Temporary hibernation of this site


The CLAC project is still progressing extremely well but our research notebook site has been hibernating for over a year now. We are working towards reviving it very soon and will keep you posted.DSC_0650

In the meantime, the team has located and digitized numerous interesting and vulnerable documents which we hope to present very soon.

Violence in Indian History-Conference November 2013

Archive India Institute’s Second Annual International Conference

Violence in Indian history

Bangalore, November 1st 2013

Premodern India produced over 25,000 literary, religious, philosophical and scientific texts and hundreds of administrative documents, land records, trading charters, historical chronicles and genealogies. Close to thirty million manuscripts are now extant. Besides, India is home to nearly 75,000 inscriptions engraved on stones, rock-surfaces, temple-walls, copper-plates, pots, wooden panels and so on. Together, these constitute a stupendous corpus, providing much of the information upon which the reconstruction of premodern Indian history is based. The importance of these sources can hardly then be overstated. Nevertheless, much of these texts are not accessible to scholars and students today. Thousands of inscriptions remain unpublished, and the existence of hundreds of texts is yet to be acknowledged by way of catalogues and inventories. Many of the published materials are either expensive, or out of print, or preserved in special libraries which do not provide easy access to researchers. These difficulties have generated a need to develop an alternative in tune with the demands and requirements of our times. The Archive India Institute was established in order to address some of these difficulties.

Archive India Institute-Digitising the Textual Heritage of India

The institute aims to digitize the literary, religious, philosophical and epigraphic texts from premodern South Asia and make them available freely online to researchers as well as to the general public. It also seeks to promote research by way of organizing seminars, conferences, workshops and symposia on all aspects of premodern South Asian history, and by publishing books, booklets, periodicals, pamphlets and other forms of literature relevant to the study of premodern South Asian history. The Institute expects to emerge as a premier platform for sustained engagement with the rich archival corpus of South Asia leading to cutting-edge research poised to extend the horizons of our knowledge on the subcontinent’s past.


Contact Secretary, Archive India Institute, 146, 4 Cross

Venkatagiriyappa Layout, 5 Block, Doddabommasandra, Bangalore 560097

Ph: +919418162555; Email: archiveindiainstitute@gmail.com




Tamil Documentation Conference April 2013-Sri Lanka

Tamil Documentation Conference – தமிழ் ஆவண மாநாடு

27-28 of April 2013- Colombo, Sri Lanka

Organised by Noolaham Foundation

This conference aims at identifying and discussing the goals that have been achieved so far and the goals that need to be achieved in the future in the areas of documentation, preservation and dissemination of knowledge. Educationists and researchers across Sri Lanka and from other countries will submit their research papers on the following themes at this conference:

  1. History, archaeological documents related to the heritages
  2. Audio, visual and photographic documents
  3. Individual personalities and institutions
  4. Documenting society
  5. Linguistic and literary documentation
  6. Knowledge sharing and education
  7. The role and uses of technology in documentation
  8. Digital libraries, websites and databases
  9. Cataloging and library science
  10. Art, cultural memory and documentation

பல்வேறுபட்ட துறைசார்ந்த விடயங்களையும் ஆவணப்படுத்தல், பேணிப்பாதுகாத்தல் மற்றும் அறிவைப்பகிர்தல் ஆகிய பணிகளில், இதுவரைகாலமும் அடையப்பட்ட இலக்குகளையும் அடையத் தவறவிடப்பட்ட இலக்குகளையும் அடையாளம் கண்டு, வெளிப்படுத்துதலை இம் மாநாடு நோக்கமாக கொண்டுள்ளது. இலங்கை மற்றும் பிற நாடுகளில் இருந்தும் பல கல்வியாளர்கள், ஆய்வாளர்கள் பங்குபற்றும் இம் மாநாட்டில் ஆய்வுக் கட்டுரை சமர்ப்பிக்க விரும்புவோரிடமிருந்து கீழ்வரும் விடயப்பரப்புகளுக்கு அமைவான ஆய்வுக்கட்டுரைகள் எதிர்பார்க்கப் படுகின்றன. இக்கட்டுரைகள் தமிழ் அல்லது ஆங்கில மொழியில் இருத்தல் வேண்டும். ஆய்வுக்கட்டுரைகளுக்கான விடயப்பரப்புகள்

  1. வரலாறு, தொல்லியல் ஆவணங்களும் மரபறிவுப் பதிவுகளும்
  2. ஒலி, ஓளி, புகைப்பட ஆவணங்கள்
  3. தனிமனித ஆளுமைகள், நிறுவனங்கள்
  4. சமூகத்தை ஆவணப்படுத்தல்
  5. மொழி இலக்கியப் பதிவுகள்
  6. அறிவுப்பகிர்வும் கல்வியும்
  7. ஆவணப்படுத்தலில் தொழினுட்பப் பயன்பாடுகள்
  8. எண்ணிம நூலகங்கள் [Digital Libraries], இணையத் தளங்கள், தரவுத் தளங்கள்
  9. நூல் விபரப்பட்டியலும் நூலகவியலும்
  10. கலை பண்பாடு நினைவுகளும் ஆவணப்படுத்தலும்


Noolaham Foundation
No 7, 57th Lane, (Colombo Tamil Sangam)
Colombo-06, Sri Lanka
Phone (Land): 0094 112363261

“Caste in Tamil Nadu” 3 essays by MSS Pandian (EPW)

(I) Caste in Tamil Nadu – A History of Nadar Censorship

Published in EPW, vol. XLVIII, n°3,  on January 19th 2013

Representations have been made by some of the political parties of Tamil Nadu to have a particular chapter in an NCERT Class IX textbook removed; the chapter is being attacked for discussing the past of the infl uential Nadars as “untouchables” and for highlighting the role played by 19th century Christian missionaries in the community’s subsequent upward mobility. The present clamour for a censored caste history has a right-wing Hindu character to it. If memories of degradation are an enabling resource in producing alliances against continuing forms of oppression, in this instance erasure of such memories is what is being sought by an upwardly mobile caste.

Continue reading here.

(II) Caste in Tamil Nadu – Slipping Hegemony of Intermediate Castes

Published in EPW, vol. XLVIII, n°4, January 26th 2013

The case of violence against the dalits by the Vanniyars in Dharmapuri recently is not a sign of resurgent casteism as the media and others are claiming. The state has definitely benefited from the anti-caste movements in the past and the dalits are experiencing upward mobility. The violence is a desperate acknowledgement of the dalit reality and the inability of the intermediate castes to exercise caste power over them as in the past.

Continue reading here.

(III) Caste in Tamil Nadu – Denying Difference

Published in EPW, vol. XLVIII, n°8, on February 23rd  2013

Tamil Nadu has a long tradition of implementing reservations on a preferential basis for different groups. The Arunthathiyar Special Reservation Act (2009) allots the Arunthathiyars 3 percentage points out of the 18% reservation for the scheduled castes. While having benefited the Arunthathiyars, the Act continues to be contested by other scheduled castes.

Continue reading here.



International Conference on Tamil Grammar 6/8 March 2013

Pasts in the Present: Tamil Grammar and its Contemporary Predicaments

-International Conference-

Date: 6th to 8th March 2013

          Venue: French Institute of Pondicherry
11, Saint Louis street

Time: 09.30 am

The French Institute of Pondicherry and the Central Institute of Classical Tamil will jointly organize a three day international conference ‘Pasts in the Present: Tamil Grammar and its Contemporary Predicaments’ from 6th to 8th March 2013.

At this conference the topics to be discussed and debated broadly range from: the Classical Tamil grammar, the issues in the teaching of this Classical Tamil grammar today and the relationship, creative writers have with reference to the Tamil grammar.

Researchers from different countries will participate in this conference. Prof. Prof. Y. Subbarayalu, Prof. P. R. Subramanian, Prof. Francois Gros, Prof. K. Rangan, Dr. Elisabeth Sethupathy, and writers such as Mr. Prapanchan, Mr. Dilip Kumar,
Mr. Sudhakar Ghatak, Mr. Kanmani Gunasekaran are among the key participants of this conference. Doctoral and Post doctoral research students from several Universities will also participate.

For more information: http://www.ifpindia.org/Pasts-in-the-Present-Tamil-Grammar-and-its-Contemporary-Predicaments.html


தற்காலம்: தமிழும் தமிழ் இலக்கணமும்

(06.03.2013 – 08.03.2013)

பிரெஞ்சு ஆய்வு நிறுவனம், புதுச்சேரி


புதுச்சேரி பிரெஞ்சு ஆய்வுநிறுவன இந்தியவியல் துறையும், சென்னையிலுள்ள செம்மொழித் தமிழாய்வு மத்திய நிறுவனமும் இணைந்து 06. 03. 2013 முதல் 08. 03. 2013 வரை தற்காலம்: தமிழும் தமிழ் இலக்கணமும் என்னும் தலைப்பிலான பன்னாட்டு கருத்தரங்கினை, புதுச்சேரி பிரெஞ்சு ஆய்வு நிறுவனத்தில் நடத்தவிருக்கின்றன.


இக்கருத்தரங்கில் பழந்தமிழ் இலக்கணம் குறித்தும், தற்காலத்தில் தமிழ் இலக்கணம் கற்பிப்பதில் ஏற்படக்கூடிய சிக்கல்கள் குறித்தும், படைப்பாளிகள் தமிழ் இலக்கணத்தோடு கொண்டிருக்கும் உறவு குறித்தும் விவாதிக்கப்படவுள்ளன.  இக்கருத்தரங்கில் உலகநாடுகள் பலவற்றிலிருந்தும் தமிழ் ஆய்வாளர்கள் கலந்துகொள்கின்றனர்.  பேராசிரியர்கள் எ. சுப்பராயலு, ப.ரா. சுப்பிரமணியம், பிரான்சுவா குரோ, இரா. கோதண்டராமன், எலிசபெத் சேதுபதி முதலியோரும், பிரபஞ்சன், கண்மணி குணசேகரன் பெருமாள் முருகன் முதலிய எழுத்தாளர்களும் பங்கேற்கின்றனர்.  இக்கருத்தரங்கில் பல்கலைக்கழக ஆய்வு மாணவர்களும் கலந்துகொள்கின்றனர்.
இடம்: பிரெஞ்சு ஆய்வு நிறுவனம், புதுச்சேரி
நேரம்: காலை 09. 30
For more information: http://www.ifpindia.org/Pasts-in-the-Present-Tamil-Grammar-and-its-Contemporary-Predicaments.html


New South Asian Digital Archive Projects

The Endangered Archives Programme is funding six new digital archives project in and related to South Asia:

  • “To survey the East India Company and Colonial archives of Jamestown, St Helena, South Atlantic” (EAP 524)

Pilot project (6 months) coordinated by David Richardson, University of Hull.

  • “The narrative and ritual texts, narrative paintings and other performance related material belonging to the Buchen of Pin Valley, India” (EAP 548)

Pilot project (6 months) coordinated by Patrick Sutherland, University of the Arts London.

  • “Preserving memory II – documentation and digitisation of palm leaf manuscripts, Kerala, India (EAP 584)”

Major project (18 months) coordinated by Sudha Gopalakrishnan, SAHA: Stirring Action on Heritage and the Arts.

  • “Digitising Malay writing in Sri Lanka” (EAP609)

Major project (24 months) coordinated by Ronit Ricci, The Australian National University

  • “Exploring land and society in pre-partition Sindh (1843-1947): collecting and copying endangered records of Sehwan Sharif and beyond” (EAP 553)

Pilot project (12 months) coordinated by Remy Delage, Institut Français de Pondichéry.

  • “Endangered Urdu periodicals: preservation and access for vulnerable scholarly resources” (EAP566)

Coordinated by James Nye, University of Chicago.



PILC Tamil Summer School 2013

The Puducherry (Pondicherry) Institute of Linguistics and Culture holds its regular Tamil Summer School from 22 July – 31 August 2013.

The summer school offers an intensive education in spoken Tamil language at basic and intermediate levels, and it combines classroom lessons with field visits so that the participants can practice at most their language skills in the course of studies. Registration is open from 1 March – 30 April 2013.

The Tamil Summer School was initiated in 1998 by the Department of Social Sciences, French Institute, Puducherry to offer training to language researchers in Humanities and Social sciences. PILC has been organising this course since 2004. The medium of teaching is English as well as Tamil. The TSS focuses on Spoken Tamil rather than on the classical and written forms being taught in European Universities. The level of spoken Tamil course is intermediate.

For practical details, please see their PDF here: TSS_application_2013 – tamilpudu13

Noboru Karashima’s keynote address-Tamil Studies Conference

Professor Noboru Karashima delivered the keynote address during the tamil Studies Conference, which took place in Toronto on the 11th and 12th of May, entitled: “The past as known from tamil inscriptions”, which was fascinating.


Inscriptions on stones or copper-plates, which occur in substantial numbers, are the basic source-material for the ancient and medieval history of India, as much of India lacks history books compiled in these periods. It is particularly so in the case of Tamil Nadu, as there remain in Tamil Nadu the largest number of inscriptions from the past. First I will explain this situation by showing the language-wise and chronological distributions of inscriptions. What sort of information can we obtain from those inscriptions and how can it be obtained? In order to elucidate these points, I will take up, as examples, my study of the two issues, namely, (1) the notion of the village community and (2) the challenge to the caste system in the past, made through the examination of Tamil inscriptions of the Chola period (10th to 13th centuries). First, the view expressed by Metcalfe, The Indian Village Communities are little Republics, having nearly everything that they want within themselves, produced later the theory of the Stagnant Orient or Oriental Despotism. There is a volume of inscriptional data on the nature of villages in the Chola period to question this understanding. Second, many people believe that the caste system has been well maintained in South India without much challenge since it was introduced from the North during the Pallava period until the beginning of the last century. An analysis of the imprecations in Chola and Pandyan inscriptions throws anew light on this issue. For such studies, the importance of statistical analysis of inscriptional data, the method of which I introduced into this field of study, need to be emphasized.

The website TamilNet, has covered the talk and uploaded the presentation, which can be found here: Karashima_paper_toronto_2012

Related posts in Clac:

Interview of N. Karashima by P.Menon, here.

“Epigraphical Study of Tamil Villages” by N. Karashima, here.

Tamil Studies Conference 2012: “Traces of the past”, here.


CFP- Lassnet Conference December 2012

International Law and Social Sciences Research Network Conference

University of Peradeniya – Sri Lanka.

December 14 to 16, 2012

The inaugural Law and Social Sciences Research Network (LASSnet) conference was held at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi in 2009. A subsequent conference was held at the Foundation for Liberal and Management Education in Pune in 2010. These conferences identified a number of priorities for the research, study and practice of law in South Asia. A key concern was to interrogate how law is conventionally taught, practiced, and researched as an autonomous and self-sufficient phenomenon. Those who regard law as autonomous believe it is capable of giving an account of itself. Law teachers, legal scholars, practitioners, and judges tend to treat the law as a discipline that can furnish principles to decide ‘hard cases’ by drawing on internal logics of consistency and coherence, with inbuilt protocols for determining legislative intent, fair procedures, and natural justice ensuring access to courts. What is ‘law’, properly so called, also tends to be narrowly conceived as what judges, legislators, or the police ‘do’ – ignoring the diffuse structures of power and governance, and practices of regulation, normalisation, and biopolitics that penetrate bodies and condition behaviour.

The notion that law is autonomous (legal formalism or legal positivism) has been subjected to sustained challenge over many decades by scholars who draw on social science methodologies. Broadly conceived, these scholars draw on epistemologies and pedagogies from the social sciences in order to explain that law is a social, anthropological, historical, and economic artifact which should be understood and studied as such. In South Asia, the research, teaching and practice of law that draws on the social sciences has been relegated to the margins.

LASS was constituted to consolidate the work done so far, to map the field of Law and Social Sciences in South Asia, and to build scholarly bridges between disciplines across the region. Its objective is to begin conversations, develop research, and create an archive of legal praxis that draws on the social sciences. In doing this, LASS seeks to be innovative in its deployment of social science methodologies, challenging existing socio-legal approaches that have almost exclusively focused on revealing hidden social determinants of the legal. LASS calls into question this social constructivist approach. It promotes research that examines how specific practices and relations of knowledge and power are constituted. If law a site where power/knowledge is constituted or exercised, how do we know this? If law is not the only site, then what sustains economic and political connections as seemingly disparate as the splicing of a gene and the growing of rice in a rural village? What research methods can be drawn from the social sciences to identify and explain the link between knowledge production, techniques of government, and the ever transforming multiple ways of being in the world?

Alongside these general priorities and questions which LASS has grappled with – we also recognise that Sri Lankan law, society, and economy gives rise to specific questions and problems. These are not unique to Sri Lanka, and are of wider significance to South Asia, and regions beyond in what is an increasingly globalised world. The conference in Sri Lanka seeks to promote research and discussion on a broad list of themes. The panels might focus on a particular theme listed below, including comparative discussions across South Asia. However, we are open to panels and papers that range beyond the listed themes:

1. Development – Development is seen as the solution to most woes in Sri Lanka, and in other postcolonial, post-war, and newly industrializing economies. Most critiques of development have merely stated that the process is one-sided, and that it enables yet more incipient forms of imperialism to emerge. Others have done discourse analyses focused on how development has become discursively and ideologically prominent. We encourage papers that are specifically focused on the particular processes through which ‘development’ unfolds and the forms of accumulation and dispossession characteristic of neoliberal capitalism.

2. Land – In addition to rights based approaches, we encourage papers that draw from recent debates in Sri Lanka and other South Asian settings about how ‘land grabs’ for special economic zones, tourism, or major infrastructure projects have impacted on local populations. What are the economic and social formations that promote and resist these patterns of appropriation?

3. Natural Resources and Mining – A key frontier of contemporary conflict is the extraction of natural resources, and the impact on local communities, economies, the environment, and political cultures. As the Indian Supreme Court put it recently in Nandini Sundar & Ors v Chhattisgarh (July, 2011), the extraction of natural resources by local and multinational corporations and the state deploys violence that mirrors the horrors of European colonialism and plunder that Joseph Conrad described in the Congo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. How do social movements, and existing juridical structures resist or facilitate resource extraction? How do we break down the modern binary between the ‘natural’ and the ‘social’ to re-conceive and democratise the relation between community and the material world?

4. Trauma, Memory, Witnessing – Sri Lanka and numerous other countries grapple with the problem of the ‘truths’ of the past when seeking to attend to legacies of state and non-state violence, exile, dispossession, and displacement. Commissions of inquiry challenge the limits of conventional judicial approaches. But all acts of bearing witness grapple with the problem of re-presentation. What forms of witnessing and memory attend to trauma and conscious and unconscious legacies of the past? What are the memory practices of the law itself? Beyond juridical measures, what aesthetic and archival practices of writing, cinema, theatre, and visual arts attend to and breach memorial practices?

5. The State – While many discussions around globalisation marginalised the contemporary role of the state and its sovereignty – Sri Lanka, like many other countries, exemplifies the persistence and expansion of sovereign power. How does the state proliferate and mutate in the context of development economics, war, and conflict? What are the limits of liberal democratic constitutionalist approaches to the state? What are the limits of liberal democracy? How do the political theologies of sovereignty intersect with religious formations in the postcolonial state?

6. Struggles for Social Justice – How has law engaged with struggles of trade unions, student movements and other constituencies challenging state policies? How does trade union action in contemporary times relate to ideas of the working class and class formation? How do struggles around education relate to broader conceptions of democracy and social welfare?

7. Nationalism – Both Tamil and Sinhala Buddhist nationalism have been the midwives of social and economic disasters in Sri Lanka. Simplistic claims of rights to self-determination or federalism do not grapple with the underlying crisis of plural political existence. Nonetheless, sub-national selfdetermination, and national sovereignty continue to be asserted by progressive and reactionary political movements as a bulwark against social and political marginalization at the nation-state level – and the hegemony of capital, or the power of regional and international powers beyond the level of the nationstate. What are the underlying conditions and reasons for the persistence of nationalism over other forms of political mobilisation?

8. Feminist debates – While feminist interventions need to continue to tackle violence against women – LASS has consistently promoted approaches beyond analytics of victimisation. Papers considering questions of women’s labour in special economic zones and as migrant labour; women in war and in a militarised setting; and explorations of forms of women’s resistance are especially welcome.

9. Sexuality – what is the impact of nationalism on LGBT people? What lessons might Sri Lanka draw from the Indian experience and the advances made through debates on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code or the Nepal Supreme Court decision on recognition of same sex orientation? What are the links between neoliberal capital and emergent forms of sexual citizenship in South Asia?

10. Subaltern – How can we begin a discussion on the ways in which the dominant theories/narratives of the law, the state and capitalism excludes discussion and access to subaltern classes? What has been the varying impact of law on caste structures in South Asia and what processes have over determined law’s engagement on caste issues?

11. Rethinking Civil Society – What constitutes civil society and what kind of role is there for civil society in relation to post-war reconciliation in Sri Lanka? What is civil society’s relationship to social movements, grass roots networks and public intellectuals? What are the local discourses of reconciliation, how do they engage questions of gender, class, caste and ethnicity, and how do they understand processes of reconciliation elsewhere in the world. How do approaches and critiques of human rights relate to the process of reconciliation? And what impact do interventionist international discourses such as Responsibility to Protect (R2P) have on the local political process?

12. Rule of Law – The rule of law in Sri Lanka was undermined by the armed conflict, militarization, Emergency and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. While there have been calls for a return to the rule of law in the post-war context, what are the challenges as well as limitations of constitutional propriety and rule of law with respect to social change and post-war transformation?

Abstracts of 250 words should be submitted to reach lassnetsri@gmail.com by 30th June 2012

The Law and Social Sciences Research Network (LASSnet) is anchored at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance (CSLG) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)

Organising Committee
Mala Liyanage – Chair/Anchor, Law and Society Trust, Sri Lanka
Pratiksha Baxi – Anchor, LASSnet, CSLG, JNU, Delhi
Deepika Udagama – School of Law, University of Peradeniya
Ahilan Kadirgamar – Graduate Center, City University of New York
Stewart Motha – School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London
Gehan Gunatilleke – Centre for the Study of Human Rights, University of Colombo
T. Shanaathanan – Faculty of Arts, University of Jaffna
Sumathy Sivamohan – Faculty of Arts, University of Peradeniya
Liyanage Amarekeerthi – Faculty of Arts,Univesity of Peradeniya
Priya Thangaraja – Women’s Action Network
Kamala Sankaran – Faculty of Law, Delhi University
Siddharth Narrain – Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore
Neloufer de Mel – Department of English, University of Colombo
Jagath Weerasinghe – Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, Colombo

South India under the Cholas

South India Under the Cholas by Y. Subbarayalu

This book explores different aspects of state-society interactions in medieval south India under the reign of the Cholas. Divided into two parts-Epigraphy and History, and State and Society-the first provides an in-depth analysis of Tamil epigraphy and inscriptions. While interpreting inscriptional terminology, it discusses the socio-economic milieu, merchant guilds, and other sociological aspects. The next section traces the evolution of the medieval state, economy, and society. It discusses land surveys, Chola revenue system and sale deeds, and property rights. The author examines, in detail, the emergence of new organizations like Urar, Nattar, and Periyanattar, and maritime trade guilds, and social classes like landholders, cultivators, slaves, and the left and right hand divisions. The introduction contextualizes these essays in current research scenario and historiography and also provides a brief overview of the evolution of the Chola state and society.

OUP India c. 272 pages | 13 tables, 5 maps | 215x140mm

978-0-19-807735-0 | Hardback | 22 December 2011

For a review by of Subbarayalu’s book by the historian R. Champakalakshmi in The Hindu (24/04/2012), read here.

For a review by of Subbarayalu’s book by the historian Kesavan Veluthat in Frontline (11-24/02/2012), read here.

Table of content:

Part I: Epigraphy and History
1: Tamil Epigraphy: Past and Present
2: The Social and Economic Milieu of the Pulangurichi Inscriptions
3: The Merchant Guild Inscription at Barus in Sumatra
4: Sociological Aspects of the Personal Names and Titles
5: Interpreting Inscriptional Terminology

Part II: State and Society
6: Measurement and Classification of Land
7: An Overview of the Chola Revenue System
8: Quantifying Land Revenue of the Chola State
9: Sale Deeds and Property Rights
10: Urar, Nattar, and Periyanattar
11: Alunganam and Mulaparudai: Two Early Village Bodies
12: Landholders, Cultivators, and Slaves
13: Social Change and the Right and Left Hand Divisions
14: Anjuvannam: A Maritime Trade Guild of Medieval Times
15: Erivirapattinam: Warriors and the State
16: The Chola State
17: Characterizing the Chola State


How do you destroy Indian history?

“Our past is being moth-eaten” article by Dinyar Patel

Dinyar Patel, a Ph.D. candidate from the Department of History of Harvard University, published an article in The Hindu (19/04/2012) on the alarming situation in Indian archives.

“India’s archives and libraries are in a state of ruin. We would lose our history and heritage if the government does not act to save them. […] India is a country that is justifiably proud of its illustrious past. But this pride does not always translate into proper custodianship and preservation. Most Indians would cringe at how sources of Indian history are treated in government institutions. In spite of the plethora of capable administrators and skilled archivists in this country, many institutions do not follow clear, up-to-date, and verifiable standards for document preservation.”

Read more here.

Classical Tamil Summer Seminar 6-13 August 2012

10th Classical Tamil Summer Seminar 6-13 August – EFEO Puducherry



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. VARADADESIKAN for Vaishnava literature, G. VIJAYAVENUGOPALas an epigraphist and T.RAJESWARI as 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.

For more practical information and the application, please read here.

International Workshop on Tamil Epigraphy 6-17 august 2012


Tamil Nadu, India, 6 to 17 August 2012


We are glad to announce our Ninth International Workshop on Tamil Epigraphy, to be held from 6 to 17 August 2012. Please note that the workshop will be held in Pondicherry and in Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India.

No registration fees are required, but each participant has to bear the cost of practical works and travelling to different sites.

The workshop will be held from Monday to Friday: morning 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. (lunch break), afternoon 2 to 4 p.m.

The participants have to arrange themselves their travel to India. The organisers will be pleased to help the participants to find accommodation in Pondicherry and in Tanjavur on request. We would be thankful to you if you could inform your colleagues and students about this workshop.

If you need more information, please contact: a.murugaiyan@wanadoo.fr

EAP 458 progress report

EAP 458 Constituting a Digital Archive of Tamil Agrarian History

6 month progress report addressed to the Endangered Archives Programm


This report -which covers the first six month of our digital archives project (August 2011-January 2012)- was sent to our funding institution the EAP (British Library/Arcadia).


Recruitment, training and equipment


When the project began, we focused on the recruitment of our team. Unlike the pilot project, where we chose people we already knew to work with, we decided to send a recruitment announcements for the three positions to different teaching and research in Pondicherry and Chennai. We interviewed some 10 candidates and recruited three young men: Selvakumar, Muthukumar and Chandran. We also are recruited Krishnasami who was part of the EAP 314 team.


Since there were three new members to the project, time was spent making them familiar with what was accomplished during the pilot project, the objectives and requirements of EAP and of course training them to the specificities of our project. Training was given to the three new members in the field of digital photography, Tamil epigraphy, handling palm-leaves


In terms of equipment, we have acquired a Nikon D-90 camera, two Dell laptops, a stand, a measuring unit, one external hard-disk. The concept of our stand (purpose built wooden tripod) has attracted the interest of four research projects who asked us to share its blue print with them: EAP project 454 on Mizoram, Nolaham Foundation (a Srilankan based project on Tamil Manuscripts), EAP 191 on French Publications and a Unesco funded project on food and nutrition in India.


Progress of digitization


During these six months, we have largely focussed on digitization. Presently 13 collections have been digitized. The details of each collection are given in table below. These 13 collections amount to a total of 25 637 images. However, within 7 of the collections, some documents are not directly relevant to the scope of our project. These documents concerns issues related to literature, folk tales, traditional medicine, astrology. We decided to digitize them along with the documents of relevance since, if taken as a whole, they constitute indeed a collection. We therefore have to make the decision whether to discard them from the archive and therefore ‘tamper’ with the integrity of the original collection. Should the EAP ask us to remove them, we would give them over to relevant institutions or scholars without going through the process of identification (listing template). Our personal feeling is that these documents should be included. They have been till now preserved by their owners and are, in the same way as our ‘relevant’ documents, clearly vulnerable and rapidly deteriorating. Though beyond the scope of our ‘topic’, these documents inform us on other areas of cultural life and social representation. We wait for the decision of the EAP to handle this issue.


Coll. No


Type of Documents

No.of Photos

No.of photos on other topics



-98 palm leaves  bundles : land deeds, EIC records, pattayams

4 343

3 431



-39 palm leaves bundles: land deed, pattayams





8 palm leaves bundles:    EIC records




-44 paper files & 10 notebooks-835 Palm leaves :land deeds, TCL, auctions, judgments, temple documents, loans

12 151




-1 note book (judgement copy)




-1 paper file-1 bundle of palm leaves :land deeds




-50 Bundles of palm leaves, -176 paper documents and 3 note book :sanjaram, land deed

1 250




-paper documents: land deeds





-2 notebooks: TCL-1 copper plate : land rights




-1 copper plate: land deed




-14 paper files-11 notebooks-6 bundles of palm leaves: land deeds, TCL, auctions, judgements, temple documents, loans

4 993

1 788



-8  paper files-1 notebook : land deeds, TCL

1 128

1 108



-1 bundle palm leaves :land deeds, TCL





25 637

9 039

Discovery of 2,200-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscription

Muthukumar (CLAC) participates in the discovery of  a 2200 year-old Jain inscription

A short Tamil-Brahmi inscription carved out over 2200 years ago on a boulder in Samanamalai (Madurai district) was discovered recently by V. Vedachalam (Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department) and V. Muthukumar, one of our team members. To read more about the inscription and its signification, please read here

V. Muthukumar is pursuing his PhD in Epigraphy and Archaeology at Tamil University (Thanjavur). He has gained good experience in the field of archeology (Adhichanallur, Porunthal, Thandikudi) as well as epigraphy while working with the Saraswati Mahal library for the National Mission for Manuscripts.

Another Tamil-Brahmi inscription was found by other researchers in the Edakal cave (Kerala’s Wayanad district) at the beginning of the month of February. For now, opinions differ as to the possible date of the inscription. To read more, click here.

The IFP, which is hosting the CLAC project, also has an ongoing research project on Jaina Temples in Tamil Nadu:

Even though important on a historical point of view and still alive today, the Jain presence in Tamil Nadu, consisting on the one hand of ancient Digambara communities of the South, and on the other hand of immigrant merchant communities from Western India, is badly assessed. Temples of this region make up for a rich heritage still unrecognised. We wish to make a CD-ROM that presents the temples in their artistic and religious dimension, as an architectural heritage and living place, and that sheds light on the uniqueness of Jainism in Tamil Nadu. Read more…