“Those who recite the sound Om, (activates deathless Light in the body) and becomes radiant (amar su-ti-a)”
~ Temple Hymn 31 (Source)
The mantra Om or “AUM” is typically associated with the Hindu tradition and is considered the primordial sound, one of the most ancient and sacred mantras. (You can read more about its sacred meaning here.)
With this in mind, we were surprised and excited to come across a possible reference to this mantra in a Sumerian text from c. 2300 BCE – potentially over a thousand years older than the earliest references to it in Vedic literature. If true, the implications of this discovery are enormous.
Dr. K. Loganathan, a researcher in SumeroTamil studies believes that there is a strong link between the ancient Tamil language and ancient Sumerian and that Sumerian is, in fact, Archaic Tamil. Based on this hypothesis, he has developed a method for translating Sumerian tablets by matching a phonological reading of the cuneiform script with the ancient Tamil language, which he believes leads to a more accurate translation than the currently used widespread approach.
For example, Dr. Loganathan cites the following line from Temple Hymn 31 with the conventionally-accepted translation:
[umbin]-se-ba amar su-ti-a ( Who snatches the calf with (his) [cla]ws )
However, by matching these words with ancient Tamil, a very different (and intriguing) meaning emerges:
Ta. Ombi-in isaiba amar sootiya ( Who recites this mantra sound Om (Ombi-in-isai), lights up (sutiya) deathlessness (amar) )
Those who recite the sound Om, (activates deathless Light in the body) and becomes radiant (amar su-ti-a)
Dr Loganathan also indicates additional lines that refer to people specifically uttering the sound (i.e., chanting a mantra).
Again in the lines below, the first example is the conventional translation while the second is interpreted from Ancient Tamil.
Traditional translation: [tu-tu-ba-lu] su-ti-a ( Who catches [a man in his net]
SumeroTamil translation: Ta. tuuttuba uLu -sootiya ( Illuminates those people who utter it *tuuttu-bi-a)
Traditional translation: [kala-ga gu-ab-ba] su-ti-a ( [The strong one] who snatches [the bull]
SumeroTamil translation: Ta. kalai-ka kuuvappa sootiya ( The art of uttering that gains inner light)
If Dr. Loganathan’s research is correct, there are many profound implications for those interested in ancient Sumeria, ancient India, and spirituality in general.
The earliest Hindu reference to the mantra OM is in the Rigveda, c. 1500-1200 BCE. The Sumerian text containing the lines above (Temple Hymn 31) date from 2300 BCE, meaning this reference to OM could predate the Hindu reference by almost 1,000 years! If true, this mantra has much older roots and origins than the Vedas and seems to have been recognized as spiritually significant in cultures beyond the Hindu and Buddhist (as is commonly perceived today).
When reading through the translated Sumerian cuneiform tablets, other similarities between the Hindu and Sumerian cultures are at times quite evident, such as for instance a description of the goddess Inana that sounds remarkably similar to the Hindu Kali, a divine female goddess representing the sacred role of the Destroyer.
What could similarities like this mean? Do they hint at a possible transference of religion and tradition from ancient Mesopotamia and into the Hindu world? Or perhaps they hint at something entirely different — evidence of a universal sacred spirituality that was practiced and revered across cultures through the ages? This possibility is often lost in the arguments of which religion copied which and so on.
We contacted Dr. Loganthan to ask him several questions about his research, and we thought we would share some of his responses here for those interested in more information about his methodology.
Q1: Link between Old Tamil and Sumerian
In your analysis of the Temple Hymns, linked to above, and in your other publications, I noticed you are quoting a line of the Sumerian text followed by a line in Tamil.
What I would like to understand is, where is the Tamil version of the text coming from?
A: The Ta readings I give are reconstructions based upon the readings given by the Sumeriologists of the cuneiform script. Let me illustrate the point with an example:
For this let me take the following sentence from Sulgi Hymn B (C. 2000 BC)
- tur-mu-de e-dub-ba-a-a am ( Since my very youth, I belonged to edubba)
The Tamil reconstruction would be :
Ta. tur-mutee il tubbaiya aa aam ( Since my very youth I attended the tablet house(school))
You can see that the Tamil reconstruction though based upon the original reading of the cuneiform script is actually a kind of Tamil also, a Tamil I call Archaic Tamil. There are many rules for such reconstructions that I have listed at:
Q2: Other References to Spiritual Practices in Sumerian Texts?
I would be also fascinated to know if you have discovered any other references to spiritual practices of any kinds in Sumerian texts — chanting of mantras, meditation, visualization, Yoga, or anything else that may be of interest.
A: Oh yes. There are many including Yoga practices. I have pointed out many of these in my studies uploaded at the following website. Please explore.
We found it incredibly interesting that much from the Sumerian Cuneiform tablets that may seem uneventful or mundane suddenly reveals a wealth of spiritually significant information when translated using Dr. Loganathan’s method, such as this discovery of the practice and sacred understanding of the mantra Om.
Dr. Loganthan’s work therefore seems quite fascinating, and is perhaps a way to unlock the true sacred teachings hidden and locked away in the many translated and yet-to-be translated Sumerian tablets.
Research for this post contributed by Justin Norris, Vida Norris, Jordan Resnick, and Jenny Resnick.