Uniqueness of Tamil – Dr.Zvelebil’s quotes from Smile of Murugan

In my previous post I had paid homage to Dr.Zvelebil. Now I felt I should put some excerpts from his most famous book ‘Smile of Murugan’. This was the book which changed my whole perspective on Tamil. My love for Tamil literature developed after reading this book. So i thought I would give a taste of that book and esp. what Dr.Zvelebil wrote about the uniqueness of Tamil.

….early Tamil poetry was rather unique not only by virtue of the fact that some of its features were so unlike everything else in India, but by the virtue of its literary excellence; those 26,350 lines of poetry promote Tamil to the rank of one of the greatest classical languages of the world- though the world at large only just about begins realise it.”

“There is yet another important difference between Tamil and other Dravidian Languages; the metalanguage of Tamil has always been Tamil,never Sanskrit. As A.K.Ramanujan says ” In most Languages, the technical gobbledygook is Sanskrit; in Tamil, the gobbledygook is ultra-Tamil”

“…it is clear that Tamil Literature did not develop in a cultural vacuum, and that the evolution of the Tamil culture was achieved either in isolation, or by simple cultural mutation. The very beginnings of Tamil Literature manifest clear traces of Aryan influence – just as the very beginning of Indo-Aryan literature, the Rigvedic hymns,show traces of Dravidian influence. This, too, is today an undisputed fact.”

“…Tamil cultural tradition is independent,not derived , not imitative; it is pre-sanskritic and from this point of view Tamil alone stands apart when compared with all other major languages and literature of India.”

“…Tamil literature possess at least two unique features.
First, as has just pointed out, it is the only Indian literature which is, at least in its beginnings and in its first and most vigorous bloom,almost entirely independent of Aryan and specifically Sanskrit influences…..
Second: though sometimes qualified as a neo-Indian literature, Tamil Literature is the only Indian literature which is both classical and modern….”

Unfortunately Smile of Murugan book is out of print and very few copies of it are available in libraries. Any body in  US can access this book with the help of inter library loan.  So if any body can access this book please go on and read it.



  1. Thanks for giving an insight in to this greatman’s passion for our mother tongue.

  2. ya i agree , its heartwarming to see ur posts, i always look for ur post, may be iam not well versed in tamil , but when i know about its beauty and richnesss its give me more pleasure to read more about it, thanks for ur valid and great effort, looking forward for more and more from you

  3. Great service to tamil language, greater then the recent semmozhi mahanadu .
    With regard to Smile of Murugan is available at – Kamil Zvelebil The smile of Murugan on Tamil literature of South India. E.J. Brill Leiden 1900 16, 378 p. Microfiche. Ann Arbor, Mich., University Microfilms, 19–. 1 microfiche ; 11 x 15 cm. (Human relations area files, HRAF) eng /books/OL15135770M 2009-12-15 02:34:07.984814

  4. மிக அருமை.
    நல்ல உணவை அன்புடன் பரிமாறியதற்கு நன்றி.

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