Simple commentaries in the pipeline

They will be made available at affordable prices to take them to the masses

February 03, 2022 11:56 pm | Updated 11:56 pm IST

The antiquity and richness of the Sangam literature are the overriding factors in securing the classical language status for Tamil. While these literary works hold a mirror to a highly evolved Tamil language, society and its culture, they continue to remain a realm of scholars. The language of the Sangam literature is beyond the grasp of even many of the educated. Driven by the objective to bridge the gap in understanding the Sangam literature, the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation has launched a project to write simple and accessible commentaries on these works.

“The original idea was to revise the 41 texts published as a single volume on the occasion of the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore in 2010. Its scope has been expanded as the DMK government is particular about bringing out new editions of all texts with commentaries,” said P. Sarvananan, who is heading a team constituted for the purpose.

A brainchild of IAS officer T. Udhayachandran, Secretary to Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, the project covers classical works such as Ettuthogai, Patthuppattu, Pathinenkeezhkanakku Noolgal, Tholkappiyam, Cilapatikaram, Manimekalai, Iraiyanaragaporul and Muthollayiram . The published commentaries will be made available at affordable prices to take them to the masses, said Mr. Udhayachandran.

Mr. Saravanan, who has edited the works of U. Ve. Swaminatha Iyer and recently penned a commentary on Thiruvachagam , said that though there were commentaries by great scholars, they remained elusive to ordinary readers because of their scholarly approach. “In many places, the commentators have just reproduced the original word in the poetry instead of explaining it to the reader. A new commentary is the need of the hour,” explained Mr. Saravanan, who has penned commentaries on Cilapatikaram and Kalingathuparani and compiled the war of words over the merit of Vallalar’s Thiruvarutpa under the title Arutpa-Marupta .

A.R Venkatachalapathy, professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, also reiterated the need for modern commentaries. “Classics easily travel across time. But every generation needs to reinterpret its classics for its time. Thanks to C.W. Damodaram Pillai, U.V. Swaminatha Iyer, S. Vaiyapuri Pillai and others, we have reliable scholarly editions of our great classics. It is a desideratum that we have accessible commentaries in a contemporary language that is in tune with current sensibilities. Pedantry and conservatism have no place in a modern commentary and should be shown the door,” he said.

Under the proposal, the sentences will be split ( sandhipirippu ) for easy reading. There will be pathaurai (meaning of words) and it will be followed by a commentary. “There are references to trees, plants, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, and they may be identified in a word unknown today. We will explain those words. We have to clarify a lot of things scientifically. For example, in Ainkurunuru , there is a reference to crab. The old belief was that the female crab will die after giving birth to young ones. But in reality, only molting takes place,” Mr. Sarvanan said.

Mr. Sarvaranan said an increased interest in Tamil language, culture and history would ensure a market for these works, which would open the doors for those who wanted to travel into the Sangam era.

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