Language nationalism and politics may be gaining currency right now, but at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), it is bridging the cultures. At the BHU’s Department of Indian Languages, there are at least 40 students enrolled for Tamil language courses.
Significantly, even as several north Indians study Tamil, the department has attracted students from Tamil Nadu who are e here to brush up their Hindi.
Take Ganesha Pandiya, who, after doing his MA in Classical Tamil from the Central University of Tamil Nadu, is currently pursuing a PhD in Tamil at the BHU. The Aruppukottai native is working on Tamil-to-Telugu translations. “I wanted to study outside TN as I wanted the opportunity to learn a new language. I learnt Hindi only after coming here (about 10 months ago). Before, I knew only some words, but now I can speak,” he says.
For the love of cinema
When asked the north Indian students about opting to study Tamil, and many say they were inspired after watching movies in that language. “I love south Indian cinema, and I want to see the movies without subtitles or it being dubbed,” says Sachin Shukla, a final-year LLB student who says he is a big fan of Rajinikanth and Dhanush. The same reason is trotted out by Chandan Srivatsav, a third-year LLB student.
Of course, besides movies, Shukla says he was attracted to Tamil as it is the oldest Indian language. “I chose Tamil as I was curious about it. I believe that there is no clash between languages; politics has to be kept aside. If people learn the others’ language, we can understand each other’s point of view better,” he said.
Of pre-Independence vintage
The language department was started in 1945, when Sir S Radhakrishnan was the Vice-Chancellor of the university. “Tamil is taught as a second language in the university,” says T Jagadeesan, Assistant Professor of Tamil at BHU, who further added that the department gets several foreign students, too.
“Currently, we have BA, PhD, and diploma courses, and we might start a master’s programme soon,” he added. “We teach right from the basics. We offer part-time diplomas to the students, and they can learn the language apart from their regular courses. The students can take Tamil as a core subject for two years as an optional paper before doing their Honours course,” he says.
The department is also in the process of starting a Subramania Bharati chair to study the works of the Tamil poet and freedom fighter at the university. PM Narendra Modi announced setting up of the chair on September 11, 2021, on the 100th death anniversary of the poet.
The writer was at the Kashi Tamil Sangamam at the invitation of BHU