Oeuvre of Swami Vipulananda (1892-1947)

by Sachi Sri Kantha, December 6, 2012

Swami Vipulananda

Before this year ends its lap, I have to complete this anniversary posting. Year 2012 marks the 120th birth anniversary and 65th death anniversary of Swami Vipulananda (1892-1947). In his relatively short lifespan of 55 years, Swami Vipulananda (hereafter Swami, in short) accomplished more for Tamil studies than ordinary mortals could perform a fraction even when blessed with an additional 25 years.

Though Swami was the first appointed professor in Tamil at the University of Ceylon, his tenure was short and lasted less than five years. He accepted his appointment in 1943, and passed away in 1947 July 20th. Previously, Swami held for a short time the professor in Tamil rank at the Annamalai University (Tamil Nadu), between 1931 January and 1933. Three (K. Kanapathipillai, V. Selvanayagam and S. Vithiananthan) who were students of Swami either in Annamalai University or at University of Ceylon, later became professors in Tamil. As each of these three ploughed their own interests and specialties, to the best of my knowledge, none among the Tamil academics at the universities in Ceylon became Vipulananda scholars in the past fifty years. As such, we can hardly count in one palm, the Vipulananda scholars among Eelam Tamils.

We were blessed to have two (Arul Selvanayagam and V. Sivasubramaniam) as Vipulananda scholars, who were not affiliated to a Sri Lankan university. Among these, it was my fortune to have S. Sivakumaran, the son-in-law of V. Sivasubramaniam, as my schoolmate. Through his kind courtesy, almost 10 years ago, I did receive the four volumes of the ‘Oeuvre of Swami,’ which were published between 1995 and 1999. Sivasubramaniam aiyah (1918-2011), who died last year, served as one of the two co-editors of this ‘Oeuvre of Swami.’ The other co-editor was Vidwan S.E. Kamalanathan. Swami Vipulananthar Centernary Society (Batticaloa) were the publishers of this Oeuvre. The trouble these two co-editors would have undergone in amassing this collection of Swami’s older printed works from journals or magazines that were published since 1914 deserve applause. The very first article contributed by Swami (under his birth name S. Mylvaganam) appeared in the St. Michael’s Annual, Batticaloa in 1914. At that time, Swami would have been 22. A torrent of Swami’s writings began in 1922, and continued until the year of his death. The last prose item, ‘The harp with a Thousand Strings’ appeared in the Ceylon University Review in 1947.

Works of Swami Vipulananda

For the record, I have scanned the content pages of these four volumes serially and present them in a PDF link below. Among the 4 volumes, the first three contain prose material, while the fourth volume contains poetry.

Volume 1: 240 pages and 33 items (7 items in English text). First published in 1995.

Volume 2: 252 pages and 61 items (14 items in English text). First published in 1995.

Volume 3: 325 pages and 33 items (4 items in English text). First published in 1997.

Volume 4: 165 pages and 32 items (4 items in English text). First published in 1999.

Cumulatively these four volumes present 159 items (among which 29 are in English text). The years (1995-1999) these four volumes appeared, fall within the Sri Lankan civil war period. As such, the efforts of all those concerned in bringing these four volumes to print, deserves our applause.

I bring to light some details provided by the co-editors in their introduction to volume 4. In 1951, M. Thirunavukarasu published ‘Vipulananda Adigal’. It contains 8 of Swami’s poems. In 1965, Arul Selvanayagam published Vipulanantha Kavi Malar, in which 26 poems were included. Arul Selvanayagam’s error in adding other authors’ poems as that of Swami’s, deserves careful notice. Among the 4 poems presented in English, we should note that these were Swami’s English translations of other Tamil poets. For instance, ‘The Sacred Hymn of Awakening’ is a translation of Tamil verse of Saint Thondar-Adippodi. The poem ‘In praise of the Divine Name’ is a translation of Tamil verse of Tirumangai Azhvar from Periya Tirumozhi. The poem ‘Ideal of Brahmanhood’ was a translation of Tamil verse of Navaneetha Krishna Bharati. The poem ‘A song offering’ is an English transation from Vivekananda Panchakam’.

Vipulananda Tharisanam 1993 cover

As of now, Swami was the only professor in Tamil (not Tamil professors!) in Sri Lanka, having a degree in physics! As such, it was interesting to see one of Swami’s articles, entitled, ‘The Principle of Relativity’ (Vedanta Kesari, Madras, Nov.1922, pp.254-263), appearing under his birth name Mylvaganam, in volume 1 of his ‘Oeuvre.’ It was a primer on Einstein’s theories of relativity.

Prior to co-editing the ‘Oeuvre of Swami,’ Sivasubramaniam himself published a 196 page biography of his Tamil tutor, with the caption ‘Vipulananda Tharisanam’. In it, he had included many vital details relating to Swami’s life. I have heard from my friend that it was one of the wishes of Sivasubramaniam aiyah that by means of the current technology, all four volumes deserve a reprint as one complete print collection and/or a digital disk, to enrich Swami Vipulananda studies.

Swami Vipulanandan prose & poetry titles

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