Wednesday, April 29, 2009

He was much more than a poet

"CHITTAM EPPADIYO... Ayya... " As the vidwan sang in an emotive spirit, many in the audience were drawn into an introspective mood. More than the music, it was the purport of the lyrics that created this effect. Even more so, it was in a language they understood — Tamil. As they wondered who the composer of this thought provoking lyric was, the singer sang "Vedanayagane... "
Vedanayagam Pillai was indeed one of the remarkable Tamil poets of the febrile 19th century. One daily paying homage to this poet on his death on July 21, 1889, said, "Mayuram Vedanayagam Pillai was the Oliver Goldsmith of our times." Vedanayagam Pillai was not just a master poet but also much more.
A renowned jurist, a social worker, Tamil's first novelist, Vedanayagam had in addition a sterling personal quality that made him stand head and shoulders above his fellowmen. He was humane. The same newspaper also added these words in its obituary — "Only a few men deserve the name of `Gentlemen' and if the word can with perfect propriety be applied, it is to this great man." The newspaper was not paying encomiums without reason. During the famine that shook Tamil Nadu during 1876-1880, Vedanayagam responded spontaneously and generously to the desperate hunger calls of humanity. He contributed all the physical and material resources that he could generate towards the rehabilitation of the victims. It was this trait in Pillai that led that master composer, Gopalakrishna Bharati, to compose a song — "Neeye purusha meru" — in Vedanayagam's praise. A tribute all the more significant for Gopalakrishna Bharati rarely sang in praise of a human being for any consideration.
The spontaneous appeal of the songs of Vedanayagam captivated even the orthodox and rigid connoisseurs of both Tamil and music. Vedanayagam Pillai was a Tamil Christian by birth. Story goes that on one occasion his parents — Savarimuthu Pillai and Arogya Mariammal — offered food and clothing to a mendicant in distress. The mendicant was touched by this kindness and blessed them that they would give birth to a worthy son and that he should be named Vedanayagam.
The mendicant's words came true. On October 11, 1826, at a village called Kolathur in Tiruchi district, Vedanayagam Pillai was born. In the world of letters, the father was his son's first tutor, but later on, Vedanayagam was brought under the tutelage of Tyagaraja Pillai, who taught him both English and Tamil. Learning English was a matter of great prestige and honour in those days. Vedanayagam must have certainly been a precocious child, for even at the age of ten, he started composing light, humorous verses for situations like a wedding or the arrival of a rare guest.
On completing his education, Vedanayagam joined the Tiruchi court as a record keeper and soon got promoted as a translator. A quick learner, he learnt Sanskrit, French and Latin and also used every opportunity to acquaint himself with the law books. In 1856, he wrote an examination to qualify as district Munsiff.
In 1860, he was appointed the District Munsiff of Mayuram and served there for 13 years and came to be known as Mayuram Vedanayakam Pillai. However, his road to professional success was ridden with difficulties. Finally, he quit his job in 1963.
Notwithstanding his professional demands, Vedanayakam pursued his mission of writing songs and books. In 1858, he wrote a highly acclaimed ethical work called the Neethi Nool.
In all, he wrote 16 books. His hugely popular ``Pratapa Mudaliar Charitram" has also the distinction of being the first novel in Tamil. In addition, he also translated law books in Tamil.
Vedanayagam Pillai was proficient in music too. The great musicologist Abraham Pandian, a contemporary of Pillai paid him compliments. "Vedanayakam Pillai of Mayuram was a celebrated vidwan in Tamil and Sangeeta Sahityam and a good player on the veena. More than a thousand of his keerthanais have been printed and are in use... "
The great Tamil composer Gopalakrishna Bharati was charmed by the songs of Pillai. It is said that Vedanayagam sang every one of his compositions, as soon as it was created, in the presence of Bharati, to get his approval. Tamil poet and litterateur Meenakshisundaram Pillai and Vedanayagam Pillai had mutual admiration for each other. Ramalinga Vallalar found a like-minded soul in Pillai, the Mahasannidham of Tiruvavaduturai Math — Subramanya Desikar — held regular parleys with him on several topics. It was not surprising, for if Pillai knew his Bible he knew his Tirukkural equally well. For that matter, Vedanayagam Pillai was secular to the core. His songs were not addressed to any personal God and were aptly titled,`` Sarva Samaya Samarasa Kirtanaigal."
Each one of Vedanayagam Pillai's songs had a message to convey. He was a great champion of women's rights and education. He said that one should work hard for a living, lead a simple life and help others as much as they could. He also reacted against atheism — "if there be a poet for a poem, a potter for a pot, an artist for a picture then there should be a creator for the universe," he asserted.
On the lines of Tyagaraja's "Nidhichala sukhama" he wrote "Manam Peridha, Varumanam Peridha?" Some of the popular songs of Pillai are ``Naale Nalla Nall," ``Nee Malaikkade Nenje," ``Tharunam, tharunam... " One can find a profusion of Sanskrit words and proverbs in his Tamil compositions.
Vedanayagam Pillai's domestic life was far from happy. He married five times as each of his wives lived only for a short time.
The peace loving man that Pillai was, his journey through life also had a smooth ending. He died peacefully with all his loved ones around him.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A collection of Christian prayers in Tamil - on palm leaf manuscripts

A collection of Christian prayers in Tamil, on palm leaf manuscripts.The script indicates that the manuscripts were written in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries.They are thought to be the work of early missionaries, or of the Malankara Christian church.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

எச். ஏ. கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளை (ஹென்றி ஆல்ஃபிரட் கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளை)

எச். ஏ. கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளை (ஹென்றி ஆல்ஃபிரட் கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளை)
எச்.ஏ.கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளை அவர்கள் 1827ம் ஆண்டு ஏப்ரல் 23ம் திகதி தென்னிந்தியாவில் திருநெல்வேலிக்கு அருகிலுள்ள கரையிருப்பு எனும் ஊரில் சங்கரநாராயணபிள்ளை அவர்களுக்கும், தெய்வநாயகி அம்மையாருக்கும் மகனாகப் பிறந்தார்.
இளமையில் வைணவ நூல்களையும், இராமாயணத்தையும் நன்கு கற்றுத்தேர்ந்த கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளை சமய வாழ்வின் நெறிமுறைகளை வழுவாது வைராக்கியத்துடன் பின்பற்றினார்.
கிறிஸ்தவம் வேகமாக பரவிக்கொண்டிருப்பதை அறிந்த கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளை, தாம் நற்செய்தி எதிர்ப்புக் கழகத்தில் சேர்ந்து கிறிஸ்தவத்தை எதிர்த்து செயல்படத் தொடங்கினார்.
1852ம் ஆண்டு சாயர்புரம் திருமறைக் கல்லூரியில் தமிழ் பண்டிதராக பணியமர்ந்த கிறிஷ்ணபிள்ளை அவர்கள் அங்கு மிஷனரியாகப் பணியாற்றிய "ஹக்ஸ்டபிள்" குடும்பத்தினரின் நற்குணச் செயல்களினால் பெரிதும் கவரப்பட்டார்.
ஏற்கனவே தமிழ்ப் புலமைபெற்றிருந்த அவர், வடமொழியையும் கற்றுத்தேர்ந்தார். அச்சமயம் கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளையின் சகோதரர் தனுக்கோடி ராஜீ மற்றும் முத்தையா ஆகியவர்கள் கிறிஸ்தவத்தை தழுவி மனம்மாறியமை இவரை அதிர்ச்சிக்குள்ளாக்கியது.
தனது சமய பக்திப்பாடல்களை நெஞ்சுருக பாடி வந்த அவர், அந்நாட்களில் மோட்சப் பிரயாணம், புதிய ஏற்பாடு, இளமை பக்தி போன்ற நூல்களையும் வேதாகமத்தையும் படித்தார். ஒரேநாளில் ஆதியாகமம் முதல் யாத்திராகமம் 20ம் அதிகாரம் வரை படித்தவர், அதில் கூறப்பட்டுள்ள சம்பவங்கள் அனைத்தும் உண்மையான நிகழ்ச்சி என்பதனை அறிந்துகொண்டார்.
அதன் பின் கிறிஸ்துவை இரட்சகராக கண்டு கொண்ட அவர், அவருடைய அன்பும் அருளும் அவரை ஏவியதால் கிறிஸ்துவுக்காக தன் வாழ்வை அர்ப்பணிக்க உறுதிகொண்டார்.
வேதாகமத்தில் தனக்கு ஏற்பட்ட ஐயங்களை தனுஷ்கோடி ராஜீவிடம் கேட்டு விளக்கம் பெற்று, கிறிஸ்தவமே மெய்யான வழி என்ற தெளிவையும் பெற்றுக்கொண்டார்.
1858 ஏப்ரல் 18ம் திகதி மயிலாப்பூரிலுள்ள தூய தோமஸ் திருச்சபையில் ஹென்றி ஆல்ஃபிரட் கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளையென்ற பெயருடன் திருமுழுக்கு ஞானஸ்நானத்தைப் பெற்றுக்கொண்டார். 1860ம் ஆண்டு இவரது மனைவியும் மூன்று பெண்பிள்ளைகளும் கிறிஸ்து இயேசுவை தங்கள் சொந்த இரட்சகராக ஏற்றுக் கொண்டார்கள்.
இலக்கிய வாஞ்சையுள்ள இவர், அதை தம்மை ஆட்கொண்ட இறைமகன் இயேசுவைப் பற்றிய உண்மைகளை பிறருக்கு எடுத்துரைக்க ஒரு கருவியாக பயன்படுத்தினார்.
திருநாம ஸ்மரணை, திருநாம பதிகம், காலைத் துதி, பிழைநினைந்திரங்கல், கிறிஸ்துவே எனக்கெல்லாம், கையடைப்பதிகம், விசுவாசக்காட்சி, வேட்கைப்பதிகம், அந்திப்பலி, கடைக்கணிப்பதிகம், இரட்சணிய சமய நிர்ணயம், போற்றித் திருவிருத்தங்கள், எண்பொருள் பதிகம் ஆகிய 13 தேவாரங்களும் அடங்கிய „இரட்சணிய தேவாரம் என்பன கிருஸ்ணபிள்ளையினால் இயற்றப்பட்டது.
"கிறிஸ்துவே எனக்கெல்லாம்" எனும் பதிகத்தில் எனக்கார் துணை யாருறவே என இறைவனை நோக்கிக் கேட்கும் அவரது முதற்பாடலான கீர்த்தனையில் பக்தி பரவசத்தை உணர முடிகின்றது.
தமிழ் பண்டிதராக சாயர்புர கல்லூரியில் பணியாற்றிய இவர், ஆத்தும அறுவடைபணியிலும் ஈடுபட்டார். ஊவாக்கர் குரு இவரை „மனிதரை பிடிக்கிறவர் என அழைத்தார்.
இவர் ஏராளமான கிறிஸ்தவ பாடல்களை எழுதினார். இவற்றின் தொகுப்பு

"இரட்சணிய மனோகரம்"

என அழைக்கப்படுகிறது. 1887 இல் தலைசிறந்த காப்பியமான இரட்சணிய யாத்ரீகம் எனும் நூலை எழுதினார்.
கிருஸ்ணபிள்ளை அவர்கள் "கிறிஸ்தவ கம்பன்" என அழைக்கப்படுகிறார். இவர் இயற்றிய சந்தாய் நிஷ்களமாய் பாடல் இன்றும் தேவாலயங்களில் விரும்பி பாடப்படும் கீர்த்தனையாகும்.
1900 பெப்ரவரி 3ம் நாள் தமது 73ம் வயதில் மரித்த இவர் சமாதானப்புரத்திலுள்ள கல்லறைத் தோட்டத்தில் நல்லடக்கம் செய்யப்பட்டார். இறைவனையே தன் துணையாகக் கொண்டு வாழ ஒரு மனிதன் முன்வரவேண்டும் என்பதற்கு கிருஷ்ணபிள்ளையின் இவ்வுலக வாழ்வு நல்லதொரு எடுத்துக்காட்டாக அமைந்தது..

கீர்த்தனை என்றால் என்ன? (what is the meaning of the term keerthanai)

கீர்த்தனை இறை இசைப் பகுதியைச் (வைதீக கானத்தை) சேர்ந்தது. சாகித்யம் இறைவன் அல்லது இறைவியைப் புகழ்வதாகவோ அல்லது அவர்களிடம் மன்னிப்பு வேண்டுவதாகவோ பக்தி நிரம்பியதாக இருக்கும். புராண நிகழ்ச்சிகளைப் பற்றியும் பக்தர்களின் உணர்ச்சிகளைத் தெரிவிப்பதாகவும் இருக்கலாம். எனவே கீர்த்தனைகளில் சுரப்பகுதியை (தாதுவை) விட சொற்பகுதியே (மாதுவே) முக்கியமானது என்று கருதப்படுகிறது.


Daniel Dawson.

Friday, September 5, 2008



Rev. N. Samuel (18 September 1850 - 20 May 1927), Professor in Divinity, Pastor, Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (T.E.L.C.). He was a famous poet and author of many books. He was also the first member of the Leipzig Evangelical Lutheran Mission (L.E.L.M.) Council.


Best known among his lyrics are,

En Meetpar Vuyirodirukayilay (என் மீட்பர் உயிரோடிருக்கயிலே)

Senaigalin Kartharey (சேனைகளின் கர்த்தரே)

Seerthiru Yegavasthey(சீர்திரி எகவச்தே நமோ நமோ) and

Gunapadu Paavi (குணப்படு பாவி)

He composed the college song Arulaar Putkarathil Thangi and designed the monogram for the Gurukul Lutheran Theological College. Incidentally, Vedanayagam Sastriar of Tanjore, Krishnapillai of Palyamkottai, and N. Samuel of Tranquebar were known as the triumvirate of Tamil Christian poets. One of his earliest compositions was about a journey to Tanjore called Thanjai Payan Padham. Another was Kallu Kummi, The Toddy Kummi, where the strong drink talks about her glories, which made the drunkard blush in shame. His book Gospel Lyrics contains 200 songs composed over a period of 60 years.


He has also put the following German hymns into Tamil:

Gott sei Dank in aller Welt, Kartharukku Sthothiram (கர்த்தருக்கு ஸ்தோத்திரம்)

O Haupt Voll Blut und Wunden, Erathangaayam Kuth-thum (இரத்தம் காயம் குத்தும் )

Nun freut euch, Gottes kinder all, Magizh Karthaavin Manthayae (மகிழ் கர்த்தாவின் மந்தையே)

Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend Aa Yesuvae, Neer Yengalai (ஆ ஏசுவே , நீர் எங்களை)

Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende Naal Pome, Yen Saavu Velai (எந்த நாள் போம் , ஏன் சாவு வேளை)

Laudamus te Ummai Thuthikirome (உம்மை துதிகிரோமே )

Du, o schones Weltgebaude Veghuperuku-inbamaana (வெகுபெருக்கு இன்பமான )
He has written lots of books on various topics , was a profound pastor at his time and was a great theologian.

கீர்த்தனை மகிமை டிரஸ்ட் (கீர்த்தனை விழா) B. Thangasamy

KEERTHANAIYIN MAHIMAI TRUST (Keerthanai Vizha) B. Thangasamy

When I was a school boy at Nazareth in Tiruneveli district, we used to memories psalms and sing in the church. Now singing has become a thing of the past. It has been totally marginalized. I wanted to revive it. Thus was born the Keerthanaiyin Mahimai Trust” Says Seventy-four-year-old B.Thangasamy, a practitioner of Labor and Employment Law for four decades in Coimbatore and the Secretary of the Stanes Higher Secondary School, is unique in his passion. He loves singing, that too in carnatic style, but, not the ordinary songs.

He terms lyrics in Tamil as keerthanai. His interest in such keerthanais might have come from his great grandfather “MADURA NAYAGAM UPADESIYAR”, an exponent in religious discourses. Now there is a compilation of more than 450 Tamil lyrics penned by great scholars like Abraham Pandithar, Vedanayagam Sastriar, Krishnapillai, Rev.Santiago, and Madura Nayagam Upadesiyar, many written even 200 years ago. “And they are not translations of psalms.”

He terms lyrics in Tamil as keerthanai. His interest in such keerthanais might have come from his great grandfather Madura Nayagam Upadesiyar, an exponent in religious discourses. Now there is a compilation of more than 450 Tamil lyrics penned by great scholars like Abraham Pandithar, Vedanayagam Sastriar, Krishnapillai, Rev.Santiago, and Madura Nayagam Upadesiyar, many written even 200 years ago. “And they are not translations of pslams.”
He points out “ABRAHAM PANDITHAR WAS SUPPORTED BY SERFORJI OF THANJAVUR” and accorded a pride of place in his court.
In a bid to revive singing these keerthanais, he organised Keerthanai Vizha in 2005 with the help of a few like-minded friends
This became an annual event and this year it was organised on the Independence Day.This is all due to the assistance from friends and well-wishers and we have not approached the Church. However, as there has been no proper organization for the work so far, we have recently formed the Trust with me as the chairman”.

In the keerthanai festival, singers from different parts of South India are invited. They can participate as individuals or groups. But we invite only quality singing. The festival is held only for a day, that too between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. This year we had an audience of more than 1,000.”Mr. Thangasamy concedes that this effort is nothing but the replica of what some brethren in Chennai tried to do for a few years.”

Their attempt was so well appreciated that they were invited even in the U.S. where they toured almost a month singing in various places at the expense of the Tamils there.
He points out that even Coimbatore group has been invited to Colombo by the Tamils there who have promised to bear all the expense for the programme. Invite has come from Coonoor as well. He is happy to state that the Trust has started slowly building a corpus for carrying out its activities such as organizing competitions in schools for such performances and awarding prizes.
Gradually a lot of youngsters are getting involved, men and women, a majority of them below 40. What is imperative is to channel their interest”. In the Stanes School, earlier it used to be just a sermon and a prayer in the morning. Now we have introduced a new form of worship in which 90 per cent is singing. The response for this form has been so overwhelming that we are thinking of expanding the chapel”. Mr. Thangasamy admits that any effort to spread this form of worship to other parts of the State will require local support.



Abraham Pandithar, a doctor by profession, was the prime force behind the establishment of a sangam to debate issues relating to Carnatic music.

Written by a well-known doctor of Thanjavur, Abraham Pandithar, it raised ten questions on music and invited responses.

What is the origin of the sapta swaras?

Is it true that there are 22 srutis in an Octave?

If musicians of old, as legend has it, could sing a raga for days on end?

why do modern musicians not sing them for more than two hours?
All these and more were asked and received no response.
Having learnt it from Dindigul Sadayandi Bhattar. Several musicians of south India were his friends and during his conversations with them he realised that while there was a considerable number of theories on srutis, swaras and their positions, none were easily accepted.
How could a science without precision in its fundamental ideas and a house without a foundation ever hope to stand?' asked Pandithar. In 1912, the then Governor of Madras, Lord Carmichael visited Tanjore and a reception was organised for which several prominent musicians of Madras Presidency, such as Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer, Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer and Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavatar were present. Pandithar placed his views before them and it was resolved that a musical Sangam was necessary to debate these issues. The Setupati of Ramnad agreed to be the patron. The Sangam had several objectives which included —
Making a study of such data as would tend to the development of south Indian music and to publish them.

To establish an Academy for the systematic teaching of South Indian music and its fundamental rules.
To arrange for examining of its pupils and others desirous of being examined and give them certificates.
— To deliberate upon and remove the doubts about some of the important items of Carnatic music.
— To reward distinguished vidwans by means of medals and honorific titles.
The Sangam met six times between May 27, 1912 and October 24, 1914 at the Karunanidhi Medical Hall. Sir V. P. Madhava Rao, the Tanjorean Dewan of Baroda, came to know of the Sangam and inspired by it, organised an All India Music Conference in 1916 at Baroda with the Maharajah, Sayaji Rao Gaekwad inaugurating it.
Pandithar was an honoured invitee and his daughter Maragathavalliammal gave a demonstration of Notation in Indian Music, while Pandithar read a paper on Sruti. Returning to Tanjore, Pandithar imported and set up an electric press at the Lawley Hall, documented the proceedings of his Sangams and published them in two volumes, in English and Tamil, titled Karunamirtha Sagaram. These are used as reference works even today by students of musicology and music history.

Medicinal History:
However, coming from a family that boasted of several practitioners in native Indian medicine, it was that field which attracted him and in 1879 he went to the Surli Hills near Madurai to study herbs. Here, he came into contact with a Karunanda Rishi who initiated him into Indian medicine, besides giving him recipes to produce several remedies. Returning to the plains, Pandithar married Gnanavadivu Ponnammal and the two were employed at the Lady Napier Girls School in Thanjavur as Tamil Pandit and Head Mistress respectively. Their methods of teaching won them acclaim. In 1890, the couple quit their posts, in order that Pandithar take up research in Indian medicine. Purchasing a large tract of land outside Thanjavur, Pandithar converted it into a farm for growing medicinal plants.

Named by him as Karunanandapuram, it was referred to as Pandithar Thottam by the locals. At his residence in the city of Thanjavur, Pandithar opened the Karunanidhi Medical Hall to which patients flocked. His Gorosanai pills in particular, became extremely well known not only in India, but also in the then Ceylon, Burma and the Strait Settlements.
The Governor of Madras, Sir Arthur Lawley and his wife, called on Pandithar on February 22, 1908 and praised his work. In 1909, the Government awarded him the title of Rao Saheb. Pandithar built a large community hall in commemoration of the Governor's visit and named it as the Lawley Hall. In 1911, Ponnammal passed away and a few months later, Pandithar married Bhagyammal.

Pandithar passed away on August 31, 1919, and was buried in the Thottam where he did his research. Today, the Lawley Hall, the Pandithar Thottam and the Karunanidhi Medical Hall, all of which are heritage landmarks in Carnatic music are well preserved by the Pandithar family.
The road leading to his house is named after him. Perhaps the greater tributes are the various conferences and research works in Carnatic music that followed his pioneering contributions.