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The Sumerian ur-sag(ur-san) and Tamil SaanRoon

Dr K.Loganathan, Jan 2003


The four lines below from Suruppak’s NeRi that dates back to 3000 B.C or even earlier, are historically some of the most important lines that would serve to explain not only the Dravidian metaphysical adventures but also the Indian in general where Buddhism and Jainism are taken as integral to what goes on as Indian. The importance also exceeds these historical aspects for it may contain the nuclear ideas underlying the birth of Civilization itself and how despite catastrophic upheavals, the Dravidian civilization including the Tamil language survives to this day and continues to thrive young and productive and as a living language.

The key term is Su. ur-san (Ta.oor saan> saan.oor> saanRoor) and which exists in the Malay language as ‘orang’ (Su. ur.san> oor.ang) with the meaning ‘person’ but “orang besar” meaning ‘great men’ particularly the political leaders. I am not sure how this term occurs in Japanese Finnish Ural-Altaic and African languages like Wolof and so forth, which are linked with the Dravidian. But it is clear that it is a very ancient term as it occurs in Suruppak’s NeRi probably composed around 3000 B.C. and still available in Malay.

Below I give the relevant lines along with the Tamil versions:

74.ur.sag dili na-nam dili-ni lu sar-ra-am ( The “hero” he alone, is absolutely unique, but men are many)


*Ta.   oor saan tani nanam tanini  uLu sarva  aam


75. (d) u-tu dili na-nam  dili-ni lu sar-ra-am ( The Sun god, he alone, is absolutely unique,  but men are many)

*Ta. (teyvam) utu tani nanam tanini uLu sarva aam

76. ur.sag-da  gub-bu-de ji-ju he-en-da-gal ( When you stay with the ‘hero’ , your life will last)

*Ta.  oor-saannodu kupputtee iiNdu kaal

77. (d) utu-da gub-bu-de ji-ju he-en-da-gal ( When you stay with Sun god, your life will last)

*Ta. (d) utuvodu kupputtee iiNdu kaal


 The ur.san, saanRoon is compared with the sun in many ways and its these comparisons that are relevant here. The Sun remains the metaphor in terms of which a certain psychological nature of man was intuited and made the subject of reflections throughout the history of the Dravidian people. The fascination with sun and its metaphorical relevance for understanding the human essence still remains. In Sumerian times we have the name of a great King as  ‘utu he-gal”, the Great (he-gal) Rising Sun (utu). The Japanese, distantly related to ancient Dravidians have the Rising Sun as their national symbol as do also the DMK political party.  Suriya Namaskaaram is a common ritual in Saivism and VaishNavism though Sivat tiyaanam in Saivism is essentially Suuriyat tiyaanam, contemplation on the sun where the notion of ‘sun’ itself is very elaborate and where we have recognition of the outer physical sun, the inner sun and so forth (Tirumular: aNdaatittan, PiNdaatittan, Njaanattitan Civaattitaan etc)

There are other comparable terms in Sumerian itself: a-toku (Ta.aal toku) the powerful, lu-gal (Ta. kaL-Lu> kaLLar: the king, the great person), patesi (Ta. pati) the governor or lord and so forth. However from Suruppak’s elucidation of the meaning of ur-san as above, it is clear that it is a concept altogether different in that it does allow for the formation of a caste or a collectivity but rather something that transcends  that. For the ur.san, saanRoor, is a UNIQUE individual, someone who stands ALONE and hence someone who does not allow the formation of caste groupings like the term “brahmanah’ ‘ksatriya’ and so forth.

It is this aspect of ur.san (saanRoon) that makes it immensely interesting and allows us to capture the real essence of Indian Culture, which is more alive in the Tamil tradition than elsewhere. Before we go into the details and the different historical expressions of this important notion, let us note the essences:1

1. The ur.san (saanRoon) remains a possibility for anyone to be and hence constitutes a psychological universal.

2. He stands ABOVE all others and hence one who rises above the multitude as somebody who is outstanding in his achievements.

3. In rising thus he remains a UNIQUE individual and hence who would NOTallow the formation of a collectivity but rather only a group of admires or disciples.

4. He stands, metaphorically like the SUN, not only in outshining all others but also as the SOURCE of safety and security, someone who can grant longevity.


Thus there is an instinctual pressure within everyone to ascent and rise above, to attain an excellence and shine forth like a sun, unique and immensely beneficial to humanity in general. This is NOT to be equated with desire of a warrior to defeat others and be the undefeated hero or a scholar who would outshine others in scholarly accomplishments and intellectual talents, the emperor who would bring the whole world under his umbrella and thereby become the Cakravarthy and so forth. These human desires that constitutes the fabric of sociopolitical life though not the same as saanRoon but  certainly not unrelated.

As I have already noted in several places, Tolkaappiyam constitutes a magnificent outcome of Tamil scholarship and which is a continuation of the kind of analytic trends that we see in Suruppak’s NeRi, that concerns itself with Mutumozi -- Articulations of TRUTHS supported with REASONS (eetu nutaliya mutumozi), the kind of thinking that launched Hermeneutic Science and the growth of Hermeneutic Logic as found in Marabiyal and which later went all india in the form of Naiyayika, suffering a degeneration as well in the process.

It is interesting that Tol. recognizes this instinctual sociopsychological pressure among so many others and places it under Vaakai TiNai, the socio-political expression of the psychological Paalait TiNai, that which is instituted by burning sun within that installs the desert landscape that prompts severance of existing ties and make one depart and move away.

The relevant sutra is as follows: 75.  kuutir veenil enRiru paasaRaik kaatalin onRik kaNNiya vakaiyinum;  eeroor kaLavazi anRik kalavazi teeroor tooRriya venRiyum; teeroor venra munteerk kuravaiyum, onRiya marabiR pinteer kuravaiyum; perumpakai taaGkum veelinaanum; arumpakai taaGkum aaRralaanum; pullaa vaazkkai valaaN pakkamum; ollaar naaNap periyavark kaNNic colliya vakaiyin onRodu puNarttut tolluyir vazaGkiya avippali yaanum; ollaar idavayiR pulliya paaGkinum; pakaddinaanum maalinaanum, tukaddabu cirappin caanRoor pakkamum; kadimanai niitta paalin kaNNum; eddu vakai nutaliya avaiayakattaanum; kaddamai ozukkattuk kaNNumaiyaanum; idaiyil vaNpukaz kodiyinaanum; pizaithhtoor thaangkum kaavalaanum; poruLoduy puNarnta pakkattaanum; aruLodu puNarnta aKarciyaanum; kaamam niitta paalinaanum enRu, irupaaRpadda onapatin tuRaitee.


These 18 departments of socio-political behaviour have as their underlying motivations that of vanquishing the opponents and rise as the victorious.

It is interesting that the term ‘saanRoor’ occurs as those who have  vanquished the inner defects ( tukaL tabu) and have become PURE by freeing themselves from arrogance (pakadu)_ and desires ( aa)

Let us recall the four essential features of what can be called ‘sanRonism” or Su. ur-sangkism and which constitutes a psychological universal in the sense that these aspects are there in the soul of everybody showing itself in various ways in which there is an attempt to combat others and emerge victorious and thereby rise up as a HERO, admired and obeyed by others.

1. The ur.san (saanRoon) remains a possibility for anyone to be and hence constitutes a psychological universal.

2. He stands ABOVE all others and hence one who rises above the multitude as somebody who is outstanding in his achievements.

3. In rising thus he remains a UNIQUE individual and hence who would NOTallow the formation of a collectivity but rather only a group of admires or disciples.

4. He stands, metaphorically like the SUN, not only in outshining all others but also as the SOURCE of safety and security, someone who can grant longevity.

The importance of this sanronism is that it appears to explain not only the desire of man to  become an extraordinary emperor who would rule the world but also the emergence of Messiahs who would tower against the multitudes and convert them into his disciples. Thus while at the political level it is the  instinctual pressure within that  underlies the imposition of  political structure of Kinship - Citizenship,  at the metaphysical level it underlies the formation of lordship-discipleship and hence the formation of religion as such. We can see that Christianity with Jesus taken as the Son-of -God and the ONLY Saviour of Mankind, Prophet Mohamed (Sal) taken as the FINAL prophet and the ONE most dear to Allah, Jainism with its Tirtangkarar among whom Mahaviira is the Greatest and Buddhism with its claim that Gautama the Buddha is the Most Authoritative in matters pertaining to True Dharma are all related to ursangkism. To this category of religions we can also add the Advaitism where Sankara is the taken the Hero who vanquished other combatants with his DigVijaya and so forth and the Brahmanahs as adviaitins glowing in the borrowed glories of Sankara

In all such religions there is a person who is claimed to stand UNIQUE and toweringly ABOVE the multitudes and with a special claim to be authoritative. We can also see that while they serve to lift up the spirits of the individuals but by unconsciously imposing the social structure of lordship-discipleship and in which the Lordship is DENIED to the average they also foster a homo hierarchicus in which those who are cast into discipleship are forever thrown into a mental slavery in which they can only ADULATE and Eulogize their LORD and willing even to become a martyr to defend the honour and name of his Lord

Ursangkism in Sumerian.

I shall provide only some evidences in this direction in this brief study;, there are plenty of materials to substantiate this.

The following three lines occur as a refrain in Sulgi’s MutarIbiyam (Hymn B, dated around 2000 B.C)

Nig-ag-ga  ni-bi ga-il ( I want to extol the awe of all my achievements)

Kala-ga-ga  mu- bi a bi-su-ud (To let go far the fame of my power)

Gestu-mu nig-galam-ma su-ga-am (My intelligence being full of perfect accomplishments

The Tamil rendering would be as follows without substantial changes in meaning

Nika aakkam niibi ngaan iyal

KaaLaGkam moobi aa cuudubi

Kestu moo nika kalamma suuzka aam


We must note here that Sulgi also claims that the Radiant Sun, the Sul Utu was his companion right from his youth meaning that from his youth he has recognised the presence of the Sun deep within him guiding him all along and which is quite revealing.

24. ses-ku-li-mu sul-Utu-am




Sisu kuli moo suul utu aam (Since my childhood (sisu) my friend (kuli) was the radiant son (suur utu))

While still in this we should note that perhaps it is as the continuation of a practice of self praise that Sulgi initiated that we have the CaGkam songs of praise of the Kings and the notion that the best of kings is the one who gets to be sung by the poets rather lavishly (paadal caanRa veentan). Certainly it also underlies the writing of Meykiirtti in the post SaGkam epoch where the kingly achievements of a king are listed along with lavish praise of his prowess in battles and other accomplishments.

 Yet another set of lines very interesting for the study of ursangkism are the following lines from the inscriptions of Gudea and which may have initiated the   deification of Kings or gifted individuals   and the origins of Hero-Lords such as in Christianity Islam Jainism and Buddhism with its attendant imposition of Lordship - Discipleship into the society and hence transmutingof the whole of the society into an Umma, a collectivity of disciples with unquestioning obedience to a Ursang, the Hero

(Taken from C.J. Gadd pages 75)

While he claims that he built a massive temple for Ningirsu  (Lord (Nin) of divine (su) feet (gir Ta, kiir: feet); Ningirsu: Vishnu? Note the similarity with suu-kirii-van), he also seems to have fashioned a statue of himself and placed it within the temple and along with the idols of the deities.

18 alan-na-e (a statue) mu-tu (he fashioned) gu-de-a (Unto Gudea)

19. lu-e-du-a – ka (who built the temple) nam-ti-il  (life )mu-na-si  (he has given)

20. mu-su  ((this) for a name ) mu-na-sa ( he called it)  e-a ( and into the temple) mu-na-ni-tu ( brought it in)

The Tamil version would sounds as follows:

18. alan . aanna. yee mutu(a) kuddan.nee

19. uLu il edu-akam til.nam munna sii

20. moo-su moonna sol il-a munnanee idu


While this practice of placing the images of kings was still present in medieval times in Tamil Nadu where mighty temples were built, we can see that earlier it could have led to the developments where the deities were pushed into the background as in Christianity and Islam where Jesus as the Son of God and the Prophet Mohamed (sal) as the Final Prophet were fore-grounded. In Jainism and Buddhism something more drastic seems to have taken place. The deities are completely eliminated with Jainism replacing them with Tirtangkaras and Buddhism with Bothisatva or Gautama Buddha thus becoming non-theistic religions.

The Sumerian ur-sag(ur-san) and Tamil. SaanRoon

Ursangkism in Sumerian and CaGkam literature (continued)

Let us recall that ursangkism is an understanding of a psychological universal, the presence of an inner instinctual pressure in a person that compels him towards not just an excellence but towering over other and rising as unique individual very much like the sun in the sky which has been used both an analogy and metaphor. We shall see now the presence of this in Tamil literature of the historical period as well as an interpretive understanding of the psychology of such individuals. These developments in Tamil literature also appear to be a continuation of trends of thinking already available in SumeroTamil literature.

First we shall see examples of this pressure showing itself in the poetry pertaining some mighty kings. Secondly we shall see a philosophical or interpretive understanding of this where along with sun the moon is also recognised as being present in the mind as well as in the world and which gave rise to the notions of Natam and Bindu, the Siva Tatvas that configure everything by being brought into a Play by BEING understood metaphorically as the DANCE of Siva

The Ursangkism of Sulgi

Sulgi, the most famous King of the Third Ur dynasty (c. 2000 B.C) and after whom the Sumerian political control over Ur was lost to the Semitic people has composed about 20 hymns in praise of himself of which MutarIbiyam (Hymn B) is the foremost. In this there is a refrain that occurs as follows and which is worth repeating:

52. nig-ag-a-ga ni-bi ga-il ( I want to extol the awe of all my accomplishments)

53. kala-ga-ga mu-bi a bi-su-ud ( To let go far the fame of my power)

54. gestu-mu nig-galam-ma su-ga-am ( My intelligence being full of perfect accomplishments)

55. a-na-mu nig-dug-ge dab-ba-nu ( What (can matter with) me? Nothing is hidden to me


52. nika aakka Gaan  niibi  Gaan iyal  ( “)

53. kaaLaGka Gaan moobi aal cuudubi  (“)

54. kestu moo nika kalamma suuzka aam  ( My understanding is filled with very precious insights)

55. enna moo nika tuGkee naa tabbu ( Whatever that is most excellent never escaped me)

Thus Sulgi claims that he is a Hero who has not been paralleled by anybody else and in that he is UNIQUE, someone who was not denied anything that is excellent (nika tuGkee> mika tunGkee). What is interesting also is that he UNDERSTOOD all these as the GIFT of Sul Utu, the radiant Sun as the following lines would indicate:

40. ses-ku-li-mu sul (d) Utu am ( My ‘comrade-at-armas” was the (young) hero Utu)

41. ki ji-sa-gal-la-ka igi u-mu-na-ni-du ( (and) in the “Place of the living” having gazed upon him)

42. Sul-gi-me-en  dalla-e-bi-a inim mu-un-da-bal-e-en ( I, Sulgi, when he went forth in glory, conversed with him)

43. dingir igi-sag me-ga-a-kam ( The god with encouraging looks was (present) at my engagement)


40. sisukuli moo suur Utu aam ( My friend from days of my youth was the radiant sun)

41. kiiz jii-saay kaallakam imi uL munnanidu ( I gazed the place where life and death are established)

42. Sulgi maan taLLu eebiya enam munnidu baalyiyen ( I. Sulgi, when he (the sun) moved in glory, exchanged words with him)

43. TinGir imisaaGka mey gaan akam ( The god with encouraging looks was present in the battles I fought)

Here Sulgi understands that the Sun is that Power that regulates existence and death ( ji-saay kaallakam) and that unless one is graced by the sun, there cannot be victory overcoming death in the battlefield.  The notion that the sun is the power over the living and death is a notion that has become  central in Saiva Siddhanta  where  BEING is understood as Sangkaara KaaraNan, the Cause over the total annihilation of the whole universe (and hence also  that regenerates it.)

Ursangkism in PuRa NaanuuRu

Similar notions are also available in CaGkam literature especially the PuRam variety that deals with the socio-political life. Some examples are given below.

PuRam 4: lines (14- 18)

Niiyee, alaGkulaip parIi ivuLip

Polanteer micaip polivutoonRi

Maakkadal nivantezu tarum

CenjnjaayiRRuk kavinai maatoo

Anaiya aakan maaRee

(You , in travelling on the golden chariot fitted with horses that move their heads gracefully, resemble the sun that rises over the vast seas. You must strive to become one like that (sun)

PuRam 6 (lines 25-30)

AaGka, venri yellaam venRakattu adakiya

TaNdaa viikait takaimaaN kudumi

TaNkatir matiyam poolavun theRusudar

ONkatir njaayiRu poolavum

Manniya peruma nii nilamicai yaanee

 O Kudumi who has within your accomplishments all the victories and noted for the boundless love and compassion, may you live long in this world like the moon of the soft rays and the sun of brilliant light!

Here we have both the sun and moon brought in as metaphors or analogies  with the moon being related to the gentle qualities of love and compassion and sun to the political might and bravery that endows victory of all kinds.

PuRam 19 (lines 23-28)

Cellum ulakattu celvam veeNdinum

NjaalaG kaavalar tooLvali murukki

Orunii yaakal veendinunj ciRanta

Nallicai niRuttal veendinum maRRatan

Takuti keeLini mikuti yaaL

Even if you desire the wealth of metaphysical wisdom about the realms after death, vanquish all the kings of the world and emerge victorious over all of them and thereby a uniqueness, and  establish everlasting and good fame , listen to ways in which you can accomplish all of them to your satisfaction !

Throughout the history of Tamil literature where there kings, such expressions are met with and hence an abundance of such citations are possible. However the themes are the same:

1.       An innate desire to emerge victorious in all battles and thereby become the UNIQUE individual as well as one unmatched in bravery i.e. the Makaviiran

2.      This competence or immense courage and bravery is the gift of the Sun that exists in the sky as well as within

3.      Along with it a desire to be full of COMPASSION to all so that people at large also benefit and live happily

4.      This element of compassionate disposition is the gift of Moon within.

Thus it is understood that what configures the personality of Makaviira, one great in bravery as well as in compassion are the sun and moon within that creates the necessary instinctual pressures as well POWER to accomplish them all.

Let us recall the following elements noted as present in the lines of Suruppak’s NeRi with which we started:

1. The ur.san (saanRoon) remains a possibility for anyone to be and hence constitutes a psychological universal.

2. He stands ABOVE all others and hence one who rises above the multitude as somebody who is outstanding in his achievements.

3. In rising thus he remains a UNIQUE individual and hence who would NOT allow the formation of a collectivity but rather only a group of admires or disciples.

4. He stands, metaphorically like the SUN, not only in outshining all others but also as the SOURCE of safety and security, someone who can grant longevity.

The Mahaviira being also the source of safety and security and so forth, is understood here as the qualities which are gifts of  the inner moon, also a notion available in Sumerian literature where the moon was called ‘iti’ ( > Ta. intu: moon)

The continuity in the underlying ideas are quite mistakable showing that despite many catastrophic events in the history of the Tamils from Sumerian times, there was an unbroken continuity in the cultural ethos.