Indologist explores lesser known Tamil Muslim poets

Indologist and noted scholar Prof David Shulman, who authored Tamil – A Biography, said that while tracing the cultural history of the ancient language, he stumbled upon lesser known Tamil literature from Sri Lanka and discovered rich texts written by Tamil Muslim poets.
Indologist explores lesser known Tamil Muslim poets
Professor David Shulman addressing the gathering in the city on Wednesday


Prof Shulman said that he never thought of writing a book like, Tamil – A Biography “. I had written another book titled, More Than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India, and sent it to Harvard University Press (publishers). The editor, Sharmila Sen, liked it and for a long time, she had wanted to bring out a book on Tamil. I had no intention of doing it since I did not know enough. But she persuaded me to do it and due to my intimate connection with Tamil, I agreed,” said the scholar.  
The tome, which traces the cultural history of Tamil over two thousand years of its documented existence, explores with a historical perspective, the ways in which the language, poetry and literature evolved. During the three-year long journey of penning the book, he said reading and re-reading the “great Tamil texts”. In this process, he stumbled upon lesser known Tamil poets. “There was a lot to say and many new things to read, including things that I hadn’t known about. In 17th century literature, there are marvellous Tamil books from Sri Lanka. There are great poets – like Villavarayar Sinnathamby Pulavar for instance – but nobody reads them. The same applies to the incredibly rich Tamil Muslim work, some of it written in the Arabic script,” said Prof Shulman, hinting that this would be his next initiative. 
Prof Shulman, Professor Emeritus of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, also touched upon the controversies surrounding the language, particularly on old Sangam poems. “I tried to come up with a solution as to whether they belong to 7th century or 2-3 BC, but couldn’t solve the problem as there is not much evidence,” added the scholar, who spoke to DTNext on the sidelines of delivering a lecture on “Visions of Dust: A Bottom-Up View of the South Indian Universe,” at Kalakshetra on August 9.

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