date and aging. Given that, barring a few villages, Sanskrit is almost dead as a spoken language, Tamizh is the oldest language among the currently spoken Indian languages. The oldest Tamizh works lead up to 750 BC. The discovery in Adichanallur, Tamizh Nadu and in Srilanka etsbalished that Brahmi Script was used to express Tamizh (Brahmi also expressed Sanskrit). The flavor of Brahmi was integrated with the Tamizh spoken in Tamil provinces during 6 BC. Later Grantham script (which still can be seen expressing Tamizh on the temple walls in Thirumala, Thirupathi) was also used to write both Tamizh & Sanskrit. However, the scripts were taken in very carefully by the ancient tamizh people. They weeded out non-Tamizh sounding letters. Fearing adultration, the fiercly territorial Tamizh kingdoms of that time carefully disallowed any prakrit forms of the script (a.k.a Sanskrit) from getting mixed with Tamizh through Brahmi & Grantham. Grantham later led to vettezhuthu and so on... But thats a different story. The origins of Tamizh existing in those kingdoms were however, unclear.
This was however, before the discovery of the century. A school teacher near Mayiladuthurai pushed back Tamizh by many many years, possibly beyond Sanskrit. He found tamil words "murukkan' (possibly meaning 'wrathful killer') inscribed on a Indus Valley artifact and dated around 1500 BC. This makes the language, if not the script, atleast 3500 years ald. Thanjavur has long held the view that Tamizh should be dated back to 2500 BC. Now, it does not sound as far fetched as it sounded before. Folks in Thanjavur have argued, time and again, that many of the literary Tamizh works dates back to much older dates than what historians have credited it for. Just to give an example from my own knowledge - Thirvaimozhi - a very old set of 1000 poems - from the 4000 Prabhandams was discovered by Nathamuni in 6th Century AD. He dated the poem to be 3000 years old (somewhere in 2500 BC). However, historians put the date of the poem as 6 AD - which was the date of his discovery. Same is the case of many such literary works that were dug out during the famous Bhakti movement in 6-7th century. There could many such examples, which can potentially to push Tamizh's date farther and farther away.
In the next article on this topic, I hope to discuss theories on other old indian languages, theories surrounding the connection of Mayan civilization and Tamizh, the theory of 'Mayan' the common evil-dude in both cultures, and the origins of astrology (which could possibly be sourced to Mayans and Tamizhs).
(To Be continued)