While Bollywood speaks to the globe and creates a spark among the global crowd to learn more about India, regional literature holds a greater potential to appeal to people of all ages via stories, poems, folk tales, epics and drama. Languages and cultures of India are so diverse that Indian literature can never be spoken in the singular. Regional literature is what keeps us rooted to the soil. It portrays to the world with its strong use of emotions, excellence, sentiment and similes the evolving traditions, the rich past, the diverse patterns of life, geographical description of a particular area and cuisine. Indian writers have the knack of going beyond the region they focus on and making it universal in appeal. India’s rich regional literature can facilitate India harness its soft power potential to a greater extent. Our folk tales have the same universal appeal as the Aesop’s fables. For our works to reach a wider audience, translation is necessary.
In this regard, the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation’s translation initiative plans to release three books from the State to non-Tamil readers. This project was launched in 2017 and during the first phase, six books were released- The Kural, CS Chellappa’s Vaadivaasal, T Janakiraman’s Sembaruththi, Neela Padmanabhan’s Thalaimuraikal and Ki Rajanarayanan’s Karisal Kathaikal.
CSP was in conversation with Writer S Ramakrishnan, a member of the committee, who told us the dire need for this initiative.
According to him, the primary purpose of the initiative is to spread Tamil literature throughout the world, especially to the young crowd. These books will be published to help the younger generation read and celebrate Tamil life and tradition. The awareness regarding Tamil literature is quite low and one of the main reasons were the English medium of education. Also, Tamil literature was never introduced at home to the children and this has resulted in a wide gap.
Tamil literature goes back to the Sangam Era after the assembly of poets in Madurai. The quintessence of the entire Tamil culture is its literary excellence. The Periapuranam composed during the Chola period is considered to be a national epic of the Tamil people. The Thiruppugazh and Prabandams are extensive and are still sung in temples with such devotion. The lives and features of the hill tribes, Kuraver, are recorded in the Kuravanji literature.
Shri Ramakrishnan said that there have been more than 50 literary works in Tamil that have been translated before by various publications, but this is the first initiative taken up on behalf of the government. The committee is concentrating primarily on genres such as award winning novels, short stories, cultural essays, biographies and ancient Tamil texts. They are planning on publishing a minimum of ten books every year.
Mini Krishnan, another member of the committee felt the need to bridge the gap between academia and publishing. With the support of the government of Tamil Nadu, this project will have a certain sense of authenticity. Three groups of readerships for translations in English according to Krishnan are (i) one within the country, (ii) those who are in culture-study courses, especially non-Indians, and (iii) the Indian diaspora who reconnect with their motherland. She hopes that these books will soon reach college students and to those outside the State, to help them understand and appreciate the language, culture and the people.