Monday, June 18, 2012
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B. Kolappan the hindu, CHENNAI, May 2, 2012
The meeting of Gurudev from Bengal and the grand old man of Tamil literature in 1926 in Chennai was a historic moment. Not only did Tagore call on U. Ve. Swaminatha Iyer but also penned a poem in praise of his efforts to salvage ancient classical Tamil literary works from palm leaf manuscripts, which Tagore said put Mother Tamil on a higher pedestal.
“The ancient glory of Dravidian country was recorded on palm leaves, and it was known to the world because of you. Like sage Agasthya, you put Mother Tamil on higher pedestal. You adorned the feet of Mother Tamil with the five epics such as Chinthamani and Manimekalai,” thus goes Tagore's poem.
The poem would have gone into oblivion but for the efforts of the late T.N. Senapathy, editor of the now defunct Tamil digest Manjari. Senapathy, who had translated many of Tagore's works from Bengali to Tamil, published the poem in 1990 with a backgrounder in another Tamil magazine, Ilanthamizhan, run by T.V. Meikandar, a retired Tamil teacher at the Presidency College. He also rendered the poem into Tamil.
Senapathy had copied the poem from the original manuscript that was in possession of T.S. Ramaswami Aiyar, a famous Madras lawyer. Tagore was in Madras as a guest of Aiyar, who had informed the poet about the works of Swaminatha Iyer. The Bengali poet, who was also interested in printing palm leaf manuscript, was excited and expressed his willingness to meet him.
But Swaminatha Iyer was away in Tirukazhukundram at the time and his son S. Kalyanasundaram sent a word to his father. He rushed back to Madras where the poet called on him at his residence. The meeting was recorded by Kalyanasundaram in Kumari Malar, another Tamil magazine of yesteryears.
Later writing in Ilanthamizhan, Senapathy said he had a premonition that Tagore should have written something about Swaminatha Iyer and he was proven right when he received an urgent message from T.S. Ramswamy.
“He was on his deathbed. When I met him he asked a relative to give me an envelope, containing a sheet of brittle purple paper. My joy was boundless when I saw the poem penned by Tagore in praise of Swaminatha Iyer. I was allowed to take a copy,” Senapathy had said in his article in Ilanthamizhan.
Prof.Meikandar has now reproduced the article again in another literary magazine, Kavitha Mandalam, on the occasion of the poet's 150 birth anniversary. “Had we not published it in our magazine, the precious poem would have been lost again,” said Prof. Meikandar.
Keywords: Tagore-U. Ve. Swaminatha Iyer meeting