SAIIER 2019:Ilaignarkal - Vaasal
Vaasal – English newsletter
A project of Ilaignarkal Education Centre
Vaasal is an English newsletter published by Ilaignarkal Education Centre. The aim of Vaasal is to promote and create awareness about Tamil language, literature, culture and heritage. The scope of the project is also to enlighten the community about the links between Sri Aurobindo and Tamil.
Description of project:
The Auroville Charter was written out in many languages and the Mother spoke of having four languages in Auroville. As Auroville grows, we felt that the need to create awareness about Tamil language and culture is greater than ever. Through our educational interactions with volunteers, newcomers and Aurovilians, we found that a gap needs to be filled in terms of understanding Tamil language, heritage and culture. Vaasal is small step towards bridging the gap. While we have received an overwhelmingly positive response to our Vaasal, we want to keep going by engaging everyone who is interested to learn more about Tamil.
Vaasal (வாசல்in Tamil) is a monthly newsletter in English on Tamil ideas, art and culture for anyone in Auroville who is from another native uur (ஊர், village, home, country, habitat, that place which belongs to you and you to it).
Our Vaasal has the following regular contents:
- Speak: Simple language classes in the Tamil language for those who are frustrated by their language inability and wish to learn to enjoy themselves in a easy, fun way.
- Unravelling culture: Introducing important traditions and rituals along with an open offer to participate.
- Enjoy: Original translations (and translations by Sri Aurobindo) of Tamil literature.
- Meet: Introducing senior Tamil Aurovilians, friends of Auroville and village elders, trendsetters in the community at large.
- Art: Highlighting native folk art and classical art of Tamil Nadu with meaningful illustrations.
- Think: Simple questions about cultural matters to smooth over daily life, such as – How can I show respect to someone older than me? What should I serve if I wish to invite someone for tea? How can I discuss a difficult subject with a neighbour?
- Health: Showcasing practical seasonal health tips using local plants and flowers.
- Architecture: Highlighting the history of some of the ancient temples in Tamil Nadu and their architectural magnificence.
11 issues have been created so far. The reception of the newsletter has been overwhelming in that we are receiving more and more students who have expressed interest to learn the language. Currently, we have students from Italy, France and Switzerland. Our readership base has expanded considerably. We receive positive likes and visits to our newsletter website on a regular basis. Our patrons include Auroville International centers apart from the pavilions and units in Auroville.
Additionally, we have been able to introduce many forgotten treasures of Tamil in the field of literature, temples and cultural practices. We introduced “Riddles – Vidukathai” which was an oral tradition practiced in early times but has been diminishing lately. The riddles have invoked the interest to learn Tamil both in children and adults simultaneously.
The Aspiration group, which conducts “Yucca” and “Aspiration” programmes for newcomers and Aurovilians-to-be, has recommended Vaasal as inspiring and informational.
There have been many attempts in the past in terms of publications which aimed at creating awareness about Tamil language and culture. But these were not very successful as they were done at a very theoretical and advanced level. Vaasal was conceived to break this mould and try to be the voice of non-Tamil speakers addressing the common misconceptions about culture, heritage and language. An effort to introduce them to the beautiful world of Tamil, but in a gradual and planned pace that a non-Tamil reader would be able to cope with.
During the content research, the editors came across a lot of valuable information that highlighted the similarity between Tamil and other cultures, one being French. An outcome of that work was the celebration of Pongal festival at the French Pavilion in January, 2019.
Financial support has always been a challenge. While the vision of Ilaignarkal Education Centre is to serve the community free of cost, we hit the wall when it comes to compensating the project team for their commendable work.
We acknowledge the encouraging reception of Vaasal and intend to keep it going. We plan to be more interactive with our reader base by encouraging them to contribute their experiences and knowledge.