Page:Pre-Aryan Tamil Culture.djvu/22

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one, the socio-religious division of the people into four Varṇas. This division arose on account of the necessities of the Vedic fire-cult. This cult evolved into a vast system of rites which were celebrated during long periods of time, the Sattra Yāgas occupying twelve to a hundred years, and required the growth of the Brāhmaṇa Varṇa, consisting of men who from childhood memorized the immense literature of the Vedas and subsidiary works, the Śruti and the Smrti, and were trained in the correct performances of the complicated Arya rites and, being experts in the religio-magical ceremonies, acquired a high standing in society. Then there were the Kings of several grades, Chakravarttī, Mahāraja, Rājā, who with their blood-relatives formed the Kshattriya Varṇa, and whose function it was to protect the people and the fire-rite from being oppressed by enemies. For the special benefit of the Kshattriyas, the more gorgeous fire-rites, such as Rājasūya, Abişheka, Vājapeya, Aśvamedha, etc., were evolved. The bulk of the people were the Vaiśyas (from viş, people) devoted to the ordinary pursuits of man—agriculture, trade and the tending of cattle. The Vaiśyas had the privilege of paying for and deriving the benefits accruing from the minor yāgas which the Brāhmaṇas performed on their behalf. The last Varṇa included the serving classes, called Śūdras. This fourfold classification is neither regional nor racial, neither social nor professional but one correlated entirely to the fire-rite. When the Brāhmaṇas settled in Southern India and the ancient Tamil Rajas desiring to secure the benefit of the Yāgas, accorded to the fire-priests a supreme position in society, the Brähmaṇas naturally tried to introduce their socio-religious organization into Tamil society. But a religious oligarchy and a social democracy could not very well mix with each other. Hence the Brāhmaṇas did not succeed in arranging the people of Southern India as members of the four varṇas as they did in North India. The Rajas who actually ruled in the provinces of peninsular India were given the privileges of Kshattriyas with regard to the fire-rites—that of paying for them and deriving the invisible (adṛṣhṭa or apūrva) effects of the Yajña and were even admitted to the Bhāradvāja Gotra; but the scheme of four varņas necessary to a people, every detail of whose daily life, from urination to cremation, was influenced by the fire-rite, could not well spread among the Tamils, whose life for many millenniums previously was mainly secular and based on social democracy and among whom the Arya fire-rite, as it had lost its vitality before the Brāhmanas migrated to Southern India, did not spread. It only led to the confusion of caste and the prevalence of social jealousies that have characterized the life of South India for a thousand five-hundred years; for, we learn from the Tēvāram,[1] of Tirunāvukkaraśu Nāyanār,[2] that there was in his day, as there is to-day, a consciousness of rivalry, if not jealousy, between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins or, as they were then called, Ariyan,[3] and Tamiḻan.[4] The cause of this was

  1. தேவாரம்.
  2. திருராவுக்கரசுநாயனார்.
  3. ஆரியன்.
  4. தமிழன்.

    ஆரியன் கண்டாய் தமிழன் கண்டாய்.
    Tiṛumaraikkaḍu Tiruttāṇḍagam, 5.
    செந்தமிழோடு ஆரியனைச் சிரியானை.
    Tiruvāvaḍuduṛai Tirattāṇḍagam, 10.
    ஆரியத் தமிழோ டிசையானவன்.
    Tirukkaḍambanduṛai Tirukkuṛundogai, 3.