Dravidian Religion

Of the five continents, Asia alone is the birthplace of the Major World Religions. Of the existing major religions, Jainism, Buddhism, Six-fold religion (Saivism, Vaishnavism, Saktham, Gowmarram, Ganapathyam, Sowram) and Sikhism were founded in India. Other religions like Israelites' religion, Judaism, Christianity and Islam were founded in Asia but outside India.

The common father of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Israelites' religion was Abraham (Ibrahim). The Bible says that Abraham was from a place called 'Ur' 1, the Capital of the Sumerian Kings. 'Ur ' is a Tamil word for a village or a town.

It is said in the Bible that eight persons of the family of Noah, who is the forefather of Abraham, alone escaped from the flood since they were in the ark.2 When Noah's Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, those eight people who were in the ark, started multiplying and moving towards other areas and their culture and language spread whereever they went.

"Now the whole world had one language and one speech. And it came to pass as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwell there."3

According to recent research, Sumerians were not the original inhabitants of Sumeria but came from outside and settled there. The following statements further explain it.

"At some time before the dawn of history, people whom we called Sumerians moved into Babylonia from the East."4

says George A. Barton.

It is given in 'The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia' that the Sumerians have cultural links with the Indus Valley culture of India as follows.

"The original homeland of the Sumerians is unknown, but there is no question that they did enter Mesopotamia from outside area. Their language includes many non-Sumerian words for basic economic concepts such as farmer, herdsman etc.,.......... One theory is that the Sumerians came from the mountainous region to the north east. Most scholars, however, believe that the Sumerians arrived via the Persian gulf, because the concentration of the Sumerian population in historic times was in what is now Southern Iraq. Early Sumerian history also shows signs of cultural links with the Indus Valley culture of India."5

It should be noted that Indus Valley civilization is of the Dravidians.

The teakwood from Chera country found in the place called 'Ur' the capital of the Sumerian Kings shows the trade relationship between South India and Sumeria before 4000 B.C. says Sayce.6 K.K. Pillai points out the trade relationship between Babylonians and the Tamilians noted on the clay plaques were found in Nippur in Babylonia. They also give evidence for the settlement of Tamilians in Babylon7.

P.T. Srinivasa Iyengar quotes H.R. Hall and further explains it as follows.

"Says H.R.Hall, 'And it is to this Dravidian ethnic type of India that the ancient Sumerian bears most resemblance, so far as we can judge from his monuments. He was very like a Southern Hindu of the Dekkan (who still speaks Dravidian languages)."8

Apart from these, there are ample evidences that show the relationship between the Dravidians and the Sumerians.9

Dravidian Memorial Stone

One of the ancient Dravidian worships that could be seen in the Dravidian religions is the 'memorial stone worship.' The memorial stone found in the Indus Valley worship is called Sivalinka . The term Sivalinka was coined in the later period (after 3rd c.A.D.) but this worship is very ancient.

In the term 'Sivalinka', Siva denotes God of love10and linka means symbol. Hence the term 'Sivalinka' means symbol of love or symbol of God11. The term belongs to a later period. It is totally misinterpreted and degraded by the Aryans as a phallic symbol, since it is an object of Dravidian worship.12

The Dravidian worship is the basis for the Dravidian religions. The Indus Valley civilization shows the Ancient Dravidian worship explicitly. In India there existed many forms of worship and religions. Worship is universal but religion requires literature, philosophy or theology. A distinction between worship and religion is made on this basis.

Indus Valley Worship

In the Indus Valley civilization people worshipped God in semiform (Memorial stone worship), female form, demigods form..... Many memorial stones called Sivalinkas (which mean symbol of love or God) are excavated in Harappa and Mohenjadaro and Ring Stones and symbols like Swastika etc., occur. Mother goddess worship or female worship played a significant role in the Indus Valley. Usually the goddesses and gods are symbolically represented by horns on their heads. Sacrifice did take place in the Indus Valley worship . Bull is often seen on the Indus Valley seals and trees are venerated as they are very often seen on the seals.13

Jainism and Buddhism (6th c. B.C.)

In Jainism and Buddhism, the memorial stone worship is known as Stupa. In memory of Buddha, Mahavir, and the Buddhist and Jain Teachers, they installed the stupas and worshipped them. Ayagapathas, snakes, trees and many symbols are there and are given a significant place.

Ancient Dravidian Worship

Reference about Ancient Dravidian Worship can be seen in the ancient Tamil literature known as the Sankam literature, which is dated between 3rd c.B.C. and 3rd c.A..D. and can be extended up to the 7th c.A.D. In this worship the memorial stones are known as Kanthu14. People offered sacrifice and worshipped God in female and male form. Amongst the gods and goddesses, Kotravai (goddess of Victory) and Velan played a vital role, and hero worship was prevalent then.

Six-fold Religion

Ancient Dravidian Worship was later on developed into Six-fold religion and the worship of Sivalinka is developed in different angles in these Six-fold religion.

The Memorial stone worship, the ancient Dravidian worship was also seen in the Dravidian religions which developed outside India since they are all the branches of Dravidian religion. Besides these memorial stones there are many more objects which have correlations amongst the Indus Valley worship and the other Dravidian religious worships which developed outside India.

The following are the Dravidian religions that developed outside India

  1. The Religion of the Israelites
  2. Judaism
  3. Christianity and
  4. Islam.

Israelite worship and religion

Memorial stone worship is widely prevalent in Israelite worship and it is known as a stone pillar in the Old Testament of the Bible. For instance, when Jacob had a vision, he took the stone which was kept as a pillow by him while he slept on the way, and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it, and he said,

'and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that thou givest me I will give the tenth to thee'15

A stone pillar stands as witness between Laban and Jacob.16
Before Moses went up on the mount Sinai, he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel and an altar.17
When the Israelites passed over Jordan, Joshua set up 12 stones in the midst of Jordan.18

Also Joshua set up a stone under an oak and the following verses explain about it.

`And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.

And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.'19

Samuel set up a stone in Ebenezer and worshipped God.20 Hence, the stone pillar worship was widely prevalent in the Israelite worship.

Stone Pillar, Altar and Calf

Jeroboam, the king of Israel, set a calf in Bethel and another one in Dan and offered sacrifices upon the altar.21So in the Israelite worship memorial stone, sacrificial altar and Calf were present and these three are present in the Saivite temples of India.

According to historical analysis, the earliest instance for the form of worship mentioned above is found in the Bible from the period of Jacob to Hosea (approx. 1700 B.C.-722 B.C.), whereas the Saivite temples which also have the memorial stone, altar and calf are found in the post-Christian era.


In Judaism, instead of memorial stone worship, temple worship is seen. Instead of placing a stone and worshipping God, they built a temple which was built of many stones and offered sacrifice upon the altar and worshipped God. In Judaism, a single memorial stone worship had developed into a temple and there are no stone pillars and the image of the calf inside the temple.

Indus Valley and Old Testament

Reference to the tree Moreh finds a place in the Old Testament. People gathered under the tree to hear the word of God. God revealed Himself to Abraham under the tree.22 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer - Sheba and there called on the name of the Lord.23 People made Abimelech as a King beside the great tree at the pillar in shechem.24 Joshua installed a pillar under the Oak in the sanctuary of the Lord and worshipped God.25 The bones of King Saul and his sons were buried under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh.26 People made offerings upon the hills under Oak, Poplar, and Terebinth.27

As in the Indus Valley worship, the figures with horns represent divinity, the horns represent divinity (god), ruling authority (King) and Teaching authority (Guru) in Sumeria and Babylonia too, says Marshall.28

In the Old Testament, the horns represent power, victory and ruling power.29 The loss of power, victory or ruling power were symbolically represented by the cutting off of the horns.30

In Babylonia, seals bearing the figures of deities with horns and in Palestine deities with horns have been excavated. Graven stones like Ring Stones which are found in the Indus Valley were also seen in the Israelite's worship.31 Many such similarities occur between the Indus Valley worship and the Israelite worship which observed the elements of the Sumerian, Egyptian, Cannanite .....worships.


The Dravidian memorial stone worship as was found among the Israelites, attained its fulfillment in Christ and he is referred to as the living stone in Christianity.

"Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious....
Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a corner stone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame "

Referring to the 'Son of God' as living stone in Christianity leads to the ideology of calling everyone of us as the temple of God.

"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells in you?"33

"For we are the temple of the living God."34

This same concept is also in Saivism.35


The same memorial stone worship could be seen in the Islamic worship also.36 Amongst the five important duties of a Muslim, one is to pay a visit to Mecca and worship there.
The Encyclopedia Britannica elucidates;

Every Muslim who makes pilgrimage is required to walk around the Ka'bah seven times, during which process he kisses and touches the black stone ... Muslims consider the Ka'bah the most sacred spot on earth and they recite their prayers looking in its direction...37

In Mecca there is Ka'bha (or Qaaba) and a black stone (memorial stone) and, it is believed to be the Old Sivalinka. Malkani says:

"Also much of what passes for Islam is Pre - Mohammedan Arab tribal customs, Qaaba, says Syed, is believed to be an old Shivalinka."38

A person who reaches Mecca for worship he should change his clothes whoever he may be and wear only white dhoti and a white towel which are unstitched, go around the Ka'bha again and again and kiss the memorial stone as a mark of his worship. They claim that they worship in the way their forefather Abraham (Ibrahim) worshipped.

Scholars are of the opinion that wearing unstitched white dhoti and a white towel and going around a stone kissing and worshipping it, are the Tamilian or the Dravidian method of worship. Thus we find the memorial stone worship in all the Dravidian religions. There are many such historical links found among these religions since they are the developments of the same religion.

The term 'Dravidian religion' is based on the Dravidian race and includes all the religions which take their origin from the Dravidians.


  1. Genesis 11:31
  2. Genesis 8
  3. Genesis 11:1 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
  4. George A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, American Sunday School Union, 3rd ed.,      Philadelphia,1920
  5. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia - Vol IV, Goefrey W. Bromiley (Gen.        Ed.) and others, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans publishing company, Grand                      Rapids, Reprinted        1991.
  6. K.K. Pillai, Tamilaka Varalaru - Makkalun Panpadum, Madras Tamil Nadu Text Book        Society, 1972, Pp.49-50
  7. Ibid - P.49
  8. P.T. Srinivasa Iyengar, History of the Tamils, (from the earliest times to 600 A.D.), New Delhi, Asian Educational Services, 1982, _Pp. 36-37.
  9. (i) Ernest Mackay, Early Indus Civilzation, New Delhi Indological Book corporation, 1976 (ii) D. Devakala Jothimani, Origin and development of Tamil Bhakti Movement ( in the light of Bible) (in Tamil), Dept of Christian Tamil literature, University of Madras, 1993.
  10. Thirumular Thirumantiram p.257
  11. 'Sivalinka Worship in Bible', 'Dravida Samayam', October 1994 - Research Movement for the study of   Dravidian Religion, Chennai -23
  12. Rigveda, vii : 21 : 5; and x.99.3 'Sisna devas'
  13. (i) Ernest Mackay, Op.Cit.,  (ii) JohnMarshall, Mohenjodaro and the IndusCivilization Vol&Vol.II,Arthur Probsthin, London - 1931.
  14. (i) Pattinappaalai - pp. 246 -249  (ii)Purananooru - 52 : 12-13
  15. Genesis 28 : 16-22; 35:14
  16. Genesis 31:41-48
  17. Exodus 24:4
  18.   Joshua 4:9
  19. Joshua 24:26,27 King James Version (KJV)
  20. 1 Samuel 7:12
  21. 1Kings 12:28-33  Genesis 13:18
  22. Genesis 21:33
  23. Judges 9:6
  24. Joshua 24:26
  25. 1 Samuel 31:12,13
  26. Hosea 4:13
  27. John Marshall, Op.Cit., Vol.I, P.55
  28. Deuteronomy 33:17; Micah 4:13; Psalms 92:10
  29. Jeremiah 48:25
  30. Leviticus 26:1
  31. 1 Peter 2 : 4
  32. .I Corinthians 3:16 (RSV)
  33. II Corinthians 6:16 (RSV)
  34. Thirumular Thirumantiram 1821
  35. .Gnana Robinson, 'Isravelar Samayam', T.T.B.C, C.L.S., Madras. P.62
  36. . Encyclopaedia Britannica-Vol.5, Micropaedia, 15th (Ed), 1982.
  37. . K.R. Malkani, 'Why a Separate Sindh', Indian Express, Madras, February 2,1992

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Dr. M. Deivanayagam
Dr. D. Devakala

The Revival Movement of Dravidian Religion