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The conference will host over 40 scholars of various disciplines from North America, Europe, South Asia, and Australasia:


Artist: Vasuki
Artist: Kiko
Artist: Vasan

Abraham, S.
Ambalavanar, D.
Arasu, V.
Champakalakshmi, R.
Cheran, R.
Fukao, J.
George, G.
George, U.
Ghose, R.
Guruge, S.
Jegathesan, M.
Kanaganayakam, C.
Kanthasamy, P.
Karunakaran, K.
Karunanithi, G.
Kingsolver, A.
Mason, R.
Maunaguru, S.
Maunaguru, Sitralega
McNaughton, S.
More, J.B.P.
Orr, L.
Pai, G.
Palaniappan, S.
Pandian, M.S.S.
Rajesh, V.
Renganathan, V.
Sangarasivam, Y.
Seylon, R.
Shanmugam, K.
Sivalingam, H.
Sriramachandran, R.
Sundar, A.
Tambiah, S.J.
Tyyskä, V.
Vaitheespara, R.
Vivekananthan, P.
Whitaker, M.
Xavier, S.
Young, K.
Younger, P.

Vasu Renganathan

School of Arts and Sciences
University of Pennsylvania

Tamil Nationalism and the Hegemony of Textual Tradition
Friday, June 1st |  12:30 - 2:30 PM

Rituals, priesthood and liturgical and non-liturgical texts form the integral elements of Tamilhood and the Tamil way of life from the medieval period onwards. A nationalist consciousness surfaced by reconstituting the past based on both religious and non-religious literary texts. It is the trajectory of literary and religious developments, more than the charisma of the poets became instrumental to the shaping of such discourses like Tamilism, Tamil nationalism, Tamilhood and Tamil bhakti. The role of the sixty four Saiva Nayanmars and twelve Vaisnava Alvars of the medieval period was in most part responsible for formulating a new mono-theistic ritual basis for Tamil religious nationalism. The Sangam and other didactic treatises on the other hand were responsible for constructing a non-religious Tamil sentiments such as heroism, Tamil way of love life and the like.  Alvars and Nayanmar's texts are passed on from generation to generation with much emphasis on music (icai) and mime (avinayam) rather than on poetry. It is often believed that their performance of singing with rhythm and melody is more appealing and carrying the spirit of Tamilhood more than their meaning. Further, it is evident that there lies an intrinsic relation between the temple architectures of Tamil region and their representations in religious texts. This leads one to believe that the Tamil hymnists developed the perceptions and symbolisms, and the kings gave a form to them. This paper, thus, examines the nature of Tamil nationalistic  sentiments the way they were developed throughout the history by the production and interpretation of religious and non-religious texts belonging to both Sangam and medieval period. Special attention will be paid to understanding the Tamil sentiments the way they are portrayed in the texts of Saiva Nayanmars, with much focus on the work of
Tirumular's Tirumantiram.

Dr. Renganathan's area of specialization includes Tamil language, linguistics and literature. He is the principal investigator of the multimedia enabled Tamil language pedagogical website hosted at the University of Pennsylvania, and funded by the Department of Education and South Asia Language Resource Center, University of Chicago.