The Sumerian Understanding of Tarumam (> Sk Dharma)


Dr. K.Loganathan, 2003


These lines occurring in Suruppak’s NeRi ( c. 3000 BC)  brief as they may be but are outstanding in their philosophic and historic significance. The word ‘nam-tar’ which also occurs as ‘nam-tar-ra’ is certainly the arche-form of Ta. tarumam, tarmam (<taranam) where we have also Ta. taruNam, meaning ‘an opportunity’ etc. The root meaning is that of ‘natural givenness’ (Ta. taru, taa: to give).


Another word of importance here is ‘pes’ which also occurs as ‘pe-es” and which seems to be the arche-form of Ta. paakkam (pe-es> pe-ek> paakkam) meaning the downtown city center. Initially it was probably the beachfront where there must have been  import-export trading. Now we can relate this word to Ta. vaiciyan (> Sk vaishya) that occurs in Tol. but which is better preserved in Sk. Thus it is possible that the ‘vaiciya’ were people of the beachfront, the harbor and hence people involved in import-export business. To this we can also add ‘vishyam’ meaning originally the various goods the merchants were trading with and later used in the metaphorical sense of ’things’.


There is also the Ta.  word ‘veeci” meaning harlots, prostitutes etc and which may also be related to this word and perhaps because the prostitutes abounded sea-ports as is the case even to-day.



But the most important notion here is that Tarumam (Dharma) is understood metaphorically as a vast OCEAN, the shores of which are very distant (dur-ra-am> Ta. tuura aam). Thus it turns out the Sumerians saw Dharma as something infinite, inexhaustible, immensely vast and something really unfathomable, that no man’s feet (giri-ni) can set on it, it always being beyond his reach!


Such an understanding of Dharma and which is called now AruL or Grace of BEING, what BEING bestows on His own accord, is APPLIED to drive a point in ethics:  One should NOT pile up or hoard wealth like mountain upon a mountain i.e. be selfish and greedy the corollary of which is one should give away in charities, donate to good cause etc and which is another meaning of Ta. tarumam as in ‘taana tarumam’ , ‘tarumam talikaakkum   (dharma will save you at crucial times) etc.




Lexical Notes:


170.    kur-ra kur na-an-na-dub-be  ( Do not pile  up a mountain in the mountain)


 Ta. kunRa kunRu nAan adubbee ( Do not pile up (wealth) like mountain upon mountain)


adub-be : Ta. aduppu, adukku : to pile up


171.      nam-tar pes dur-ra-am  ( Fate is a slippery bank)



Ta. tarnam veesu tuura aam ( The banks of Dharma are far way)


nam-tar > Ta. tarnam> tarumam : the givenness, Dharma


pes> Ta. peek. Paak, paakkam : the shores. Pes> veesh> Vaishya : merchants, those who live by the seashores and trade


dur-ra > Ta. tuura : very distant


172.       lu-da giri-ni ( which makes a man slide)


Ta. uLu-uda  kiirini  imma iduvan ceeyir ( A man’s feet always cannot reach it .


giri> Ta. kiiri, kiirai > viri, viral : feet , fingers.


ze-er . Ta. ceeyar : distant, very far away.