Sunday, 9 March 2014

When 'Thamizh Thaatha' Visited Kovai

U. V. Swaminatha Iyer, who is affectionately called as 'Thamizh Thatha' or 'U.Ve.Sa' , for his mission in rescuing hundreds of palm leaf manuscripts from the marauding hungry termites and publishing them into books, was remembered across the state on his 160th birth anniversary on February 19.

The history of Tamil literature, would have missed much of its ancient literature, had the erudite Tamil scholar not discovered them from palm leaf manuscripts and published them into books.

The people of Kongu region too are grateful to U.Ve.Sa, as the first of all the palm leaf manuscripts published by him was Seevaka Cinthamani, which is one of the five great Tamil epics, penned by the Jain monk Thiruthakka Thevar, who lived at Peruvanchi ( Now Dharapuram) in the Kongu region in 9th century A.D.

When U.Ve.Sa. came across the manuscript of Seevaka Cinthamani for the first time from Tamil scholar Salem Ramasamy Mudhaliar at Kumbakonam, it ignited his flair to publish the work into a book. However, he had great difficulties in comprehending the literature, as it was written based on Jain doctrines and beliefs. Hence, he had to consult various Jain scholars including Chandranatha Chettiyar, Samuthira Vijayam Chettiyar and Gunabala Chettiyar of

Besides Seevaka Cinthamani, U.Ve.Sa also published various other pieces of ancient literature, including Paththupaattu, Silapathikaram, Manimekalai Purananuru, Aingurunooru, Pathitrupaththu and Paripadal.

Moreover, Perunkathai, the first translation work in the history of Tamil literature authored by another Jain scholar Konguvelir, saw its book form only by the efforts taken by U.Ve.Sa. Konguvelir wrote the work based on Ganga king Dhurvinita's Brihakatha in 7th century A.D when he lived at Vijayamangalam of the then Coimbatore district.

Like today, Coimbatore, was popular with its literary activities even over a hundred years ago with the founding of Kovai Tamil Sangam by scholar Thiruchitrampalam Pillai in 1894. The institution, which trained lovers of literature in composing poetry, writing articles and debating over issues in literature, once invited U.Ve.Saminatha Iyer for a special address. However, the enthusiastic audiences, felt disappointed, as the legendary scholar was suffering from a severe throat ache and could not utter a word louder to the audience.

Since Coimbatore had no facilities like mic and loud speaker those days, the city's Tamil scholar C.S. Chokkalingam Pillai 'delivered' the speech of U.Ve.Sa, as the 'Thamizh Thaatha' whispered into his ears sentence after sentence!

Sources: En Charithiram – The autobiography of U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer, Piththan Oruvanin Suyasaritham – The autobiography of Sivakavimani C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar.

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: 

No comments:

Post a Comment