The Academies in Sumerian and Dravidian

Dear Friends,

In my earlier studies of the Flood theme, I showed many parallels between the original account available in Sumerian and Tamil which cannot be accidental or even borrowed. While there are many ramifications of the  Deluge theme in both Dravidian and the Akkadian and so forth and which seem to have  played a central role in both Christianity and Saivism, I shall pursue now another theme : that of the ACADEMIES and in this first part  the Elementary School  in both in Sumerian and Tamil using for this purpose the original texts in both these languages and incidentally also point out that Sumerian is Archaic Tamil and hence Dravidian by entering into some linguistic discussions.

The Tamil account of Academies, Cangam, is available in many Cangkam classics but in some detail in the commentary to iRaiyanar AhapporuL   ( 5th cent AD ?). The general account : there were THREE academies and that the Last Academy was in Mathurai in Tamil Nadu where most of the Cangkam classics that we have to this day were sanctioned  as superb achievements and so forth; the Second Academy was in KapaadapuRam  and the First in Kumari  presided over by Civa,  Murukan and other Dravidian deities.. I shall provide the details later.

Meanwhile we find that in Sumer (also Su.  Kumari  or Kauri) we have extensive descriptions of many kinds of educational institutions and academies showing that the Sumerians were given over to education as something very central in the cultural development of the people, a notion also present  among the Cangkam Tamils.  The Sumerian contributions in this direction has had widespread influence all over the world and it seems to have spread along with the cuneiform script  they invented and perfected.

To get an understanding of the various kinds of Academies in Sumerian I shall use Sulgi's Mutariibiyam ( Hymn B) which is replete with information on this subject.  This text is dated around 2000 B.C. and there are also texts earlier than this and dated around 2600 B.C.

1. e-dub-ba : The School for Children. Ta. il tubbu

This is the most amazing aspect of the educational situation in Sumerian -- the widespread presence of schools for children and in which they were taught the art of writing and reading. There are many details available on this topic including what went on inside the schools as many 'essays' composed by the  children learning to write have been recovered in the form of clay tablets in just as written by the children.

11. lugal-e lugal-a-ri-a nin-e-tu-ud-me-en
    I, the king of royal descent, whom a princess bore

Ta. uLukaLLee  ulukaL aariya ninnee todda maan

12 Sul-gi-me-en dumu-gi sa-zi-ta nam-dug-tar-ra-me-en
    I, Sulgi, the legitimate prince, was allotted  a good destiny, right from the faithful heart

Ta. Cuulgi maan tamukii caaycitta tungka tarunam maan

13. tur-ra-mu-de e-dub-ba-a-a-am
    Since my (very) youth I belonged to the edubba

Ta. tur-ra mutee il tubbaia aa aam

Let us consider these lines in some details before coming to consider some aspects of the school system itself.

He claims that he is "lugal-ari-a" which I take it as "uLukaL aariya"  something  semantically similar to Kamban's use of "aariya maintan" in Kamba RamayaNam, meaning a brave and noble warrior. The term " maintan" is derived from "maintu' bravery and which may be related "mey,  moy" as in 'mey kiirtti " a sense which is different from 'mey" as truth also in extensive use in Sumerian. The word 'aariya' may be related Ta. aar meaning 'amazing' or 'praise worthy"  a sense in which it  is also available in Sumerian as in the following line of the same text. (Ultimately the English warrior may be related to this.)

324. ar-e sag li-bi-til-til-la-mu

My praise will never be finished

Ta. aarree caak-u ili bi tiir tiirra moo

This 'aar" may the root of such words as "arccanai' 'aaraatanai' etc whixh are taken as Sk.

Another interesting word is  " nam-tar-ra"  from which we probably have Ta. tarumam (tarmam) : the givenness sankriticed as "dharma". "nam-duga-tar-ra-me-en" means here "one who is given a good destiny" taking 'tar" as Ta. taru:  to give. His good destiny is that  he is given to be born as the true prince  and excellent person " dumu-gi  sa-zi-ta" where "zi-ta" also  of wide occurrence is the probably the archaic form of 'catta' and  hence "cattiya", the true  also another word retained in Sk.

Part of this destiny underlying his birth as true prince is that he excelled in education in the elementary school , the e-dub-a , the house of tablets that he  attended from his youth "tur-ra-mu-de" where both 'tur" in the sense of small and mu-de ( mutee) in the ablative sense of "from"  are still in use in Tamil. The Ta. tur as in turumbu simply means small. Another word retained in Akkadian is sihru which is quite obviously Ta. siRu, ultimately to be derived from Ta. cil, cin which occurs  also in Sumerian in the sense of 'small'. The root appears to be 'cillu', meaning to spilt and probabaly this is the reason a path is called in Su. sil-a and which corresponds wwith Ta. caalai .

The "a-am" is Ta. aa aam : where 'aa" means "becoming  and "aam" the particle of emphasis as well as that of assent. . The 'dub" though it does not exist as 'tablet" but the sense is retained in "tuppu" a word polysemantic but one of the meanings of which is "clue" , something that requires deciphering, interpreting and so forth.

Thus we see here that Sulgi claims that in his youth or childhood he attended an elementary school 'il-tubbu" and that it was also part of the good destiny - dharma that  he was blessed with.

e-dub-ba and Potiyil

Before  we go further, perhaps I should point out that there is in Tamil a name for an educational institution somewhat similar in morphology with e-dub-ba ( Ta. il tuppu) viz. potiyil ( < potu-il), a term used to describe a place where Tamil writings were examined and studied. In some puranic lore this is also ascribed to Agastya, the patron of Tamil scholarship  and who is the Tamilized version of the Sumerian Gestin-Anna, the Lady of Mystical wisdom, she who excells in Dream interpretations and who is skillful at getting the meanings.

The 'potu' may be a variant of "pOtu" meaning 'knowledge' and seems to underlie in the form of "put-'' in such terms terms as 'putti", 'put-akam' "put-t-an"  and so forth. Thus we can take 'potiyil" as a kind of place concerned with learning and that this was probably  one of the terms the ancient Tamils used for academy or at least a place for learning.

We sholud recall here that Agastya is credited with writing about the grammar of Tamil language.  Such mythologised accounts may be a simply a vague historical memeory of what transpired in the school system

The following lines shed immense light on the details of the school activities that are of immense historical interest.

Su. sar , Ta. caaRRu, caattiram etc.

Sulgi Hymn B

14. dub ki-en-gi -ki-uri-ka nam-dub-sar-ra mi-ni-zu
    (And) on the tablets of Sumer and Akkad I learnt I learned the art of the scribe

15. nam-tur-ra ga-e gin-nam im nu-mu-sar
    Of the young, none could write tablets like me

16. nam-dub-sar-ra ki nam-ku-zu-ba lu im-mi-DU.DU
    People frequented the place of learning (to acquire) the scribal art

In these lines we have the occurrence 'sar'  Ta. caaRRu in verbs and verbal nouns. As a verb we have "im .. sar" Ta. iyam .. caaRRu,  meaning either writing or reading clay tablets. Th 'im' may be related Ta.aiyam: something fine and moist.  From this caaRRu we have caattiram: literature , caattan, scholar and so forth. Note : ciit talai caattan : the scholar ( caattan) who is the prominet head.  Perhaps the SK sastra , sastry and so forth are linked to this. We can also take "upanisad' as   the Sumerian 'uppa-ni-saaRRu' i.e.  utterances coming from above viz. mystical utterances. The changes of -RR- into -tt- is a well attested phenomena in Tamil phonology.

The NP, nam-dub-sar-ra (> Ta. tuppu caaRRunam) which literally stands for the skill of reading or writing tablets means here derivatively for 'learning ' as such and elsewhere noted also as gal-bi (Ta. kalvi) also meaning that which is recited.  The phrase " nam-ku-zu-ba " could a variant of Ta. nanku cuuba where 'cuu' that forms the basis for such words as 'cuu-t-tiram" may also be the archaic form of Ta. col:  to say, utter etc. The "zu-ba"  may be a varinat of 'zi-u-ba" : to get calrity i.e to understand.The word 'nanku" is still existent in Tamil and it means 'well'.  The  line 16 indicates that at that time there was wide interest among people from all walks of life in becoming skillful in writing and reading and that they frequented such educational institutions to acquire the required mastery.

The Sastra tradition of India and a class of brahmins who are called called Sastries (Ta. caattan) may actually be a Dravidian institution, linked with the scribal art.

(to continue) 1

Dravidian cittu and Sk vittu

It appears that culturally the very important word of Vittai and Veetaa are ultimately Dravidian in origin

Su. sid Ta. sittu, vittu, viitai , veetaa etc.

17. zi-zi-i ga-ga sid-nig-sid-de / zag im-mi-til-til
    And striving and toiling went through their course in all the science of numbers

The most important term here is 'sid-nig-sid" wrongly translated I think,  as the science of numbers. We can take it as Ta. sittu-nika- sittu where it can mean "knowledge all knowledge" or "knowledge, the excellent knowledge". The 'nig' is reatined as Ta. nika, niva meaning very tall or large and derivatively  " an immense variety , all kinds"  or" the lofty" etc. In the sense of 'final' or 'highest" we have it  in the technical term in Logic 'nika-manam" meaning the final or conclusive measurement.

In many other Sumerian texts on  incantations  the word 'sid' occurs in the sense of  'chanting, reciting " and so forth.

In Tamil we have the term 'cittu" and 'cettu' in a variety of meanings quite often mixed with magic. The word 'citti'  means some kind of extraordinary attainment or simply attainments with 'putti" standing for the processes that make it possible. We have also 'cittar' with a large range of meanings: magician, physician, philosopher and so forth. From cittu we have vittu, vittai with the disintegration of the initial 's-' that is also a frequent phenomena in Tamil phonology. From this we can  see the genesis 'veeta" meaning the texts or hymns that are recited, that which embodies the vittai ( Sk vidya)

Related to this is Ta. cettu , meaning to think , reflect and so forth and from which we have cintanai: thoughts, cittam: will or  a part of the mind concerned with willing.

Thus we can see that 'sid' originally meant what children  do in reading the clay tablets, i.e. reciting and which was also  used in the sense 'chanting" when it came to the magical incantations. This way of reading loudly ,  also attested in Sumerian as we shall see soon, interestingly enough is available even now  in the traditional Indian schools. At least this is how I was taught when I attended a school in rural Tamilnadu  in the 40's.

Nisaba is  Saraswati?

In the lines that follow we have clear articulation of the worship of Saraswati , called here Nidaba and elsewhere also Nisaba ( suggesting that there was the sibilant 'sh' in Su.  nishaba> nidaba) showing that  the present practice that is certainly among Tamils and perhaps also all over India is in fact a practice coming from the Sumerian times.

18 dinger Nidaba sig-ga Nidaba-ke
    (as for me) goddess Nidaba, fair faced Nidaba

19. gestu-gizzal-la su dagal-la ma-ni-in-dug
    With a generous hand, provided me with intelligence and wisdom

The word "sig-ga" may be related to "si" that also means ' fair,  red, beautiful" etc. and perhaps the root of "si-ta" of RamayaNa,  the beautiful one. Perhaps it is also the archaic form  of 'cokka' meaning 'alluring , captivating etc.".  It also means 'pure" as in "cokkat tangkam".

We have also the words in folklore literature 'singki' and 'singkan' and the root 'sing-' may be related to this with the meaning "beautiful, excellent etc." . There is  a place name in Tamilnadu 'cikkil'  ( <sig-il ?) and perhaps it means ' a beautiful place"

Dinger Nidaba also occurs as Nisaba in Kes Temple Hymns (~ 2200 B.C.)

9. (d) en-lil-le kes ja-mi am-ma -ab-be ( Enlil spoke the praises of Kes)

*Ta. keeci kunRa-kunRa saangka uzubi ( When Kes was lifting its head (or rising up) )

*Ta. ENliil-lee keeci caamiyamma abaiyee ( Enlil announced the divine greatness of Keeci)

( za-mi = ja-mi Ta. caami : divine, lofty etc; ab-be Ta. abaiyee< Ta, aa: to open the mouth; avai : assembly)

10. (d) nisaba nu-ka-as-bi-um  (Nisaba was its princely ? arbiter..)

11. inim-bi-ta sa-gin im-da-an-sur ( With its words she wove it intricately like a net)

*Ta. 10. Nisaba nuul kaappiyam ( Nisaba was composer of the text )

*Ta. 11. enambittu caal-ngin ii-im iduvan suRRu ( with words she weaved it like a net)

(nu-kas-bi-um Ta. nuul paappiyam ; Ta:  nuul: text ; sur Ta. cuRRu  : to spin, weave etc)

12. dub-ba sar-sar su-se al-ga-ga ( Written on tablets it was held in (her) hands)

*Ta. tubbu   saaRRu-saaRRu  cuur-ceey val kaalkaal ( The tablets announcing (it all) was held in her hands firmly)

(al Ta. val: firmly, here an adverb; sar Ta. caaRRu : to announce)

 Dinger Nisaba as nu-ka-as-bi-yam' (Ta. Nisaba teyvam nuul kaappiyam)  is certainly the Goddess of Learning and Understanding. The word 'kaappiyam" not only occurs as Tol.kaappiyam but also in such words as "kaappiyak kudi" "kaappiyaaRRu  kaappiyan " etc..  It can also be related 'kaacipan " as in VeNkaacipan etc. Perhaps Sk kasyapa has the same roots with the meanings   of "weaver" or 'fisherman.

In Su. kas also occurs as kas-gal meaning a path or road. Taking kas as an  archaic form Ta. kaci : to flow , kas-gal can also be taken as archaic form of vaay-k-kaal, the cannel ( Note kas> kaay, vaay; we have Su. ka and Ta. vaay both meaning mouth). The kaappiyaaRu above may mean " the river mouth".' or "river with flowing waters"  The name 'kaaviri" for the river in Tamilnadu may actually mean a river with branching mouth and which goes to show that when the SumeroTamils came to Tamilnadu, they still retained the word 'kaa' meaning the mouth.

Is Saraswati Dravidian?

That Nisaba is the same as Saraswati is clear from the meanings of line 19 above. She is the Goddess of learning and without her generosity (or aruL ) the necessary skills for acquiring and mastering the scribal art of reading and writing the tablets or dub-ba or nu(l)  is impossible.

"su-dagal-la"  means 'with wide open hands'.  su < cuur, suur: something that radiates out; cuur > kuur, karam; hands. dagal-la corresponds to  both "akala"  (wide) with the loss of initial 'd"  and "tavalla" (immense, large, great) with -a serving as the adjectival formant that is available in Tamil to this day.

The "gestu-gizzal" is actually "kattu kiiccal" , lit. shouting is shrill voice and which must have come to be used in those days for  school learning as such. The word 'dug' has  as tukku, means  praising or singing in Cangkam classics ( from memory: paratavar  ....  icai tuukkuntu ). Currently it is indicated by the "ootal" which also means  learning a text in addition to reciting, singing etc.

"gestu" by itself in Su. means knowledge , wisdom etc. and we have "gestin-anna" the wise Goddess of dream interpretation. The term Agastya appears to be related to this. Note also that 'potiyil'  the famous center of learning ascribed to Agastya may actually be a transfer of the role of Nisaba to Agastya. For it is possible to derive poti-il as metathesis of tup-pu-il ( <  e dub-ba ) tup-pu > pu-t-tu  ( hence putti, pootam , puttakam etc.)

It may be possible that the word Saraswati itself is another Su. name for Nisaba ( I remember coming across this  in some Sumerian texts though I can't recall precisely). It may be related to Su. sar, sar which means writing reading etc. Perhaps  it is to be derived as "sar-es-ba-ti" where 'es'  is Su. es and Ta. icai: to sing . "sar-es " may be another variant of  Su. nu-es (Ta. nuul icai)

The wati can be derived from Su. ba-ti : where 'ba' is a pronoun he or she and 'ti' (til)  means to exist ,  be there. ( Note Ta. vati, vaci: to live)

We shall now come to a detailed consideration of the following line that , despite being so typical of the school learning but astounds us by being so ancient i.e. 2000 B.C. Not only that -- the whole of the philosophic tradition of the Dravidian folks appears to have been  founded essentially  as further adumbration of ideas contained in this line

20 dub-sar ig-tag-a nig-e nu-dab-be-me-en
    Whatever the teacher brought forward, I let nothing go by

Ta. tuppu saaRRu akki taakkuva nigvee naa tabbu man

( Whatever understanding I gained in learning I did not allow it  to escape  ( from my memory))

Let us first consider how the ideas here could be linked with the Indian  Logical Tradition which is essentially hermeneutical and thus differing somewhat from the Greek and the Western which are developments from syllogistic kind of reasoning.

igi-tag-a and Pratyaksa

The dub-sar  can mean both the teacher or simply reading or reciting ( sar) a text ( dub-u )   . And now either through being taught or reading what results is UNDERSTANDING and this is the meaning of 'ig-tag-a" The igi/ig stands both for the doors of a building as well the eyes. And since the Su. 'g' is also read as 'k' and 'n' probably the original sound is "ng" . And hence 'igi' can be  taken to be actually "ingi". This accounts quite well for the development of Ta. imai and Ta. ikki/ akki ( retained in Sk as  aksi) both meaning eyes. The word Ta. kaN is to derived from Su. kin : to see.

Now KaN in Tamil has the senses of eyes as well as understanding or knowledge. This appears to be the meaning of 'ig" in  the above expression; 'ig-tag-a'  then would mean that which REACHES UNDERSTANDING, a sense more appropriate to the context under consideration.

This interpretation is also justified in terms of the meaning of  "nu-dab-be-me-en " (did not let go). In Tamil 'tappu" means to this day "to escape"  and hence the phrase can be taken to mean : " I did not allow it to escape' and which means Sulgi is talking here about memory especially the long term memory . He also implies by this that he can RETAIN and hence  RECALL whatever thus learned and UNDERSTOOD.

Now it may be  possible to derive the technical word "pratyaksa" as a development from this word. The same concept can be rendered as "porutu- aksa" as an evolute of 'akki-porutu"  reaching the understanding and then Sankritized through  vowel deletion and so forth as 'pratyaksa" confused however  with perception and that too as 'sensing" defined as what obtains when objects meet with  senses ( indrya artha sannikarsam)

The Birth of the Notion of utti and hence  the Dravidian Literary Hermeneutics

And now the phrase 'nig-e nu dab-be-me-en"  embodies the notion of utti  ( > Sk ukti) that plays a central role in the literary hermeneutics as outlined in Marapiyal of Tolkaappiyam. The phrase can be taken to mean " I did not allow anything to escape" and which he means he claims that he RETAINED all that he understood in his memory.  The utti underlying it can termed " nikara naa tapputal". Thus he  is talking about the  cognitive psychology of  remembering and hence  also implitly that of forgetting. Forgetting what is taught or learnt must have been a problem in those days as it is even now and Sulgi boasts that unlike other children in the class, he had better cognitive abilities to prevent memory loss. Thus he indirectly articulates what later came to be  called "utti", the cognitive process underlying the faultless understanding  (or teaching ) of  very meaningful and intellectually demanding texts.

The final Sutra of Marapiyal of Tol. lists these as at least 32 in number and includes the above as one of them. I give below the whole sutra with meanings only briefly outlined. The  iRantatu kaattal: recalling the past matters to maintain them in memory or preserving what has already transpired" corresponds quite well with " nig-e nu-dab-be me-en"  with ' kaattal'  meaning the same as 'nu-dab-be'.

The Marapiyal Sutra

Here otta kaadci uttivakai virippin

: If the utties that serve to  bring about  AGREEMENT in understanding between the author and the reader were to
be listed they are as follows:

nutaliyatu aRital:  understanding what is intended by the author;

atikaara muRaiyee: understanding the progressive organisational structure of the text;

tokuttuk kuuRal:  instructing on the overall meaning;

vakuttu meyn niRuttal: analysing and differentiating the different aspects of the said  and establishing their truths;

mozinta poruLoodu onRa avvayin moziyaatatanai muddinRu mudittal: importing that which haven't be said overtly but which are consistent with what has been asserted;

vaaraa tatanaan vantatu mudittal: making a definite conclusion in terms of those that have been said later or thatremains unsaid;

vantatu koNdu vaaratatu uNarttal: extending the meaning by drawing out the implications of that which have been said;

muntu mozintatin talai tadumaaRRee: reversing the order of the said in order to grasp collectively the overall meaning;

oppak kuuRal: citing the relevant and similar information;

orutalai moziyee:  disambiguating in case of multiple possiblities;

tankooL kuuRal: stating clearly one's own opinion;

muRai piRazaamai:: instructing or learning without distorting the progressive order;

piRan udanpaddatu taan udan padutal: expressing agreement with what other scholars  have agreed upon;

iRantatu kaattal: recalling the past matters to maintain them in memory;

etiratu pooRRal: keeping in mind the future possiblities;

mozivaam enRal: in that context asserting now that I will mention it or come to it later;

kuuRiiRu enRal: if already said then telling that one has already mentioned it earlier;

taan kuRi idutal: intoducing one's own signs or symbols or technical terms in case something new is introduced;

outalai yanmai mudintatu kaaddal: drawing the multiple possiblities in meaning where it holds;

aaNai kuuRal: citing the necessary authorities for substantiating a view;

palporutku eeRpin nallatu koodal: in case of multiple possiblities, choosing the best possiblity;

tokutta moziyaan vakuttanar koodal:  in case of the collective meaning also drawing out the collective implications;

maRutalai sitaittut tantuNibu uraittal: destroying the opposed views and establishing one's own;

piRankood kuuRal: citing the opinion of the others;

aRiyaatu udanpadal: agreeing in case one doesn't understand;

poruL idai yidutal: providing  the relevant meanings in between when necessary;

etirporuL uNarttal:  explicating also the opposite meanings;

collin eccam colliyaangku uNarttal:  articulating the implicatures just as it prevails in the said ;

tantupuNarttu uaraittal: bring to bear the earlier and later things to the current issue;

njaapakam kuuRal: explicating the different possiblities from memory to elucidate further the hidden meanings

uyttuk koNdu uNarttalodu: going beyond the words and their meanings to the hidden depths;

 meyppada naadic
colliya alla piRa avaN varinum
colliya vakaiyaal surungka naadi
manattain eNNi maasaRat terintukoNdu
inattiR ceertti uNarttal veeNdum
nunittaku pulavar kuuRiya nuulee

With these various strategies or interpretive moves  and also exercising all other utties that haven't been mentionedhere but without going very far from the issue, any text must be understood faultlessly  and having brought out  thecollective meanings and hence classifying it appropriately , one should learn and instruct on the scientific textsauthored by insightful scholars.

It is this view or philosophic orientation that became generalized to the whole EXISTENCE and which constitutes the essence of Saiva Siddhanta and other schools of philosophy that arose in the Dravidian South .