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A scholar, playwright, novelist, poet, and essayist, M. Thangaraju was a Tamil language teacher for more than four decades. A founding member of the influential Thamizhavel Dramatic Society, his creative literary passion made him a prolific writer and well known literary figure in the Tamil community. His works focused on issues of community and family values, and on one's identity in one's homeland.
Born in Tamil Nadu in 1935, M. Thangaraju moved to Malaya at the age of three. He did not attend any formal school until after World War II, and he received his Tamil language education at home from his father, who was a Tamil language teacher.
Later on, he graduated from a teachers' training college in Johor Bahru in 1954 and was posted to a single teacher school in Bukit Bulat. In 1957, he married, and two years later, he moved to settle in Singapore where he obtained a permanent teaching position. He would go on be a teacher of Tamil language for over 40 years. While he taught in school, his love for the language and its literature led to him writing and staging several plays for school functions.
In 1962, he made perhaps his most significant contribution to the Singapore Tamil literary scene when he founded the Thamizhavel Dramatic Society, which he continued to manage as its secretary for the next 40 plus years. At the same time, throughout the '60s and '70s he scripted, directed and staged numerous plays.
M. Thangaraju’s early poems and short stories were published in newspapers and magazines and were particularly featured in Tamil Murasu and Tamil Malar, the daily Tamil language newspapers, with many also being broadcast on air. His works focus on issues of community and family values, and one's identity with regard to one's homeland, and also display a concern regarding the virtues and values that he feels should be better practised by citizens of a nation.
M. Thangaraju received the Pingat Bakti Setia (Long Service Award) from the Ministry of Education in 1995, and in 2008, he received the Kanaiyaazhi Literary Award from the Kavimaalai Literary Organisation.
A prolific writer, M. Thangaraju has published 22 books since Jewels, his first volume of poetry. One of his stories in Fragrant Jasmine (2001) was selected for the National Library Board’s READ! Singapore in 2009.
Born in Tamil Nadu.
Moved to Malaya.
Moved to Singapore.
Founding member of Thamizhavel Dramatic Society. Served as its secretary for over 40 years.
Thamizhavel Dramatic Society stages its first production Kaviyin Kanavu at New World Stadium.
Received Pingat Bakti Setia (Long Service Award) from the Ministry of Education.
Published Fragrant Jasmine.
Received Kanaiyaazhi Literary Award by Kavimaalai Literary Organisation.
Short story from Fragrant Jasmine selected for the National Library Board's READ! Singapore.
Published Happy Country.
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M. Thangaraju (third from right) performing in the first stage drama by Thamizhavel Dramatic Society, held at New World Stadium. 1962.
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M. Thangaraju at the inauguration of the development of new premises for the Sree Balasubramaniar Temple in Yishun. 1970.
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M. Thangaraju with his 6 year service award as NPCC officer at Umar Pulavar Tamil High School. 1978.
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M. Thangaraju as an invited speaker at the Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre's Library Week event. 1987.
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M. Thangaraju receiving the Pingat Bakti Setia (Long Service Award) from the Ministry of Education. 1995.
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M. Thangaraju with his family at his book launch at Sri Mariamman Temple. Proceeds from sales of the book were donated to the Temple. 1998.
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M. Thangaraju receiving the Kanaiyaazhi Literary Award by the Kavimaalai Literary Organisation. 2008.
TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.
In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.