Date : 21st April 1995
Multi – linguist par excellence
"Tamil and Sanskrit are but two mediums that reflect the same image of pan-Indian vedic culture’’. Says scholar S.N.Srirama Desikan who has devoted a lifetime to bringing about national integration through language. He is happy that he has been able to create awareness that Sanskrit is indispensable to and inextricable from Tamil. “Remove Sanskrit from Tamil and the Bhakti is gone”, he says. An array of beautifully bound volumes speaks of the scholar’s mastery over both Sanskrit and Tamil.
The Sangam classics and Subramania Bharathi’s works, Kamba Ramayanam and Thirukkural, Naaladiyar and Thiruppavai, Silappadikaram and the poems of Avvaiyar, are among the literary treasures that have been meticulously translated into Sanskrit by Srirama Desikan in a labour of love, a monumental work of half a century. Many of the volumes have an English exposition as well, lucid and apt, displaying yet another linguistic dimension of this grand old man of translation.
Srirama Desikan’s tour de force, a pioneering work is the translation of the ancient Ayurveda texts from Sanskrit into Tamil. As the Ayurveda works were in Sanskrit, they were not accessible to medical practitioners in Tamil Nadu and the Siddha system became more popular here, he says.
As Honorary Special Officer, Ayurveda Translation Wing, Department of Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy, Government of Tamil Nadu, Srirama Desikan has in the past 12 years worked to bring out the Tamil translation of the Ahstanga Sangraham, the Charaka Samhita (three volumes) and the Susrutha Samhita, comprising in all an awesome 25,000 slokas and totalling 5,397 pages. The magnificent compilation includes description of procedures, chemical compositions of the herbs, sketches of surgical tools and photographs of medicinal plants.
Traditional medicine is a field the scholar has explored in his typical, thorough fashion after enlightening students on the wealth of engineering and scientific knowledge embedded in ancient texts. For from 1965 to 1969, Srirama Desikan was part-time lecturer in Sanskrit and philosophy at the Guindy Engineering College, Fundamental Engineering Research establishment.
“Did you know that the Tharka Sastra explains all about the world us?” he asks. “The Vaisesika Darsanam of the fifth century BC talks about the atom which is likened to the specks in sunrays. The atoms joined together, it is said, make up the world. They cannot be separated but if they are forced apart, the world will be destroyed. The Engineering College published a thesis ancient wisdom and it made Sanskrit history”.
As for literature, the scholar has contributed to the sphere in a myriad ways. While he was research officer in the Kendriya Sanskrit Vidya Peeta, Tirupati, he wrote a 1000 page thesis a comparative study between Sanskrit and Tamil from the Vedic times to the present and from the Sangam age to the modern, drawing parallels and pointed out similarities between the two languages and literatures.
The scholar’s passion for elaborating on the common link between Sanskrit and Tamil has resulted in a number of carefully researched articles in leading newspapers and journals where he has expounded this theme.
“I feel acharam and Vaideeham will not reform people but education and knowledge can, for knowledge creates character – was not Viswamitra a great giant? My father was the greatest influence in my life”. A Vedanta gnani who was based in Cheyyar Taluk. Ammala Acharya was keen to see his son follow in his footsteps. So he sent Srirama Desikan to Tirupati to obtain his Sironmani degree from the Venkateswara Oriental Institute. The student would often play truant and return home. “Each time my father would patiently take me back to the institution. His hopes were rewarded when I stood first in my class every year”.
The boy who ran away from his studies later guided President Giri and four Governors of Tamil Nadu – Sri Prakasa, K. K. Shah, Mohanlal Sukhadia and Patwari – in Sanskrit. When decorated with the President’s award for Sanskrit scholarship in 1971, the First Lady Mrs. Saraswathi Bai Giri who regarded me as guru, disregarding protocol got up to receive me”, he recalls in proud rememberance. He also cherishes the fact that when Prime Minister Moraji Desai released his book. Patwari presided over the function.
“I owe it all to my father,” He says gratefully, But Srirama Desikan had the spark in him , in 1940 as a student he won the first prize among 200 others in a competition for translating the Tiruppavai showing his aptitude and talent lay.
“After graduation, I became a research scholar at my alma mater. Since there was no vacancy in Sanskrit I became a research scholar in Tamil which sowed the seeds of my great love for both the languages. Almost all the Indian languages have a Sanskrit connection”, he stresses. “But a translator has to forever keep in mind the spirit of the original. It is not always easy to find the right word or phrase and like a skilled jeweller fixing the gems, the translator should try to fit in words, so that they do not detract from the beauty of the setting.”
“In 1942, I began translating the Sri Krishna Leela in the journal Bharti Devi.” After putting in a stint as sub-editor in Hanuman, Sriramadesikan embarked on a prolific writing career with great fervour to ensure that Tamil Classics reached a larger readership. “I even translated the Kamba Ramayanam into Sanskrit. In fact, Rajaji, who released the book, wondered at the felicitation function why one should translate a work which itself had been inspired by Valmiki’s Sanskrit epic. I gave him a fitting reply about Vedanta Desikan who rendered the Alwar Pasurams into Sanskrit – the Dramido Upanished Saram. Rajaji laughed and while wrapping the shawl around me quipped in his inimitable styles that like a mother-in-law serving food to the daughter-in-law even while chiding her, he was honouring me.” Sriramadesikan also undertook a massive comparative study between Kamban, Valmiki and Tulsi.
The Tamil, Sanskrit and other Indian languages Research Institute was set up In Madras in 1975. “I worked as Honorary Research Secretary for six year there, till 1982”,says Srirama Desikan who was also a government of India Research Scholar at Madras for nearly three years in the Sixties.
In 1983, the Chief Minister M.G.Ramachandran impressed with Srirama Desikan’s translation of the ‘Thirullural’ gave him the assignment of making Ayurvedic texts easily understood in Tamil Nadu.
The scholar’s erudition and dedication have won him many awards and titles. The Sanskrit translation of Avvaiyar’s outpourings was selected as the best book in 1973 by the U.P Government. The Madras Bharatiyar Sangam, the Tamil Writers’ Association and the Karaikudi Kamban Kazhagam have honoured him and he is the recipient of the Samskrita Ratna title. The Kalaimamani was awarded to him in 1993, “to the only Sanskrit vidwan who has contributed to Tamil”. The founder secretary of The South Indian Sanskrit Association, Madras, Srirama Desikan is very fluent in Telugu as well and he has translated Vemana’s poems into Sanskrit and Tamil.
Neither age nor ceaseless application has dulled the scholar’s spirit of inquiry. His latest offering, to be published shortly, is a comprehensive translation in Tamil of Bharata’s “Natya Sastra”. He explains how both nattuvanars and dancers on longer need to rely on Sanskrit scholars to interpret the songs for them. The translation which has taken into account numerous commentaries, historical references and sculptural depictions will prove extremely useful and provide a holistic viewpoint, he adds with enthusiasm.
Well into his seventies Srirama Desikan pursues his scholastic journey with vigour, translating the treasures of the past in the spheres of science, art and literature, to benefit the present and future generations.
By Kausalya Santhanam
Inter-relation between Sanskrit and Tamil
S. N. Sriramadesikan
Hony. Research Secretary,
Tamil Sanskrit and other Indian languages Research Institute,
Tamil and Sanskrit have been serving a common cause. They have the same goal of nourishing and spreading Indian culture. They had never come into conflict in the past.
Based on some special features in the Tamil Alphabet, a theory that Tamil is distinct from Sanskrit, in grammar, literature and culture, has been advocated for some years now, Many have been engaging themselves in research solely with this end in view. So far as languages other than Tamil are concerned, there has not been any estrangement between them and Sanskrit. The fact that all these languages had alphabets capable of transcribing easily the Sanskrit words is the prime reason for the absence of any conflict. But in the case of Tamil it is quite different.
The Alwars and Acharyas have expounded the essence of the Vedas through the Divya Prabandha in Tamil. The Vaishnava Acharyas of the past have even gone further by declaring that only with the aid of these Prabandhas the Tamil Vedas the full import of the Sanskrit Vedas can be divined, thus adding to the stature of the Tamil language itself. They have also developed a common language – Manipravala by mixing Sanskrit and Tamil words – in order to promote integration. They have also developed the Grantha script, containing 80 per cent of Tamil letters and from its inception adopted it for transcribing Sanskrit works.
About 300 years ago, Subrahmanya Dikshitar, wrote a book called “Prayoga Vivekam” in Tamil; there in he explained the agreement between Sanskrit and Tamil grammmer to the extent of 90 per cent. In the twentieth century also, great scholars in the two languages, like P.S. Subramaniya Sastri, S. Vaiyapuri Pillai R. Raghava Aiyengar and R. Swaminatha Aiyar, have pointed out in their works the great agreement between Sanskrit and Tamil and the overwhelming influence of the former on the latter.
We may here review in general terms the agreement between Tolkappiam and Sanskrit works on grammer. The first two chapters of Tolkappiam deal with grammer, while the third deals with literature (rhetoric). These are analogous to the three divisions in Sanskrit – Siksha, Vyaakarna and Alankara Sastra.
It may be observed that the portions of Tolkappiam dealing with the form of letters, their origin, the four fold manner of compounds and seven Vyakthis agree with the Sanskrit grammatical works of Panini, Yaskar’s Nirukta, Patanjali’s mahabashya, etc.
In Tolkappiam, we find 50 Sanskrit words, 25 Prakrit words and some technical terms.
In regard to the explanations for the eight sentiments (Rasas), 10 states (avastaas) and 32 accessory feelings (Vyabhichari bhavas), there is full agreement between the Bharata Natyasastra and Tolkappiar. As Tolkappiar himself says in several places, I am giving explanation here according to Natya Sastra. In the matter of 32 kavya yuktis (literary practices), 10 Kavya doshas (literary blemishes) and Sutra lakshanas (Characteristics of aphoristic compositions) also, Tolkappiam agrees with the Bharata Sastra and Arthasastra.
Tolakappiar has also followed closely the Sastras like Manu Smruthi and Dharma Sastras in regard to 8 kinds of marriages, their classification according to castes, proper and improper marriages and their characteristics. There are similarities also regarding nature of Jivas and five Tinais (regional classification).
It can be inferred that there should have been a common basic work even if one does not go so far as to state that one language follows the other.
The Sangam poet have referred profusely to the episodes in the epics and purnas- vide Ahananooru, Purananooru, Kalithogai, Paripadal, etc. The stories of Rama and Krishna and other puranic stories, based on past works have been adopted to their times and set forth directly as adjuncts to other stories or by way of illustration (similarities).
In the works like purananooru, the Sangam poets have not hesitated to proclaim their allegiance to the Vaidic ways. It is stated that the Vedas, divine and eternal and four-fold have been preserved by oral traditions.
The contribution of Jains to the development of Tamil literature is great. In fact, most of our Tamil literature can be attributed to them. The important ones among the “18 Sangam lesser works” are authored by Jains. It is generally known that the great kavvyas of Tamil were all dhists. Even the later day grammatical works – Nannool, Yappuarungalam, Veera sozhiyam etc. – are there creations. In there works Jains and Buddhists have incorporated their own religions beliefs and ideas. When we study these, it becomes apparent the Tamilians have not resisted the good ideas coming from any where.
Date 19th March 1993
Honoured for his scholarship
It happened 200 years ago. In a fierce battle on the Indian soil by the forces of Tipu Sultan the noses of some English Soldiers were severed. However, they were set right by Maratha Ayurveda doctors at Pune.
Facinated by this native plastic surgery, some of those who were witness then reported the incident in the October 1794 issue of the Madras Gazette and Subsequently in the “Gentlemen’s Magazine”. An English doctor Karpte after returning to London adopted the Indian method and succeeded in Rhino Plasty.
There are any number of recorded evidences which support the fact that the “plastic surgery in Europe had taken is new flight when these devices of Indian doctors were known. The transplating of viable skin flaps is also an essentially Indian method”.
This surgical relief is one of various remedies prescribed in Ayurveda, an ancient system which is traced to the Vedic period. As most of the works in this treasure-trove are in Sanskrit, the Tamil Nadu Government launched ten years ago a project to translate into Tamil the valuable books in Ayurveda and other indigenous systems of medicine. For this purpose it chose Mr. S. N. Sriramadesikan and appointed him as Special Officer, Translation (Ayurveda) Wing.
Since then, the Department of Indian Medicine and Homeopathy had brought out four volumes of Tamil translations relating to Charaka Samhita and Ashtanga Sanghraham. These books, containing 4000 pages and brought out at a cost of Rs. 15 lakhs, deals with the diagnostic and curative aspects of various diseases. Besides discussing the good and bad aspects of different herbs, they explain the symptoms and the causes for ailments and also methods of preparing medicines including Asavam, Arishtam, Lehyam and Bhasman.
According to Mr. Sriramadesikan, the translation of Susruta Samhita, containing 7000 slokas on surgical aspects of curing various conditions, is nearing completion. This will be published soon in two volumes. The translated works will benefit not only students of Ayurveda medicine but also doctors of other systems, particularly allopathy.
Mr. Sriramadesikan, who has been selected for the Kalaimamani award of the Tamil Nadu Government this year, has also translated Tamil Classics including “Tirukkural”, “Pathupattu” and “Ettuthogai” into Sanskrit. A “Shrionmani” in Sanskrit, he was given the President’s award for Scholarship in Sanskrit in 1971. The Uttar Pradesh Government honoured him in 1973 for translating the works of Avviayar into Sanskrit.
Research study on Bharata’s work
BHARATANATIYA SASTIRAM: Translated into Tamil from the Sanskrit original by S.N. Sriramadesikan; International Institute of Tamil Studies, C.P.T. Campus, Adyar, Chennai-600113. Rs. 150.
CONTRARY TO the common belief that the Natya Sastra of Bharata Muni is a treatise solely on dance, it is a huge compendium on dramaturgy dealing, besides music and dance, with playwriting, production, stage construction, semantics, make-up and a host of other allied topics.
Much of the available information about Sage Bharata is vague and controversial. “Bharata” ordinarily meant a dancer-actor and Vedanta Desika has suggested that it might be an acrostic of the first letters of the terms Bhava, Raga and Tala.
Though many a writer had referred to the Natya Sastra of Bharata and assigned it to the second century A.D., the original text had been eluding scholars until the last quarter of the 19th century.
The credit of unearthing the manuscript of the work goes to European scholars like Fitz Edward Hall, Paul Regnaud, Heymann and J. Crosset. The edition, published in Paris by Crosset in 1898, still remains one of the best specimens of modern Western scholarship.
Meanwhile, two Indian Sanskritists, Shivadatta and Kashinath Panduranga Parab, published from Bombay the original text in 1894.
The later discovery of the commentary on the Natya Sastra by the Kashmirian, Abhinavagupta, gave a new impetus to the study of the work and the pioneer Manmohan Ghosh published the first English translation in 1951.
This was followed by similar translations by a board of scholars, Adya Rangacharya and P.N. Unni. The Telugu translation by P.S.R. Appa Rao is a classic.
Strangely enough, no scholar had come forward to render the treatise into Tamil although the Natya Sastra tradition is quite strong in Tamil Nadu. Nowhere in India have the 108 Karanas of the Natya Sastra been depicted by sculptures on temple towers like those at Chidambaram, Kumbakonam and Thanjavur. Dance Gurus like Chetlur Narayana Iyengar and Mangudi Doriraja Iyer have, in their Tamil writings, revealed their knowledge of the Natya Sastra but they have not attempted a translation. Fifty years ago Karanthai Tamil Sangam of Thanjavur published a work in verse called Bharata Sattiram by Arabatta Navalar of Tirupperunthurai but it is not a translation of the Natya Sastra. The present complete translation into Tamil prose thus becomes an epoch- making publication in the annals of dance literature in the Tamil language.
The translator needs no introduction to the world of Sanskrit scholarship. For over five decades, he has been rendering invaluable service to the translation of the literary treasures of the past in the spheres of science, art and philosophy, too numerous to be mentioned here. Even as a student he exhibited a flair for rendering into perfect Sanskrit verse Tamil works like the Tirukkural, Naladiyar, Pathupattu and Tiruppavai. His magnum opus is the translation of three Sanskrit works on Ayurveda running to nearly 6000 pages. He is the recipient of many awards and titles from government and private institutions.
The book under notice is not a mere literal translation but the result of considerable research and comparative study. The language of the original is terse and there are hundreds of technical terms for which there are no Tamil equivalents. Terms like “Mattavarani” defy translation. Realising this problem, the author has furnished at the end of important chapters a summary in lucid Tamil. The original slokas have not been reproduced but have been grouped to maintain continuity and have been paraphrased. There are illustrations of the 108 Karanas and 38 hand gestures. The author has written an illuminating preface of 108 pages on the various forms of Indian classical dance and allied subjects, besides furnishing a glossary. Elegantly printed on good quality paper, the book has been priced moderately.
17th March 1965.
KAMBAN AND VALMIKI
By S. N. Sriramadesikan
(The Kamban Festival, to honour of the great Tamil Poet is being celebrated in many places this week.)
Tamil has a rich and hoary tradition of its own. In the Sangam classics are mirrored the culture and civilisation of the ancient Tamils, whose noble achievements in the field of art and literature have withstood the ravages of time. The Alwars and the Nayanmars have bequeathed to us a magnificent body of devotional literature. These mighty singers of the immortal glory of the Lord have fallen under the spell of the classics. Kamban, who follows in their footsteps, is indeed saturated with their soul-animating strains.
There were Tamil Poets before and after Kamban; but none has reached the heights of excellence to which the wings of his imagination have soared. In the majestic march of never-falling diction, in the amplitude and depth of vision, and in the wide range of ideas born of a lofty idealism, he has thrown Tamil poets, both ancient and modern into the shade. His colossal work cannot but be a source of inspiration to generations of poets yet unborn.
Oftentimes, it is said that one a excessive learning freezes the creative impulse in man; but both in Kamban and Milton, it has fed and enriched their imagination. The reason why he embarked on the stupendous task of writing his Ramayana based on Valmiki is clear. Any other task could not have given him sufficiently ample material and wide canvas for his titanic genius.
Scholars wrangle over the original title of the epic. Some call it Rama Avataram, while others christen it Kamba Ramayanam after the author, but what is there in a name.
Changes in the Story
Kamban approaches Valmiki with a sense of trepidation, takes the reader into his confidence and confesses to him that he has made up his mind to pattern his epic upon that of Valmiki. But as one reads it, one finds in it several deviations from the original some may raise the question why he has not kept up his fidelity to the text. It can be concluded that Kamban has made changes in Valmiki’s account in the following ways: (1) Making slight changes here and there in the main story and the side-stories (2) mentioning the incidents in the main and side-stories in the original, in other contexts; (3) adding extra imaginative accounts related to the original , and introducing imaginative accounts of his own, (4) having the narration by a person in the original made by another; and (5) describing the route through which Viswamitra took Rama and Lakshmana, differently. (The deviations and the changes are confined only to the Bala Kanda)
First, one must understand that Kamban’s classic is not a work of translation. It is not a siavismy close rendering of Valmiki. He is in the tradition of great innovators like Kalidasa; and every creative artist must follow the bent of his genius. Any work cannot but bear the mark of the spirit of the age in which the poet lives and breathes.
Some are of opinion that what ever deviations on finds in Kamban are according to the Adyatma Ramayana or the Ananda Ramayana and the Puranas. The Adyatama Ramayana describes the abduction of Sita by Ravana along with the very piece of earth on which she dwelt. A Similar treatment we find in Kamban. Rama in his boyhood days shot at the hunch-backed Kooni mud-balls from his bow when she carried her pitcher of water from the pool. This episode is enshrined in the songs of the Alwars. The alteration which Kamban makes in the episode of Vamana Avatara Charitham has its origin in the Bhagavatham.
From the treatment of similar incidents one should not jump to the conclusion that Kamban has no originality. It is true he is a prince of borrowers; but his borrowings have suffered a sea-change into some thing rich and noble. The creation of new situations in Kamban is something woven on the loom of his own powerful imagination.
Valmiki Ramayana is essentially a human document and pictures to us a pattern of human perfection, while Kamban considers the hero an Avatar, and his treatment of Rama is altogether different. However, it must be borne in mind that the divine element is not totally absent from Valmiki. Valmiki’s treatment of it as a human document may have a greater hold on the imagination of the people.
It is a matter for regret that Kamban’s life is shrouded in mystery. Legends have gathered around his name. The impression which one gathers of the personality of the author through his writings is for more authentic than the life recorded in spurious legends. Adittan was his father and he was born at Thiruvazhundur in Cholamandalam. His parton was Sadaiyappa Vallal of Thiruvennainallur, whose praises he sings in his epic in ten places as a mark of his deep sense of gratitude. The epic seems to have been sung on Panguni Uttaram at the temple of Srirangam. “His work will receive the seal of the Lord’s approval only when he sings in the praise of Sadagopan”- thus Sri Ranganathan spoke through the priest. The Sadagopar Anthanthi was composed on the spur of the moment, thus runs a vaishnava legend.
Kamban’s conception of a king is radically different from the traditional approach. The king, according to him, is but a tabernacle for the life of the people. There is an adumbration of the spirit of democracy in his epic. That is why Bharathi, the poet of our national awakening, weaves an immortal wreath of praise for him.
The works that are ascribed to him are “Saraswathi Anthathi”, “Eru Ezhupathu”, “Silai Ezhupathu” and “Thirukkai Vazhakkam”. The Uttra Kandam is not a work of Kamban; perhaps it was written by one Vani Dasan.
The stanza that begins with the words “Enniya Sakabdam” throws light on the date of Sadayappa Vallal, some conclude from this that Kamban belonged to the 9th Century A.D. From his dealings with Raja Raja Cholan and Kulothunga II and Prathaparudran, an Andra King, others arrive at the conclusion that he belonged to the 12th Century. Still this date is a matter of acute dispute.
“The Indian Express”
Dated : 24-11-1976
Research in Tamil and Sanskrit
By M. Ananthasayanam Aiyangar
(Former Governor of Bihar and Chairman of Kendriya Sanskrit Vidayapeetam, Tirupathi)
Tamil and Sanskrit have been fostered like two eyes having a single look.Their common purpose is to propagate Bharatiya culture and to promote Bhakti in the Vedic way. Those acquainted with these two langauages are aware of their close union – literary and grammatical. Even a thousand years back, the cultivation of a mixed style (Sanskrit and Tamil – Manipravala) by the vaishnava Acharyas put an end to all controversy about the relation between the two languages. There have also been several works stressing the closeness between Tamil and Sanskrit.
To promote the integration of the different parts of India, the Central Government set up a secular wing in the Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetham, Tirupati and appointed.
Mr.S.N.Sriramadesikan as Research Officer to study in depth the unifying elements of Sanskrit and Tamil. He has been engaged in this task for the last four years, He has now completed a thesis of about 1000 pages containing may new ideas.
The enquiry is a complex one requiring the collaboration of many scholars over a long period, Many organisation are pursuing independent enquiries, the end of which is not in sight. What Mr. Sriramadesikan could accomplish so far, is only a brief resume. Valuable as it is, the research has to be continued and it is hoped that the government will enable this scholar to pursue this work on a permanent basis.
A Nyaya Sironmani of the Tirupathi Sanskrit college (1942) and a reviewer and contributor to different newspapers and journals, Mr. Sriramadesikan has been the recipient of the President’s award for proficiency in Sanskrit. For four years he was a part-time lecturer in Sanskrit and philosophy in the College of Engineering, Guindy, Madras (a Scheme sponsored by the Central Government) and instructed the Professors there on the scientific basis of Tarka and Sankhya. Sastras, He has been a research scholar of the Central Government for three years.
About 15 Translation of ancient works, from Sanskrit to Tamil and Vice Versa, made by him have been commended by great personges like Rajai, Mr. V. V. Giri, Sir.C.P Ramaswami Iyer and Dr. Sunitkumar Chattarji. The UP Government gave a prize of Rs. 500/- for his ‘Avaiyar’s Neetinool a translation from Tamil to Sanskrit. He is currently functioning as an Honorary Research Secretary in the Tamil, Sanskrit and other Indian Languages Research Institute, Madras.
The following is a sketch of the research made:
Sangam age: It has been shown with sufficient authority that the most ancient extant Tamil work. Tolkappiam, expresses ideas in close conformity with the Sanskrit grammatical works of Andra and Panini and Bharata Natya and the Arthasastras. This includes forms of marriage and regional classifications, as also Vedic and Puranic lore. It is also explained that ‘Pathupattu’ and ‘Ettuthogai’ follow Vedic methods, rituals, as well as the shad darshanas.
Post Sangam age: It is pointed out that the Tamil works, “Silapadhikaram” and “Manimakhalai” have found ideas in Sanskrit works as also the eighteen minor works including “Tirukurral” and “Naladiar”.
Pallava Period: The Saivaite and Vaishnavaite sacred tests in Tamil express the ideas of Veda Vedanta (Sanskrit).
Chola Period: There is close correspondence with Sanskrit works in the case of Tamil work like the five major epics, the five minor epics and grammatical works, “Nannool”, Yapparunkalam” and “Veerasozhium” also.
A study of this research thesis covering the period from the third century B.C. to the 12th Century A.D. will make for the Integration of all languages on the basis of a common principle.
“The Indian Experess”
Dated : 11th June 1995.
A Pundit with a prolific pen
What has a decrepit Sanskrit pundit – cheeks indented by years of learning over the writing desk burning precious thermal power, unkempt hair standing out like an indifferent appendage of his humble form and careless clothes that never troubled his probing brain – got to do with the dance of elite? Scholarship.
How does the learned man, whose hackneyed views on dancing and dancers, fit into the scheme of cultural cornucopia? Scholarship, again.
Where did his immense knowledge of the languages – Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit – and the untiring capacity to translate back and forth from one language to another originate from? From scholarly pursuits.
S. N. Sriramadesikan’s first translation, that of ‘Tiruppavai’ into Sanskrit, during the forties when he was still a student at the Sanskrit College in Tirupati, won him instant recognition.
At the right side of Seventy now, the frail vidwan has a much energy now to translate best works from Sanskrit to Tamil or vice versa, as he had when he was twenty.
That is not all. He chooses the books for translation that one will not relate him with – Ashtanga Sangraham. Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita, all Sanskrit books on Ayurveda; Tirukural; Naladiar, Subramania Bharati’s works from Tamil to Sanskrit, Pathypattu (Sangam Literature work) into Sanskrit, Ettuthogai (Sangam Literature), Silapathigaram, Andra Kavi Vemans’s works into Tamil and Sanskrit…. The list is endless and the subjects varied.
Well-versed in the three languages, he does not pick his works out of interest. He chooses them for their literary value and content.
That is how, the Ayurveda books found a place on his bookshelf. He was especially commissioned by the former Chief Minister, the late M. G. Ramachandran, to do the translation of Charaka Samhita and Susruta’s work. He was made honorary special officer, Ayurveda translation wing, Department of Indian Medicine in 1983. He continues to hold the post till date.
Sriramadesikan’s poly-performances as a scholar, has also taken him to Saraswathi Mahal library in Tanjavur and Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Tirupathi.
And “I have come full circle”, he says about his latest magnum opus, the translation of Bharata’s Natya Sastra.
It is not deep interest in dance forms that inspired him. Sriramadesikan drew inspiration from his mentor, Manavelli Ramakrishna, who had translated the Natya Sastra into Telugu many years ago.
Why not do the unattempted, he asked himself, one year back. And at the end of one year, hoping between the hospital where his wife frequently ended up due to acute illness. And his writing desk, Desikan has produced the Tamil Translation of Natya Sastra.
“This is the first translation of the work into Tamil”. Though translations of the Natya Sastra is available in other languages, dancers down south have only depended on what has been taught by word of mouth from their gurus, who have read the ‘Abhinaya Darpan’ or had parts of Natya Sastra translated.
Though Desikan does not approve of “daughters of IAS officers” going on stage to do “thiaya-takka”, he is keen that what they learn should be based on authentic study. That is why the translation in the local tongue.
All the 6,000 slokas contained in the 36 chapters, have been translated with great care. Though he does not understand the nuances of dance, Desikan insists that the bhava-raga-tala natyam be performed by persons Bharata intended it for temple dancers). Dance must be performed with the same amount of aesthetic expression that Bharata has laid down as a rule for good performance as nrithyam, geetham, lasyam, abhinayam, he says, are the mainstay of Bharata Natyam.
Desikan has intended the translation, yet to be published, as a tool for young dancers, who, he feels, can widen their scope of knowledge of Bharata Natyam.
Extracts from the press about the author & his works
New Delhi, 5-10-1971
“Engineering in Sanskrit Possible”
A frail little man who is struggling to achieve a novel ambition, Pandit Sriramadesikan would like to see colleges and technical institutes in the country teach engineering in Sanskrit.
“For too long have Sanskrit Shastras been regarded as purely relating to soul” – he argues.
Pandit Sriramadesikan is one of the seven Sanskrit scholars who are to be honoured by the President at a special function to be held tomorrow. He is the only Sanskrit scholar from the south.
“Actually” he points out “two of the Tarkasastras dating back to third century B.C. deal totally with atomic energy and composition. But they deal with the constructive qualities of atom and not the destructive side of it.
For a number of years Sriramadesikan was part-time lecturer in the Madras College of Engineering, teching the various “darshanas” to the lecturers of Engineering.
Tough the basis of engineering was known in India long before, the rest of the world had gone far ahead and most of the recent works are in foreign languages. This does not discourage Pandit Sriramadesikan. “If the will is there, they can all be easily translated into Sanskrit and all research work in future can be compiled in our own language”.
His immediate ambition is to achieve national integration through translations. He translates Tamil and Telugu classics into Sanskrit.
But how many people in India follow Sanskrit?
Pandit Sriramadesikan is of the opinion that all Indian languages have 50 to 90 percent of their basis in Sanskrit words and any one can understand the essence of a work in Sanskrit, while if he were to write in any other language, only readers of a few States would benefit from it.
Sanskrit studies for engineering
In a hall in the office of the Director of Technical Education in Madras city, an interesting sight is to be observed every evening during the weekdays. In popular belief, Sanskrit belongs to the antique world, with no relevance to modern conditions. On the other hand, those who teach engineering are in the very vanguard of the new technological civilisation. Yet about 75 teachers of engineering in two batches are busily learning Sanskrit to help them in research.
The experiment is striking. The Director of Technical Education in Madras, Mt. T. Muthaiyan, believes that knowledge of Sanskrit helps research in engineering. Himself a Sanskrit scholar and with the reputation of being the most successful and effective director of technical education in the whole country, he has set the lectures and post-graduate students exploring the riches of Sanskrit literature for their material purposes.
For, it is a misconception that Sanskrit is all “Spiritual” some of the Hindu systems of philosophy certainly are, like ‘yoga’ and ‘vedanta.’ But there are some others which deal with the material world like ‘Nyaya’, ‘Vaisesika’ and ‘Sankhaya’. These systems contain speculations which make an instant appeal to modern technologists and scientists. Their truths have not been properly understood in the light of modern conditions. It is believed that they are very valuable for technological and scientific research.
Indian engineers certainly owe it to themselves to explore these possibilities. That is the elementary duty of responsible scholarship. All India will look to the successful completion of Mr. Muthaiyan’s experiment with keenness.
This experiment, officially called the ‘fundamental engineering research establishment’ under the auspices of the Madras Engineering College, has been conceived well. The Director believes, and rightly so, that translation is not an effective medium. The riches of Sanskrit should be studied in the original. So, far the first half an hour the class is taught Sanskrit so that it would be able to read the original texts.
For the second half-hour the texts of “Tarka’ and ‘Sankhya’, kept away from the modern inquiring Indian, are studied. Annambhatta, a writer of the sixteenth century, wrote ‘Tarkasangraha’ a small work of fifty lines, but containing the essence of the previous works on the subject. Then a much older author, probably belonging to the centuries before Chirst, Isvara Krishna, formulated the system of “Sankhya” in 72 verses. These are the basic texts that are being taught at the Guindy Class.
It will probably surprise “modernists” who despise everything that is old to learn that what they consider exclusively modern concepts like gas and electricity are mentioned in ancient Sanskrit books. Seven categories of field existence like motion and distance are postulated. It is interesting to realise as one procure further in these studies, that the ancients in our land understand many advanced ideas in technology and science. Not all of our of old were engaged in religion and philosophical speculations.
It is international duty to attempt to assist these ideas unjustly forgotten and ignored and apply them to new India’s progress. Mr. Muthaiyans enthusiasm is well known. The Sanskrit lecturer Mr. S. N. Sriramadesikan combines the gifts of the traditional pandit with the awareness of the modern student. He has earned a name through his airing and lively translations. But his greatest achievement will be when he induces sophisticated engineering lecturers of today to turn to our ancient intellectual treasures in building up modern India. This experiment started in October last year, has already made progress.
Two ways of bridging the gulf between Sanskrit and the Indian vernaculars are writing modern works in Sanskrit and mutual translations. The second is likely to be a potent instrument of integration. Translations have not been attempted often. There are very few scholars who are proficient both in Sanskrit and in the regional language.
Mr. S. N. Sri Rama Desikan, of Madras, is a Sanskrit writer who, because of his advanced and enlightened views, is performing a very valuable service to the language.
Mr. Desikan’s literary vision is wide. A facile linguist, he is steeped in the lore of Sanskrit and Tamil, and also of Telugu, Hindi and English. He knows of modern problems of life and literature. He is not prepared to lose himself in disputes over prosody and grammar, for; he knows that life is larger than the library.
He also knows that Sanskrit must be brought into close contact with the masses. To continue to be a “classical” language, with no touch with the feelings, hopes and aspirations of the common people, is to court extinction.
Mr. Desikan knows the trends of the times. This is the more surprising because his early career was as a “traditional” scholar. His beginnings for his attempt to breathe modern life into Sanskrit were as a student and research scholar.
The highest goal of most such scholars is a Doctorate and perhaps an academic appointment. They spend their lives construing ancient texts and indulging in controversies over comparatively minor issues. Mr. Desikan, however, saw the peril to Sanskrit and forsook this easy life of gentle academic disputation.
Mr. Desikan, is now engaged in a truly revolutionary pursuit. There is much scientific information and knowledge in many ancient Sanskrit works, particularly the systems of philosophy. This knowledge could be used by modern engineers and scientists. To cull it out and present it to the attention of experts is a valuable service not only to Indian science but also to Sanskrit, for it shows, that the language has a very modern bearing and significance. Mr. Desikan was lecturing on this vital subject to the Fundamental Engineering Research Establishment of the College of Engineering in Madras. This profound Sanskrit scholar is also under the spell of English literature. Charles Lamb has fascinated him. It struck him that Sanskrit literature has many stories that could be presented on the model of “Tales from Shakespeare “. He translated into Tamil, versions of seven Sanskrit plays. This book “Seven Drama Stories” has brought Sanskrit into close touch with Tamil. It is a pioneering effort in many ways.
Mr. Desikan has also rendered in Tamil ihe tenth part of the Bhagaatha under the title “Krishna Leela.”
Another way of bringing Sanskrit in tune with modern times is to render works in modern Indian languages into Sanskrit; Mr. Desikan has published about fifteen such renderings. He has ranged over the extensive literatures of the south and chosen those works which are likely to gain by being translated into Sanskrit. Thus he has created a modern segment of an ancient literature.
Mr. Desikans translations have been very successful. Their value has been recognized He undertook a daunting task in 1.943 when he translated ‘ Tiruppavai “, the devotional Tamil poem of Sri andal. This was followed by rendering of “ Tirukhural” and of the soul-stirring poems of Subramania Bharathi. Two other considerable undertakings of his have been translations of Kambar’s Ramayana in Tamil and of “Si1apadihararn “, an ancient Tamil epic.
Telugu too has benefited from Mr. Desikan’s labours. He has translated the songs of Vemana into Tamil and Sanskrit. He is at work on a Sanskrit translation of the well-known Telugu work of Sri Krishnadeva Raya, “Amukiarnalyatha”. Two Sangam classics “Manimekhalai” and “Pathupattu” will shortly appear in Sanskrit from his pen.
The wide range, the difficulties, and the catholicity of these works attract attention. Mr. Desikan rejoices in overcoming obstacles, for his literary strength is as the strength of ten. There are very few Sanskrit writers in India to-day. There is little doubt that Mr. Desikan is among the most productive and influential of them. He has shown how Sanskrit could modernise itself, and be brought upto date. [SPECIAL ARTICLE]
Kamban, the Tamil Poet, it is well known, while adhering to the basic story of ‘his originalS permitted himself some additions and departures. It is these which Mr. Sri Rama Desikan has translated, of course, preserving the continuity of the story.
His enterprise will, therefore, be awaited with more than ordinary interest. He brings unusual competence to his task. He is a scholar in five languages, but it is in Sanskrit and Tamil that his strength lies.,…
He is a born poet, at ease in many languages. Of course, his are not literal translations. They cannot be for he deliberately seems to have chosen varied compositions from ethics to prose to the sublime reaches of mysticism. His concern has been to capture the spirit of the original.
Mr. Sri Rama Desikan owes his mastery to grounding typical of the olden times. He sat at the feet of Sri Uttamur Viraraghavachariar, a great polymath of our times, at the Tirupathi Sanskrit College. He has made the propagation of Sanskrit his life’s work. He has been acting through the South Indian Sanskrit Association for the past fifteen years.
In honouring such an unusual poet and scholar, the people of Madras are only honouring themselves.
Treasure-house of medical information
It is a small rook on the ground floor of the Directorate of Indian Medicine in Annanagar. A compact, but composite team has been at work for the past four and a half years, translating precious Sanskrit works on Ayurveda to Tamil. What appears significant is that the Tamil Nadu Government has commissioned this task to ensure that such valuable literature reaches more people and does not die with Sanskrit.
In the four and a half years, the translation wing has completed three volumes, selecting both the basics and the most essential elements of Ayurveda. Though the emphasis seems to be on medicine, some chapters of surgery have also been included.
Besides making available the treasure-house of Ayurveda medicine for those interested in practicing it at home by themselves, the translations offer textbooks in the B.A.M.S course.
Recognising the need for translating Sanskrit slokas in Tamil, the state Government established the translation wing in February 1983. It had three-year tenure to start with, but this was extended by another three years in 1986.
The Honorary Special Officer of the Wing, Mr. S. N. Sriramadesikan, says that because of the personal interest evinced by the chief minister, Mr. M. G. Ramachandran, all facilities have been made available to the team. With permission from the Government of India too, he visited Pune, several parts of the Himalayas and several states in the country, to meet scholars, identify rare herbs and plants and also take photographs of these specimens.
Rewarding experience: “It has been a tough but rewarding experience. Where the history and explanations for the herbs were available, it was difficult to trace them and get the pictures. Sometimes, we stayed back for several days after unearthing new specimens and then trying to identify them. We have taken the help of natives in these areas, botanists, scholars, linguists, practioners and even those involved in preparation of ayurveda medicines to get detailed information on these specimens,” Mr. Sriramadesikan explains.
Within a year commencing its work, the translation wing came out with its first volume, carrying about 3500 slokas of the Ashtanga Sangraham (Sustrastanam) written by the Budhist exponent, Vaakbatar in the fifth Century A.D.
As Charaka Samhita forms the basis of Ayurveda. One volume dealing with nearly 15,000 slokas was taken up next. And now, the third publication, carrying the second volume of the Charaka slokas is ready for release.
The Special Officer says another volume of Charka Samhita slokas is under translation and another book dealing with Susruta Samhita – Surgery – is also being translated. At least three more volumes are contemplated, though the translation wing has only less than one and a half years left. “The translations till now have cost the Government Rs. 6.5 lakhs. But posterity has been assured of a treasure house of information through them.”
The feedback for the published volumes has been “Very encouraging” they say, reassuring the State Government of the need for such a project. – Staff reporter.
A product of years of comparative study of the original epic in Sanskrit and Kamban’s equally original work on the same theme, Mr. Desikan’s Sanskrit translation is an attempt to enable readers of Sanskrit to have a glimpse of the beauty, originality and soul-stirring appeal of Kamban’s adaptation. Of the 1,396 stanzas of ICamban making up the Balakanda, the translator has selected 450 and rendered them into flowing Sanskrit verse, taking care to include ideas newly introduced by Kamban in his narration and his unique imagery as also the departures he has made from the original, maintaining the story link throughout
Great works such as Kamban’s and Tiruvalluvar’s should be translated into Sanskrit language, to be read, understood and appreciated by scholars in India and Sanskrit lovers elsewhere. [PRESS INTERVIEW]
KAMBA RAMAYANAM IN SANSKRIT
Sri Rama Desikan’s style is easy, unaffected and pleasant. One cannot exaggerate the usefulness of this translation in Sanskrit since it places the great Tamil classic within the reach of people all over the country….
The author deserves the warmest thanks of lovers of Sanskrit all over the country for enabling them to have access to the classics of one of the great classical languages of South India, Tamil, by his facile renderings of works such as the Tirukhu rat and riru/ai’ar. His present venture with the Kainba Ramayanam, one of the mighty works of the greatest medieaval poets of Tamil Nad (12th century) is a very felicitous performance in Sanskrit verse, capturing the picturesque fancy and the scintillating genius of the great Kamban
The English Introduction (pp. 1 to 32) gives a consm pectus of all the 22 Patalas of the Balakanda according to Kamban, bringing out the special and noteworthy features in the description and details in which Kamban diverges from and/or improves upon the original of Valmiki, to suit the exigencies of his adaptation of the great Epic.
“THE INDIAN EXPRESS”
All translations are difficult. Metrical translations are more difficult. Most difficult is the task of translating into Sanskrit verse a Tamil classic like “Kamba Ramayanam” Mr. Sri Rama Desikan has done it in this book. The Sanskrit verses are simple, sonorous and splendid.
Bharathiyar’s works in Sanskrit
The author has performed the very difficult task he has undertaken in translating Bharathiyar’s songs in Sanskrit, in a very able manner in that the translation brings out the spirit of the original poems. The selection of Sanskrit is appropriate in that there is no part of the world in which there are not persons who can understand it. The author has already won appreciation by his translation of other works like Thirukkural and Tiruppavai.
Sri S. N. Sri Rama Desikan, who wields a facile pen in Sanskrit, has already carved out a niche for himself in the world of modern Sanskrit letters by translating tough classics of Tamil literature like the Kural and Tiruppavai and Vemana’s Padayas from Telugu. His present work renders 23 Compositions in Tamil of the illustrious Subramanya Bharathi in different ragas into easy Sanskrit verses reproducing the sentiments of the original in their full vigour and raciness of expression.
The Sanskrit Muse is sure to be gratified by these poetic offerings at her feet by one who appreciates the beauties of two great languages of the motherland.
“THE INDIAN EXPRESS”
The attempt to introduce the great modern poet of Tamil to the scholarly world through the classical language of Sanskrit is appropriate and in keeping with Our traditions.
The Sanskrit rendering is easy and elegant on the whole; it is particularly felicitous in regard to the sweet fantasy. “Gnana Ratham” is in prose, while the rest is in verse.
This venture by the young author may be viewed as a significant contribution to Tamil and Sanskrit and to the integration of our country.
“THE MAIL, MADRAS”
In translating some of the popular poems of Bharatiyar into Sanskrit, Sri Rama Desikan has obviously been inspired by noble sentiments. A work of this kind could have been undertaken only as a labour of love. It is also the most fitting form of tribute that one can pay to the illustrious bard who had his faith anchored deep in Indian culture, the roots of which are embedded in Sanskrit.
Vemana Padyamulu in Sanskrit and Tamil
Mr. Desikan’s attempt in this book, to offer the well- known Telugu Padyas of Vemana in a Sanskrit garb along with renderings in Tamil prose is highly commendable,
Mr. Srirama Desikan will enable the message of Vemana to reach all those who know Samskrit in India and abroad. He has a fine command over Sanskrit and Slokas are perhaps easier to understand than the Telugu Padyas in which occasionally some archaic or local dialectical expressions are used.
…The present work is a laudable attempt to translate into Sanskrit, 380 verses of Vemana under four sections. The translation is free and can be said by and large to be true to the original.
…Mr. Desikan has tried his best to bring into the translation the literary beauty of the original as far as possible. The language of the translated verses is simple and easily understandable even to those whose Sanskrit knowledge is limited. The author deserves our congratulations for presenting this great Telugu poet to the scholars of other languages in the country.
“THE INDIAN EXPRESS”
The Sanskrit verse translation is fluent and faithful and fine. The Tamil translation is in accurate prose.
“Thirukkural” in Sanskrit
Pandit Sri Rama Desikan has a flair for composing in Sanskrit. He has cultivated this gift with zest and as a hobby. The result is he has been able to utilize his scholarly equipment in Sanskrit and Tamil, in the cause of Indian culture, by placing before the Sahrdaya public easy and enjoyable renderings of select classics from Tamil literature into Sanskrit verses. The present rendering covers the Arathupattu in the original Tirukkural of Tiruvalluvar. . .clothing verses in Kural in easy, flowing and crisp ‘anustuph’ verses in Sanskrit which can be readily memorized by boys and girls and even grown-ups, is by no means an easy task. Pandit Desikan deserves high praise for this notable literary service to both Sanskrit and Tamil.
Educationists in our country would be well-advised to exert their influence in seeing that selections from such worthy modern literature in Sanskrit are included in the text-books prescribed for the S. S. C. Examination, in the different States of Bharat. The Madras Government should really set the first example, in respect of this work.
“THE INDIAN EXPRESS”
…The book under review is a translation of the first section, namely, that on ‘Dharma’ which consists of 380 verses or a little less than a third of the whole in Sanskrit ‘anushtuph’ verse (the prevalent type in Valmiki’s Ramayana, and ascribed by tradition to be his own invention). The translation is free and flowing. The Translator sometimes expounds an obscure passage and has accepted the commentary of Paritnelazhakar.
The translation is simple, direct and clear, and is a welcome addition to Valluvar literature.
Thiruvalluvar’s Tirukkural is done in simple ‘anushtuph’ verses which any one with an elementary knowledge of Sanskrit can follow.
EZHU NATAKA KATHAIGAL (Seven Tales in Tamil)
Patterned on the lines of Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, this venture serves the purpose of acquainting the reader with the beauty and verve of the original themes and thereby stimulates an active and lively interest in them.
The style is arresting and so designed as to be well within the easy grasp of the layman.
We have great pleasure in complimenting the author for his service to the cause of Tamil and Sanskrit.
“THE INDIAN EXPRESS”
The present work will enable the Tamil-knowing public to read and appreciate these dramas.
It is refreshing to note that the method adopted in this book is such that the stories are narrated in simple Tamil which is bound to impress the reader.
“THE INDIAN EXPRESS”
TIRUPPAVAI (IN SANSKRIT)
Tiruppaval in Sanskrit prose, is in metrical composition trying to preserve not only the substance but also the metrical form of the original.
The Sanskrit language employed is very simple and easily intelligible. The metres adopted are Sragdhara and Sardula Vikridita.
This translation in Sanskrit verse by the author who is a competent scholar in Sanskrit and Tamil is a welcome addition to the growing literature in the ancient language of this land.
“THE INDIAN EXPESS”
SRI KRISHNA LEELA (IN TAMIL)
..It speaks well of the author’s taste and skill, that, notwithstanding the brief compass of the work, he not only captures the spirit of the original, but also finds room for descriptions of nature and serious reflections in the manner of the Puranic sage. In one or two places, he builds a series of interesting thoughts, based on a single phrase like “born of the desire for wealth” in the original work.
They tell a timeless tale
A POSTING as an engineer in the East India Company brought the 29-year old Britisher, Col. Mackenzie, to Madras in 1782. It also was a wonderful opportunity for him to pursue an avid interest in Oriental studies and the ancient Indian system of Mathematics. And so, for 36 years (till 1816), Mackenzie built up a collection of manuscripts in 14 languages and in 16 different scripts (characters) dealing with history, literature, sociology, culture and religion. Apart from manuscripts, he collected inscriptions, coins and maps from different parts of the country.
After his death in 1821, the East India Company, through the then Governor General, the Marquis of Hastings, obtained the consent of Mackenzie’s wife and, for a price of Rs.10.00, acquired the rare collection, which was divided into three parts. Hastings sent one part to the India House Library, London, another part to the Asiatic Society, Calcutta and the third part to Madras.
Like Mackenzie, Dr. Leyden, another Englishman, travelled as a pilgrim to many parts of India from 1803 to 1811 and gathered manuscripts in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. These were purchased by the East India Company and sent to the India House Library, London. It was through the efforts of Dr. C. P. Brown right from 1837 that the manuscripts were sent to the old Madras Literary Society in 1844. Dr. Brown was a great Telugu scholar and, during his tenure in the ICS, he entrusted his manuscript collection (which was confined to Sanskrit and Telugu manuscripts) to the East India Company. He continued to acquire manuscripts till his return to England in 1850.
The combined collection of Mackenzie, Leyden and Brown, built up from 1800 to 1850, was first entrusted to the Madras Literary Society (1844) and subsequently, to the College Library (1847), which was part of the Office of the Director of Public Instruction. Then in 1869, Prof. Pickford, who was Professor of Sanskrit in the Presidency College, Madras (1869-70) and, who also was the first librarian, began for the first time, to prepare a descriptive catalogue for the collections.
Dr. Gustayottart succeeded him as Professor of Sanskrit and served as part-time Curator from 1872 to 1893. The library later came to be known as the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library. It functioned for a time in Fort St. George, then again in the Museum for some time in 1896 and it was finally transferred to the Madras University Library (first floor) in 1939. In the interim period, during World War II, the collection was temporarily kept in the Venkateswara Oriental Research Institute, Tirupati from 1942 to 1945.
Thus, from small beginnings, the library grew with the addition of more manuscripts, pertaining to revenue administration, brought by the District Collectors. The collection has got further enlarged with the addition of manuscripts either donated by the public or purchased from individuals. It is now the greatest institution in all India.
At present, there are about 66,000 manuscripts written on palm leaf, wood, bark, khadja, parchment, rotograph, bamboo, leather and silk cloth (21,533 paper manuscripts and 44,524 palm-leaf manuscripts) in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Urdu, Arabic, Persian and other languages on a wide range of subjects from literature to politics.
Further, there are about 25,000 printed books in various languages and subjects. There are also about 434 special pieces pertaining to Tamil Nadu (history and geology) collected by Mackenzie, bearing his name. After the formation of linguistic provinces in the Fifties and Sixties, 10,000 manuscripts in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam were transferred to the respective states. There are printed books of Nadi granthas in Tamil in poetic form comprising six volumes one on each of the first six lagnas with elaborate introductions and details. These are indeed a rare treasure.
The descriptive catalogue, begun in 1901, has grown and since 1973, 350 books have been published in various languages and subjects.
Researchers both from India and abroad, derive great benefit, from these invaluable manuscripts, which cannot be found elsewhere.
The library, which was started 187 years ago, has been under the charge of the Director of Public Instruction in different sections- higher education, school education, public library and collegiate education. Finally, in April 1980, the Director of Archaeology took charge of it.
The Government had ordered that the manuscripts be carefully preserved for, if damaged or torn, restoration of these priceless treasures is impossible.
The manuscripts library has been managed by eminent scholars such as Prof. Pickford (1869-70), Prof. Venkatasubha Sastry (1870-71), Prof. R. R. Seshagiri Sasthri (1871-72), Dr. Gustav Hobart (1872- 73), Prof. Mahamahopadyaya and S. Kuppuswami Sasthri (1914-36).
The manuscripts and books are issued to visitors for study or consultation, on request. Permission is accorded to research scholars to study, copy and compare the manuscripts. The library continues to function in the western wing of the first floor of the Madras University Library.
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