Percival's 19th century Tamil proverb compilations collated and sorted in new publication

[TamilNet, Monday, 12 August 2019, 20:04 GMT]
One thousand eight hundred and seventy Tamil proverbs compiled by Rev Peter Percival and published as Thiruddaantha Changkirakam (திருட்டாந்த சங்கிரகம், Tiruṭṭānta Caṅkirakam) with their translation in English by the American Mission in Jaffna in 1843 and the second expanded edition in Tamil Nadu with 6,156 proverbs collected by the same author in 1874 have been combined into a single source by “Viruba” T Kumaresan and A Sivagnanaseelan. While the Tamil Nadu edition had been reprinted five times until 2019, the initial publication of proverbs collected in the country of Eezham Tamils had not been reproduced until now. The latest effort combines both the Jaffna and Mylapore compilations with English translations deploying traditional Tamil sorting in listing them all into a single source. The collection was published at an event held in Jaffna Hartley College on Monday.

The latest publication contains 6,237 proverbs with English translations.

The publication was brought out by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Education of the Northern Province at the expense of one million rupees, according to A. Sivagnanaseelan, who co-edited the work with Mr Kumaresan.

Mr Sivagnanaseelan notes that the compilation is a source to learn about the mindset that prevailed among the Tamils before the times of European colonialism.



The work is yet another example illustrating the positive role played by the American Mission in the 19th century.

The compilation also contains an article by Viruba Kumaresan discussing Tamil sorting order, its tradition and the “errors”.

Mr Kumarasean recognises the sorting order used by U. V. Swaminatha Iyer (உ. வே. சாமிநாதையர், Tamil Nadu) and C. W. Kathiravelpillai (கு. கதிரவேற்பிள்ளை, Eezham) as adhering to the traditional sorting.

Swaminatha Iyer and C. W. Kathiravelpillai are the modern pioneers of the traditional alphabetic sorting unlike many other works adhering to another sort order, which had been introduced by the Westerners such as Veera-maamunivar (Constanzo Beschi) in 1732, he observes.

Chunnaakam Kumaraswamy Pulavar also followed the traditional method through the influence of C.W. Kathiravelpillai, he notes.

The Tamil Lexicon completed in 1936 has correctly adopted the traditional sort order, Kumaresan observes further.

Rev Peter Percival's Tamil Proverbs Republished


Thamizhaka (Tamil Nadu) and Eezha Tamil scholars must determine the standard to be followed in the future, he opines reproducing a remark made by the Western authors of A Dravidian Etymological Dictionary (DED), T Burrow and M B Emeneau.

“It is to be noted that we have seen no reason to follow the Tamil Lexicon’s idiosyncratic non-alphabetic ordering of kk before k followed by vowel, and the like: our order is strictly alphabetic,” the DED authors had stated in their introduction.

Deputy Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Ministry of Education of Northern Province Mrs Sujeeva Sivathas presided the event.

Mr L. Elangovan, the secretary of the Cultural Department of Northern Province, was the chief guest. Hartley College Principal T. Mugunthan and Vadamaraadchi North Divisional Secretary Sri Alvappillai graced the occasion as the special guests.

Dr D. Solomon, the principal of Jaffna College in Vaddukkoaddai, Mr K Elilventhan, the principal of Jaffna Central College and Mrs Sunithra Suriyarajah, the principal of Jaffna Veampadi Girls High School, were invited as the honorary guests.

Tamil Proverbs compilation
Tamil Proverbs compilation
Tamil Proverbs compilation


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