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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings - V.Thangavelu > Chelvadurai Manogaran - a Doyen among Tamil scholars

Selected Writings V.Thangavelu, Canada

Chelvadurai Manogaran
- a Doyen among Tamil scholars

17 August 2001

Thiruvalluvar in his immortal Kural, a masterpiece of Tamil literature reflecting the highest and purest expressions of human thought, speaks about the age-old concept of impermanence.

"Like the bird to the shell it leaves
Is a life's link to its body" (Chapter 34 - Kural 338)

The kinship between the body and the soul is like that between the nest and chick after the latter has flown away in the air.

This Kural couplet crossed my mind when I heard the shocking news that Prof. Chelvadurai Manogaran has passed away to the world beyond. Only the day previously I thought about him when I saw his latest book "The Untold Story of Ancient Tamils in Sri Lanka." among the many books on my table. No doubt it took a while for the message to sink into my thought since it is only last week he spoke to me on the telephone while passing through Toronto. He was to have come back later to Toronto to ceremoniously release the book.

Last month (July 6-7th) I met and spoke to him at the 10th Joint Convention hosted by Tamil Nadu Foundation and Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA) held in Detroit, Michigan. He looked cheerful and spirited giving no hint at all that the shadow of death is lurking very closely behind him.

As always soft-spoken, warm, gentle, kind and humble he spoke to me about the latest book he has written. He wanted me to write a review after reading the book which I promised but regrettably could not keep it. But soon as I returned to Toronto I got the review earlier written by Prof. Betram Bastiampillai of the Colombo University posted in the TamilCanadian web site.

In his book Prof. Manogaran has argued that that the Tamils in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka have a legitimate claim to the right of self determination. He has cited South Indian scholars to associate the Dravidian-speaking immigrants of the proto-historic period with the Yaksha and Nagas of Ceylon. According to him these Dravidian speaking people brought with them the Tamil language, the ancient Tamil script (Vatteluttu) and Hinduism long before the arrival of the mythical Vijaya and his 700 followers.

Even the accounts of Ramayanam and Mahavamsa speak about the dark skinned tribes called Asuras or Rakshas and Nagas the serpent worshipping tribal people. The Yakshas of Ceylon and the Rakshas of South India belong to the same racial stock called Yatudanas in the Vedas and Nagas in the later Buddhist and other literature. Jawaharlal Nehru in his book "Discovery of India" has said that Ramayanam depicts the story of the war between the Aryans and the Dravidians. Obviously King Ravanan who is described in Ramayanam as a Raksha king who ruled Ilankai is a pre-historical figure.

According to Prof. Manogaran Tamil language and the Vatteluttu script ( used in Kuccaveli Rock inscriptions as late as the 8th century) greatly influenced the development of the Sinhalese language and Sinhalese script. Prof. Manogaran's book is a must for students of Tamil history at a time when Sinhalese chauvinists are bending over backwards to re-write history to fit the pan Sinhala-Buddhist ideology.

Prof. Manogaran has also written a book on Ethnic Conflict and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka in 1987 and co-edited a book with Professor Bryan Pfaffenberger, The Sri Lankan Tamils : Ethnicity and Identity, published in 1994.

The first time I met Prof. Manogaran was in 1996 when he came to Toronto to give expert evidence in the case Solicitor General of Canada Vs Manickavasagam Suresh. His evidence related to the systematic state sponsored colonization of Tamil Homeland with Sinhalese settlers and how ethnic cleansing of Tamils had drastically altered the demographic composition of the Northeast reducing the Tamils to a numerical minority in the eastern province. I understand he has compiled in book form the summary of all evidence led and documents produced in the above case.

With the passing away of Prof. Manogaran the Tamil people had lost yet another Tamil intellectual who strode like a colossus among scholars. He took an abiding interest in the liberation struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam. He used his scholarship and erudition to espouse the cause of Tamil Eelam effectively and in his own inimitable style. It will be difficult to fill the void left by Prof. Manogaran who was one of the few outstanding scholars of the pre-1956 era.

On behalf of World Tamil Creative Writers Association (WTCWA) I wish to convey my heart-felt condolence to his wife Devi and other members of his family including his brother C. Baskaran.



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