Dr. A. Dakshinamurthy (b.1938) an eminent professor of Tamil is one of the illustrious students of the renowned Tamil scholar Professor T. P. Meenakshisundaram. He is an alumnus of the Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar, and the Madras University, Chennai. He has to his credit more than 3 decades of collegiate teaching, during which he has earned a reputation as a good teacher. A renowned writer, researcher, editor, orator, commentator, and English translator of Tamil literature, Dakshinamurthy is a man of many parts.
He is an acknowledged authority on the Classical Tamil corpus with a good proficiency in English which has stood him in good stead to offer the accurate and faithful English translations of ancient Tamil Classics. Since the 1980s, driven by his passion to propagate the glory of Tamil literature to the world, he has single-handedly accomplished for the first time, the English translations of 19 classical Tamil works – 13 Sangam anthologies and 6 Patinenkilkanakku books. As one of the pioneers in the field, he has given the first complete translation of the Sangam anthology, Akananuru (1999) and the 6 Akam books of the Patinenkilkanakku division (2010). The Government of India honored him, with the Indian President’s award for lifetime achievement in Classical Tamil, the Tolkappiar Viruthu (2015) in May 2017.
He is one of the pioneers in propagating the works of the revolutionary Tamil poet Bharathidasan through translation. He has given the first English translations of the poets 7 works, for which, the Government of Tamilnadu honored him twice with the certificate of merit (1991) and the Bharathidasan award (2003) in recognition of his contributions.
Early Life And Education
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 received his B. A (Hons) in Tamil in 1961 and B.Ed in 1962 from the Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar. He received his M. Phil degree (1978) and Doctorate in Tamil (1988) from the Madras University, Chennai both working on Sangam Literature.
Translations of Tamil Literature:
Since the 1980s, Dakshinamurthy has devoted his life to the cause of propagating the glory of Tamil literature through translation. As an accomplished translator, thus far, he has given the English translations of 31 Tamil books: 19 Classical works, 3 Medieval works, and 9 Modern works.
Classical Tamil Literature:
He is a pioneer in the field of complete translations 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. Due to his sustained efforts, by 2012, he accomplished the complete, faithful and accurate English translations of 19 ancient Tamil works. This is the first time, that a single scholar has made this breakthrough in the field of complete translations of classical Tamil literature.
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, three volumes, Bharathidasan University, 1999), which merits to be considered his magnum opus.
- He gave the first faithful English translation of 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) It won him the Nalli Thisai-Ettum translation award for the year 2012.
- 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) which bagged him the G. U. Pope Translation award for the year 2017.
- 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. He has perused 36 texts available, both in verse and prose, for this purpose.
Medieval and Modern Tamil Literature:
- He has translated 3 medieval works – Neethivenbha, Abirami Anthathi, and Perumal Tirumozhi into English.
- He has also offered the verse translation of Mahakavi Bharathy’s, Bharathy Sixty Six.
- He 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
Books in Tamil:
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. His scholarly commentary to the Ainkurunuru is a testimony to his erudition in the classical texts (Ainkurunuru, 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 remained immensely popular among the Tamil community for more than 44 years and has been reprinted 12 times. It elaborately deals with almost all the aspects of ancient Tamils from the Sangam age up to the modern era. It is followed as either a textbook or a reference book in many universities of Tamilnadu. It is a much sought after book, by aspiring candidates appearing for IAS and IPS examinations.
‘Sanga Ilakkiyangal Unarthum Manitha Uravugal’, his Ph.D. 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, which are original contributions to Tamilology. It served as a textbook for the students of Tamil in colleges.
Workshops, Seminars and Research papers
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.
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.
After his retirement from service, Dr.Dakshinamurthy currently lives is Thanjavur, Tamilnadu. Even at his advanced age, he ceaselessly works on the translation and the research of Classical Tamil Literature. He continues to spread the greatness of the Classical corpus through research, special lectures, workshops and seminars organized by educational institutions, universities and literary associations of Tamilnadu.
Awards and Honors:
Professor Dakshinamurthy has won several awards and titles 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.
Many institutions, both governmental and private have honored him with titles and awards–he is the winner of the ‘Nalli-Thisai Ettum Translation Award(2012)’ for the translation of Kuruntokai, Kalaignar Porkili Award(2013), ‘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) to name a few.
To learn more about him and his works, please go through the various sections of the blog.