The Sweet Salt of Tamil

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Things We Do Not Know about Tamil Country

Tho Paramasivan

Translated by V. Ramnarayan

  • Binding: Paperback
  • Size: 6 x 9"
  • ISBN: 9788195838509
  • Number of Pages: 192

What does Tamil taste like?

With a history of three millennia and spoken by 90 million people today, Tamil is at once ancient and modern. It is the oldest surviving language of the world. How is this Dravidian tongue different from other languages that look towards Sanskrit? Why was black the ideal of beauty for Tamils? Why do they not care for Deepavali? Why is the god Siva different from the North Indian Shiva? How does ‘curry’ trace its roots to the Tamil kari? When was the first idli made?

A verse in the Thirukkural says: ‘The right salt brings out love’s sweetness/ It kills the taste when less or in excess.’ Adding a dash of salt to Tamil’s sweetness, Tho Paramasivan, the greatest chronicler of all things Tamil, tells us the things we do not know about Tamil country.


Thoppaithass Paramasivan (1950–2020) is one of the most respected scholars of Tamil. He was professor of Tamil at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli. He is known for Azhagar Koil, a landmark study of the Kallazhagar temple near Madurai. The author of over fifteen books, in 2022, the Government of Tamil Nadu honoured ThoPa by nationalising his works.

A former first-class cricketer, V. Ramnarayan is a writer, translator and editor. He has written extensively on cricket and the performing arts.




In the media

Read our newsletter for the launch of The Sweet Salt of Tamil.

An excerpt on Pongal published in the Hindu.

An excerpt from A.R. Venkatachalapthy’s introduction to the book published in Scroll.

An excerpt about the importance of salt in Tamil history appeared on Locavore.

‘Offers a look into the Tamil way of life to English readers’—The Print

‘A classic … dwells on the unknown and untold aspects of the Tamil country’—Indian Express

‘ThoPa brings the intuitive and informed interpretation of a literary historian, anthropologist and humanist … his reputation as a raconteur are vividly presented in this book’—Frontline

‘Covers a mind-boggling variety of subjects in the manner of a cultural storyteller’—Open

‘An adventure story … an encyclopaedia … a magic show’Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

‘This book sent shockwaves through the Tamil world’—Perumal Murugan

‘Never ceases to amaze and provoke thought’—Anirudh Kanisetti

‘Information, excavation, humour and poetry converge here’—Amit Chaudhuri

‘Digs deep to unearth the manifold riches of Tamil … brilliant’—Sudha Gopalakrishnan

‘Provocative and stimulating … a rewarding read’—Manu S. Pillai