March 2014 is the starting date for a new project in the domain of Classical Tamil, launched in the Pondicherry centre of the EFEO under the acronym of NETamil, the full title being "Going from Hand to Hand: Networks of Intellectual Exchange in the Tamil Learned Traditions". The undertaking is financed with 2.5 million Euro over five years by the European Research Council, via an ERC Advanced Grant won by Eva Wilden. This project will finalise the digitisation of classical Tamil manuscripts begun over ten years back by the project Caṅkam. Besides detailed documentation of the remaining witnesses and the continuation of critically re-editing the classical corpus, the aim will be an in-depth study of transmissional history and intellectual tradition, that is, the communities who handed over the various texts from generation to generation and thus ensured their survival.

The international team of scholars will consist of twenty-five members from eight countries spanning the three continents of India, Europe and America. About half of them are to be financed by the project and will be distributed between Pondicherry, as the basis for further field trips, and the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures at the University of Hamburg (Germany), currently one of the world's leading institutions in the field, endowed with a state-of-the-art manuscript laboratory which will help enhancing the quality of images and restore readability for example to manuscripts where the ink has practically vanished. The most important Indian partner institution will be the Central University of Tamil Nadu, Tiruvārūr, where Professor K. Nachimuthu is currently installing the first Indian academic programme for a degree in Classical Tamil.

Research is focussed on four major areas, namely Caṅkam literature, as already established, with current work going on for Akanāṉūṟu, Aiṅkuṟunūru, Puṟanāṉūṟu and a number of Pattuppāṭṭu songs. The focus has been extended into the Patiṉeṇkīḻkkaṇakku, the Eighteen Minor Classics, for the moment concentrated on those anthologies that continue the older Akam and Puṟam tradition. A huge group of scholars work towards a critical edition of the founding text of the grammatical tradition, the Tolkāppiyam and its commentaries. In addition, another group work on the EFEO collection of Vaiṣṇava manuscripts. One of the research questions governing the collaboration between the four groups is the quest for nuances in the interaction of the two major languages of Indian literary and intellectual exchange, Tamil and Sanskrit, and their common child, Maṇipravāḷam, on the level of local knowledge systems and their formation.

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