The Dravidian Culture

Mamallapuram TEMPLE built by dravidians

We must make a brief mention of the Dravidian culture of the Neolithic Age, before we proceed to the Indus Valley civilization.

Dravidian Identification

While there have been religious and cultural conflicts in India, there have never been racial conflicts. We must say that various theories propounded about the origin and migration of the Dravidians have been short lived.

Who are the Dravidians?

Who the Dravidians are is still a matter of conjecture. Indian anthropology presents baffling problems H.G.Rawlinson in his book India, summarizes E. von Eickstedt theory of Indian anthropology with the observation that ‘it will, with due additions as knowledge advances, stand the test of future research’. It is therefore worth mentioning here.


Von Eickstedt holds the view that the terms Dravidian and Aryan refer to languages and should not be confused with ethnic types. Without involving the reader in the complexities of ethnology we may summarize the theory .

In the early post-glacial period, there lived in the Indian peninsula dark-skinned people akin to the early Negroid stocks of Africa and Melanesia.

What are the Dravidian languages?


Where did the Dravidians come from?

These Indo-Negroids were of two major types, one of smaller stature, and more primitive, living in the forest and the other of high stature and more progressive, living in the plains.

Next after them came from the north another primitive stock akin to the Veddas of Ceylon and the Irula of the Nilgiris and gradually intermingled with the Indo-Negroids. These people were short of stature and had long hair and broad noses. They are called the Veddoids who fall into two subtypes, Malids and ethnic contrast to the other peoples and castes of India in face and physique.

The second ethnic stock termed Melanins have a high degree of variation in physical characteristics which can be seen in the people of northern Ceylon and the Tamils. In von Eickstedt view Tamil was not the original speech of the Melanins, but was forced upon them from the north. This seems to accord well with the fact that the Brahui in Baluchistan speak a Dravidian dialect. As the physical features of the Brahuis differ utterly from those of the Dravidians, the affinity of language exemplifies the theory that community of language does not show community of blood.

Temple hall

The Mundas in the north-eastern portion of the Deccan belong to the Second Melanid group. The Aryan speaking people are called the Indians. When in the post-glacial period the lakes of Iran were slowly drying up, the Indians forced their way into India.

Indo-Negroids  thus came to be separated into a northern wing and a southern wing. The former are called Solids and the latter Melanoids. Despite the many immigrant waves from the north the Indo-Negroid groups in the south have continued to maintain their languages and some important elements of their cultures to this day. Von Eickstedt Melanins are perhaps the Dravidians of the south.

It should here be stated that current opinion tends to the view the Australia received her aboriginal population by migration through Ceylon and Melanins from Southern India.

The Tamils of the prehistoric antiquities of South India and the materials brought to light by excavations of graves. Tamil literature of the Sangam Age, though belonging to early centuries of the Christian era, may well contain subject matter showing the cultural continuity of the Tamils from Neolithic times. It is not possible to give an adequate picture of the mode of life of the Tamils here.

It should form a separate study. However, certain outstanding facts deserve seems possible that long ago these Tamils had the concept that human characteristics are the result of the action of the environment within which people grew, which modern anthropo-geography calls the area of the characterization of race. Notice their horizontal classification of society.

Kerala Tradition

Geographically, the land is divided into five natural regions sandy desert: the mountains country ; the  pastoral region ; the lower river valley, fit for agriculture ; and the littoral region. The stages of life represented by these regions respectively are the nomadic, the hunting and the pastoral, the agricultural and the fishing and sailing.

There was also a vertical classification of society into kings, noblemen (owners of fields), merchants and the working classes. The first three belonged to the upper classes of society. The early literature of the tamils gives no help to build  up any political history but throws a flood of light on social, religious and economic aspects of life which will be noticed later in this book. A remarkable feature of Tamil literature of the Sangam Age is the expression of delicate feelings and emotions of war and love, in diction and style which owe little to Sanskrit.

unicorn seal
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Dravidian God:

Murugan, the hill god is the chief deity of the Tamils. Their god Indiran of the agricultural region is very different from Indra (Purandara) of the Aryans. Their god Kannam (Krishna) of the pastoral region, it is said, is not the Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita. The view that, when the Aryan rishis moulded the Vedic culture, they utilized the pre-existing gods and adapted them to their philosophical concepts seems to accord well with the theory that Harappan gods were absorbed into the Indo-Aryan pantheon.

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