- its past, its present and its future with special reference to Ceylon
Xavier S. Thani Nayagam
in Tamil Culture, 1955
What is Culture?
Culture has been defined as a ”way of life”, as sweetness and
light”, as “activity of thought and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling.”
These brief definitions are sufficient to show the comprehensiveness and the
indispensability of culture, for one must have a way of life, and that way of
life should be combined with sweetness and light, with activity of thought, and
with beauty and humane feeling. Tamil Culture is nothing else but the Tamil way
of life, a pattern gracious living that has been formed during the centuries of
Tamil of history. It has been conditioned by the land, the climate, the
language, the literature, the religions, the customs, the laws, the food, the
games and toys of the Tamil people, by the
palmyra palm, the
gingelly oil, and
the vegetables associated with them. Culture is a most elusive and at the same
time an all embracing term.
The Antiquity of Tamil Culture in Ceylon
Tamil Culture has existed in this Island from time immemorial. All the weight
of geological, anthropological, historical, literacy and linguistic evidence
point to the existence in Ceylon of a people with racial and cultural affinities
with the inhabitants of South India. (1)
The Mahavamsa itself recognizes the existence of a civilized people living in
cities at the time of the landing of Vijaya. The Mahavamsa too supposes a
pre-Buddhist period in Ceylon when the religion of the people was Hindu. The
story of Elara’s reign, the statement,
"When he had thus overpowered thirty-two damila Kings, Dutthagamini ruled over
lanka in single sovereignty," the rule of Tamil kings, the accounts of the
Kautilyan doctrine, and references to "damiladevi," "the Chola people", "the
further coast" and "the other coast", point to an ancient time when Tamil
Culture and Sinhalese Culture existed side by side upon this Island.(2)
The relations of the Sinhalese Kings with Nagadipa, with the Chera, Chola,
Pandya Kings of South India their dynastic alliances, their embassies, their
treaties, and even their wars and their intrigues, are evidence of a fraternal
rivalry that existed between these neighbouring kingdoms. There is a tendency to
exaggerate these wars and to portray these cultures as if they were perpetually
in conflict. Such a portrayal is one of the dangers of history. (3)
The truth is, that to one well read in Ceylon and South Indian history, these
conflicts seem like the internal conflicts of kindred peoples. The wars of the
Tamils against the Sinhalese are not any more numerous or hostile than the wars
among the Tamil kingdoms themselves. At the time the Portuguese landed on this
Island, there is ample evidence for the honoured place Tamil had at the Court of
Kotte and for the Tamil schools that the Portuguese founded in the western and
North Western provinces.(4)
When printing was introduced into this Island for the first time, the Dutch
published books both in the Tamil and Sinhalese tongues. A copy of a Tamil book
published in Colombo in 1754 by the Dutch pastor Bronsveld, refers in its
dedication to the Tamil language spoken within the greater area of this Island.
(Maxima cum hujus insulae parte tamulice loquentem). (5) Robert Knox and the Dutch
despatches speak of the Tamil townships and the Tamil-speaking people of the Kandyan Kingdom.
The comparative study of the Tamil and Sinhalese languages, of the
literatures and grammar in the two languages, of place-names, of the drama, the
dance, the architecture, the sculpture peculiar to the two cultures of this
Island reveal to what limits they influenced each other. Anthropological surveys
have shown the extent to which the common racial characteristics are shared by
the populations that speak the two languages, and history testifies to the
shifting of populations from one kingdom to another and to the sections of
people that have changed one language for the other. The laws, the caste system,
the patterns of social structure, reveal very many common elements. For the
existence and inter-penetration of these cultures, there is no better evidence
than a religious shrine like Kathirgamam held sacred by the Hindus, Buddhists
and Muslims, located in the southernmost part of Ceylon, and the religious
shrines of the Buddhists located in Nainativu, a northernmost outpost of the
Island, held sacred also by Hindus.
The existence of two different religions did not always prevent the patronage
that kings of one persuasion extend to the religion that was not theirs; did not
prevent the patronage and employment of Saivaite Brahmins at the Sinhalese
Courts; did not prevent marriage alliances of Sinhalese Kings with Tamil
Saivaite Queens; did not prevent the teaching of Tamil along with Sinhalese,
Pali and Sanskrit at the more famous pirivenas as testified by the Gira sandesa
There was a time when Buddhism counted many Tamils among its followers, even in
Ceylon, and Tamil Buddhist monks contributed in no small measure to the
enrichment of Tamil literature and Pali literature. Viharas were established in
the Tamil-speaking areas of Ceylon and South India, and Tamil monks came to
teach as well as to learn in the Sinhalese kingdoms. It will always remain a
source of pride to us that the greatest, if not the only classical epic of
Theravada Buddhism exists in the Tamil language. The poetry of
cent. A.D.) has been forgotten by scholars because of its didactic and doctrinal
appeal, but it remains one of the finest jewels of Tamil poetry with an
abundance of quotable lines, like
MAthavar NonBum madaVaaR Katpum
KAavalan Kaval InRenil InRraam
The Virasoliyam, a compendious Tamil grammar, was compiled in the 11th
century by a Tamil Buddhist, Buddhamitrar. The origin of Tamil is attributed in
this grammar to Avaloketiswara (Bhodisattva). This grammar seems to have
influenced the Sinhalese grammar Sidatsangarawa. Among the more famous Tamil
Buddhists that visited Ceylon on religious and cultural missions were sangamitta
(4th c.), Buddhadatta mahathero (5th c.), vajirabhodhi (7th-8th c.), Anurudha
(12th c.). Dharmakirti, author(?) of the Culawamsa (13th c.). Dignaga,
Dharmapala of Nalanda, Bhodhidharmar of China were three other illustrious Tamil
exponents of Buddhism.(6 )
The Tamil Language
The Tamil language has been spoken in this Island, it would seem, at least
for the last three thousand years. The punch marked coins of an early era point
to connections that Ceylon may have had with Mohenjodaro and the Indus Valley
civilisation. Tamil poetry composed in Ceylon has been included in the
Tamil Anthologies and the Tamil spoken in Ceylon represents a pre-Pallava
period with its ancient morphological and grammatical forms and its repertoire
of words considered obsolete for centuries on the neighbouring continent.
A language is always a mirror of a people’s genius.(7) The Tamil language has been
spoken basically in its present form for the last two thousand years, and it
continues even now to be the living language for thirty to forty million people
-about thirty million people in India, more than two million people in Ceylon,
nearly one million people in Malaya, Vietnam and
Indonesia, and many thousands
scattered over Fiji,
Mauritius, Madagascar, Africa and even
Trinidad and the
Tamil is as much a classical language as Greek, Latin or
Sanskrit, with this difference that while her ancient contemporaries have
changed beyond recognition or been long regarded as “dead”, Tamil continues to
be one of the most vigorous of modern languages, and perhaps offers the only
example in history of an ancient classical tongue which has survived to this day
and yet remains young as it was two thousand years ago.
dictionary by Miron Winslow was commenced in Jaffna
by Joseph Knight, assisted by Gabriel Tissera and Rev. Percival (two Ceylonese),
and it is in the introduction to this Dictionary that Dr. Winslow has the
"It is not perhaps extravagant to say that in its poetic form the Tamil is more
polished and exact than the Greek, and, in both dialects with its borrowed
treasures, more copious than the Latin. In its fullness and power, it more
resembles English and German than any other language."
Dr. Slater said, "The Tamil language is extraordinary in its subtlety and sense
of logic"; and W. Taylor observed earlier, "It is one of the most copious,
refined and polished languages spoken by man."(8)
Tamil speech as obtaining in Ceylon, and Tamil phonetics as obtaining especially
in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, show a fidelity to the earliest Tamil
grammars which the speech of South India does not-a clear indication of the
development of Tamil in Ceylon unhampered by the extraneous influences to which
South India was subject.
Tamil Literature has made certain definite contributions to world thought and
letters. Its love poetry and its inclusion of love poet y in its theory of
poetics are indications of the humanistic approach to life that is
characteristic of Tamil Culture. The love poetry of the Tamils is the product of
a people among whom the finest ideals of courtship and wedlock had long been
cherished. The ethical poetry of the Tamils has been the wonder of all
foreigners who have studied it. The maxims of Thiruvalluvar or the
is a book of which Dr. Albert Schweitzer has said:
"There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in
which we find so much lofty wisdom."(9)
And Dr. Pope observed:
"I have felt sometimes as if there must be a blessing in store for a people that
delight so utterly in compositions thus remarkably expressive of a hunger and
thirst after righteousness."(10)
If English be the language of commerce, French the language of diplomacy,
Italian the language of love, and German the language of philosophy, then Tamil
is the language of devotion. The devotional poetry in Tamil is so great in bulk,
and in depth and intensity of emotional fervour, that its continued study has
given the language a certain aptitude for the expression of themes pertaining to
mysticism and contemplation.
The nature Poetry of the Tamils is again the result
of a people, except perhaps the people of the Pacific Islands, have made so much
use of flowers and plants in daily life for various purposes as the Tamils have
done. The Tamils said it with flowers not only on love but also in warfare. The
ancient Tamil warriors went to battle, their brows decked with garlands, and
each strategic movement had its own symbolic flower.
The influence and vitality of Tamil Culture in Ceylon has been such that it has
produced a Tamil literature of worth, of which there is indisputable evidence, and many a Ceylonese poet and scholar crossed the Straits
and won fame and recognition in other lands where Tamil is spoken. The name of
Arumuga Navalar is associated with a great revivalist movement in Tamil and
Saivaism; C. W. Thamotherampillai was a pioneer editor of the classics which
spear-headed the Tamil Renaissance; V. Kanagasabaipillai opened up a new horizon
to many a foreigner with his "The Tamils Eighteen Hundred years ago;" N.
Kathiravelpillai distinguished himself as a lexicographer; Cumaraswamy Pulavar
was recognised as a scholar of outstanding merit;
Swami Vipulananda occupied the
Chair of Tamil at the Annamalai University, and Swami Gnana Prakasar established
his reputation for comparative philology and for the history of the
Tamil-speaking people. The records of some of the earlier Tamil writers of
Ceylon have been included in the "Tamil Plutarch" compiled by Simon
Sinhalese sovereigns of various periods extended their patronage to Tamil bard
that set out from Jaffna with his poem to the Court of Rajasingha at Kandy, to
be told on the way that the last Tamil-speaking King of Ceylon had been taken
Ideals of Life
Tamil Literature was the result of the
Weltanschauung, the world outlook of
the Tamil-speaking peoples, and at the same time that literature kept alive the
outlook and those ideals which shaped it. Imagination is a gift which has been
associated with great commercial peoples, and no people in this part of the
world were such skilful navigators or traders as the Tamils.
The sea ports of the then Tamil county, which included all the Malabar coast as
well, were busy ports of call into which ships from the West sailed with their
gold, lamps, wine and goblet, to return home laden with pepper and silks and
cotton and ivory, and with the pearls of the Tamil seas. Teak from the Tamil
county has been found in the ruins of Ur of the Chaldees, and peacocks and apes
of the South were sold abroad as early as Solomon’s time. Yavanar, or men of the
Graeco-Roman world, established colonies and trading stations in the Tamil
Kingdoms, and were even employed as engineers, body-guards, palace-guards, and
city-guards in the service of Tamil Kings.(12)
In this trade and overseas expansions the ports of North Ceylon played a great
part which is forgotten in the age of the steamship and the aeroplane.
Kalpitiya, Mantote, Kayts, Elephant Pass, Trincomalee have a naval history that
has yet to be studied from local and foreign records, including the Arab
chronicles. The Tamil Argonauts turned their eyes even more naturally towards
the East and with them they carried their art and architecture, their religion,
their language and their laws. It is agreed by most .writers on Indian
influences on South East Asia that the Tamil Kingdoms were among the earliest
and the most active.
The author of the Periplus and Ptolemy speak of the ships that used to sail from
the Eastern coasts of South India and Ceylon to the land of gold (Malaya and
Java), and Fa Hien refers to his voyage to Java, via Trincomalie.
travelled lately through south east Asia, I have been able to follow the routes
taken by the Tamil Argonauts and see the many lands where the Tamil-speaking
people left behind the traces of their genius and culture. In the architecture
of Champa and Cambodia, in the sculptures of the Museum of Tourane, in the Saiva
Siddantha system of religion once followed in Indonesia and Indo-China, in the
bronzes of Siam, may be seen the traces of Tami1 influence. The
has affinities with the dances of Cambodia and Bali; the Tamil sacred verses
are recited by the Court Brahmins of Thailand at the Tamil feasts of Thirupavay
and Thiruvembavai and during the coronation of their kings; certain tribes in
Sumatra go under the Tamil names of Chera, Chola, pandiya and Pallava; and the
temples of Dieng plateau, of Po-Nagar, of Mi-son (Vietnam), of Anghor Thom, show
the influence of Tamil architecture.(13)
Islam was spread in the Malay Archipelago largely by Tamil-speaking people.
Because of their international outlook, trade and navigation the Tamils eschewed
insularity and developed a remarkable universality of outlook. Wendell Wilkie in
One World begins his book with the statement, "In future our thinking must be
worldwide." The Tamil poet anticipated him by a two thousand years when he said:
Yathum Oore YAavarum KElIr or
"Every county is my county
Every man is my kinsman."
This sense of universality was instrumental in fashioning Tamil society after
a broad and tolerant pattern. Albert Schweitzer in his Indian thought and its
Development shows exhaustively the optimistic, humanistic sense of life and life
affirmation, the joie de vivre, that is characteristic of the Tamil attitude to
life. He has also shown that three of the greatest philosophers canme from the
South and were indebted to Tamil thought.
The happy warrior delineated by the Tamil classics is one who has a sense of
honour and of chivalry, and who will rather die than turn his back upon a foe or
an adverse circumstance. Honour, bravery and nobility (MAanam) required one to
bear the marks and scars of battle on the bosom. The story is told of the Tamil
matron that heard of her son who had fallen in battle. She hurried to the
battlefield in distress test he should have fallen in retreat, but was relieved
and happy when she saw the wounds on his chest, the infallible sign that he had
fallen facing the enemy.
The Tamil warrior was expected to cover himself with glory in the arts of war
and of peace. Men were illustrious because they left a glorious name (PuHal)
"PuhaLodu ViLanki Pookka
NiN VEle" - (Puram 21;23)
"KAanamuyal Eitha Kambinil Yaanai
Pilaiththa VEl Eathal Inithu" - (Kural, 772)
The ideal of tolerance, the will to live and let live, is well illustrated by
the anthologies which include poems of every shade of religious and philosophic
belief. It is further clear from the scenes in
Manimekhalai of Tamil cities
where philosophers of rival schools expounded their own flags-a two
thousand-year old anticipation of Hyde Park Corner.
The tradition of Bakthi and ideal of tolerance explain the fact nearly every
world religion can claim in Tamil a voluminous literature. Tamil Culture has
been enriched by poetical works of Saivaites, of Vaishnavites, of Jains, of
Buddhists, of Muslims, of Catholics, of Protestants. No other language in the
world has been the vehicle of the epic poetry of so many different religions,
not Latin, not Sanskrit.
As the ideal of the Philosopher-statesman was outlined by the Greeks as the
Orator was delineated by the Latins, the Courtier and Governor by the English,
the Tamils conceived their educational ideal as the Complete Man, the Perfect
Man (SAanron) endowed with honour, greatness, culture, benevolence and grace.
Further, a life of altruistic love was recommended to every Tamil. It has been
found that persons dedicated to service and love live longer than others, and
probably it is the altruism of Tamil Culture,
Thamakkena VAalap PiRarkkuriyaalan
En PaNi SEithu KIDapathe"
that explains its long survival.
When one examines the present state of the Tamil-speaking peoples and their
fidelity to the ideals that moulded their culture one wonders if they have not
lost a great ideal of the virility and resource that characterized them of old.
It is true they continue to live, to be theistic, and to have a love of the
language and literature that nurtured them, but enterprise, initiative, creative
activity and philosophic thought are necessary to them, if they are not to be
noted for inertia and apathy. Some of their ancient contemporaries are no more;
the Chams and the Khmers with whom they traded and who under their inspiration
erected colossal monuments are themselves spent forces in the world of today.
Unless we are alive to the needs for the conservation and transmission of this
culture, it may well be that a few centuries hence we shall have precious little
of this heritage left behind in the county of our birth.
1. As the basis and source of this apathy and inertia. I would point to the
ignorance of the language, of the literature, of the arts, of the history, of
the culture, that exists among our people today, especially among those sections
that combine wealth and influence and a lop-sided Western education. Cultures
disappear by those very causes by which they flourish, and the disappearance of
the ideals that nourished Tamil Culture will eventually lead to the
disappearance of Tamil Culture itself.
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep The Courts where jamshyd gloried and drank
During the last fifty years there has been a revival of interest in Tamil,
and this revival must be attributed to the printing and popularising of the
Tamil calssics. But that revival in Ceylon will not be complete unless it
reaches every section of the Tamil-speaking public, particularly those who
establish the norms of appreciation and the standards of refinement.
2. The dearth of philosophic thought is, perhaps, the greatest drawback in the
popularising of true values in Ceylon. In the spate of talk and oratory about
our past glories, we run very dry concerning the problems that affect us in the
domain of thought, concerning our beliefs, our code of right and wrong, our
political creeds, our ideals of service, our national unity. Philosophy is not
the peculiar business of the angels; it is human business, every body’s
The want of creative activity in writing and the Fine Arts that we remark today
is mainly due to the lack of an interest in philosophic studies and in pure
thought. The publishing houses are bringing out translations and adaptations
offoreign works and commentaries on the ancient classics, but original works,
works in Tamil that deserve translation into foreign tongues, books on the
problems vital to man today are noticeably scarce.
3. A lack of originality is seen in the Tamil radio, the Tamil films, and the
Tamil newspapers. It is also visible (or audible) in the platform oratory that
is being developed in a manner so that the sense follows the sound; it is
audible in the alien Tamil accent that is heard over Radio Ceylon; in the hybrid
imitations that pass for Tamil dance, and in the poor norms of appreciation of
4. The emphasis hitherto in the Tamil Renaissance has been on the study of
literature. An equal emphasis is necessary today on the Fine Arts of the Tamils.
We have not produced recently any great sculptor or any great painter. It is by
a revival of these arts that we shall teach our people the art of life and the
art of gracious living. A very famous English writer on the Tamil dance wrote to
me some time ago from Canada: "I would give anything to have a glimpse of a
Pallava sculpture or a Chola bronze." It requires an aesthetic mind to be so
moved by art.
I have no intention of continuing these observations because I see at the same
time a few signs of an awakening of effective interest in our cultural heritage.
But the question that agitates our minds today, the mind of every Tamil-speaking
citizen be he Muslim or Hindu, Catholic or Protestant, or Buddhist, concerns the
future of Tamil Culture in this country.
Languages of Administration
The stagnation in Tamil Culture that has been noted before is not little due
to the want of State patronage during the last three or four hundred years. With
the dawn of a new era in our national life, it is but legitimate for us to
expect the State to extend the same measure of support to the development of the
culture of the two major nationalities that form the Ceylonese nation.
Here are some contemporary cases of political nations that include two or more
nationalities. Belgium is almost equally divided between Waloons speaking a
French dialect in their homes and Flemings speaking a variant of Dutch.
Switzerland is 72 per cent German speaking 21 per cent French, 6 per cent
Italian, 1 per cent Romansch. The Union of South Africa has a white population
that is part English speaking and part Afrikaans or Dutch speaking plus the
racially distinct Bantu-Negro natives. India in 1947 set up house- keeping on
its own, as two independent political nations with dozens of nationalities and
In the formation and preservation of nationalities, language is by far the most
objective factor. It is the free inter-communication of common speech that
provides the consciousness of kinship. Language is the rational and spiritual
matrix in which a culture lives, moves and has its being. Hence the Tamil poets
have consistently lost themselves in a mystical enthusiasm over the nature of
the language, calling it the sweetest possible names:
SenThamizh, InRamizh, VanDamizh, ThaNDamizh, AruNThamizh,
PasunThamizh, SelunThamizh, TheenThamizh, UyarThamizh, KoThilThamizh, OnDamizh
The use of the Tamil language in the civil, educational and social life of
this county is an absolute necessity if Tamil Culture is to survive. Today,
Tamil is spoken in every part of Ceylon by over two million people ; it is
indigenous to this Island ; its speakers constitute a major nationality ; its
cultural influence in the nation is very much greater than may be gauged from
the numerical strength of its speakers.
Words are the living memorials in which
are enshrined much of social and political history. The inner life of every
people is stereotyped in their language, and retained there for the instruction
of future generations. I could give you hundreds of Tamil words and terms, the
disuse of which in administration would impoverish the Tamils in Ceylon in more
ways than one. It is but a fundamental and human right that Tamil be one of the
languages of administration all over the county so that the Tamil-speaking
population may transact their business with Government in their own language and
consequently that their business is attended to by members of the Government
service who have a minimum knowledge of the Tamil language.
There is a flagrant contradiction in the statements of those thinkers who would
have Tamil as a medium of instruction in schools but not as a medium in
administration. If there is equality of opportunity in this Island, it should be
made compulsory for a Government servant to have a minimum knowledge of both
languages so that he may serve in any part of the Island.
"aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public
mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular
enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspiration, at giving enlargement and
sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political
power and refining the intercourse of private life." - (Cardinal Newman, Idea of
Are we to be denied these gifts of University life merely because a bilingual
University is supposed to be a novel institution in our national experience?
Bilingual Universities are no uncommon feature of bilingual and multilingual
countries. They tend to set the tone and the example in tolerance, good
understanding and co-operation for the rest of the county. And bilingualism at
the University and in administration function on the under-standing that on the
part of the language groups there will be no linguistic or cultural imposition
which involves the sacrifice of the mother-tongue.
The existence of the age-long cultures side by side should be looked upon as a
source of fruitfulness and mutual benefits. Hence our Universities, schools, and
adult educational agencies should provide opportunities for the study of the two
national languages. Citizens should be encouraged to learn the other national
language so that they may break the linguistic barrier in the interests of
social harmony. In Ceylon, we possess already a linguistic environment
favourable to the study of Sinhalese, Tamil and English, and as many citizens as
possible should avail themselves of this opportunity to obtain a knowledge of
the three languages, naturally, in varying degrees of proficiency.
Responsibility of the State
Thus far I have spoken of State patronage and of institutions for the
promotion of Tamil Culture in Ceylon. The state may not relinquish its
obligations in favour of private enterprise and initiative, nor may it attempt
at consoling us with the assurance that “Tamil will be taken care of in South
India.” Our reply then would be: “We are Ceylonese and the Tamil language
belongs here in its own right, and even if Tamil per impossible ceased to be the
living language in other parts of the world, we shall endeavour to make it
continue to flourish in this Island reserve.”
An assurance of Tamil prosperity
in South India would be similar to assuring the French-Swiss nationality that
French need not be an official language in Switzerland because it is the
official language across the border in France, or that the University of
Lausanne is superfluous because there is a University in Paris, or to saying
that the mother-tongue may be neglected in Australia because English is taught
in the United States. The growth of Tamil in Ceylon has been independent, though
that growth did always admit of influences from across the seas in the same
manner as other great language of this Island.
Nor is it accurate to say that Tamils are so endowed with intelligence that they
will learn the Sinhalese language and wield it with the facility of a mother
-tongue even better than the Sinhalese themselves. This is a very unscientific
conjecture entirely unsupported by facts. The Tamils can never acquire the same
command of Sinhalese as those to whom Sinhalese is the mother-tongue, unless
they are prepared to change their mother-tongue. There are very, very few people
in the world who are able to think, speak and write two languages with the same
equal facility.17 And what guarantee is there that even if they sell their
birthright, origins, religion, names and antecedents will not prevent
discrimination should Government or society choose to discriminate against them?
Some Ways and Means
There are ways and means by which individuals may promote Tamil Culture,
either singly or in a body. It would not be wrong to say that the State and the
Universities receive their tone and their standards also from the society which
they represent, so that the higher the standards of society, the higher is the
standard of cultural patronage by the State and of efficiency at the
University. Here are some ways and means by which the objectives of a cultural
revival may be achieved:
1. Active support should be given to associations dedicated to the study and
promotion of Tamiliana.
2. Tamil society should set the highest standards in this revivalist and
progressive movement. Awards (cash, medals, books) should be offered for
creative work and for translations..
3. Libraries and Museums should be established as means of adult education and
films should be made of the Tamil heritage. The project of the Jaffna Library
merits the support of the entire country.
4. A comprehensive Tamil-Sinhalese-English Dictionary and a Tamil Encyclopaedia
for Ceylon should be compiled.
5. Basic research should be undertaken by cultural associations so that the
significance and import of Tamil customs and habits and way of life may be
popularised among the Tamil-speaking people.
6. Teachers of Tamil should be well-qualified and be lovers of Tamil literature
that enjoy Tamil poetry in their leisure. A new orientation in the prescribing
of books of study and in their teaching is necessary if Tamil children are to
love their language and enjoy poetry and the Tamil Arts as the expression of
life and experience, and wield their languages for intelligent and effective
citizenship. The writing of poetry should receive especial attention, since
poetry, more than nay other Fine Arts, is a powerful vehicle for the
transmission of a people’s ideals, history and language.
7. Tamil monuments in Ceylon should be better studied and preserved. If the
State for some reason or other, has not hitherto prepared specialists in Tamil
archaeology or Tamil history, it should be the duty of the Tamil Cultural
Association to request the State to do so. The University, the Department of
Archaeology, the Public Museums should have scholars well versed in Tamiliana.
Scholarships may be offered to deserving students by the Tamil -speaking public.
8. Tamil studies should be made to show the points of contact and elements
common with Sinhalese Culture so as to promote understanding and national
9. The Tamil classics should be translated into Sinhalese and books on Tamil
Culture be written in English and Sinhalese for the promotion of
10. The contribution in thought, in literature, in art made by the Tamil
speaking people should be made known through translations in the principal
languages of Europe and Asia, because that contribution is part of the world’s
heritage. In the past, for political and religious reasons, Tamil studies had
enthusiastic students in Portugal, Holland, France and England. In the future,
it will be the duty of Tamils themselves to give their treasures to their
fellowmen, and a few Tamil scholars at least should learn Hindi, Chinese,
Japanese and Indonesian for this purpose.
11. Culture is dependent for its origin and its development on geography and on
the land. Tamil Culture has had always an intimate communion with the land as is
to be seen from the earliest Tamil poetry down to our own day. The tendency of
people to flock to the towns should be arrested, for extreme urbanization and
the consequent change means death to a culture such as ours. One cannot be
opposed to change or to the absorbing of elements that are conducive to cultural
progress. But the process of change should not involve the ceasing of a vital
internal development. The Tamil speaking people should co-operate in
re-settlement programmes and revive the agricultural bias of their social
12. Every Tamil-speaking citizen should make his own contribution to this
cultural movement, by study, by doing promotional work, and by material
assistance. Many associations and authors fail to give of their best for want of
Unto the Last
These, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the measures that we may adopt in
order that we may reacquire our Culture for ourselves and our generation, and
that we may leave it to those who follow us, richer and nobler, if possible,
than we found it. There is no doubt that the task of nation-building is not a
tight one, and that the.problems that beset us are many and varied. While other
bilingual states are parts of continents and have large territories contiguous
to them, Nature and history and a common patrimony intend us to be one nation in
our Island home.
Because Tamil is the mother-tongue also in other countries, no Tamil-speaking
Ceylonese has ever ceased to think of this Island but as his home, his country
and his motherland. For two thousand years and more, our two major nationalities
have lived together, and there is no reason for not hoping that Sinhalese
Culture will be a source of inspiration and Strength to Tamil Culture and that
Tamil culture will be a source of inspiration and strength to Sinhalese Culture.
The great Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam in a speech that inaugurated the national
movement in this county saw the vision of a future Ceylon which because of
progress and leadership would serve as a beacon light to the rest of Asia. Asia
today throbs with the consciousness of new hope and destiny, and within the
frame-work of new world, our county situated in the centre between East and West
has the new opportunity to evolve a life of its own, her own democracy, by
learning from the experience of other nations on either side of her but by
solving her own problems in the manner best suited to her own national genius.
If I have ventured to suggest to you a few measures for the continued
preservation and development of Tamil Culture, I have done so in the spirit of a
student. The history that I have outlined, the language in which our mothers
sang to us when rocking our cradles, the words that have become dear to us by
traditional usage and the phrases that have become consecrated in our prayers at
home or at common worship, the literature that has formed, nurtured and elevated
us and offered us the ideals which we cherish, these are some of the factors
that contributed to the Tamil-speaking peoples existing as a nationality upon
One is not less a Ceylonese for being loyal to Tamil Culture or to
Sinhalese Culture. While it is true that a culture may not be created
artificially, it is equally true that it is in the power of men to contribute to
the causes and work at those conditions necessary for a flowering of culture,
and it is also in the power of men to combat those intellectual errors and the
emotional prejudices which stand in the way of such conditions. The survival and
the continued growth of Tamil Culture is, therefore, in our hands.
It is selfless and noble to dedicate one’s time and energies under God to one’s
Culture and one’s County. The Tamil sage implied that Tamil Culture is the
dearest possession of the Tamil people for the preservation of which no
sacrifice would be great enough, not even life itself:
PaNpudaiyar Paddundu Ulagam
Aahthinrel Mampukku Maaiva Thooman
1 see Articles by Swami Gnana Prakasar in Tamil Culture, Vol I (1952) Nos. l-4.
2 W. GEIGER, The mahavamsa, p.165; pp. 264f., Colombo 1950.
3. H. BUTTERFIELD, History and ‘human Relations, p. 158ff., London, 1951.
4. DE QDEYROZ, The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, p. 241, Colombo,
1930; S. G. PERERA, The Jesuits in Ceylon, passim, Madura, 1942; see G.
SCHURHAMMER, Ceylon sur zeit des konigs Bhuvaneka Bahu und Franz Xavers, 2 Vols.
; Leipzig, 1928; and Die Zeitgenossischen Quellen zur geschichte Portugiesisch -
Asiens und seiner nachbarlander 15381552, leipzig, 1932; MA. HEDWIG FITZLER, Os
tombos de ceilao da seccao ultramarina da biblioteca nacional, Lisbon, 1927;
PIERIS-FITZLER, Ceylon and Portugal, Leipzig, 1927, fails to mention or
translate the Tamil sentences in the letters from the Court of the King of
Kotte, though reproducing in a frontispiece plate the Tamil writing which
precedes the signature of the Sinhalese king..
5 catechismus, Colombo, 1754 (Copy seen in the Museum Library of Djakarta).
6 On place names, see B.J. PERERA, Some observations on the study of Sinhalese
place names in The Ceylon
Historical Journal, Vol.II (1953) pp. 241-250; page 244; ‘Tamil place names are
found mostly along the sea-coast and in the Anuradhapura, Chilaw and Puttalam
districts. Though there are no native ‘Tamils living along the sea-coast south
of Colombo, the Tamil origin of most of the present inhabitants there is seen
from the fairly large number of Tamil place names. The ‘ge’ names of these
people too attest to their Tamil origin. The word malai meaning in Tamil ‘a
mountain or hill is found in even the central parts of the island. They are come
across in literature produced many centuries before the opening up of
plantations and show that the Tamil element in the composition of the Sinhalese
is far greater than is usually conceded. RanMalaya, Kotmale and Gilimale are
some of the examples." I am indebted to my colleague, Mr. K. Nesiah for the
above reference. C.E. GODAKUMBURA, in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and
African Studies, The Dravidian Element in Siialese, pp. 837-841, Vol XI; N.S.
VENGADASAMY,Tamil and Buddhism, (Tamil) Madras, 1950.
7. A.N. WHITEHEAD, Aims of Education, New York. 1951: "Language is the
incarnation of the mentality of the race that fashioned it"
8. Quoted in Preface to Winslow’s Tamil -English Dictionary, Madras, 1862.
9. A. SCHWEITZER, Indian Thought and its Development, pp 200-205, London, 1936.
10. see M. WINSLOW, Preface to Tamil-English Dictionary; SRI KANTHA, Terra
tamulica, Colombo, 1910.
11. K. KANAPATHIPILLAI, Ceylon’s Contribution to Tamil language and Literature
in University of Ceylon Review, Vol. VI, No.4 (1948); Articles by K.P RATNAM and
K.K. NADARAJAH in the Ceylon Tamil Festival Volume (Tarnil), Jaffna, 1951.
12. See E.H. WARMINGTON, The Commerce between the roman Empire and india.
13. G.COEDES, Lees etats Hindouises, Paris 1948.
14. BERYL DE ZOETE, The Other Mind, p. 14, London 1953.
15 A J KROEBER Anthropology. p2 2 6- 227 New York, 1948.
17 MARIO PEI, The Story of Language, New York, 1949, p.104: "
A trace of foreign accent is present in about 99% of cases where a person on one
linguistic background tries to speak another tongue."
Page191: "It has been fully established that a change in language on the part of an
individual is attended by corresponding changes in gestures, facial expression,
carriage, even humour and taboos. This is readily observable in the case of
bilingual speakers when they pass from one language to the other." Page254:
"Linguistic intolerance is manifested in the aversion to other languages than
one’s own. As a student linguistic sociology puts it, ‘To the naive monoglot,
objects and ideas are identical with and inseparable from the particualr words
used to describe them in the one language he knows; hence he is inclined to
consider speakers of other language as something less than ashuman, or at least
foreign and hostile to the world of his own experience."