Dakshinamurthy Ayyaswami (b. 1938) is an eminent Tamil scholar, writer, orator, researcher and a celebrated English translator of ancient, medieval and modern Tamil Literature. He is a renowned Professor of Tamil, with over three decades of collegiate teaching service. He has to his credit, 4 scholarly books in Tamil, and the English translations of 32 Tamil works—20 classical, 3 medieval, 9 modern and nearly 100 research articles in both English and Tamil on Classical Tamil literature, ancient Tamil Culture, grammar, history, place names, the art of translation and more. He is the winner of the Indian Presidential Award for Lifetime Achievement in Classical Tamil – The Tolkappiar Viruthu (2015) for his contribution to the field of Translation of Classical Tamil works.
As an acknowledged authority on the Classical Tamil corpus, especially the Sangam literature, he is also a pioneer in the sphere of complete translations of the same. Driven by his passion to propagate the glory of ancient Tamil literature to the world at large, Dakshinamurthy, since 1980s has devoted his life to the cause of Tamil through translation. Due to his sustained efforts, he accomplished for the very first time the complete, accurate and faithful English translations of 20 Classical Tamil Books—13 Sangam anthologies, 7 Patinenkilkanakku works. The credit of offering the first complete translation of the Akananuru (1999) goes to him; it is his magnum opus. He is the first scholar to offer a faithful English translation of Natrinai in 2001. He is also the first scholar to translate all the six Akam books of the Patinenkilkanakku division into English in 2010.
In addition to translating the Classical Tamil works, he focuses on the translation of medieval and modern Tamil literature also. He is one of the early pioneers who propagated the works of the revolutionary Tamil poet Bharathidasan through translation; he offered the first English translations of the poet’s seven earliest Tamil works.
His first publication, the acclaimed history book in Tamil, “Thamizhar Nagarikamum Panpadum (The history and culture of the Tamils, 1973)” has remained popular among the Tamils for over 44 years and has seen 11 reprints and a second edition. It 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. His scholarly commentary to the Sangam classic, Ainkurunuru bears testimony to his erudition in the classical texts. Several of his research papers, both in Tamil and English are original contributions with ground breaking findings, throwing a new light on aspects of history, culture, language, grammar and literature of the Tamils.
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 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.
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.
At the age of 80, he ceaseless works on the translation and research of Classical Tamil Literature; he currently has 15 Tamil works, both ancient and medieval, awaiting publication.
The Government of Tamilnadu honored him twice—in 1991, with the “Bharathidasan Certificate of Merit” for the book ‘The Poems of Bharathidasan – A Translation” and in 2003, with the prestigious Bharathidasan Award. The Government of India honored him with the Indian President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Classical Tamil, the Tolkappiar Viruthu(2015). He bagged the Thisai-Ettum Translation Award for Kurutokai in 2012, BAPASI’s Kalaignar Porkili Award in 2013, S.R.M University’s G. U. Pope Translation Award for Pattuppaattu in 2017 and several other lifetime achievement awards and titles from institutions, both governmental and private.