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Last Updated Wednesday February 20 2019 08:04 PM IST

63 years, Rs 500cr: ambitious Malayalam dictionary still an unaccomplished dream

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malayalam-dictionary (Right) The title page of Malayala Maha Nighandu

Thiruvananthapuram: It has been six decades since the formation of Kerala. But an initiative that was launched years before the formation of the state still lies gathering dust amid files of the Kerala University. The project to compose a Malayalam dictionary was launched in July 1953. So far Rs 5 crore has been spent on the project. Out of the 12 volumes planned, only nine have been completed.

After calls for a Malayalam dictionary gained strength, the the Travancore-Kochi government and Travancore University - now Kerala University - started measures in July 1953 to create a voluminous and comprehensive lexican that would leave no questions unanswered about any word in Malayalam. Dr Shooranad Kunjan Pillai was named as editor and he created the draft of the first volume by including 35 lakh words in Malayalam. The first volume was released in 1965. Another volume followed in 1970.

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K.V. Namboothiripad, who succeeded Kunjan Pillai, came out with a third volume in 1976. Dr B.C. Balakrishnan who succeeded him created three crore cards until 1988 and published three volumes. Subsequent volumes were published in 1997, 2009 and 2011. After that no volume has been published.

A full-time editor for the project is now not available and the existing employees are not experienced in preparing a dictionary and so spend time in other pursuits. Lakhs of cards that detail the structure of Malayalam words are gathering dust in the University and the government has not been able to digitise them.

Talking to Onmanorama, former editor Dr B.C. Balakrishnan said that the number of forces that do not want Malayalam to have its own dictionary are many. He said that only very few people are alive today who are adept at creating a dictionary. Their services should be used immediately to complete the project, he said.

Balakrishnan, who is the founder secretary of the Lexicon Graphical Society of India, said that scholars from Japan, UK, and China had come to study about the dictionary when it became known that one was scientifically prepared and published. However, the activity has come to a standstill in Kerala.

Balakrishnan said, "Sreekanteswaram Padmanabha Pillai's 'Shabdataravali' was an authentic document, but since many were free to add to it, it started accruing errors. On the other hand, Narayana Panikkar's 'Navayugabhasha Nighandu' did not have more additions to it. A scientific dictionary is an authoritative collection of all words in the language and creating one is imperative. Since all documents required are available, such a project can be completed quickly."

It seems Kerala University and the government is oblivious to the efforts of so many people spanning so many years.

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