Rev. Prof. Xavier S. Thaninayagam Adigalar, whose birth centenary is being celebrated in Tiruchi on Sunday, is a renowned Tamil scholar who worked for promoting Tamil language and literature throughout the world. His efforts convinced the international scholars to accept Tamil as a most ancient and classical language of India.
Thaninayaga Adigal, a Sri Lankan Tamil Catholic priest, was born in Karampon, Jaffna, his mother’s place while his father hailed from the island of Delft.
Adigal’s interest in Tamilology started late in life when he was serving as teacher in St. Theresa’s High School at Vadakankulam, Tirunelveli district (1941-1945). Although Adigal had learnt Tamil at home and as a student at St. Antony’s College, Kayts, and St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna, his great ambition then was to become an orator and scholar in English which he did.
His long stay in Europe (1934-1939) provided him opportunities to become proficient in various European languages such as Latin, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, and some Hebrew which he put to great use in spreading the glory of Tamil.
This gave him a taste of the Sangam literature of which he became enamoured in course of time and decided to pursue his Tamil studies by enrolling himself as a student in the Master’s and then the M.Litt. courses at Annamalai University.
Adigal served in various capacities in universities in Sri Lanka and Malaysia and was visiting professor in various universities world over.
When Adigal became the Head of the Department of Indian Studies in the University of Malaya in 1961, he was distressed to find poor scope for professors of Tamil in various universities around the world to assemble frequently to share their researches with their peers.
This condition prompted him to propose, in one of the meetings of the Tamil Development Council of Tamil Nadu Government in 1963, that the State government undertake to organise such meetings regularly.
Adigal availed himself of the opportunity provided by the Orientalists’ Congress, held in New Delhi in January 1964, to bring together the Tamil scholars attending the Congress and organise the International Association for Tamil Research (IATR). It was symptomatic of the success of this new organisation that Jean Filliozat, a Frenchman, became the president of this association, while two other European scholars became the vice-presidents and a European Dravidologist Kamil V. Zvelebil became joint secretary along with Thaninayaga Adigal.
It is this organisation which has conducted so far eight International Tamil Conferences in various countries. Most of the papers read in and books published during these conferences bear ample witness to the fulfilment of the original goal of the association.
He launched a tri-monthly “Tamil Culture” and propagated the value of Tamil, thereby attracted Tamil knowing foreigners, which paved way fresh research works. He not only guided many scholars in their research work, but authored a number of research papers and books.
As a mark of tribute during the centenary year, the celebration committee has planned to organise conferences, public meetings, workshops, and so on. It has been planned to motivate Tamil lovers in foreign countries to celebrate the centenary in a fitting manner.
All his works and research papers would be compiled together to be brought out as a single volume. Creation of a chair or research institute or production of a documentary on his multifaceted services are some of the plans to be executed by the committee, according to Amudhan Adigal, Director, Thaninayaga Adigal Tamil Research Centre, Tiruchi.