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Tamil Studies

For the Tamils of the pre-British period, a scholar was one who was well versed in the arts and sciences addressing the needs of the minds as well as of the bodies of the members of her/his community. (S)he acquired expertise not only in language, and mathematics, but also in medicine and martial arts. Such a scholar is known as aacaan (from aacu, basis, standard + aan , masculine suffix; he who can be regarded as the 'standard', he who sets standards) and a few survivors of this rare breed may still be found in Kerala and Kanniyakumari district. In fact Prof. Siromoney's grand uncle, Abraham Pandither (1859-1919) himself (who was teacher, musician, medical doctor, fortune teller all at the same time) may be placed in this category. Though Prof. Siromoney was a specialist in Mathematics and a 'product' of a system of education modelled after that of the British that favours specialisation rather than versatility, he defied, in all possible ways, the norm of the scholar-specialist. If Prof. Siromoney were born a few hundred years earlier, to us, he would have been Aacaan Siromoney rather than Professor Siromoney.

Like his aacaan-predecessors, Prof.Siromoney took keen interest in the whole life of his own society. He focussed on the natural environment as well as the culture of his society. If his nature studies are an attempt to understand the former, his culture studies (on texts like Tolkaappiyam, cankam literature, Kamparaamaayanam and several minor works, inscriptions, language, sculpture, archaeology, music, kolam , technology, education, history, electorate and so on) address the latter. In a way it is true that Prof.Siromoney studied only one subject -- the Tamil society. If so, what about his formal expertise in Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science? These provided the novel tools he required to study his master subject. By applying these new techniques he was not only directing the attention of the academia to his society, but also connecting the past of Tamils (in such writings as 'The History of Tambaram Area', 'Ancient Iron-smelting Site near Tambaram') with their present meaningfully and relevantly. In existential terms this was a kind of 'authentication'. May be he is challenging the academic world to regard the mathematical sciences as means (and not as ends in themselves) to engage with one's society. May be it is a move towards the traditional Tamil type of education which was basically applied (rather than pure/theoretical) in nature.

One of the areas of Tamilology in which Prof. Siromoney has made significant contribution is Tamil musicology. If Abraham Pandither reformulated the discipline in the early 20th century and thereby initiated a virtual renascence in Tamil music and musicology, Prof.Siromoney threw new light on ancient music material ('Some New Light on Stringed Instruments of the Ancient Tamil Country'), provided fresh insights by bringing to bear modern scientific techniques upon the data of the field ('Statistical Aids in Tamil Studies', 'Style as information in Karnatic Music', 'Computer Recognition and Transliteration of Mridangam Mnemonics', 'Machine Recognition of Hand-printed Tamil Musical Notation' and so on), addressed new questions ('A Pallava Musical Instrument'), and opened new avenues for research. His academic forays into sculptures have yielded us not only a fairly good idea of ancient Tamil costumes and jewellery, but also substantial musicological data and clarified isssues in the field. For example, in the light of the sculptural depiction of cakota yaal at Darasuram temple, he proves the earlier accounts that attribute a curved stem to this instrument wrong. Though the chief target here is Vipulanandar's Yaal Nuul (1947, v-vi), there are others like the entry in Tamil Kalaikkalanjiyam (by Vellaivaranar, 1961, viii. 582).

Any one who peruses the writings of this aacaan cannot but be touched by his love for his culture and society. This love never sours into ethnocentrism for the simple reason that his claims and findings are based on hard scientific research.

-Nirmal Selvamony.


  1. Efficient methods of telegraphy, typewriting and teleprinting in Tamil
    Tamil Culture, vol. X, 1963, pp.107-120.  READ
  2. Entropy of Tamil Prose
    Information and Control, vol. VI, 1963, pp. 297-300   READ
  3. Some new light on stringed instruments of the ancient Tamil Country
    MCC Mag, vol. XXXIV, No.2, March 1965.  READ 
  4. Context- sensitive rules in Tolkappiam
    Proceedings of the Second World Tamil Conference at Madras, 1968, pp. 314-318  READ
  5. Statistical aids in Tamil studies
    Saiva Siddhanta, vol. III,1968, pp. 44-48. (with Rajagopalan, K. R.) READ
  6. A brief history of Chingleput district
    In Socio-Economic Survey of Chingleput District,
    Proceedings of the Seminar on Regional Development, Madras Christian College, Tambaram, March 24 and March 25, 1969, 8-10;  READ
  7. History of the Tambaram Area (in Tamil)
    Souvenir of the Tambaram Municipality, 1970.
  8. Grammars for kernel sentences in Tamil
    Foundations of Language, vol.  VII, pp 508-518, 1971.  
  9. New inscriptions from the Tambaram area
    The Sunday Standard, Madras, February 4, 1973. (with Lockwood, M)   READ
  10. Newly discovered Tamil inscription from the Tambaram area
    .MCC.Mag., vol. XLII, 1973.   READ
  11. Kalvettu Ezhuthukkalil Thirukural
    October 1975, (with Chandrasekaran, M. Govindaraju S, and Chandrasekaran, R).  
  12. More inscriptions from the Tambaram area
    MCC Mag., vol. XLIV, 1975.   READ
  13. The invention of the Brahmi script
    MCC Mag., vol. XLVI, pp.31-33, STAT- 30/77,
    also in,
    Souvenir of the Fourth Annual Congress of the Epigraphical Society of India
    1977, pp. 42 - 50,   READ
  14. Computer methods of dating medieval Tamil inscriptions
    STAT-26/76,  paper presented at the
    Third Annual Congress of the Epigraphical Society of India at Udupi, March 1978, (with Chandrasekaran, M. and Chandrasekaran, R.).  
  15. Computer methods of writer identification - an application to Tamil handwriting
    STAT - 28/77, 1977,  paper presented at the
    All India Interdisciplinary Symposium on Digital Techniques and Pattern Recognition,  Calcutta on February 1977.(with Chandrasekaran, M. and Chandrasekaran, R.). READ
  16. Computer recognition of printed Tamil characters
    Pattern Recognition, vol. X  No. 4, pp 243-247, 1978, (with Chandrasekaran, M. and Chadrasekaran, R.)  
  17. Computer recognition of an ancient Tamil script of the Chola period
    Journal of the Epigraphical Society of India, vol. VI, pp 18-19, 1978, (with Chandrasekaran, M. and Chadrasekaran, R.)  READ
  18. On the occurrence of the pulli in the Tamil-Brahmi inscription of Anaimalai
    New dimensions in the study of Tamil Culture, 60th Birthday Felicitation Volume of 
    Prof. V. Vanamamalai, Palayamkottai 1978, pp.8-12 (with Emmanuel Jebarajan).   READ 
  19. A new Tamil-Brahmi inscription from Vikramangalam
    STAT 37/78, July 1978, also
    The Sunday Standard, Madras, August 13, 1978 (with Emmanuel Jebarajan)   READ
  20. Computer recognition and transliteration of mridangam mnemonics
    Quarterly Journal of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, vol. VII, pp.11-17, 1978 (with Chandarasekaran, M. and Chandrasekaran, R.)  READ
  21. The pulli in early Tamil epigraphs
    The Sunday Standard, Madras, February 19, 1978    READ
  22. Musical instruments from Pallava sculptures
    Kalakshetra Quarterly, vol. II, No.4, 1979, pp.11-20.  READ
  23. Machine recognition of hand printed Tamil musical notation
    STAT-41/80, also paper presented at the
    Annual Conference of the Computer Society of India. February 1980, Bombay (with Chandarasekaran, M., and Chandrasekaran, R.)  READ
  24. The origin of the Tamil script
    Tamil Studies, Ed. N. Subramanian, vol. II, No. 1, January 1982, International Institute of Tamil Historical Studies, Madurai.  READ
  25. Sangagala kathai sollum vandalur kalvattangal
    Dinamalar 27, January 1983.   READ
  26. Origin of the Tamil-Brahmi script
    Origin Evolution and Reform of the Tamil Script, The Institute of Traditional Culture, Madras University, 1983.  
    also manuscript READ 
  27. Reform of the Tamil Script
    Manuscript. READ
  28. Chola inscriptions found near Madras
    The Hindu, Friday, May 15, 1987. READ
  29. A new Chola inscription from Pammal near Madras
    A paper presented at the
    Thirteenth Annual Congress of the Epigraphical Society of India, Patna,  April, 1987. STAT- 63/87, May 1987. 
  30. An outline of Tamil orthography
    Madras Christian College (Manuscript).   
  31. Cryptography in Tamil
    Dinamani, 1989.  

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