CHENNAI: There may soon be a dedicated department for Tamil language at the Harvard University. Two Indian born professors based in the US have taken up the lead to constitute a Tamil chair at the university. The 380 year old Ivy League university already has a 100 year old Sanskrit chair.
Harvard University has sought a fund of $6 million for setting up the department. Both the Indian physicians, Dr Janakiraman and Dr Thirugnanasambandam, have already donated a sum of $1 million together. They are now in Chennai to raise the remaining amount from Tamil-speakers. Being born in Kumbakkonam, Dr Thirugnanasambandam said that US constitutes more than 2 lakh Tamil-speakers, but there is no provision of formal education of the language. It is taught through private channels within the Tamil-speaking communities.
Once the chair is formed, Harvard shall initiate a global search for instituting a Tamil scholar who shall lead and direct world class research. Dr Arumugam, a member of the Harvard University Tamil Chair Foundation Committee, stated that the department shall prove to be a great advantage for Tamil students, as their research shall find mention in the most respected journals of this prestigious institution.
Prof. Gnanasambandam pointed out that the Celtic languages, spoken by approx. 15 lakh people, has 2 chairs at Harvard. On the other hand, Tamil is more than 2000 years old, and spoken by more than 8 crore people. He hopes that they shall be able to raise the required fund in the next 6 months.
Dr A. Jahir Hussain, who earlier this year translated the Thirukkural into Arabic, on funding provided by the Tamil Nadu government, has hailed the initiative. He mentioned that such a proposition shall be very beneficial for the development and acceptance of the language at the global level.
The foundation has reportedly also approached the state government and the Centre for support. A website, harvardtamilchair.com, has also been set up for inviting donations.