A hotbed of hollow linguistic pride, Tamil Nadu must witness a resistance movement to shatter the social stagnation, rediscover its cultural literacy, and become the land of dharma it was once in character and core.
The cover of Amar Chitra Katha about the legendary Kashmiri king Lalitaditya Muktapida carries a picture. The king and his troops get stuck in the middle of a desert, thanks to an enemy plot. With water supplies exhausted, everyone is looking at an imminent and painful death. At this point, Lalitaditya looks at a rock, there in the desert, and strikes at it. And lo! Water comes out and everyone is saved and the expedition ends in a resounding victory.
The cover shows the picture of Lalitaditya striking at the rock to release the underground stream that was running in the seemingly barren desert. Whenever the socio-political scenario in Tamil Nadu is talked about, this cover picture is what comes to the mind.
The famous art critic of Tamil Nadu, Venkat Swaminathan (1933-2015), likened the Tamil cultural milieu, after the ascendancy of Dravidian politics, to a desert. It was as if the creative and spiritual fountain of Tamil Nadu had disappeared and the cultural land had become barren. A rock is hiding a mighty perennial stream of culture and that rock has to be broken, so that Tamil grandeur can be released in all its splendour.
The onslaught of the Dravidian polity was also aided by the foolishness of orthodoxy in Tamil Nadu. The real spiritual essence of Hindu culture in Tamil Nadu is a vibrant one. According to Jain scholar Acharya Hemachandra, Chanakya was a Brahmin from South India. It was he who vowed to discard the degenerate, incompetent, and corrupt Nanda dynasty — by identifying the true Kshatriya spirit beyond the confines of birth-based caste system, and nurturing Chandragupta out of the then socially-marginalised Maurya clan.
He did it to protect entire India. Vijayanagara would later arise as a barrier to stop the foreign invaders and it would be inspired and guided by Vidyaranya, who in turn came from the lineage of the great Shankaracharya, whose birth place Kalady should be considered as a part of Tamil realm, then. Swami Vivekananda meditated on the rock amidst the ocean in Kanyakumari for three days — like Nachiketa being in the realm of death for three days. It was here the rejuvenation of India started with definite plans materialising in his mind. Sri Aurobindo came to this land too.
Later, when Tamil Nadu was engulfed by Dravidianist darkness and entire India was under the darkness of Emergency, the great leader K Kamaraj strove to forge an alliance of non-Dravidian, non-communist, non-Congress parties — particularly old Congress, Swatantra and Jan Sangh. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see it to fruition.
Let it be said clearly: what we see today as National Democratic Alliance (NDA), had its prototype and blessing in the vision of two of the tallest leaders of Tamil Nadu, C Rajagopalachari and Kamaraj, who despite their differences, joined hands in their final years to fight against Dravidianism, communism and dynastic Congress. NDA, that rules India today, owes it to Tamil Nadu, where it was first envisioned by these two great leaders.
That historical fact sadly accentuates the present political and cultural situation in Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu today has become a hotbed of hollow linguistic pride devoid of basic cultural literacy of the Tamil language. One can say the entire ancient Tamil culture predicated itself on the vedic yagna. To the ancient Tamils, domestic life was a yagna; farming was a yagna and even war was a yagna.
When an ancient Tamil poetess sees the three great Tamil kings who often used to quarrel for supremacy, the imagery she employs in her poem to depict the unity of Tamil chieftains is the three ceremonial fires nurtured in the home of Brahmins. Yet, those who swear today by Sangam era poetry and depict it as the golden utopia uncontaminated by ‘Aryan’ ‘Brahminical’ influences, would fuel their politics with anti-Brahminism not dissimilar to Nazi anti-Semitism.
So, the first thing to be done in Tamil Nadu today, to fulfill the vision of Kamaraj and Rajaji, is to generate cultural literacy. Unfortunately, here the ‘breaking India’ forces are pro-active. School exhibitions are conducted emphasising the separatist Tamil identity. Politicians like Senthamizhan Seeman alias Simon are invited to lectures where he blatantly propagates wrong pseudo-Tamil identity — divorced from historical and cultural reality.
All these movements go on to facilitate the great proselytising project of transnational religious organisations. A proper antidote would be to emphasise the greatness and diversity of Tamil language and its pan-Indic umbilical connection. This could be done in various ways making use of the already existing traditional infrastructure in the society. For example, every full moon day, thousands and thousands of pilgrims from all over Tamil Nadu, cutting across caste and political affiliations, come to circumambulate a sacred hill. Conducting innovative outreach programmes here to make people realise their true linguistic cultural heritage can immunise the society against such divisive politics.
Had anyone noticed that Tamil Nadu has one of the longest lists of martyrs for ‘uniting India’ forces? In my living memory, we remember the killing, assassination of individuals in Tamil Nadu that started in 1980s and continues to this day. Once in Coimbatore, Hindu activists said that the situation around 1998 (the year of the notorious Coimbatore bomb blasts) became so bad that if someone belonged to any Hindu organisation, his wife was looked at with sympathy for she would soon become a widow, and bachelors of the organisation would not get brides.
Yet, youngsters worked and got themselves martyred, and it continues. This shows the love for dharma even the present generation has in Tamil Nadu. Once again, we lack an organisation and leadership in the state to make use of the high spirits of ordinary Tamils to protect their culture and spirituality and their way of life. Creating an uncompromising and charismatic leadership in the state is a must not just for politics but for securing justice for this long list of martyrs.
Tamil Nadu is often projected as the land of social justice. And E V Ramasamy (EVR) is projected as the be all and end all of social justice movement in the state. However, a deeper and holistic look into the social history of the state reveals that the real social revolution against the social stagnation was mainly spearheaded by those who were anchored in the vedantic darshanas of Sri Ramanuja and Shankaracharaya.
The Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Advaitic tradition created a huge social stir in Tamil Nadu among the educated. At every level in the society, social reforms like abolition of untouchability, abolition of child marriage, encouragement of widow rehabilitation as well as remarriage and women education and emancipation were taken up by those who ascribed to vedantic and Gandhian ideals. Mahatma Gandhi himself was appealing because he again anchored his vision in Hindu values. Subramanya Bharathi and Namakkal poet Venkatarama Ramalingam spoke against social evils in their poetry.
Advaitic seer Swami Sahajananda, who also established educational institutions for boys and girls in Tamil Nadu, particularly for Scheduled Caste (SC) students, right in the heart of temple town of Chidambaram, was inspired by ‘Maha Bhakta Vijayam’ — a compendium of medieval north Indian and Maharashtra saints, in his quest for social justice. Iyya Vaikundar employed puranic framework to effect one of the staunchest social and spiritual emancipation movement in Tamil Nadu. It was from Swami Chidbhavananda, an Advaitic seer of Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda tradition, and a great educationist from whom Mahatma Gandhi received his first rebuttal of birth-based varna conceptualisation.
This rich Hindu contribution to Tamil Nadu social emancipation movement has been pushed under the carpet to project EVR as the sole warrior of social justice which too he was not. An anti-democratic fascist-minded person with a mediocre mindset to hate peddle such stereotypes capitalising on the evils of social stagnation, EVR was neither a rationalist nor a social reformer.
He was a demagogue in the line of Adolf Hitler and other hate-mongers. It is time Tamil Nadu people are shown what he actually was, beyond the delusional image of a savant created out of him. In fact, young Ambedkarite scholar Ma Venkatesan brought out a book almost a decade back on how EVR was a double-faced anti-SC person based on facts and only facts. That book, along with the highlighting of real heroes and heroines of the social emancipation movement in Tamil Nadu, should be taken to the people.
Movies have now become the new battleground to capture and mould the minds of future generation, and in terms of short term gains, the first time voters. In Tamil Nadu, movies have tremendous power — though the days of matinee idols capturing power are over. In a systematic manner, the evangelical industry has captured the movie industry and is running its pet theme through all the movies: Hinduism is spiritual despotism and facilitates exploitation of Tamil Nadu. So, every development project is shown as the result of this evil axis which had to be fought by youngsters. What is the best way to fight the forces of this dark evil than by churning out memes of negativity on social media? The movie-memes complex has become an effective tool against ‘uniting India’ forces.
Tamil Nadu has a very important tradition to protect. Though the word ‘Sufi’ has been much abused in north India by the pseudo-secular polity, in Tamil Nadu there is a syncretic culture that combines yogic traditions and native Islam. For example, Vethathiri Maharishi (1911-2006) who revived yoga on a very vast scale in Tamil Nadu and abroad was the disciple of Paranjothi Mahan (1900-1981), who was a Muslim yogi and preached non-dual spirituality. There are quite a few such Muslim born non-dual spiritual seers, who have a wide following cutting across religions in Tamil Nadu. However, today, these spiritual traditions are threatened by radical Islamists supported by Marxists, Dravidianists and pseudo-secular Congress. By protecting these traditions and highlighting their contribution to yoga and advaita, the ‘uniting India’ forces will do a great service to humanity.
One needs to look at the way ‘uniting India’ forces reacted to the earlier iteration of ‘breaking India’ forces when they launched the Dravidian movement. Famous directors like K S Gopalakrishnan and Chinnappa Thevar churned out movies that took subtle to explicit dig at Dravidian parties. The movies were not just mythological, they also dealt with current socio-political narratives. Let us take the movies of Gopalakrishnan (1929-2015). In Dasavataram (1976), he had a Dravidianist actor playing the role of Hiranyakashipu, where he is defeated in an argument with child Prahalada, which, for the movie viewers, blurred the line between the reality and the screen.
It immunised them against pseudo-rationality. The same film also subtly criticised Emergency. Similarly, his 1971 movie criticised the colonial attack on diverse goddess worship. His social movie Nathayil Muthu (1973) spoke for inter-caste marriage from the point of view of Hindu unity. Perhaps, it was the first Tamil film to have a song celebrating Dr B R Ambedkar. All these movies actually checked the onslaught of movie-based Dravidian movement. When Dr M G Ramachandran became famous, he had mellowed down the trenchant Dravidian attack on Hindu value system and he himself embraced the Hindu value system in the movies. The same resistance movement has to resurface in Tamil film industry, though the same old mythological melodramatic approach will have to be replaced by a more innovative approach.
All these have to be done to remove the rock. Once the rock that blocks the eternal stream of dharma, which is running under the Dravidian barren land, is shattered into pieces, we will see the barren land transformed into what it always has been throughout history — the land of dharma eternal.