Arcane as this might be, I thought an old, old song that I had been listening to was foreshadowing the theory of evolution and the Tree of Life concept. It was a Malayalam poem, composed by Poonthanam Namboodiri of whom little is known, beyond a few barebones biographical details. The singer was a well-known playback singer in South Indian films with a solid background in Carnatic classical music, P.Leela. (The lyrics in question are sung at approximately 2:30 into this clip)
(Translation from 'Jnanapaana' - or 'Pot of Knowledge' by Poonthanam Namboodiri)
"Ethra janama prayasa pettittu ikkala,
Mathra vannu pirannu sukruthathal,
Ethra janmam malathil kazhinjadum,
Ethra janmam jalathil kazhinjadum,
Ethra janmam mannil kazhinjadum,
Ethra janmam marangalayi ninnadum,
Ethra janmam marichu nadannathum,
Ethra janmam parannu nadannathum,
Ethra janmam mrigangal pasukkalayi,
Marthya janmathil mumbe kazhichu nam."
/What an effort we put to be born now,
Because of the good deeds that we did?
Many lives have we spent in shit, (I think this might be better thought of a 'primordial mud', with my translation bias assuming that this is indeed a foreshadowing)
Many lives have we spent in water,
Many lives have we spend in mud, (I think that this should have been translated as 'on the ground')
Many lives have we spent as trees,
Many lives have we moved around afraid of death,
Many lives have we spent as birds,
And many lives have we spent as beasts and cows,
Before we were born as men/.
On listening to the lines, it struck me that the poet might have known of Darwin's theory and its implications, or the Tree of Life concept
when he composed those lines, (some 'me-tooism' in which Indians like to indulge) , but was surprised to find he was from the 17th century, not the 19th.
"Poonthanam Nampoothiri (1547-1640AD) Malayalam devotional poet, lived in Keezhattoor near Perinthalmanna in Malappuram district of Kerala.
He was a famous devotee of Lord Krishna (Guruvayurappan) . He is remembered for his masterpiece, Njanappaana which means 'the song of wisdom' in Malayalam.
Poonthanam was the family name, his personal name is not known."
Maybe he was taking an extended page out of the Sankhya view of the evolution of matter. Either way, it was interesting to hear these modern seeming lines
in an old poem.
What did the ancients know, and when did they know it?