Saivaite scholar Maraimalai Adigalar

Hinduism and Tamil Nationalism

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2007 (ID. 2007-08-01)
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There is a false impression among some Tamil people that Tamil nationalism is opposed to Hinduism. This is far from the truth. Hinduism and Tamil nationalism are not opposing or contradictory philosophies. A Tamil nationalist can be a pious Hindu (or a Muslim or a Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist or of whatever religious belief).

The false impression that Hinduism and Tamil nationalism are opposed to each other is prevalent only in Tamil Nadu; it is never felt in Tamil Eelam. There is a historic reason for it. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) that were at the forefront of Tamil nationalism. These two parties, especially the Dravidar Kazhagam and its leader Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy (EVR), were opposed to Hinduism. They often preached anti-Hinduism and Tamil nationalism in the same speech. So people came to think of anti-Hinduism and Tamil nationalism as two sides of the same philosophy. That is far from the truth. Although Dravidar Kazagam propagated the two distinct and different ideas of anti-Hinduism and Tamil nationalism from the same platform, they need not have to go hand in hand. A good Hindu can be a good Tamil nationalist (so can a Muslim or one of any religious belief or disbelief). 

In fact there are Hindu religious leaders and devote Hindus who are committed Tamil nationalists. The great Saivaite scholar Maraimalai Adigal (Maraimalai Adigalar) was a Tamil nationalist. He was an active leader of the Saivite Religious Association (Saiva Siththantha Kazhagam). He was also a founder of the Pure Tamil Movement (Thani Thamizh Iyakkam) and urged people not to mix Sanskrit words with Tamil. He even changed his original name "Vedhaachalam" to "Maraimalai" because the former was of Sanskrit origin. At a public meeting in Madras (Chennai) in 1949 he said, "In my dreams and in my thoughts, I forever think about Tamil and Saivism." The life and work of Maraimalai Adigal clearly shows that Hinduism and Tamil nationalism are not at odds.

Many of today's Tamil nationalists are Hindus. Of course, there are atheist, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist Tamil nationalists as well. Tamil nationalism extends beyond religious and caste divide. It is for the betterment of the future of the Tamil people, irrespective of caste or religion.

Any Hindu who stayed away from Tamil nationalism because of the misconception that it is against Hinduism should reconsider and embrace Tamil nationalism.

NOTE 1: Tamil nationalism is not opposed to Hinduism but it is for the use of Tamil in worship and for the opening of priesthood to all castes.

NOTE 2: Because Tamil nationalism is not opposed to Hinduism, it does not mean that it is opposed to any other religion. Historically Tamil people have been tolerant to all religions and that will continue. Tamil nationalism is not opposed to any religion.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Some Tamil names are spelled differently by different people. Here are some variations of names used in this article:

Adigal - Atikal
Kazhagam - Kazagam
Maraimalai - Marai Malai
Saivism - Shavism
Sivan - Siva, Shiva

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