SOAS University of London

SOAS celebrates the great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar

22 May 2017

SOAS’s South Asia Institute in London last week commemorated the great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, whose well-loved statue has been part of SOAS for 21 years.

Thiruvalluvar celebration day - statue

(Left to right) Padma Shree Dr John Marr, Wendy Marr, Dr Ben Murtagh and Ramaswamy Balaji, First Secretary, Indian High Commission

More than 160 visitors came to campus to experience an afternoon of lectures, readings and performances. Some of the highlights included vocal performances and translated recitations of Thirukkural by students from the prestigious London-based Indian arts centre Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan. 

Thiruvalluvar celebration day - dancers

Students from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

Acting Director of the South Asia Institute Dr Navtej Purewal launched the SOAS Tamil Studies Campaign where she spoke of SOAS’s history and expertise in this field. Dr Purewal also spoke of the School’s ambitions to develop this area in the future to ensure this vibrant and historically-significant language is taught to new generations of students far into the future.

Dr Ben Murtagh, Head of the Departments of South and South East Asia, said: “Thiruvalluvar’s statue stands so prominent at SOAS as an icon. Today marks a wonderful opportunity not only to welcome back the newly restored statue of Thiruvalluvar, but to also celebrate the history of Tamil Studies at SOAS and our determination to bring back the teaching of Tamil Language into our degree programmes."

Thiruvalluvar celebration day - speaker

Ramaswamy Balaji, First Secretary, Indian High Commission

SOAS scholar Professor Michael Hutt, Professor of Nepali and Himalayan Studies, also gave a talk on Thiruvalluvar/Thirukkural in scholarship, with further presentations by prominent Tamil scholars throughout the afternoon. The day ended with a round table chaired by Dr Meera Sabaratnam, Lecturer in Politics and International Studies at SOAS, debating the future of Tamil Studies.