New Delhi, March 22, 2012
Well-known Tamil writer A A Manavalan's magnum opus Irama Kathaiyum Iramayakalum (Ramakatha and Ramayanas), published in 2005, has been chosen for the 21st Saraswati Samman 2011.
The prestigious award was instituted by the K K Birla Foundation in 1991 and is given every year for an outstanding literary work written in any Indian language mentioned in Schedule VIII to the Constitution of India by an Indian citizen and published in the last ten years.
The award carries a prize money of Rs 750,000, a citation and a plaque.
The selection for the Saraswati Samman is made by a high-level "Chayan Parishad", presided over by former Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti, former Chief Justice of India, which includes renowned scholars and writers.
Dr Manavalan, 75, is a retired professor and Head, Department of Tamil, University of Madras. As a scholar in Tamil, English, Hindi and Telugu, his special areas of interest are translation and comparative literature. He was trained in these areas by professors Henry H.H. Remak and Ulrich Weisston in the University of Indiana in Bloomington, United States, during 1988-1989.
Such varied continental experience led him to study the ancient “Ithihasas of Bharath Varsha” namely the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Among his well-known works are Epic Heroism in Milton and Kamban (1984), Twentieth Century Literary Theories (1995), An Anthology of Tamil Bhakti Poetry (Ed., 2004), Essays on Comparative Literature (2005), and A Compendium of Tirukkural Translations (Ed. 2009).
Irama Kathaiyum Iramayakalum is the result of his interest and experience in the area of literary cultures. It is a comparative study of 48 Ramayanas in the languages of Pali, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tibetan, Tamil, Old Javanese, Japanese, Telugu, Assamese, Malayalam, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi, Hindi, Odissi, Persian, Malay, Burmese, Phillipines language, Thai, Laotian and Kashmiri (all in chronological order).
Dr. Manavalan believes that the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as perennial custodians
and corpus of the Indian culture, have exerted immense and ineluctable influence on the literary outlook and development of the Indian languages. In the main, such influence assumed the forms of translations, adaptations, transcreation and even transmission through folklore. A ‘reception’ study of such eminently creative influences would reveal the contemporary socio-cultural compulsions of the receiving languages.
This comparative study deals with the plot, characters and individual insertions and
deletions. This study being geographical, linguistic and cultural in approach, it brings out
the Ramakatha’s influence over the South-East Asian cultural splendor during the last two
millennia and more.