The UC Berkeley Tamil program is a part of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Languages. It has existed since 1973 and for the past 15 years has benefited enormously from the Tamil Chair Endowment, which was raised by the Tamil community. The Chair in Tamil Studies was established in November 1997, with help from the academic and Tamil-American communities, to insure the continued teaching of Tamil language and literature in the United States and to encourage the use of state-of-the-art technology in the study of Tamil.

The current chair-holder is George L. Hart III, Professor of Tamil, in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies.However, after teaching for 40 years, Professor Hart retired officially in summer, 2009 and is currently teaching half-time. He continues to remain the Tamil Chair holder and will do so until summer, 2011. Fortunately, the University has agreed to replace the Tamil professorial position, with the search for a new professor to take place in the academic year of 2011-12, and the new professor to begin teaching in fall, 2012.  Those involved in raising the funds for the Tamil Chair at Berkeley will remember that one of our chief aims was to insure that Tamil program at Berkeley would continue forever.  

The Tamil Chair endowment and the support of the California Tamil community were critical factors in persuading the University to replace the Tamil position in spite of the difficult fiscal environment.  All of us who love Tamil are grateful to the local Tamil community for their continuing support and for endowing the Tamil Chair.  The endowment, originally $400,000, is now worth $800,000, and it will remain as an indispensable part of the Berkeley Tamil program in perpetuity.

Led by Professor Hart and Kausalya Hart, Tamil courses are open to students who know some Tamil. Classes are small and are customized to the needs and interests of students. Kausalya Hart has also written, Tamil for Beginners, one of the definitive textbooks for the teaching of Tamil in North America.

SInce 2005, every year Berkeley has hosted an annual conference on Tamil studies that has brought together the leading scholars and academics focusing on Tamil studies. This conference is now counted among some of the most inportant academic conferences in this field.

Tamil Faculty

Courses Offered

Introductory Tamil  1A
  • Course Format: Five hours of lecture per week.
  • Description: The grammar of modern Tamil will be covered followed by readings in simple texts. Practice will also be given in spoken Tamil.
Readings in Tamil 101A
  • Course Format: Three hours of lecture and one hour of discussion per week.
  • Prerequisites: one-year of Tamil or consent of instructor.
  • Description: These courses introduce students to a variety of literary styles. 101A will consist of weekly readings and discussions of short stories, poems, and dramatic sketches from representative authors. Short written assignments on themes suggested by the readings are required. Special attention is paid to matters of style and idiom. 101B is devoted to viewing films based on a variety of themes (social, village, mythological, classical Tamil) and to reading scripts and oral written exercises. Students will acquire language skills sufficient to approach literary texts on their own.
Seminar in Tamil Literature 210A
  • Course Format: Three hours of seminar and one hour of discussion per week.
  • Prerequisites: 100B.
  • Credit option: Course may be repeated for credit with consent of instructor.
  • Description: Readings in advanced Tamil. Texts to be determined by the needs of the student.

Tamil Language Publication

Tamil for Beginners

For further information and buying information please go to our CSAS Language Publications page

For more on the current state, as well as the future of, Tamil studies at Berkeley, please visit UC Berkeley's Tamil website