Professor A. Dakshinamurthy(1938) is an Indian Presidential Award-winning Tamil scholar, writer, researcher and an English translator of Ancient, Medieval and Modern Tamil literature. He is one of the pioneers in the field of complete translation of Sangam works. By his sustained labour since 1987, he has accomplished the complete and faithful English translations of 19 ancient Tamil classics. Among them, 13 are Sangam works, namely Akananuru, Natrinai, Kuruntokai and Pathuppattu belonging to the Patinenmelkanakku division and 6 are Akam works belonging to the Patinenkilkanakku division, namely Karnarpatu, Ainthinai Aimpathu, Ainthinai Ezhupathu, Tinaimozhi Aimpathu, Tinaimalai Nootraimpathu and Kainnilai. It is the first time, a single scholar has made this breakthrough in the field of Translation of ancient Tamil classics. He gave the first complete translation of the Sangam classic, Akananuru. He also gave the first complete translations of the 6 Akam books of Patinenkilkanakku. He is also a pioneer in propagating the works of Bharathidasan through translation. Dakshinamurthy is the author of the highly acclaimed Tamil book on the history and culture of Tamils titled, ‘Thamizhar Nagarikamum Panpadum’
Since the 1980s, he has devoted his life to the task of propagating the glory of Tamil literature to the world through translation. He has thus far translated 31 works of Tamil literature into English: 19 Classical Literature , 3 Medieval Literature and 9 Modern Literature. He is the recipient of the Government of Tamilnadu’s Bharathidasan Award(2003) and the Indian Government’s Presidential Award for lifetime achievement in Classical Tamil – Tolkappiyar Viruthu(2015)
Dakshinamurthy had a humble beginning as the youngest son of a farm couple in a small village called Neduvakottai in Thiruvarur district of Tamilnadu, India. He is the first generation degree holder of his family and the first to receive a Masters degree in his village. He had his initiation and growth in Tamil studies at Annamalai University, Chidambaram under eminent Tamil scholars like Professor T. P. Meenakshisundaran and Mahavidwan Sa. Dhandapani Desikar. He received his B. A (Hons) in Tamil in 1961 and B.Ed in 1962 from the Annamalai University. He received his M. Phil degree (1978) and Doctorate in Tamil (1988) from the Madras University, both working on Sangam Literature.
Dakshinamurthy belongs to the rare breed of profound Tamil Scholars who are also proficient in English. This has stood him in good stead to offer the accurate and dependable English translation of the literary works. He has successfully transferred his long experience spanning over 30 years in studying and teaching of Ancient Tamil literature to the field of translation.
Several of his individual works have their own major significance.
Dakshinamurthy’s magnum opus is the translation of Akananuru, an anthology of four hundred long poems dealing with the love of the ancient Tamils. Though many other scholars have attempted to translate selected verses from this anthology in the past, Prof. Dakshinamurthy gave the first complete faithful English translation of the classic in 1999 (The Akam Four Hundred, 3 volumes, Bharathidasan University, 1999)
His Natrinai translation published in 2001 is the first faithful translation of the anthology (The Narrinai Four Hundred, International Institute of Tamil Studies, 2001), as the earlier work by A. V. Subramaniam happens to be a transcomposition of the work.
His translation of Kuruntokai (Kuruntokai – An Anthology of Classical Tamil Poetry, Vetrichelvi Publishers, 2010) is the second complete translation made available after a span of 31 years in 2007 since the first translation by the duo M. Shanmugham Pillai and David Luden appeared in 1976. It is also considered the first error-free translation of the classic.
Dakshinamurthy is the second scholar to translate all the ten books of Pathuppaattu (Ancient Tamil Classic Pattuppattu in English, Thamizh Academy, SRM University) in the year 2012, after a wide gap of 66 years, since the first work by J.V.Chellaiah appeared in 1946.
Thirukkural and the Naladiyar belonging to the Pathinenkilkkanakku division have always attracted translators since the time of G. U. Pope. The other sixteen books have been almost neglected. In 2010, Professor Dakshinamurthy gave the complete translations of six Akam books of Pathinenkilkkanakku — Karnarpatu, Ainthinai Aimpathu, Ainthinai Elupatu, Tinaimoli Aimpathu, Tinaimalai Nurraimpatu and Kainnilai, for the very first time. (Patinenkilkanakku – Works on Akam theme, Bharathidasan University, 2010)
He has edited the translated texts of Pathuppaattu in favour of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil, after perusing 36 texts available both in verse and prose. It is noteworthy to mention here that a major portion of his works is included in the publication series of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil.
Dakshinamurthy is also a pioneer in propagating the works of Bharathidasan through translation. He has given the first complete translation of seven works by the revolutionary poet Bharathidasan namely, Sancheevi Paruvatthin Saral & Puratchikavi (1990), Irunda Veedu (2001), Nalla Theerppu (2005), Kathala Kadamaya, Kadal Mel Kumizhikal, Thamizhachiyin Katthi (2006)
Apart from his contributions towards popularization of Classical Tamil through translation, he has authored Tamil books on the history and culture of Tamils. “Thamizhar Nagarikamum Panpaadum”, published in 1973, reprinted several times due to its immense popularity, elaborately deals with almost all the aspects of ancient Tamils from the Sangam age up to the modern era. It is a work of cultural anthropology which is followed as either a textbook or a reference book in many universities of Tamilnadu. It is a much sought after book, by candidates appearing for IAS and IPS exams.
‘Sanga Ilakkiyangal Unarthum Manitha Uravugal’, his PhD thesis (1988) published in 2001, reprinted by NCBH in 2016, deeply focuses on all the kinship dealt with in the Sangam classics based on cultural anthropology.
He is the author of two scholarly books of commentaries to Sangam classics, Ainkurunuru and Paripadal (a part) and has published several research papers elaborately dealing with Classical Tamil literature, ancient Tamil Culture, Tamil grammar, history, place names, the art of translation and much more. Several of his articles throw a new light on the subject with groundbreaking findings.
Having served as a teacher for 33 years in various institutions like A.V.C College, Mayiladuthurai, A.V.V.M Sri Pushpam College, Poondi, Tamilnadu, Dakshinamurthy retired in 1996 as the Principal of Senthamil Arts College, Madurai Tamil Sangam, Madurai.
During his tenure as the Principal of the Senthamizh Arts College at Madurai Tamil Sangam, founded at the dawn of the 20th century by Prince Pandithurai Thevar, Dakshinamurthy rigorously worked alongside the management in its efforts to renovate and develop the Sangam which was suffering from financial crisis. He was instrumental in devising the development plans for grants from the Tamilnadu Government which was duly honoured by it in the later years. He took a special interest in constructing classrooms and creating endowments with the help of philanthropists and arranging special lectures by eminent Tamil scholars to inspire and to benefit the students. He introduced to them the traditional Tamil folk arts like Karakattam and Silambattan by creating training opportunities on campus. He transformed the Sangam into a Higher Tamil Research Centre. Dakshinamurthy was successful in attracting the attention of the Tamil world, to the 4th Tamil Sangam of historical importance.
After his retirement from service, Dr. Dakshinamurthy currently lives is Thanjavur, Tamilnadu. He ceaselessly works on the translation and research of Classical Tamil Literature and continues to spread the greatness of the Classical corpus through special lectures, workshops and seminars organised by educational institutions, universities and literary associations of Tamilnadu. His translations of Purananuru, Pathitruppathu, Naladiyar, Thirikadukam, Inna Narpathu, Iniyavai Narpathu, Kalavazhi Narpathu, Naanmanik Kadigai, Thirukkural, Muthollayiram, Vaakundaam Nal Vazhi, Thiruvampaavai and Thiruppavai are awaiting publication.
Professor Dakshinamurthy has won several awards for his contribution to the cause of Tamil. He was awarded the prestigious, “Tolkappiyar Viruthu” for his lifetime achievement in Classical Tamil for the year 2015, by the Honourable President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee on 9th of May, 2017. The Government of Tamilnadu has honoured him twice. He is the winner of the Tamilnadu Government’s Bharathidasan Award(2003), Nalli-Thisai Ettum Translation Award(2012) for translation of Kuruntokai , Kalaignar Porkili Award(2013), G. U. Pope translation award(2017) for translation of Pathuppattu, Kolkatta Tamil Sangam: Sadhanai Tamizhar Award(2014), Tamizhisai Mandram: Thiru.Vi. Ka Award(2012), Tamilnadu Kalai Ilakkiya PeruMandram: Ilakkiya Aalumai(2015) and lifetime-achievement awards from several Tamil Sangams and institutions.
To learn more about him and his works, please go through the various sections of the blog.