Tamil is one of the two classical languages of India. But unfortunately Tamil studies failed to gain momentum at the international level like Sanskrit. This is because of the paucity of reference material about Tamil language, literarature and culture in international languages like English, French or German. Although attempts have been made by foreign missionaries, foreign scholars and native scholars to translate Tamil classics into European and Asian languages, only a few of the texts have been translated so far. No institutionalised attempts have been taken to introduce the rich literary heritage of the Tamil language to international scholars. Similarly, no systematic attempts have been undertaken to prepare reference material on the rich heritage of the Tamils with a view to cater to the needs of international scholars. As far as Sanskrit is concerned the Royal Asiatic Society established in Calcutta has undertaken this responsibility. Within a period of 150 years most of the Sanskrit classics have been introduced into European languages through translation.
Since there is no institutionalised attempt, the rich literary heritage of the Tamil speaking community has not yet reached International scholarship. The Department of Tamil Studies of this Institute was established with the main intention of promoting academic research on the cultural heritage of the Tamils with a wider international perspective. The aim of this Department is to provide international scholars with adequate research material on Tamil in English. Established in 1983, this Department started preparing basic reference material on Tamil language, literature and culture in English. The first attempt of this Department is the Encyclopaedia of Tamil Literature (in English) - a 10-volume project. It has successfully broughtout the first three volumes and the fourth volume is in print.
With liberal financial assistance extended by Government of Tamil Nadu, this Department has expanded and established three separate wings:
- Encyclopaedia of Tamil Literature division;
- Lexicographical division engaged in the preparation a bilingual Tamil-Tamil-English dictionary in twenty volumes; and
- translation of the Tamil Saivite canon the Panniru Tirumuraikal into English and Hindi.
This Department is also engaged in the translation of the Vaisnavite hymnal corpus namely NAlAyira Tivya Pirapantam into English in six volumes. It is also engaged in the translation of the Christian Tamil epic IraTcanya YAttrikam into English in six volumes. With the help of Dr. Kamil Zvelebil the Department has translated the autobiography of Dr. U.V. Swaminathan Iyer in two volumes under the title The Story of my Life. It is also engaged in bringingout English version of selected Tamil poems in twenty volumes under the title Tamil Poetry through the Ages. The first volume of this book has been published very recently.
The Department of Tamil Studies has published a Word Index for Tamil Literature prepared by Thomas Malten and Thomas Lehmann. It is engaged in the translation of the entire body of Tamil Classic namely Cankam literature. Recently it published the English version of ParipATal.
The Department of Tamil Studies has always been very keen in promoting the research of a high standard pertaining to the social and cultural history of the Tamils. At present , the Department is actively engaged in the preparation of a three-volume project of Tamil Social History of which the first two volumes have already been published and the third volume will also be released by late 1999.
The Department of Tamil Studies has taken up recently another three volume major project on the literary history of the Tamils under the title Countdown From Solomon or: The Tamils Down the Ages Through Their Literature. an outstanding scholar, is entrusted with this task. The authoress entrusted with this task, the outstanding scholar Mrs. Hephzibah Yesudasan, gives a fascinating account of the Tamils based on the their literature. The Department has brought out the first volume of Countdown From Solomon in February 1999; the second volume will be released shortly.
The Department has also published the following books written by the famous indologist Dr. Kamil Zvelebil:
- Ananta-tANDava of Siva SadAnrttamUrti
- Literary Conversions in Akam Poetry
- Tamil Traditions on Subrahmanya Murugan
The Department of Tamil has also published Dr. John Ralston Marr's The Eight Anthologies. It is now engaged in the preparation of a concordance for the Tirukural. Recently it has published a directory on the Contributioon of non-Tamils to Tamil Studies. It will also publish soon A Dictionary of Technical Terms in Tamil literature.
For a full list of publications and information about how to order them, go to the Publications Division page. For more information about Tamil Studies at the Institute of Asian Studies, contact:
Dr. G. John Samuel, Director
Institute of Asian Studies
Sholinganallur Madras 600 119 India