Events Lounge

2000 years of Tamil connections with Singapore and Southeast Asia

Today evening, a fascinating book introduction event took place at Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL), Taramani, Chennai. Titled “Sojourners to Settlers“, the two-volume book documents the lesser-known history and stories of the Tamil community in Southeast Asia and Singapore, which researchers now believe dates back over 2000 years.

Slide-Deck: You can see the slides of the talk, thanks to Mr Arun Mahizhnan who readily shared me a copy.

 ‘சஞ்சரிப்பவர்கள் முதல் குடியேறிவர்கள் வரை – தென்கிழக்கு ஆசியா மற்றும் சிங்கப்பூரில் தமிழர்கள்’

Telling the Tale of Tamils Across the Ocean - Arun Mahizhnan and Nalina Gopal - Roja Muthiah Research Library, Chennai
Telling the Tale of Tamils Across the Ocean – Arun Mahizhnan and Nalina Gopal – Roja Muthiah Research Library, Chennai

Edited by my well-wisher and friend Mr Arun Mahizhnan, Deputy Director of Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and Ms Nalini Gopal of Indian Heritage Centre (இந்திய மரபுடைமை நிலையம்) the book has several dozen articles from over 29 well-known researchers, historians and writers. The first volume covers the history of Tamils in Southeast Asia from 2000 years back to the 18th century. The second volume is from colonial times and talks about how Tamils settled and contributed to modern-day Singapore.

2 out of the 3 pieces of Singapore Stone you see here are digital recreations by IHC Singapore in collaboration with Indian Museum, Kolkata
2 out of the 3 pieces of Singapore Stone you see above are digital recreations by IHC Singapore in collaboration with Indian Museum, Kolkata

Among evidence looked at are the inscriptions on the Singapore Stone, which some experts date back to the 10th century. Researcher Iain Sinclair, a contributor to the book, recently identified the phrase “kesariva” in the inscriptions found on parts of the Singapore Stone. He said it could be part of the word “parakesarivarman” – a title used by several Chola kings of the Chola dynasty.

Book “Sojourners to Settlers” introduction at Roja Muthaiah Library, Chennai
The book “Sojourners to Settlers” introduction at Roja Muthiah Library on the 3rd January 2020

The history of Asia, especially this region is pretty complex and well interconnected than what we were told by colonial historians. We need more works like this to explore this subject in detail. Tamilians everywhere owe it to the publishers for bringing this book.

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