The work of Subashini Tremmel and her group is a good example of what happens when computer technology is used to preserve a rich language and culture.

The software engineer and 1,070 enthusiasts, mostly from the Tamil diaspora, have come together to preserve and promote Tamil language and culture. They have formed the Tamil Heritage Foundation (THF) for the purpose.

Ms. Tremmel, a Tamil of Malaysian origin working in Germany, says the group has collected around 300 books and 28,000 palm manuscripts, some of which have been uploaded on its website, www.tamilheritage.org.

The vision document on the site says: “Tamil Heritage Foundation is a global initiative to preserve and understand Tamil heritage in a proper scientific way so that its history, science and technology are properly understood.” The group has been at it for the past 10 years. “On the eve of the First Tamil Internet Conference, Narayanan Kannan, a scientist of Tamil origin working in South Korea, and I had a discussion and subsequently realised the need for having an organisation to preserve Tamil language and culture. THF is an outcome of that,” she recalls. She adds that “in Germany or any other country for that matter, it is difficult to read Tamil books or watch programmes related to Tamil or Tamil Nadu on TV. Bringing in books physically is a costly affair and even if TV programmes are available, one cannot watch what he or she wants.” The foundation is the result of that desire and need of the Tamil diaspora. And the community felt that it can leverage the power of the computer and Internet for the purpose.

Team touring State

Since 2001, Ms. Tremmel and a core group of 50 members have been touring Tamil Nadu to document almost everything under the sun that relates to Tamil. “From siddha medicinal herbs to Tamil lifestyle to music and dance to temple architecture, we document everything without sitting on judgment.”

Whatever is collected is vetted by a group of subject experts. “We want the information to be authentic,” she says. Only books without copyrights are made as e-books. To underscore the importance the THF attaches to authenticity, she says she spent days with Radha Chellappan, granddaughter of Tamil scholar Vaiyapuri Pillai, to write an authentic account of Pillai.