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Old September 16th, 2015, 01:23 PM   #1
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Proto-Dravidian History - theories


We know much about the Vedic civilization. Largely because of their practice of and emphasis on rote learning. However, the fact that rote learning was not practiced by the Dravidians leaves a void in understanding the possible lifestyle of the period.

While the forum has wonderful discussions and has great contributors who largely (going wayward once or twice is okay ) take objective views of history without letting emotions cloud their judgement. Often, in this forum it has also been attempted to suggest that Dravidians knew nothing, they were barbaric before the Aryans. On the other hand, over enthusiastic folks also take the other extreme position almost suggesting a dravidian origin to everything.

Both these stances are extremenly naive. So who were the Dravidians? How was their life? In light of the total lack of verifiable literary sources and archeological evidences, is it possible to have a look at their lives in an objective and non-controversial manner?

It is quite possible through linguistic studies. Thankfully the Dravidian languages are still not extinct. I am aware some posters think less of this field of study. It shows their lack of understanding on the subject. In any case, even though they may agree to disagree, I am hopeful they will find interest in knowing how this works.

I recently read this book by Bhadiraju Krishnamurti ( The Dravidian Languages) I am only reproducing some of it here in simple terms to help with our discussion.

Method:
We have many surviving Dravidian languages like Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Brahui, Malayalam etc. All of them have common words meaning there was a common proto language. The culture of the speakers of the proto-Dravidian is reconstructed based on the comparative vocabulary in all these languages.

Languages
Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Brahui, Tulu, Badaga, Kodagu. Even amonth these only the first four have literature and most of the cognates turn up in these four although other minor groups like Central and North Dravidian consisting languages like Brahui will also be considered.
South Dravidian 1: Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada
South Dravidian 2: Telugu

The presence of a word(Cognate) in two subgroups means the concept existed. While the presence of a cognate set is positive evidence for the existence o a concept, the absence o such a set does not necessarily indicate that a given concept had never existed among the proto speakers.
In addition to one of the literary languages, the cognate is found in one of the other subgroups (Central or Northern Dravidian) the Set is taken to represent proto-dravidian.
In certain cases a proto-word is assumed on the basis of cognates in only two languages belonging to distant subgroups. For example, if a word for Temple exists in Telugu, but is not found in Tamil/Kannada but the same word meaning Temple is present in Brahui, then it is assumed that the Proto-speakers knew of Temples.

If we look at it, this is a very solid method and gives a reliable way to construct the Proto-Dravidian life.

In the coming post I will post the conclusion derived based on this method that has been applied to other language groups as well by researchers.

P.S For the sake of sane discussion, I request the likes of MohanDutt, Ajanbahu and others to keep the discussion civil without being condescending and needlessly insulting. You are certainly welcome to disagree and believe Dravidians had nothing, but please state so without needless posturing and with logical arguments.
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Old September 16th, 2015, 01:42 PM   #2
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Proto-Dravidian Life

I will post the conclusions first so that it kindles some interest, and later state why and how this was derived. Have used a few root words in brackets here and there to give a sense of how this comes about while the details of each will be described in subsequent posts.

The outline of Proto-Dravidian culture gives a glimpse of a highly civilized people, who lived in towns in tiled or terraced (met-ay) houses, with agriculture as the main occupation. There were kings and chiefs. They had forts (Kott-ay) and fortresses surrounded by deep moats (Akaz-ttay) filled with water. They received different kinds of taxes (Kappam)and tributes. There were fights, wars (por) with armies arrayed (ani) in battle fields. They had large territorial units (Natu) and provinces (Ur)They drew water from wells, tanks and lakes, and knew drainage. They also carried trade by boat in the sea. However, there is no indication of the original home of these people. At least, it is certain that they do not have terms for flora and fauna not found in the India Subcontinent. It is significant that Proto-Dravidians have not 'retained' any expressions for snow and ice and they do not have a name for the lion, rhino and the camel. In view of this it would be safe to consider the speakers of PD as native to India. This does not rule out the PD to be originators of the Harappan Civilization.

The following is based on lexical items borrowed into early sanskrt (Disproving this does not negate the previous paragraph - both are independent)
In the 3rd millenium they must have been scatterred all over the subcontinent, even as far as Afganistan where they must have come into contact with early Rgvedic Aryans. Ater that some groups moved to the peripheri of the Indo-Gangetic plains with the expansion of the Aryans, several other groups must have been assimilated into the Aryan Society. The major structural changes in middle or modern Indic suggest a Dravidian substratum over 3 Millenia. There have been Dravidian lexical items borrowed into Sanskrts, Prakrits during the middle indic period but most of these refer to concepts native to Dravidian. Mainly items of need-based borrowing. However, the grammatical changes which had swept through Indo-Aryan were far-reaching, manly, because of transplanting the Dravidian structure onto Indo-Aryan

http://www.tamilnavarasam.in/books/o..._languages.pdf

Last edited by kamald; September 16th, 2015 at 01:46 PM.
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Old September 16th, 2015, 01:55 PM   #3
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This field of Linguitic Archeology has also been wonderfully explained in this book by SouthWorth (1995)
https://books.google.co.in/books?id=...page&q&f=false

Sample from Krishnamurty's derivation:
Political organization:
There were kings and chiefs (lit. the high one) [et-ay-antu ‘lord, master, king, husband’ , kŻo/kŻon-tu ‘king (also mountain)’ , wŻent-antu ‘king, god’ 5529, 5530],who ruled [yŻa.l, ]. They lived in palaces [kŻoy-il ] and had forts and fortresses [kŻo.t.t-ay 2207a], surrounded by deep moats [aka.z-tt-ay ] filled with water. They received different kinds of taxes and tributes [ar-i , kapp-am ]. There were fights, wars or battles [pŻor, ] with armies arrayed [∗ani. ] in battlefields [mun-ay , ka.l-an ]
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Old September 16th, 2015, 02:16 PM   #4

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Did the word ur mean "province" or "city"? Did it originally mean "province", but come to mean "city" later on? Almost all historical records that I have read use it in the sense of "city".

Some scholars like Witzel believe that Dravidians entered India around 4000-3500 BCE from West Asia, and imparted their language on Sindh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra before arriving in South India. This migration is used to explain the abundance of non-Aryan, Dravidian-origin place-names in these places. In fact, as far as I know, Maharashtra even today has more place-names of Dravidian than Aryan origin.

Last edited by civfanatic; September 16th, 2015 at 02:19 PM.
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Old September 16th, 2015, 02:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kamald View Post
Often, in this forum it has also been attempted to suggest that Dravidians knew nothing, they were barbaric before the Aryans.
Evidence suggests that it is the other way around. Aryans were the barbarians. Cultural (and religious) roots of India are very much Dravidian, and also that of more ancient aboriginal peoples. Aryans just added an overlay, especially in regards to Hindu religion. Also, speaking an Indo-Aryan language doesn't make one an Aryan.
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Old September 16th, 2015, 02:33 PM   #6
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Southward is more cautious on timelines considering lack of Archeological evidence but he comes to almost to similar conclusions about the life of Proto-Dravidians.
Quote:
The linguistic evidence suggests that the Proto-Dravidian speech community was part of a society of the early third millennium BCE which included settled agriculturists, herders, and hunters; they possessed some form of land ownership, along with some social stratification, and possibly the beginnings of caste and occupational specialization. They had a well developed and varied technology, including metallurgy. Their economic system included trade, along with payment of debts and other obligations (contributions to rituals, possibly also fines and/or taxes) and marketing of produce. Their religion included a notion of god and worship, priest or devotee, sacrifice, and (demonic) possession. In its earliest phase, the PD speech community occupied the lower Godavari basin, and possibly other adjacent areas. This community was probably associated with the Southern Neolithic archaeological complex from its earliest stages

The next stage, Proto-South Dravidian, reflects an advanced society with governmental
structures including administration, tax collection, and an army, along with various types of habitation areas and urban structures (streets, prisons, palaces). The caste system appears to be present, along with names of occupations. Technology includes many terms for metal objects including weapons and ironwork, wheeled vehicles and ships, umbrellas, garments, and precious stones. Though linguistic evidence (e.g. Dravidian words in OIA) suggests that this stage may be as old as the mid-second millennium BCE, these reconstructions seem to anticipate historical and archaeological reality by a millennium or more. The earliest known communities which might be connected with these reconstructions are the early Tamil kingdoms described in the literature of the Sangam period (early centuries CE). This case may have valuable lessons to offer regarding the relationship between linguistic and archaeological evidence.
It has to be noted that Sangam-Period was not proto-dravidian and was purely Tamil. Therefore this society with Urban structure and city dwelling community must pre-date the Sangam period by millenia possibly.
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Old September 16th, 2015, 02:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by civfanatic View Post
Did the word ur mean "province" or "city"? Did it originally mean "province", but come to mean "city" later on? Almost all historical records that I have read use it in the sense of "city".
Ah, nice catch. My mistake in reproducing it. It did not mean province. Krishnamurty says this
"Proto-Dravidians spoke of large territorial units called natu (natu in South Dravidian II) for a province, district, kingdom,state, while 'ur' was the common word for any habitation, village or town"
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Old September 16th, 2015, 02:40 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kandal View Post
Evidence suggests that it is the other way around. Aryans were the barbarians. Cultural (and religious) roots of India are very much Dravidian, and also that of more ancient aboriginal peoples. Aryans just added an overlay, especially in regards to Hindu religion. Also, speaking an Indo-Aryan language doesn't make one an Aryan.
It depends on what we mean by "Aryan". In the purely linguistic sense of the term, which is used by historians like Romila Thapar, anyone who speaks an Indo-Aryan language is an Aryan. However, in the cultural sense of "noble one", a Dravidian-speaking brahmin would be considered an "Arya" while an Indo-Aryan-speaking chamar certainly would not.
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Old September 16th, 2015, 02:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kandal View Post
Evidence suggests that it is the other way around. Aryans were the barbarians. Cultural (and religious) roots of India are very much Dravidian, and also that of more ancient aboriginal peoples. Aryans just added an overlay, especially in regards to Hindu religion. Also, speaking an Indo-Aryan language doesn't make one an Aryan.
Which religious root of India is Dravidian?
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Old September 16th, 2015, 02:56 PM   #10
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Great thread!
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