Professor A. Dakshinamurthy(1938) is an Indian Presidential Award-winning Tamil scholar, writer, researcher and an English translator of Classical, Medieval and Modern Tamil literature. He is the recipient of 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; the first to receive a Masters 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 with honours in Tamil in the year 1961 from Annamalai University. He received his M. Phil degree (1978) and Doctorate in Tamil (1988) from Madras University, both working on Sangam Literature.
Dakshinamurthy belongs to the rare breed of Tamil Scholars who are also proficient in English. This has stood him in good stead to offer the accurate and faithful English translation of Tamil literary works. He is one of the pioneers in the field of translation of Classical Tamil Literature. Since the 1980s, he has devoted his life to the task of propagating the glory of Tamil literature to the world through translation. Because of his continuous dedicated efforts, he has thus far translated 31 works of Tamil literature into English – 19 Classical Literature, 3 Medieval Literature and 9 Modern Literature.
The ancient body of Tamil work called the Sangam Literature is not easy to understand for the modern readers and at times even for the earnest students of Tamil due to the peculiarities of the language. The poems are full of polysemes, metaphors and similes. The translator should be well conversant with the traditions of the Akam and Puram divisions and should have a sound knowledge of the custom, culture and civilization of the ancient Tamil society to find out appropriate equivalence in the target language.
Dakshinamurthy being a profound Tamil scholar with rich knowledge of classical Tamil and a clear understanding of ancient Tamil culture and its civilisation, he has successfully transferred his long experience spanning over 30 years in studying and teaching of Ancient Tamil literature to the field of translation. By his sustained labour since 1987, he has accomplished complete, dependable, faithful and accurate English translation of 19 ancient Tamil classics. Among them, 13 are Sangam works belonging to the Patinenmelkanakku division and 6 are works belonging to the Patinenkilkanakku division. It is the first time, a single scholar has made this breakthrough in the field of Translation of ancient Tamil classics.
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. This beautiful collection is very difficult to understand because of its complex sentence structures, length and diction. Though many other scholars have attempted to translate selected verses from this anthology in the past, Dr 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 Natrinai. 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. He 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. Until 2012, the published works of Dakshinamurthy contain 5175 metrical lines of Classical poetry.
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.
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/ 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 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, he 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, he worked alongside the management in its efforts to renovate and develop the Tamil Sangam which is of historical importance to the Tamils. He took steps to transform the Sangam into a Higher Tamil Research Centre. He took a special interest in building additional classrooms for students; he created endowments with the help of philanthropists through which special lectures by distinguished scholars were arranged for the benefit of students. He introduced to them the traditional Tamil folk arts like Karakattam and Silambattan by creating training opportunities on campus. He devised appropriate development plans and presented it to the Tamilnadu Government requesting grants for the development of Tamil Sangam which was duly honoured by the Government of Tamilnadu in the later years.
After his retirement, he currently lives is Thanjavur, Tamilnadu and ceaselessly works on the translation and research of Classical Tamil Literature. He labours to spread the greatness of the Classical corpus through special lectures, workshops and seminars organised by educational institutions, universities and literary associations of Tamilnadu He is a regular participant in symposia and conferences presenting various research papers pertaining to the ancient Tamil classics.
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.