Doubts regarding Saivism? Turn to Prof. Selvaganapathy, who has compiled ten volumes on the subject.

Last month when the book, ‘Moovar Thevara Sollagarathi,' by Pulavar Manian was released at a gala function, Prof. R. Selvaganapathy delivered a speech of analytical assessment. Prof. Selvaganapathy's commentary was spell binding and reminded the discerning listener of the late Ki.Va.Ja.'s brilliant oratory. Later, when this writer met Selvaganapathy for a chat, he opened up slowly revealing many facets of his extraordinary Tamil scholarship.

Apart from publishing books and bringing out audio CDs on Tamil and Saivism, Siddhars, religion and literature, through his own Saint Sekkizhar Human Resources Development Trust and Arun Audios, Selvaganapathy has been touring many countries for his regular lectures to the Tamil diaspora in Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and London. While many of his books have seen several prints, ‘Idar Kalaiyum Tiruppathigangal' has been most popular and has seen ten editions so far.

Titles and honours

Nalloor Adheenam of Jaffna has rewarded him with the title, ‘Senthamizh Varidhi,' while the authorities of the Murugan Temple in London honoured him with the title ‘Sivagnana Kalanidhi.' Besides, several organisations have bestowed him with titles and honours for his lectures on Saivism in general and Panniru Tirumurai in particular.

His CDs and MP3s (Tiruvachaka Perurai, 10 hours, Panniru Thirumuraigal with hymns, 30 hours, Kamba Ramayana Perurai with songs, 20 hours, Periyapurana Perurai with intro in English, 52 hours) are heard in more than 40 countries.

For the past five years, he has been giving a 30-minute lecture - ‘Arulae Anandamae' - on Podhigai channel, Tuesdays and Fridays, 6.45-7.15 a.m. Selvaganapathy hails from Mayiladuthurai. He was HOD, Tamil Department, and later principal of the Dharmapuram Adheenam Arts College for over 25 years. His scholarship was recognised by nearly 18 universities, including Durban, Delhi and Osmania.

An M.A, B.Ed., M.Phil. and Ph.D, he recalls with happiness the fact that he won the Rs. 1,000 cash prize for standing first in the Madras University's Tamil Vidwan course in 1965.

But then the focus here is his effort in bringing out ‘Saiva Samaya Kalai Kalanjiam' (An Encyclopedia on Saivism) in ten volumes.

“I began the work on Vinayaka Chaturthi in 2006. I have the support of nearly 200 scholars in this project. The list is very long and includes many well known names in the fields of religion and literature, for instance Professors Arivudainambi, Arivoli, Thi. Rajagopalan, So. Sathiyaseelan, Ma.Ve. Pasupathi and scholars such as Ananda Nataraja Dikshitar, Ooran Adigal, T.N. Ramachandran, Sarada Nambi Arooran, Ghana. Chirsabesan and Thamizharuvi Maniyan. Each is responsible for one subject, for example, the history of Arubathumoovar by Dr. Padmini Kapali Murthy of Chidambaram, Kuravanji literature by G. Mekala, Odhuvarmurthigal by Muthu Kandasami Desikar, journals on Saivism by Aa. Ma. Sami, Kannadasan by Saraswathi Ramanathan, role of Carnatic music in the growth of Saivism by Neyveli Santhanagopalan, Arunagirinathar by Ku.Ve. Balasubramanian,108 Karanas by Sv.Rm. Avudyappan and many more.”

Prof. Selvaganapathy has completed nine volumes of 770 pages each. He has included a brief note on each author in the respective volumes. That he took up Saivism as optional subject during his studies, qualifies him for undertaking this huge project.

In his introductory note, K. Aludiapillai notes: ‘This compendium is perhaps the first of its kind in the 21st century by a galaxy of 190 eminent scholars with Dr. R. Selvaganapathy as the Chief Editor. Such an attempt should be considered not only bold but also ambitious.”

“Among the ten volumes, volume 7 was most challenging” says Selvaganapathy.

“The 800-page Volume 8 on Saiva philosophy could well be the first of its kind,” he adds.

Although references and notes in English at several places have been provided, Selvaganapathy plans to bring out the complete English edition in 2014 and an e-edition later.

“Significantly outstanding pieces of information have been recorded with diligence and are laid out in text boxes. Even a cursory look at the seventh volume would fill the reader with awe and joy. It is extremely difficult to even imagine the kind of effort the editorial team should have put in!” marvels Dr. Sudha Seshayyan. “The mammoth work deserves special appreciation, not only as a trend-setter, but also a major resource back-up for generations to come” she commends.

Prof. Selvaganapathy had a cardiology problem while the compilation and editing was going on and was hospitalised for surgery but he never gave up his life's mission. Many individuals such as Pollachi Mahalingam, MAM Ramaswamy, Justice Natarajan, Karpagam University Vasanthakumar, Ramanathan Palaniappan, P.K. Doraisamy of ARC, and the officials of Madurai Meenakshi temple and Mangadu Kamakshi temple have extended financial help for this monumental work. He acknowledges his wife Pulavar Chandra's support

“Funds have always been a constraint,” says Prof. Selvaganapathy. He has written a letter to the Chief Minister, appealing for her approval to send these volumes when ready, to temples, libraries and educational institutions in Tami Nadu, in return for the government's financial assistance.

Is he contemplating to finish the project by this year and release it on Ganesh Chaturthi day? “I would be glad if that happens!” Selvaganapathy replies with his trademark smile.

Prof. R. Selvaganapathy can be reached at 94440 21113 and his website www.nayanmar.com, www.saivism.co.in.

Savants, servitors and siddhars

A quick glance at “Saiva Samaya Kalai Kalanjiyam:”

Volume 1 deals with Saivism in Tamil Nadu, while the scene at the world-level is discussed in Volume 2 with appropriate notings in English focusing on the evolution and growth of Saivism. The third volume is exclusively on devotional literature, from Thirugnanasambandar to Sekkizhar. The method of rendering the songs, the way it has been set to music and the evolution of a tradition maintained till this day have been graphically described.

While Volume 4 deals with 476 Padal Petra Sthalangal, Volume 5 is devoted to 4,500 temples from the 9th century till date. Volume 6 contains details of great servitors of Lord Siva, including Agasthiyar, Arunagirinathar and 700 great savants. Three hundred Siddhar samadhis of Tamil Nadu have also been enumerated.

Volume 7 talks about divine books on Saivism, in the past 2000 years and Volume 8 Saiva philosophy in 800 pages. The penultimate volume discusses Saiva mutts and organisations that promote Saivism, including great devotees who served in various capacities.

The final volume, number ten, is an alphabetical index for the nine volumes, containing, apart from a detailed comparative study of 40 world religions, publisher's preface, chief editor's remarks, short notes or biographies of authors who served on the editorial board and wrote the foreword.