Collected Papers

Tamil Department's [Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupathi] 
Silver Jubilee Commemoration Publication - 1985




Prof KR Srinivasa Aiyengar

Former Vice-Chancellor, Andhra University

My esteemed friend, Prof N Subbu Reddiar, is less than reasonable in asking me to write a Foreword to this Collected Papers, covering the entire field of Tamil Studies, and even overflowing the boundaries so as to mingle in the vast spaces of India reaching up to the Himalayas. I have no credentials to write a Foreword to such a collection as this, 27 learned papers or addresses before academic fraternities, here arranged under 'Religion and Philosophy', 'Language and Literature' and 'History, Education and Culture'. The garner of a life-time devoted to scholarship and teaching, and to the disseminations of Tamil letters and the Vaishnavisim of the Tamil Azhvars (and the later apostles), the collection carries its own stamp of authority, and hardly needs any special commendation from one like me whose knowledge in these areas is no more than peripheral. But the claims of friendship are paramount and besides, having learnt a great deal by reading  this collection of papers, it is a pleasure to record my appreciation and gratitude.

Prof Subbu Reddiar's academic career seems to have spanned the extremities, from the village pial school to the spacious Halls of Sri Venkateswara University. Like me he too had opted for Mathematics-Physics-Chemistry [MPC] at the Intermediate, and Mathematics and Science at the degree course. Then came the decisive shift to Tamil Language and Literature, culminating in his massive PhD dissertation, which has since been published as Religion and Philosophy of Nalayira Divya Prabandham with special reference to Nammalvar, a monumental study of over 900 pages. Dr Subbu Reddiar's earlier training in science, however, hasn't been in vain, for he has been able to press this specialist knowledge into service in his Tamil writings or translations relating to subjects like philosophy, Nuclear Physics and Rockets.

As a teacher too, he has accumulated a body of variegated experience ranging from the Headmastership of the Thuraiyur High school to the Headship of the Department of Tamil Studies in Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati. Scholar, teacher, organising of teaching, savant in Tamil language and literature, disseminator of knowledge about Vaishnava religion and philosophy, and well-informed and animated guide to the hundred hallowed Vaishnava shrines in South India, Prof Subbu Reddiar is a man of many parts, and these facets of his learning and personality stand revealed in the present collection of 27 papers,  which is really a selection from a corpus comprising more than double the number.

The packaging of a collection of papers and addresses that were prepared or delivered over a period of years and on a diversity of subjects raises ticklish problems. A strictly chronological arrangement may have its own justification, but it will have to wink strange bedfellows. Hence the contrived arrangement here under three interlinked sub-headings. But in this sort of collection, it would be wrong to look for a steady progression of an argument or for the dialectical presentation of a problem. Variety, versatility and fecundity have their uses as well as inconveniences. Even so a garner of essays has its own attractions and its own shortcomings. On the other hand, such a collection as this is not meant to be read at a stretch, but dipped into as the occasion arises; and once you start with piece, you may be lured on to another and another, and every time this happens, you will light upon new discoveries.

The Tamil Azhvars [the eleven elected ones from Poigai to Tirumangai, and Andal the woman mystic-singer unparalleled] are Prof Reddiar's perennial subject of discourse, and Nammalvar - understandably enough - is the heart and soul of it all. The 'Four Thousand'' fascinate Reddiar from every angle, and he communicates his fervours, insights, the findings or his research, his reasoned assessments and his comparatist evaluations, to the interested reader also.  No doubt there is some repetition, unavoidable repetition, since there are patches of common grounds between the diverse papers, but happily there are no contradictions. The tenkelai-vadakalai debate among the South Indian Vaishnavites figures in both chapters 2 and 10; tattva, hita and purushartha are discussed in chapter 8 as also10; and Thiruvalluvar figures in all three sections. But the broad clarity of the divisions remains, and teh cumulative thrust of the 27 papers is almost cyclopaedic in the context of Tamil history, literature and culture.

In Ramanuja Vedanta, the God-soul relationship is symbolised in the sesha-seshi, sarira-sariri bhava:

"God is called the Inner self or Soul [sareeri], because as long as they exist, He is .... their support, their controller or Ruler and their master [seshi].... God is said to be the Seshi of all things, because they exist solely for the fulfillment of His purposes. The relationship may be paraphrased as the owner-owned relationship." (p.49)

"What characterises the soul is its relation of liegeship [as creature] to God, the Lord [as creator] = seshatvam". (p.52)

Likewise, in his King of the Castle, Gai Eaton [an English Muslim] explains how the human body is a Castle of the King [i.e., God], and the human soul is only the Viceroy. Man the Viceroy, is for the King's [God's] service, and use, and that is how he becomes a link between Here and Eternity. Once this is grasped, Man will find no satisfaction in serving other Masters, or advancing only his own interests. In society too, and in the nation, the only Ruler, the only Master, is God, and all else - Emperor, Mikado, Raja, Sultan, President, Prime Minister - are but the Viceroys answerable to God the source and home of all.

The 10 or more papers on the Azhvars and their work cover whole range of themes, from the codification of the 'Four thousand'  to the value of weeping in spiritual life, from the 'Four Thousand' as Dravida Veda to Bridal Mysticism in the Azhvars, and from 'Nature Poetry in Azhvars' to the 'Four Thousand' in the relation to the Saiva Tirumurais. Here is one excerpt from the last:

"Sometimes stress is being made on the different aspects of one and the same episode. For instance, the Azhvars emphasise the churning of the ocean and supplying nectar to the Devas by Vishnu and the Saivite saints on the swallowing of all destroying poison produced as a by-product in the churning process and saving the world from destruction by Siva. If the Azhvars revel with the three strides of Vishnu and His Visvaroopa, the Nayanmars lose themselves in Siva's form of the big blaze of fire..." (pp.223-4)

Next in importance to the Azhvars is Tiruvalluvar, who claims a paper in each of the three sections in the volume. Prof Subbu Reddiar classes Tiruvalluvar with Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhava; and, besides, Tiruvalluvar 'represents the true Tamil spirit and is verily the Manu of the Tamil Country' (p.132).  And Tiruvalluvar's life - mission was, simply and all-sufficiently, ' to make a sandron of every individual'. No aim could have been nobler; and none is more needed today.

The other great maker of Tamil literature, Kamban, figures in the essay on the 'Minor Characters in his Ramavataram. There are perceptive comments on Jatayu, Mantharai, Guha, Angada and especially on Neelamalai who doesn't figure in Valmiki.  Thus, for instance, on Guha:

"Guha ferrying Rama across the Ganges makes one amused when one reflects that He who ferries all his creations across life's journey is himself ferried across the waters of the Ganges" (p.247).

'There is no superfluous character', concludes Prof Reddiar, 'and none without a purpose related to the larger epic purpose' (p.249).

There are, then, the scholarly and informative essays on Muttollayiram and Kalingattupparani, on Science Education and Medical References in Ancient Tamil Literature, and a piece on Highlights of Tamil Cultural Influence Abroad. Also of seminal importance is the essay on "One India" in Tamil literature, in which Prof Subbu Reddiar demonstrates with telling citations that "the Kumari-Himalaya combination signifying the integrity of Bharatavarsha is as old as the very commencements of Tamil literature, and any suggestion of a separate Tamil country on Andhra country is as unhistorical as it is dangerously frivolous" (p.281).

In conclusion, there is not a place but has its pointed relevance and value in the context of Prof Reddiar's total aim to project the many-sided richness and integral health of Tamil life, letters and cultures within the wider background of Indian Civilization and culture; and I have not the slightest doubt that this volume, with its every rift loaded with ore, will be received with acclaim and gratitude by a widening circle of readers comprising scholars and 'common readers' alike.


Dated 30 March 1985 @ Madras