The classical language Tamil and Cryptography

Have you ever imagine the classical language Tamil played a big role in security technology. The language Tamil (தமிழ் )has a rich and long literary traditions spanning more than 2000 years. Tamil literature deals with love, war, governance, trade and bereavement. Unfortunately much of the Tamil literature had been lost.

Tamil works have contributed many scientific thoughts to the world and with this assessment it’s my Guess that Tamil letters could also be major contributor to security technology such as cryptography.

Leaving the history that how Vigenère cipher was developed, I would like to discuss and compare the Tamil letter arrangement (Tamil script) with Vigenère cipher technique.

Tamil script has 12 vowels called uyireḻuttu (உயிரெழுத்து), 18 consonants called meyyeḻuttu (மெய்யெழுத்து) and one special character, the āytam ஃ (ஆய்தம்), which is classified in Tamil grammar as being neither a consonant nor a vowel. The 12 vowels and 18 consonants form a combination of 247 letters called uyirmeyyeḻuttu (உயிரெழுத்துக்கள்).

Tamil script table.

Tamil script table.

Yellow color -> uyireḻuttu (உயிரெழுத்து).

Rose color -> meyyeḻuttu (மெய்யெழுத்து)

Light blue -> uyirmeyyeḻuttu (உயிரெழுத்துக்கள்).

Back to Vigenère cipher, it has got key (secret code) and plain text. Cipher text is obtained from the combination of key and plain text.

Red color -> key

Blue color -> plain text

Black color -> cipher text

Vigenère cipher


It’s my guess that both Tamil script and Vigenère cipher go together if we assume that key in Vigenère cipher is equal to uyireḻuttu in Tamil script, plain text in Vigenère cipher is equal to meyyeḻuttu in Tamil script, and cipher text in Vigenère cipher is equal to uyirmeyyeḻuttu in Tamil script.

In Vigenère cipher key and plaintext act as indices to select the cipher text from the table. In Tamil script uyireḻuttu and meyyeḻuttu act as indices to form uyirmeyyeḻuttu. Motto behind the Tamil script is to form more syllabic for its rich literary but motto of Vigenère cipher is just to create cipher text. On demand of application requirement there are some petite differences but approach of scheme is same for both Tamil script and Vigenère cipher.

Note: – In a new dimension if we consider uyirmeyyeḻuttu as Encrypted text then Tamil Scholars are the first one to introduce the Encryption concept to this world before 500 B.C.

Really it gave me proud and amazing feeling when I found this analogy and I am still wondering about Tamil as it is not only with the security technology there are stacks of scientist fact and thoughts have been hidden in Tamil ,thanks to their antiquity and rich literacy heritage. Tamil is not only a language but knowledge itself so be proud to say if you’re Tamilians in the mobs to be esteemed high.


  1. Lakshmi wrote
    at 4:13 AM - 6th June 2010 Permalink

    I remained completely silent after reading this blog
    and there was some kind of proud feeling to my self as tamil girl.

    Tamil people are really genius. And you sakthi , no words to explain your works are mind blowing.

  2. Shashank wrote
    at 10:47 AM - 6th June 2010 Permalink

    U should work more at this… might result in something bigger…

  3. chapter18 wrote
    at 7:07 AM - 1st July 2010 Permalink

    Hats off!


  4. shakthydoss wrote
    at 9:15 AM - 1st July 2010 Permalink

    Thank you Narayanan

  5. vadivel wrote
    at 10:56 PM - 10th August 2010 Permalink

    hats off…

  6. Sudarsun Santhiappan wrote
    at 1:43 PM - 27th August 2010 Permalink

    Substitution cipher text is easy to crack by cryptanalysis. Tamils have used a different form of security called the Metaphors. There are lot of poems in texts like Thirumandiram, which talks about a lot of secrets in human body, astronomy, sorcery, basic elements, life and living, etc. Texts like Thirukural has lot of secret information which are not apparent if you read them as texts, but the inherent meanings are understood only if you understand the metaphors. In Tamil, there is method called சிலேடை which is an expression of encryption, to be exact, it is Steganography. If you start reading Tamil literature, you will understand whatever these Western are claiming to have discovered/invented, were indeed dealt in detail my the ancient Tamils and Indians. Investigate further and let me know if need any help.

  7. Chinni wrote
    at 11:28 AM - 13th January 2011 Permalink

    I wonder what are the characteristics of languages to say them as “Classical”?

  8. Rajakesari wrote
    at 10:35 AM - 12th January 2012 Permalink

    Everything you say is correct sir, but the metaphor is not siledai in Tamil. Siledai is borrowed from Sanskrit word Shlesha, (SlESha>SlETa>silETay>siledai) meaning ambiguous. Rather we could use the original word irattaikkilavi (The ‘twin’ word=the twin meanings born out of a single word and not as two-words), which is more appropriate.
    Thank you

  9. umadevi c.n wrote
    at 2:56 PM - 12th December 2012 Permalink

    I am research scholar . Is it possible to develop a new technique for steganography using Tamil language?

  10. shakthydoss wrote
    at 12:01 PM - 16th December 2012 Permalink

    It should be possible. I Never tried, please make an attempt.

  11. krishn wrote
    at 2:33 PM - 20th January 2013 Permalink


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