Rare book on Ramanujar republished

‘Ramanuja Vijayam’ by freedom fighter Subramania Siva. -Photo: Special Arrangement

‘Ramanuja Vijayam’ by freedom fighter Subramania Siva. -Photo: Special Arrangement  

The life of Vaishnavite saint and social reformer Ramanujar is in the limelight in the wake of a tele-serial, whose script is penned by DMK leader M. Karunanidhi.

Addressing a public meeting organised in connection with his 91st birthday, Mr. Karunanidhi said Ramanujar was a subject close to the heart of the Dravidian movement. When freedom fighter Va. Ramasamy Iyengar (Va.Ra) made a film on Ramanujar, he roped in Bharthidasan, the poet laureate of the Dravidian movement to pen the lyrics.

But as early as in 1924, freedom fighter Subramania Siva wrote a detailed biography, ‘Ramanuja Vijayam’. The book, out of print for many decades, has been republished by Va.U.Si. Noolagam.

“One of my friends brought to me a copy of the book, resembling a handy Bible. I decided to publish it with a preface from late writer Sujatha, who was well-versed in Vaishnavite literature. As it failed to happen, I went ahead with its publication,” said Ilyabharathi of theVa.U.Si. Noolagam, who also did not have the details about the origin of the book.

“He (Subramania Siva) started writing books on Sankara, Ramanujar  Madhvachariar and others when he was lodged in Tiruchi prison in 1908, serving a 10-year imprisonment for addressing a public meeting against the British rule in Thoothukudi, organised by his friend V.O. Chidambaram Pillai,” said A.R. Venkatachalapathy of the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS.)

Though written in slightly diluted Manipravalam – a mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit – supposedly beyond the comprehension of the layman, Subramania Siva’s book proved to be gripping. A reader familiar with the writing of Kalki Krishnamurthi will certainly find that Subramania Siva’s prose was equally lucid. But a reader who has some grounding in Vaishnavite tradition will appreciate it better. For instance, Subramania Siva used the word ‘poornar’ instead of ‘nambi’. Accordingly, Periya Nambi has been referred to as Maha Poornar, Thiukottiyar Nambi as Kottiyur Poornar, Thirukkachi Nambi as Kanchi Poornar.  

Mr. Venkatachalapathy said Subramania Siva was released in 1912 and he started a magazine ‘Gnanabanu’. “He was afflicted with leprosy during his tenure in jail and in the absence of medicines the disease progressed and at one point he was not even allowed to travel in train. He published ‘Ramanujar’ in 1924,” he said.

Subramania Siva’s book tells the entire history of Vaishnavite religion, beginning with the life of Nammazhawar, Madhurakavi Azhwar, disappearance of Prabandhams, Nadhamuni’s efforts to retrieve all the four thousand hymns from oblivion, the life history of Ramanuajar and his disciples.

Several versions

There is more than one version about the incidents in the life of Ramanujar and Subramania Siva recorded all of them without passing his judgment. He has given more than three versions about Thirukottiyur Nambi teaching Ramanujar and how Ramanujar made the knowledge available to everyone. 

Written in lucid prose by freedom fighter Subramania Siva in 1924, the biography was out of print for decades

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 8:27:47 AM |

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