Drain Cleaning is a thankless job. A society cannot exist without drain cleaners but, no one recognizes their contribution to the society. Same goes for cleaning up all the muck sold in the name of history. Take the case of the damage wrought by Robert Caldwell to Indian History. In fact, a quick look at his magnum opus, A Comparative Grammar Of Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages  makes us wonder how the book still exists in the market as a standard reference.

  Ed 1Ed 2
Total Pages 528750
Subject MatterComparative Grammar343451
 Glossarial Affinities5257
Unrelated Stuff 133242
% Unrelated Stuff 25.19%32.27%
% Unrelated Stuff (Inc. Comparative Glossary) 35.04%39.87%

A quick look into the index is more than enough to understand the usefulness of the book. What sort of a book has almost 40% of content unrelated to the subject matter? In fact, that itself should be enough for one to be wary of what’s written in the book. Go one step further and have a look what’s in those unrelated pages. Some of the captions read thus. Please note that some of them are introduced in the newer edition.

 Ed 1 -PagesEd 2 – Pages
Use of the Common Term Dravidian24
The Dravidian Languages Independent of the Sanscrit913
Is the Un-Sanscrit Element Contained in the Vernacular Languages of Northern India Dravidian?58
With what group of languages are the Dravidian Idioms to be affiliated?1117
Priority of the Literary Cultivation of the Tamil77
Political and Social Relation of the Primitive Dravidians to the Aryan and Pre-Aryan Inhabitants of Northern India44
Original Use and Progressive Extension of the Term Sudra46
Pre-Aryan Civilization of the Dravidians22
The Probable Date of the Aryan Civilization of the Dravidians24
Indebtedness of Sanscrit to the Dravidian Languages 22
Sundara Pandya 5
Are the Pariars of Southern India Dravidians?1215
Are the Nilgherry Tudas Dravidians?33
Dravidian Physical Type1221
Ancient Religion of the Dravidians1018
% of Total Book15.72%28.22%

15% of stuff completely unrelated to the subject of the book expanded to 28% of the total content. The real question is, what is it in that 15% which almost doubled in the next version which came an year later?

In fact, Caldwell fits the description of an average Britisher who came from a poor family, had a miserable childhood due to poverty, unable to find quality education or a job, joined Church and came to India to eke out a living and ultimately settled by marrying the daughter of his patron. Born to Scottish parents in Ireland, started working from the age of nine, studied for a few years and became active in the local church. When his scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford was rejected when it is revealed he is born in Ireland, he chose the next best option – missionary activity. He joined London Missionary Society who sent him to the University of Glasgow where he learnt comparative philology and theology. In 1837, at the age of 24, he was sent to Madras. There, he understood that he needs to learn a local language to do his work more effectively – he decided to learn Tamil. His marriage to the daughter of Charles Mault in 1844 sealed his position in Tirunelveli area and he ultimately became the Bishop of Tirunelveli in 1877.

An in depth reading of what he wrote may help us understand what he was aiming at?

Brahminical Colonization of South India is a fact. Also, Brahmins taught civilization to these uncivilized Dravidians.

Sanscrit, though it never was the vernacular language of any district of country in the South, is in every district read and to some extent understood by the majority of the Brahmans,—the descendants of those Brahmanical colonists of early times to whom the Dravidians are indebted for the higher arts of life and the first elements of literary culture.

In fact, he hints not just at colonization but at forced conversion to Brahminical religion.

Neither the English, however, nor any other foreign tongue, has the slightest chance of becoming the vernacular speech of any portion of the inhabitants of Southern India. The indigenous Dravidian languages, which have maintained their ground for more than two

thousand years against Sanscrit, the language of a numerous, powerful, and venerated sacerdotal race, may be expected successfully to resist the encroachments of every other tongue.

He claims to have invented the word Dravidian Languages, though he says, before, they were called Tamulian Languages by some authors. His argument goes thus

This family which I style Dravidian has been styled ‘ Tamulian’ by some recent writers ; but though the Tamil is the oldest and most highly cultivated member of the family, and that which contains the largest proportion of the family property of forms and roots, yet as it is but one dialect out of many, and does not claim to be the original speech from which the other dialects have been derived; as it is also desirable to reserve the terms ‘ Tamil’ and ‘ Tamilian ’ (or as it is generally but erroneously written ‘ Tamulian ’) to denote the Tamil

language itself and the people by whom it is spoken, I have preferred to designate this entire family by a term which is capable of a wider application. The word which I have chosen is ‘ Dravidian,’ a word which has already been used as the generic appellation of this family of tongues by the Sanscrit geographers.

And the subterfuge – or is it plain incompetence on the part of the author? This, in fact, is the greatest harm he did to Indian political narrative – he declared that the geographical connotation of Dravida is not geographic but linguistic, and the Indians are wrong to declare Maratha and Gujarata as Dravida!! In fact, one would see the transition of Dravida as a geographical entity into Dravida, a linguistic classification in a gap of three paragraphs.

Properly speaking, the term ‘Dravida’ denotes the Tamil country alone (including Malayalam), and Tamil Brahmans are usually styled ‘ Dravida Brahmans.’ ‘Dravida’ means the ‘country of the Dravidas and a Dravida is defined in the Sanscrit lexicons to be a man of an outcast tribe, descended from a degraded Kshatriya’ This name was doubtless applied by the Brahmanical inhabitants of Northern India to the aborigines of the extreme South prior to the introduction amongst them of Brahmanical civilisation, and is an evidence of the low estimation in which they were originally held. In the Maha-Bharata, in which the Dravidas are distinguished from the Cholas, or Tanjore Tamilians, the term is still further restricted to the Pandiyas of Madura, doubtless on account of the advanced civilisation and early celebrity of the Pandiya kingdom. The term ‘ Dravidian’ is thus in itself as restricted as that of ‘ Tamilian/ but it has the advantage of being remoter’ from ordinary usage, and somewhat more vague, and the further and more special advantage of being the term already adopted by Sanscrit writers to designate the southern family of languages. Consequently, by the adoption of this more generic terra, the word “ Tamilian’’ has been left to signify that which is distinctively Tamil.

The five Dravidas or Draviras, according to the Pandits, are “ the Telinga, the Karnataka, the Maratha, the Gurjara, and the Dravira,” or Tamil proper. The Maratha and Gurjara are erroneously included in this enumeration. It is true that the Marathi contains a small admixture of Dravidian roots and idioms, as might be expected from its local proximity to the Telugu and the Canarese ; and both it and the Gurjara, or Gujarathi, possess certain features of resemblance to the languages of the South, which are possibly derived from the same or a similar source; but, notwithstanding the existence of a few analogies of this nature, those two languages differ from the Dravidian family so widely and radically, and are so closely allied to the northern group, that there cannot be any hesitation in transferring them to that class.

He further states that Indian scholars were incapable enough for parallel philology. What happened to Tenali Rama, a scholar in nine languages or Rana Kumbha who was able to speak even Telugu?

No term belonging to the Dravidian languages themselves has ever been used to designate all the members of this family, nor are the native Tamil or Telugu grammarians, though deeply skilled in the grammar of their own tougues, sufficiently acquainted with comparative grammar to have arrived at the conclusion that all these idioms have a common origin and require to be designated by a common term. Some European scholars who have confined their attention to the study of some one Dravidian idiom to the neglect of the others, have fallen into the same error of supposing these languages independent one of another. The Sanscrit Pandits had a clearer perception of grammatical affinities and differences than the Dravidian grammarians; and, though their generalisation was not perfectly correct, it has furnished us with the only common terms which we possess for denoting the northern and southern families of languages respectively.

One would then note that his philology is all about how Dravidian languages are not related to Sanskrit and are related to Scythian Languages. The main arguments he floated are below.

  1. The Non-Sanskrit part of Dravidian languages is in excess of Sanskritic part while in North Indian languages, Sanskrit is in excess.
  2. Pronouns and numerals, verbal and nominal inflexions, syntactic arrangement of words is not same as Sanskrit.
  3. The philologists assumed that the Sanskritic words in these languages as a part of native language though the native scholars made a demarcation
  4. The philologists were unaware of the “uncultivated” languages of the Dravidian Family and their language grasp wasn’t able to distinguish between necessities and linguistic “luxuries”.
  5. On the basis of comparative grammar, Dravidian Languages should be equated with Scythian Languages and not Sanskritic Languages.
  6. The oldest language in Dravidian Family is not Shen-Tamil but Old Canarese and Ku(Khond)
  7. The Non-Sanskritic part of North Indian Languages is Scythian but the South Indian languages is Dravidian though the examples he quoted prove exactly the opposite. Clearly, the only difference here is replacing /ma/ with /na/

Caldwell segregated between something called Shen-Tamil and the Modern Tamil saying Shen-Tamil is devoid of Sanskrit

The ancient or classical dialect of the Tamil language, called the ‘Shen-Tamil,’ or correct Tamil, in which nearly all the literature has been written, contains exceedingly little Sanscrit; and differs from the colloquial dialect, or the language of prose, chiefly in the sedulous and jealous care with which it has rejected the use of Sanscrit derivatives and characters, and restricted itself to pure Dravidian sounds, forms, and roots. So completely has this jealousy of Sanscrit pervaded the minds of the educated classes amongst the Tamilians, that a Tamil composition is regarded as refined, in accordance with good taste, and worthy of being called classical, not in proportion to the amount of Sanscrit which it contains, as would be the case in some other dialects, but in proportion to its freedom from Sanscrit!

and cites Ten Commandments as an example. However, people miss the trick here. The Commandments are not sentences or long paragraphs, they are isolated phrases.

Let us, for example, compare the amount of Sanscrit which is contained in the Tamil translation of the Ten Commandments (Prayer Book version) with the amount of Latin which is contained in the English version of the same formula, and which has found its way into it, either directly, from Ecclesiastical Latin, or indirectly, through the medium of the Norman-French. Of forty-three nouns and adjectives in the English version twenty-nine are Anglo-Saxon, fourteen Latin : of fifty-three nouns and adjectives in the Tamil (the difference in idiom causes this difference in the number) thirty-two are Dravidian, twenty-one Sanscrit. Of twenty verbs in the English, thirteen are Anglo-Saxon, seven Latin : of thirty-four verbs in the Tamil, twenty-seven are Dravidian, and only seven Sanscrit. Of the five numerals which are found in the English, either in their cardinal or their ordinal shape, all are Anglo-Saxon ; of the six numerals found in the Tamil, five are Dravidian, one (‘ thousand’) is probably Sanscrit. Putting all these numbers together, for the purpose of ascertaining the percentage, I find that in the department of nouns, numerals and verbs, the amount of the foreign element is in both instances the same, viz,, as nearly as possible forty-five per cent. In both instances, also, all the pronouns, prepositions, adverbs, and conjunctions, and all the inflexional forms and connecting particles are the property of the native tongue.

And then, in the next paragraph, he misses the trick. He tries to compare English with Latin and not Sanskrit!! After all, Sanskrit, Greek and Latin are derived from the same root.

Trench’s expressions respecting the character of the contributions which our mother-English has received from Anglo-Saxon and from Latin respectively, are exactly applicable to the relation and proportion which the native Dravidian element bears to the Sanscrit contained in the Tamil.

Now, if one would compare English with Sinhalese or Albanian, what level of commonalities are we going to see?

And then, he is confused. Here, he is of the assumption that English has a great history as a language. One can actually count the number of works written in Old English while the corpus of Tamil literature can never be compared with anything Europe produced(except in Latin and Greek) before 1500. In fact, the total works produced in Tamil before 1500 easily surpass everything Europe produced outside those two languages.

Though the proportion of Sanscrit which we find to be contained in the Tamil version of the Ten Commandments happens to correspond so exactly to the proportion of Latin which is contained in the English version, it would be an error to conclude that the Tamil language is as deeply indebted to the Sanscrit as the English is to the Latin.

The Tamil can readily dispense with the greater part or the whole of its Sanscrit, and by dispensing with it rises to a purer and more refined style ; whereas the English cannot abandon its Latin without abandoning perspicuity. Such is the poverty of the Anglo-Saxon that it has no synonymes of its own for many of the words which it has borrowed from the Latin ; so that if it were obliged to dispense with them, it would, in most cases, be under the necessity of using a very awkward periphrasis instead of a single word. The Tamil, on the other hand, is peculiarly rich in synonymes ; and generally it is not through any real necessity, but from choice and the fashiou of the age, that it makes use of Sanscrit. If the Ten Commandments were expressed in the speech of the lower classes of the Tamil people, or in the language of every-day life, the proportion of Sanscrit would be very greatly diminished ; and if we wished to raise the style of the translation to a refined and classical pitch, Sanscrit would almost entirely disappear.

And with a flourish he declares,

Of the entire number of words which are contained in this formula there is only one which could not be expressed with faultless propriety and poetic elegance in equivalents of pure Dravidian origin: that word is ‘ graven image’ or ‘ idol’! Both word and thing are foreign to primitive Tamil usages and habits of thought; and were introduced into the Tamil country by the Brahmans, with the Puranic system of religion and the worship of idols.

Over the discussion over Behustin Tablets of Darius(Scythian Part), Caldwell declares that the phonetics ṭ, ḍ and ṇ, though they exist in Sanskrit, they are imported into Sanskrit from Dravidian languages. The whole discussion stretching over three pages is a saga of three pages of insincere linguistic gymnastics ending with the conclusion.

From the discovery of these analogies, we are enabled to conclude that the Dravidian race, though resident in India from a period long prior to the commencement of history, originated in the central tracts of Asia—the seed plot of nations ; and that from thence, after parting company with the rest of the Ugro-Turanian horde, and leaving a colony in Beluchistan, they entered India by way of the Indus.

How remarkable that the closest and most distinct affinities to the speech of the Dravidians of inter-tropical India should be those that are discovered in the languages of the Finns and Lapps of Northern Europe, and of the Ostiaks and other Ugrians of Siberia! and, consequently, that the Pre-Aryan inhabitants of the Dekhan should be proved by their language alone, in the silence of history, in the absence of all ordinary probabilities, to be allied to the tribes that appear to have overspread Europe before the arrival of the Goths and the Pelasgi, and even before the arrival of the Celts! What a confirmation of the statement that ‘ God hath made of one blood all nations of men, to dwell upon the face of the whole earth’

Ultimately, his theoretical part turns out to be a confused ramble of contradictions.

On numerals

not only do the numerals of every Scythian family differ so widely from those of every other as to present few points of connection, but even the numerals of any two dialects of the same family are found to differ very widely. Whilst the Sanscrit and the Gaelic agree in eight numerals out of ten, and differ in two only (one and five ); the Magyar and the Finnish, though as closely allied in point of grammatical structure as the Gaelic and the Welsh, have now only the first four numerals in common, and perfectly coincide in two numerals only, owe and four So great indeed is the diversity existing amongst the Scythian tongues, that, whilst the Indo-European idioms form but one family, the Scythian tongues are not so much a family as a group of families.

At the very outset of my own inquiries I observed those Indo-European analogies myself; and, rejecting affinities which are unreal and which disappear on investigation—(such as the connection of the Tamil numerals ‘ondru’ or ‘onnu’ one; ‘anju’ five; ‘ ettu’ eight; with ‘un-us’, ‘pancha’ and ‘ ashta/—a connection which looks very plausible, but is illusory.

On Hebrew

Though the majority of Hebrew roots have been proved to be allied to the Sanscrit, yet the Hebrew language does not cease to be regarded as Semitic rather than Indo-European

It is a remarkable circumstance, that in the vocabulary of the Dravidian languages, especially in that of the Tamil, a few Semitic analogies may also be discovered. In some instances the analogous roots are found in the Indo-European family, as well as in Hebrew, though the Hebrew form of the root is more closely analogous…In addition, however, to such general analogies as pervade several families of tongues, including the Dravidian, there are roots discoverable both in the Dravidian languages and in the Hebrew, to which I am not aware of the existence of any resemblance in any language of the Indo-European family… The Semitic analogies observable , in the Tamil are neither so numerous nor so important as the Indo-European, nor do they carry with them such convincing evidence ; but taking them in connexion with that more numerous and important class of analogous roots which are found in the Indo-European languages, as well as in the Hebrew, but of which the Hebrew form is more closely allied to the Dravidian (see the Glossarial Affinities), these analogies, such as they are, constitute an additional element of interest in the problem of the origin and pre-historical connections of the Dravidian race,

It is hilarious to notice that he even links Dravidian languages with Native Australian languages but not Sanskrit!!

It seems proper here to notice the remarkable general resemblance which exists between the Dravidian pronouns and those of the aboriginal tribes of Southern and Western Australia.

While his linguistic theory is a mess, one would see that his political theory is also equally incomprehensible. I will leave it to the reader to make his own inferences over the same.

The arrival of the Dravidians in India was undoubtedly anterior to the arrival of the Aryans, but there is some difficulty in determining whether the Dravidians were identical with the Scythian aborigines whom the Aryans found in possession of the northern provinces, and to whom the vernacular languages o Northern India are indebted for their Un-Sanscrit element, or whether they were a distinct and more ancient race. The question may be put thus : —Were the Dravidians identical with the ‘ Dasyus ’ and ‘ Mlechchas,’ by whom the progress of the Aryans was disputed, and who were finally subdued and incorporated with the Aryan race as their ‘ Sudras’ or serfs and dependents? or were they a race unknown to the Aryans of the first age, and which had already been expelled from Northern India, and driven southwards towards the extremity of the Peninsula before the Aryans arrived ? This question of the relation of the Dravidians to the primitive Sudras, or Aryanised Mlechchas, of Northern India is confessedly involved in obscurity, and can he settled only by a more thorough investigation than any that has yet been made of the relation of the Dravidian languages to the Un-Sanscrit element contained in the northern vernaculars. We may, indeed, confidently regard the Dravidians as the earliest inhabitants of India, or at least as the earliest race that entered from the North-West, or crossed the Indus; but it is not so easy to determine whether they were the people whom the Aryans found in possession, or whether they had already been expelled from the northern provinces by the pre-historic irruption of another Scythian race. Some recent inquirers hold the identity of the Dravidians with the primitive Sudras; and much may be said in support of this hypothesis, I am not competent to pronounce a decided opinion on a point which lies so far beyond my own province, but the differences which appear to exist between the Dravidian languages and the Scythian under-stratum of the northern vernaculars induce me to incline to the supposition that the Dravidian idioms belong to an older period of the Scythian speech—the period of the predominance of the Ugro-Finnish languages in Central and Higher Asia, anterior to the westward migration of the Turks and Mongolians. If this supposition is correct, it seems to follow that the progenitors of the Scythian portion of the Sudras and mixed classes now inhabiting the northern and western provinces must have made their way into India subsequently to the Dravidians, and also that they must have thrust out the Dravidians from the greater part of Northern India, before they were in their turn subdued by a new race of invaders. By whomsoever the Dravidians were expelled from Northern India, and through what causes soever they were induced to migrate southward, I feel persuaded that it was not by the Aryans that they were expelled. Neither the subjugation of the Cholas, Pandiyas, and other Dravidians by the Aryans, nor the expulsion from Northern India of the races who afterwards became celebrated in the South, as Pandiyas, Cholas, Keralas, Calingas, Andhras, &c., is recognised by any Sanscrit authority, or any Dravidian tradition. Looking at the question from a purely Dravidian point of view, I am convinced that the Dravidians never had any relations with the primitive Aryans but those of a peaceable and friendly character; and that if they were expelled from Northern India, and forced to take refuge in Gondwana and Dandakaranya, the great Dravidian forest, prior to the dawn of their civilisation, the tribes that subdued and thrust them southwards must have been Pre-Aryans.

Those Pre-Aryan Scythians, by whom I have been supposing the Dravidians to have been expelled from the northern provinces, are not to be confounded with the Koles, Sontals, Bhills, Doms, and other aboriginal tribes of the North. Possibly these tribes had fled into the forests from the Dravidians prior to the Pre-Aryan invasion, just as the British had taken refuge in Wales before the Norman conquest. It is also possible that the tribes referred to had never crossed the Indus at all, or occupied Northern India, but had entered it, like the Bhut tribes, by the North-East, and had passed from the jungles and swamps of Lower Bengal to their present abodes,—taking care always to keep on the outside of the boundary line of civilisation. At all events, we cannot suppose that it was through an irruption of those forest tribes that the Dravidians were driven southwards ; nor does the Un-Sanscrit element which is contained in the northern vernaculars appear to accord in any degree with the peculiar structure of the Kole languages. The tribes of Northern India whom the Aryans gradually incorporated in their community, as Sudras, whosoever they were, must have been an organized and formidable race. They were probably identical with the ‘Ethiopians from the East,’ who, according to Herodotus, were brigaded with other Indians in the army of Xerxes, and who differed from other Ethiopians in being ‘ straight-haired.’

I admit that there is a difficulty in supposing that the Dravidians, who have proved themselves greatly superior to the Aryanised Sudras of Northern India in mental power, independence, and patriotic feeling, should have been expelled from their original possessions by an irruption of the ancestors of those very Sudras. It is to be remembered, however, that the lapse of time may have effected a great change in the warlike, hungry, Scythian hordes that rushed down upon the first Dravidian settlements. It is also to be remembered that the dependent and almost servile position to which this secondary race of Scythians was early reduced by the Aryans, whilst the more distant Dravidians were enjoying freedom and independence, may have materially altered their original character. It is not therefore so improbable as it might at first sight appear, that after the Dravidians had been driven across the Vindhyas into the Dekhan by a newer race of Scythians, this new race, conquered in its turn by the Aryans and reduced to a dependent position, soon sank beneath the level of the tribes which it had expelled; whilst the Dravidians, retaining their independence in the southern forests into which they were driven, and submitting eventually to the Aryans not as conquerors, but as colonists and instructors, gradually rose in the social scale, and formed communities and states in the Dekhan, rivalling those of the Aryans in the north.

Mr. Curzon (Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 16) recently attempted to meet the difficulty which I have stated by supposing that the Tamilians were never in possession of Arya-vartta, or Northern India, at all; but that they were connected with the Malay race, and came to Southern India by sea, from the opposite coast of the Bay of Bengal, or from Ceylon. This theory seems, however, perfectly gratuitous ; for it has been proved that the languages of the Gonds and Kus are Dravidian, equally with the Tamil itself; that the Rajmahal is also substantially Dravidian ; and that the Brahui partakes so largely of the same character (not to speak of the language of the Scythic tablets of Behistun), as to establish a connection between the Dravidians and the ancient races west of the Indus. It has also been shewn that in the time of Ptolemy, when every part of India had long ago been settled and civilised, the Dravidians were in quiet possession, not only of the south-eastern coast, but of the whole of the Peninsula, up nearly to the mouths of the Ganges.

And the rambling goes on and on like this all the book. All I want to ask is, what should be done to such a work which is unscientific, politically divisive and is built only on assumptions? When the only place for this book is in the dustbin of history, this book became a gold standard and the name of Caldwell is still used to project the racial theory of a separate Dravidian Civilization. What stops us from publicly disowning Caldwell and his unscientific theory?

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