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Dramila – The Word In Ancient Sanskrit For Tamil Language

Dramila is the word in ancient Prakrit and Sanskrit literature denoting Tamil language. It is counted as one of the regional languages to be used in theater according to Bharata’s Natyashastra (5th century BCE).

Dramila as term is also found in Hathigumpha epigraph of King Kharavela of Odisha (155 BCE) to denote the region of the Tamils. Hathigumpha mentions various conquests of Kharavela, and states that he broke the Dramirdesha Sanghatana (confederacy of the Dramila country) in the 11th year of his reign.

Two Jaina works, Samavayangasutta and Pannavanasutta, mention 18 different types of scripts which existed in ancient India in the earlier times, and one among these was Damili (Dravidi or Tamil).

The Buddhist work Lalitavistara lists 64 scripts that were in use during the days of Buddha and one of these was Damili or Dravidi.

Hiuen-Tsang, the famous Chinese traveler, refers to the Tamil region as Damiladesha.

The great Sri Vaishnava philosopher and teacher, Vedanta Desika (14th century CE) has written a work called Dramilopanisadsara in which he has a commentary on Nalayira Divya Prabandha known as “Tamil Vedas”. The sacred hymns of the Alwars (Vaishnava Saints) are described as Dravida Veda in the Sri Vaishnava literature.

The name given by the ancient Graeco-Romans for “Tamilakam” or the Tamil country was Daminica. This name is mentioned in their work, Periplus of the Erythrean Sea (1st century CE) to describe the region.

The word Damila, which is the pali term of Dramilas or the Tamil country, is found in Ceylonese chronicles such as Mahavamsa. Many well known Damilas or Tamils are mentioned in these works, which pointedly say that they came from the Tamil country. They went to Sri Lanka and permanently settled there, especially in the North and North-East Areas. The language was known in Sri Lanka as Damila Bhasha.