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Updated: August 17, 2013 18:11 IST

73 year-old to get PhD from Madras University

Vasudha Venugopal
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C. Aravindhavalli will receive her doctorate, on the music of Thirumangai Alvar, on Saturday. Photo: R. Ragu
The Hindu
C. Aravindhavalli will receive her doctorate, on the music of Thirumangai Alvar, on Saturday. Photo: R. Ragu

Aravindhavalli’s research is on the music of Thirumangai Alvar, the last of the 12 Alvar saints of south India

At 73, C. Aravindhavalli’s zest for life is infectious. She has just finished her PhD, and is all set to celebrate it with her grandchildren who are in their twenties.

“They are studying in the US. They are coming here to be with me, to celebrate the fact that their paati has a doctorate now,” she laughed.

On Saturday, at the convocation function of the University of Madras, Ms. Aravindhavalli will be one of the few candidates who will receive their PhDs from Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

Ms. Aravindhavalli, a resident of Triplicane, said, “I married when I was in class IX, and was part of a large, joint family. For many years, I was completely immersed in daily chores.”

Six years ago, when she began to think about re-entering the world of academia, it was not easy. She had completed B.A. in music then. “I had grandchildren to look after and I did not know how it would seem if I attended classes at that age. But then my granddaughter sent me notebooks from Mumbai to encourage me, and I decided to go ahead,” she said.

The septuagenarian attended classes regularly at Queen Mary’s College and finished her M.A. in Vaishnavism. Her guide, K. R. Seethalakshmi, principal, Quaid-E- Millath College for Women recalls, “Her husband came and requested me to convince her to start studying again. But it was easy to get her started as she knew she wanted to focus on the music aspect of the Alvars.”

But then in 2008, Ms. Aravindhavalli’s husband, an LIC agent, passed away, just as she was thinking about beginning her PhD. “It was very difficult convincing her to focus on clearing her registration exam — important because she didn’t have an M.Phil. But she is very hardworking and sincere,” said Prof. Seethalakshmi.

Ms. Aravindhavalli’s research is on the music of Thirumangai Alvar, the last of the 12 Alvar saints of south India, who are known for their affiliation to the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism.

“This has not only helped me overcome my husband’s death but has also made me feel closer to god,” she said.

Aravindhavalli had to give veena recitals as practical performances to finish her PhD. “When I was very young, my mother told me once, never to stop playing the Veena. I am glad I listened to her.”

Her PhD, she said, was a tribute to her father who was a Tamil professor. “This year is his 101st birth anniversary. He has guided many students into finishing their studies. He would be proud of me today.”

“He was a very learned person who also had a very interesting, colourful life. Knowing about the Bhakti cult of that time was like meditation as our family believes follows all vaishnavite traditions, and it made me understand my daily rituals better,” she adds.

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I personally congratulate her for the achievement. She has proved that there is no age for studying.
. She is an example of will power, hard work and perseverance. The younger generation should draw inspiration from her. May God bless her.

from:  Col s K Nair
Posted on: Aug 19, 2013 at 23:27 IST

Mrs. Valli is a great inspiration to all youngsters, she has proven that
hardwork, dedication and attitude donot have any substitutes, this
should me the message to present day younsters

from:  Gopi Krishna Rao
Posted on: Aug 19, 2013 at 19:44 IST

Good job and good show!Venerable Triplicane Mami(Granny!)You have proved
that age is no bar,for quest for knowledge,or academic pursuit.You are an inspiration,for young and old.Your dedication,devotion,dynamism and enthusiasm is marvelous,for the present generation to emulate.May you
live long adding more and more feathers to the cap!It is a fitting honor and tribute for you to receive the PhD from the hands of honorable
Chief Minister Jayalalitha. Pranams..Namaskarams to you.

from:  V.V.Subramanian
Posted on: Aug 19, 2013 at 05:50 IST

My Namaskarams toDr.Vedhavalli Mami. Mami really You r a role model
Very prooud of u Mami.

from:  Ramagurumurthy
Posted on: Aug 18, 2013 at 21:35 IST

Age is just a number. Hearty congratulations to C. Aravindhavalli.

from:  Dr.Cajetan Coelho
Posted on: Aug 18, 2013 at 20:55 IST

Congratulations to Aravindhavalli maami! You have scored a double century - first your doctorate degree and the research on Thirumangai Alvar. I hope you will summarize your work in an article and publish it here in The Hindu.

from:  Murali S
Posted on: Aug 18, 2013 at 07:08 IST

that's an awesome achievement!!
Am dumbstruck now!!
its all her hard work, passionate and dedication towards education.
She is definitely a role model for today's youngsters who are lazy to focus on career.
My best wishes for her. :)

from:  vidhya nagappan
Posted on: Aug 18, 2013 at 04:43 IST

Bravo Maami!!! Stupendous work!! very proud of you. Your deep devotion to acquire PhD should set an example for others. I can't wish but please accept my pranAms...

from:  Paraankusa Desikan Ramaswamy
Posted on: Aug 18, 2013 at 02:27 IST

Congratulations Patti....You are a very great inspirer for all.

from:  Santhosh S
Posted on: Aug 18, 2013 at 01:55 IST

Hi Smt. Aravindhavalli Amma,
We are very proud of you. You have chosen the best subject for your thesis. Congrats and best wishes. Did your ancesters come from the AGRAHARA Mallur near Bangalore. The name of the consort of Lord APRAMEYA- the presiding diety there is ARAVINDAVALLI. These two names are very unique since we don't have another temple anywhere with
APRAMEYA and ARAVINDA VALLI THAYAR as presiding DHIVYA DHAMPATHIS. I come from Mallur and I was just proud and curious.
Sampath Chakraverthy Mallur

from:  Sampath Chakraverthy Mallur
Posted on: Aug 18, 2013 at 01:15 IST

Hearty Congratulations, Madam. You have proved that age is just a number and not a
factor in learning and growing. Music and performing arts has proven to keep one's
mind active, healthy and young with immense benefits. I wish many retirees rekindle
their zest for learning and growing. Learning music has no end and can be pursued
at any age, unlike other forms of arts.

from:  Pradeep
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 23:47 IST

Very amazing reward for a hard working divoing women for wohm age does not matter. WHATA GREAT differene between me and that great women who also with more or less same age but with the same sect and born andliving from the same Triplicane

from:  GopalachariNarasimhan
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 23:45 IST

I am a retired scientist from CECRI,Karaikudi and retired from CECRI
Madras Unit, CSIR complex, Taramani as Scientist-in-charge. I am
really proud Smt. C.Aravindhavalli got her Ph.D from University of
Madras at the age of 73 years. Her concentration and ability helped
her in music to achieve greatness as citizen of India. I am aged 76
and bless her for happy and healthy life. Her children and
grandchildren must follow her footsteps and achieve something great in

Age is not creteria for achieving good in life I wish to thank HINDU
for publishing this news which will surely inspires youngsters to

from:  K.V.Rangaswamy
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 22:22 IST

My Namaskaram and humble compliments to Smt. Aravindhavalli on her achievement. Also, my thanks to her for reminding us about our lofty ideals, traditions and roots. Sarvam Sri Krishnaarpanam.

from:  P.N. Ranganathan
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 21:30 IST

We read about grand old ladies spending their early days in raising
children and grand children setting aside all their talents and the
interest to do something for themselves.They wait for the time to
raise themselves and OH they some how achieve the highest
in one such thing,even when they attain age above 70 or 80.Mrs.YGP
should also be named one of such rare women,getting a Ph.D.
The same thing is not happening at all in the case of men of that age.

from:  T.S.Gopalakrishnant
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 21:21 IST

During my college farewell in 2005, my college professor said us that do
not stop learning in life. At that time, I agreed but I didn't
understood the intensity of the question. Only as years progressed, I
realised, How true it is. And this lady is definitely inspiring. God
bless her with all wealth.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 20:00 IST

Congratulations to Dr. Aravindhavalli...a great honor and an achievement. Best wishes to her and happy graduation from Dr. Parthasarathy and family, Savannah, GA.

from:  Dr. Perry Parthasarathy
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 19:31 IST

First of All, Many congratulations to Dr. Aravindhavalli. You are so
inspiring for most of the women who left her studies just because of
marriage, family engagement. you have proven that age and family
engagement does not matter for doing great in your life.
Solute to your inspiration.

from:  Ratanesh Seth
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 18:31 IST

I know this patti personally. Very good soul. She is the role model for the youngsters. In this age she helps to others.She is really great.
Lakshmi narendran.

from:  Lakshmi
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 18:28 IST

Bakthi has no age, so does the divine music.

from:  karthik
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 18:06 IST

This is a great example for the saying that learning never
Great lady and salutation from one and all.

from:  T Balasubramanian
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 17:53 IST

First of all I wish to convey my wishes for completing Phd in the midst of all troubles. I get inspiration from her to effectively manage time. At present world, we can say lot of excuses but if we have determination defnitely we can achieve. Respected Madam is a Good Example.

from:  Benny Pandian
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 16:47 IST

How inspiring. As I get older, I hope to keep the spirit of learning alive, like yourself.

from:  Mahe
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 16:33 IST

Iam really proud of being a part of this part of the world with amazing people like Dr Aravindavalli.
What an incredible person she is.
The younger generation should emulate her accomplishments
A clear demonstration that age is not an issue .What is important in life is attitude and desire to be worthy of being a person.
I am indeed very proud of this respected senior citizen of my mother land

from:  ramanujam Varadhachari
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 16:13 IST

Sabash....very heartening to read this. A real role model.

from:  Mohan
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 16:03 IST

Great is just a word which is not to the mark for such a great
personality who had proved that we can achieve things irrespective of
age, position..etc.,etc. All you need is the determination. Salute to
the great lady Ms.C. Aravindhavalli.

from:  Sunil Pasupuleti
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 15:48 IST

Kudos on your grit and determination. May your tribes increase.

from:  Venkata Raman Aiyer
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 15:25 IST

What a great achievement!!!I am also trying to get PhD Degree.It is inspiration for me

from:  afzal bijli
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 15:06 IST

Congratulations paatti.. really inspiring...

from:  Balaji Anandapadmanaban Iyer
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 15:02 IST

Bravo grandma! Your feat was awe inspiring to all the generations to come!

from:  Haja Abu Bucker
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 14:39 IST

WOW!! Congratulations paati!!

from:  Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 13:39 IST

Really she is 'mother of inspiration'

Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 13:19 IST

A simple congrats shall not do justice to what this Senior citizen has achieved. Great inspiration.

from:  Suresh Raj Kumar
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 12:13 IST

Namasgaram patti. Really it is an amazing achievement!

Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 12:13 IST

This is an inspirational story. She is a perfect antithesis to those who think and believe that life after 60s, is dull - particularly the middle-class Indian women!

from:  Santosh Nair
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 12:10 IST

Great news !! Hearty congratulations to smt.aravindavalli. She is truely an inspiration to todays generations. Would like to salute her for the wonderful accomplishment. She should continue to teach and dissiminate her knowledge to the students like her father. Once again greetings and goodwishes.

from:  ramki vijayan
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 11:14 IST

What a way to come close to GOD . Hats off to the Human spirit . It
always inspires one to read such positive stories.

from:  P.Muthu kumar
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 11:04 IST

Congrats Paatti. True inspiration !!

from:  Ganesh
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 10:47 IST

Hats off to this lady on her achievement ! Absolutely inspiring!

from:  Latha
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 10:36 IST

Fascinating, inspiring. I just loved this line, which shows what STILL WORKS IN INDIA:
.......The septuagenarian attended classes regularly at Queen Mary’s College and finished
her M.A. in Vaishnavism. Her guide, K. R. Seethalakshmi, principal, Quaid-E- Millath

from:  Rsachi
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 10:34 IST

Kudos to Ms. Aravindavalli on her achievement....age does not wither away her appetite for learning and giving some useful tips to the society...may her tribe increase in the present day where senior citizens complain about harassment or ill-treatment from the younger ones..

from:  K.Krishnakumar
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 10:16 IST

Bravo.If u have Ara vindhai vill u have the way.My namaskaram 2 this great scholar

from:  Rajagopal ramesh
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 10:01 IST

Congrats to the Grand Old Lady--shining star of Vaishnavism. I hope
the University had honored her with an award !

from:  Veevip Sarathy
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 09:38 IST

Congratulations. It is an achievement and the lady can be proud of it.
My best wishes.

from:  Bahu Virupaksha
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 09:28 IST

Good work by the Vaishnavite.It is really surprising to note that in the modern world where the traditions and killed by the younger generation,this old lady is curious to learn traditions.No doubt, her Ph.d will not get her Govt job.But it will give her more peace.I wish her a healthy and long life.

Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 09:07 IST

My pranams to the great grand LADY for her mind blowing efforts. May GOD be with her always.

Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 08:56 IST

Very inspiring

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 08:49 IST

Ur the biggest inspiration I'm my life u loads...

from:  Padmaja madhavan
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 08:48 IST

An inspiration!

from:  Kav
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 08:43 IST

Really great effort...inspiring :)

from:  Shaharban
Posted on: Aug 17, 2013 at 08:32 IST
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