CHENNAI: As a part of the Madras Week celebrations, two volumes of Culture Language and Identity and Culture Language and Power, published by Routledge of India, Taylor and Francis Ltd, were launched by the British Council last Friday. The books, edited by Dr C T Indira and Dr R Rajagopalan, contain a series of essays written by Indian and European scholars.
The English missionaries began learning the Tamil language to begin the conversion process, finds Dr Indira and Dr Rajagopalan. “They chose acclaimed classics which were predominantly ethical and moral in nature. The reason was that the thoughts and the precepts embedded in the texts aligned with their post-Reformation European world view,” said Dr Indira, adding that the missionaries used texts like Thirukkural and Naaladiyarmay as they felt the messages were similar to Christian ideology.
The impact of this on Tamil culture, according to Dr Rajagopalan, was that the Dravidian Tamil identity was validated, “The Tamils developed a sense of pride in their ancient culture by colonial scholars’ attempts to translate Tamil works for consumption of European readers, as seen in the works of Kindersley and Ellis, and their translations of Thirukkural while serving as East India company officials. The hegemony of Sanskrit in Indological studies were off-set by these efforts,” he added.
The introduction of English into the Tamil language gave the people the ability to critically analyse their culture and history.
“Language and literature are invaluable treasures, reflecting the region’s past and future. The relationship between Tamil and English date back centuries, when English was instrumental in facilitating trade out of Madras. We are celebrating Madras Week to honour the city and its languages,” said Dr Antonius Raghubansie, Head, Teaching Centres and Libraries, British Council India.
“A fresh approach to Indology is implied in the essays, going past the binary of colonial and anti-colonial. Emergence of post modern forms of literature in modern times invites a new frame of reference, going beyond the post-colonial model,” said Dr Indira. The essays sourced from the Tamil Nadu Archives, leading libraries in Chennai and SCILET in Madurai, will be available to research scholars and students of Sociology, linguistics, literature and more at their leisure.