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.