9th Classical Tamil Summer Seminar in 2011

Organised by the centre of the École françaised’Extrême-Orient in Pondicherry, 15th to 26th of August 2011


This year’s summer will be particularly eventful with no less than two workshops, one before and one after the CTSS, for which reason the latter will be reduced to two weeks. August is meant to start with Archaeology of Bhakti in South India (workshop cum conference organised by Emmanuel Francis, Valérie Gillet and Charlotte Schmid, from 1st to 12th August 2011). The second half of the month will be devoted to the regular CTSS. The texts chosen are the three Vaishnava Antaatis, composed by Poykaiyaazvaar, Puutattaazvaar and Peeyaazvaar, the earliest part of the Vaishnava bhakti corpus, the Tivyappirapantam, and probably dating back to the 6th century of the Common Era. On the one hand they are, unlike most bhakti texts, still in VeNpaa, the post-Cankam classical metre, but on the other hand they reflect already a fully developed Vaishnava mythology with most of the common Avataras of Vishnu and direct references to temple worship. Late August and early September will be an extended round table meeting of the scholars involved in the EFEO Cankam workshop, with the objective of discussing and testing methods of textual criticism on the basis of the manuscript material supplied by the project (organised by Eva Wilden, from 29th August to 9th September 2011).

The study of Classical Tamil is not widespread or prominent in the West. The EFEO Centre can offer the opportunity of approaching the difficult material by reading and discussing texts and commentaries both with Indian and Western scholars. For the time being the EFEO still employs three Indian scholars of Tamil: R. Varadadesikanfor Vaishnava literature, G. Vijayavenugopalas an epigraphist and T.Rajeswarias a manuscriptologist. Western Tamil scholars have few opportunities to meet – for them the CTSS provides an occasion of intensive exchange and collaboration. The CTSS is intended to ensure, along with some basic philological training, the transmission of some of the ancient knowledge and literary vision of the pandits. Even though several institutions have manuscripts, collected with the intention of preserving Tamil cultural patrimony, this is not to say that these manuscripts have been studied or published. There is a need for researchers to do this work. This course is thus in a position to make an important contribution to the training of future generations of scholars, being centrally placed at the meeting point between continuity and renewal in Tamil studies.


The main morning class for the advanced students will be split into two sessions, from 9-11a.m. and from 11.15a.m.-1p.m. (with a coffee break in between). The main morning text class will be held by pandit R. Varadadesikan, and is followed by a grammar class of revising and analysing the morning’s verses. The afternoons will partly be devoted to personal preparations, partly to further reading groups withG. Vijayavenugopal (epigraphy) and Jean-Luc Chevillard (grammatical literature).

Twice a week in the early evenings then there will again be a joint programme in the customary evening lectures. We hope also to be able to maintain our concert tradition on Friday evenings...

Who can participate?

As usual, we look forward to welcoming back former participants. Anybody with at least a basic knowledge of the Classical language will be most welcome. We would also like strongly to encourage Indian students to participate in our classes.Students and colleagues are welcome to stay all the six weeks of the program or to make their choice. Special registration is required both for the bhakti and for the Cankam workshop (the latter will be a specialists’ meeting open to listeners).


Practical organisation rests, as ever, in the hands of the secretary of the EFEO centre in Pondicherry, Mrs PreranaPatel (preranapatel@efeo-pondicherry.org). Please contact her for any practical question. A small fee will probably be levied. As the EFEO is currently having to adjust to a tight budget, we would appreciate being able to calculate more precisely the number of people likely to be expected. We have therefore drawn up an application form which has to be filled up and sent to the address above as soon as possible, at the latest, however, by the end of June 2011.

Application form to download (file Word .doc)

For further information contact: wilden.eva@gmail.com