Senses are physiological capacities of organisms that provide data for perception. It’s the subtle instincts that guide the living being throughout its entire life. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology (or cognitive science), and philosophy of perception. Many have attempted to classify the senses of various living beings especially humans. It is interesting to know that this classification of beings based on the numbers of senses, has been found 3 millennium years ago by ancient Tamil literature Tholkappiyam.
Tholkappiyam classifies the living beings based on the senses they use predominantly, in the section called Marabiyal (Marabu – generally accepted practices since old days, culture, tradition. Iyal – Research work, Science). The poems in each called Suthirams (Formula) describe about various aspects of grammar, habitat, etc.
Ondru Arivathuve Uttru Arivathuve
Irandu Arivathuve Athanodu Naave
Mondru Arivathuve Avattrodu Mooke
Naangu Arivathuve Avattrodu Kanne
Ainthu Arivathuve Avattrodu Seviye
Aaru Arivathuve Avattrodu Manane
Nerithin Unarnthor Neripaduthinare – (Tholkappiyam – Porul 571)
Ondru, Irandu, Moondru, Naangu, Ainthu, Aaru : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 respectively
Arivathu : Know, feel, realise, sense
Uttru : Touch, come into contact
Athanodu : Along with some other thing (usually when the number of objects is two)
Avattrodu : Along with some other things (usually when the number of objects is more than two)
Naavu : Tongue, in this context, taste
Mookku : Nose (for sense Smell)
Kann : Eye (Sight)
Sevi : Ear (Hearing)
Manam : Mind
Ner Ithu : The truth – GOD
Unarnthor : People who realised the truth of God (Meignyanam-Divine Knowledge)
Neripaduthinare : Classified and organised the life
Full Meaning : beings with one sense are those that have the sense of TOUCH. Beings with two senses are those that have the sense of TASTE along with the above. Beings with three senses, have sense of SMELL in addition. Beings with four senses, have sense of SIGHT, along with the above. Beings with five senses, have sense of HEARING, in addition. The beings with six senses, have a MIND, along with the above. The people who have realised the truth of God through divine knowledge have classified and organised the life appropriately.
Tholkappiyam, does not stop with this classification alone, it’s also gives examples of beings in each of these classifications :
“Pullum Maranum Ore Arivinave;
Piravum Ulave Akkilai Pirappe” – Tholkappiyam 1527
Grass (Pul) and Trees (Maram) have single sense, that is the sense of touch. Similar beings also form part of this branch (kilai).
“Nandhum Muralum Eer Arivinave;
Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappe” - Tholkappiyam 1528
Snails (Nandhu) and Oysters or Molluscs (Mural) have two senses,the sense of touch and taste. Similar beings also form part of this branch (kilai).
“Sidhalum Erumbum Moo Arivinave;
Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappe” - Tholkappiyam 1529
Termites (Sidhal) and Ants (Erumbu) have three senses, the sense of touch, taste and smell. Similar beings also form part of this branch (kilai).
“Nandum Thumbiyum Naangu Arivinave;
Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappe” - Tholkappiyam 1530
Crabs or Crustaceans (Nandu) and Dragonfly or Beetles (Thumbi) have four senses, the sense of touch, taste, smell and vision. Similar beings also form part of this branch (kilai).
“Maavum Maakkalum Aindhu Arivinave;
Piravum Ulavae Akkilai Pirappe” - Tholkappiyam 1531
Horses, Elephants, Pigs (Maa) and Other similar animals and birds (Maakkal) have five senses, the sense of touch, taste, smell, vision and hearing. Similar beings also form part of this branch (kilai).
“Makkalthamae Aaru Arivu Uyire;
Piravum Ulave Akkilai Pirappe” - Tholkappiyam 1532
Only humans have six senses, the sense of touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing and mind. Similar beings also form part of this branch (kilai).
Sixth Sense of Ancient Tamils (Meignyanam)
Sixth sense, or subtle perception ability, is our ability to understand the subtle cause and effect relationship behind many events, which is beyond the understanding of the intellect. Extrasensory perception (ESP), clairvoyance, premonition, intuition are synonymous with sixth sense or subtle perception ability.
Tholkappiyam is said to be the First in the world to describe the sixth sense which related to external body parts. Tholkappiyam verses explanation above is truly an amazing classification and proves that our Tamil ancestors not only an expert in literature and grammar, but obtained higher spiritual knowledge that is progressively of more universal need and of lasting importance in terms of a time span of centuries.
The way of life of ancient Tamils which was associated with nature and worship practices shown clearly in Tholkappiyam and other Sangam Literatures. From the early origins, Tamils have always gave priority to the belief in God. According to another verse from Tholkappiyam under karuporul (culture of the people), God was prioritised first, followed by food.
According to Tamils original religion Saivam, God created various types of Worlds from Maayai and gave suitable bodies to Souls, to inhabit these worlds. Souls were anaathi before creation and God’s motive for creation is to help delete aanavam from souls and prepares them to attain a suitable state to receive veeduperu (mukthi) by imparting spiritual knowledge.
Worshiping supreme being God with true devotion, is one way to achieve gnyanam which means to “realise” God. During this period the soul develops the ability to receive spiritual nature of knowledge from subtle bodies imparted by God, and the longing to “realise” him increases.
Receiving Divine knowledge from the Universal Mind and Universal Intellect (i.e. the mind and intellect aspects of God) is of the highest kind. When the soul attains spiritual maturity, God will come as a guru and impart knowledge. Ancient Tamil Literature’s such as Tholkappiyam, Thirukkural, Thirumanthiram are some of the examples of this divine knowledge.
It is no surprise that the Tamil Culture having an ancient history that spans over thousands of years to have made this classification and much more. Tholkappiyam in our hands is what we need to be proud of and we can proclaim it to the world for generations to come that our Tamil culture, tradition and civilisation has a long standing history that only a handful of other cultures have in this world.