Sunday, April 14, 2013


Hanuman and Sita conversed in Madhura language (Spoken language of ancient India –part 3)

Disclaimer: I hereby declare that there is no chauvinistic intention of promoting Tamil, which happens to be my mother tongue, in the series of articles of which the present one is the third article. The intention is to bring to the notice of readers, the presence of Tamil alongside Sanskrit in the Indian Subcontinent for many thousands of years. A deeper analysis might give us leads on why a fused Tamil and Sanskrit presence can be seen from India to Ireland to Ice land and from Polynesia to the Incas.

The original article written in Tamil :-  (67. தமிழ் மொழியின் முந்தைய பெயர் -1)

Translator: Mr T.G. Saranathan

Previous articles:-

Part -1 :- Valmiki of Ramayana knew Tamil! (Spoken language of ancient India - part 1)

Part -2 :- Tamil was the human tongue or Manushya bhasha (Spoken language of ancient India -part 2)


Madhuram – in Tamil and in Valmiki Ramayana!

The original name of Tamil language has been mentioned by Subramanya Bharathiyaar  (1882 -1921) and poet Bharathidasan (1891-1964). Interestingly, this name is found in Valmiki Ramayana also – particularly while referring to the conversation between Hanuman and Sita in Ashoka vana. Before going in to the details, let us see the original name of Tamil mentioned by these two Tamil poets.

Bharathiyaar wanted to broadcast ‘madhura Tamil sound’  (தேமதுரத் தமிழோசை = tE Madhura-th-thamizh Osai) all over the World. He used the words “madhura-th- Tamil” for Tamil at another place also as “Madhura-thE mozhi”. In many verses he has mentioned Tamil as sweet and as honey – the synonyms for Madhu.

This was not a mere poetic description of Tamil for, we find poet Bharathidasan writing the other names of Tamil as “Amruth” and “Madhu”.
He said that Tamil has other names such as “Amudhu” (amrutham or nectar) and “Madhu” (honey). (“thamizhukkum amudhu enRu pEr”= Tamil has a name called “Amudhu” which means nectar.  and  “thamizhukku madhu enRu pEr”= Tamil has a name called “Madhu”)

It is easy to dismiss this as a kind of praise that anyone would say for his mother tongue.
No, it is not so with this name, Madhu.
The 10th century Tamil Thesaurus, known as “Pingala Nigandu” – a popular Thesaurus for referring to meanings of many Tamil words has given the meaning of the word “Tamil” as “sweet” (இனிமை) and refined quality (நீர்மை).

The meaning, ‘sweet’ is derived from honey. The words ‘Honey’ (‘thEn’/தேன் in Tamil), sweetness  and Madhu are used as synonyms in Tami.  The author of the Pingala Nigandu cannot be attributed with special love for Tamil for having given this meaning, for he was a Jain ascetic who had a keen interest in writing a reliable Thesaurus for Tamil. He wrote the meanings that were already in existence and did not create his own meanings. Moreover he was not a native of Tamil lands.  He was a Siddha and therefore cannot be expected to have said something that was not true.

This meaning or name ‘Madhu’ for Tamil must have existed as common knowledge until 100 years ago, or else how could the two popular poets of Tamil have explicitly mentioned that in their compositions?  It seems a great loss of knowledge that many ideas in Tamil have been erased from the memory of common man in the last 100 years with the rise of Dravidian parties.
The present Tamil chauvinists have erased many traditions and practices of ancient Tamil. These chauvinists did not allow any idea of Bharathiyaar to be popularised. It is because he was a Brahmin and he identified Tamilnadu as part of Aryan country.  He even expressed that Tamil was enriched by grammar given by the “Arya mainthan” (Arya putra) Agasthya! (“Thamiz-th-thaai” – verse-1).

We find a similar reference to Tamil lands as  Arya naadu – that too as “Southern Aryan country” (Then aarya naadu) in many places in a popular composition of 16th century written in the form of a folk song called “Thiru- KuRRaala-k-kuRavanji”. KuRRaalam (Courtalam) is the place where sage Agasthya stayed. This is being written here to show that Tamil lands were considered as Aryan lands and not as separate lands from the rest of Bharat in those days. The same idea of Tamil lands as Aryan lands had continued till 100 years ago and found its echo in Bharathiyaar’s compositions.

The word ‘madhu’ used by Bharathiyaar and  Bharathi dasan as the name of Tamil, is found as ‘Madhuram’ at 8 places in Sundhara Khanda of Valmiki Ramayana in the conversation between Hanuman and Sita that was done in Manusham Vaakyam (Manushya bhasha / language of the humans)!!

 When Hanuman decided to speak to Sita in the language of the humans, Valmiki again and again employs this word ‘madhuram’. It raises a thought whether Valmiki was thinking of Tamil?

Before we go to these details, let us know about the person, who first researched and established that Hanuman talked to Sita in Tamil. He was Mr.Narayana Iyengar.

He functioned as Editor of ‘Senthamizh, a Tamil magazine of Madurai Tamil Sangam. In 1938 he wrote a serial ‘Valmiki and Tamil’. In that article he established that Valmiki wrote poem in purananooru; and that Hanuman talked to Sita in Tamil, by quoting a popular Tamil proverb found in Ramayana. We will see that proverb later.

Taking cue from his book, I went through Valmiki Ramayana and identified the word “Madhuram” in 8 places in the conversation between Hanuman and Sita in Ashoka vana and several other places in the rest of Ramayana where the contexts surprisinglyhappen to be conversations by ordinary people. There are quite a few places in Valmiki Ramayana where the word Madhu is used to denote honey, sweetness or even liquor. But those contexts are different from the context where the word Madhuram has been used. In the context where Hanuman decides to speak not in Sanskrit or in a pandit’s language but in the language of common man, the word Madhuram appears at 8 places that can be interpreted to mean the name of the language.

In the same conversation with Sita, Hanuman does use the word Madhuram at one place to mean just sweetness. When he was describing how Rama was suffering from the pangs of separation from Sita, he does say, “sIthEthi madhuraam vaaNIm” (सीतेति मधुराम् वाणीम् व्याहरन् प्रतिबुध्यते ||  VR 5-36-44) (Sweet words like Sita Sita)

Similar expression is written in the First Khanda also, when Viswamitra called out the “sweet words Rama, Rama”  / Rama ithi Madhuram VaaNim viswamitra abhyabhashata (“रामा इति मधुराम् वाणीम् विश्वामित्रः अभ्यभाषत” VR 1-22-11)

In this context it means the ‘sweet words’ and not a language. In fact Valmiki composed the entire Ramayana in such a way that it can be sung sweetly with the accompaniment of a string instrument.  He himself says - “to read and sing sweetly” where he uses the word Madhuram “PaatyE gEyE cha madhuram pramaaNai:” ( पाठ्ये गेये च मथुरम् प्रमाणैः 1-4-8)

He included  all ‘rasas’ – aesthetics – in the Epic that can be sung to a tune in a sweet / Madhuram svara / or sweet tone. He taught the Epic to Lava and Kusha who possessed a rich voice and were trained in music (1-4-10). While expressing this Valmiki says that they had a sweet voice -  मधुर स्वर भाषिणौ  Their musical talent is expressed in a couple of places to highlight that Ramayana can be sung in sweet tune and tone. The boys were made to memorise it well and sing in accordance with rules of music.

Initially the boys sang the Epic in the hermitage of Valmiki for the sages who gathered there. The sages were overwhelmed by the beauty of the verses and also the way they were sung melodiously by the boys. They were pleased with the “Geethasya Maadhuryam” – the melody / Maadhuryam of the song (अहो गीतस्य माधुर्यम् श्लोकानाम् च विशेषतः 1-4-17)

They expressed how the two boys sang in one tone ‘dipped in Madhura- swara’.  (सहितौ मधुरम् रक्तम् संपन्नम् स्वर संपदा | 1-4-19) This is repeated again in the Epic that the boys sang sweetly.  “Madhuram tau agaayataam” ( संरक्ततरम् अत्यर्थम् मधुरम् तौ अगायताम् |1-4-20) Finally when Rama also heard it, it is mentioned “api Madhuram raktam”  (तौ च अपि मधुरम् रक्तम् स्वचित्तायत निःस्वनम् 1-4-33) where Madhuram is used as an adjective. It is used to show the melody of the song and the quality of the tone.

Use of Madhuram in such context is perfectly agreeable, but is it agreeable in the context of an incident in the Epic where the emotion is something like pathos or melancholy?

In the three chapters (from 2nd to 4th  in Bala khanda) that explain the way the Epic was evolved by Valmiki, it is repeatedly said that he used proper words in proper contexts. The sages who heard it initially and Rama who heard it in his court, were delighted more by the meaningful words used in the Epic. What is conveyed by this is that every word used in the Epic was carefully used to give a meaning – even special meanings or hidden meanings. Such being the greatness of this Epic, the word like Madhuram cannot be used in a context where the emotion conveyed is that of suffering and sorrowfulness.

For example, in Aranya Khanda, chapter 52, Sita almost lost her hope when she saw Jatayau defeated by Ravana. The chapter begins with Sita weeping on seeing Jatayu having fallen down. She was bawling and screaming out  “Rama, Lakshmana...”, as though someone was there listening to her, so says the Epic. (समाक्रंदत् = noisily, bawled.- VR 3-52-5). This expression is perfectly understandable as it is suits the context.  The scene further moves on with Ravana carrying her and flying over the lands. Sita was still looking down searching to locate Rama somewhere on the ground and kept calling out his name. Here, while expressing this, Valmiki uses the word Madhuram! He says that she was crying out Rama and Lakshmana in “KroshanthIm Madhura swaram”  (क्रोशन्तीम् मधुर स्वराम् VR 3-52-42).

Just in the beginning of the chapter he said that she cried out their names aloud but later when she was looking down in search of Rama or someone to help her, she was not calling aloud but calling  in Madhuram tone! How is this possible? Does this expression suit the context? One could say that she had become tired or exhausted by then and therefore could not scream loudly. In that case words like weak, sad, distressed, pitiable, tired, scared etc are more suitable to express her voice or tone or whatever words that she was speaking.  An expression like “dheena swara” would suit the context, but how could “Madhura swara” fit in the scene? For an Epic known for its apt words and meanings, this expression does not seem to convey the sweetness in her voice. It must be something else.  Suppose Madhuram means the language, it suits the context that she was calling out in that language something like – “ hey Rama, where are you, can’t you see that your beloved wife is being carried away? ...”

Similarly there is another context having “Madhuram” which defies logic. Vali was lying on the ground, slain by Rama.

Vali was angry at Rama and started accusing him. Rama replied to him in detail justifying his act. Vali agreed to that justification. In normal course how would a poet describe this? He would say that Rama told convincingly or in a convincing tone why he was not wrong in killing Vali. It is also perfectly alright if Vali was not convinced by his reply. But a Mahakavi like Valmiki says that on hearing the Madhuram Vaakyam of Rama, Vali started to speak in well disposed words (that is, he was convinced by what Rama said) { तस्य वाक्यम् मधुरम् महात्मनः (VR 4-18-65}. Rama had indeed given a long lecture to Vali who was lying on the ground grievously injured. Certainly it could not have been a sweet reply but rather a soft or persuasive or convincing reply. If the poet had used the word Madhuram in this context, it could not have been an adjective but something else.

We find a quite a few places like this in Ramayana where the word Madhuram Vaakyam is used out of sync with the usual meaning of “sweetness”. If we assume that Madhuram vaakyam or Madhuram aksharam or Madhuram vachanam refers to a language by name Madhuram, then it perfectly fits with the context. For, in all the places where this dilemma over meaning of Madhuram arises, the persons involved in the conversation are ordinary folks!

Before going into further details, let me point out that the very popular Dhyana sloka for Valmiki Ramayana contains a reference to Madhuram language!

It is customary to start to recital of Ramayana with a sloka,
“Kujantham Rama RamEthi Madhuram madhuraaksharam
Aruhya Kavita saka vande vaalmiki kOkilam”

It says “rama rama iti Madhuram Madhura aksharam”. Usually the name / word Rama is supposed to be endowed with or to create delightfulness and not sweetness. There exists a popular sloka attributed to Lord Shiva who said that the name Rama is equivalent to reciting 1000 names of Vishnu. It says “Sri Rama rama rama iti ramE rAmE manOramE”. The Rama shabdam is supposed to create manorama – happiness / pleasantness to the mind. The sages who first listened to the recital of Ramayana by Lava and Kusha repeatedly expressed this idea only (VR 1-3). The name Rama is derived as ‘sarve ramanti yasmin iti Raamaah’ (one who brings joy to everyone is Rama). It is not connected with sweetness. But it can be uttered in sweet tone (Madhura swara) or sweet voice.

 In the verse “Kujantham Rama Rama iti Madhuram Madhura aksharam”, the Madhuram seems to indicate the name of the language! Normally it would be thought that the Madhuraaksharam refers to the letters,  ra - ma. But if we analyse the words that Ratanakar originally uttered, we would get a different picture.

Valmiki was a robber then, known by the name Ratnakar. He was advised by the sages to just utter “mara”, “mara”. Mara or Maram is a Tamil word for tree!  (in Tamil the ‘a’ ending masculine words would be added with a suffix of dotted letter as “m” or “n” as the case may be. For example Rama is Raman in Tamil. Maram is refined / grammatical Tamil whereas its previous form {proto-Tamil} not tinkered with grammar could well be just ‘Mara’). As a robber pouncing on the people crossing the forest, his most familiar and frequent place of hiding was the Tree (maram)! It is logical to say that the sages wanted him to know what a tree (maram) could do to him. The tree was not an aid for making a living by robbery, but it could give him something else which has everlasting relevance.

So when he uttered ma-ra, ma-ra, the aksharas of Madhura bhasha, it became ra-ma of the Deva bhasha! If we go by the normal translation for Madhuram, this line (Kujantham....) would give the meaning ‘Sweet letters of the word Rama’. But why sweet here?  The word / name Rama means something else. It means the one who brings joy.

The person who penned this Kujantham verse could have used the meaning of Rama (as joy). (I don’t know the author of this particular verse, if someone knows, I request them to convey it to me). Why they brought Madhuram here? Why they brought Madhuram aksharam here, unless it is an aksharam of Madhuram, the language known by that name? As the originally uttered word was “ma ra” – a word of Tamil which has another name as Madhu, it is reasonable to interpret that the person who wrote the “Kujantham” verse was actually referring to the Madhura akshara (ma-ra) that rose up  (aaruhya) to become Rama and enabled him (Valmiki) to bring out the Great poetry of Ramayana.

It is perfectly logical to say that Ratnakar must have known the Human language or the Maanusham Vaakyam only. He was unlettered and was roaming in the forest looking out for some gullible persons from whom he could steal their valuables. He was a robber and it is perfectly justifiable to say that he must have known the local spoken language. The sages did not give him any advice but only asked him to keep reciting a simple word of his language which ultimately transformed him into a great sage. At this juncture I request the readers to recall the 1st part of this series on how Valmiki’s name is connected with Tamil language.

Now let me move over to Ashoka vana of Sundhara khanda. There Hanuman sees Sita and wants to speak to her. But he gets into a dilemma as to which language he must speak to her.

If he speaks in Sanskrit, Sita would suspect how a vanara could speak Sanskrit. She would think that it is Ravana in the guise of a vanara trying to lure her. So Sanskrit is not helpful in that context.  Therefore he decides to speak in the language of the common man. The first inference from this is that this language must have had widespread presence in India at that time. It is because it was known to Hanuman, a resident of the forest area in south India and also known to Sita as well who hailed from Videha (somewhere in or near Nepal) and lived a Royal life in Ayodhya.

The persons involved here are a minister (Hanuman) and a princess (Sita). For them to have known a common language other than Sanskrit, it means then that it must have been a popular language which everyone – from ordinary people to Royals – must have known. Or it must have been a language that people would have aped to learn or a language spoken all over India at that time. This means that there existed a language other than Sanskrit which was known to dignitaries like ministers and princesses hailing from totally different parts of India. That language must have had a name and Valmiki must have certainly indicated the name of that language in his Epic.

Suppose that language is spoken in the Epic only in the Ashoka vana scene, then there is every chance that Valmiki had mentioned that name in that scene. But we don’t seem to get across the name of a language that we are familiar with at present. Or else the name must have been there (in the Ashoka vana scene), and we are missing it. This is possible only if the name has a meaning that escapes our attention - something like we have been saying – Madhuram. We miss out this name interpreting Madhuram vaakyam as sweet word and not the language called Madhuram.

But why then Valmiki did not mention the name of that language while saying that hanuman decided to speak in that language? This can happen
(1) if that language was the only language spoken by human beings (Maanusham vaakyam) during his times and therefore he felt no need to mention it. (2) If Valmiki had depicted characters earlier in the epic who had spoken that common language. If Madhuram language was spoken in previous scenes, there would not arise a compulsion or need to express the name of the language in which Hanuman decided to speak.

Both these situations look logical and do not require the poet to explicitly make a mention of the name of the human language.  From the musings of Hanuman on which language he can speak to Sita, it is known that there were only two languages then – Sanskrit, the language used by Pandits and a Human language which common people used. Since the Epic is written in Sanskrit and the perception is that people in those days were conversing in Sanskrit, it is logical to expect the author to express the switch over to the human tongue whenever it happened. The use of words such as Madhuram vaakyam, Madhuram vaacham,  Madhuram aksharam etc could well mean that the character spoke in Madhuram language.We can visualise the same for us too. Suppose I am writing a story in English where I would be talking in English to some and in Tamil to some others. Wherever the conversation is in English I would not be writing that I spoke in English. But when I speak in between in Tamil to someone, say my colleague or my relative, I would write that I told him / her in Tamil such and such a thing. The same tendency can be seen in the Epic in the mention of Madhuram Vaakyam at several places where the meaning as sweetness does not fit.

 If we analyse the Ramayana from the beginning, it is seen that at many places people had spoken in Madhuram vaakyam – where it does not necessarily mean that they spoke in sweet tone or sweet words.

For example, let us look into the scene where Hanuman meets Rama and Lakshmana for the first time. Then also he must have had the dilemma about which language he must speak. That dilemma came from a very valid reason (as in the situation to speak to Sita in Ashoka vana) because Sugreeva was hiding in the forest and the sight of well-bodied brothers (Rama- Lakshmana) had sent shivers into his spine. The strong bodied physical appearance of Rama and Lakshmana with bows in their hand did not match with the matted locks and woody garments of an ascetic that they were wearing.  This gave Sugreeva a genuine concern about their true identity and intentions. He suspected that Vali could have sent them to know his whereabouts. So he asked Hanuman to go to them and find out their identity and the purpose to be there. He thought that Hanuman should not go in his usual appearance and wanted him to appear like an ordinary human being. There he did not mention the language that Hanuman must use but it goes without saying that Hanuman would have spoken to Rama and Lakshmana in that scene in the Human tongue – the Manusham Vaakyam!  If Hanuman had chosen to speak in Sanskrit, that would have aroused the curiosity and suspicion of the two whom Sugreeva suspected to be the spies of Vali.  Therefore it is logical to expect Hanuman to have spoken in the common human language in his first interaction with Rama and Lakshmana.  This was the same language which he spoke to Sita in Ashoka vana.  Interestingly and expectedly, here also comes ‘Madhuram Vaakyam”.

After Hanuman had finished speaking to Rama and Lakshmana, making enquiries about them,  Rama begins to speak, addressing Lakshmana:  “Soumitri, with this minister of Sugreeva, the knower of sententiousness and a pleasant worded one, and one with friendliness you exchange pleasantries with that enemy destroyer Hanuma... “[4-3-27] (**)

Here the translator had written ‘pleasant worded one’ for “vaakyanjnam Madhurai vaakyai”!! (वाक्यज्ञम् मधुरैः वाक्यैः स्नेह युक्तम् अरिन्दम VR 4-3-27)

Let me reproduce this sloka here as I find it to be of crucial importance with reference to Madhuram Vaakyam:

तम् अभ्यभाष सौमित्रे सुग्रीव सचिवम् कपिम् |
वाक्यज्ञम् मधुरैः वाक्यैः स्नेह युक्तम् अरिन्दम ||

Rama  says, ‘Lakshmana, you talk to this minister of Sugreeva having  the knowledge of  Madhura Vaakyam (bhasha). This destroyer of enemy has come for friendship.”

Translating Madhurai Vaakyai as above is more suitable than using sweet or pleasant words for the same.

An interesting feature is that in most editions of Valmiki Ramayana, the chapter ends with this sloka. Only in some editions and in commentaries that came up around 1600s, nearly 8 verses have been added after this, all of which speak about Hanuman’s Vedic knowledge, knowledge of grammar and speaking skills. Usually Valmiki Ramayana is considered to be Veda itself and it is said that there is little or no attempt to make interpolations. But this addition made in the recent past deserves a probe into why the tradition of preserving the original content was violated or why this interpolation was made.  The interpolation seems to have been motivated by Rama’s reference to “vaakya jnam” in Hanuman’s speech. What was Rama referring to by this? If we assume that Rama was only referring to the cleverly worded speech by Hanuman in Madhura bhasha, there is no need or scope to develop that idea further. We must take note that Valmiki mentions Vaakya jnam along with Madhurai vaakyai. If Hanuman had spoken in the human tongue (Madhuram Vaakyam) , it makes a perfect justification for why Rama had said so. Only if we think that the Madhurai vaakyai means sweet or pleasant words, the scope arises for probing why or what kind of sweet words Hanuman spoke.

By 1600s this human tongue was almost gone and many regional tongues had come to stay with their own rich literature and grammar. So there is scope to believe that people of that time were perplexed at what Rama had meant and therefore had interpreted it as expertise of Hanuman in Vedas and Sanskrit grammar. But a little thought on which language Hanuman could have spoken in his first meeting with Rama and Lakshmana makes us deduce that Hanuman could not have spoken in Sanskrit.  The loss of memory of a common Maanusham vaakyam has happened, in spite of the dedicated continuation of the tradition of recital of Ramayana for ages in this country. This loss can be attributed to the violent disturbances in people’s life for many centuries due to Muslim invasion. Many languages of India took distinct shape during this period with a transformation from the old roots in languages of Ayodhya (Awadhi) and other regions of the North.

Looking further back in time, we can see that there existed a much older language which satisfies the qualification as a naturally evolved Human language. This language was used by Kalidasa in Vikramorvashiyam in the specific context of King Pururava asking the animals in the forest about the whereabouts of Urvashi. Thinking on why Kalidasa chose to express these specific verses in that language which was known by the name “Apabhraṃśa” ( means “corrupt” or “non-grammatical language”), this is indicative of a common, natural language that man in his natural habitat could have evolved, with which he managed to understand his fellow human beings and also the other living beings around him

It must be noted that from Apabrahmsa descended almost all the North Indian languages. There is scope to believe that further back in time this Apabrahmsa – in its early form existed for many millennia! Absence of interference and imposition by outside forces could have helped in the prevalence of this language for long. But this language was not known by the name, Madhuram. However it’s meaning as “corrupt” or “non- grammatical” language  makes it an equivalent of what olden works of Tamil call as “Kodum Tamil” which means “stunted Tamil” or “corrupt Tamil” or “Non- grammatical Tamil” as opposed to Grammatical Tamil nurtured by Sangam Assemblies.  This Kodum Tamil was spoken in regions outside Tamil lands. We would see those details later.

For the current article, we are identifying the places where the Human tongue or Maanusham vaakyam was spoken in Valmiki Ramayana and the name by which that language was called during Ramayana times. The interpolation in the context of Hanuman’s first meeting with Rama and Lakshmana could just be a way to find an explanation for the Madhuram vaakyam which seems to crop up every now and then in Ramayana with little relevance to the context, giving the commentators have a tough time in finding a logical explanation for it.

For example, in Aranya khanda, after killing Mareehca,  Rama was returning to his hermitage. On the way he saw Lakshmana coming in search of him. This shocked Rama as he was expecting Lakshmana to be guarding Sita. He held Lakshmana’s hand and asked in harsh words (parusham ) why he left Sita and came out. Here Valmiki also uses the terms “Madhura udarkam” (“uvaacha madhura udarkam idham parusham aarta vat” / उवाच मधुर उदर्कम् इदम् परुषम् आर्तवत् | 3-57-17)

What did he talk harshly in Madhura udarkam?  If Madhuram means sweet, does this fit with the context when Rama is anguished that Sita has been left alone. He does speak parsuham vaakyam – harsh words, but speaks them in Maduram tone? It can not be so. Earlier in the Epic, it is said in many places that Valmiki uses meaningful words having great relevance. Such being the case, the Madhuram here can not be a sweet or soft or melodious word. Rama’s tone must have exhibited anguish, worry and fear. The presence of Madhuram in this sloka had made commentators split their head and they ultimately came out with an explanation by reading ‘udarkam’ along with Madhuram as “thinking of the future he spoke in sweet / Madhuram vaakyam!!

Udarkam means ‘future’ or ‘consequence’ or something that is going to come later. What is that something that is to come later which can be said in Madhuram vaakyam? This is the head splitting mystery for the commentators. So they arrived at an explanation that this act of Lakshmana (in having left Sita alone) was crucial for the purpose of Ramavatara (namely death to Ravana) such that this paves the way for the abduction of Sita. Having this futuristic (udarkam) purpose in mind, Rama told in Madhuram udarkam!!!

What an absurd explanation!! Instead if we think that Madhuram was the language, then on seeing Lakshmana, Rama was anguished at what would happen to Sita (futuristic / udarkam) and spoke harsh words (parusham) in Madhuram language!

This also fits with a natural response in such a situation for any person expressing his anger and anguish in the tongue which is common or one’s own mother tongue!  (Applying this logic to Pururava, in Kalaidasa’s work, we can say that Apabrahmsa was the natural Human tongue. Since Purura preceded Rama’s times, he must have spoken in Madhuram vaakyam only. Over the millennia, this name came to be called as Apbrahmsa. In Kalidasa’s times, that olden, common language was called as Apabrahmsa )

We find similar expressions in the scene of Rama leaving for the forest. Sumantra was the charioteer transporting Rama to the forest and he was naturally very sad. In that context Valmiki says that Rama kept talking to him various topics that were dearer to him – in Madhuram !

स तम् अध्वानम् ऐक्ष्वाकः सूतम् मधुरया गिरा
तम् तम् अर्थम् अभिप्रेत्य ययौवाक्यम् उदीरयन् (2-49-18)

The “Madhurayaa gira” in an attempt to console Sumantra does not sound appropriate to the context. Even if we think that Rama is indeed speaking in sweet voice, a little later in verse 2-52-21, he kept talking in Madhuram vaakyam to Sumantra who was uncontrollably crying. Rama kept repeating what Sumantra must do once he reaches back Ayodhya. He told what he must convey to the King and the three queens and to Bharatha and how he should handle the situation for the next 14 years when Rama would be away in the forest. These are repeated again and again by Rama in Madhuram vaakyam to Sumantra who was weeping and seemed to have lost his balance. In such a context repeating what he wanted to convey makes perfect sense.  But repeating them in Madhuram tone does not convey the mood.

रामः तु मधुरम् वाक्यम् पुनः पुनर् उवाच तम्  (2-52-21)

“Madhuram vaakyam puna panar uvaacha” – Rama kept talking in Madhuram vaakyam again and again. That does not seem to be the apt description. But thinking that Sumantra was a common man, it is apt for Rama to have spoken in the Human tongue to convince him that he need not grieve over the developments and what he must do on returning to Ayodhya.

Again Madhuram comes in an inappropriate context of grief. Sumantra comes back to Ayodhya and meets Kausalya. Kauslaya is inconsolable and asks Sumantra to take her to Rama. Valmiki says that Sumantra starts speaking to her in a chocked voice and in faint accent (सज्जमानया) 2-60-4)

His words of consolation starts in the 5th verse and ends in the 15th verse where Valmiki states “hlAdanam vachanam sUtau dEvyA Madhuram abravIt”
ह्लदनम् वचनम् सूतो देव्या मधुरमब्रवीत् ( 2-60-15)

It is mentioned that he said “hlaadanam vachanam” (refreshing words), but once again why “Madhuram abravIt” following that?  Did he tell refreshing words and he spoke that sweetly?
Where he has to speak convincing, reasonable and refreshing words to make her think that Rama and others are not at all grieving but are rejoicing,  and the Kavi has characterized  that as ‘hlaadanam vachanam’, there is no scope for sweet Madhuram there. But the sentence makes sense if we interpret that “he spoke refreshing words in Madhuram” (language). In that situation the charioteer who is trying to console the Queen, would not speaking in Sanskrit, but in the language he is conversant with – the language in which he can convey his thoughts easily. Moreover the mood of the scene is of pathos and it is absurd to expect the Charioteer to speak sweet words in Sanskrit.

The use of “Madhuram” in these kinds of contexts makes it appear that this word was not exactly intended to be an adjective with a meaning “sweetness”.  It could actually mean a language. If Valmiki did not mention it specifically as a language, it could be because it was common knowledge in those days that Madhuram was a language and was the only popular human tongue which everyone spoke. Unless a common human tongue was the mother tongue of many people in Bharat at that time including Rama or Sita, it was not possible for Hanuman and Sita to have talked in the language in Ashoka vana!

The conversation between Hanuman and Sita in Ashoka vana is of crucial importance in deducing or detecting the name of the common spoken language of those times, because the entire conversation took place in that language only. There also “Madhuram” stands out distinctly as shown in the numerous contexts above. Let us go through this word used in the conversation between Hanuman and Sita which took place in the language of common man.

1     Hanuman decides to talk to Sita in the language of human beings, and decides to choose a language which had unalloyed truth (avithaTHam). There Hanuman mentions ‘madhuram avithaTHam jagAdha vAkyam’ / मधुरम् अवितथम् जगाद वाक्यम् (5-30-44) . That is, he thinks of using unalloyed, truthful, madhuram sentences. Normally, while interpreting this, most people use the meaning sweet for madhuram and explain that Hanuman wanted to speak to Sita  truthfully and sweetly. Here the word vAkyam is  singular. Hanuman is not going to speak just a single sentence, but many. ‘Therefore, the vAkyam here denotes language and not sentence’, says Narayana Iyengar. *** That is, Hanuman thought of speaking in a language of unalloyed truth. Apart from this place, pointed out by Narayana Iyengar, this word madhuram has been deployed at many other places. In the entire Valmiki Ramayana for qualifying speech with adjectives, there are many words: like hitham - beneficial, dharmayukta - righteous, chAturya - dexterity, vistara - detailed, etc. But the word madhuram appears in doubtable contexts as explained before. The meaning sweet does not fit in appropriately at all places.

2     Hanuman decides beforehand how he should talk to Sita. “I will  present auspicious and righteous words and make Her listen to me. I will bring out all in madhuram speech” श्रावयिष्यामि सर्वाणि मधुराम् प्रब्रुवन् गिरम् ( 5-30- 42&43). While it is possible to attribute meaning sweet to madhuram, we should note that he uses plural for the words vachanAni (words) and  sarVaNi (all), but madhuram and giram (speech, language) are singular. Besides, madhuram is used as noun and not as an adjective. So it is not sweet speech, but madhuram language.

3     While starting to speak to Sita, Valmiki mentions that Hanuman whispered so that she alone could hear in madhuram vAkyam / संश्रवे मधुरम् वाक्यम् वैदेह्या व्याजहार ह (5-31-1). When one whispers we say one speaks softly and not sweetly. So madhuram as an adjective does not fit in here.

4     Hanuman climbs down from the tree after telling Rama’s story in madhuram language, (point 2 above) and speaks to Sita with folded hands. Here, Valmiki says ‘madhurayA girA’ शिरसि अञ्जलिम् आधाय सीताम् मधुरया गिरा (5-33-2)

5      The next context of “Madhuram”  is startling. Hanuman describes Rama. He says ‘satyavAdhi madhura vAkdhevO vAchaspathi yathA’ - Rama speaks truth and like the lord of speech Vachaspati, speaks in madhuram!  Comparing Rama with Vachaspati gives us more insights into Madhuram. Who is this Vachaspati? He is the god of speech or language. Sanskrit, the Deva bhasha, does not need a god or lord, but the human speech or human language is required to have a god and he is Vachaspati.

This is not the first time we come across Vachaspathi in Valmiki Ramayana. After hearing Hanuman tell about Rama’s story from his hiding in the tree, Site is happy first and then confused wondering if it was a dream. Finally she prays to Vachaspathi that what she heard must be true. (5-32-14). That Vachasptahi is the Vaak Deva – Lord of speech. What she describes for Vachaspthi is same as that is found in verse 8-89 of Rig Veda for Vaak. There is another verse on Vaak Deva in Rig Veda (10-125). This verse makes it amply clear that this is the Lord of Speech of the humans. In verse 5 in that Hymn (10-125), it is said that this Lord makes the man become a rishi or a Brahman by its blessings. This reminds us of the way Valmiki transcended from a robber to a sage and a great poet.
It is believed that Brahaspati or Guru (Jupiter) was known as Vachaspathi. But the 2 Rig Vedic hymns on Vaak mention that deity as “queen” – a female! This indicates that she is Saraswati Devi, who is known as VaaNi and Vaak Devi. In Tamil, she is known as “VaakkaL” – the one who lords over Vaak! (There is indigenous derivation of Vaakku in Tamil - Vaakku' is what is 'vaarkka-p-paduthal' – that which springs).  Every song that was inaugurated at the Tamil sangam Assembly started with a prayer first to Saraswati (also known as Naa-MagaL in Tamil, meaning deity of tongue or speech) and then to Shiva known as Irayanaar. (Eg: Thiruvaluva maalai inaugurated at the last sangam assembly during the time of Pandyan Rudra sanmam in 1st century AD or just before that). Why I am saying these details from Sangam and in Tamil is that she is the consort of the four faced Brahma and at many places where Brahma appears in Valmiki Ramayana, he speaks “Madhuram vaakyam!!

If Vaak Devi is one who lords over human speech, and her consort speaks in Madhuram vaakyam , this reflects what I have been saying all along – that Madhuram was the name by which human tongue was known. The naturally formed human language was Madhuram – sweet and therefore it came to be called as Madhuram. This will be discussed in 4th part of this series.

In the present context, Rama speaks Madhuram like Vachaspathi. If  madhuram  language was spoken by Hanuman and by Sita, it is natural to expect Rama to have mastered that language. It fits well with the contexts where we highlighted earlier in this article that Rama spoke in Madhuram language.

6. When Hanuman tried to go near Sita and speak, She got a doubt whether he was Ravana in  monkey’s disguise. She was afraid and so sat in a place and turned her face away. She said ,“ If you were Ravana, you are increasing my agony and that is not good for you”  Any poet while narrating this should have mentioned that Sita uttered those words in agony or in anger. But Valmiki writes that after a deep sigh She told those words in madhura svara(5-34-13) अब्रवीत् दीर्घम् उच्छ्वस्य वानरम् मधुर स्वरा .  Can we ever imagine that she told sweet words or in sweet voice, after taking a deep sigh that it was not good for Hanuman? Sweetness for madhurm in that sloka is inappropriate.

7.     Later, even though Sita found Hanuman to be genuine, she wanted to test Hanuman to know how far he was aware of Rama’s personality. So she asks Hanuman to describe Rama. Valmiki writes that she asked him in serene words to describe Rama. But the word madhuram also come along!

‘uvAcha vachanam shantham itham madhurayA girA’. (5-35-1)
Normally people translate this as : She spoke words  serenely and  spoke sweetly’.
But we should note that once having said that she spoke serenely, where was the necessity to say she spoke sweetly? But if we understand gira to mean speech and not voice, then the entire sentence can be translated as : She spoke words serenely in madhuram language’.

8.  After hearing Hanuman describing Rama, Sita gets confidence in Hanuman and so she starts telling about herself. First she enquires about Rama’s welfare. As she waits for Hanuman’s response, Valmiki again brings the word madhuram!

‘iti iva dhevi vachanam mahArTHam
 tham vAnarEndhram madhura arTham ukthvA’
इति इव देवी वचनम् महाअर्थम् |
तम् वानर इन्द्रम् मधुर अर्थम् उक्त्वा  (5-36-31)
Here also people would normally translate as : ‘Thus Sita told the Vanara words with great meaning, with sweet meanings’

‘mahArTHam’ and ;’madhura arTHam’ coming successively confuse us. So all commentators combine the two and  translate as ‘great meaningful’  and ‘sweet meaningful’ as adjectives for the words vachanam (words or speech) and ukthvA (having spoken). This way the translated sloka does not look appropriate. On the other hand, if we substitute the word madhuram to mean the name of a language, then we can translate, like: She spoke great meaningful words in madhuram language. This fits in aptly.

We should note that the word madhuram  again and again appears in the conversation between Hanuman and Sita. If we interpret Madhuram as sweet in all the 8 places shown above, it somehow smacks of a lack of imagination for using various other suitable words.  But then thinking of how Valmiki wrote every word of the Epic with apt and hidden meanings, Madhuram gets a different relevance.

For it to be naturally evolved human language, it must have been understandable by the animals and birds in the natural habitat of man. In Ramayana we have birds and animals speaking with humans. Rama speaks to trees and animals asking them about Sita’s whereabouts. Sita cries out in Madhuram vaakyam while she was being carried away and the animals look at her up on hearing her vaakyam. Were such narrations true or the poet’s imagination?

But thinking of the nature of the Human tongue – on how Vaak Devi extends over all living beings as per the Rig Vedic hymn of 10-125, it is logical to expect that the other entities such as Jataayu, Sampathi, Jambhavan and Vanaras  could have conversed in the human tongue.

Surfing through Valmiki Ramayana, we find that, Jataayu first addresses Rama in Madhuram.
स तौ मधुरया वाचा सौम्यया प्रीणयन्न् इव |
उवाच वत्स माम् विद्धि वयस्यम् पितुर् आत्मनः  (3-14-3).
Jataayu can not be expected to speak in Sanskrit.

It is in Madhuram,  Angada proposes to other monkeys to commit suicide by fasting because they could not complete the mission given by Sugreeva of finding out Sita. Can anyone write that Angada proposed in sweet words to commit suicide? But Valmiki writes!!

वाचा मधुरया अभाष्य यथावत् अनुमान्य च (4-53-6)
 Angada addressed the vanaras in Madhuram vaacham and said that they had no other way than finishing their lives by fasting unto death.

It is in contexts like this, it becomes known that there is something other than just ‘sweetness’ to Madhuram.

Another speciality is that in most places where Madhuram seems to convey that it is a language, there are seen adjectives that convey that it was spoken with meanings. We find proof of exact replication or reproduction of meanings from Madhuram to Sanskrit and Sanskrit to Madhuram.  There we find a strong evidence for Madhuram as Tamil as it was spoken throughout India in Ramayana times – which is some 7000 years before present. We will see that in the next part.

(to be continued)

        (**) The text and meaning of Valmiki Ramayana taken for this article can be read in this website:

        *** The English translation of Sri Narayana Iyengar’s book “ Vaanmeegarum thamizhum” can be read here:
Posted by jayasree at 6:35 PM
Labels: Gods in Hinduism, Hindu awakening, Hinduism - general issues, Ramayana

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree and congratulate the efforts taken to identify Tamil as MADHURAM. TO ME the actual separation is during the period of ACCHEMENIAN EMPIRE coinciding with the steady spread of Jainism while Tamil drifted from Aphabrahmsa with wanton omission of aspirated consonants by Tolkapiyar who feared that VADAMOZHI will be irretrievably lost to Apabrahmsa . Dr.R.Nagaswamy has written an excellent article on burn urn chambers spread out throughout South India up to Adhichanallur with a mixture of Prakrit Tamil words belonging to fifth century BC were laid out according to SATAPADA BRAHMANA. The omission of aspirated consonants is a calculated move which can never give it a separate identity as Dravidian