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Historical Perspective of Tamil Literature in Singapore

Abridged translation of the Book in Tamil by Dr SP Thinnappan & Dr A Ra Sivakumaran Singapore is just a dot on the world map. A tiny island in South East Asia, it has a population of 4,017,773 (Tamil Murasu 1.9.2000) comprising 76.8% Chinese, 13.9% Malays, 7.9% Indians and 1.4% others. Among the Indians, Tamils form the largest group. Others include, Malayalees, Telugus, Gujeratis, Punjabis and Bengalis. Singaporeans adhere to faiths such as Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. The national language of Singapore is Malay. In addition to Malay, the other official languages of the nation are Mandarin, Tamil and English. The lingua franca is English. The language is also used as the medium of instruction in our educational institutes. Tamil in Singapore When Sir Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company arrived in Singapore came from Penang to establish a trading centre, there were a few Indians among his employees. History reveals that some of his workmen were from South India who spoke Tamil. The population census of 1st January 1824 shows that the total population of Singapore then was 10,683 out of which 3,317 were Chinese, 756 Indians, 4,580 Malays and 74 Europeans. Singapore has adopted a bilingual policy, which enables students to learn their traditions and culture in their mother tongue. Since 1959, Tamil has been one of the official languages of Singapore. Tamil is taught as a subject in 153 primary schools, 77 secondary schools, 14 junior colleges and 7 language centres. In addition, the language is being taught at institutes of higher learning. Altogether some 575 Tamil teachers are engaged as classroom teachers and in teaching-related jobs. Singapore is renowned for its information technology. Hence, with the aid of IT, Tamil is used to exchange information through e-mails and also to teach Tamil. On 2 nd February 1996, Singapores first elected president Mr Ong Teng Cheong officially launched the 1st

Tamil web page. The Internet and NUSs web page help global interaction among the Tamil people. This web page is presently accessible through www.singtisc.org. Radio and television are fundamental media for the growth of Tamil literature in Singapore. Poetry, dramas, stories, literary speeches and literary works by local writers and artistes are broadcast. New terminology and a wide vocabulary enabled the development of the language, and are being used by government departments. Dailies like the Tamil Murasu, Tamil Malar, Malaya Nanban and Tamil Nesan, and the fortnightly Singai Nesan had played significant roles in the development of Tamil literature in Singapore. Today, Tamil Murasu is the only Tamil daily in Singapore. Literary works could be seen in magazines like the Singapore Express and movie and literary magazines. The English newspaper, The Straits Times at one time carried a bilingual page in Chinese, Malay and Tamil once a week. It has since ceased publishing the page. The government promotes literature and the arts in the four official languages by rewarding outstanding artistes with prestigious cultural awards. Writers Week is another programme organised by the government. It was inaugurated in 1991 on a grand scale as part of the Arts Festival. The National Book Development Council is one of the organisations in Singapore established to motivate local writers. The Council presents awards biennially to the best-selected books in the official languages, including Tamil. Tamil, being an official language of Singapore, leading Tamil writers in Singapore have the opportunity to win the South-East Asia Write Award, a prestigious award conferred by the King of Thailand. Six Tamil literary writers have so far won this award. Speeches delivered at many temple congregations and literary events organised by local Tamil organisations and Tamil societies also helped in the growth of literature in Singapore.

Singapores Tamil Literature A General Outline Singapores Tamil literary works produced by Singaporeans or Permanent Residents can be defined as original to the country that reflect Singapores background. Singapore became an independent country in 1965. If Singapores Tamil

literature is viewed from this year, its history will be short. But Tamil literature (Singai Nagar Anthathi) had already flourished since 1887, when Singapore was under British rule. Hence, we can safely say that Tamil literature in Singapore has a history of a century. Singapores Tamil literature includes short stories, poetry, novels, dramas and essays. Tamil literature can be categorised under two periods - pre-independence (18871965) and post independence (1965 onwards). The Period Before Independence (1887 to 1965) Ancient Tamil literature was in poetry form. Hence, the very first literature that appeared in Singapore was also in the form of poetry. According to Mr V Thirunavukkarasu, President of the Tamil Language Council and former editor of Tamil Murasu, the newspapers that appeared one after another following the establishment of Tamil printing presses in 1870, served as a motivating factor and base for budding writers in Singapore. The first Tamil literature book was printed in 1887 by C K Makuthum Sahib, who owned a printing machine. Yazhpanam Vannai Nagar C N Sathasiva Pandit wrote the first book on Tamil literature known as Singai Nagar Anthathi and Chithirakavigal. Together with this, two other books Vannaiyanthathi and Vannainagar Oonjal - were incorporated and printed and published as a single book. There are a number of other books besides the two mentioned earlier. Kuthirai Pandhaya Laavani by N V Rangasamy Dasan (1893). Sallaba Laavani by Ponnusamy Pillai (1893), Singai Murugesar Pathigam (1893) by K Velupillai and Kirthanai Thirattu by Muhamed Abdul Kader (1896) are some of the first Tamil literature books of Singapore. The book on ie Kuthirai Pandhaya Laavani reflects the local background of society that used Tamil and Malay words and phrases. The book portrays the early Tamil immigrants 3

from Thanjavur District of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, and how they established a literary base here. In the early days, we could see how Tamil literature was poetic that reflected the lifestyle of the society then. Since 1900, for about 35 years, there was stagnation in Tamil literary works. The Singai Nesan Tamil daily, which was launched on 27th July 1887, ceased publication on 23rd June 1890. After Singai Nesan folded up, other publications cropped up, but ceased publication in the course of time. On 15 th Sep 1923, Pothujana Mithiran daily came into being, says V Thirunavukkarasu. In the interim period, only religious stanzas were written. Few books were published during this period. According to the late writer and lecturer N Govindasamy, V Sinnaiah wrote the book Navarasa Manjari in 1930. This was the forerunner to Tamil short stories in Singapore. Awakening (1935 1945) There had been awareness about Tamil literature in Singapore since 1935. In the 1930s, the independence movement in India and Bharathis inspiring poetry could have influenced and contributed to the awareness of Singapore Tamil literature. Social reformist Periyars visit on 20th December 1929 to Malaya and Singapore helped spread reformative ideas. On 16th January 1929, G Sarangapany, who was the co-editor of Munnetram, started Tamil Murasu on 6th July 1935. The daily then served as the voice for reformative ideas and a firm base for literary works. Since 1935, there had been a change in the literary works of Singapore. There were less religious articles and more works that reflected the state of society. Besides, the book on horse racing, Vazhinadai Sinthu written in 1936 reflects the different places of worship like the Buddhist Temple in Race Course Road and Singapores landscape then. Vazhinadai Sinthu was the next publication after the Horse-Racing Laavani that reflected Singapores skyline. In addition to the Tamil Murasu, the Tamils Reform Association published the monthly Seerthirutham (Reformation) to create on awareness of Tamil literature in Singapore. Writers like N Palanivelu and Singai Mugilan instilled reformative sentiments amongst the Tamils through their poetry and articles. During this period, several writers wrote short stories, novels and dramas in the Tamil Murasu. In general, N Planivelus works focused on the reforms of society. The short 4

story entitled The Secrets of Karunagaran and Kanagavallis Marriage was centred on the backdrop of Malayan rubber estates. It portrays the plight of the South Indians who were supervised by Sri Lankan Tamils. Mrs Rajambal wrote a short story entitled Vijaiyal An Orphan (1939). This story portrays the reluctance of a Tamil family in accepting a Chinese daughter-in-law. Besides such short stories, the theme of the other literary works were based on the abolition of the caste system, child marriage, incompatible marriage, religious intolerance, antiBrahmanism, religious reforms and anti-superstitious beliefs. its Annual. During the Japanese occupation from 1942 1945, Singapores literature slackened again. The Tamil Murasu daily, which had supported Tamil literary works, Indian ceased publication for a considerable period of time as a result of the war. During this period, G Sarangapany encouraged the development of literary works through the Tamil Murasu and

independence fighter Netaji Subash Chandra Bose established an interim government (Azad Hind) with the Indian National Army. Attracted by the principles of the government, writers like Fakrudin Sahib, S I Durai, R Sreenivasan, G Sarangapany and Mugilan wrote articles in Singapores publications such as Independent India (Daily), Yvabaratham (a weekly) and Suthanthira Uthayam (a monthly). The theme of their expression was mainly to liberate India from British rule. Growth (1946-1965) The editorials that G Sarangapany wrote in the Tamil Murasu reflected his skills, interest and passion for literature, says J M Sali, a renowned local writer. According to him, the Malaya Nanban newspaper had also helped in the development of literary works in Malaya and Singapore. Malaya Nanban, which was started in 1942, had produced many authors and journalists. In 1947, it continued to be published under Fakrudin Sahib. Another monthly magazine called Penaa Munai, which had Letchumanan as its editor, was published for Thiravida Murasu. The catastrophe of war were then the theme of literature. On 13th January 1952, G Sarangapany commenced the celebration of Thamizhar

Thirunal. Poetry, short story and drama competitions were held very successfully. In 5

conjunction with the festival G Sarangapany started the Maanavar Manimandram (Students Bell Club) on 2nd May 1952 as a supplement to the Tamil Murasu to invoke interest in Tamil literature among students. Students took an active part in this. Since 6 th July 1953, the supplement comprising students works was published in 4 pages. The arrival of Neelakanda Sastri in 1953 at the University of Malaya in Singapore and his attempts to introduce a Sanskrit faculty invoked anger and awareness amongst Tamils. In view of this, the Tamils under G Sarangapany started a campaign called Tamil Enkal uyir. In 1959, Singapore attained self-rule. Before 1963, a national campaign for merger with Malaysia was at its peak. This resulted in the penning of many Malaysian patriotic songs. In 1963, Singapore became part of Malaya to form Malaysia. Later, when communist activity threatened the unity of Malaysians, many poets wrote patriotic songs. In 1965, Singapore unexpectedly broke away from Malaysia and became an independent country on 9th Aug 1965. Subsequently, literary works grew in many forms.

After Singapore Became A Republic (1965 to 2000)


Singapore became a republic in 1965. But, in line with historical and geographical features, Singapore was considered part of Malaysia. The sudden unexpected political situation was reflected in the literary works of the times. The various vernacular newspapers of those days published news pertaining to their respective ancestral countries of their readers. In 1966, 1967 and 1968, Tamil newspapers celebrated Singapores National Day with souvenir publications. At the same time, Malaysias National Day was also celebrated with the Merdaka issue. In 1967, S V Shanmugam, a Singaporean, wrote a serialised story, Mandore Magal, with a Malaysian background in the Tamil Murasu. M Elangkannan, a Singaporean, wrote an essay Malaysia My Country in the Merdeka issue. It took some time for the Singapore writers to get out of this confused situation. Growth of literary works then saw stagnation due to Singapores struggle for survival. In 1967, S V Shanmugam wrote another serialised

story entitled Meen Vangalaiyo, a satire with a Singapore background. He also wrote a serialised novel in the Tamil Murasu entitled Vairakiyam. After a long interval in 1968, Rama Kannapiran entered the literary scene with Pon Sundararaju. Their contributions were delayed in being published as they were centred on Singapores background. The delay was due to the confused political situation following the separation of Singapore from Malaysia. This confusion was gradually cleared with the propagation of Singapores nationalism. There is little evidence of poetry or stories about Malaysia after that. Literature in Singapore was seen here under poetry and prose. Poetical Literature After Singapore became a republic, the poetry written was traditional, new and children songs. Traditional Poetry Traditional poetry can be defined as one written within its traditional norms. After independence, Singapore writers were contributing their works to Tamil Murasu and the radio. Many writers had compiled their contributions into booklets and published them. From 1966 to 1999, both writers and poets published a total of 64 books. These 64 books were published over a period of time. From 1966-70 only, one book was published. From 1971-1980, eight books, 1981-1990, thirty-one books, and from 1991-1909, twenty-six books were published. In the 1980s, many poetry books were published. This could be due to the political stability in the 1980s, and poets were in a position to publish their works themselves. In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of Singapores independence, 25 books were published simultaneously. Numerous traditional poems were broadcast on radio and published in newspapers. N Palanivelu was one who contributed a great deal to the growth of Tamil literature. He wrote with reformative ideas and the welfare of society at heart. In 1981, he wrote a poetical play called Kaliyin Nalivu. The Singapore government honoured him with a cultural award for this.

Another one of Singapores pioneer poets, Mugilan was also a recipient of the Cultural Medallion of the Singapore Government. Poet K T M Iqbal, a leading poet of Singapore, known for his traditional poems, now composes new poetry. Ithayamalargal (1975), Mugavarigal (1984) and Vairangal are some of the books he had presented to the Tamil literary world. Mugavarigal is a book that comprises both traditional and new poetry. He had received the National Book His Development Councils award, Mount Blanc Award and Thamizhavels Award. poems, which are translated into English, are found on MRT trains.. Other notable writers and poets include V Palani alias Murugathasan, Jamilah alias Samsudin, K Perumal, M Elamaran, M Thangarajan, Paranan, Muthumanikkam, Manivannan, V Ikkuvanam, Peri Neela Palanivelan, P Thiruvenkadam, A Palani, AP Shanmugam, M A Masoothu, Parvathy Poobalan, Sugumaran and Narana Puthumai Piththan. All these writers have published their works. Among the writers who have not published their works are Amalathasan, Malar Manickam, Santhi, Mutthamizhan and Periya Ramu. New Poetry The New verses introduced by Barathi in India only took shape in Singapore

towards the end of the 1970s. Singapore poets did not show keen interest in new poetry. In fact, they opposed it. However, in later years, the younger generation seem to be showing keen interest in it. K Elangovan is the pioneer of new poetry in Singapore.Vizhi Sannalkalin Pinaallirunthu is the book he published in 1979. Maunavatham (1984), TRANS CREATIONS, (1988) are the other books that he has written and had them translated into English. Mystery poetry, satire and mockery are some of the stances he adopts in his poems. He is bold to chide the government and society. His proficiency in English and the mixture of other languages are reflected in his works. K T M Iqbal contributes new as well as traditional poems. This usage is evident in his book, Mugavari. Pichinikkadu Elango has adopted the formers footsteps to make his 8

contributions in the form of new poetry. Amaruddin, V S Tajuddin, Muhamed Ali, Azhakia Pandian, Rajasegar, Ravi, Gnana Piragasam Monika and C Meenachi are those who had their new poetry published as books. Latha, Shahul Hameed and Malarthamizh are the ones who have written new poetry. There are many others who write new poetry in the Tamil Murasu in Sunday. Some of the poems are centred on foreign workers. Childrens Literature Childrens literature was introduced 50 years after the publication of the first Tamil Literature in Singapore. Childrens literature in Singapore has seen a steady growth through newspapers like Tamil Murasu and the radio. Students from kindergarten to institutes of higher learning contributed stories, poems and essays to Tamil Murasus students supplement Maanavar Manimandra Malar. In the early years, Tamil Malar and Tamil Nesan followed the Tamil Murasu in publishing students supplement once a week. Hence, it is evident that the newspapers played a major role in the development of childrens literature both in Singapore and Malaysia. Maanavar Manimandra Malar had produced a generation of writers. Thaen Koodu was a students monthly magazine after Maanavar Poonga to be published in April 1973. Rasaiya Ganapathi was the chief editor and S Chandran was the editor. Like the Maanavar Poonga, Thaen Koodu carried useful information for students and was of high standard. Unfortunately, such a quality magazine had to cease publication just after six weeks. There are many poets who had published songs for the young, but none had published any storybooks. Publishers like E V Singan and Kasi Visvanathan had compiled and published Aesops Fables, Sri Lankan stories and Stories for the Young. They have also translated stories, science fiction and others in the form of books. There is hardly any book on plays for children, biography of great leaders or essays for the young. Except for writer Ra Kirishan alias Raki, others have written only poems for the young. Since Krishnan had not published his stories in book form, childrens literature is seen through poetry and songs only. Though many songs were broadcast over the radio and published in newspapers, only a few have been published in book form. 9 The

Writers like N Palanivelu, Mullaivanan, Illamaran, K T M Iqbal, Murugathasan, Paranan, Muthu Maickam, Peri Neela Palanivelan and Palani have composed poems and literature for children. Illamaran and Palani have also published their works in audio tapes and CD ROMs Short Story Short stories began to flourish after independence in 1965. In the 1960s, though there was political instability in Singapore, Tamil short stories saw a rise in standards and reflected the social position of the people then. In 1970, as a result of the increase in the number of short stories, the search for quality started. Hence, in 1975, the Association of Singapore Tamil Writers and the Singapore Literary Society were formed. Singapore Literary Society published its review of short stories once in 2 months in Singapore and Malaysian newspapers. One of the pioneers of short stories in Singapore was N Palanivelu. Palanivelu, Rama Kannapiran, Balakrishnan alias Singai Ma Elangkannan, P Krishnan, N Govindasamy, M S Gurusamy, S V Shanmugam, M Thangarajan, Singai Tamilselvam, Pon Sundararasu, J M Sali, Shangari Ramanujam, A P Shanmugam, R Pandian, P P Kantham, P Sivasamy, Letchumi Thanagopal Duraimanikkam,Rajaram, Ratnavathy Balamalar, M S Sakkaravarthi Somasanma, Nara Puthumaipittan were among the writers who have contributed to the growth of short stories even before Singapore become a republic. The Tamil section of the Ministry of Education organised a story-writing competition for secondary students in 1988. comprising the prize- winning stories. The Fiction of Singapore is a book compiled by the late N Govindasamy that made Tamil Teachers proud. He had selected the best stories from newspapers compiled and published them. These books comprise short stories in English and the three other official languages with English translations. The Moon Publication published a book

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There are many writers who do not publish their works or send them to the papers, radio or magazines. Seethaletchumi, Josephine Joseph, O K Mageswari, Ramarajan, K Sangaiya, P Rajaram, and Latha are among them.

Novels
After Singapore became a republic, the development of novels was not as great as short stories. The novels took time and intervals to appear. From 1965 to 1999, 22 books and 26 novels were published. Many short-story writers wrote novels as well. The novels had historical, social, Malaysia, Singapore and Tamil Nadu background. Among the locals who had written and published novels are M K Gurusamy, A P Shanmugam, Peri Neela Palanivelan, M Elangkannan, J M Sali, Ratnavathy Subramaniam, S S Sharma, N Govindasamy, Rama Kannapiran and Tamilselvam. Plays Many plays were published in book form after they were staged or broadcast over the radio. Twenty-two drama books were published from 1965 to 1999. They were by N Palanivelu, A P Shanmugam, S V Shanmugam, S Vasanthan, Ra Narayanasamy, S S Sharma, P Govintharajan, S V Nathan, Pon Sundarasu, Narana Puthumai, N Aandeappan, M K Narayanan and P Krishnan. Noteworthy among the younger generations of writers include K Ragini Devi, Anbarasan and K Sathiyanathan P Krishnan and S V Shanmugam had translated producing literary plays for radio broadcasts. Essay Literature In Singapore, many writers write essays, which can be classified as travelogues and historical. Travelogues have been written by writers like SS Sarma, Sutharman and P P Kantham. plays from other languages into

English. A Murugaian, S V Shanmugam, S P Panneer Selvam had played a major role in

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Historical Biographical Essays Some people have recorded incidents in their lives and had published them. P

Sutharman, S Varathan, P Govindaraju, A N Maideen, S Kumarasamy are those who had their diaries published. Eliyas had a biography book on G Sarangapany published. Jamila, S Palanisamy, I Ulaganathan, M K Narayanan are among those who had written literary essays. Stage plays Plays are known to have been staged since the beginning of Singapore. In the 19 th century, plays were staged by local artistes at Sri Mariamman Temple and at other temples. From 1923 to 1924, drama troupes from India staged plays. In 1925, Kader Batcha Moideen Shahib Companys drama troupe was popular. Mathanavel Pillai, who came from India and settled in Singapore, volunteered his services in staging plays. He staged them through the Devi Gana Saba. Since then, many drama companies came from India to Singapore to stage plays. From 1966 to 1970, Singapore drama deteriorated in terms of music, dance and acting. Hence, about 200 artistes got together to form the Indian Artistes Association in 1970. At present there are more than 44 Tamil drama troupes. The Singapore government has motivated and encouraged the artistes through organising drama festivals, arts festival and youth and drama festivals, and granting financial assistance. . From 1950-65, several drama troupes came into being, and there were many playwrights. In 1980, with the co-operation of the Singapore Broadcasting Cooperation, literary plays were staged on a grand scale. Singapore National Arts Council gave financial grants for this. Many local drama troupes also staged social plays. In the 1990s, theAgni Koothu drama group experimented many plays with youngsters playing the casts. Many of the plays were centred on Singapore. The Ravindran Drama Group in addition to staging plays,has also conducted many drama workshops.

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In the latter part of the 1990s, K Elangovan adopted some new techniques and ideas to make a drastic change in themes and performances. Some of his plays had been controversial. Tamils Reform Association, Singapores Tamilian Association, Thamizhavel Drama Society, Indian Arts Council and the Singapore Indian Artistes Association had all helped to develop the Tamil theatre in Singapore. Media and Tamil Literature The media in Singapore (newspapers and radio) had over 60 years helped in the development of Tamil literature in Singapore. Other media like television and the IT are also continually engaged in this endeavour. Radio Tamil radio was launched in Singapore on 1 st June 1936. Its initial task among others, was to simplify ancient literature and introduce them to the public, providing motivation for the production of modern literature. Ancient literature like Silapathigaram, Manimegalai, Kambaramayanam, Seevagasinthaamani, Perungkathai, Manonmaniyam and Nalavenba, were presented as plays and broadcast over radio. The ancient Sangam literary scenes were also broadcast. Great epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabaratha were produced in episodes to create public interest in literature. Learned men delivered literary talks, and literary programmes were produced. Naalum Oru Kural has helped public appreciate Thirukkural(the ancient book of moral values). Seminars, poetry - recital sessions, short stories and dramas had helped develop Tamil literature. The poetry, stories and dramas broadcast over radio were later published. Outstanding amongst them are Poet Perumals Singapore Songs. Poet KT M Iqbals Anaai, Poet Paranans Mazhai, P Krishnans comedy plays - Adukku Veettu Annasamy and Madi Veettu Mangalam -, which had local background, were popular. M K Narayanan wrote mystery plays and successfully aired them on radio. Even Shakespearian plays were translated and broadcast . Radio facilitated in the production of local literature. M T Arasu helped to introduce ancient literature. Cinema songs with literary lines were introduced and were well received.

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Newspaper Poems, short stories, novels, literary essays were published in newspapers like Tamil Murasu, Tamil Malar, Tamil Nesan and Malaya Nanban. This helped the development of literary works. Television In 1963, television was introduced in Singapore. Literary programmes were presented for children and the youth. Social as well as comedy serials were telecast over TV. E S J Chandran, Parkrisamy, Kalaiselvan, T S Mohanam were the prominent ones who had played major roles in this area. Interviews with writers and providing information by the producers helped the growth of literature. Recently modern poetry was introduced with appropriate scenes. IT The computer is this centurys incomparable media of information technology. Singapore is leading in its efforts to have the development of literature through the computer. The late N Govindasamy started a web page using the Internet to access Singapore Tamil literature in the form of poetry, short stories and essays . Singapore Net and Our Family , are some of the web pages in Singapore that include literary pages. Oral Literature Since Singapore is gradually developing into a city-state, the countryside scenes are fast disappearing. During the early immigrant days, the people were able to enjoy folk songs and street dramas. There is emphasis on this in books like the Kuthirai Panthaiya Laavani Vazhinadai Sinthu. scenes of the Puranam. During the annual fire-walking ceremony at the Sri Mariamman Temple, the Mahabaratha is read out. Laavani songs will be sung to depict the

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Research Singapore Tamils Representative Council, Singapore Tamil Youths Club and seminars on Tamil Language and Literature. the

National University of Singapore Tamil Language Society conducted surveys and held Singapore Tamil Youths Club conducts seminars annually. The research papers presented at seminars are compiled and published. The National University of Singapore Tamil Language Society has been conducting biennial seminars since 1977. Many of the research papers have been published. For the last 13 years, Yishun Junior College has been conducting seminars annually and compiling and publishing the seminar papers. Mr A Ra Sivakumaran, Mr Thyagarajan, Mdm Seethalakshmi have done research on Singapore Tamil Literature for their Ph.D. Literature In The Education System Literature is considered essential in Singapores education system. It is taught from primary one to junior college. Students offering Higher Tamil are taught to appreciate literature, which examinations. In institutes of higher learning like the NIE, trainee Tamil teachers are trained in the knowledge of ancient Tamil literature, childrens literature, critical appreciation, modern poetry and modern prose literature. Tamil Literature In Cultural Diversity Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious society. Hence it has a multicultural background . Although there is not much reflection on the plural society of Singapore in Tamil literature here, there are a few short stories, novels and modern poetry which had incorporated these features. Alaigal, a novel written by M Elangkannan, reflects the life of a Chinese girl who married a Tamil. The Indian and Chinese lifestyles are reflected in this novel. Rama Kannapiran portrays the Malay culture in his short story Shabariya. 15 is offered as an examination subject in the GCEO and A level

Books on Tamil literature with English translations had been published to facilitate nonTamils to appreciate Tamil literature. In 1985, V Thirunavukkarasu was the editor of the publication, Poetry of Singapore. In 1995, N Govindasamy proudly presented a book called Journeys. The National University of Singapore Centre for the Arts compiled the songs and published it as The Poetic History of Singapore and Memories and Desires in 1998. These books were published under the auspices of the government. Poetry from the 4 official languages is found in these books. All the poetry presented in these books have English translations. Singapore Tamil literature in the form of poetry, modern poetry, short stories and plays are published in Singa, a literary magazine with English translations, published by the National University of Singapore Centre for the Arts. Research essays on Singapore Tamil literature is also published in this magazine. These books and Singa magazine have facilitated non Tamils to know about Tamil literature in Singapore. The person responsible for this is Professor Edwin Thamboo of National University of Singapore. Singapore poets works are translated into English and often placed in MRT trains. Influence of other races Since Singapore Tamils are living in a multi-lingual, multi-racial and multi-religious environment, it is inevitable that their culture and language are influenced by other races. This can be seen in the content of Singapore Tamil literature. Marrying a Chinese girl, adopting Chinese children, living with neighbours of different races, inter - marriages and doing business with different racial groups are some of the themes found in the stories of Singapore literature. However, such influences are absent in poetry. Nowadays, English seems to have influenced our younger generation. In future, this trend will be more prominent. Certain Malay and Chinese words are found in some modern poetry. Even in stories, dialogues between characters using such words are evident. To indicate different food, clothing, culture, mannerism and festivals; using a different glossary of words is inevitable 16

in a multi-racial society. It is inevitable to use different languages to mention about people and places. The use of la by the Malays has an influence on the Indians too. Malay languages have a greater influence than the Chinese language. Since Malay was used as a language for communication between the Chinese and Indians, the impact of Malay languages influence is greater. Conclusion Tamil literature had seen a century of progress. Singapore Tamil literature works can anticipate more uniqueness and a higher standard of performance in the literary world in the years to come. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Translated by Mdm Muthulatchimi Rasappan and others

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