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The Sumerian Se-ir mal  (Enlil) and Dravidian Tirumaal (Vishnu)


The  study of Sumerian gods indicate that most of them still survive as gods worshipped by the Hindus especially the Tamils. This goes to show that Hinduism is essentially Agamism and that it is PreVedic and perhaps also something that  has influenced  profoundly the genesis of some aspects of Vedism.. While some names of these ancient gods might have changed but, interestingly enough , not their epithets or attributes. The Sumerian pantheon is essentially the same as the present day Dravidian and pan Indian Hindu where one of  the habits of the Sumerians, praising the deities in terms of epithets, the namaavaLi , is still widely prevalent.

This study discloses  another problem about conservation of language : proper names changing but not the epithets, the ways BEING is understood and represented in both descriptive terms and iconographic representations.

This institution of namavaLi, so ubiquitous in Hindu culture appears to combine both metaphysical understanding along with elements of Bakthi.

This series is just brief note on Enlil( also called se-ir mal) where some lines are taken from a book "a-ab-ba hu-luh-ha" (Oh Angry Sea!) ,(Raphael Kurtscher, 1975, Yale Univ. Press) a very scholarly book  that also details the distinction between the eme-gir and eme-sal forms of Sumerian language. There are also many useful  discussions on  phonology in its relationship to orthography , very useful for the study of the evolution of Tamil from Sumerian.

It appears that  SumeroTamils were acutely aware of the distinction between the oral and written forms of  Sumerian and in their written form they also wanted incorporate language as spoken!

I shall confine myself here  just to  some basic issues that may throw some light on the origins of VishNu worship which    along with Siva worship , Murukan worship and Ammai worship   were  central features of the cultural ethos of the Sumerians.

We note here another aspect of conservatism :  descriptive terms that epithets are metaphysical insights about the ways of BEING are more conservative and less subject to mutation than perhaps the proper names.

Some of these epithets  are represented ICONOGRAPHICALLY which is also a form of a script, the script that
represents the contents of the unconscious.

1. The Ta. aRituyil and  Su. False Sleep (u-lul-a ku-ku)

The notion of aRituyil, sleep where there is learning, is something we see as a Yogic posture of Tirumaal in Cangkam classics. Perhaps it is the same as yoganidra in Sk. However it is clear that  it is FALSE sleep for it is in  fact enjoying transductive perceptions, a state of being similar   to enjoying dreams but something higher than even that. Perhaps it is to be understood in terms of Lucid Dreams that recent developments in Dream Psychology have  come to recognize. What is clear however is that it is something very clearly associated with Yoga which in Saivism is understood as the experiences of Third Eye while in Vaishnavism as that of aRituyil.

Both the cults of Saivism and Vaishnavism are deeply Yogic however they seem to have  gone about it differently and this may underlie the growth of different yoga systems in Hindu culture.

This notion , interestingly enough exists in Sumerian too, as the following lines would indicate.

5.  a-a (d) mu-ul-lil sipa sag-gig-a ( Father Enlil , Shepherd of the Black-headed)

Ta. ayyaa moo uLLil civa caan kaikka ( Father who pervades in the interior of all, the savior who is black)

6. a-a (d) mu-ul-lil i-bi-du ni-te-na ( Father Enlil, the one inspecting for Himself)

Ta. ayyaa moo uLLil imaiyidu nii taanee ( Father who pervades the interior of all, and sees all on his own accord)

7. a-a (d) mu-ul-lil am erin di-di ( Father Enlil, the Warrior Who Leads the Troops)

Ta. ayyaa moo uLLil amaa araN titii

8. a-a (d) mu-ul-lil u-lul-la ku-ku  ( Father enlil, Who Feigns Sleep ( lit. Who Sleeps a False Sleep)

Ta. ayyaa moo uLLil uuzalla kokkoo ( ...)

We should note the following things:

a. Tirumaal is BLACK, i.e. maal and perhaps this is what is being communicated by the phrase 'sag gig-ga" the black head or black person ( sag, sa-an: head , person, gi-g-ga > kringka, kalingka; gi = mi :Ta. mai: black)

b. The notion of False Sleep -  u-lal-la ku-ku , uuzalla kokkoo , along with " inspecting for Himself  or who sees all on his own accord pretty well communicates the notion of the vision of Third Eye, the EYE that does close at all. The term ku-ku ( Ta. kokkoo) is available in the term kokkookam, the science of sexual embrace hence sleeping by wrapping around. Tirumaal does NOT sleep at all, but only PRETENDS to sleep for otherwise he cannot SEE everything as the indweller in all.

This description should be compared with the following in Paripaadal (13) perhaps of  early Pre Christian era.

25. -- 29

kaalamum vicumbum kaaRRodu kanalum
tannuru vuRazum paaRkadal naappaN
minnavair cudarmaNi aayiram viritta
kavai naa varuntalai kaanbin ceekkai
tuLavanj cuudiya aRituyiloonum

Meaning ( roughly)

The God of aRituyil ,  He who wears TuLaci and sleeps over the Snake  with  mouths  of split   tongues that spill out  thousands of brilliant stones  coiled in the midst of  the Ocean of Milk, that stands  in contrast to His Darkness and also to Time , Sky ,  Wind,  and Fire .

The Black complexion of Tirumaal and his false sleep form the common themes. This description in Paripaadal also explains why Tirumaal is BLACK. His DARK complexion stands in contrast to all that is  visible-- the Sky, Wind,  Fire etc. and hence for the fact that Tirumaal is the  WHOLLY MYSTERIOUS,  the INVISIBLE, the Difficult to UNDERSTAND, the Uncanny , the Supremely Unfathomable etc. But HE SEES all  nevertheless  for  HE is CONSCIOUS of all as the indweller of everything, the antariyaamin, the Person - moo, inside all  --uLLil.

Now this notion that EnLil pervades the INTERIOR of all (si-ba sag gig-ga> ciiva saan kaikka) and which has given rise to the VaishNava notion that BEING is the indweller in all (Antariyaamin) may the pre-understanding that launched the INWARD GAZE (i-bi-da ni-te-na)

However the following line from the same book clearly outlines the disciplining the body into new postures by way accessing deeper and untapped parts of the brain:

A19 (p.94)

gu-zu ur-ra ba-e-ni-mar-ra si-mah-en ( (You), who placed your neck between your thighs, you are likewise exalted)

Ta. kuuv-juu uur-ra baayinee malla sii maahyen ()

Bending and placing the neck (kuuv) between the thighs (uur-ra) is certainly an attempt to break the normal body habits and initiating it into something new. It may be possible that all these postures (projected onto Enlil) are in fact attempts to access the deeper brain parts that would allow the visions into the hidden and concealed and hence ARituyil.


The Sumerian Se-ir mal  (Enlil) and Dravidian Tirumaal (Vishnu)

I shall conclude this brief note by bringing to attention one of the epithets that has become very popular in the Bakthi period and linked with the mythology of "Muuvadiyaal ulagaLanta PerumaaL' the great person who measured out the whole universe with his three strides. It is insinuated here that His feet were so large that he could measure out  the whole of the manifest universe.  Such metaphysical insights of BEING appear as  early attempts of man to comprehend the ubiquitoes presence of BEING  that in later philosophical reflections came to  be called 'antaryaami" , the immanent presence of BEING everywhere.

Enlil as Vishnu

The following lines are enormously important in connection with tracing the genesis of BEING as Vishnu (Ta, viNNavan)

113. mu-ul-lil me-ri-mu-ta me-ri sa-a nu-ma-al

Enlil, a foot equal to your foot does not exist

( Ak. be-li-ku it-ti se-pe-ia sa is-sa-an-nu-na ul i-ba-as-si )

Ta. moo uLLil mitimoottu miti caa caana naa maal

193. a) (d) mu-ul-lil am! zi-ga an-na nam-us

Enlil is the rising Wild Ox, he reached up the sky

Ta. moo uLLil amaa! ciika vaannee   nam u(ra)cu

    b) (d) mu-ul-lil zi-ga-ni an-ne nam-us

Enlil, the Wild Ox , his rising reached up to the sky

Ta. moo uLLil ciikanee vaannee nam u(ra)cu

199 a) umun su asa-ni an-e nu-il-e

The Lord , his unique hand the sky cannot bear

Ta. oorman(an) cuur acaanee vaannee naa iyalee

Ak. sa be-lu t-ri-is qa-ti-su samu-u ul ina-as-su-u

The Lord , stretching of his hand the sky cannot bear.

    b) e-lum-e su-ni tab-ba-bi an-ne nam-us

The Dignitary , the grasp of his hands reached up to the sky

Ta. vizummee cuurni tappapi vaanee nam u(ra)cu

200 a) (d) mu-ul-lil me-ri asa-ni ki nu-il-e

Enlil , his unique foot ( var. planted foot) the earth cannot bear

Ak. ti-ri-is se-pe-su KI-tim ul ina-as-si

Enlil , the stretching (var putting ) of his foot the earth cannot bear

    b) (d) mu-ul-lil-le me-ri gub-ba-bi ki-e nam-us

Enlil, the treading of his foot abutted the earth

Su. am  and Ta. amaa, The Theme of Sacred Cow

Let us note the following :The description of Enlil  reaching unto the sky ( an-e nam -us, vaanee nam uracu) clearly contains the concept of VishNu, He who has spread across the universe, the vicuvam (<Ta. bi-cu-am, the manifest world), the sky being extended here to the whole of the manifest world. The Ta. viNNavan betrays the origin of Vishnu initially as HE who is spread within the sky, Ta. viN. However a METAPHOR  of 'am' translated here as Wild Ox is brought in to describe another understanding that comes along with it. I think this other notion along with the immanent presence of BEING is that of  infinite productivity, tireless fecundity of nature and which is symbolized here by the bull, ox , cow and so forth. The Su. am corresponds Ta. amaa, the wild cow or ox and we can see here that it was a SYMBOL or Metaphor for understanding BEING and which  came along with the understanding of BEING as Vishnu. It may be possible that it  was instituted  as the reverence for cow and perhaps later generalized to the whole range of animals and hence the birth of vegetarianism , as an expression of the SACREDNESS of the animal world. However in Sumerian times itself , it appears that the cattle along with the goats were sacrificed and eaten as the following lines from Kes temple Hymns would show:

63. e gu-sar-ra al-ku-e ( The temple consumes many oxen)

Ta. il koo carva val kuuyyee

64. e udu-sar-ra -am al-ku-e ( The temple consumes many sheep)

Ta. il udu carva aam val kuuyyee

BEING as Transcendent.

Vishnu is not only immanent but also transcendent, a notion that was grasped in Sumerian times in terms of the Metaphor of Purushoottama, the BEING whose  form is such that both the earth and sky cannot contain it.  He EXCEEDS the whole manifest world and it is this EXCESS that is being rendered metaphorically here in terms of the Lord whose hands the sky cannot bear,  the treading of the foot the earth cannot withstand..

These themes were elaborated further  in historical times in terms of understanding BEING with a form in which he is understood in terms thousands of arms, feet,  heads  and eyes , elaborations that we see both in Tamil and Sk texts that bespeak of certain continuity.

Just to give an example we have from Paripaadal 3:

35 -45

irukai maa, al , mukkai muniva, naaRkai aNNal, aingkaim mainta aRukai neduveeL, ezukai yaaLa, eNkai eental , onpathiRRut tadakkai manpeeraala, patiRRukkai matavali nuuRrukkai yaaRRal, aayiram viritta kaim maaya maLLa, patinaariyarangkai mutumozi mutalva, nuuraayirangkai aaRaRi kadavuL, anaittum alla palavadukkal aambal. inaittena eN varambu aRiyaa yaakkaiyai ..

A rough translation:

The Black One of two hands,  the illuminated with three hands,  the Great One with four hands, the Tall God of six hands, the Ruler with seven hands, the Lofty with eight hands,  The Ever Present Great Person with nine hands, the One of Great Strength with ten hands, the Power itself with a hundred  hands, the Dwarf Player of magic with a thousand hands spread out ,  the Lord of Ancient Wisdom with ten thousand hands,  the BEING who understands with a hundred thousand hands,  also not all these and the millions and billions. Oh thou ! who is  with a BODY beyond any kind of measurements.

These descriptions should be compared with the following descriptions of Purusha in the Purusha Suktam:


Om/ Sahasra-sirsa purusah/ sahasraaksah sahasrapaat/ sa bhuumin visvato urtvaa/ atyatisthad dasaangulam//

- Մ/ á캋 / Ŋŧ š/  Š //

The Purusa (or the Primeval Being) has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet. He has enveloped this world from all sides and has (even) transcended it by ten angulas or inches.


Purusa evedam sarvam/ yad bhuutam yac ca bhavyam/ utaamrtatvasyesanah/  yadanneenaatirohati/

պ ž / ¡ ¡ Ţ/  Ņºɋ/ ¡ɡá/

All this is verily the Purusa. All that which existed in the past or will come into being in future (is also the Purusa). Also , he is the Lord of immortality. That which grows profusely by food (is also Purusa)


Etaavaanasya  mahimaa/ ato jyaamsca puurusah/ paado'sya visva bhuutaani/ tripaadasyaamrtam divi/

šɊ / պ/ Ţ ⾡ɢ/ â Ţ//

So much is his greatness . However, the Purusa is greater than this. All the beings form only a quarter (part of) him. The three-quarter part of his . is immortal, is established in heaven


Tripaaduurdhva udaitpurusah/ paado'asyehaabhavaatpunah/ tato visvaan vyakraamat/ saasanaanasane abhi/

â պ/  †šɋ / Ţš / ɡɺ //

The Purusa with the three quarters (of his being) ascended above. His one quarter here became (this world) again again. Then he pervaded this world comprising a variety of sentient beings and insentient objects.

The parallels are unmistakable and we can see a developmental trends here: The initial attempt in Sumerian times to describe the metaphysical understanding of BEING in terms of the human bodily form itself, certainly a primitive situation where the earthly understanding f  the familiar Human bodily structure is used in METAPHORICAL WAY to understand BEING the incomprehensible but WHO is immanent as well as transcendent and for this purpose the FIGURE is itself distorted into a Super Human Being.

During the Prusha Suktam period this gets elaborated in terms thousands of feet hand eyes and so forth. And the period of Paripaadal, this gets elaborated to the limit and whereby HE  is noted to be  just BEYOND any such attempts to measure out his form.

I have also shown that the language of Purusha Suktam appears to be an evolute of Sumero Tamil.  Putting all these together we can say this:

There is a cultural continuity between the sumerian and Tamils as evidenced by not only the language but also cultural themes. If this prevedic culture is Agamism , then it follows that Vedism of the variety of Purusha Suktam and related texts is something very deeply influenced by this Agamism. Not only that : noting that Purusha Suktam itself can be seen as ancient variant of Sumero Tamil, there must have Dravidian folks closely related to the Sumerians who contributed substantially to the later evolution of Vedism as well as Sanskrit language and now constitute the basic core of Tamils.