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Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi’s open dislike of the words ‘Tamil Nadu’ and replacing it with ‘Thamizhagam’ has led to a political storm in the state. The ruling DMK and its allies are of course opposed to it, but so is the opposition AIADMK. The party declared it would stand by the name Tamil Nadu, which was given to the state by C N Annadurai, whose ideology the party follows.

The BJP is the only party strongly supporting the Governor’s use of the word ‘Thamizhagam’. The party members ask what is the difference between the two names, as the word ‘Thamizhagam’ is found in classical Tamil literature too.

To answer that question, the major difference is that ‘Thamizhagam’ refers to a geographical area where Tamil is spoken, whereas Tamil Nadu is a political unit which has a separate government and Assembly.

According to Sangam literature, Thamizhagam lies between Tirupati in the north and Kanyakumari in the South. Its eastern and western borders were the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Ancient poet Panamparanar who wrote the introductory verse (Sirappu Paayiram) to the oldest of Tamil grammar book Thol Kappiyam uses the word ‘Tamil kooru nal ulagam’, which includes Tirupati and the entire state of Kerala in the geographical area of Thamizhagam. Some of the Tamil poems also say that Tamil was spoken throughout the Navalam Theevu (a word used to refer to India).

The major difference between Tamil Nadu and Thamizhagam is that ‘Thamizhagam’ refers to a geographical area where Tamil is spoken, whereas Tamil Nadu is a political unit which has a separate government and Assembly

Poet Ilango Adigal who composed the most celebrated Tamil epic Silappadikaram in the second century AD uses the word ‘Gunakuda kadal’ (seas in the east and west) as the borders of Thamizhagam. Besides, Thol Kappiyam gives a list of 12 Nadus which were present within Thamizhagam. It includes Pandiya Nadu, Chola Nadu, Chera Nadu, Thondai Nadu, Kongu Nadu and Eezha Naadu.

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Chola Nadu included parts of Mysore, while a majority of Kerala was under Chera Nadu. Kongu Nadu has other parts of Mysore and all of Coimbatore and Salem districts, while Eezha Nadu is a part of Sri Lanka now. In short, Thamizhagam includes Karnataka, entire Kerala, parts of Andhra, and northern Sri Lanka, and is totally different from the present Tamil Nadu.

Si. Pa. Adithanar, the founder of Daily Thanthi, the popular Tamil daily, had formed the Naam Thamizhar party in 1958 with the objective of forming a Tamil sovereign nation comprising Tamil Nadu in India and Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. It is not known if Governor Ravi is aware that Tamil Eelam too was a part of the ancient Thamizhagam. The use of the word Thamizhagam is also inappropriate as it also encompasses Kerala, parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Chola Nadu included parts of Mysore, while a majority of Kerala was under Chera Nadu. Kongu Nadu has other parts of Mysore and all of Coimbatore and Salem districts, while Eezha Nadu is a part of Sri Lanka now. In short, Thamizhagam includes Karnataka, entire Kerala, parts of Andhra, and northern Sri Lanka, and is totally different from the present Tamil Nadu

Staunch Tamil nationalist leader and LTTE supporter Pazha Nedumaran has written a book, titled “Thamizhar Izhandha Mun” (Land lost by Tamils). If the Governor clarifies whether he wants to reorganise the states again and recreate Thamizhgam of the ancient times, he is certain to get support from most of the Tamil nationalist outfits.

But, the Governor seems to be of the view that the word ‘Nadu’ gives an impression that Tamil Nadu is a separate nation. The naming of the state as Tamil Nadu after the reorganisation of the British-era Madras Presidency, was an electoral promise of the DMK which received the people’s mandate for the change in nomenclature through its victory in 1967.

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The Bill renaming the state was passed unanimously in the legislative assembly and was accepted by the union government. If anyone wants to rename the state again, they are free to express and propagate their views. If a party that wants to rename the state as ‘Thamizhagam’ wins power in Tamil Nadu, they are free to do so. But a governor cannot use his constitutional post to propagate his individual views.

In any case, what a governor says has no impact on the people. But the reactions of Chief Minister M K Stalin and his alliance party leaders reach the people and evoke Tamil sentiments among the state’s people. The DMK is using the Governor’s speeches to mobilise people’s support against the BJP government at the Centre and Governor R N Ravi’s actions and speeches are certain to be among the focal points of DMK’s campaign in the 2024 Parliament elections.


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