Amuthu Pulavar, veteran of Christian Tamil literature passes away

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 24 February 2010, 14:57 GMT]
Chevalier Dr. S. Adaikalamuthu, Tamil pundit and poet from I’lavaalai, Jaffna, known by his pseudonym Amuthup-pulavar, passed away at the age of 92 in London, Tuesday. Studied classical Tamil at the prestigious Kaaviya Paadasaalai (School of Classics), which was functioning in the Arumuga Navalar School in Jaffna, Amuthup Pulavar was one of the few surviving authors of Christian Tamil literature of the traditional genre. Born in 1918 and beginning his poetic pursuits in 1938, his most known literary work was Madu Maathaa Kaaviyam, a poetic composition on the famous Catholic pilgrim centre at Madu in Mannaar. He was knighted (Chevalier) by the Late Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2004 and in the same year was awarded honorary doctorate by the University of Jaffna.

Early this month he addressed a grand function arranged in London to facilitate him and to release the publication of 1600-paged complete works of him.

Amuthup Pulavar had his early education at St Henry’s of I’lavaalai and at St. Patrick’s of Jaffna. He was trained as a teacher at Kozhumpuththu’rai Teacher Training College. He became a Tamil Pundit, a title conferred by the Education Ministry of Ceylon, after studies at Kaaviya Paadasaalai.

He was a student of late professors Kanapathipillai, Chelvanayagam and Vidynanthan during his diploma days at the University of Peradeniya.

Dr. Adaikalamuthu was the biographer of Nalloor Swamy Gnanapragasar (1975) and was the author of a book on the Origin and Development of Tamil Siddha Ayurveda Medical Practice in Eezham (1983). Both the publications received the Sahitya Academy awards.

In 1984, the retired teacher and school principal residing in I’lavaalai was forced to move to London.

During early 20th century the Kaaviya Paadasaalai in Jaffna, having Chunnaakam Kumaraswamy Pulavar as its presiding teacher, was a prestigious seat for Tamil learning, looked upon with awe even by scholars in Tamil Nadu. It was the first school started by natives of Jaffna to locally confer Tamil Pundit title.

Ananda K Coomaraswamy, U V Saaminaatha Aiyar and the editors of the Madras Tamil Lexicon were some of the admirers of the school and the scholarship it generated in those days.

The school attracted students from all parts of the island. Pulavarma’ni Periyathampip Pillai from Batticaloa was one of its first students passed out in 1902. Pa’ndithama’ni Kanapathippillai was the last student studied under Kumaraswamy Pulavar in 1921.

Dr. Adaikalamuthu was a student of Pa'ndithama'ni Kanapathippillai and Pulavar Ilamuraganar of Navaali (son of Somasundarap pulavar) in traditional norms of Tamil poetry.

After the times of Kumaraswamy pulavar, the education department of the British government and later the governments of Ceylon and Sri Lanka took over examination procedure and conferment of the Pundit title.

The Arumuga Navalar School, the trust of which was running the Kaaviya Paadasaalai, was taken over by the independent government of the island and it is reduced to an intermediary school today. Yet as long as Vidvan Subbaiah Pillai and Seetharama Sastri were alive, the Kaaviya Paadasaalai lingered as a separate entity functioning only in the weekends, coaching students for Pundit examinations even in the late decades of 20th century. We have no idea of its present status.


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