Cologne, Germany is playing a vital role in the preservation of the Tamil language. With a collection of over 40,000 Tamil books, a Cologne University library carries the largest collection outside of Tamil Nadu in India.
The university is home to the only full-fledged Tamil department in the entire European Union and has produced hundreds of European Tamil graduates over two decades. The person instrumental to all of this is Ulrike Niklas, 63, who heads the Institute of South Asian and South East Asian studies.
According to a Times of India article:
“A visit to Thanjavur in 1981 inspired her to enrol in a four-week course on introduction to Tamil culture at the newly-inaugurated Tamil University. She came back to pursue an 18-month programme on an Indo-German joint scholarship.
Thereafter, there was no looking back for the young lady. Deeply absorbed in Tamil classics like Tolkappiyam and Sangam literature, Ulrike on weekends, would cycle to villages around Thanjavur to meet people and learn more about Tamil culture. To pick up the spoken language, she would watch movies of Sivaji Ganesan.
Ulrike did her PhD on the Tamil classic ‘Muttollayiram’ at Cologne University. After two years of study at Madurai Kamaraj University she passed the habilitation in Germany — with a collection of research works she had undertaken on Tamil literary theory.
She taught Tamil at the National University of Singapore for seven years before being called to Cologne in 2006 to head its department of Indology and Tamil studies. The department was later renamed as the Institute of South-Asian and South-East-Asian Studies in 2012.”
The article adds:
“Her main worry now is to identify a worthy successor, to carry on the tradition after her. What irks her more is the university’s plan to shut down the cash-starved institute if there isn’t enough support from outside. If that happens, it would be a big blow not only to Ulrike but to the entire Tamil speaking world.”
Read the complete story at The Times of India.