Thursday, September 4, 2008

ABRAHAM PANDITHAR (A brief History about a renowned Tamil Lyric writer/composer)

ABRAHAM PANDITHAR (A brief History about a renowned Tamil Lyric writer/composer)
August 2, 1859-August 31, 1919

Rao Sahib Dr. Abraham Pandithar was born on the 31st of July 1860 at Sambavar Vadakarai near Tenkasi to Muthuswami Nadar and Annammal.. His ancestors traced their origin to the ancient Kun-Pandyan family.

EARLY LIFEHe was put in a school at Surandai in the district of Tirunelveli. He was sent to the C.V.E.S. Normal Teachers Training School at Dindigul, where he became a teacher after 3 year's study and training. His grand parents on both sides were medical practitioners, and were well versed in Tamil Medical Literature, and it was no wonder that his natural proclivities inclined towards medicine. He wished to initiate himself into the ancient system of Indian Medicine and with this objective in view he went to Surli Hills, near the sources of the Vaigai River in the summer of 1877.He came into contact with a great Maharishi called Karunananda Rishi who initiated him into the world of Indian Medicine with all its nuances. He also gave him the necessary recipes and the directions for preparing the world famed Karunananda Medicines. During the Christmas of 1882 he married Gyanavadivu Ponnammal of Nanjankulam and 3 months later the couple joined the Lady Napier Girls School in Thanjavur as Tamil Pandit and Head Mistress respectively.
Their joint success in giving excellent secular education, in teaching moral lessons, in shaping social conduct and in imparting elementary principals of private and social hygiene was so remarkable that both of them became institutions by themselves in Thanjavur District. What endeared them both to the citizens of Thanjavur was the wide spread application of their Karunananda remedies in Indian medicine for every day ailments. Mr. Pandithar's wife Gyanavadivu Ponnammal died on the 15th of December 1911 after a short illness and a few months later he married Bhagyammal.


The slow but steady popularity of these remedies induced Mr. Abraham Pandithar to the more intensive study of Tamil Literature relating to medicine. In 1890 he resigned his post as a teacher for the more humanitarian work of alleviation of pain and misery through Indian medicine. Gradually his research work into Hindu Medicine made steady progress and the Indian world, especially the Tamil world, in South Indian Medicine. Gradually his research work into Hindu Medicine made steady progress and the Indian world, especially the Tamil world, in South India, Ceylon, Burma the Strait Settlements which were all then an integral part of the British Empire started reaping the fruits of his patient labours. Among the special preparations for which Mr. Pandithar's name became famous were Sanjeevi Pills, Gorosanai Pills and Agharana Sanjeevi Pill etc.
In order to develop medicinal plants, he established an experimental farm at Karunanandpuram in 1899. Gradually he increased the extent of this farm to nearly 550 acres. He also transformed this farm into a multi purpose agricultural farm for modern scientific farming. He established a garden of roses. He developed several strains of sugar cane and during this process he discovered a new sport-cane variety which was taken by Mr. C.A. Barber the then Government Botanist for use in the Government farm at Palur. In the agricultural exhibitions of South India, the sugar canes from the Karunananda farm were invariably awarded the first prize.
The cultivation of Australian golden maize and the Himalayan varieties were also successful.Sir. Arthur Lawley, the Governor of Madras and his wife Lady Lawley visited the farm on the 22nd of February 1908 and praised Abraham Pandithar's contribution to the cause of scientific farming in South India..In recognition of his public services, the title of Rao Sahib was conferred upon him on the 25th of June 1909. In presenting the Sanad of "Rao Sahib" to Mr. Abraham Pandithar Mr. J.P. Bedford I.C.S. said that "He had much pleasure in handling to Mr. Abraham Pandithar the Sanad conferred upon him by the Government of India. He is a man of exceptional practical energy and ability, and his career has been a phenomenal success, his chief claim to distinction being his agricultural farm which bears witness to his industry and enterprise."


Abraham Pandithar has made himself immortal in the history of South Indian Music by his two great volumes entitled "Karunamita Sagaram" which he published in 1917. It was a treatise on music in general and Tamil Isai in particular. Abraham Pandithar learnt music under Dindigul Sadayandi Pattar. He also underwent training under an unknown Nadaswaram artist at Thanjavur and blossomed into a knowledgeable musicologist and a princely patron. Rajah Sir Annammalai Chettiar, the founder of Annammalai University is considered as the founder of the Tamil Isai movement. Long before Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar, Abraham Pandithar championed the cause of Tamil Isai by researching into the intricacies of Carnatic Music in the context of ancient Tamil literature on art and music.


His magnum opus Karunamritha Sagaram is really an ocean as its name bears, of information on musical history, science, literature and musicians etc. An encyclopedia and a thesaurus, the 2 volumes of Karunamritha Sagaram sum up his lifetime's work.This exhaustive work which deals with the musical systems of South India, throws a flood of light on the literature and history of South India a general and that of the Tamil country in particular, as it's literature and music are inseparable. The indisputable originality displayed throughout the book by the author, the innumerable authorities quoted in support of statements, the wealth of illustration that is brought to bear upon various subjects, the fund of knowledge he possesses in many departments of life, the sparkling humour that now and then relieves the seriousness of such technical work and the fearlessness and thoroughness with which the author establishes his theory on Shruthis, all these clearly show his remarkable genius. His chief aim is to show what the music of ancient Tamil country was and how modern Carnatic Music is only a pale counterpart. In this arduous task he admirably succeeded.
He proved by apt quotations from Tamil works, after careful study, how in the ancient Tamil music of South India, the octave was divisible into a number of equal tones. This was his fundamental position.He said that this view was supported by no less an authority than the great Sanskrit writer on Indian Music --Saranga Deva of Kashmir ---who lived about the 13th century A.D. He thus brought all his readers into touch with the civilization of the ancient Tamils and the marvellous efficiency attained by them in the practice of music.Several great men of the day like mahamahopadyaya Dr. U.V.Swaminatha Iyer, Sir P.S. Shivaswami Iyer, Justice Sadasiva Iyer, Justice Dr. S. Subramania Iyer and Mr. J.S. Chandler, Chairman Tamil Lexicon Committee and others paid tribute to his work.


Apart from being a great musicologist, he was also a great organizer. He started the "Sangeetha Vidya Mahajana Sangam" at Thanjavur on December 14th 1912 with the support of stalwarts like Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar and Panchapekesa Bagavathar. In 1913 Muthiah Bagavathar promised to give free of cost one performance per annum, for the continued upkeep of its activities.Abraham Pandithar also made Thanjavur a national centre of music and culture by conducting all India Music Conferences at Thanjavur.
Between 27th May 1912 and 24th October 1914 he conducted 6 All India Conferences on music in Thanjavur on a scale not witness before in the South and rarely witnessed ever since. The national assemblies were impressive. Solid work was done and purposeful discussions took place among patrons, musicologists and musicians etc.THE ALL INDIA MUSIC CONFERENCEAt the All India Music Conference held in Baroda between 20th March and 24th March 1916, Rao Sahib Abraham Pandithar was one of the main speakers. He spoke "On Shruthis" on 22nd March 1916 and won the appreciation of all present on the occasion. His daughter Maragathavalliammal gave a demonstration on "Notation in Indian music".MEETING WITH LORD MONTAGUEWhen Lord Montague came to Madras as Secretary of State for India towards the end of 1917, Rao Sahib Abraham Pandithar called on Lord Montague. Lord Montague has referred to his interview with Abraham Pandithar in his "Indian Diary". Lord Montague has mentioned about the versatile and wide-ranging interests of Abraham Pandithar.Till the end of his life, he kept up close contact with all the musical luminaries in the whole of India.
He passed away peacefully on 31st August 1919 at Thanjavur. His was a life of creative fulfillment -- a life of love and service guided and governed by knowledge and an unquenchable thirst of knowledge.The Indian Patriot referring to him stated: "Another remarkable man of whom Young India has heard much and whose activities are well known is Abraham Pandithar. We knew him as a practical agriculturist, we knew him as an excellent medical man. When we went to see him in the dark hours of the evening, he was poring over some proofs of a music work, to which, at great devotion of time and wealth, he has been applying himself. Proprietor of an up to date press, enthusiast of every kind of useful activity, a man of inexhaustible energy and confidence in himself, Abraham Pandithar is a shining example for Young India. 'Be ever active and strive to do good' is the permanent message of his life.


P.P.S.Pandian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
P.P.S.Pandian said...

Thanks for posting the history of ABRAHAM PANDITHAR
- P.Sermuga Pandian

daniel said...

Its a pleasure Mr.Sermuga Pandian, because he is a man of great knowledge and fear of God.]

Hareesh Ram said...


Sam Rajesh said...

proud to be a grand grand children of Dr. Abraham Pandithar.

Unknown said...

I am student of:
Abraham pandithar disciple pro-genie.
I am trying for the TEXT-BOOK:
Your co-operation requested.
Jayaprakaash l d.
Singaaran sangeeth save,
K k fist, T N, IN.