Tamil culture and the present, mingled culture of South India started on its glorious evolution.
Combining these two sources of information, the pure Tamil iḍukuṛi words coming down from the early ages and the evidence of early Tamil literature, it is proposed to make further rents in the veil which time has woven round the life led by the Tamils five thousand years ago.
The ancient Tamil people noted that the surface of the habitable portions of the earth could be divided into five natural regions, which they called Pālai or sandy desert land, Kuṛinji, mountainous country, Mullai, forest tracts, Marudam, the lower river valley, fit for agricultural operations, and Neydal, the littoral region. They noticed that in each region was evolved a different kind of human culture. In Pālai grew the nomad stage, in Kuṛinji, the hunter stage, in Mullai the pastoral stage, in Marudam the agricultural stage, and in Neydal, the fishing and sailing stage, of human development. Not only were these different stages of human culture evolved in these different regions, but each stage continued to exist in its own region, after other stages grew in theirs. The men of these regions were respectively called Maṛavar, Kuṛavar, Āyar, Uḻavar, and Paradavar. The recognition of the different kinds of life led by these five different classes of men is a wonderful anticipation, made several millenniums ago, of the very modern science of Anthropogeography. This science is the rival of Ethnology. The latter claims to be able to divide men into races with varying permanant physical and mental characteristics, flowing from microscopical bodies called chromosomes which pass from parent to offspring. Notwithstanding heroic efforts for a hundred years to calculate the cephalic index and the co-efficient of racial likeness, ethnologists have not been able to hit on any characteristic, unchangeable mark of race. Anthropogeography, on the other hand, holds that what are called racial characteristics are the result of the action of the environment within which a people grow, which is called the area of characterization of a race. It is remarkable the Tamils reached this idea in remote ages and defined the five natural regions, and classified races as five, each of whom followed professions suited to the region inhabited by them. Besides this horizontal classification, there was a vertical classification of the people of any one region into Mannar, kings, Vaḷḷal, petty chiefs, noblemen, Veḷḷāḷar, owners of fields, Vaṇigar, merchants, all of whom were called Uyarndōr or Mēlōr, the higher classes, and Vinaivalar, and Aḍiyōr, the working classes and personal servants. This second classification is solely based on the standing of people in society, and is one that has evolved everywhere in the world. On these two classifications, the Brāhmaṇas who carried the Arya cult into Southern India in the first millennium before the Christian era, imposed a third
- Tolkāppiyam, Poruḷadigāram, i. 21-32.