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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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HomeTamil Language & Literature > Prof. Dr. Kamil Vaclav Zvelebil

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Kamil Vaclav Zvelebil at the Institute 0f Indian Studies, Prague, Czech Republic

On Murugan & Valli
Tamil Traditions on Subrahmanya -Murugan
Introduction - Kamil V. Zvelebil

Books by Kamil  Zvelebil
*
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*Tamil Traditions on Subrahmanya-Murugan
*Siddha Quest for Immortality
*Dravidian linguistics: An introduction (PILC publication)
*Nilgiri areal studies (Acta Universitatis Carolinae)
*The Poets of the Powers: Magic, Freedom, and Renewal
*Two Tamil Folktales: The Story of King Matanakama, the Story of Peacock Ravana (UNESCO collection of representative works)
* Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature (Handbuch Der Orientalistik, Erganzungsband 5)
* Literatur Und Buhn: Tamil Literature (Hanbuch Der Orientalistik - Abeilung - Indien, Vol 2/1)
*Lexicon of Tamil Literature (Handbuch Der Orientalistik : Zweite Abteilung : Indien/Handbook of oriental Studies : India, 9)
 

Prof. Dr. Kamil Vaclav Zvelebil

[see also http://www.marketaz.co.uk/Zveleb1.html ] 


Prof. Zvelebil was born in Prague (Czechoslovakia) on 17-11-1927. He studied at the Charles University in Prague from 1946 to 1952. He read Indology, English language, literature and philosophy. He was awarded his Ph.D in 1952 in Sanskrit, English and Philosophy.  In 1959 he obtained a second Ph.D in Dravidian philology.

From 1952 to 1970 he was a research fellow and senior research fellow in Tamil and Dravidian linguistics and literature at the Oriental Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. His many field trips included those to South India and in 1965-66 he was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, USA, and 1967-68 at the University of Heidelberg.

He held the position of associate professor of Tamil and Dravidian at Charles University in Prague until 1968 when he and his family had to leave their native Czechoslovakia in 1968 after the Soviet-led invasion of the country.

He subsequently obtained the chair in Dravidian studies at the University of Chicago, USA. In 1970 he left the USA and was a visiting professor at the College de France, Paris, then visiting professor of the Sudasien Institute, University of Heidelberg, senior research fellow, University of Leiden and settled as a professor of Dravidian Linguistics and South Indian literature/culture at the University of Utrecht till his retirement in 1992.

During his career he had the opportunity not only to travel on his field trips but also to teach in various cities including, Delhi, Madras, Tokyo, Philadelphia, Rochester, Moscow, Leningrad, Uppsala and Lund. He is the author of more that 500 bibliographic items including books, articles, reviews and translations. Translations include those of ancient and modern poetry and prose from Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayam, Kannada and Telugu into Czech, Slovak, English and German.

His works covered the fields of descriptive and historical Tamil linguistics and dialectology, Tamil literature, Tamil Prosody, Dravidian comparative linguistics, Tribal languages and cultures of the Nilgiries (South India: in particular Irula - described for the first time by Zvelebil), South Indian cultural and religious history, Hinduism, Sanskrit ritual texts, comparative Sanskrit and Tamil literature, Tamil Folklore Tamil Siddha movement. In The Smile of Murugan : On Tamil Literature of South India, he wrote

 "...The Dravidians, and in particular the Tamils, have contributed a great deal to the cultural riches of the world: Pallava and Chola temple architecture, Chola bronze sculpture, the dance-form known as Bharatanatyam, the so-called Carnatic system of music. But probably the most significant contribution is that of Tamil literature, which still remains to be "discovered" and enjoyed by the non Tamilians and adopted as an essential and remarkable part of universal heritage. If it is true that liberal education should "liberate" by demonstrating the cultural values and norms foreign to us, by revealing the relativity of our own values, then the "discovery" and enjoyment of Tamil literature, and even its teaching (as a critical part of the teaching of Indian literatures) should find its place in the systems of Western training and instruction in the humanities..."

Writing in 'Tamil Culture' in 1956, (Vol. V, No. 4. October, 1956) Dr. Zvelebil made an appeal under the heading "The Tamil Contribution to World’s Civilisation". He said:

"There is no doubt that the culture of the Tamils belongs to the great and immortal treasures of the world's civilisation.

From my own experience, however, I can say that even those who claim to have a wide outlook and deep education, both Indians and Europeans, are not aware of this fact. And it is the task of the Tamils themselves, and of those sympathetic mlecchas who try to interpret Tamil culture, to acquaint the world's cultural public with the most important contributions of Tamil culture to the world's civilisation.

As far as literary works are concerned, it is necessary before all to make them accessible to a wide public of readers by means of artistic translations into the worlds great languages; with regard to works of arts and architecture, it is necessary to make them a common treasure of the world with the help of publications giving detailed and perfect reproductions. This may be achieved through the UNESCO as well as through the work of individual scholars and local Institutions; this should also be one of the main tasks of the Academy of Tamil Culture.

The following works of art and literature are among the most remarkable contributions of the Tamil creative genius to the world's cultural treasure and should be familiar to the whole world and admired and beloved by all in the same way as the poems of Homer, the dramas of Shakespeare, the pictures of Rembrandt, the cathedrals of France and the sculptures of Greece:

1. The ancient Tamil lyrical poetry compiled in ‘The Eight Anthologies’; this poetry is so unique and vigorous, full of such vivid realism and written so masterfully that it can be compared probably only with some of the pieces of ancient Greek lyrical poetry;

2. The Thirukural, one of the great books of the world, one of those singular emanations of the human heart and spirit which preach positive love and forgiveness and peace;

3. The epical poem Cilappathikaram, which by its "baroque splendour', and by the charm and magic of its lyrical parts belongs to the epic masterpieces of the world;

4. The school of Bhakti both Vaishnava and Saiva, which is one of those most sincere and passionate efforts of man to grasp the Absolute; and its supreme literary expression in the works of Manikkavasagar, Tirugnana Sambandar, Nammalwar and Andal.

5. The philosophical system of Saiva Sidhdhantha, a system, which may be ranked among the most perfect and cleverest systems of human thought;

6. The South Indian bronzes of the Chola period, those splendid and amazing sculptures belonging to the best creations of humanity,

7. The Dravidian temple architecture, of which the chief representatives are perhaps the temples of Tanjore, Chidambaram and Madurai.

These seven different forms of contribution without which the world would be definitely less rich and less happy, should engage the immediate attention of all who are interested in Tamil culture; they should all dedicate their time and efforts to make known (and well and intimately known) to the whole of the world these heights of Tamil creative genius."

Prof. Zvelebil is a member of many societies including associations of the Czech Union of Writes, Hon. Fellow Sahitya akademy (National Academy of Letters, India).

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