[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Dr. Ayyadurai Dhamotharan (1935-2019)

Jean-Luc Chevillard jean-luc.chevillard at univ-paris-diderot.fr
Wed Jun 26 06:36:34 UTC 2019


Dr. Ayyadurai Dhamotharan (1935-2019)

Dr. A. Dhamotharan, a Tamil scholar and former Lecturer of Tamil at 
Heidelberg University, passed away on Friday, the 14th of June 2019, at 
the age of 84 in his hometown Thirumoolasthanam, Kattumannarkoil, Tamil 

Dhamotharan completed his schooling in and around his native town and 
went to Annamalai University for higher studies. There, he earned his 
B.A. (Honours) in Tamil literature (1956-59). Then, serving as a 
lecturer of Tamil in a college for two years, he enrolled for Ph.D. 
under the guideship of Prof. V.I.Subramoniam, Department of Tamil, 
University of Kerala. His topic of research was “The Language of 
Thirukkural”, a well-known classical text in Tamil. To which he applied 
the syntactic theory, Tagmemics, expounded by the American linguist 
Kenneth L. Pike, who was all helpful in sending research materials 
related to theoretical and applied Tagmemics. Dhamotharan submitted his 
Ph.D. thesis in 1966. The external examiner for his thesis was Prof. 
Kamil V. Zvelebil, who highly commended it. While Dhamotharan was 
working as a lecturer (1967-68) at the Centre for Advanced Studies in 
Linguistics in Annamalai University, his alma mater, he got an invite 
from the South Asia Institute to join the language faculty.

In 1969, Dr. Dhamotharan was appointed as Lecturer of Tamil at the South 
Asia Institute of Heidelberg University, Germany, by the then head of 
the Department of Indology Prof. Hermann Berger on the recommendation of 
the great Tamil and Dravidian scholar Kamil V. Zvelebil. With the 
appointment of Dr. Dhamotharan at Heidelberg University and Dr. P.R. 
Subramanian, Lecturer at Institute of Indology, University of Koeln 
(1972-83), Tamil Studies in Germany made a progress.

Dr. Dhamotharan worked at Heidelberg University for the next 30 years. 
He mastered the German language very quickly. During the ensuing three 
decades he taught Tamil to German students in the medium of German on 
all levels of the then Master’s program of Indology. While teaching 
Tamil in a German environment for so many years, Dr. Dhamotharan 
developed a fine sense of Tamil and German lexicality. He put this 
linguistic acquisition in use in many Tamil-German translation classes 
with texts of his favourite Tamil author Jeyakanthan for the great 
benefit of his students. He also started working on a German-Tamil 
dictionary. Unfortunately, this project could not be completed. During 
his time at Heidelberg University, Dr. Dhamotharan co-supervised all 
Tamil Ph.D. projects done at the South Asia Institute; for instance, the 
theses on Tamil guardian deities by Eveline Meyer, on Tamil 
reduplication by Thomas Malten, on the grammar of Old Tamil by Thomas 
Lehmann, and on the Tamil verbal participle and infinitive by Jacques 
Deigner. His main research interest was the editorial work of the 
medieval Tamil grammatical text Naṉṉūl and its various commentaries. 
But, first he painstakingly collected the Thirukkural quotes employed by 
various commentators. He classified those quotes according to the 
purpose for which they were cited, and his work got published in 1970. 
Having published also his Grammar of Thirukkural (South Asian Studies 
No.5, University of Heidelberg, 1972) and a Bibliography of Tamil 
dictionaries in 1978, Dr. Dhamotharan prepared two fine editions of the 
Tamil grammatical text Naṉṉūl with the commentary by Kūḻaṅkaittampirāṉ 
(considered lost, till he found the mss at British library and copied it 
in his own, highly legible handwriting and published it as it is) in 
1980 and with the Viruttiyurai commentary by Caṅkaranamacivāyar (with 
additions of Civañāṉa Muṉivar) in 1999. In his editorial work he was 
highly accurate and meticulous and showed his high degree of exact 
scholarship. In his 1999 edition of Naṉṉūl, Dhamotharan introduced a new 
feature in Tamil text editing and the format was well received in Tamil 

In the year 2000, Dr. Dhamotharan retired from Heidelberg University at 
the age of 65 and one year later in 2001 he returned to Tamil Nadu. 
Known for his great expertise in Tamil text editing, he was invited by 
the Central Institute of Classical Tamil, Chennai, to participate in 
their project of preparing definite (critical) editions of classical 
Tamil texts.

The task of preparing a critical edition of the 8th century text 
Iṟaiyaṉār Kaḷaviyal was entrusted to him, which he did diligently by 
comparing the available palm-leaf manuscripts (published in 2013). He 
worked as a consulting editor for the Tamil Lexicon revision project by 
Madras University and also for the revised and enlarged edition of 
Cre-A's Dictionary of Contemporary Tamil (2008). He served as Honorary 
Professor at the International Institute of Tamil Studies (2001) and as 
a trustee of Mozhi, A Trust for Resource Development for Language and 
Culture, Chennai (2003–07). He brought out another edition of 
Kūḻaṅkaittampirāṉ’s commentary on Naṉṉūl with additions and notes 
(Cre-A, 2010).

Though he had a good grounding in modern descriptive linguistics, his 
outlook and approach were more historical which helped him delve into 
the grammatical traditions of Tamil medieval commentaries.

Because of illness he lived the last few years of his life secluded at 
his native place in Tamil Nadu. He will always be remembered as an 
excellent and patient teacher, a fine and erudite scholar and a good 
friend to many Tamil students and scholars both in Germany and India. He 
is survived by his wife and two sons. He has been blessed with 
granddaughters and grandsons.

Dr. Thomas Lehmann
South Asia Institute, Heidelberg

Dr. P.R. Subramanian
Mozhi Trust, Chennai


-- Jean-Luc Chevillard (CNRS, France)


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