What is «ஆவணம்»? – part 1

This post is based on the original post at facebook page, “Archive of Tamils in Norway”, on 13th June 2020.

In the past couple of years, there is a new wave of shared thought among Tamils around the world about the archive of Tamils. It is noticeable on websites and social media that they are developing an urge to tell their stories to the world. They are struggling to protect and preserve their stories. They are publishing historical and contemporary videos, photos, documents about Tamil language, art, culture and history on websites and social media.

“But what is “ஆவணம்” (aavanam)? asked one of my friends. She pointed out that even the Tamil term «ஆவணம்» (aavanam) could be unknown for many. Based on her question, I am trying to explain what «ஆவணம்» (aavanam) is in a series of posts.

What is «ஆவணம்» (aavanam)? – part 1: Create a common understanding of the terms:

When it comes to the translation of words, it is difficult to give an accurate translation regardless of language. In our case, Tamils live in various countries and the translation might be perceived differently based on resident country and language. Because a word carries its meaning and definition based on its region, culture, history and origin. So, I take the English words “Archive” and “record-keeping” into account to create a common understanding.


  • “Record” is “பதிவு” (pathivu), “ஏடு” (eedhu)
  • “Record-keeping” is “பதிவேடு செய்தல்” (pathiveedhu seithal).
  • “Record management” is “பதிவேட்டு முகாமை” (pathiveedhu muhaamai).
  • “Archive” is “ஆவணகம்” (aavanaham) / “ஆவணக்காப்பகம்” (aavanaha kaapaham).
  • “Document” is “ஆவணம்” (aavanam).
  • Documenting/ Archiving is “ஆவணப்படுத்தல்” (aavanapadhithal).

Use of terms among Tamils:
Tamils usually say “பதிவு இருக்க வேண்டும்” (It need to be recorded/ registered) or “பதிய வேண்டும்” (We need to make a record/ register). They widely use the word “பதிவு“ (pathivu which means record/ register). That refers to “பதிவேடு” (record-keeping). But they lack a full understanding of how an “பதிவு” (a record) should be created. And to see the connection between “பதிவு” (record/ register) and “ஆவணம்” (archival document).

On the other hand, they say “ஆவணப்படுத்த வேண்டும்” (need to document). They commonly think that “ஆவணம்” (aavanam) is only the historical publications created by another organisation or organisational structure. For example, booklets, books, magazines, photos, audiovisuals and so on from the past. In particular, the archival documents are considered to be the records of the struggle for the rights of Tamils. However, I would like to underline that these publications are important “ஆவணங்கள்” (avanangal – archival documents). But “ஆவணம்” (aavanam) contains many more aspects.

To be continued….

Next post: What is «ஆவணம்» – part 2: Why Tamils lack an understanding of “பதிவு” (pathivu – record) / “ஆவணம்” (aavanam – archival document)?

Please do not forget that you are keeping a piece of Tamil cultural and historical heritage at your home. Please give the public access to that heritage.

Reproduction of this article is allowed when used without any alterations to the contents and the source, DsporA Tamil Archive, is mentioned.

Updated: 20th September 2020

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