A Frenchman’s love for Tamil hymns
By Express News Service - CHENNAI
23rd July 2012 09:00 AM
Laying emphasis on the importance of Nalayira Divya Prabandham, a collection of 4,000 devotional hymns sung by the Alwars, Tamil scholar Vaiyapuri Pillai, way back in 1955, said that not only the Vaishnavites, but the entire Tamil community should read the collection.
However, the scholar would never have imagined that his words, these in specific, would be repeated by a French national 57 years later. “Reading Tamil is easier when compared to speaking the language,” observed Jean-Luc Chevillard, a Tamil linguist of French origin.
Chevillard was recently in the city to deliver a lecture on a preliminary survey of the musical and metrical colophons in the Nalayira Divya Prabandham palm-leaf manuscripts. He has also extensively dealt with Thirumurai, a collection of holy scriptures written by the Nayanmar saints in praise of lord Shiva in Tamil, which is considered sacred by Shaivites or Shiva devotees. During his stay in South India several years ago, Chevillard decided to specialise in the history of the grammatical tradition of Tamil and even went on to write his thesis on one of the commentaries of the Tolkappiyam. Later, he was recruited by the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) in 1991 and then by the French National Center for Scientific Research.
“I have a lot admiration for the Silapathigaram. I have also read Manimegalai. I am inclined to read Seevagasinthamani,” Chevillard replied when questioned about his interest in ancient Tamil epics.
Apart from having published several articles on Tamil literature, he was also instrumental in bringing out a CD titled ‘Digital Thevaram’ back in 2007. The CD contains information about important Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu and also from outside the state, he said.
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