Importance of promoting Tamil language stressed

Eight women also debate on its future at Auckland Muthamil Sangam Pongal Celebrations

Venkat Raman

Auckland, January 21, 2018

Tamil is the oldest language in world, dating back thousands of years and despite occasional downtrends, it will continue to flourish and bespeak a great culture and heritage, a well-known Tamil Scholar and Rationalist Leader from Chennai has said.

Dravider Kazhagam President Arivukkarasu Subramanian (who is a former Tamil Nadu government Revenue Officer and Acting District Collector) outlined at length the significance of Pongal and the ‘religious twist’ that it later acquired and the need to foster Tamil language in its spoken and written forms.

Whether Tamil is on the wane or on the grow was also debated by six women of the Auckland Tamil community.

These were among the highlights of the ‘Pongal Vizha’ celebrated by Auckland Muthamil Sangam last night (Saturday, January 20, 2018) at Mt Albert War Memorial Hall, New North Road, Auckland.

More than 200 men, women and children attended the four-hour event which included Bharata Natyam dances and song sequences from Tamil films and ‘Pongal Treat’ provided by Saffron Indian Restaurant located at Ponsonby Road, Auckland.

Guests felicitated

Former Muthamil Sangam President Ray Annamalai was facilitated by Nathan Saminathan and Thangamani Periasamy (both former Presidents) for being featured on the Queen’s New Year Honours List (2018) with a Queen’s Service Medal.

Mr Periasamy also honoured Mr Arivukkarasu as the overseas Guest Speaker.

Significant Festival

Mr Arivukkarasu said that Pongal is a festival marked by Tamilians all over the world, irrespective of their religious and other leanings.

“Pongal heralds the harvest season and hence denotes a new era of hope and prosperity. As such, everyone, including farmers and others celebrate it with enthusiasm. It is the only festival that is a non-religious observance in India,” he said.

Mr Arivukkarasu however bemoaned that a Festival that was meant for universal celebration has, over the years acquired, religious connotations with ‘Bhogi Pongal,’ ‘Mattu Pongal’ ‘Kanu Pongal’ and ‘Makar Sankranti’ (or ‘Makara Shankaranthi’) segregating people of other faiths.

“A festival that once united people, is today dividing them,” he said.

Tamil Language Issue

The all-women, six-participants debate, known in Tamil as ‘Pattimandram’ was whether Tamil was progressing or regressing. Divided equally as ‘For’ and ‘Against,’ the women showed their innate knowledge of the subject and the ability to articulate their thoughts with passion and humour.

The ‘For’ side, led by Mary Fredrick, included Krithika Kartik and Annapurni Kalyanasundaram, while their opposition, arguing that ‘Tamil language is on the wane,’ was led by Nitya Suresh and included Sheba Soundhar and Satya Guhan.

The arguments were strong but Nitya, with her ability to think on her feet and respond to the views expressed by earlier speakers, was easily the best, followed by Sheba. The other participants were equally effective and convincing.

Common People’s promotion

Mr Arivukkarasu, who moderated the Pattimandram, said that while those who argued that the language of Tamil was becoming extinct were strong in their views, there was no need for either fear or apprehension.

“Common people of Tamil Nadu, including fisherman, fisherwomen and the working class speak pure Tamil; in fact, many of them speak only this language. So long as we have such people, Tamil will not face the threat of extinction,” he said.

Mr Arivukkarasu said that Tamil has faced such threats in its 5000-year history and each time emerged stronger.

Extolling Muthamil Sangam

“Organisations like Auckland Muthamil Sangam are in the forefront of promoting Tamil and their efforts to encourage their children to learn the language and the passion of Tamilians in New Zealand will continue to promote Tamil. There are such organisations and people all over the world, which gives me the confidence that Tamil will never wane,” he said.

The efforts to promote a Tamil Chair in Harvard University (USA) is another step in the right direction, he said.

The verdict of the audience was that Muthamil Sangam will do well to organise more such Pattimandrams in the future.

Editor’s Note: Indian Newslink has run a story on ‘Harvard Tamil Chair’ initiative on January 11, 2018 and is promoting a cultural event organised by ‘New Zealand Tamil Youth’ on Sunday, February 11, 2018 at 530 pm at Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, Dominion Road, Balmoral, Auckland. Another report of the event, with updates, will appear tomorrow.


Photo Caption

  1. Arivukkarasu Subramanian speaking at the Pongal Vizha on January 20, 2018
  2. The Pattimandram: Is Tamil progressing or waning?
  3. Arivukkarasu Subramanian moderating the Pattimandram

Pictures by Gopi Dinakaran (gPhotos)

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