The Myth of an independent,secular(?) Dravidian Culture has been and is propagated.
Let us see whether the Statement that the Dravidian, more specifically the Tamil Culture was/is independent of Sanatana Dharma, on the basis of historical and archaeological evidence.
Pandyan coin depicting a temple between hill symbols and elephant, Pandyas, Sri Lanka, 1st century CE.
1.Tamil quotes Vedas right from the Sangam Age.
2.Vedas and Sanskrit quote Tamil and the land of Tamils, pointedly at Dravida, meaning south of the Vindhyas.
3.The earliest recorded Tamil Kingdom was Pandya Kingdom.
Lord Krishna visited the capital of Pandyas , Madurai.
Arjuna married a Pandyan Princess during his pilgrimage(see my post on this-Arjuna’s Pilgrimage)
Ancient Chera Kingdom was from 400 BC to 397 AD.
Sangam Cholas 300 BC to 240 AD.
Central Pandya 550 BC to 1311 AD.
The earliest Pandya to be found in epigraph is Nedunjeliyan, figuring in the Minakshipuram record assigned from the 2nd to the 1st centuries BC.
The record documents a gift of rock-cut beds, to a Jain ascetic.
Punch marked coins in the Pandya country dating from around the same time have also been found.
Jainism came after Vedic Period.
So when Jainism had made inroads the religion that was in existence was Hinduism even in Tamil Nadu.
This may be known by the gifts made by the Pandya Kings to Brahmins(Vediyar, Anthanar)
Again we have a reference to a Chera King who participated in the Mahabharata war;he fed both the Kaurava and Pandya Armies.
“Reference to Perum Chorru Udiyan Cheral Adan, in the second verse of thePurananuru, an earliest text of Sangam literature, is about his feeding the two armies of the Mahabharata battle.
And PT Srinivasa Iyengar states that Perunchoruudiyan Chealathan had granted 100 Velis (one Veli equals 100 acres) of land to Brahmins on the condition that he should see the smoke from the Homa from the Brahimn Agraharam daily
He also performed Tharpana, rituals for the dead, to those who died in the Mahabharata war.
Hence the religion that was practiced in Tamil Nadu was Sanatana Dharma and not an independent Tamil Culture.
Based on the Aryan invasion theory, it was assumed that only Apasthamba came to the South that Hinduism was introduced.
This is incorrect.
The Five gems of Tamil Valayapathi, Kundalakesi,Seevaka Sinthamani,Silappathiparam and Manimekalai.
All these epics dating to BC (appx) refer to Vedic practices and Silappathikaram and Seevaka Sinthamani Manimekalai refer to Buddhism and Jainism as well.
The canard of an independent Tamil Culture is a Myth.
How and Why.
And yet, such statements do not go deep enough, as they still imply a North-South contrast and an unknown Dravidian substratum over which the layer of �Aryan� culture was deposited. This view is only milder than that of the proponents of a �separate� and �secular� Dravidian culture, who insist on a physical and cultural Aryan-Dravidian clash as a result of which the pure �Dravidian� culture got swamped. As we have seen, archaeology, literature and Tamil tradition all fail to come up with the slightest hint of such a conflict. Rather, as far as the eye can see into the past there is every sign of a deep cultural interaction between North and South, which blossomed not through any �imposition� but in a natural and peaceful manner, as everywhere else in the subcontinent and beyond.
As regards an imaginary Dravidian �secularism� (another quite inept word to use in the Indian context), it has been posited by many scholars�: Marr, Zvelebil and others characterize Sangam poetry as �secular� and �pre-Aryan� after severing its heroic or love themes from its strong spiritual undercurrents, in a feat typical of Western scholarship whose scrutiny always depends more on the magnifying glass than on the wide-angle lens. A far more insightful view comes from the historian M.�G.�S. Narayanan, who finds in Sangam literature �no trace of another, indigenous, culture other than what may be designated as tribal and primitive.� He concludes�:
The Aryan-Dravidian or Aryan-Tamil dichotomy envisaged by some scholars may have to be given up since we are unable to come across anything which could be designated as purely Aryan or purely Dravidian in the character of South India of the Sangam Age. In view of this, the Sangam culture has to be looked upon as expressing in a local idiom all the essential features of classical �Hindu� culture.[ 60]
However, it is not as if the Tamil land passively received this culture�: in exchange it generously gave elements from its own rich temperament and spirit. In fact, all four Southern States massively added to every genre of Sanskrit literature, not to speak of the signal contributions of a Shankara, a Ramanuja or a Madhwa. Cultural kinship does not mean that there is nothing distinctive about South Indian tradition�; the Tamil land can justly be proud of its ancient language, culture and genius, which have a strong stamp and character of their own, as anyone who browses through Sangam texts can immediately see�: for all the mentions of gods, more often than not they just provide a backdrop�; what occupies the mind of the poets is the human side, its heroism or delicate emotions, its bouncy vitality, refined sensualism or its sweet love of Nature. �Vivid pictures of full-blooded life exhibiting itself in all its varied moods,� as Raghunathan puts it. �One cannot but be impressed by the extraordinary vitality, variety and richness of the poetic achievement of the old Tamil.� Ganapathy Subbiah adds, �The aesthetic quality of many of the poems is breathtakingly refined.� It is true also that the Tamil language developed its own literature along certain independent lines�; conventions of poetry, for instance, are strikingly original and more often than not different from those of Sanskrit literature.
More importantly, many scholars suggest that �the bhakti movement began in the Tamil country and later spread to North India.� Subbiah, in a profound study, not only challenges the misconceived �secular� portrayal of the Sangam texts, but also the attribution of the Tamil bhakti to a northern origin�; rather, he suggests, it was distinctly a creation of Tamil culture, and Sangam literature �a reflection of the religious culture of the Tamils.�
As regards the fundamental contributions of the South to temple architecture, music, dance and to the spread of Hindu culture to other South Asian countries, they are too well known to be repeated here. Besides, the region played a crucial role in preserving many important Sanskrit texts (a few Vedic recensions, Bhasa�s dramas, the Arthashastra for instance) better than the North was able to do, and even today some of India�s best Vedic scholars are found in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.[*] As Swami Vivekananda put it, �The South had been the repository of Vedic learning.�