In 1905 Sir Frederick Nicholson recommended to the Government of Madras that Dr. Winslow's Dictionary of the Tamil language, which had been published as long ago as 1862, should be brought up to date with the help of material collected in the interval by Dr.G.U.Pope of Oxford. The work was to be issued as a Madras University publication, compiled by a committee appointed by the Syndicate of the University, the Government giving financial assistance to the extent of Rs.10,500 spread over three years. The proposal was supported by the Rev.Canon Sell,D.D., and by Diwan Bahadur Sir S.Subramania Aiyar, K.C.I.E., LL.D., members of the Syndicate, the latter observing that a standard dictionary of the kind recommended was a decided want. It was urged upon the Government that there was really no first class dictionary in Tamil, Winslow's dictionary being out of date and defective as a Dictionary of Language and Literature, "that there should be for so ancient and important a language, with a classical literature of so unique a character, a dictionary worthy of its subject," and the scholars were agreed that a new first class dictionary was needed. It was suggested that the work should be on what might be called "a national basis, Tamil scholars in general joining in the preparation and the committee being so chosen as to represent the whole body of Tamil learning and of Tamil literary interests in Southern India. Further, one of the things most needed in the country was modern high class vernacular literature, since there was as yet almost nothing for past pupils to read in their vernacular after leaving school - nothing in the way of interesting and informing literature either to assist their further development or even to keep up the knowledge they had acquired; and it was believed that the publication of a standard Tamil Dictionary would foster the growth of such literature. Finally it was urged that the study and development of the language and consequently of vernacular literature must be placed high amongst all work which has the revival and development of the country as its object.
As it appeared, however, that the material in the possession of Dr.Pope could not be properly utilized in Madras and the Clarendon Press, Oxford, was willing to undertake the publication on reasonable conditions, the Government of Madras recommended the issue of the work by the Clarendon Press under Dr.Pope's supervision at an expenditure of E2000 for a Sub-Editor and Assistant in addition to Dr.Pope's remuneration and the cost of production. The Delegates of the Clarendon Press were ultimately unable to support Dr.Pope's plan for editing the Dictionary and in 1907 the proposal fell through.
Dr.Pope died in 1907 but the material collected by him was brought to Madras. In January,1911, the Rev.J.S.Chandler, .A.,D.D., proposed to the Government of Madras the publication of a standard Tamil Lexicon based on this material. The Government of Madras expressed sympathy with the proposal and approved of the formation of a committee composed as follows:- one member to be nominated by the Government, one by the Tamil Sangam (Madura), one by the University of Madras, one by the Missionary bodies in Ceylon, and one by the Missionary bodies of South India. It was further suggested that the committee should employ on a salary some capable person for full-time work on the Dictionary and that the chairman of the committee, who would be its correspondent with Government, and who would be in charge of the undertaking, should be a European with a reputation as a critical scholar. The Government expressed the hope that if this committee put forward more feasible proposals than those of the late Dr.Pope, it would be possible for Government to grant such assistance as would enable the committee to carry the scheme to a successful conclusion.
The first members of the committee constituted as above were:-
1. The Rev.J.S.Chandler, M.A.,D.D(Chairman) - nominated by South Indian Missionaries.
2. The Rev.A.C.Clayton-nominated by Ceylon Missionaries.
3. M.R.Ry.Rao Banadur M.Rangacharya Avl., M.A. - nominated by the Government of Madras.
4. M.R.Ry.Rao Sahib T.Ramakrishna Pillai Avl.,B.A.,F.R.H.S. - nominated by the University.
5. M.R.Ry.P.Pandithorai Tevar Avl.-nominated by the Tamil Sangam, Madura.
Definite proposals regarding the preparation and production of the Lexicon were then made to Government. The total cost of production was estimated at Rs. 1,00,000 to be spread over a period of about five years. The work was to be supervised and controlled by the Madras University.
These proposals were approved by the Government of Madras and at their instance the Government of India addressed the Secretary of State on the 11th July,1912, submitting these proposals and recommending the sanction of the expenditure on the ground that "the need for a new Tamil Lexicon is a matter of urgent public importance ".
The Secretary of State telegraphed on the 21st August according his sanction and in a subsequent dispatch, dated the 30th August, 1912, said: "The estimated cost of Rs. 1,00,000 is heavy, but in view of the evident need for such a work, I have decided to sanction the expenditure ....... As Your Excellency is aware, in schemes of this character there is often a tendency to exceed the original estimates. It would be advisable, therefore, to issue such instructions as will ensure that the expenditure from Government funds shall not exceed the amount specified. I presume that, in consideration of the large amount of assistance afforded, the copyright of the Dictionary will be vested in the Government of Madras ".
The Syndicate of the Madras University having previously expressed their willingness to control and supervise the preparation and publication of the Lexicon, the Government by G.O.NO.991, dated 9th November,1912, were pleased to entrust the work to the University. The Government undertook to place at the disposal of the University the estimated amount of expenditure for each succeeding year. The Syndicate was to submit an annual report to Government on the work done and the expenditure incurred. The copyright in the Dictionary was to be retained by Government. The filling up of vacancies in the personnel of the committee was left to the University.
In view of the importance of Madura as a seat of Tamil learning and culture and of the location there of the well-known Tamil Sangam, and its proximity to the large Tamil area of Ceylon, the office of the committee was first located at Madura and work on the Tamil Lexicon was begun in January,1913. But administrative convenience necessitated the shifting of the office from Madura to Madras and this removal was effected in May,1915. The editorial staff at first consisted of the Rev.J.S.Chandler, who was to be the editor of the Lexicon and chairman of the committee, and three pandits. An additional pandit was appointed in 1915. M.R.Ry.Pandithorai Tevar Avl., member of the committee, having died and M.R.Ry.Rao Bahadur M.Rangacharya Avl., another member, having resigned, the Syndicate appointed Mahamahopadhyaya V.Swaminathan Aiyar Avl.,and M.R.Ry.S.Kuppusawami Sastri Avl.,(now Mahamahopadhayaya) to the committee.
The first meeting of the Tamil Lexicon committee was held on the 17th December, 1912 at 3 p.m. at the Senate House. The Syndicate also constituted a committee of its own, to deal with Tamil Lexicon business. The Rev. Geo. Pittendrigh was the first convener and among the other members were Messrs. Mark Hunter,J.H. Stone and the Hon. Mr. Justice P.R. Sundara Aiyar. A member of the syndicate was usually present at meetings of the Tamil Lexicon Committee and watched the proceedings.
The first and most important work of the committee was to decide on the plan of the Lexicon. A few specimen pages were printed and circulated to leading Western scholars for their opinion and suggestions Among them were Dr. (later Sir) W.A.Craigie of the Oxford English Dictionary, Mr.D.E.Z.Wickramasinghe of the Indian Institute, Oxford, Prof. A.A.Macdonell, Prof. A.F. Rudolph Hoernle and Mr.F.E. Pargiter of Oxford, Mr.R.Sewell of the Royal Asiatic Society, Dr.L.D.Barnett of the British Museum, Dr.F.W. Thomas of the Library of the India Office, Prof.E.J.Rapson and Prof. J.L.Wyatt of Cambridge University, Prof.A.B. Keith of Edinburgh University, and other scholars in Universities of the United States of America-Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Pennsylvania, California, etc. The discussions related to the necessity for and the mode of transliteration, the giving of derivations and cognate Dravidian words, the arrangement of meanings of words and of compound words, the treatment of homonyms, etc. The views elicited from scholars centered mainly round three desiderata:
1. The Lexicon should satisfy the Tamil scholars of the orthodox style by extended investigation of obscure works and by careful elucidation of words rarely, if ever, used, and words used in technical senses, as in Jaina, Medical, Astrological and other literature. In this aspect it had to be more or less encyclopedic in character and to a considerable degree a Tamil-Tamil Dictionary of Tamil Literature which would help Tamil scholars who had little or no acquaintance with English.
2. It should satisfy the ideal of Western scholarship by bringing out the philological relations of Tamil with other languages.
3. It should serve the need of the large majority of the Tamil people and those acquainted with English by giving them an accurate, complete and up-to-date dictionary, clearly explaining the words used in spoken and literary Tamil in terms of English words and idioms.
Thus the scheme suggested a dictionary at once many-sided and comprehensive and edited on critical and scientific principles.
In the mean time, the collection of words for incorporation in the Lexicon was being pushed on by the editorial staff. Winslow's Dictionary, the Tamil Sangam Dictionary and the glossaries to classical works prepared and edited by Mahamahopadhyaya V. Swaminatha Aiyar and Dr. Pope were utilized in making the collection. In addition, the pandits prepared glossaries for other important printed works and for manuscripts in the Government Oriental Manusacripts Library, Madras.
The Tamil public were invited to co-operate and several gentlemen sent in collections of words. Letters were also addressed to the Sangams at Madura, Tanjore, Chidambaram, Jaffna and other places, the Tamil Academy at Madras and the Saiva Sabha at Palamcottah and similar bodies, asking them to help in collecting accurate information relating to local usages and more particularly to castes and sub-castes; social customs and practices; occupations, trades, tools and utensils; medical practices, herbs, etc.; musical and other technical terms; religious ceremonies and beliefs; terms occurring in manuscript records, documents, etc. Ancient institutions such as religious mutts were also requested to send in words in peculiar and to hereditary establishments.
The committee also secured the support of a band of specially qualified Tamil scholars who were requested to be Honorary Literary Associates to whom reference for expert advice could be made from time to time. Tamil sangams and associations were also addressed to nominate representatives to serve as Honorary Literary Associates.
Special care also was taken to secure accuracy of definition. The Rev. J.S. Chandler met the Port Officer, native pilots and the headmen of native craft at Pamban to get nautical terms accurately defined. He also went to Jaffna and met Tamil scholars like M.R.Ry. A. Kumaraswami Pillai Avl. M.R. Ry.Mootootambi Pillai Avl., and Prof. T.P. Hudson of the Jaffna ollege.
The expectant enthusiasm of the public is clearly indicated in a note made by His Excellency Lord Pentland, Governor of Madras, on a visit to the office of the Tamil Lexicon at Madura on 23-2-1914. He wrote: " I am proud to record that, on this day, under Mr. Chandler's kind auspices, I have had the opportunity of hearing and seeing something, in its own workshop, of the construction of the Tamil Dictionary, to the appearance of which all oriental scholars are looking forward with deep interest and with much gratitude to him and his colleagues." A Large number of scholars and men of position and influence, European and Indian, made visits to the Lexicon office to see the great work on the anvil.
In the manner above indicated about 80,000 words had been collected by the end of 1916. Of these, about 8,800 words had been defined and made ready to be fair-copied for the press and the total expenditure so far incurred was Rs. 38,000.
At this stage, the Syndicate examined and made a review of the situation both from the administrative and from the literary point of view. It was found that the expenditure on the Lexicon along with the incidental charges would not fall below Rs.13,000 a year and that at the rate of progress indicated by the work of the preceding four years, it was scarcely likely that the Lexicon would be ready for the press for another four or five years by which time the original grant of Rs. 1,00,000 would have been exhausted, leaving the cost of production still to be met. Assuming therefore that all other conditions were satisfactory, the financial condition plainly was not. "There was, moreover, good ground to fear," the Syndicate said, "that, even were financial difficulties surmounted, the Lexicon, if completed on the present line and with the present staff, would not be a publication worthy of the University."
The Syndicate also felt that its own powers and responsibilities in relation to the Lexicon Committee and the chairman of that committee, and those of the chairman in relation to the other members of the committee, had not been clearly and adequately defined. Further such indications of the contemplated scope and character of the Lexicon as were available showed that it was to be "as nearly standard as possible" and that the work was to be done "as thoroughly as possible" But no clear and comprehensive statement of the plan and the principles on which the dictionary was to be edited had been laid before the Syndicate for its examination. It was certain that the University would be held responsible for the Lexicon and its credit ws therefore at stake.
On these grounds, the Syndicate represented to the Government in its letter, dated 11-4-1917, that unless the whole machinery was to be re-organized and reconstituted with powers and duties clearly defined, the Syndicate should be relieved of further responsibility for the production of the Lexicon. The Syndicate concluded:- "If the Lexicon be completed on the present lines and with the existing agencies, it cannot fail seriously to disappoint both the student of Tamil literature who seeks in it for a full account and accurate definition of Tamil words and the student of language who looks to the dictionary for scholarly information on the sound value, origin and relationship of the forms printed in it".
Upon this, the Government passed orders, G.O. No. 879 Home (Education), dated 3-7-1917, expressing the opinion that the Syndicate should continue to be responsible for the publication of the Lexicon and requesting it to forward definite and detailed proposals for the future conduct and management of the work and to consider carefully the lines on which the dictionary should be completed.
The Syndicate considered G.O. No. 879 above quoted, in the light of the memorandum thereon prepared by Mr. Mark Hunter, member of the Syndicate, on the scope of the Lexicon, the staff required, the constitution and the powers of the Lexicon Committee, etc. It accepted Mr. Mark Hunter's proposals on the scope of the Lexicon as a working basis, and submitted the same to the Government with a recommendation to replace the existing Lexicon Committee by the following:-
Sir. P.S. Sivaswami Aiyar, K.C.S.I., C.I.E., B.A., B.L (Chairman).
Mahamahopadhyaya V. Swaminatha Aiyar Avl.
M.R. Ry. S. Anavaratavinayakam Pillai Avl., M.A., L.T.
M.R. Ry. S. Kuppuaswami Sastriar Avl., M.A.
M.R. Ry. T. Ramakrishna Pillai Avl., B.A., F.R.H.S.
Mark Hunter, Esq., M.A.
It also proposed an editorial staff-in-chief of three joint editors consisting of the Rev. J.S. Chandler, the University Professor of Comparative Philology (ex officio) and a graduate, to be selected, with a knowledge of Tamil and Sanskrit.
Upon a further reference from Government in memorandum No. 1625 B-2 Home (Education), dated 15th January, 1919, asking for a clearer idea of the financial effect of the proposals, the Syndicate answered that in all, a total estimated expenditure of Rs. 1,13,542 might probably not be far wrong. The Syndicate assumed that the work already finished by the existing Lexicon committee and staff would require a thorough revision by the reconstituted committee and staff, and that it was not probable that the Lexicon would be ready for the press in its final form until towards the end of three years from that date. Out of the sum of Rs. 1,00,000 which formed the original grant by the Government, it was expected that, at the end of the financial year under consideration, the balance would be only about Rs. 47,500; and the amount still required, viz., the sum of Rs. 66,042, the Syndicate offered to meet, with the sanction of the Senate, out of the recurring grant of Rs. 36,000 made for the development of the South Indian Languages. The Syndicate concluded that it was anxious " that a work of such importance produced under the auspices of the University should be universally commended and should not be crippled by lack of funds, if such are, in any way, available."
In G.O. No. 198 Home (Education), dated 16th February, 1918, the Government approved of the proposed arrangement, adding at the same time that they were not prepared to accept any additional liability from provincial funds on account of the arrangement thus approved. The existing Lexicon Committee was also dissolved as from 31-3-1918 from which date the newly constituted committee began to function. The Syndicate Lexicon Committee was also abolished. The responsibility for the production of the Tamil Lexicon was thus completely transferred to the University and along with it the financial liability. The Lexicon Committee, constituted as already stated, entered upon duties with vigor and made arrangements for a thorough revision of the work already done by strengthening the editorial staff.
In March, 1920, a question was raised whether the circumstances necessitating the excess expenditure should not be brought to the notice of the Secretary of State, as it seemed doubtful whether the arrangements that had been made, to meet the extra cost from the grant made to the University by the Government of India, were in strict accordance with the conditions on which the Secretary of State had sanctioned the grant in question. There was also a question raised in the Senate, whether in the circumstances in which the University had undertaken to meet the extra cost of the Lexicon, the copyright should not be transferred to the University. The entire situation relating to the Lexicon was then reviewed. The Lexicon Committee reported that the work could be finished in six years from April, 1921, and that it would entail an expenditure of Rs. 1,61,000 in addition to Rs. 1,00,000 already spent. Accordingly, the Syndicate requested the local Government to address the Government of India to place an additional sum of Rs. 1,61,000 at it disposal to complete the work. Thereupon the Government of India by their G.O.No. 159, dated 21-12-21, sanctioned the revised estimate and permitted the Syndicate to meet the excess over the original grant of Rs. 1,00,000 from the savings in the recurring grant of Rs. 65,000. At the same time, the Government of India agreed to the surrender of the copyright of the Lexicon to the University on the condition that the Government should be supplied with 250 copies of the work free of cost.
In the mean time in 1919, Sir P.S. Sivaswami Aiyar, K.C.S.I., C.I.E., had ceased to be the chairman of the Lexicon Committee and the Hon. Mr. Justice T.V. Seshagiri Aiyar, B.A., B.L., was appointed by the Syndicate to the vacancy.
In December, 1921, the Rev. J.S. Chandler resigned and in January,1922 Mr. S. Anavaratavinayakam Pillai, M.A., L.T., was appointed editor. For the first time then, manuscript matter of the Lexicon was sent to the press, but partly owing to the delay in settling the form of the Lexicon and the contract with the printers, the Diocesan Press, only 16 forms could be printed by the end of 1923, when Mr.S. Anavaratavinayakam Pillai resigned the office of editor.
In February, 1924, Mr. C.P. Venkatarama Aiyar, M.A., L.T., was appointed editor, but he reverted to his permanent appointment in the Education Department in October, 1926. The present editor, Mr.s. Vaiyapuri Pillai, B.A., B.L., was then appointed to the place in November, 1926. In the interval, Mr. Justice T.V. Seshagiri Aiyar had died in February, 1926, and the present chairman, Rao Bahadur K.V.Krishnaswami Aiyar, B.A., B.L., was appointed chairman by the Syndicate in March, 1926.
The Chairman, in consultation with the Lexicon Committee, inaugurated a detailed scheme of vigorous work for the speedy preparation and publication of the Lexicon. The sympathy and active help of a number of scholars were secured and these were constituted Honorary Referees. Under the scheme, a large number of galley proofs after a first revision by the editorial staff were distributed to groups of Honorary Referees in batches with a request to them to mark their suggestions and return the proofs before fixed date. The suggestions so made considered by the editorial staff and wherever acceptable they were incorporated in the proofs.
The editorial staff was overhauled and reconstituted with an editor who is a scholar in Tamil, an assistant editor well qualified in Tamil, Sanskrit and English, a chief Tamil pandit, an additional Tamil pandit, a Tamil and Sanskrit pandit and a graduate assistant.
Though there had been frequent discussions about the plan of the Lexicon, the scheme which was being followed had not been put in writing in a consolidated form. The Lexicon Committee therefore had such a plan prepared and published, as a safe and sure guide for the future.
The contract with the printers, the Diocesan Press, came to an end in April, 1927. Thereupon, the Madras Law journal press were appointed printer and the printing of the Lexicon has been carried on by them since July, 1927.
During this period, the cards defining the words that were to go into the Lexicon were revised as carefully as possible. In addition, a large collection of new words was prepared. Circular letters were sent to various specialist, gentlemen of local influence and public bodies, requesting them to send in collections of words, together with their meanings, derivations and uses. In response to this request, a large number of new words, literary, colloquial, regional and technical, were received and, wherever, possible, incorporated in the Lexicon. Special words used in legal documents and proceedings and land tenures, in architecture, music, painting and dancing, and in medicine and the arts of healing, and words prevalent amongst communities like the weavers, the kallars, etc., or in particulars localities, were all collected with assiduity and incorporated in the Lexicon. Glossaries were prepared for books not already dealt with and inscriptions were studied and words collected there from. Books on Jaina and Saiva Siddhanta and other systems of Indian Philosophy were examined and words selected. No Pains have been spared to make the work exhaustive. The entire Lexicon now comprises 1,04,405 words as compared with the 67,542 of Winslow's Dictionary and the original collection of 80,000 words made by the Rev. J.S. Chandlser and his committee and staff.
On the financial side, the total cost of preparation and of the Lexicon since its commencement in January, 1913, has come to about Rs. 4,10,000. The excess over the Government grant of Rs. 1,00,000 has been met by University. A clear idea of the progress of the Lexicon can be obtained from the following table:-
Date of PublicationNo. of PagesNo. of Words.Tamil Lexicon VolumeI Part 108-10-19242667511"" 220-10-19252406318"" 326-06-1926126318663217015"II Part 120-10-19261604312"" 216-02-19271604419"" 324-09-19271604067"" 417-02-192896244857615246"III Part 117-02-1928641769"" 215-06-19281604571"" 322-10-19281604381"" 420-03-19291604136"" 528-10-1929182481672619673"IV Part 127-03-19301624157"" 216-11-19301604247"" 315-06-19311604097"" 428-10-1931160405464216555"V Part 121-03-19321624394"" 220-10-19321584268"" 320-03-19331604019"" 406-10-1933160435964017040"VI Part 119-04-19341604165"" 224-10-19341604050"" 329-03-19351604119"" 415-10-19351604112"" 520-03-19367224307121887639281,04,405
In addition to the published words, there is a collection of about 20,000 words which were collected too late for inclusion in their respective places in the parts of the Lexicon. The Syndicate has resolved to publish this collection as a supplement to the work already published.