Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"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 

Home Whats New  Trans State Nation  One World Unfolding Consciousness Comments Search

Home  Tamils - a Trans State Nation > The Tamil Heritage > Culture of the Tamils >  International Tamil Conferences on Tamil StudiesFourth International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, 1974 > Inaugural Presidential Address by Professor S.Vithiananthan

Fourth International Tamil Conference Seminar
January 1974, Jaffna
, Tamil Eelam

Inaugural Presidential Address by Professor S.Vithiananthan,
President, International Association of Tamil Research, Eelam National Unit

[see also Tamil Studies in Ceylon; a review essay of 1968 by S. Vithiananthan ]

I take great pleasure and pride in welcoming on behalf of the Eelam National Unit of the International Association of Tamil Research (IATR) the research scholars assembled here and the general public.

Jaffna has had a continuous tradition of literature from the poet Poothanthevanar to Pandithamani Kanapathipillai. It has also been a centre of learning where councils have met under the auspices of kings to further the cause of Tamil.

Once again we welcome you all into our midst. Even at the conclusion of the conference when you depart with the words ' Good bye ' we do not reply ' Good bye ' Instead we say 'Will you be coming again '.

Next to South India, Jaffna retains the right and fitness to hold a conference of Tamil research. Yogi Suddhananda Bharathiar from South India says

"Jaffna is the land of brave Tamils. It has intellect and it has valour. From time immemorial it has withstood the onslaught of foreigners. The Tamils are second to none They stand at the forefront in all fields "

Saalai Ilanthirayan who wrote to us regarding the conference has this to say

"It is my belief that more than the Tamils of South India it is the Tamils of Eelam who possess great concern about the welfare of the Tamils. The political and social conditions in Eelam might have contributed towards this but one cannot under-estimate their fervour"

It is only right that we who have elicited the admiration of South India with our love for Tamil should have the conference in Jaffna. It is our right too. All those who love Tamil with sincerity and are conscious of the heritage of Eelam Tamils and their contribution to Tamil literature will welcome this.

The contribution of Eelam Tamils towards the development of Tamil is substantial. Eelam scholars have been pioneers in various fields of literary activities.

Old manuscripts on the verge of extinction were rescued by Sri Lankans. Arumuga Navalar from Eelam edited a number of old texts and contributed substantially through his lucid prose works It is a Eelam Tamil who first revealed the cultural splendour of the Tamils and brought to light the greatness of Tamil literature and paved the way for research on the history of Tamils. The author of the first encyclopaedia in Tamil was from Jaffna . A Tamil from Eelam published the first Tamil dictionary based on Western models. The history of Tamil music was made known by Swami Vipulananda from Sri Lanka.   He was also the first Professor of Tamil. A number of books on science were written here. Eelam pioneered the teaching of science in Tamil as well. A Eelam Professor brought the spoken idiom into literary use through his dramas. Thus in diverse ways Eelam has been a source of strength to Tamils.

In short, both in the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th century Sri Lankans were in the forefront of literary development in Tamil. During the last 25 years too Eelam Tamils have excelled in poetry, the short story and the novel. The University of Sri Lanka has done considerable research in Tamil literature, grammar, linguistics, history of Tamils, archaeology, economics and geography. The research efforts undertaken by scholars of the University of Sri Lanka have been praised by Western Scholars for their intellectual calibre

Further, next to South India it is in Eelam that the Tamil language lives with dynamism. Tamils live in South India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Mauritius, Indonesia, Vietnam, Fiji, South Africa, Rhodesia, Guadeloupe, Reunion and Trinidad. But in many of these lands, they do not live as Tamils. Although they may comprehend Tamil they cannot express themselves in this language. Some are Tamils only in terms of ethnic identity. In this context Tamil could be said to be alive only in South India and Sri Lanka. It is the medium of instruction for Tamils in Universities. Seen against this backdrop it is most fitting that the conference be held in Sri Lanka.

It is necessary at the present juncture to reflect on the birth and development of the I. A. T. R. This association reaches its 10th birthday in another four days. In January 1964 the conference of International Oriental Scholars took place in New Delhi  and on the seventh day of the same month the I.A T.R was formed. Scholars from 15 countries met to establish this association Prof. K. Kanapathipillai represented Eelam and Fr X. S. Thaninayagam represented Malaysia. Pandit K.P. Katnam too was present. Thereafter conferences took place in Malaysia, India and France. On Monday next week the 7th January this association will celebrate its 10th birthday in Jatfna.

What has this Association achieved during the past ten years ? First it has dispensed with the theory that only native speakers of Tamil can do research on Tamil literature or language. Research in Tamilology has broken through narrow confines and broadened in various ways. Instead of confining research merely to Tamil literature and grammar, projects have been undertaken in Tamilian History, Tamil Culture, Archaeology and Sociology. New facts have been unearthed about the greatness of Tamil literature, the antiquity and development of Tamil culture and linguistics. The I.A. T. R. has provided a common platform for scholars dedicated to research in various countries to give expression to their findings. This is no mean achievement.

Not only did interchange of ideas take place but they also enabled observers to take a keen interest in Tamil research. After every conference greater numbers have shown interest in Tamil research. This would become evident when we compare the names of scholars who participated in the past three conferences and those who wished to take part in the 4th conference. New scholars joined hands with old delegates. Thus not only did these conferences foster research in Tamil, they also enlarged the number of research scholars in Tamih

Further the I.A. T. R. has been instrumental in making Tamil part of the curriculum in foreign Universities and in making foreign Professors take a keen interest in Tamil research. There was a time when Western Universities did research on Sanskrit and Indo-Aryan languages. Now the situation has changed and the study of Tamil language Tamil literature, Tamilian history and culture has become a popular one. Earlier westerners studied Tamil for purposes of religious propaganda, commerce and political domination. Now they study for the purpose of research and to discover the intrinsic greatness ot Tamil.

We recoonize their love and respect for Tamil in their act of giving to themselves and their children Tamil names - scholars in Russia have been enamoured to the extent of calling themselves 'Sembian'. and ' Iyngurran'. A Czechoslovakian research scholar has christened his daughter 'Kannamma'. It fills us with shame to think that instead of Tamil names some of us give our children the names of film stars. The scholars mentioned above want the words ' student of Tainil ' as their epitaph.These scholars not only love Tamil but if they were to be bom again they would love to be born as Tamils. We bow our heads in shame when we refect on how some of our folk tried to prevent them from  attending the conference.

 As we recapitulate the role played by this association in fostering Tamil   research and love for Tamil among foreigners one cannot help praising one of its founders Fr. Thaninayagam. He is the Ambassador of the Tamil language. Although be has rejected material pleasures, his love for Tamil remains. Wherever he went he gave speeches, wrote articles, spoke over the air and stressed to natives of those lands the greatness and antiquity of the Tamil language. Ho edited the quarterly "Tamil Culture" as a means of spreading the greatness of Tamil. Above and beyond this he brought together the Tamil scholars of Europe, Africa, and Asia on to a common platform through the I. A. T. R.

Thus the I. A. T. R. is his brain child. For the last ten years it grew under his loving care and now he celebrates its 10th birthday in the midst of many foreign scholars. The hazards of bringing up a child are not unknown to you. This child was destined to face an acid test at the end of its 10th year. People accused Fr. Thaninayagam of having deserted the child at this crucial moment. He is a custodian  of Tamil culture that knows not the betrayal of children. That is why he struggled with us to save this child. By consenting to inaugurate the 4th conference he has proved that his ideals lie in the growth of this child. We are deeply indebted to him.

We thank the delegates of foreign countries such as India, Malaysia, England, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, America, Canada, Hungary and Australia for having come in the midst of so many impediments and proved that this conference is not a  parochial affair but an International Conference of Tamil Research.

This conference does not aim at promoting communalism. It is a national conference and we welcome with all humility both Sinhalese and Muslim scholars who are present, as delegates and observers. To those who have come from Batticaloa, Trincomalee, the hill country, Vavuniya, Mannar and Mullaitivu, and to those who have stood by us in the task of keeping to the schedule we are deeply grateful.

This is the first occasion on which a conference like this is being held in Sri Lanka. It gained international recognition even before it began. That the recognition will rise tenfold after the conference is evident. Therefore we seek your co-operation to ensure that this conference which has elicited the attention of the entire world be held smoothly

God bore me well
To serve the cause ot Tamil

3 January 1974



Mail Us Copyright 1998/2009 All Rights Reserved Home