Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Neusprachliche Südasienstudien


Tamil belongs to the Dravidian language group and is one of the important cultural languages of South Asia. Among the languages spoken today, it is also the only one recognized as a classical language in India. Classical Tamil literature is around 2000 years old and offers fascinating material for study. The same is true of the rich Tamil literature of the various Hindu currents of the Middle Ages and of other religious groups (Muslims, Christians), as well as of modern Tamil literature. The Tamil script is related to other Indian scripts and is relatively easy to learn due to numerous simplifications.

Tamil is spoken in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in northern Sri Lanka, and in Tamil diaspora areas such as Singapore, the Gulf region, Canada, Switzerland, and so on. In Tamil Nadu, the 20th century saw the emergence of the Dravidian movement, which is still politically dominant today, responding to the Aryan ideology prevalent in the north of the subcontinent and emphasizing a separate identity of its own. This contributed to the stylization of the Tamil language as the ultimate marker of identity.

Studying Tamil offers:

  • Access to a fascinating major region of South Asia and its two thousand years of literature;

  • an introduction to the distinct cultural traditions of the southern Indian subcontinent;

  • important material for historians and historians of religion (Hinduism, bhakti, Islam, Christianity, history of Christian missions);

  • insight into the cultural and political debates about Dravidianism, separatism, nationalism, etc.

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