Books for your reference

I am compiling here books about Tamil Literature in English. The collections mentioned here include critical studies, reference books, translations, Lexicons. This page would be updated on a regular basis. This page is now updated for Sangam literature. This is not an exhaustive list, but books I have personally used or collected over the years.

Tamil Literature: Introduction

The Smile of Murugan : History of Tamil Literature of South India by Kamil V Zvelebil

  • This book is meant to introduce Tamil literature across ages to Non Tamil Readers
  • The books covers introduction to Tamil language, Tamil Classical literature, Late Classical literature, Bakthi literature, Kamba Ramayanam, Arunagiri poetry, Modern poetry
  • This is my recommendation to anyone who wants to understand Tamil literature across age

Tamil Literature by Kamil V Zvelebil – 1974

  • This book is series of books edited by Jan Gonda, the series was title A History of Indian Literature.
  • This book introduces Tamil literature as part of A History of Indian Literature
  • A compact book on history of Tamil literature

History of Tamil Literature

Tamil Literature by Kamil V Zvelebil – 1975 E.J Brill

  • This book is an expanded version of 1974 version. This book has essays on various technical issues with Tamil literature like problems with dating, authenticity and authorship.
  • This book also deals with various myths regarding Tamil literature and explains what the real facts are.
  • This book is meant to be a reference book and records of history of Tamil Literature

Tamil Literature by M.S.Purnalingam Pillai

  • The book is an earlier work similar to Zevlebil’s version. Zevelebil refers this book a lot when it comes to dating in his works.

Sangam Literature – Critical Study

Tamil Heroic Poetry by Kailasapathy

  • This book is possibly the best work on Puram genre of Sangam Literature
  • The author analyzes similarities between Puram poetry and Greek Poetry

The eight anthologies: a study in early Tamil literature by John Ralston Marr

  • This book is very useful if you would like to get critical study on poetics and kings and chieftains of Sangam Era.
  • The book is one of the best critical work on Purananuru with regards to Kings and Chieftains.

Sangam Literature – Poetics

Literary conventions of Akam poetry by Kamil Zvelebil

  • One best books to read when you want to understand the various theme involved in Akam poetry.
  • Reading this book would give an entirely new dimension to Sangam poetry for the starters.
  • The whole format of the book is such that each theme follows in such way that whole book looks like story and each theme is part of a bigger story(That exactly how Sangam literature is written!)

The Tamil Concept of Love by V Sp Manickam

  • Study on Akam poems of Sangam poetry
  • Much more elaborate version of Literary Conversion of Akam poetry

Landscape and Poetry – A study of nature in Classical Poetry by Xavier Thani Nayagam

  • A detailed study of treatment of nature in Sangam poems

Tamil Love poetry and poetics – Takanobu Takahashi

  • Detailed analysis of Tamil grammar associated with Tamil Akam Literature for serious readers.

Treatment of Nature in Sangam Literature – M varadharajan (Mu Va)

  • A detailed study of treatment of nature in Sangam poems

Sangam literature – Social life

The Poets of Ancient Tamil : Their milieu and their Sanskrit Literature By George L Hart

  • This books reconstructs the life of Early Tamils based on the Sangam Literature and in the second part compares the Tamil Literature with Sanskrit Literature

Home Life among Tamils in the Sangam Age by K.Gnanambal

  • A work which presents the social life of the people of Sangam age.
  • Some caution should be taken while reading the book. Some explanations for Tamil Literature has been given from other Sanskrit sources. Tamil traditions seems have  to be distinct from their Sanskrit counterparts.
  • Available free online

Sangam Literature: Complete English Translations

Ainkurunuru – Translation and commentary by Jyothimuthu

  • Complete Translations of  Ainkurunuru with short commentary on each poem.

Kurunthokai : An anthology of Tamil classical poetry by M.Shanmugam Pillay and David Ludden

  • Complete translation of Kurunthokai
  • The poem numbers in traditional commentary and poem number in this book doesn’t match, though in last few pages mapping between traditional numbering and their numbering is given.
  • All the poems are translated with use of old commentaries rather than the word for word translation – Caution should be taken while reading some of the translations.

Narrinai – An anthology of Amour by A.V.Subrahmanian

  • Complete Translation of Narrinai

Paripatal – Institute of Asian Studies

  • Complete translation with introduction essay.

Kalithokai in English – Institute of Asian Studies

  • Complete translation with introduction essay.

The four hundred songs of war and wisdom : an anthology of poems from classical Tamil : the Purananuru by George L. Hart, Hank Heifetz

  • Complete Translation of Puranaanuru with notes and introduction essay.

The four hundred songs of love – An Anthology of Poems from Classical Tamil – The Akanananuru –  George L. Hart

  • Complete Translation of Akanranaanuru with notes and introduction essay.

Tamil Love Poetry – The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Ainkurunuru – Martha Ann Selby – Columbia University Press 2011

Narriṇai: Text, Transliteration and Translations in English verse and prose: Part. I & II Prof. V. Murugan – Central Institute of Classical Tamil

  • Edition has compilation of translations from multiple authors

Kuruntokai: Text, Transliteration and Translations in English Verse and Prose Dr. Jayanthasri Balakrishnan – Central Institute of Classical Tamil

  • Edition has compilation of translations from multiple authors

Sangam Literature: Curated English Translations

The Interior Landscape (Kurunthokai) by A.K.Ramanujan

  • Translations of select poems form Kurunthokai

Sips from the Sangam Cup by A.V.Subrahmanian

  • Gives translations of Sangam poems of various themes in prose format.
  • Highly recommended for reader who want to know about different facets of Sangam Poems.

Poems of love and war : from the eight anthologies and the ten long poems of classical Tamil by A.K.Ramanujan

  • Translation of select Sangam Literature poems

The Poets of Tamil Anthologies: Ancient poems of Love and War by Gorge L Hart

  • Translations of select poems from Ainkurunuru, Kurunthokai, Akanaanuru , Narrinai , Purunaanuru

Silapadikaram(The Ankle Braclet) by Alain Danielou

  • The most poetic translation of Silapadikaram
  • Not very accurate translation, for accurate translation you can read R.Dikishitar version of Silapadikaram Translation.
  • Recommended if you just want enjoy poetic beauty of Illanko

Lexicons and Encyclopedia:

Lexicon of Tamil literature – Kamil Zvelebil E.J. Brill, 1995

Tamil Lexicon – University of Madras

Dravidian Etymology Dictionary – T.Burrow and M.B.Emeneau

Rest to be updated.

Cilapathikaram by Ramchandra Dikshitar

  • Probably the most accurate translation in English.
  • Though the author considers the Cilapathikaram as a sangam work- refuted by many. So crtical study given by the author should be read with caution.
  • Recommended for any detailed study on Cilapthikaram

The forest book of Ramayana of Kamban by George L. Hart and Hank Heifetz

  • Translation of Aranya Kandam of Kamba ramayana with Introduction essay.

The poets of the powers by Kamil V Zvelebil

  • Translations of Tamil Cittar Poetry.
  • Also has biography of the Cittars and also has details on their philosophy.


Tamil Traditions of Subrahmanya Murugan by Kamil V Zvelebil

  • Essays on Integration of North Indian Skanda and Tamil Murugan.

Thirumurgan by Kamil V Zvelebil

  • Essays on Myths of Murugan which are exclusive to Tamil/Dravidan people.

The many faces of Murukan : The history of a South Indian God by Fred W Clothey

  • Traces history of Murugan from Pre history to present day Tamil Kadavul
  • Has summary of all Sanskrit sources of Skanda and from all major Tamil Literature.

Buddhism in Tamil Nadu: Collected Papers – Institute of Asian Studies

  • A book which is collection of various papers on Buddhism in Tamil Nadu.
  • A Must read book to know about Buddhism its patronage , growth and influence in Tamil Nadu.

Murugan god of Kurunchi : Collected papers – Institute of Asian Studies

  • Collection of various papers on Muruga
  • Various papers explore different facets of Muruga Myths and legends.

Tamil Temple Myths by David Shulman

  • Essays on various exclusive Dravidian myths that got integrated into Brahminic religion by the means of Sthalapuranas.
  • An excellent must read book on Tamil Puranas and Myths.

Hymns for the drowning : poems for Visnu by A.K.Ramanujan

  • Translation of Nammalvar poems


  1. grateful if you could forward digital copies of the books that you have suggested for reading,if such are available. If not , any info on purchasing or obtaining the books would be helpful. I now feel that I must read Ponniyin Selvan both in Tamil and the translation.

  2. wow i am really happy to be a tamilian, i didnt know much about our TAMIL language fame.But now i understood everything after i have visited to this site.and i got a chance to recall my old school day poems essays etc.. and can you please tell me that where can i get these books so that i can know more than no i know..

  3. Wow, I didn’t realise so many of our religious books have English translations… But where do I find all these wonderful books. I tried a local library (in Singapore) but they did not have the English versions. Borders didn’t have them too. N Karupps I agree with you…. I’am happy n proud to be a Tamilian too.:(

  4. நண்பர்கள் முன்பு குறிப்பிட்டது போல, இந்த புத்தகங்கள் கிடைப்பது அரிதாகவே உள்ளது. உங்களிடம் மென்பதிவுகள் இருந்தால், பகிர்ந்து கொள்ளலாமே. காப்புரிமை போன்ற பிரச்சனைகள் எழ வாய்ப்புகள் மிகக் குறைவு என்பது என் எண்ணம்.

    வீழ்வது நாமாக இருந்தாலும், வாழ்வது தமிழாக இருக்கட்டும்!

  5. thanks friend… i need a favour from you….
    if you any link regarding this book plese send me.
    waiting for your reply

  6. Great compilation vairam.

    @ Rajesh – There are 3 books coming out shortly about the Tanjore big temple. If you could wait till May, they will the stands.


  7. i don’t have words to say how i feel right now… i read ponniyin selvan last year but i still remember each and every chapter in tat. but i cant remember my subject which i read six months back. i have started to read much more books lik ponniyin selvan.tis is where tamil rocks!!!!!!! jai ho tamil!!

  8. Tholkappiyam in English with critical studies by Prof.Dr.S.Ilakkuvanar என்னும் நூலையும் இப்பட்டியலில் சேர்க்கவும். அன்புடன் இலக்குவனார் திருவள்ளுவன் / தமிழே விழி! தமிழா விழி! / எழுத்தைக் காப்போம்! மொழியைக் காப்போம்! இனத்தைக் காப்போம்!

  9. I have a doubt.
    Is ottakoothar’s Ramayanam portion(which I heard is the uttara kaandam) still available to us today and is it available in print?

  10. Many thanks Vairam
    Please send the digital copies or the sites where these e books are available. I shall search for all these in the forthcoming book fair!
    Keep up your good work.
    warm regards
    Dr S Murugusundram

  11. Dear Mr.Vairam,
    I have an important request to you.
    I am a great admirer ,rather a fanatic ,of Sangam Literature.I come to know that
    AKR had penned an excellent introduction at the end of his INTERIOR LANDSCAPE.
    As I live in a town in Central TN,I have no way of seeing many of the books you
    have listed.I appeal to you to send the introduction,as an attachment in emai
    With regards,

  12. While I was searching something, I could locate this site due to some tamil collections.Just have a first look on this site.Nice efforts Mr.Vairam. Good to see such a sites with food for tamil lovers. By the way, I was really happy to see 99 flowers slideshow from this site.
    As our many friends are looking for some tamil books, there is a website( மதுரை தமிழ் இலக்கிய மின்பதிப்புத் திட்டம்) which has more digital collections, but not sure about the books which has mentioned in this chain. For those who knew about this already, this is just a reminder.

  13. மொழியைக் காப்போம்! இனத்தைக் காப்போம்!
    வீழ்வது நாமாக இருந்தாலும், வாழ்வது தமிழாக இருக்கட்டும்!

  14. Dear Vairam,
    I have been following your articles since recently and I enjoy reading them. I read a book called “Murugan vanakathin marupakkam”, by Sikaram S. Senthilnathan, and assumed that you might be interested in reading it.
    Published by Sandhya Publications, New no:77, 53rd street, 9th avenue, Ashok Nagar, Chennai-600 083, ph:044-24896979, email

  15. “sivagamiyin sapatham” is one of the wonderful novel in tamil.Every one must know his history.This novel gives the history of “pallavas”.People those who are living in ‘kancheepuram’, they must read this. After reading this novel they automatically starts to save our valuable carves and statues.

  16. Each one should study all the issues of Chenthamizh Selvi, Chenthamizh, which real face of Tamil

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