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"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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Tamil to be taught at Yale

IANS, 28 April 2004

WASHINGTON: Tamil language and culture will soon be taught at the prestigious Yale University, one of the Ivy League institutions in the US. This was announced at a reception by economics professor T.N. Srinivasan, chair of the South Asian Studies Council at Yale University.

The reception was hosted by Yale University to present its South Asian Studies, featuring some of the faculty and students.

He said a number of South Asian languages, including Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Nepali and others were already being taught at Yale, and now Tamil studies will be available from fall this year. September marks the beginning of the academic year in the US.

He said Yale stands on the threshold of a major opportunity to strengthen its South Asia programmes. University president Richard Levin has identified Asia as a special focus of his ongoing initiative for making Yale "the pre-eminent global university" in the US.

Yale's connection to South Asia goes back to its naming after its patron Elihu Yale, governor of the British East India Company's Fort St. George from 1687 to 1692 in what is today Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.

Besides, Madras cotton was among the bales of goods that Yale donated to the Collegiate School of Connecticut in 1713 and their sale raised 562 English pounds for the construction of the Yale University's first building.

Spoken by some 80 million people worldwide today, Tamil is one of the world's three oldest continuous literary traditions - some 2,000 years - and is a national language in five nation states.

Srinivasan told IANS that nearly 900 students signed a petition for including in the South Asian Studies (SAS) curriculum the teaching of Tamil language, culture and history.

The SAS Council thus proposes to appoint a full time lecturer and to offer regular credit courses in Tamil. A fundraising effort is also on to mobilise the required funds for the purpose, he added.

Yale's faculty includes professor Barney Bate of the Department of Anthropology, a linguistic anthropologist whose scholarly work focuses on the ethnography and history of Tamil oratory.

Professor Gustav Ranis, director of the Yale Centre for International and Area Studies, said: "South Asia is a part of the developing world which, I believe, is poised to move up in importance, politically and culturally and economically more than any other region over the coming decades."

As it develops its South Asia studies programme, Yale's strategy is to be selective and problem-focused, rather than exhaustive and wide-ranging, he said.

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