Seminar of Tamil Studies
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- April 1966
The first International Conference of Tamil Studies, sponsored by the International
Association of Tamil Research, the National Education (Indian Schools) Development Council
of Malaya, and the University of Malaya, was held at the Third Residential College
premises. University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between 16th April and 23rd April
One hundred and thirty two delegates and forty observers attended the
Conference/Seminar. Among those who participated as delegates, there were one from Burma,
thirty-one from Ceylon, one from Denmark, five from France, two from Germany,
one from Holland, one from Hong Kong, forty-two from
India, two from Japan, fourteen from Malaysia, four
from Mauritius, one from the Philippines, one from
Portugal, six from Singapore, one from South Korea,
one from Sweden, one from Switzerland, one from Thailand, five from the United Kingdom, eight from the United States of America and three from Vietnam.
The Conference Seminar was declared open by the Hon'ble Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-haj. at 10 30 a m. on Saturday 16th April
1966 in the Dewan Tunku Abdul Kahman, Ampang Road, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The proceedings of the Conference extended over five full days between Monday 18th
April and Friday 22nd April 1966. A total number of twelve Plenary Sessions and six Group
Sessions were held during this period, and on Saturday, 23rd April 1966, the Final Open'
Session was held.
The Plenary Sessions were conducted on the following subjects: (a) History and Culture
in South-east Asia with particular reference to Tamil cultural contacts, (b) Tamil
Literary Criticism, (c) Tamil Society in the Cankam period. (d) Westerners and Tamil
Studies, (e) Literature and Society, (f) Modern Tamil Literature. (g) South-east Asia
after 1500. (h) Music and Dance, (i) Art and Antiquity, (j) Dravidian Comparative
Linguistics, and (k} Tamil Society in the modern period. One Plenary Session was devoted
to the discussion of papers presented in Tamil.
The subjects of the Group Sessions were: The Tamil Society of the period of the Three
Empires, Trade and External Relations, Teaching of Tamil, Diachronic Tamil Linguistics
Synchronic Tamil Linguistics. and Translation.
A total number of 150 research papers were presented at the Conference sessions;
delegates who were able to present their papers in person were each given ten minutes to
present their findings in a summary form. There were a Chairman and a Discussion Leader
for each session.
The proceedings of the Conference were adequately
documented. Copies of papers, most of them written in English and a few in Tamil. were
made available to the delegates before each session.
The business of the Conference sessions were conducted principally in English. Tamil
was also used by a number of delegates.
|The moving spirit behind the conference was
Rev.Father Xavier S.Thani Nayagam, originally from Tamil Eelam and
who in 1966, was serving at the University of Malaya. His introductory remarks as
Conference Chairman reached out both to the hearts and the minds of his audience:
"Mr. President of the International Association of Tamil Research, Distinguished
Guests and Colleagues.
'கலையணிச் செல்வன் கமலச் சேவடி
தலை அணி புனைந்து சாற்றதும் தமிழே'
'என்னை நன்றாக இறைவன் படைத்தனன்
தன்னை நன்றாகத் தமிழ்செய்யு மாறே'
It is a historic privilege to welcome everyone of you to this Conference Hall
where for the first time so many representatives of so many different nations are
assembled to discuss various aspects of Tamil Studies.
May I welcome those of you who were not present at the opening of our Conference on
Saturday morning. A special welcome to our new Vice-President from across the Pacific,
Not only does our membership cut across national boundaries, but also does transcend
frontiers, if any, of religion, of mother tongue, of fields of specialisation. This
Conference-Seminar, like other academic Conferences, has been planned and is being held
solely to extend the frontiers of learning and the pursuit of disinterested knowledge. It
is our privilege to have the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Madras. as the leader of the
largest cultural delegation which ever left the shores of India for a foreign country, and
to have him share a participant's chair like the rest of us. We are indeed grateful to the
Government of India for this gesture, because the status, the age, the wisdom of this
statesman. and the composition of the Indian delegation, have served to emphasise the
importance of this Conference-Seminar.
May I also be permitted a word of welcome to the other official delegation,
namely the delegation from Ceylon, led by the Hon'ble H. W. Tambiah, Judge of the Supreme
Court of Ceylon.
Our welcome is equally warm to all delegates and participants from the other countries
and from institutions of higher learning.
I have also the pleasant duty to greet the University of Madurai and its first
Vice-Chancellor Prof. T. P. Meenakshisundaram. We are proud that one of our founder
members and a Vice-President, and a former teacher of several Heads of Departments and
others here present, has been appointed Vice-Chancellor in such a celebrated city with
This endeavour of ours organised at this University, we would like to be recorded
solely as an attempt, howsoever feeble, to serve Tamil Studies...."