Knowledge and intelligence are the essential qualities that distinguish a human being from other living creatures. While intelligence is innate, and in-born, knowledge is acquired. But both these noble qualities are motivated, nourished and cultured in academic bodies. These institutions of higher learning are widely known as Universities. Ancient India with its hoary tradition and glorious past has a claim to have had a Sanskrit college during the reign of Pallavas in the sixth century A.D. and much earlier a University at Nalanda in the north of India. Much later in the 19th century, there arose the reputed Madras, Bombay and Calcutta Universities during the British paramountcy in India. So, the concept of organised academic learning through the Universities is neither strange nor new to India. Even before the second millennium A.D., there had been Senatus Academicus known as First, Second and Third ‘CHANKAM(Assembly of Poets)’ for the growth and development of Tamil, the oldest of the Dravidian languages in India.
The Tamil language, in the south of India is known for its antiquity, its richness of vocabulary and its great classical literature. For a long time, its depth, uniqueness and glory were not known to the world outside. Great orientalists such as Max Mueller, Keith and even Edwin Arnold identified the literature of India with Sanskrit only. It is this woeful neglect of Tamil in the British period that motivated a confluence of veteran Tamil scholars at Thanjavur to think in terms of starting an exclusive university for the development and growth Tamil as early as 23rd of August, 1925. These scholarly samaritans opened an account also in the Imperial Bank at Trichinopoly in the name of the proposed Tamil University. But perhaps due to the lack of official patronage of the government, this glorious plan did not materialise.
That noble aspiration in post-independent India was given a concrete shape in September, 1981. The Location of the Tamil University was chosen to be in the outskirts of Thanjavur. This ancient capital of the later Chola dynasty and the granary of the South as it is known from time immemorial, was happily accepted as the site of the University. The Tamil Nadu State Assembly unanimously passed the Tamil University Act in the second week of September 1981 and the first Vice-Chancellor took office a week later, The University Grants Commission accorded a statutory recognition to the university in 1983.
The aims and objectives of this unitary type of university comprise a higher research in Tamilology and advanced study in various other allied branches such as Linguistics, Translation, Lexicography, Music, Drama and Manuscriptology. But this pure research-oriented University introduced academic research by offering M.Phil and Ph.D programmes in 1992 for a few disciplines such as Language, Literature, Translation, Sculpture, History and Architecture. Due to the public demand, even Post graduate programmes had to be included in June 2003.
To speak of the academic outline of the Tamil University, mention may be made of the five faculties, headed by the Deans each.
The Faculty of Arts consists of the Departments of Sculpture , Music and Drama.
The Faculty of Manuscriptology consists of the Departments of Rare paper Manuscripts, Palm Leaf Manuscripts, Epigraphy, Archeoloy and maritime history & Marine Archeology.
The functions of each of the Department noted above and briefly enumerated in the order in which they are serialised below.
Both under the Departments and various projects funded by University Grants Commission, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Department of Science and Technology, etc. various Encyclopaedias ,Dictionaries and Compendiums have been compiled and published by the University in the last 35 years of service.
- Encyclopaedia of Humanities 15 vols
- Encyclopaedia of Science – 19 Vols.
- Encyclopaedia of the Temples in TamilNadu – 3 Vols.
- Encyclopaedia of Drama – 3 Vols.
- Greater Tamil Lexicon – 7 Vols.
- A Dictionary of Cankam Literature- 7 vols
- Compendium of Cankam Literature (with English Translation halfway through)
- Translation of Medical and Engineering Texts into Tamil (Fifteen each)
The Publication Department of the University, with its latest laser type printing press has brought out more than 400 and above publications which includes research works, anthologies and translations contributed by the staff. A monthly Bulletin each in English and Tamil disseminate the news of various activities of the University. Two Quarterlies, the Tamil Kalai in Tamil and Tamil Civilization in English are the research journals published by the Department.
There are about fifty five endowments instituted by Philanthropists for various faculties to arrange lectures and also for printing them. The Hindu Religious and charitable Endowment Department of the Government of TamilNadu have earmarked a huge sum of Fifteen lakhs of rupees to conduct religious philosophy seminars and research publications under the aegis of the School of Philosophy.
His Excellency the Governor of Tamil Nadu is Ex-officio Chancellor of the University. Thiru Sevvoor S.Ramachandran Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments and Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture of Tamil Nadu, its Pro-Chancellor
The Vice-Chancellor is nominated by the Chancellor for a term of three years under statutorily recongised rules and regulations. A well-known linguist and a consummate administrator Dr. V.I.Subramoniam was the first Vice-Chancellor. It was he who planned and systematically developed the University in its initial stages. Nine Vice-Chancellors, who succeeded him in all these 35 years have contributed their valuable services in the upkeep and maintenance of this autonomous institution.
The Registrar, a chief administrative Officer with a team of his officials and clerical staff maintains the day-to-day administration of the University.
Location of the Campus and facilities
The University is situated in a very large of about 850 acres, generously granted by the State government of Tamil Nadu. Huge buildings and blocks meant for the administrative departments are located in the campus. The administrative block with its imposing structure and a ‘gopuram’motif is a sight to see even from the National Highway connecting Thanjavur with Trichirapalli. No less is the magnificence of the University Library, the edifice of which will remind the onlookers of the glorious Indian Parliament at New Delhi. The Karikalan Gallery, built on the occasion of the World Tamil Conference is capable of accomodating about 800 people.
The Language Block, women’s hostel, boy’s hostel, Guest House and an open air theatre are the other landmarks of the campus. The residential quarters for the Vice-Chancellor, for Professors, Lecturers and for the ministerial staff are all located on the other side of the National Highway.