Tamils in South Africa & Mauritius

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by Ash, Oct 18, 2013.

  1. Ash

    Ash Regular Member

    May 5, 2011
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    South Africa
    Hi guy. A friend emailed this article to me. I know it's long, but it is worth the time.



    About the year 1855 white settlers in the British Colony of Natal discovered
    that the coastlands of Natal possessed tremendous potential for sugar farming, provided reliable labour could be found. They had learnt that, on the nearby Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius, Indian labour helped to develop a thriving sugar industry. Natal wanted to do the same. The Whites petitioned their Lieutenant-Governor to permit the legal importation of
    labour from India and to set up machinery for making representations to the Indian Government to sanction the supply of such desired labour. India reluctantly agreed to provide a regular but limited supply under certain conditions.

    On 17 November 1860 the first batch of labourers arrived from Madras (Chennai) on the S.S. Truro and disembarked at Durban. Thereafter regular arrivals from Madras (Chennai) took place. Referred to as "indentured Indian labourers" they were allocated to various sugar farmers. Some were sent to the interior of the Colony to work in the coal mines whilst others were taken up by businessmen and merchants in Durban.

    Speaking a variety of languages (predominantly Tamil) and professing, in the main the Hindu faith, the immigrants hopefully set foot on a strange land with their labour potential as their only wealth and their cultural heritage as their baggage. They had not bargained for the suffering they were soon to be subjected to. However, as a result of their coming, sugar farming in the Colony became a very profitable industry, as it still is. Among the Indians who came as labourers, just over sixty percent were from the Madras Presidency. Though their home languages were Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam or Canarese they were all able to communicate with one another in Tamil.

    In the wake of indentured Indians, followed traders who came with their silks, spices, rice and condiments. They had a better level of education than the labourers. They were known as "passenger" Indians because they paid their own passages. They hailed mainly from Mauritius and what was then known as the Bombay Presidency. Later a large number of "passenger" Indians settled in the Transvaal (Gauteng). Thus within a period of forty years the immigrant Indian Community represented a broad spectrum of the people of India.

    On the expiry of their terms of indenture the Indians took to several forms of occupation. They either became gardeners and fishermen or turned to self-employment activities such as pottery, basket weaving and home construction. Later their children who received a modicum of English education became waiters, clerks or teachers in the few government-assisted

    At all times the Indian was conscious of his cultural identity. Among the indentured labourers some were literate in varying degrees in Tamil or another Indian language. There were also some who could speak and read in more than one Indian language. Some of the passenger Indians, some of whom were Tamils, were well educated in English and in the mother tongue. Thus from a few scholars to a number of less educated men there was the nucleus of teachers of Tamil to propagate Language and Culture. On the sugar Estates, tuition in Tamil was given to children in the late afternoons.
    Elsewhere some dedicated individual where the teacher charged a small fee for his services.

    In Durban, the main seaport town, educated Tamils kept the language, both spoken and written, very much alive. One Virudachalam Pillay, a passenger Indian from Madras (Chennai) had a small business in Durban, ran a private
    Tamil school, later opened a printing press and published a Tamil Weekly known as the "Viveka Banu" which was avidly read by everybody. Two of this outstanding students, S.M. Pillay and G.R. Naidoo, performed dedicated service to the Tamil community for many years.

    The large number of private schools both in Natal (KwaZulu-Natal) and in the Transvaal (Gauteng) is diminishing because Tamil is now being taught as a subject in Government schools. Many students take advantage of the courses provided by the Tamil Department of the University of Durban-Westville for the B.A. Degree.

    A meticulously and lovingly developed infra-structure to nurture, maintain and propagate Indian languages and culture was adversely affected by the operation of the repugnant "Group Areas Act" of 1950 which disrupted settled
    population groups, forcing them to move from their cherished homes to areas that were being newly developed. More and more schools were established and English was fast becoming the home language bringing concern to may vernacular educated or interested individuals.
    Although the word Tamil conjures up the use of and cultural activities connected with the language, it must be mentioned that except in isolated instances the use of the language in its spoken form is negligible. (This is due to a large extent to environmental factors in a post democratic "rainbow nation" in a multi-lingual and multi-cultural society).

    It is in the social and cultural fields that customs and traditions are being observed. Festivals, weddings and funerals are the main social occasions. Tamil is being used for the singing of devotional songs. Transliteration plays a part to enable those who cannot read Tamil. Women’s groups (Mathar Sungams) with their young and old members and with a
    sprinkling of males come together to sing the Thevaram, Thiruvasagam and Thirupugazh and other devotional songs at Tamil funerals and other religious functions. They also conduct prayer services on Sundays and Mondays.

    Many new organisations have been established for the purpose of reviving Tamil and rebuilding its culture. The premier body for the Tamils in the Republic of South Africa is the South African Tamil Federation. The South African Tamil Federation was formed after a two-day National Tamil Conference held in Clairwood during Easter, 1968. Dr V.G. Padayachee from Benoni in Gauteng moved a resolution to form the Federation and the name "South African Tamil Federation" was suggested by P.M. Krishna, who delivered the keynote address at the conference.

    The first officials of the Federation were: President : Mr. V.S. Iyer,
    Secretary : Mr. L. Naidoo and Treasurer : Mr. J.N. Reddy.

    From its inception to date, the South African Tamil Federation has been organising Annual Cultural Conferences, Tamil Teacher-Training Courses and in association with its Provincial Affiliates and Regional structures observes numerous cultural functions such as Pongal, Tamil New Year and Karthigai Deepam.

    During April 1997 the Transvaal Tamil Federation, an affiliate of the South African Tamil successfully consecrated an ancient Saivite religious site at which the holy Sivalingam was discovered by renowned archaeologist Dr Cyril
    Hromnic. This area has since been declared a nature reserve and is protected for posterity by the Nelspruit Local Government.

    The Transvaal Tamil Federation also commemorated and erected a plaque in honour of the Late Valliammal who fought relentlessly and eventually sacrificed her life for the political freedom of the Indian Community of South Africa.


    Subject: A Brief History of the Tamils of Mauritius

    First International Tamil Conference - Seminar
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    18 - 23 April 1966

    A Brief History of the Tamils of Mauritius
    M. Sangeelee

    Mauritius is a small island lost in the Indian Ocean. It is some 550 miles to the east of Madagascar. It is 31 miles long and 28 miles broad and has an area of 720 sq. miles.

    It was first discovered in 1507 by the Portuguese, who gave it the name of Cirne.When the Portuguese abandoned it, the Dutch came and settled here in 1598 They too finally abandoned it in 1710.In 1715 the French took possession of it and gave it the name of Ile de France. it was under their administration that the country began to develop.

    The French governor Labourdonnais introduced from India, sugar cane, which is now the main crop.He also brought from Pondichery a number of artisans, especially joiners and masons, to teach the crafts to the Mauritians, who were then mainly slaves from Africa. Fine pieces of furniture made by those Indian craftsmen still exist. some of which are on exhibition at the Naval Museum at Mahebourg.
    In 1810 the English took the Island after a fierce naval battle. In this battle a good many Tamil soldiers fought with the English. Ever since then the Island has been a British Colony.

    It appears that during the French occupation, there was a considerable number of Tamils here and that they played an important part in the economic life of the country. This is evident from the fact that one or two French newspapers of the time published in Tamil, accounts of important events and advertisements, especially auction sales. We infer from the above that among those Tamils, there were many traders and well-to-do people.After 1810 other traders came from South India, many of whom settled here. As they came single, many of them had concubines of African origin or among
    the French-African hybrids. A good percentage of the present creole population are composed of the descendants of those Tamils.


    After the abolition of slavery in 1834, the emancipated slaves refused to work on the sugar plantations of their erstwhile masters. The sugar industry was, therefore, faced with a serious labour problem which threatened the very existence of the industry. The estate owners, all of French descent, viewed the situation with grave concern and looked up to India for help. India agreed to send her sons here to save the country from ruin. Indentured labourers soon arrived, who not only averted the catastrophe, but also proved to be the architects of their masters' rapid prosperity. For this signal service. the reward they received from those masters was the most cruel treatment. The poor Indians had no one to take up their defence.

    It was at that critical time that a Pole, by name De Plevitz, feeling for the defenceless Indians, started an agitation in their favour. Of course, the white estate owners resented it and subjected De Plevitz to severe ill-treatment. De Plevitz addressed a petition to the governor on behalf of Indians, but as he hardly knew English, the petition was drafted, both in
    English and Tamil by one Rajarethinum Modeliar.

    As the first batch of immigrants came from the Malabar coast, the Indians, in general, came to be called malabars, as they still are in the neighbouring French island of Reunion (formerly Bourbon).

    As the labourer's work, though the noblest, in foolishly considered humble, the appellation came to acquire a pejorative meaning. The Indians resented it so much that it had in course of time to be given up.

    According to statistics, the first batch of Indian labourers arrived in 1835, but in fact, a batch of I 100 coolies had been introduced six years before, in 1829.

    We have already said that the Indian labourers were subjected to harsh treatment by their white masters. De Plevitz's campaign, though it did some good, did not mitigate to an appreciable degree the sufferings of those useful workers.

    In 1901 Mahatma Gandhi paid a short visit to Mauritius. His heart bled at the sight of so much misery and he thought that someone should be sent over. from India to help those defenceless creatures. He could not find a suitable man immediately, but in 1907, he came across a young and dynamic barrister, Manilall Doctor, who was willing to undertake that hard job. By his intelligence and courage, and upheld by his genuine love for his humble and oppressed brothers. he succeeded after several years of hard work, in
    remedying most of the ills which had so long prevailed.

    When Mahatma Gandhi visited the Island in 1901, the only two advanced Indian communities were the Tamil and the Muslim communities. It was the prominent members of these two communities who entertained him.

    When Manilall Doctor came in 1907, he found all his helpers and friends in the Tamil community only. The calcutees or bihari community had not yet started its evolution. They were all labourers on the sugar estates.

    In the early days. when oppression was at its highest point, those who dared put up a fight were Tamilians. The greatest among them was no doubt Mr. Sinnatambou. He was a wealthy man and could have greatly profited by courting the whites, but there was in him such nobility of character that he would sooner have given up all his wealth than let down his suffering brothers. Among the many things achieved by him, let us quote the following:

    In those days, the Indian immigrants had no right to travel from any one place to any other without a "pass" about them.

    Sinnatambou had had a temple built at Terre Rouge. Though it is now over a century since that temple was built. it is still called after him "I'eglise Sinnatambou".

    On the consecration day, Indian labourers came from all parts of the Island to attend the sacred function. While the puja was going on, the police burst into the temple and arrested those who were not in possession of their "passes".

    Sinnathambou petitioned the governor, complaining of the outrageous conduct of the police and asking that it should be provided in the law that temples should be respected. The governor, finding that the Indians' grievance was
    grounded, issued orders that thenceforward the police should not enter any temple to arrest people. To complain of the police in those days was an act of daring especially for an Indian. Only a man of the calibre of Sinnatambou could be that bold.

    Before 1834, came to Mauritius Dr. Malayappen Sinnappilay. Though he was of an Indian university, he was at first allowed to practise without any restriction, but after some time, he was asked to restrict his practice to the Indian community.

    Of all the Indian immigrants, the Tamils were the most cultured. They knew their language, some of them being scholars in it. Many had a knowledge of English too, and many others were well versed in their literature and music. This is borne out by the fact that they were great amateurs of drama. They staged, generally under a pandul, such plays as arischandra, Damayanti, Savitri, Markandeya, Nallatangal, Nandanar, and excerpts from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

    There were among them great musicians, perfectly familiar with the intricacies of carnatic music.

    Those Tamils were very religious. They built temples everywhere, so that to-day, though the Tamil population is smaller than the calcuttees population, Tamil temples greatly outnumber those of the Calcutteeas, which are of recent times, the oldest being about 50 years old, while several Tamil temples are over a century old; for example, the beautiful temple at
    Clementia, which was built in 1856.

    Those Tamil immigrants were greatly appreciated as workers. They were not only laborious, but also intelligent. It is to their credit that a Commission of Enquiry appointed in 1845 stated in its report that of all the Indian labourers, the Tamils were the best workers.

    No wonder, then. that they were better considered and given jobs where diligence, trustworthiness, and intelligence were needed, such as: sirdar, messenger, coach-man, boilers etc.


    As far back as the beginning of the 19th Century, Tamils were proving themselves useful in the field of Education.

    At that period the eastern suburb of Port Louis was inhabited almost entirely by Tamilians. This fact accounts for so many of the streets of that region bearing Tamil names. The following are a few: Paliaca (Paleyagar), Ingapatnam. and Velore, which received their names after 1829. All the other names were given prior to 1828: Madras, Karekal, Calicut, Madurai, Mysore, Tranquebar (Tarangumbadi), Trichnapoly, Malabar.

    By the year 1833, a good many people of the coloured population had come to live in that part of Port Louis. Owing to some preposterous idea, the children of these people could not find admission to the Royal College, which was then in Port Louis and could not, therefore, receive secondary education. Mr. Michel Francois Savrimoutou, one of the leading Tamils of the time, founded for them the "Colonial Academy". That school proved so successful that in 1808, he founded the Colonial Mechanic Institute for the same people.

    Greater attention was paid at that time to Tamil by the Government than is now, so much so that it was one of the subjects for the Teachers' Certificate examinations.

    In the year 1887, the Tamil syllabuses for these examination were:-

    Monitor's Certificate examination: Grammar, reading. conversation, dictation, essay, translation.
    Text books. 2nd & 3rd readers, Pope's Tamil Grammar Pt. I.

    Third Class Teachers' Certificate examination: Reading, conversation, essay, translation.
    Text books: 4th reader, Natural History, Pope's Tamil Grammar, Pt. II,
    Pancha Tantram, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd parts, Nannool (1st part, up to page 61).

    Second Class Teacher's Certificate examination: Grammar, conversation, essay, translation.Text books: Pancha Tantram and Nannool (whole books).

    It seems that some of the immigrants gave a serious attention to the education of their children. In the 1864 Monitor's Certificate examinations, a fourteen year old boy, named Tamby Narayanan, topped the list of successful candidates.

    The old immigrants, who had a thorough knowledge of Tamil, passed it on to their children. As many of their offspring of the second, and a greater number still of the third generation had started learning English and French, their Tamil education was, bit by bit, neglected.

    Finding themselves all the time in an environment where the language they heard and spoke was Creole, a corrupt form of French, most of those of the succeeding generations who lived in towns soon stopped speaking Tamil and spoke Creole only.

    The succeeding batches of immigrants came from Bihar and other Hindi-speaking places. The time, therefore, soon came when those known as calcutteeas outnumbered the Tamils. Those Tamils who lived on sugar estates, finding themselves in Hindi-speaking environments, soon began to speak Hindi even at home. But unlike the town Tamilians, they kept up their mother tongue as well.

    Tamil had moved far downhill when, at the beginning of this century, a Madras regiment was stationed in the Island. Since the capture of the Colony by the English in 1810 and until recently Indian regiments had constantly been stationed here for its defence. In that Madras regiment was a soldier named Tulasinga Navalar, a scholar in Tamil. He taught the language to a few young men, some of whom became very proficient in it.

    Mr. Perumal Soobrayan, the brightest figure in the history of Tamil literature in Mauritius was one of them. He was a poet and a brilliant orator. He translated into Tamil a French novel entitled Ravengar, by Guy de Terramond and wrote a booklet of verse entitled: `'Contemplation Songs", to which the late Kalyana Soondara Moodeliar prefaced in glowing terms. He wrote a drama in verse, many other poems and a number of satires, which he never cared to collect in book form. He was poor, very poor at times, but he nevertheless managed to work for the propagation of Tamil. For many years, he ran single-handed four free Tamil schools, teaching therein personally. He has left a few bright pupils, the foremost of them being Rajarethinum Sangeelee. Two other bright pupils of Tulasinga Navalar were Saoundarajan
    and K. Raman.

    Of the contemporary Tamils who are proficient in Tamil may be mentioned:
    Soopaya Modeliar, Vele Govinden, Vadevel Selven, the Sangeelee brothers and P. Arunachalum.

    Soopaya Modeliar and the Sangeelee brothers have for years been devoting much of their time to teaching Tamil, gratis.

    It was feared until recently that Tamil would soon become extinct in Mauritius, but luckily there has been, since the last decade, a revival of the language. The interest which the Tamils are now taking in it and in their culture make one hopeful of better days for our mother tongue.

    Tamil was, until 1950, taught in only two schools. It was then introduced into sixteen more schools. About 1958, when the Honourable Runganathan Seeneevassen was Minister of Education, it was extended to many more schools, and our present Minister. the Honourable Veerasamy Ringadoo. has brought the number of schools where Tamil is taught to its maximum.

    Besides, free Tamil Schools have been opened in very many places by Tamil associations or single individuals. Many of the teachers of these schools are volunteers, others content themselves with a nominal pay, considering their work as a contribution to the advancement of the community.

    Now, Tamil is taught in the primary schools only. We hope that the time is not far when it will find its place in the yllabuses of the secondary schools as well.

    The Tamil language has had a considerable influence on the Creole language. Many Tamil words have found their way into that language. The following are a few -

    Names of plants: Kali, from Kalli, Notchi, Mourouk (Muruku). vetivert from vettiver
    Names of fruits att, from atta, goyave from Koyyu .
    Names of vegetables: pipangaye from peerkanggaye, patol, from pudol, mourroung, from mouroungay; avrayka, from avaraykaye; Kotaranga, from Kottuvarangaye; Kotomili, from Kottumalli; Karoupillay, from Karuvepilay;
    pudina, from pudiyana; Betel, from vettrilaye ; pak, from paku; elyeti, from elarisi .
    Names of cakes: putu, from pittu ; ounday. from ourounday; Mourkou, from mouroukkou.
    And the exclamation: "Ayo!" from ayyo .
    Besides, the diet of all the communities is mostly Tamil. Rice has become the staple food. Curries especially fish and meat. are prepared in the Tamil way, with masala.

    In 1922, the Government decided to have a Police Band, but suitable musicians could not be found in the country. Governor Sir Kisketh Bell brought in 27 musicians from South India, mostly from Travancore. These musicians trained some Mauritians who, little by little, replaced them, till the whole band became Mauritian.

    Many of our young people are taking a keen interest in Tamil music, both vocal and instrumental. Some of them are gifted and could become expert singers or musicians, if they had proper guidance.

    Some of our girls are showing great interest in classical dance, especially `'baratha natyam", but they can't improve for lack of guidance. An effort is being made to obtain such guidance from India.

    The Tamils of Mauritius are utilising as best they can, the talents they possess. With the help of these talents they are now and then giving dramatic and musical performances on the local radio and T.V. Tamil plays are staged. On two occasions the Bharati Tamil School gave concerts of Tamil music, which were greatly appreciated. Some Frenchman, who happened to be in the country at the time, attended and subsequently wrote eulogistically about them.


    Among the Tamils who came from India were some very wealthy men. Of them, V. Annasamy who, before 1826, became owner of the Bon Espoir Sugar Estate' which covers an area of 770 arpents with a sugar factory. In 1852, he sold
    it to Rama Tirumoody Chetty, who kept it until 1914

    Up to the end of the last century, and even during the first quarter of the present one, the Tamil community was very prosperous in Mauritius. They owned a large number of houses and commercial buildings everywhere but especially in Port Louis and Rose Hill. Trade was almost entirely in their hands.

    In the Central Market, all the sections, the meat and fish sections, excepted, were entirely occupied by Tamilians.

    Then began the downward march, which was rapid enough and was brought about by a severe competition from Chinese traders.


    In politics Tamils are playing an honourable part. Prior to 1886, the Indians had no representations in the Legislative Council. In that year, Mr. Gnanadirayen Arlanda, a merchant, was nominated. He was later on succeeded by Dr. Xavier Nalletamby, who, in his turn was succeeded by Mr. Kistnasamy Narainsamy, a custom-house broker, up to 1910.

    It is since 1948. that Tamils have begun to play an active part in politics. In that year, a Tamilian was, for the first time, elected to the Legislative Council. He was Ranganathan Seeneevasen, one of the most brilliant barristers the Island has produced. He was a very eloquent speaker and a shrewd politician. He was, in fact. the brain of the Labour Party, to which he belonged. His premature death deprived the community of its glory and the country of an invaluable asset.

    In 1953. R. Seeneevassen, Veerasamy Ringadoo, Francis Soocramanien Chadien and Goinsamy Venkatasamy were elected. Or' succeeding elections, Messrs Vele Govinden, and Kistnasamy Tiruvengadum were returned.

    The Tamils now sitting in the Legislative Assembly are: Veerasamy Ringadoo, Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs, Kristnasamy Tirvengadum, Minister of State for the budget, Vele Govinden, elected member. and Kistnasamy Sunassee' nominated member. The latter deserves a special mention. He is a successful merchant and a great philanthropist. For the last two decades. at feast, he has been taking a leading part in the affairs of the community. He is ever prepared for any sacrifice, however great of time, energy and money, when the community is concerned. Whenever a movement is set afoot in the interest of the community. Sunassee is sure to be there. Unlike many others, he does not act for show, but works with genuine sincerity.

    Besides. several other Tamils have recently had the honour of being elected presidents of Town Councils. Last year Mr. K. Chinnasamy was elected president of the township of Vacoas-Phoenix and this year Mr. Satchuda Patten is President of Beau-Bassin-Rose Hill. The greatest honour to the community is that this year's Mayor of Port Louis is a Tamilian. He is Mr. Dorsamy Moorghen.

    In the Civil Service, many Tamils have acceeded to high posts, four of them having reached the grade of Principa] Assistant Secretaries in various Ministries.

    Our community has a good number of doctors and barristers - and two magistrates. They only lady barrister of the Colony is a Tamilian: Mrs. Laure Pillay.


    Though a certain number of Tamilians. about 12% belongs to the Christian faith, the big majority are Hindus. They have 120 temples. which have grouped themselves into a federation, which receives the Tamilians' share of the Religious subsidy paid by Government and distributes it among the temples.

    The Hindu Tamils observe the Cavadee festival and many temples hold "walk on fire".

    Four of the Tamil festivals are public holidays, viz. Pongal Deepavali, Cavadee and Shivaratri.

    Many Tamil associations exist, some of which are very active and are doing fine work. The Tamil League, for example, has a number of activities: scouting and drama, especially.

    The 2nd Tamil Scouts have, for a number of years successively won the first prize at the annual Drama Competition.

    Tiruvalluvar and Bharati Days are observed in several places every year.

    Our ladies are not lagging behind. Ladies' associations have been formed in many towns and villages and are very active. They are running schools and classes in needlework, painting. etc. They also hold celebrations of our principal festivals.

    Four of our girls have so far been laureates. winning the English Scholarships. Three have already completed their studies in the U.K. Two are doctors in the Government Service. The third has taken a degree and is a tutor in the Teachers' Training College. The fourth has won a scholarship this year.

    Our ladies do not lack courage either. Some years ago, the labourers of Belle Vue Sugar Estate went on strike. Matters came to such a pass that the police opened fire, some say unnecessarily, and Anjelay, a Tamil lady, who was among the leaders, was shot dead. Mr. Permal Subrayen wrote a fine poem in Tamil in her honour. That poem has been translated into English.

    We have now two newspapers, edited in English, French and Tamil. One of them, Tamil Voice is doing good work in the field of language and culture. It has already published a Tamil Course through French and has been, almost from the start, publishing a series of articles on Tamil culture. It is becoming more and more popular.

    It is hoped that the Tamil community will move from progress to progress and that, in the years to come, it will play an important part in making Mauritius prosperous and great.

    In the compilation of this paper, much information has been obtained from A. Beejadhlir’s book: Les Indiens a l'lle Maurice and Prof. Bissoodoyal’s booklet: A Short History of the Tamils of Mauritius


    Subject: Common Denominators: Ethnicity, nationalism and the politics of compromise in Mauritius

    Following is an exerpt from the above titled book. From what I read it probbaly would becaome difficult to maintain a Tamil identity in Mauritius in the future.

    "Mauritians are generally, this book has shown, self-conscious of ethnic differences. Their society is made up of groups originating from three continents and four major religions; there is no clear ethnic majority, and yet the Mauritian state has hitherto avoided public interethnic violence since the riots around Independence. Yet most Mauritians are, regardless of
    ethnic membership, subjectively concerned to retain their ethnic distinctiveness, although tendencies in Mauritian society indicate that this may be difficult in the near future. Religious ritual is widely attended, and there is currently -- in the 1990s -- an upsurge in popular interest in cultural origins. Simultaneously, there are strong forces at work, described in the last two chapters, encouraging a polyethnic or postethnic Mauritian nationalism that is identified with cultural uniformity in quotidian practices and a shared destiny: the emergent industrial system requires uniformly qualified, mobile labour, which in turn requires a standardisation of education; national radio, TV and the newspapers increasingly influence the form and topics of discourse about society, and there seems to have been a growth in the occurrence of interethnic marriages"


    The Tamil Diaspora’s Quest for Eelam

    Diaspora nationalism among Tamils is the major factor behind the quest for an independent Eelam, writes Professor P. Ramasamy of the NationalUniversity of Malaysia The present nature of globalization must be understood in contradictory terms. Only such a perceptive can provide us with an understanding why national liberation movements are on the rise

    Globalization ordinarily understood as the movement of capital and technology must also embrace the movement of people across the globe. While the actual movement of people across national boundaries is not something
    new, the phenomenon of globalization has accentuated this out-migration of peoples across different national boundaries.

    There are two distinct developments associated with globalization. One is the general leveling process whereby global capital and technologicalmovements under the guise of modernisation seeks to lessen cultural differences on the basis of certain universal mechanisms. The other is the difference process. Here global capitalist developments do not create homogenous structures but contribute to a situation where cultural differences gives rise to identity politics.

    Identity politics in the present global political process is not something confined to territorial states. Of recent is the phenomenon ofDiaspora nationalism that has induced certain degree of ethnic or cultural solidarity among ethnic groups dispersed in different national settings.

    It can be argued at least in the case of Eelam that ethnic dispersals of Tamils world-wide has not contributed to the fragmentation of ethnic solidarity. On the contrary, Diaspora nationalism among Tamils is the major factor behind the quest for an independent Eelam.

    The quest for an independent state of Tamil Eelam must be understood though not exclusively on the basis of support derived from the Tamil Diaspora distributed in places like Europe, North America, Malaysia, Singapore, South
    Africa, Mauritius and not the least in Tamil Nadu, India. Insofar as the international Tamil community is concerned, the leveling process of globalization has not really succeeded in extinguishing cultural politics that forms a very important base for providing nourishment for the creation of an independent Tamil Eelam.

    The Tamil Diaspora could be considered as perfect example of an internationally dispersed community that continues to sustain the Tamil national liberation movement intellectually, emotionally, culturally, financially and morally. In this regard, analysts who have sought to understand the Diaspora in terms of supporting a distant and a far-flung cause have failed to capture the dynamics of the complex linkage between the Tamil Diaspora and the Eelam national liberation movement.

    The LTTE may be the armed representative of the Tamils in Sri Lanka but at its linkage with the overseas Tamils goes beyond matters of moral and financial support. While LTTE depends heavily upon the Tamil Diaspora in terms of obtaining financial support, it is not one of s relationship. In fact one can make the argument that LTTE itself is a representative of the Tamil Diaspora.

    The nature and intensity of support given by the Tamil Diaspora was to a large extent the function of the armed struggle conducted by the LTTE. However, the relationship cannot be described as the dependent one as the imagination of a Tamil nation by the Diaspora went beyond the confines of the armed struggle.

    But nonetheless one cannot dismiss the fact that the armed struggle waged by the LTTE was crucial in terms of actually building up support in the international arena. In this respect, the support provided by the Diaspora underwent three distinct phases. In the first phase, support for the iberation movement was in a confused state. Given the number of Tamil groups vying for support, there was a tendency on the part of the Diaspora to channel material and moral support to different groups over a period of time. In the second phase, the sustenance provided by the Diaspora was much more
    clear and focused.

    The rise of the LTTE as the most formidable organisation saw the general weakening of other Tamil groups that pretended to take up the armed struggle of the Tamil people. At the same time, the success of the LTTE in engaging the Sri Lankan Army gave it a much international prestige as one of the most powerful liberation movements in the world.
    The third phase the present period in which the LTTE has moved beyond the defensive strategy to conduct offensive strategies against the SLA forces.

    For instance, the recent capture of the Elephant Pass base has brought renewed confidence among the ranks of the Tamil Diaspora.

    Identification and involvement with the liberation movement is also a very much a function of the political economy of the Tamil Diaspora in different national settings.

    The the formation of Tamil Diaspora settlements in places like Europe, North America and much earlier in Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and South Africa have provided for the creation of an ethnic-Tamil identity. However, such an identity would have not have been strengthened in the absence of discrimination against Tamils. Today Tamils in these
    places face varying degrees of discrimination on account of their ethnic identity. In Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa, the nature of majoritarian politics have contributed to a situation where Tamils have been quite disillusioned.

    Economic deprivation, marginalisation from the mainstream, denial of language and cultural rights have caused Tamils in these places to develop high degrees of ethnic solidarities.

    In the developed countries, Tamils do not have decent existence. Racial and ethnic discrimination have also contributed to the rise of ethnic solidarity. Thus, in a nutshell, it can be argued that the political economy of existence in different national settings have contributed to a situation where Tamils find it natural and logical to identity and the national
    liberation movement headed by the LTTE.

    Such a tendency has been helped by groups and organisations that have been recently set up in these countries enlist support for the liberation movement. In this regard, the existence of a number of web sites has enabled the Tamil Diaspora to have access to information about the state of affairs in Sri Lanka.

    Overwhelming support for the creation of Eelam is also a reflection of a deep psychological need among Tamils for the creation of a Tamil homeland.

    Despite the glory of Tamil history and their world-wide influence, Tamils have not succeeded to this date to carve out a separate independent territory for themselves.

    While Tamil Nadu is the home of 60 million Tamils in South India, it his, however, not a independent territory. Despite the efforts of Thanthai Periyar and others to articulate the demands for a separate Dravidasthan, a homeland for Dravidians did not eventuate. Brahminical conspiracy and British imperialism forbade Tamils to think and act in unison in creating and sustaining the quest for a Tamil homeland.

    Thanks to the Eelam struggle, the Tamil Diaspora has become united in thought and deed so as not to let the present opportunity go past. For they have full confidence and trust in the LTTE to carve out a homeland for the international Tamil Diaspora.

    Critics and others who have written-off the LTTE and the struggle for Eelam have not fully grasped the intensity of support that comes from the Diaspora. More than this they have failed to understand that the present quest not only has its root in the particular political economy of Sri Lanka but also the way Tamils have been treated in other national settings.

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    Subject: OPINION: lasantha wickrematunga -Is Eelam Inevitable?

    OPINION: lasantha wickrematunga


    Is Eelam Inevitable?

    A decade has passed since the IPKF was expelled from Sri Lanka by the island’s maverick nationalist president, Ranasinghe Premadasa. From India’s original intervention in Sri Lanka in 1987, Premadasa had been opposed not
    only to the IPKF but Indian involvement in Sri Lanka’s affairs. Likemost Sinhalese, he saw the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as an instrument of imperialist oppression and considered the IPKF an occupying army. As prime minister under J.R. Jayawardene in 1987, he even went so far as to boycott Rajiv Gandhi’s Sri Lanka visit. When he became president in 1989, such was his haste to expel the Indians that he helped arm the Tigers to defeat the Indian army. When this didn’t work, he announced publicly that the IPKF was no longer welcome in Sri Lanka, without first informing New Delhi-a slight
    several changes of government in India have not been quick to forget.

    The rupture led to an enduring rift, which began to heal only with the ascendancy of Chandrika Kumaratunga to the presidency. Harking back to her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s ties to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Kumaratunga
    was quick to assure India that she would like to see a healing of the rift and made all the right noises. Egged on by Delhi, she even backed, albeit reluctantly, a new package of constitutional reforms. However, by maintaining a constant barrage of invective against the opposition UNP, she effectively ensured that the package would fail to muster opposition support
    and therefore founder.

    Like her predecessors, Kumaratunga first turned to peace talks with the LTTE. Sadly, the negotiators she sent were all inexperienced and, worst of all, entirely composed of Sinhalese. When the Tigers reverted to war in 1995, Kumaratunga made it her stated intention to weaken them militarily until they had no choice but to negotiate with her, on her terms.

    Ironically, the tables seem now to have been turned.
    With a general election due in just five months, this situation could not have been worse timed for Kumaratunga. With characteristic impetuosity, under the guise of putting the country on a war footing, she imposed stringent media censorship and draconian regulations to prevent political activity and criticism of her or her government. There is little doubt in the public mind, however, that the regulations are focused entirely at propping up her failing popularity and hiding the bitter truth from the Sri Lankan people. Sadly, the opposition UNP has found itself unequal to the job of standing up to Kumaratunga and opted to grumble mutely rather than confront the beleaguered president.

    Meanwhile, India, in this past decade, has held silent. Although at independence in 1948 Sri Lanka was immeasurably more prosperous and better managed than India, five decades of attrition by successively incompetent and self-serving governments have reduced the island to beggary. During these five decades, it was fashionable for Sinhalese to claim that Tamil Nadu was interested in increasing its reach into Sri Lanka’s Tamil-ominated Northern Province, the grass being greener here. What is more, while India was in the ‘70s and ‘80s still associated with the decaying communist bloc
    and archaic Third World politics like non-alignment, Sri Lanka was westward-looking and consumerist, on the verge of transforming an agricultural economy into an industrial one. So inward-looking have the Sri Lankans been that they failed to notice the transformation that is taking place in India following the economic reforms. The New India, looking to be the regional leader not just in terms of population and size but also in terms of economic strength and prosperity, is something still largely not recognised in Sri Lanka.

    With these happy distractions added to the bitter experience of the past, it’s clear Delhi is no longer anxious to involve itself in Sri Lankan affairs. Now, given the readiness with which Pakistan and Norway have chosen to do so, India is left with no real choice. Just as important, after a decade of suspicion, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe appears to have mended his party’s fences with New Delhi and welcomed Indian mediation in resolving the conflict. But with the LTTE’s recent military successes, a ceasefire imposed by India is unlikely to be popular with the Tigers and also their supporters in India and elsewhere.

    Even otherwise, there is little hope for a mediated settlement given the LTTE’s intransigence. After almost a quarter century of war and enormous sacrifices, they are unlikely now to settle for a regional council or even a federal state, which they could have had for the asking all along. The battle is for Eelam and from the Tigers’ point of view, the only relevant
    negotiations are to decide where the boundaries should be drawn. The principle of Eelam, it seems, is not negotiable. The question the Sinhalese have to face is, are they tired enough of war now to concede a state? More and more people answer this with a "Yes, but..." rather than a straight "No" these days. While many Sinhalese would now be ready to concede Jaffna and perhaps even the Northern Province, they are concerned about the LTTE’s likely expansionist tendencies.

    Given the weak and unprincipled political eadership to which the Sinhalese have been heir, bolstered by the Buddhist clergy’s antipathy to a secular polity, it is unlikely that a workable solution short of cessation will be workable. But the likely outcome in the foreseeable future is that the Sinhalese will continue to fight not so much through principle but hoping
    that they can endure longer than the Tigers can. Besides, no government ceding sovereign real estate to the Tamils is likely to survive, for which reason Prabhakaran can’t expect to gain his goal without a lot more bloodshed on both sides. For India, there are no easy options. For Sri Lanka, things are worse: there are no options, period.
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    Subject: Were Tamils in South Africa 1,000 years ago ?

    Following article chronicles the effort of a single archeologist who is trying to prove that Indians (specifically Saivite Tamils it looks like) were in South Africa 1,000 yeras ago.
    Were Indians the first colonists in SA?

    To Hromnik, an acknowledged expert on Indo-African trade, the evidence for Indian presence in Southern Africa during the first millennium AD is overwhelming. The Nguni and the Quena languages are, he says, peppered with Indian words. The Quena word for priest, for instance, was suri. In Tamil (South Indian) it is sûri. Karoo is the Quena word for dry land, just as karu is the Tamil word. Omby is the Nguni word for cattle, and o'mby in Indonesia is the name for the type of introduced cattle one finds in Africa for the whole article go to

    Content Not Found - Mail & Guardian

    Subject: More on Dr. Cyril Hromnik

    Gudrun Dahl of Stockholm university requested information and
    indication of interest on the Western Indian Ocean as culturalcorridor. Incase others on the list are interested in cultural
    history of this particular sort, I'll post it on the list.I have found this topic fascinating for years. My Ph.D. research
    was in Tanzania, and I speak Swahili since i had lived in East Africa for years before that, and have been interested in the history of the language. Before that I lived in India, and went ot school there for some time, so I have some experience on the other side of the Indian Ocean as well, and have been aware of the fact that there are people of African origin in India, and that some of the Ind. Ocean Islands are inhabited by African people speaking Swahili-like langauges, or even Swahili. I have not been able to travel or do research in the area myself, however. There is one researcher that is unlikely to have been heard of by Dahl and her colleagues. He has an extremely indiosyncratic view of the region, but I know of no one who has done more extensive research, or who has a better command of the languages involved. His name is Cyril Hromnik. He lives in Cape Town, and works on a sort of full-time amateur basis, altho he has a PhD from Syracuse U on Goan-Mozambiquan contact. He speaks/reads Portuguese, Tamil, Swahili,English, with some Dutch, German and French, not to mention hisnative Slovak, and a bit of Russian! He can 'sound out' material in Hebrew and Arabic scripts as well, although he does not read theselangauges. He has been possessed for the past 15 years with the idea that
    there was a significant Indian presence in southern Africa, people who were mainly speakers of Dravidian langauges and early Shivites by religion. His 'hypothesis' is that they were a significant enough presence to have been responsible for the construction and workings of many of the ancient gold mines in SA, Moz. and Zimbabwe retion,
    and that they also were responsible for some of the stone work as well. They were traders and miners, primarily, and were responsble for the early gold workin in Africa that supplied India and the far East, as well as Arabia. When the trade in the Indian Ocean collapsed after early European intervention, some stayed in Africa and blending in eventuallywith the locals, and some returned, by then looking rather more African than Indian. There is a certain cultural logic, since he argues that they traded animals and animal products from India for gold and ivory from Africa. Since one can not get married in India without gold, nor in Africa without cattle, there is certainly strong motive on both side. It is clear that there were people recognised as 'Indian" in the southern AFrican region when Europeans first appeared (1460s-1700s), and it has always been a vexed question why they were there, if they were 'really there' or just figments of Portuguese imaginings (but Portuguese and Dutch were pretty clear about these thinkgs in all other instances we know about). In any case, Hromnik has 15 years of notes, and has done extensive archaeological survey work, but published vbery little. There is one book that might be interesting"

    Cyril A. Hromnik, Indo-Africa:towards a new understanding of the
    history of sub-saharan africa. Cape Town: Juta and co. ltd., 1981.

    He has published quite a few articles, but mostly as ephemera. The methodology is quirky, and the whole undertaking rather nineteenth century-ish, but it is fascinating. Hope this might help Gudrun Dahl and her associates. I will send
    your email notice to him (he is in the bush for a couple of months now however), and will make a note of it for myself. I would like to be kept informed.

    =====Professor Robert Thornton, Department of Social Anthropology====
    University of the Witwatersrand, PO Wits, 2050 Johannesburg
    South Africa
    Office tel. : (011) 716-2900
    Secretary, fax and answering machine: (011) 716-2766
    Home tel: (011) 646-2578

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    Subject: More on Tamils in Africa

    The observations of a German researcher of Hydraulics deserve special mention here. "A very highly astonishing discovery of recent research is the remains of irrigation works in South East Africa" observes Dr. H.W. Flemming, and says that "it wo'nt belong to the cultural influence of Egypt. The high culture of the Indian Dravidians who were pushed South by the Indo-Germans had enough initiative, once upon a time to penetrate into the South-East of Africa to build
    magnificient irrigation works there."20

    Quoted by Dr. V. Kulandaisamy, in 'Palantamilum Poriyiyalum' in
    Palkalaip palantamil p.147, (ed.) Dr. N. Sanjeevi, University of
    Madras, 1972.


    Subject: Dr Cyril Hromnik

    Dear friend. Anbulla Vanakkam.

    Dr Cyril Hromnik's writing make interesting reading.Much debate has taken place between Him and a Black (african) gentleman in the local papers in Durban. For and against the "Were there Tamils in South Africa" subject and other allied subjects.They are too much for me to put into the system. A lot of work.He has done a lot of work amongst the Tamil people of Gauteng. In fact he has identified a SIVALINGAM. and it has already been consegerated by the Tamil Community. Presently it is Major tourist attraction for all Tamil people from South Africa.

    His address in Cape Town is 4 North Oak,Dulwich Road.7700 Rondebosch,Cape Town, South Africa.

    Telephone and Fax is +27 021 689 4463.
    Cape Town

    He will be very pleased if you will write to him directly for all
    information. He does not have an EMAIL just yet. I have asked him to do so
    Wolaganatha Pillay

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    Subject: Attention Netizens in Mauritius

    From "R.K." <[email protected]>
    Date Mon, 07 Aug 2000 11:35:52 +0800
    CC Carl Vadivella Bell <[email protected]>

    Dear Tamil netizens,

    I quote below the relevant parts of an email to me on the above.

    Netizens in Mauritius or others able to supply the relevant information can email direct to Carl Vadivel Bella at the
    CC address above.

    Carl Vadivel Bella is an Australian and ardent Muruga devotee (hence his middle name). He has been carrying kavadi at the Malaysian Batu Caves Thaipusam for the past several years and is a sort of celeberity in Malaysia. He has
    also written a book on his experiences, a very honest account. He is also a Muruga researcher, now engaged in finishing up a thesis on the theme in an Australian university.


    "Dear Dr Karthigesu,

    I hope that this letter finds you in good health. I was wondering if I might request your assistance.

    You will be aware that the Second International Conference on Skanda-Murugan is to be held in Mauritius in April 2001,
    and is to be convened at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute.

    I have written to them (twice) by regular post (I have no e-mail address for the Institute) requesting their assistance. Basically, I would be interested in spending a month in Muaritius to make some observations on Hinduism in the country, so that I could draw comparisons with Malaysia in the concluding sections of my thesis. (The similarities and points of departure with Malaysia make it a worthwhile study.) I do not wish to be an encumberance, and I am quite prepared to pay my way. I would also be happy to deliver lectures or talks if required. The Institute has not responded to my letters.

    Quite simply time is running out for me to attend. I have to organize a manager for my farm while I am away and to strike
    suitable rates of pay and to instruct in feeding regime for my animals, and to arrange power of attorney for my business
    dealings. Managers of this sort are increasingly difficult to obtain, and require several months leeway.

    I am writing again to the Institute to explain my circumstances, but I was wondering whether you had any contacts in Mauritius who would be amenable to offering me some advice, and might be prepared to point me in the direction of major Hindu organizations in Mauritius. I would emphasize that I do not wish to create problems or a heavy workload for anyone, but I would be grateful for some general assistance and advice. I would also be delighted to offer reciprocal assistance.

    My warm regards, as always.


    Carl Vadivella Belle"

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    Subject: Conference to explore Indo-African commonalities


    Conference to explore Indo-African commonalities

    by Fakir Hassen, India Abroad News Service

    Durban, Nov 30 - The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of South Africa (APS) will host athree-day international conference here with the theme "Indian and African
    Cultures in the New Millennium" to explore similarities between African and Indian culture.

    The conference, which will mark the 75th anniversary of the APS in South Africa and the 125th anniversary of Arya Samaj in India, will be held from December 1-3, and a number of delegates and speakers from India, Mauritius and African countries are expected to attend. Papers will be presented on several themes exploring similarities between African and Indian culture.

    "There are a number of things that we share but which we tend to overlook," APS president Bisla Rambilass said. "These include religious practices and spirituality, the role of 'lobola (the African dowry system)' and Indian dowry systems, the place of ancestors in African and Indian worship and the use of alternative medicines in African and Indian traditions. We
    have invited papers on all these themes," he added.

    Rambilass said the APS had chosen to celebrate its anniversary by highlighting plans to bring together the African and Indian communities in the true spirit of the African Renaissance which had been announced last year by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

    "We need to remove from our communities the racial stereotypes that we have been indoctrinated with. It would be a great fallacy to be politically correct and pretend that the African and Indian communities in Kwazulu-Natal
    in particular, are all happy and there is no need for concern," Rambilass said.

    The province of Kwazulu-Natal is where Indians first arrived in South Africa and is home today to about 70 percent of South Africans of Indian descent. The province is also the home of the largest indigenous African group in the
    country, the Zulus. In 1949, political tensions led to a huge flare-up between Indians and Zulus but they have lived in relative calm since then.

    The APS was the first formal religious body to be established in the country at the turn of the 20th century after the first Indians arrived here as indentured laborers in 1860.

    "Indentured laborers came from the lowest socio-economic rungs of the Indian population and the Arya Samaj fought against the caste system through which the indentured immigrants labored under the misconception that they were not
    worthy of belonging to the higher class," Rambilass said.

    Similar processes were followed in the establishment of branches in Mauritius, Trinidad, Fiji and British Guyana to improve the lot of the working class. The first leader of the Arya Samaj in South Africa, Swami Bhawani Dayal, was also chairman of the Natal Indian Congress for some time.

    The APS has also embarked on a number of successful projects. The Aryan Benevolent Home catered to indigent Indians at its inception in 1912. After being forced to move to the Indian suburb of Chatsworth in the 1960s, it is now one of the largest welfare institutions in the country, taking care of the frail, the aged and destitute children of all races. It now has
    five branches across two provinces.

    The Narain Jeawon Vedic Center at the Durban suburb of Sea Cow Lake provides primary health care at a nominal cost to hundreds of mainly black residents in the area.

    The Pandit Nardev Hindu Dharma Prachar Trust has been established to publish literature on Hinduism in the two largest indigenous languages, Zulu and Xhosa. Veteran Zulu politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi will launch the first two ublications in a series of five at the Conference. The aim of these publications is the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue between the African and Indian communities.

    The APS has also launched an initiative in recent years on Raksha Bandhan day, when members of the African and Indian communities are encouraged to tie a thread on each other's wrists as a symbol of the new relationship that
    needs to be fostered between these communities. Sisters tie the threads on the wrists of brothers to secure a pledge to protect them at all times.

    -- India Abroad News Service

    Subject: The Murukan cult in Mauritius:

    The Murukan cult in Mauritius:
    Essence of Tamil ethnic identity by Khesaven Sornum

    Note: Mauritius hosts the Second International Conference on Skanda-Murukan 24-28 April, 2001.

    The earliest and sublimest Tamilian concept of Godhead has been called by the pure Tamil word Murukan.1 Murukan has been closely associated with the life of the Tamils from time immemorial. They have been worshipping Him as the embodiment of beauty, the source of spiritual wisdom and the personification of limitless power.

    The most ancient famous Tamil grammar Tolkâppiyam refers to Murukan as Cêyon and the God that is present in the hilly areas. The rich materials enshrined in the Canµkam classics endorse the fact that Murukan was fervently invoked by devotees from various stratas of society.

    Murukan has been cherished and venerated in the Tamil land and other countries of the Tamil diaspora. The early Tamil immigrants from South India, mostly craftsmen and traders, settled in Mauritius in the eighteenth century during the French colonisation. They were the builders of many places of worship. Later on, many Tamil indentured labourers also settled in Mauritius along with other ethnic and linguistic groups from India, China, Africa and Madagascar. Nothing
    could prevent the Tamils from keeping their identity.

    One important element characterising the identity of the Tamils is their strong belief in their ancestral values and their religion which they would rather call Tamilism or Tamil religion. In concordance with the words of the Poet Nâmakkal Kavignar Râmalinkam Pillai "A Tamilian race does exist and that a special characteristic it does possess".2 The Tamils of Mauritius are identified by other communities as the worshippers of the Tamil God -- Murukan.

    Religious festivals like Tîmiti, Kanji, Gôvinthan and others are celebrated region wise and on various occasions by the Tamils but kâvati festivals like Taippucam has a national dimension. What philosophers consider as folk religion has now taken shape as popular religion.

    A fine example is the Taippucam kâvati festival which is celebrated with much fervour and massive participation on a national level. Taippucam Day has been decreed public holiday since more than half a century. It is true that in Mauritius Tamils are identified mostly by their religion and culture. Ethnicity would rather be marked by religion and culture. Nevertheless during religious festivals and cultural events a wider use of Tamil language is noticed.

    In view to have a clear idea of the specificity of the Murukan cult Mauritius and how far it is the essence of ethnic identity various elements and aspects of this cult should be closely looked at.

    Brief history of Murukan cult in Mauritius
    The Murukan cult had its root planted in Mauritius ever since the first Tamil immigrants came as craftsmen and traders under French rule. Their close attachment to their religion prompted them to build kôvils. A few kôvils were erected as per the norms laid down in the agamas. A fine example would be the Sockalingum Meenatchee Amman Kôvil of Port-Louis. The Dandâyudhapâni Kôvil of Clemencia is considered as the oldest Murukan Kôvil.

    With the immigration of indentured labourers from many parts of India, many Tamils settled on sugar estates. At all those places, kôvils were built as places or worship and social gatherings. This endeavour had the support of the estate owners who were mostly French settlers. Besides allotting a plot of land for their cult, the estate owners sponsored the special ceremonies performed before the harvest.

    By the year 1960, nearly 110 kôvils existed already. The Government started distributing subsidy to the kôvils duly registered and affiliated to the Mauritius Tamil Temples Federation. At present, thirty kôvils have Murukan as main deity and all other Amman and Civan kôvils have Murukan deity because in all kôvils, kâvati celebrations do take place.

    An Indian nationalist Râjaretnum Mudaliar who served the cause of Tamil education in Mauritius was so infatuated with the Murukan Cult that he asked permission to organise a kâvati procession in Port-Louis in 1874.3

    With access to education, nowadays the Murukan cult is being developed and consolidated. While few arcakars on contract from Tamil Nadu are serving in Mauritius, many youngsters have shown interest in getting trained to serve in kôvils. Apart from the great Taippucam festival, many other Murukan festivals have been organised in the past twenty-five years. Pankuni Uttiram, Cittirai Paruvam, Aadee Kârtikkai, Âvani Mûlam, Vaikâci, Vicâkam, Kanta Sashti and Kârtikkai
    Tîpam have been included in the calendar of Tamil festivals in Mauritius.

    Tiruppukal songs are recited by Tamil school children. Many kôvils are being renovated in the Dravidian Kôvil Architecture style. The media is playing an important role in popularising the cult. Murukan who is also named Kali Yuga Varatan would stretch his rule for many more years to come and Mauritius would be a well known place for Murukan Cult. Elders and Local Archagars have been very keen in maintaining uniformity in the various rituals pertaining to the cult, though few Archagars from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka have been serving in Mauritius in the past.

    Places of worship
    The Tamils who settled in this land considered it a must to have places for worshipping God. In all Tamil houses, the picture of Murukan, the Vêl, the cempu (brass pot) can been seen. These are meant for worship. Since kôvil worship was considered very important, the Tamils built their kôvils on all sugar estates and other places where they were living. Some were small and others big enough to accommodate the devotees.

    The early Tamilian mind revelled in the natural beauty of the hills and forests wherein human civilisation originated and started the process of migration of settlement to other places, then to the sea boards from wherein the Tamilian carried on his enterprises on the seas. The natural beauty attracted him and developed in him a deeper appreciation of nature in all its beauty and found in him the divinity of nature. The concept of divinity was from experience and worship of nature and that divinity was personified and called 'Muruka'.4

    In Mauritius also the Murukan cult is closely associated with natural surroundings. All kâvati processions would normally start from river banks or seaside to proceed to the kôvils. Many of such kôvils are found on sugar estates and few on hilltops. Moreover, it was conceived that Murukan had his special abode on every hill (Kunrudôrâdal). Tolkâppiyam refers to Murukan and His abode as 'Cêyon meya maivarai ulagam'.5

    The main abodes of Murukan are called 'Pataivîtukal' by the poet Nakkîrar. Mention is made in the Tirumurukârruppatai of six main 'Pataivîtukal'.

    The Tamils in Mauritius think of Palani as most important place of worship. Almost everybody dreams to have a pilgrimage at Palani which they consider to be the Mecca for the Tamils. For Mauritius, the Murukan Kôvil of Corps de Garde Mountain is a Padaivîtu.

    'Oh Lord, I have not seen Tanikai MalaiNeither have I seen Palani MalaiMy sadness knows no bound, so for me
    Quatre Bornes Malai is your Patai Vîtu'6

    Such are the heart melting words of the hymn "The Mauritius Murukan Pâmâlai", composed by P. Tiroumale Chetty, a Mauritian poet. John
    Spiers, the English Editor of Values wisely says of the religion of the Tamils, "It is linked with the natural pantheism or by lozoism which recognises deity in stone river, tree, animal as well as in men." According, Murukan worship takes place almost everywhere in Mauritius.

    The Vêl
    The spear-like weapon in the hand of Murukan is his instrument of chastisement and salvation. Vêl is also understood to typify His energy of wisdom - Jñâna Sakti. It is often the symbol by which Murukan is worshipped. It has a distinct connotation to mean Murukan Himself.

    The Sakti Vêl heads the kâvati processions. Vêl Abhisêkam is an important ritual before kâvati procession takes place. Murukan devotees have Vêl tattooed on their bodies. As an act of penance, devotees carrying kâvati or Vêl, have their tongues, cheeks and other parts of their body pierced with silver needles having the shape of tiny Vêls. A small silver vêl is fixed in a lemon and tied up to the kâvati and pâlkutam during procession. In all the hymns of Murukan, the Vêl is mentioned. 'Verrivêl Murukanukku', 'Vêl vêl' are repeatedly uttered by devotees. It is communion Mauritius that thousands of Tamilians bear names having the word vêl. Tanka vêl, Pyneevêl, Kumâravêl, Vativêl, Katirvêl, Senthilvêl, Vêlan, are among one various names. In choosing a name for new born babes, Murukan's name is preferred and given priority.

    Fasting and Penance
    The Tamils are God-fearing people by nature. Such attitude is apparent during Murukan festivals. Fasting is considered very important. Tamils in Mauritius usually go to kôvils on Fridays and consume vegetarian food only. But nowadays in many Tamil homes Tuesdays are observed as fasting days in honour of Murukan. Every month on Kârtikkai day and Sashti day fasting is observed in many Tamil families.

    However, prior to each kâvati festival, ten days of strict fasting is observed by devotees. Vegetarian food, abstinence from sex and liquor, sleeping on mats, consuming food prepared only at home, non-attending of wedding, funeral, etc. are considered as vital during fasting period. That is why in Mauritius Tamils do not marry in the month of Tai.

    All devotees carrying the kâvatis or pâlkutams have to either tie up their months with cloth or have their tongues pierced with small silver veils (nakkalus, puttalus) as an act of self-mortification. This mortifications intense in certain cases where devotees sleep on nail beds, walk on nail slippers, pull chariots with hooks fixed in their flesh, cover their bodies with Vêls. Devotees as well as all those accompanying the kâvati have to walk barefooted in the hot sun.

    The soul-stirring hymn recitation of Pulampâl
    The recitation of sacred hymns (padikams) with an imploring tone craving for the grace of Murukan is very typical in Mauritius. Such hymns are recited at the time of pûcai and mortification. The most popular hymns for pulambal are Avinasip Pattu Ârumuka Swami Viruttam, and Mauritius Murukan Pâmaalai. After each pause in the recitation
    loud utterance of 'Harô Harâ' fills the atmosphere with a strange spirit of awe and bhakti. Many devotees go in trance while hearing the hymns. Such Pulambal is heard all along the way to the Kôvil. These songs are also recorded on cassettes and played at home, in kôvils and during religious processions.

    "I don't know whether I am praying to you with full clear hands
    And with a heart which has committed any wrong deeds;
    Oh my leader, I am still a humble servant to your disciples;
    Restrain my life calmly before removing it from this false body;
    You must come close to me on your peacock, swifter than a horse"
    - Avinasipattu 9

    Procession (ûrvalam)
    Procession by devotees carrying kâvatis, Vêls, pâlkutams to the kôvils forms part in the Murukan cult. Devotees pulling chariots in front of the procession with concentrated devotion, piously proclaiming the name of Murukan, the thrilling roar of 'Haro Hara' raised by all devotees to the accompaniment of Nadaswaram, the sight of the majestic car rumbling slowly along the street furnish an occasion for active community worship.7

    Many devotees stand or both sides of the way holding their offerings (coconuts, fruits, camphor, incense, betel leaves etc.) and wait for their turn to give the offerings and worship the Lord. Some devotees smash coconuts on the way. Some others who are afflicted with diseases ly down to be crossed over by devotees carrying the kâvati.

    Frenzy is possible and indulged in unashamedly as for instance the kâvati carrier. The individual man or woman can enjoy the divine shivering especially when hearing the hymns and concentrating on the Lord.

    For more inforation, contact the author:

    Khesaven Sornum, Lecturer
    Tamil Department
    Mahatma Gandhi Institute
    Moka, Mauritius
    E-mail: [email protected]

    Subject: Tamil Language and Murukan Worship in South Africa

    Tamil Language and Murukan Worship in South Africa

    by S. Subramaniyan
    Note: This version is without full diacritical marks for technical words in Sanskrit and Tamil. If you have Times-AlexIndian font installed on your computer, go to this article version with diacritical marks.

    The life and breath of every individual are his mother language. This may be identified with signs or words which help to communicate. Language attains its real strength, power and divinity by its relationship with the Supreme One through prayer and the philosophy of worldly life. This relationship between the individual and God guides one to attain power and strength for material and spiritual purposes, for which language helps. It also becomes an effective tool to all people in their various walks of life.

    The Tamil proverbs Ennum eluttum kannenat takum ('The numbers and letters of a language are to be considered as the eyes of people') and Elutte iraivanakum ('The letter itself is God which has sound, meaning and intonation') are noteworthy. In Sanskrit it is said aksaram Brahma (The sound of letters is imperishable Brahman).

    Mastery of one's mother-tongue (by realising the formation of sounds), especially for Indian people in foreign countries, is very helpful to understand and realise God. This leads people to a faith that language is God and God is language'. It is language that coordinates thoughts easily to bring out the material and spiritual culture.

    Among Indians it is generally understood that culture means spiritual culture, which leads one to have noble qualities, having love as the base while the word 'culture' refers to the expression of pleasures in western oriented styles. The Joint Secretary of the Hindu Maha Sabha of South Africa, Mr.R.Kallideen informs, that "it is our belief that the only vehicle of culture is its language. Any deprivation of one's language means the erosion of one's culture and identity." (The Leader 30 October 1998).

    History of the arrival of Tamils in South Africa
    South Indian labourers were brought to Natal as indentured labourers between 1860 and 1911 to work in the sugar cane plantations for the progress and welfare of the white colonial masters of Natal. There were three groups of South Indians who arrived at Natal. The first group was the labourers who came from the bottom level of the society and who knew Tamil language at oral level only. The second group consisted of those who were ready to work in hotels, motels, offices,
    white masters houses and horse-stables as servers, servants and care-takers who knew pidgin English, with a little knowledge of Tamil in reading, writing and in speech. The third group consisted of the free passengers who came to do business and who knew basic English and good Tamil with three R's. They came to do business to cater for the needs and necessities of Indians in religion, language and culture.

    Having been deprived of education of their mother tongue, these first two groups planned to educate their children using the learned persons among them and honoured them as vattiyars. These vattiyars (gurus) commanded high respect and had status over others. These were the noble souls who sowed the seeds for the second and third generation in Tamil language, religion and culture.

    The easy approach to all of them was Lord Murukan since they needed a Vêl only to worship Him in that symbolic form and no elaborate arrangements were needed. So in the early period, symbolic worship of Vêl was considered very important and the vattiyars' words were the scriptural commands. This was first started in Clare Estate in the Port Durban area around 1868. They had to undergo a lot of sufferings and that too, in a foreign land they had to approach God in some form by building small thatched shed temples.

    Religio-cultural tradition
    The Tamils followed their traditional worship of personal god, family god, community god (village god), and higher level of gods. The worship of Lord Shiva and Sakti, Lord Narayana or Perumal and Lord Murukan falls under the fourth category. Although they followed their own methods in the first three categories, the fourth one raised them to a higher status in the eyes of other Indians, increasing their honour and prestige in the newly formed Indian groups in Natal. So the South Indians, especially free passengers preferred to worship Lord Shiva or Lord Visnu or Lord Murukan.

    Among all the poor indentured labourers, however, Muruka worship was fondly welcomed by all as they saw and experienced the power of trance and easily understood them. Moreover they had a deep oral tradition of rhythmic folk music, which also helped them to enact dramas at night in open air theatres during temple functions and festivals, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

    Among the open air theatre dramas were Valli Tirumanam and Sûra Samhâram. Many Tamils believed that seeing such dramas by keeping themselves awake all through the night was also an act of penance for which the Divine would bestow His grace on them. The early Tamils maintained such oral cultural traditions because of their faith in God and strong memory power through which they transmitted their traditions and customs from one generation to the other.

    In the early period they installed the Vêl as a symbol of Lord Murukan and worshipped Him with deep love and affection, singing devotional songs which they had learnt before. The temples were started with thatched roof and iron rods. They were maintained by the knowledgeable vattiyars as pucaris between 1865 and 1949. The symbolic expression of Lord Murukan in the form of Vêl was accepted

    This symbol Vêl is a symbol of the presence of Lord Murukan. The ancient Tamils worshipped Vêl as the One that brought success to those who prayed to Him. So before they went for war, they worshipped Lord Murukan in the form of Vêl (Nattrinai 244, Kuruntokai 263). So worship of Lord Murukan is very ancient from early Cankam period.

    Until the arrival of free passengers, the worship of Murukan in the form of Vêl by singing Tamil folk songs was followed sincerely. After the arrival of free passengers from 1875, many Tamil holy books, music books and works of Tamil literature were brought which added strength to Muruka worship. After 1868 pictures of Muruka and especially icons were brought to Natal later with the help of free passengers and freed indentured labourers.

    Trance is a part of worship of Lord Murukan. Trance is an important factor which reinforced fear of doing wrong and inspired bhakti among devotees. Trance enabled Tamils to escape from their miseries, sufferings and difficulties under the hands of their own Indian supervisors (called sirdars) and white masters in their daily toil.

    This is a part of Muruka worship where the devotee enters into another level of consciousness, losing his body-consciousness. During kâvati festival when he carries the kâvati singing Tamil songs, the devotee goes into trance. The abnormal behaviour of the devotee in terms of power, strength and knowledge conveyed in Tamil, developed fear on one side and faith on the other to many devotees of Lord Murukan. This is a direct experience between the trance person and
    the devotee, based on the questions and the answers exchanged. Trance of this sort served like a ship carrying the devotees freely from their sufferings to a safe place. The trance person used to answer many of the questions raised in Tamil language by pointing out their mistakes boldly and even guided them, showing the ways of atonement with remedial measures. Sometimes the trance person called vêlan\ explained the reasons for their sufferings in detail to their satisfaction, bringing out their secrets which made them feel surprised, as nobody knew them.

    The remedial measures varied from personal discipline to offerings to the temple. Some devotees were reminded of their forgotten vows. All these experiences increased faith and commitment to Lord Murukan. In addition to that, the trance person used to proclaim openly some of the secret information of the supervisors and masters who terrified them. The masters were afraid to punish those devotees and the trance persons as they feared retribution.

    Sometimes the trance-person used to guide some of the masters when they had difficulties. So trance helped the devotees of Murukan as a protection and prepared them for their future through faith and devotion to Lord Murukan. In all these communications it was the Tamil language which was used and not English.

    A French film maker Jean Rough did a study among a tribal community called Haouka (Songhay) and their cult in Ghana and documented how migrant workers resolved their adaptation to a colonial urban environment through trance. In the same way the Tamil migrants also used this trance in making adjustments to their lives suitable to their environments.

    Many of the devotees of Lord Murukan in the present fifth generation know kâvati music and understand the rhythm. The influence of the dominant Western culture causes the present fifth generation to give little respect to their elders and to society. This indirectly encouraged youths to keep away from their mother-tongue Tamil while they also had little opportunity to learn the heritage and power of their mother tongue. But they tried to maintain their devotion to Lord Murukan by participating in cultural activities. In the present day, the information in trance continues to be conveyed in Tamil language. English translation is also needed for some of the Tamil youth as many find it difficult to understand the meanings of those Tamil words.

    During the first (1860-1899) and second periods (1900-1949), many temples were built using the names of the Lord as Shiva temple, Shiva Subrahmanya temple, Subrahmanya temple etc. as the South Indian community became self-sufficient. In such temples, one can see icons of Lord Shiva, Goddess Sakti, Lord Vinayaka, Lord Murukan, Lord
    Narayana, etc., allowing all devotees to worship any god as they liked.

    Kâvati festival and bhakti
    The frequent journeys by ship between Natal and South India (1900-1949) by Tamils helped to reestablish traditional ways of worshipping gods and goddesses. For the worship of Lord Murukan, carrying kâvati was considered very important. The devotees undertook vows, penance and severe austerities during Murukan festivals, as in Tamil Nadu.
    They used to come to the temple and sing Tamil songs on Lord Murukan as a family.

    This trend has been changing slowly as more importance is given to some kinds of rituals, as many prefer to become pûcaris without any proper training. Some of these vattiyars and pûcaris guide people with their limited expertise. They were also highly respected by people. In the present day if thes pûcaris insist on certain short rhythmic-beat-kâvati songs, people will follow them sincerely.

    In order to retain the language, these pûcaris who play an important part, should be given sufficient scriptural-knowledge, proper training in Tamil music in kâvati, sindu, kilikkanni styles of music as they lack them. Their words and instructions carry tremendous weight and can exert a great deep impact among the devotees.

    Nowadays (since 1993) how do we perform kâvati festival?

    Nowadays, the temple priest tunes the tape recorder, containing songs on Murukan and the whole crowd goes round the temple carrying the kâvati on their shoulders. Nobody repeats or sings those songs when they circambulate the temples three times. The priest does not even advise them to repeat those songs and this activity has become a meaningless ritual. Many do not know or understand the meaning of kâvati. People have bhakti in their heart but they are not properly
    guided in the temples. The knowledge of Tamil language and the religio-cultural importance of prayers given in scriptures and in songs are not explained. The priests who help temples to collect much money during festivals is highly respected by the temple authorities.

    This has caused many priests to devise easy methods to earn money which slowly erodes the divinity and the Tamil language in the temples. The word pûcari in the present day refers to the un-qualified one who takes the temple work tentatively according to seasons or festivals and the 'priest' refers to the qualified one. The temple committee members who have very little knowledge of language and religion also hesitate to employ Tamil scholars, specialised in religio-cultural practices out of fear for their status and positions.

    Kâvati practice in South Africa today
    Like in Tamil Nadu, many strong and faithful devotees hook their whole body with hanging lemons, small pots of milk or water, pierce their tongues and cheeks in all possible ways, without shedding a single drop of blood. These activities surprised many white-foreigners, local Africans and many rationalists. Bhakti in the hearts of devotees is expressed through not caring for the bodily pain and tortures. Their only wish is that they should do their obligatory duty to Murukan without any personal motive, except of getting His grace.

    There are three kinds of participants. Some carry kâvati to keep their vows. Others carry it to get a cure for their physical and mental disease. Others do it as their family duty. The third category of people is considered as the holy sattvic devotees according to Bhagadvad Gîta.

    Muruka festivals are celebrated in Natal during Cittira Pournami, Taippûcam, Pankuni Uttiram, Vaikaci Vicâkam, Kanta Casti and Karttikai Tîpam. Some of them who could not carry their kâvati perform worship on Sundays only. Most of these people do not understand the importance of the festival and the needs and necessities of auspiciousness and disciplined austerities of the relevant days. But they wish to do their duty to God as they could not do it on the auspicious days due to many other difficulties; a few suiting to their conveniences.

    The noble philanthropist V.M. Reddy of Durban, who always thought of the welfare of the Indian community in South Africa, brought Sri Lankan qualified-priests to provide a proper regularised form of worship in some of the temples, which helped to stabilise the temple-culture in a proper form.

    Temple organisers who have very little knowledge of Tamil or Sanskrit, their histories, or ritual cultures often give more
    importance to priestly styled rituals in the temples than to singing kâvati songs or providing explanations and lectures in Tamil language. They could not provide for the progress of Tamil language especially in satisfying their doubts regarding their religious customs and beliefs.

    Devotees should be given opportunities to do their part in Tamil language. The priests should study or guide people more in Tamil songs of Arunagirinathar, Arunachala Kavirayar's kâvati cintu, Kanta Casti Kavacam, Pamban Swamigal's Saravana Kavacam, etc. But these are all new to some of those Sri Lankan priests.

    It is essential that the priests in South Africa must have the full knowledge of Tamil language and religious literature and the saints who wrote them. Priests give little emphasis to Arunagirinâthar, Kumâra Gurupara Swamigal or Pamban Swamigal either through lectures or Tamil prayers. Devotees are ready to follow what the temple authorities request them to do. But the temple authorities with little knowledge of Tamil language have to depend on Sri Lankan priests who work as priest and purohits.

    Recently temple organisers having very little knowledge in Tamil have been recruiting priests from Tamil Nadu at a very low salary (less than 700 rand, which is half of the salary of the lowest cadre in the government) without any written contract. This pitiable condition should be rectified by the noble Saiva mutts of Tamil Nadu in co-operation with the temple authorities of Natal. The communication gap between these authorities should be narrowed so that proper guidance
    by the learned authorities of the mutts will provide Natal a healthy boost in terms of Tamil language, religion and culture.

    One year before the beginning of the third period (1950-1993) the South African Indian community was devastaed by 1949 riots and scattered to distant areas by the government implementing the Group Areas Act. The white ruling apartheid government wished to de-stabilise the Indians. The magazine 'Indigo' explains as follows:

    "However the Indi-African riots of 1949, largely inspired by whites who wanted to break the unity between Indians and Blacks had a long-lasting psychological effect on the Indian community. It virtually isolated Indians from the politics of the country (except for a handful of Indian stalwarts who fervently committed themselves to the anti-apartheid struggle)." (1998 October Indigo).

    In addition the ruling white power created fear to expatriate all the Indians of the fourth generation to India which made them to depend on English only and nothing but English for survival. So each and every South Indian whether male or female had to depend on English and Western culture, for survival. So the Eurocentric educational culture has been injected continuously up to this day in their veins. India got isolated from South Africa due to apartheid rule between
    1950 and 1992 and the poor Tamils had to re-build their families, education and progress, from the beginning by building temples again. So they struggled and came out successful by 1980-quite a short time.

    In the present day, devotees feel that bhakti means bringing fruits, coconut, milk, betel leaves and nuts, honey, curd etc. and the priest should offer them to God. The real meaning of bhakti is not well-understood by devotees and so there are controversial statements given by different priests of different temples. The real definition of culture is not at all understood even by the enlightened ones. Marlan Padayachee, a South African Indian, writes as follows:

    "What they knew of their cultural heritage consisted of crude religious observances (without understanding the richer essence of Indian philosophical teachings), weddings in the Indian fashion, culinary habits, Indian music and their special languages. This bare structure of Indian culture gave Indians an identity while all round they were subjected to and dominated by a colonising Eurocentric culture." (Marlon Padayachee. Indigo p.45).

    No priest or devotee preaches that bhakti should come with full love and devotion from the hearts of the devotees, evoking the examples from Tamil literatures. Many do not make efforts to evaluate the greatness and devotion from the lives of saints who developed bhakti and proper culture. Very few knew about Kirupânanda Variyar and his works. Some of the present generation devotees wish to perform kâvati in the western style, according to their tastes. Temple authorities who are keen to generate income using these kâvati festivals take very little care to advise them and emphasize the importance of kâvati festivals.

    "Although several priests and temple leaders claim the interests of the devotees are of paramount importance, some religious organisations and devotees say leaders can be content to milk devotees for cash and other contributions while allowing them to continue in blissful ignorance about their religion." (Durban Tribune Herald, 25 October 1998)

    Tamil folk music has been virtually forgotten. Now the ball is in the hands of the temple organisers. The noble child saint Sambandhar and other Nayanmars and Alwars have showed the method of Pâtal Nêri, based on bhakti and this should be followed by all devotees sincerely, by understanding the meaning and developing devotion in
    their hearts. Every ritual activity in the worship of Lord Murukan should be accompanied by some Murukan\ songs in Tamil, suitable to that ritual and conveying philosophy. This can create a powerful impact physiologically and sychologically upon the devotees.

    The gender dividing line
    Women who sought jobs in order to maintain their families have risen in power and social status in South Africa in the third period (1950-1993). Although they had a deep knowledge of English and Western culture, these faithful women did not abandon Tamil culture like their menfolk.

    Well-qualified South Indian women, understanding the negative influences of western culture, have taken bold steps to retain bhakti and culture, especially in the devotional tradition, in the fourth period (1993-1998). One sees more women at temple functions, festivals, and in weekly prayer groups than men. In his experiences in Natal, the author finds women than men are more interested to learn and put into practice many Tamil traditions and our mother tongue. Indeed, women are the real leaders in the family and community in all functions.

    Temple priests who have to be in the temple as full time community workers become purohits to supplement their income as they are paid a very poor salary. The priests who have been brought from foreign countries to serve in the temples are forced to chalk out plans to earn money. Many dishonest approaches are practised such that the public who are very sincere and pious find it difficult to understand the temple priests, authorities and their works. In the daily newspapers one can find many letters to the editors on this subject.

    "Temples do not offer discourses on the various aspects of our beautiful and multifacted religion which should be explained and shared by the community. Some temple heads, content to conduct sacred rituals among a set clique, are not prepared to tell people what is going on during a prayer....That is why we are losing our values and people at such a rate. We need to make a concerted effort to revive our broad-based religion." (Durban Tribune Herald, 25 October 1998)

    Temples must use the tape recorders regularly to publicise the Tamil songs so that pious people who come to temples will have the opportunities to hear Tamil language which will develop interest. The temple organisers should get Tamil scholars to explain the value and importance of those songs and prayers, taking from the lives of saints and their instructions.

    Our duty
    According to the census report 1996 of South Africa, the population of South Africa is 40.58 million and the Kwa-Zulu Natal has 8.4 million which is 21% of the total. Out of one million Indians in South Africa, Kwa-Zulu Natal has 76% (791,000). Ninety-seven percent (97%) of Indian community live in urban areas and 94% of them are English speaking. (1998: October The Leader).

    Africans Indians Whites coloureds
    82% 9% 8% 1%

    Age distribution (30 years and below) Indians Black Africans Coloureds Whites 57% 65% 61% 45%

    Educational level among Indians no schooling primary school secondary school 10th grade complete post-school
    7% 13% 4% 30% 10%

    The above information makes us understand the dire need of usage of mother tongue, and the duty of the temple authorities and the Tamil organisations in imparting language and culture to the Indian community. Tamils, who constitute approximately 60% of Natal Indians, need to make serious efforts in developing contact with Tamil Nadu mutts, language and cultural organizations that have understood the needs of Tamils in South Africa 's multi-lingual and multi-cultural
    situation. The Tamil Nadu Government should show its support to the Tamils in South Africa who are very pious and sincere in maintaining their language and culture.

    Tamil folk songs, especially Lord Murukan songs, should be distributed among South African Tamils as a service to the Tamil language by philanthropists. People can do prayers in Tamil language with devotion and love while the priests of the temple can do arcana for devotees. As the present generation is weak in its mother tongue Tamil, simple explanations of those music styled songs such as kanni, cintu, kilikkanni, kâvati and other folk songs will help them to sing and practise regularly. Lord Murukan songs in bhajans and important samskaras should be promoted by saintly people. Cultural activities like kummi, kolattam, dance performances, dramas, and other Tamil songs related to Murukan should be encouraged. Arunachala Reddiar's kâvati cintu, Sulamangalam sisters' songs, Kanta Casti Kavacam, Saravana Kavacam, Bangalore Ramani's songs, Tirumati K.B. Sundarambal's songs will activate their interest in the Tamil language and devotion to Lord Murukan.

    The temple authorities and the priests must be Tamil lovers and true devotees and must be knowledgeable people in the mother tongue and religious cultural activities. Many true and devoted Tamil scholars who can visit Natal should explain the significance of our cultural traditions, supported by the great saints and jnñânis through powerful Tamil songs. In these respects Saiva mutts must take the responsibility. On all Murukan\ festival days Tamil dramas should be encouraged by the temple authorities which will attract many people like in the early period. Every family must be taken as a unit and
    should be taught Tamil language, religion and culture under the temple organizations.

    Awareness about the value of mother-tongue, religion and culture should be cultivated among all Indians through campaigns and rallies, encouraged by the news media in the present democratic setup. We need a separate news coverage for our development in making others to understand the deep religious and cultural heritage which will
    benefit all mankind. Political support is also very important as the democratic set up is based on vote collecting system and this can be done by making the black African leaders aware of our rich languages and cultural heritages. The organisations must make finances available to talented Indians who wish to pursue languages and culture studies.

    In the process of modernization, many are losing their heritage as they have no proper leaders or guides. Television and films are controlled by the Western-oriented white or black organisers and so Tamils have very few opportunities to see Tamil films or Tamil dramas. The trance devotees should express the importance of Tamil language to the devotees through Muruka songs.

    If devotional Tamil culture has to survive, it lies in the hands of temple organisers, devotees and priests. Films, dramas, projects, puranic episodes, Muruka festivals in other countries should be shown through private television and radios. Bhakti on Muruka will unite all devotees of the world under Tamil language as Tamil tradition has its root on Lord Murukan worship. Tamil Nadu government should help the Tamils of South Africa providing necessary informations through
    audio-video cassettes in Tamil language and these have to be shown in the temple festivals and functions, freely to all people, to unite all in the rainbow nation of South Africa.

    The worship of Lord Murukan, if guided properly, will unite people of South Africa in understanding the commanalities between South African culture and Dravidian culture. This will also guide all to get united and strive for higher aims through language and culture and their philosophies. This divine culture will provide chances to retain and to revitalise the Tamil language among Tamils.

    Bhana, S. and Pachai, B. A Documentary History of Indian South
    Africans. Standford Hover Institution Press, 1984.
    Compilation of Songs, (Madras: Ratna Nayagar & Sons) 1956.
    Edwards, J. Language, Society and Identity, (Oxford: Basic Blockwell)
    Henning, C.G. The Indentured Indians in Natal (1860-1917) (New Delhi:
    Promilla & Co.) 1993.
    Vanamamalai, N. Makkalum Marabukalaum (Madras: New century Book
    House) 1993.
    Kuppusamy, Tamil Culture in South Africa (Durban: Rapid Graphic)
    Sentamil Selvan 1938, 1956
    The Leader 1998 October
    Indigo 1998 November

    Dr. S. Subramaniyan
    Department of Indian language
    University of Durban-
    Durban 4000 South Africa

    See also: "1995 Hindu Conference in South Africa"
  3. SajeevJino

    SajeevJino Long walk Elite Member

    Feb 21, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Inside a Cage
    Because of Tamil I don't know Hindi :truestory:

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