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A research centre to be welcomed

THE TAMIL Arts Academy is about 30 months old, but I've just caught up with it thanks to a copy of its first newsletter, a quarterly it has begun publishing from last month. Established by leading archaeologist and Indologist Dr.R. Nagaswamy and his children, the Academy will, I hope, serve as a model for other scholars who have over the years accumulated valuable material that could contribute to greater knowledge by being offered as a valuable resource for researchers.

The Academy, established in Besant Nagar, in January 2000, on Dr. Nagaswamy's 70th birthday, has a wealth of material on Indian Art and History. Apart from hundreds of books in Sanskrit, Tamil and English, it has 7000 colour slides and 10,000 photographs on Indian Art, with additions being made every month. The Academy also has a good collection of audio and video cassettes, including some of dance dramas. It also has a publication programme, particularly noteworthy for its commitment to reprint valuable books now out of print.

As Dr. Nagaswamy points out, when printing began to spread in India between 1850 and 1925, a large number of books on the Arts were printed for the first time in Tamil, Sanskrit and other Indian languages. Only a copy or two of these publications have survived and even they, given the quality of the paper of the time, are unlikely to survive much longer. And, so, he says, "I have decided to get some of these rare books of the late 19th Century especially those with lithographic illustrations, reprinted.

This will not only ensure survival of the books but, being cheaper than microfilming, will also enable a wider public to access them." Vipayaka-purana-saram, with a large number of pictures and first published in 1877, is the first of the reprint titles to come out; others will follow, through the generous support of the Sankaracharya of Kanchi. As for the Academy's newsletter, I hope it grows into a full-fledged journal of international quality featuring the classical South Indian Arts scene.

The Academy hopes to make its facilities available to research scholars and will also help train them in such fields as Epigraphy and Iconography. One of the most welcome additions to the Madras Heritage scene, the Academy can be accessed at nagasamy@xlweb.com or 2491 6005.

S. MUTHIAH

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