The intelligentsia and even the politicians were in for shock at the World Classical Tamil Conference here on Friday, when a Finland-based Indologist turned the spotlight on a Dravidian-Aryan continuum while demolishing the Aryan-Dravidian divide as a myth.
In a landmark presentation that was a complete turnaround from singing paeans to the 86-year-old Dravidian patriarch M Karunanidhi and Tamil culture’s glory, renowned Indologist, Prof Asko Parpola, presenting the conclusions of his three decades-long research on ‘A Dravidian Solution to the Indus Script Problem’, told a stunned gathering that “an opening to the secrets of the Indus Script (which is yet to be deciphered) has been achieved”.
Older forms of Tamil, Kannada and other ‘Dravidian languages’ in his firm opinion hold the key to take forward this finding that the underlying language of the Indus Valley Civilisation “was proto-Dravidian”.
The best way to “read” the signs in ‘thousands of short texts’ of the Indus script was through old Tamil, Prof Parpola, of the Helsinki University in Finland, drove home in his breathtaking 90-minute talk.
Proof of hypothesis As proof of his hypothesis, Prof Parpola correlated several ‘pictograms’ found in Indus Valley inscribed with ‘Harappan’ stoneware bangles with words like ‘Muruku’ (meaning arm-ring/bangle) from old Tamil literature.
“This (old Tamil) is the only ancient Dravidian source not much contaminated by Indo-Aryan languages and traditions,” Prof. Parpola, the first recipient of the ‘Kalaignar Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award’, argued.
Pointing out that ‘radiocarbon dating’ has fixed the period of the ‘mature Harappan phase’, when the Indus Script was used to 2600-1900 BCE, he said the ‘Indus Civilisation’ collapsed many centuries before hymns were composed in ‘Vedic Sanskrit’ around 1000 BCE.
However, the rich religious/cultural heritage in South Asia till now has been preserved both by the speakers of Dravidian languages (predominantly in South India) and the people of North India, Prof. Parpola emphasised, to demolish the myth of a clear Aryan-Dravidian divide.
Dr Parpola’s work left the top DMK leadership seated in front, nonplussed, kindling them to rethink the Aryan-Dravidian divide issue.
Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi, though, had to leave half-way, when the news came in that the Congress Legislature party leader in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, D Sudarshanam, who had come for the WCTC, had been rushed to a private hospital here after he suffered a heart attack.