Tamil scholars waxed eloquent on Catholic priest Xavier S.Thaninayagam at the inauguration of his centenary celebrations in Loyola College on Saturday.

Former vice-chancellor of Tanjavur Tamil University E. Sundaramurthy said Fr.Thaninayagam was a scholar who exalted Tamil at the world level. “Youth should understand the need for emulating such hard work.” Mr.Sundaramurthy also reiterated the words of another Tamil scholar who claimed Fr.Thaninayagam was an icon of the Tamil language. He also pointed to Arignar Anna’s words describing the contribution of Fr.Thaninayagam to Tamil. “Fr. Thaninayagam traced many Tamil manuscripts at libraries across Europe.”

Tamil scholars Avvai Natarajan, Kaviko Abdul Rahman and vice-chancellor of SRM University M. Ponnavaiko were among those spoke.

Many of the scholars reminisced about the contributions of Fr. Thaninayagam. Tamil festivals and such centenary celebrations also contribute to the growth of Tamil, said Professor Ponnavaiko. Celebrations of Tamil festivals spread to other parts of the world because of the efforts by Fr. Thaninayagam, who was professor and head of Indian Studies, University of Malaysia, from 1961 to 1969. When Oriental scholars met in Delhi in January 1964, Fr. Thaninayagam was instrumental in convening a meeting of the Tamil scholars. The International Association for Tamil Research organised the first International Tamil conference-cum-seminar in 1966 in Kuala Lumpur. Fr. Thaninayagam, hailed as the ‘Roving Ambassador par excellence of Tamil’ during his lifetime, learnt European languages such as Latin, Italian, French, Portuguese, German and Spanish. Fr. Thaninayagam, born on August 12, 1913, founded ‘Tamil Culture,’ a quarterly journal in 1952, and attracted scholars from foreign countries. His idea of inaugurating the International Association of Tamil Research received support from Tamil scholars of other countries.

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