Established in 1944
The Department which was started as a chair for an honorary professorship of Tamil in the year 1944 in the Then Travancore University with the munificent donation of rupees one lakh and one by Dr. R.M. Azhakappa Chettiyar One of the great philanthropists of Tamil Nadu grew and became the Department of Tamil in the University of Kerala during the stewardship of Prof. V.I. Subramanian (1954- 1966) due to his vision and dynamic leadership. Late Prof. M. Raghava Iyengar (1945- 1951) and late Prof. S. Vaiyapuripillai (1951- 1954) the two great luminaries of Tamil Scholarship adorned the chair earlier Prof. S.V. Subramanian (1966- 1974) and late Prof. Elayaperumal (1974- 1984) continued the works of their predecessors vigorously.Subsequently during the stewardship of Prof.K.Subramoney (1984 – ), Dr.L.Gloria Sundramathy (1990 – 1994). Prof.K.Nachimuthu (1994 – 1995,1998 – 2007) Dr. C. Subramania Pillai (1995 – 1998,2007), Prof. Doctor P. Nazeemdeen (2007 – 2008) maintained the traditions set by its predecessors and registered various developments.
True to its tradition, the Department has been doing good work in the training of good researchers and scholars. The contribution of the Department to the qualitative change of Tamil scholarship and research is recognized widely. Apart from offering MA and M Phil courses, facilities are also available in the Department for doing higher research for Ph. D and Post Doctoral levels. The Department has so far produced hundred Ph.Ds, Six PDFs, three M. Litts and 192 Mphils. Besides four hundred and ten M.A Degree holders.
Many of former students have made their marks in their fields and earned a name for themselves and the alma mater. Most of them are well known in and outside India and have worked as Vice Chancellors, Visiting Professors in foreign countries, Professors, Directors, Research Associates, Project Heads, Journalists, Archaeologists ,Critics and School Teachers in Tamil and allied disciplines like Linguistics, Folklore Lexicography, Manuscriptology ,Broadcasting ,Press, and publishing. Our alumni are found in many Universities and Colleges, besides International Institute of Tamil Studies(I.I.T.S.),Chennai, Central Institute of Indian Languages (C.I.I.L),Mysore, Central Institute of Classical Tamil (C.I.C.T.),International School of Dravidian Linguistics( I.S.D.L),Thiruvananthapuram. The presence of our alumni can be seen in various parts of India and also in foreign countries like Germany, Netherlands, Poland, USA, France, Malaysia and Singapore .
Three of students of the Department have become the Vice chancellors of Universities. Prof. V. I. Subramaniam who was the head of the Department of Tamil and Linguistics in Kerala University was the first and second Vice Chancellor of Tamil University.Prof. S.Agasthialingom, a doctorate holder from our Department was the third Vice chancellor of the same university. Prof. K. P .Aravanan was the Vice Chancellor of Manomaniyam Sundaranar University. Prof. S. V. Subramaniam, former Head of the Department of Tamil was the Director of the International Institute of Tamil Studies. Former students like Prof. S.Carlos (Tamilavan) have become the leading critics and creative writers.
The achievements of the Department is manifold.The compilation of Tamil literary source materials (Ceravendar Ceyyut kovai by Prof.M.Raghava Iyengar etc.),the preparation of word indices and grammatical description of Sangam and other texts, the translation and introduction of texts on literary criticism and folklore (Index of Purananooru by Prof. V. I. Subramonian, Theory of Literature-translation by Prof.Gloria Sundramathy),the compilation of grammatical texts thematically (Prof. S. V. Subramanian’s Ilakkanat thokai), the pioneering efforts in the preparation of retrospective research bibliographies (Cilappatikara Ayvatankal by R.Kasirajan), the two way translation of Tamil and Malayalam grammatical and literary texts and Tamil Malayalam comparative literary and grammatical studies (Lilatilakam Tamil translation, Tolkappiyam Malayalam translation etc. by Prof. M. Elayaperumal and others), the efforts to compile Tamil Malayalam bilingual dictionaries(Tamil Malayalam Lexicography by Prof. K. Nachimuthu and others), the study of folklore of different communities and tribal lore of the hill tribes of Kerala( Idukki District Tribals and their lore by Dr.Doctor P. Nazeemdeen and others), the studies on manuscripts and critical editions of Tamil texts on Grammar, literature and medicine (Harischandra Venba by M. Raghava Iyengar, Yapparunkalam by Dr. N. Shanmugham, Otimurivu Cara sutram by Dr. James Deva Kamala Arumai Raj and others), the place names of Kerala in inscriptional sources( by Dr.M.Nainar),the teaching problem of Tamil in Kerala(Dr.Jeyakrishnan’s work on the Science teaching in Tamil in Kerala) are some of the important contributions of the Department. The identification of the Chera Chronology of Patirruppattu in the Pukaliyur Tamil Brahmin inscription by Dr.R.Panneerselvam, the devising of a formula for computing population of old times(Sangma times)by Prof.M.E.Manickavasagam,the discovery of Kannaki Worship among tribals of Kerala by Dr.Doctor P.Nazeemdeen,Mr.Paul Sekar are some of the important academic achievements by our alumni.
The Department had earlier worked out a project on Index Verborum of Sangam Classics (Prof.V.I.Subramoniam).The Department also hosted all India Seminars(Annual Seminar of the All India University Tamil Teachers Association in 1973).The Department celebrated its golden Jubilee in 1994-95 with two National Seminars on Tamil Research Survey Prospects and Priorities and Tamil Epigrahpy for the study of the History of Kerala.This seminar led to the discovery of new Brahmi inscriptions in the Edakkal Cave by Shri Iravatham Mahadevan who was one of the invitees to the Seminar. The Seminar on the Cilappatikaram and Kannaki Worship in Kerala brought out the extensive prevalence of Kannaki worship in Kerala and particularly practiced by a new tribal community in the Western Ghats discovered by Mr.Paul Sekar a reseach scholar.There were many important seminars hosted by the Department and the proceedings of some of them have been published as book form.
There about a half a dozen Endowments managed by the Department which regularly conducts lectures and arranged for stipend and prizes for best performers. In spite of being a small department we were able to achieve these distinctions by the hard work of its faculty and students and the liberal support by the authorities of Kerala University in the form of scholarships and endowment awards of prizes and stipends by philanthropists and alumni which make the Department an attractive destination for higher studies and research.
The students forum and alumni called Ilango Manram are active and earlier publications like Ilavenil and Ayvu malar were brought out and annual alumni meet are regularly held to commemorate the memory of the former professors of the Department.
The Department has published sixteen books so far. In addition, an annual Journal called Research Papers has been published since 1970.
Aspects of classical literature, grammatical studies, comparative literature, folklore, cultural studies, and textual criticism are the thrust areas of the department. Making a bilingual dictionary of Tamil Malayalam is one of the immediate the priority activity of Department. A data base of word indices has been built over the years with which one can pursue compilation of different dictionaries. The library has about 32000 thousand books plus a number of dissertations which makes it a veritable store house of knowledge on Tamil language and literature.