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CHENNAI, 14 September 2014
Updated: 14 September 2014 20:56 IST
Varia Madras: Oxford professor without a degree
COMMENT · PRINT · T T
Tiruvadi Sambasiva Venkatraman
Tiruvadi Sambasiva Venkatraman
arts, culture and entertainment
Professor Oxford without a degree
Two items today may have only a weak connection to Madras, but I write about them because they have an interesting link with the city. My first story is about a person's linguistic bonds which should make him known to the world at least the study of Tamil, but I wonder how many in the world are here recognizes the name of Don Martino De Zilva Wickremasinghe (1865-1937). Of course, despite all my years in Ceylon and peripherals contact me there with education, archeology, and an inscription - a versatile journalist and dabbler in history should have-I had never heard of him until another hobby history, Thiru Arumugam, sent me some material other day from Australia.
After high school education, more open to join the Colombo Museum Library, then moved to the archaeological survey of Ceylon, from where he was sent on a scholarship to Germany. The focus of his work until then had been Sinhala, Pali and Prakrit. And it does not hesitate to it that the British Museum Library recruit him to perform cataloging of books and manuscripts in the language. Next we find him appointed in 1899 Epigraphist Sri Lankan government and work on Epigraphia Zeylanica at the Indian Institute at Oxford University. Note that will not really attract readers of this column. But now comes the twist in the tale.
In 1909, the first appointed more openly, lecturer, then reader, Tamil and Telugu at Jesus College, Oxford! He also was an examiner other British University in Sinhala, Pali and Sanskrit externally. And all this without a college degree! As if there is not a native speaker of degreed in Tamil or Telugu with expertise in Sanskrit in India! It is, however, stated that he is a speaker fluent in English, German, Sinhala, Pali and Prakrit - all understandable achievement in the background of what has been said before-but also in Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. So smoothly that he taught in all of them-and, to emphasize the point, 'all' including the last three listed languages! Now where did he learn them-and the level will be highly rated? It is a mystery that I hope to get an answer for a few days.
To set the record straight this unique academic, Oxford awarded him an honorary degree. And before you know it, in 1916 he was described as 'Lecturer in Tamil and Telugu languages at the University of Oxford, and in Pali and Prakrit to Jesus College, Oxford'. Later that same year, he was referred to as 'Epigraphist lecturer in South Indian languages at London's School of Oriental Studies'. And in 1928, he was described as 'Reader in Tamil and Telugu languages at the University of London', lecturer Sinhalese, Dravidian and head of the Department of the London School of Oriental Studies. Somewhere in the midst of all this he was Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Edinburgh, All this with only the late honorary degree from the University of Oxford!
During this year, in addition to the scientific title of the inscription, it opens out with a series of popular books published in London by E. Marlborough & Co.: Self-Taught Tamil and Tamil grammar self-taught in 1906, and Sinhalese self-taught and self-taught Malayalam in 1916. Why did not she Telugu self-taught or why it does not come out if he indeed has done so is one of the mysteries in life more open.
Perhaps some of the answers to all of these will be with an old friend JNU and University of Madras, Prof. Sudharshan Seneviratne, which is a new high commissioner to Sri Lanka in New Delhi and who has held the seat just any archeology at the University of Ceylon. Ph.D. in JNU, his thesis being 'Social initial basic teachings of Buddha in Southeast India (Andhra and Tamil Nadu) and Sri Lanka, 3rd century BC to the 3rd.' Her guide to this work Saimima S., R. Champalakshmi and K. Meenakshi, all of Madras, and most of the research conducted in the public library Theosofi he has done. Over 10 years in India, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu is all he can communicate in the language. When he was in Madras in 2003 to deliver some lectures, at the University of Madras Prof. Seneviratne invited by the Department of Archaeology to form relationships with the Departments at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka's premier uni