An eminent Tamil scholar with an equal proficiency in English; an acknowledged authority on Sangam literature and the Classical Tamil corpus, in general; a pioneer in the field of translation of ancient classical Tamil literature; a prolific writer, a powerful orator and a meticulous researcher on topics of language, literature, history and culture of the Tamils, a commendable commentator of Sangam classics, an award-winning and versatile English translator of ancient classical, medieval and modern Tamil literatures, Dr. A. Dakshinamurthy (born April 10, 1938) is a man of many parts.
He is the author of the highly acclaimed history book in Tamil entitled, “Thamizhar Nagarikamum Panpadum (1973). He is best known for his complete, faithful and accurate English translations of 19 ancient Classical Tamil Literature. He is the first scholar to translate the Sangam classic, Akananuru and the six Akam books of Patinenkilkanakku. He is also famous for propagating the poems of the revolutionary Tamil poet Bharathidasan through translation; he has translated the poet’s 7 popular Tamil works into English for the very first time. He is the recipient of the Indian Presidential Award for Lifetime Achievement in Classical Tamil – The Tolkappiar Viruthu(2015), for his contribution to the propagation of Classical Tamil through translation. He received the ‘Bharathidasan Award(2003) for his service to Tamil from the Government of Tamilnadu, among several other honors.
Since 1980s, Dakshinamurthy has devoted his life to the task of propagating the glory of Tamil literature to the world through translation. As an accomplished translator, thus far, he has given the English translations of 31 Tamil works: 19 Classical Literature, 3 Medieval Literature and 9 Modern Literature.
Classical Tamil Literature:
He is a pioneer in the field of translation of ancient Tamil Classics. 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, he has achieved the rare feat of translating 13 Sangam classics of Patinenmelkanakku division and the 6 Akam books of Patinenkilkanakku division, in their entirety during the period 1999 – 2012. This is the first time that a single scholar has achieved this distinction in the field of complete translations of classical Tamil texts. Several of his individual works have their own major significance:
- He gave the first complete English translation of the Sangam anthology, Akananuru in the year 1999. (The Akam Four Hundred, 3 volumes, Bharathidasan University, 1999)
- He gave the first faithful English translation of another Sangam classic, Natrinai in the year 2001 after a gap of 19 years since the first transcomposition appeared in 1982. (The Narrinai Four Hundred, International Institute of Tamil Studies, 2001)
- His translation of Kuruntokai is the second complete translation made available after a span of 31 years in 2007 since the first translation appeared in 1976. (Kuruntokai – An Anthology of Classical Tamil Poetry, Vetrichelvi Publishers, 2007)
- He is the second scholar to translate all the ten books of Pathuppaattu in the year 2012, after a wide gap of 66 years, since the first work appeared in 1946. (Ancient Tamil Classic Pattuppattu in English, Thamizh Academy, SRM University)
- He was the first scholar to translate all of the six Akam books of Patinenkilkanakku into English in the year 2010. (Patinenkilkanakku – Works on Akam theme, Bharathidasan University, 2010)
- His translations of Purananuru, Ainkurunuru, Pathitruppathu, Naladiyar, Thirikadukam, Inna Narpathu, Iniyavai Narpathu, Kalavazhi Narpathu, Naanmanik Kadigai, Thirukkural, Muthollayiram, Vaakundaam Nal Vazhi, Neethi Saathiram, Thiruvempaavai and Thiruppavai are awaiting publication.
It is noteworthy to mention here that a major portion of his translation works is included in the publication series of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil. He has served as the editor of the volume, “Pattuppattu – Text, Transliteration and Translation In English Verse and Prose”, in favour of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil, after perusing 36 texts available both in verse and prose.
Medieval and Modern Tamil Literature:
His contributions to the field of translation of Tamil works are not confined to the ancient Tamil literature; he also focuses on translating the medieval and modern Tamil Literature.
- He has translated 3 medieval works – Neethivenbha, Abirami Anthathi and Perumal Tirumozhi into English.
- Dakshinamurthy is also a pioneer in propagating the works of Bharathidasan through translation. He gave the first English translations of the poet’s 7 notable works: Sancheevi Paruvatthin Saral & Puratchikavi, Irunda Veedu, Nalla Theerppu, Kathala Kadamaya, Kadal Mel Kumizhikal and Thamizhachiyin Katthi.
- Sahitya Akademi published his English translation of A. S. Gnansampandan’s Sahitya Akademi award-winning Tamil book, ‘Kamban Oru Pudhiya Parvai’ under the title, ‘Kamban – A New Perspective’ in 2013
Apart from his major contributions towards popularization of Tamil literature through translation, he has authored Tamil books on the history and culture of the Tamils and has written two scholarly books of commentaries to Sangam classics – Ainkurunuru and Paripadal (a part) (New Century Book House, 2004)
“Thamizhar Nagarikamum Panpaadum”, the popular history book in Tamil, introduced him to the literary world as a published author in 1973. Since then the book has been reprinted 12 times due to its immense popularity among the Tamil community; 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.
‘Thamizhiyar Chindhanaigal’, published in 2003 is a collection of selected research articles in Tamil.
He has conducted several translation workshops and seminars, and has delivered numerous lectures in educational institutions, universities and literary associations of Tamilnadu on a variety of topics pertaining to Tamil literature, especially the ancient classical Tamil corpus. He has produced several research papers elaborately dealing with Classical Tamil literature and it’s translations, ancient Tamil Culture, Tamil grammar, Tamil history, place names of the Tamil land, the art of translation and much more. Several of his research articles in Tamil and English throw a new light on the subject with groundbreaking findings.
Dakshinamurthy had a very humble beginning as the youngest son of a farm couple in a small village called Neduvakottai in Thiruvarur district of Tamilnadu, India. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college 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.
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. He continues to spread the greatness of the Classical corpus through researches, special lectures, workshops and seminars organised by educational institutions, universities and literary associations of Tamilnadu.
Professor Dakshinamurthy has won several honors and 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 received the “Bharathidasan Certificate of Merit” from the Government of Tamilnadu in 1991 for the book, ‘The Poems of Bharathidasan – A Translation”; he also bagged the Government of Tamilnadu’s prestigious Bharathidasan Award for his service to Tamil in 2003.
Among several other awards, he is the winner of the ‘Nalli-Thisai Ettum Translation Award(2012)’ for the translation of Kuruntokai , Kalaignar Porkili Award(2013) for service to Tamil, ‘G. U. Pope translation award(2017)’ for the 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.