Tamil  Language &  Tamil Literature - தமிழ் மொழி, தமிழ் இலக்கியம், தமிழ் இலக்கனம்

தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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CONTENTS
OF THIS SECTION
Last updated
01/01/09


Thamizh Literature Through the Ages - Professor C.R. Krishnamurti

A History of Tamil Literature  - Mu Varadarajan, Translated from the Tamil by E.Sa.Visswanathan,

Tamil Literature at Project Madurai


Eelam Tamil Literature

A Brief Tamil Literature Guide
Pazha Mozhi -  Tamil Proverbs
Tamil Research Articles & Rare Works  - Dr.N.Ganesan
Tamil Digital Library Network
Tamil Language & Literature e-Hand Book at Research Centre for Indian Languages Technology Solutions - Tamil
Ancient Tamil Literature - Father Xavier S. Thaninayagam "...The poetry belonging to the age before and immediately after the composition of Tolkaappiyam has not come down to us. What have reached us are the Ten Idylls (Pattuppaattu) and the Eight Anthologies (Ettuttokai) which are collections of poems composed after Tolkaappiyam by various poets, most of whom belonged to one single epoch. Most of this poetry was composed before the second century A.D. These poems, however, do not exactly belong to a Golden or Augustan Age of Tamil literature as has been supposed. Indications point to their being the efforts of an age when decades of convention were setting limits and marking boundaries to poetic inspiration, and preventing the free and unfettered beat of the poets' wings. Nevertheless, it is a great and spacious age in Tamil literature..."
Research in Tamil Studies - Father Xavier S. Thaninayagam
The Tamil Poetry of the Inner World - Meena Natarajan
Timeless Gems of Wisdom from Ancient Tamil Literature at Penkatali

Sangam Period
சங்க காலம்

Some Remarks on Dating of Sangam poetry - Professor George Hart

Poetry in a Landscape - the World of Sangam  Literature, Francois Gros, UNESCO Courier, March, 1984

Grammatical Works including Tolkapiyam - தொல்காப்பியம்
Tolkapiyar's Literary Theory - T.P.Meenakshisundaram
Eight Anthologies - எட்டுத்தொகை
Puranaanuuru Search Engine
Ten Idylls - பத்துப்பாட்டு
Index of Translations of Ancient Tamil Sangam-Poetry - Ulrike Niklas in collaboration with Sascha Ebeling
Ancient Tamil Society as reflected in Sangam Literature - Asiff Husein, 2002
Tamil Heroic Poetry: A Comparative Study - K.Kailasapathy

Didactic Period
நீதிநூல் காலம்

pathinenkIzhkaNakku - 'bottom 18 of the anthology series'
Thiruvalluvar's Thirukural - திருக்குறள்
Auvayar - ஔவையார் நூல்கள்
உலகநாதரின் உலக நீதி -  ulakanAtar's ulakanIti
வெற்றிவேற்கை & நன்னெறி
நீதிநெறி விளக்கம் -
(ஸ்ரீகுமரகுருபர சுவாமிகள்

 Epic Period
 இலக்கிய காலம்

Ilanko's Cilapathikaram - இலங்கோவின் சிலப்பதிகாரம்
Manimekalai - மணிமேகலை
SIvaka chin^thAmaNi - சீவக சிந்தாமணி
வளையாபதி - vaLaiyApati
KuNdala kEsi - குண்டலகேசி
ஐஞ்சிறுகாப்பியம் - சூளாமணி
நளவெண்பா: naLaveNpA

Devotional Period
 
பக்தி காலம்

Twelve Thirumurai  - பன்னிரண்டு திருமுறைகள்
Abiraami Andhaahthi
The Naalaayira Divya Prabandham

ChOzha Period
சோழர் காலம்

Kamba Ramayanam - கம்ப ராமாயணம்
Periya PuraNam - பெரியபுராணம்
Auvaiyar - ஒளவயார்

Philosophical Lterary Period
தத்துவ காலம்

Thayumanavar
aruNakiri n^Athar - அருணகிரிநாதர்

Thamizh Puranangal
தமிழ் புராணங்கள்

Periyapuranam
Kantha Puranam (கந்தபுராணம்)

IslAmic and Christian Contributions to Thamizh Literature

Tamil Renaissance
தமிழ் மறுமலர்ச்சி

Vallalar - இராமலிங்க அடிகள்
MahA VidwAn MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai
Subramaniya Bharathy - மகாகவி சுப்ரமணிய பாரதி
Kalki R.Krishnamurthy - கல்கி
Arumuga Navalar
C.W.Thamotherampillai
U.V.Swaminatha Iyer
Bharathidasan
Nammakal Ramalingam Pillai
Kannadasan
 -  கவியரசு கண்ணதாசன்
Vedanayagampillai
Devaneya Pavanar
- மொழி ஞாயிறு தேவநேயப் பாவாணர்
The Tamil Plutarch
A Summary Account of the Lives of the Poets and Poetesses of Southern India and Ceylon
-
Simon Casie Chetty,1859

....to the Present Day

New writing in Tamil - S. Ramakrishnan, March 1984
Akilan
A Look at the World of Tamil Fiction - Govardhanan Ramachandran
K. P. Aravindan  - Two Poems – Translated by Geetha Ramaswami "Aravindan was born in 1953 at Jaffna, Srilanka. He left home at the age of seventeen to became a freedom fighter and now lives in exile in France. His poems have been collected and published in three volume.."
அன்புடன் புகாரி, கனடா
Ashokamitran
Dr. S.Jayabarathi
Jeyakanthan
  -
ஜெயகாந்தன்
Ki.Va.Jagannathan
Gangai Amaran  
கங்கை அமரன்
Gnaanakkooththan KavidhaigaL
Hari Krishnan
K.Kailasapathy
S.Mani (Mowni)
Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram - பட்டுக்கோட்டை கல்யாணசுந்தரம்
V. Kandavanam
Rajam Krishnan
V.N.Giritharan
C.S.Lakshmi
Mu Mehta
 - மு. மேத்தா
M.A.Nuhuman
Mu Ponnambalam
S.Ponnudurai
Pulamaipithan
 - புலவர் புலமைப்பித்தன்
Puthumaippiththan
Puthuvai Ratnathurai
Mahavidwan R. Raghava Iyengar
T.M. Chidambara Ragunathan
Maha Vidwan Raghava Iyyengar
Sirpi Balasubramaniam
Chellathurai Sivagnanasundaram - Nandhi
Sivasankari
Prof N Subbu Reddiar
K.Subramaniam - kA.cu
Sujatha Rangarajan
Sundara Ramasamy
Raj Swarnan
Vembu Vikiraman
Vairamuthu  - கவிப்பேரரசு வைரமுத்து
கவிஞர் வாலி

Poetry

Translating Tamil Dalit Poetry - Anushiya  Sivanarayanan, May 2004  "...Rajkumar is one of the more popular Dalit poets and has been published in both mainstream Tamil literary publications as well as Dalit publications. In a recent interview with me, he admitted that his choice of subject in the poems translated here - in which he details the ancient injustices done to Dalit women and draws connections to the present - was deliberate, personal, and ultimately political. “I belong to the Kanniya caste: people traditionally associated with magic and exorcism within rural Tamil culture. My earliest memories are of searching for herbs in the forest, and of walking behind my father, carrying the materials needed for ceremonies.” 
Thamizh Madal  - poems by contemporary Thamizh poets
Tamil Poems
Tsunami & an Outpouring of Poems - Kavithaikal - சுனாமி கவிதைகள் "The healing power of poetry - the Truth that lives within each and every one of us; the Truth that always liberates and never dies..."
Vaarpu - A bi-weekly Magazine for Tamil Poems

Libraries

Tamil Electronic Library K.Kalyanasundaram
20th Century Tamil Authors & their Works - K.Kalyanasundaram
Tamil Literature Page - Geetha Ramasamy
Pandyan - Manual of Spoken Tamil
Roja Muthiah Research Library
Tanjore Maharaja Serfoji's Sarasvati Mahal Library  
தமிழகத்தில் தட்சிணாமூர்த்தியும், பத்மபாணி அவலோகிதரும் - Dr.N.Ganesan

Institutions

Tamil Virtual University, Chennai
SriPedia Initiative
Tamil Heritage Foundation 
Institute of Asian Studies (Chennai)
International Tamil Language Foundation "..The International Tamil Language Foundation with the motto Enrich through Tamil strives to develop and maintain the traditions of Tamil language and culture in the U.S.A. and other nations.."
International Association of Tamil Research - Malaysia - Sivagurunathan Chinniah

Other sites

Centre of Excellence for Classical Tamil
Tamil Portals & E-Zines
In Print and On the Net: Tamil Literary Canon and Identity in the Colonial and Post-Colonial Worlds - A.R.Venkatachalapathy, Madras Institute of Development Studies
Tamil Ilakkanam  - to read the Tamil pages at this site, you may need to download and install the alayarsi font from here
Tamil Contributions to the English Language
Ezil Nila in Unicode - Mahen
TCwords
encouraging worldwide participation in coining Tamil computing words
Ithazhalil Inayam -Natkeeran
Tamil Nadu Home Page - Siddharthan Ramachandramurthi
Tamil - A historical and linguistic perspective - Chelliah
Tamil Language and Literature - Dr. Benjamin Walker
Tamil Literature in Wikpedia
Tamil E-Books in PDF
Tamil Language Books and Other Resources
Searching Classical Tamil Literature
Interactive CD on Tamil Literature
Lutesong & Lament: Tamil writings from Sri Lanka

TAMIL LANGUAGE & LITERATURE

"தமிழின் மேன்மை அதன் தொன்மையில் இல்லை - தொடர்ச்சியில் உள்ளது"

".... probably the most significant contribution (of the Tamils) is that of Tamil literature, which still remains to be 'discovered' and enjoyed by the non Tamilians and adopted as an essential and remarkable part of universal heritage. If it is true that liberal education should 'liberate' by demonstrating the cultural values and norms foreign to us, by revealing the relativity of our own values, then the 'discovery' and enjoyment of Tamil literature, and even its teaching ... should find its place in the systems of Western training and instruction in the humanities.." Kamil Zvelebil in The Smile of Murugan : On Tamil Literature of South India

'Tamil, one of the two classical languages of  India, is the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past.'A. K. Ramanujan in The Interior Landscape : Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology (1967)


It is impossible to begin writing about Tamil language and Tamil literature on the world wide web without paying tribute to the pioneering work of Dr. Bala Swaminathan, Dr.Gnanasekar Swaminathan,  Dr. Vijayakumar Sinnathurai and Krishnaswamy Srinivasan in Canada, Kuppuswamy Kalyanasundaram in Switzerland,  Naa. Govindasamy in Singapore,Muthulilan Nedumaran and  Sivagurunathan Chinniah in Malaysia, Siddharthan Ramachandramurthi, P.Kumar Mallikarjunan in USA, and Sinniah Ilanko in New Zealand.

Dr. Sundara Pandian, Dr. Meenan Vishnu and C.R. Selvakumar in Canada, amongst others, contributed to the formation of the Soc.Culture.Tamil newsgroup which provided an early electronic forum for discussion on Tamil language, literature and culture. The work of the SCT, and the efforts of  Kumar Kumarappan in California, led to the establishment of the first Tamil Chair in North America at the University of California at Berkeley. The efforts of Jeyachandran Kopinath in Norway, also reflect the contribution that the struggle for Tamil Eelam has made to this digital Tamil renaissance.

Amongst non Tamils, the contributions of Dr. Kamil.V. Zvelebil from Czechoslovakia, Thomas Malten in Germany, Peter Schalk at  Uppsala University in Sweden, George Hart  at the University of California, Berkeley,  Harold Schiffman in Pennsylvania and Jean-Luc Chevillard in Paris are significant.

Websites devoted to the teaching of Tamil have also begun to appear. The call for a common standard for Tamil font encoding is a reflection of the felt need to render communication in Tamil easy and simple in this digital age. Efforts at achieving an uniform transliteration scheme have also increased in momentum.

Project Madurai launched by Dr.Kalyanasundaram on Thai Pongal Day 1998 is an open and voluntary initiative to collect and publish free electronic editions of ancient tamil literary classics.

Dr.Kalyanasundaram's Tamil Electronic Library  is a labour of love and Tamils everywhere will acknowledge his contribution with gratitude. It is perhaps appropriate therefore that this web page on Tamil language and literature should contain a poem by Bharathidasan which Dr.Kalyanasundaram has featured in his web site.

inbathamil.gif (15183 bytes)

In February 1999, the Tamil Nadu government declared its intention to set up an Internet Research Centre and a Tamil Virtual University. In June 1999, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi announced that the Tamil Virtual University would be headed by Dr.V.C.Kulandaisamy, former Vice Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University and that work on the Internet Research Centre was progressing well. The University was inaugurated in February 2001 and provides a growing number of Tamil related courses.

The "Pongal-2000" Project is a collaborative undertaking of the Institute of Asian Studies (Madras), the Institute for Indology and Tamil Studies of the University of Cologne and the University of California-Berkeley, and is directed to creating an electronic compilation of Tamil texts - the Online Tamil Lexicon (OTL) - as well as a Tamil Text Thesaurus (TTT). The stock of ready-to-use digitalized Tamil ASCII data consisting now of about 100 Mbytes, will be doubled or tripled during the next four years. This will allow computer access to all major Tamil literary works, classical and modern, via the Internet from anywhere in the world.

Tamil is, perhaps, the oldest living language of India. It is commonly regarded as belonging to the Dravidian group of languages. But, that is not to say that the whole question of the 'Aryan/Dravidian categorisation' of the peoples of the Indian subcontinent is not without controversy.

Kamil.V. Zvelebil, sometime Professor in Tamil Studies at Charles University, Prague writing in 'The Poets and the Powers' in 1973, characterised the Tamils as the 'Greeks of India':

"Tamil is a Dravidian language of South India, spoken by 30,465,442 inhabitants of the State of Madras (Tamil Nadu), by about 2,500,000 in Ceylon, further by Tamil settlers in Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam (about 1 million), East and South Africa (260,000) and elsewhere in the world where the Tamils, 'The Greeks of India', settled as merchants, intellectuals, money lenders, bankers and plantation workers. The earliest literary monuments of the language belong to ca. the 3rd Century B.C...."

The number of first language Tamil speakers in the world is difficult to estimate and this remains an useful (and important) area for further study. Dr. R.E. Asher in 'Descriptive Grammars' (published by Croom Helm) concluded in 1981:

"No accurate figures for the number of Tamil speakers at the time of writing are available. The provisional figure for the whole of India produced by the 1971 census is 37,592,794. A reasonable calculation, based on a projection of population trends, would give between forty-five and forty-six million for India as a whole in 1981, with some forty-three million living in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, which has Madras as its capital and Tamil as its official language. If one assumes four million or so in Sri Lanka (mainly in the north and northeast and classified as Ceylon Tamils, Indian Tamils, Ceylon Moors and Indian Moors), something approaching one million in Malaysia and Singapore, and much smaller minorities in many countries of the-world, including Mauritius, Fiji, Burma, South Africa, some Caribbean states and Great Britain, the total number of Tamil speakers in the world at the present time might well be in the region of fifty million."

That was in 1981. In 1999, the Ethnologue (Languages of the World) estimated the number of first language Tamil speakers in the world at 66 and the number including second language speakers at 74 million. It reports that Tamil is spoken in Tamil Nadu and neighboring states and also in Bahrain, Fiji, Germany, Malaysia (Peninsular), Mauritius, Netherlands, Qatar, Réunion, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, UAE, United Kingdom

Tamil ranks 17th amongst the top twenty of the world's most spoken languages.

In scriptual form, Tamil is made up of 247 scripts which comprise of 12 vowels 18 consonants and 1 aytham. It is difficult to fix with certainty the beginnings of Tamil language and literature. Professor S.Vaiyapuri Pillai declares in his well regarded 'History of Tamil Language and Literature':

"Perhaps, it is safe to assume that the Dravidian alphabet was used for literary purposes about the first century A.D... We might naturally expect that the Tamils had an ancient literature of which they might be legitimately proud. Their civilisation is of great antiquity and their ruling dynasties played an important part in the third century B.C."

Madurai Temple
Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple  - the seat of the Madurai Tamil Sangams

The earliest literature in Tamil is the Sangam poetry - regarded by many Tamils as the voice of the Tamil nation in its origin. 

It consists of anthologies of short lyrics and longer poems. The lyrics are made into eight collections known as Ettu-thokai - the Eight Anthologies. The longer poems are collected under the name of Pattup-pattu - the Ten Idylls.

Although the matter is not free from controversy Professor S.Vaiyapuri Pillai concludes that Sangam literature should not be carried to any date anterior to the second century A.D. and that the period of development of the Sangam works might be put as three centuries and that Tolkapiyam, the early Tamil book on grammar, should also be given a date posterior to that period.

Professor T.P.Meenakshisundaran points out in a paper presented at the first International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies in 1966 at Kuala Lumpur:

"Tolkappiyam is a book on phonolgy, grammar and poetics. Therefore it implies the prior existence of Tamil literature. There is a distinction made therein between literary language and colloquial or non literary language - ceyyul and valakku, thus implying certain literary conventions not only in grammatical forms but also in literary form and subject matter..."

He adds:

"Sangam poetry is unique as group poetry par excellence. It has a personality of its own representing the group mind and the group personality of the Sangam age. Taken as a whole it satisfies all the requirements of great poetry... The folk songs and the proverbs of an age, with their authors unknown, form a unity, as the very expression of the national personality and the language."

"Sangam poetry, though too cultured to be called folk song, consciously creates this universal personality and that is why it has been classified as a separate group in Tamil literature - the really great national poetry, not in the sense of national popularity but in the sense of being the voice of the nation in its origin.

"These remind us of the towering gopuram of Tanjore expressing the aspiring spiritual height of the Chola age, though it is not the handiwork of any one sculpter but the work of a group of artists, each giving expression in rock to a vision of his own. It is therefore necessary to realise the importance of this conception of Sangam literature as a Thogai or anthology or group poetry which lies at the very root of the theory of Sangam poetry." (T.P. Meenakshisundaram, The Theory of Poetry in Tolkappiyam, Collected Papers, Annmalinagar, 1961)

Professor A.L.Basham in Wonder that was India, comments on some other aspects of early Tamil literature:

"Very early Tamils developed the passion for classification which is noticeable in many aspects of ancient Indian learning. Poetry was divided into two main groups: 'internal' (aham) and 'external' (puram). A unique feature of Tamil poetry is the initial rhyme or assonance. This does