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Updated: June 17, 2010 14:26 IST

Tamil was his homepage

G. Satyamurty
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C.M. Ramachandran Chettiar. Photo:M. Periasamy.
The Hindu C.M. Ramachandran Chettiar. Photo:M. Periasamy.

C.M. Ramachandran Chettiar's contribution to the Tamil literary world is substantial. G. Satyamurty recollects the tremendous work done by this scholar from Coimbatore

There was no activity related to Tamil and religion in Coimbatore for more than five decades that he did not associate himself with. The author of more than 60 published works and many more yet to see the light of the day, C.M. Ramachandran Chettiar's writings included short stories, essays, poems, drama and a book on history. Fondly called “Kovai kizhar”, he was a Tamil encyclopedia. Marudhachala Adigalar of Perur Aadheenam, in his preface to a recent book on Chettiar, authored by C.R. Elangovan, points out that Chettiar's contribution to the literary world was notable.

He was the first to write a history of Kongu Region. His “Siruvar Sivagnanam”, is on Saiva philosophy. His “Idhuvo Engal Kovai” and “Engal Naatuppuram” delineate the culture and lifestyle of Coimbatore. His “Koyil poonaigal”, “Kaaterumai” and “Veeteli” ridicule the foibles of society. Lamentably, a number of his works are still in manuscript form in Perur Tamil Kalloori library.

Elangovan describes him as a historian, epigraphist, excellent litterateur and an administrator of spiritual institutions, and regrets that much of Chettiar's service to Coimbatore and the literary world remains unknown to this day.

Born on Nov 30, 1888, in an affluent family , Chettiar began his education in London Mission School, Coimbatore.

He did his B.A at Presidency College. His love for Tamil was nurtured by U.V. Swaminatha Iyer, affectionately called “Thamizh thatha”, who was a doyen of Tamil literature in the early part of 20{+t}{+h} century.

Chettiar won accolades even as a college student for his speech on “Kamba Ramayanamum , Kandhapuranaum” which he delivered in the presence of Maraimalai Adigal, another savant of the Tamil literary world.

He contributed substantially to the promotion of education—by helping establish schools and libraries. A member of the Chennai Manuscript Centre and also Thanjavur Saraswathi Mahal Library, he was an expert in reading and publishing works written on palm leaves. He headed the District Library Authority, too. He became a member of the Senate of Madras University in 1943 and 1946.

The Kongu factor

His “Kongu Nattu Varalaru” is a well documented book on Kongu Region.

Chettiar recalled the Purananooru poems of Enicheri Mudamosiyar, Kovoorkizhar and Maangudi Marudhanar, and pointed out that Senggundram Kiahzar, Ponmudiyar, Perundhalai Chattanar, Andhikeeranar, Karuvurkadhapillai, Karuvur Perunchathukatthu Boothanar and Karuvur Kosanar all hailed from the Kongu region. He compiled the salient features of literary works of Jains in this region including “Perungadhai”, “Nannool”, “Silappadhikara urai” of Adiyarku Nallar, Kongu Mandala Sadhagam and also “Sadhagam” “Kuravanchi” “Kovai Pillai Thamizh ”.

He became the Secretary of the Kovai Thamizh Sangham founded by his teacher, the Tamil scholar Thiruchittrambalam Pillai, and in his tenure helped publish a number of significant literary works. Apart from inviting great Tamil scholars to Coimbatore, Kovai Kizhar also conducted special examinations in Tamil. Chettiar authored “Kadavul vanakkam”, “Ilaignar padalgal', “Sundararum Kongunaadum”, “Thiruperur Aaraychi”and ”Marudhamalai maanmiyam”. He published a monthly magazine called “Kongu Malar” which became the literary voice of the region between 1934 and 37.It accommodated the history, the litterateurs and the spiritual centres of the Kongu region.

Treasure trove

Elangovan terms “Kongu Malar” a treasure trove of research work. Chettiar was its editor for almost five years. He also edited “Siddhantham”, a magazine brought out by Saiva Siddhantha Samajam of Chennai, from 1947 to 1953.

Another significant contribution was the publication of literary treasures that lay hidden in the palm leaves and old manuscripts. Thus came into being works such as “Chozhan poorva pattayam”, “Kongu desa rasakkal” and “Perur Kovai”.

With the help of the first Union Finance Minister, R.K. Shanmugham Chetty, Chettiar established a Tamil college at the Perur Aadhenam premises in 1953. He became its Principal later and even in his old age, he used to take classes at least once a week.

Tamil giants like Thiru.Vi.Ka., R.P. Sethupillai, Kavimani Desiga Vinayagam Pillai and Gnaniar Swamigal were his good friends. Chettiar was immensely interested in geography, and was awarded Fellowship in the Royal Geographical Society.

Summing up his life, Chettiar said, “I remained always contented and had peace of mind. Though I was not very affluent, neither did I suffer poverty. I earned enough and left it to my offspring to live in peace. I always remained healthy as well.”

He breathed his last on Dec 3, 1969.

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