popular tamil history goes ‘boink!’

24/11/2021

Sometimes.

…erm, um, was trying to be polite. It is almost always goes boink. This is the joyous reality of Tamil, at a variety of levels, must admit. :-(

So. Sometimes I have these terrible confusions. Existential questions. Endlessly troubling ones. And mind boggling boinks.

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Peruse the example thread below, in terms of screenshots – with somewhat required annotations. Please enable me to see ‘light.’

Or help me come to terms with ‘boink.’

Let us first look at the tweets of Sri TS Krishnan, in the context of a promo for his popular tamil history book ‘History of the Cheras’ – and then later, focus on the request-responses.

Fair enough statements.

But – just like our TN government is propping up #Keezhadi, propagandizing it beyond reasonable proportions, manufacturing territories and ‘historical’ imageries – Kerala Govt has been doing its bit at ‘Muziris’ AKA (in the Govt’s opinion) ‘Pattanam.’

More on this aspect later.

Muziris, even by the notices of the ‘westerners’ – was not a City. It was at best a busy port town, with some storage depots/warehouses perhaps for Pepper, and at least one Roman temple, that’s all. It was also trading with Bargyza (now Bharuch in Gujarat, derived from Bhṛgukaccha/भृगुकच्छ) – which was a much, much bigger port City and much more ancient port of India. Incidentally, it is Bharat’s second biggest, continuously populated city, next only to Varanasi.

This is not the ‘best’ evidence for the ‘location’ – the ‘best’ ones come from Pliny’s and Periplus.

This is the MOST contentious of the tweets, with an incorrect translation. More on this later.

But, though the general area of ‘Muziris’ is known, the EXACT location is not yet zeroed-in. So, what is this ‘indeed the trading port city’ location?

This ‘pattanam’ excavations have of course yielded some materials – mainly about imports. But there is no ‘clinching evidence.’

Pliny talks about many things present at Muziris – of which pretty much none have been located in Pattanam. (for example the ‘missing’ of temples of Romans that were in the Muziris area)

The actual excavations at Pattanam and artefacts unearthed, are even smaller in scope than Tamilnadu’s small #Keezhadi excavation/finds area.

However – the Kerala Govt has a massive tourist circuit (‘Muziris Heritage Project’ MHP – with an area of some 150 km2) built around that, most of which has nothing to do with Archaeology – but have only ‘sight seeing’ or touristy value.

Please look at the map of the MHP area – you can clearly see that Pattinam forms a very, very small part – because, there is nothing much to display about the digs, though more than SIX archaeological excavations/series have taken place, as far as I know.

Look at the Spin! I think #Keezhadiwallahs better buck up and push it beyond 1000 BCE, at the earliest!

In this connection, I recommend a fine, scholarly paper by Nicholas Glover, about co-producing, nay manufacturing histories.

Though, in the context of #Keezhadi, the angle of Dravidian political discourse (um, actually spin) is more key.

Anyway.

As of now, one can perhaps say that Pattanam was/is part of ‘Muziris’ at best, of course – but contesting it is difficult given the massive politicization around the idea, even if one can offer a sound logical narrative based on evidence.

If one studies (and understands) the serious debate that has been going on – especially about the activities done towards declaring it as a ‘heritage’ site, with massive territorial imaginations/overlaps – both for the purposes of promoting tourism and for holding high the ‘ancientness of Kerala’ as a political statement – one would revise his/her opinion.

But one should invest significant time and effort to do that – though unfortunately, ‘popular history writing’ does not allow for such luxuries. By extension of this line of thought, perhaps, the essential lack of evidence-based approach is an inadequacy of the format/packaging may be, and not necessarily a reflection on the Author.

In any case, the locus of this post is the second tweet of Sri TS Krishnan.

I am sure this would be a provocative book, considering the enthusiastic tweets of the Author – here’s wishing it good luck.

May be in the next one year or so, I will buy & read it.

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The claims made by TSK in his second tweet (screenshot2 from the top) are:

The best evidence about the location came from the sangam poem Agananooru

‘சேரலர் சுள்ளியம் பேரியாற்று வெண்நுரை கலங்க’

which says it was in the place where Beriyaru (Periyar) meets the sea. Still, there was a debate as to whether the port city was in the north or southern side

My comment on the above claims below:

Compared to Periplus & the works of Pliny (Elder, Gaius Plinius Secundus) – which more or less sought to describe the contemporary world of the first two centuries of the Common Era, the Aghananuru, which is essentially a work of fiction & a bunch of poems that contain some references to peoples & places – is of a much later vintage. Hence its views on what happened earlier in ‘history’ is mixed up with myth, legends and wild imagination.

However, am ignoring it – because, that is not my point.

If one reads the Aghananuru#149 verse, it is very clear: சேரலர் the cheras சுள்ளியம் chulliam (which is a deltaic distributary of the main river Periyar) பேரியாற்று of Periyar வெண்நுரை white foam கலங்க splashing about etc.

So TSK’s translation is off here.

Of course, Aghananuru is a bardic imagination and it cannot be a solid proof for geography, though it can perhaps provide off-tangent hints. Also, the fact is that the River was very shallow, no ship could enter it – instead the merchandise was transported to-and-fro from ships and ‘harbour’ via smaller boats.

However even if it were held up as a ‘clinching evidence’ as TSK claims, the verse quoted by him DOES NOT say that a ‘Sea’ was involved at all!

One wonders how TSK claims (based on that verse snippet) that ‘Muziris’ was in a place where the River meets the Sea.

Again ‘Muziris’ was inland, up the River, about 20 Stadia FROM THE SEA. Which is ~3 miles/ 4 kms. Periplus mentions it, Pliny does.

When I pointed out a gist the above discussion as in my response-tweet above, TSK replied:

He did not acknowledge the terrible translation issue or his claim – but instead talked about unrelated things.

I was not talking about Nelcynda nor ‘Muziris being an Island.’ I was NOT saying that ‘Muziris’ was not a harbour. It is truly puzzling – as to why these were brought up. May be he mixed up ‘inland’ with ‘island?’ Am not sure.

There was another Aghananuru quote, which again has issues and is irrelevant to the discussion and I let it pass.

I also let pass, an obviously uncalled-for sarcastic statement that I was ‘over influenced by Periplus’ etc. May be it was a mere slip, and everyone of us commits mistakes in judgement/manners.

Anyway, I responded saying:

And there was this response from TSK, casually forgetting the thread of the conversation and key points and raising something else – and indulging in Marinime Trade 101 level lecture for Newbies. Which is fine, but it is off-tangent.

Of course this does not prove anything not does it support the anti-translation of TKS etc – in fact Sri KRA Narasaiah’s book snippet that TKS furnished, goes against his statement, which I will come to in a moment.

Here, the thread stopped, without any usefulness/learning. But, some points about the KRA Narsaiah’s ‘Kadal vazhi Vanigam’ snippet.

  1. Sri KRA Narasaiah has been ‘off’ (incorrect) here about the location of the ‘Muziris’ port town/harbour. However am sure, he just mentioned it in passing and perhaps did not pay much attention to what he was writing.
  2. In fact, the 20 Stadia reference in the snippet supports my take that Muziris is indeed ~4 kms or so away from the sea, up the river! (how can TKS provide this evidence and say things counter to it, beats me!)
  3. Sri KRA Narasaiah, got the reference book wrong. In fact, the author was NOT Dr E H Burnburry or Vendakkaai Curry, but EH Bunbury. And he wrote a TWO volume book. And, the references are from the second volume. (may be this is a Editor’s goof-up)
  4. I have read the book of Sri KRA Narasaiah, and there are many unfortunate editing mistakes, but also some compositional/content/factual issues. (but they are beyond the scope of this depressing post)
  5. Having said all the above, I have nothing but respect for this Author of Kadalodi ‘Seafarer’, which I like a lot.

Net-net – this twitter thread has left me puzzled, to say the least!

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As I wrote earlier, the troubling questions are many.

Whether I have understood what anOther has written (in this case, tweeted) about something of which I thought I had some basic idea about..

Whether I am responding correctly to the Other – merely raising a limited point, though there are many other issues.

Whether the Other understands my response.

Whether the Other’s response is actually a proper/reasoned or a processed response to my original sin.

Whether is it the norm in any public forum on the Internet that: if 1 says X -> 2 asks why & provides a Counter -> 1 says Y and explains, while not touching the Counter -> 2 wonders about the Counter & counters Y sorta  -> 1 brings in Z….  (merry go around)

Whether this short Twitter engagement has increased the level of civility of debate/discourse in any way at all.

Whether the content of the discussion be useful in anyway to anyone – including the originator of the thread and/or me and/or someone else.

Whether the useful knowledge in the World has increased because of the engagement and whether more Cluons have been produced to increase our gross happiness?

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It is all very bloody confusing for me. It need not have been so. Honestly.

So, am wondering as to what else could have been done by me, to maintain a reasonable level of clueful & polite discourse – so that everyone (including I) benefits and move towards a better, evidence based understanding of our pasts.

Am willing to listen to anyone that cares to suggest useful, doable things. Heck, I may even implement them, personally.

It is also true that, I could have simply kept quiet instead of responding. Of course.

On the other hand, I am used to these modes of ‘discussion’ right from the early 1990s. May be even from the late 1980s – am not sure, now.

However, what I am sure of, is the fact that, the ‘terms of discourse’ haven’t changed much in the popular imagination – though I have been part of bright and decent/nerdy groups which have essentially been ‘outliers’ even then.

The thing is, practically every single statement made by the Other – either in the original tweets or in the response tweets are far from correct; also the ‘evidence’ provided by the Other actually supports my contention.

Of course, this is all puzzling & enervating.

Anyway.

This is the state of our current world. This is how discourses are conducted in public fora.

However, we have to deal with it as sanely and with as much balance as possible. I agree.

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May be I am aging. Maybe shifting goalposts is the norm on twitter.

I like some of the comments of Sri TS Krishnan (on Twitter) though, at a few other levels.

Be that as it may. Quo vadis, doctrina? :-(

If you have come this far, my dear friend – would you have any suggestion, friendly advice?

(reply/comment if you want to, but please keep the SNR high)

9 Responses to “popular tamil history goes ‘boink!’”

  1. Ramesh Narayanan Says:

    கோச்சுக்காதேப்பா, நேக்கு இதுதான் சொல்லத் தோண்றது,
    when ‘boink’ came, your ‘bleddy’ become ‘bloody’ 😊😁

  2. anon Says:

    சுள்ளியம் கடல் பெயரா இருக்கலாமே!

  3. RC Says:

    நன்றி ஐயா.
    என் வாசிப்பில் முசிறி ஒரு துறைமுக நகரமாக இருந்திருக்க வாய்ப்பில்லை என்றுதான் நினைக்கிறேன், transshipmentpoint ஆக இருந்திருக்கலாம்.மேலும் சேரர்களின் ‘வஞ்சி’ தற்போதைய கரூர் என்றுதான் நான் படித்த ஞாபகம்.

    Tyndis,Muziris மற்றும் barace/ Nylcinda ஆகிய இடங்களுக்கு இடைப்பட்ட தூரம் 500stadia (தோராயமாக 100 km) மற்றும் Muziris கடலிலிருந்து 120 stadia(தோராயமாக 25 km) என்று periplus குறிப்பிடுகின்றது.
    பாலக்காடு கணவாய் இருக்கும் தூரத்தையும் கணக்கில் கொண்டு மேலே சொன்ன மூன்றையும் தற்போதைய ஊர்கள் மேல் இருத்த வேண்டுமென்றால் Muziris என்பது ‘பட்டணம்’ என்பதற்கான வாய்ப்புகள் அதிகம் தான். என்ன..நகரம் என்று சொல்வது இடிக்கிறது. சங்க காலத்தில் சேரர்கள் கொடுங்களூர்-பட்டணத்தில், துறைமுக நகரம் அமைத்து வாழ்ந்தனர் என்று சொல்வது கொஞ்சம் அல்ல ரொம்பவே ஜாஸ்தி ஐயா.

    மேலும் இன்னொரு வாதமாக, முசிறியானது தற்போதைய கோவா முதல் தலச்சேரி உள்ள கடற்கரையோர பகுதியில் இருக்கலாம் என்றும் எங்கோ படித்தேன். அவ்வகையில் muziris யை மங்களூர் + உடுப்பி மேல் இருத்த வேண்டும்.பின் சேரர் நில எல்லைகளென்ன என்பது பற்றி பதிவு நாயகர் TSK விடம் கேட்கலாமென்றிருக்கிறேன். சரிதானே :-)

    இதில் இத்தனை நூற்றாண்டுகளில் ஆறுகளின் வெள்ளச் சீற்றங்கள் + கடல் உள்வாங்கியிருக்கும் வாய்ப்புகள் வேறு இருக்கின்றன. அவை வைத்தும் யோசித்தால் குழப்பம் தான்.

    நாம கொற்கை,ஆதிச்சநல்லூர் என்று பெருமை பேசும்போது மலையாளிகளும் பேசிட்டு போகட்டுமே.. நம்தமிழரும் கூட சேர்ந்து பப்பரப்பான்னு கூவுனா கண்டுக்காதீங்க :-)


    • Sir, thanks so much for your support of facts. Much appreciated and much more bounden.

      Please check: “Muziris கடலிலிருந்து 120 stadia(தோராயமாக 25 km) என்று periplus குறிப்பிடுகின்றது”

      🙏🏿🛐

      • RC Says:

        மன்னிக்கவும்.20 stadia (தோராயமாக 4 KM) என்று எழுதியிருக்க வேண்டியது.
        Nylcinda வை சொல்ல வந்து சொதப்பிவிட்டது.இவ்வளவு மெதுவா யோசிச்சு எழுதியே இந்த தப்புன்னா.. :-)


  4. /Am willing to listen to anyone / வந்தேன்!

    இண்டெர்நெட்டில் அவை அறிதல் தலை:   Yahoo Groups ~ Discussion Fora > Blogs > Twitter > YoutubeLive  in the  “knowledge exchange pulpit” spectrum.
    You don’t go about conversing the same way in all places. You can rest assured that there many people witnessing the conversations who don’t know enough to pitch in, but are certainly the richer for witnessing the conversations.
    What conclusions to change, what inferences to take with a pinch of salt and so on. To expect a certainty of conclusion, agreement on twitter is greedy. Even expecting adherence to a framing.
    Even expecting a reader to agree with you on whether something which you allege is a goal-shift or not, is greedy! Some of us may be convinced it was and they infer accordingly. Those of us who think the point was indeed relevant may disagree with your characterization of the conversation.
    You may feel grouchy that ‘this is such a small, basic, logic hygiene thing’ that should simply be non-negotiable. If so, kindly  re-read first line of this comment.

    It sounds like I’m saying: “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown” :-)
    Actually I’m saying the exact opposite, I’m saying the conversation has its own value. Yes it did not flow the way you expected but others read that too!

    /Whether the useful knowledge in the World has increased because of the engagement/
    Affirmative

    /what else could have been done by me, to maintain a reasonable level of clueful & polite discourse/
    You are doing good. Your therapist would be chuffed.


மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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