ln face of the notions of ethnicity and cultural identities much valorized in recent times by societies that often plunge ethnically different communities into conflict situations, this project atte1npts to explore the encounters between three well-defied literate cultures in the early phases of Indian civilization. The cultures referred to here are Sanskrit from north India, and two southern cultures, Tamil and Kannada, which together constitute a piece of history that is worth remembering today. The interface between Sanskrit (whose texts of the first millennium BC are available) and Tami l (some of whose texts available date back to 300 BC) and that between Sanskrit and Kannada (whose first extant written text is of the 7th, century AD) provide, however, a contested cultural space wherein one envisages a constant, continuing recoding-a recoding that confers on each other mutual, albeit fluid identities. While examining the classical Tami l and Kannada texts, my emphasis will be on the intricate, subtle civilizational process involved in the encounter (of these early language cultures). The contemporary reader who is more used to seeing conflicts between different cultures would really be hard put to finding any evidence of this in these texts. What these text record, register does not smack of any deep hostility or resistance to Sanskrit culture, as one is prone to expect when Tamil and Kannada confronted Sanskrit. The encounter very often resulted in quiet and prevalent forms of negotiation, exchange, readjustment, and an excursive poetics of culture as communities came together and lived in close proximity.
It is within this broad theoretical framework that the present study engages itself in exploring the three language cultural texts for themes, motifs, and metaphors which together constitute a truly philosophic poetry or poetic philosophy-reminding us of Wittgenstein's wish that "philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry."