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First ever Tamil encyclopedia

Shobha Warrier in Chennai | May 02, 2003 20:32 IST

For the first time in Tamil, an encyclopaedia listing all the major historical events that had happened in the world, India and Tamil Nadu is going to be released in book and on CD-ROM.

The man behind the unique venture is a Tamil writer, I Shanmughanathan, or Nathan as he is popularly known in the Tamil literary world.

The encyclopedia is titled 'Karkalam Mutal Kamputer Kalam Varay' [From the Stone Age to the Computer Age].

It all began when Nathan chanced upon a book titled 'Chronicle of the 20th Century History' at a book exhibition 5 years ago. He noticed that the book did not mention much about events in India and particularly in Tamil Nadu. It set him thinking. Why not a book in Tamil with emphasis on the history and events in India and in Tamil Nadu?

The result of his three years of research, which started in 1998, was a 600 page book with 500 rare photographs titled 'Oru Tamizhan Parvayil Irupatham Nootrandu Varalaru' [20th Century History in the Eyes of a Tamilian]. The book listed all the major events that happened in history of the world, India and Tamil Nadu from 1900-2000.

He used the viewpoint of a Tamizhan [Tamilian] as he felt till now "we got to read only the western point of view in other books".

The unique feature of the book is that it is split into three parts. The first contains the world history, the second on Indian history of the same period and the third consists of the corresponding happenings in Tamil Nadu.

"For example, when I mention about world war in the first section, the Indian section will have the recordings of Indian freedom struggle of the same period while the Tamil section will have what happened in Tamil Nadu during the same period."

The book and its electronic version in CD-ROM and VCD with video clips priced at $10 each (Rs 500) were released simultaneously in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Colombo and Chennai in the year 2000.

The reason for an electronic version of the book was because he wanted to satisfy the ten million Tamils all over the world. "If there are 50 million Tamils in India, there are more than ten million outside India. Those who live outside India are very keen to encourage the language," Shanmughanathan says.

Not only the Tamil diaspora, but the Tamil Nadu government also appreciated Nathan's effort. He received a grant of Rs 300,000 for the research work and the government has asked all the state, district and taluk libraries in the state to buy a copy of the book.

As he researched for the 20th century history, he realised that he should add more information and make it an encyclopedia. His work on the encyclopedia took lest time, only one and half years.

The reception his first book received gave him the confidence to finish the encyclopedia in record time. "If a book on the history of the last 100 years can receive such warm reception, I knew readers would love to have a comprehensive history of the world."

The encyclopedia starts from the beginning of the universe to the modern era that developed the computers. Hence the title 'From the Stone Age to the Computer Age'.

The book consists of 400 pages with rare photographs and also has a CD-Rom version, which will be released in June 2003.

Nathan, who is now the editorial adviser of the Daily Thanthi, the largest circulated Tamil newspaper, was the former chief news editor of the same paper. He has also written 16 novels and 100 short stories in Tamil.

Nathan can be reached at support@dt.co.in or 14-6, Pandaram Street, Purasawakkam, Chennai 600 007. Phone 011-91-44-25325851.


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