The name T. V. Sadasiva Pandarathar is synonymous with some of the time tested historic research works available in Tamil. As a lifetime researcher and lecturer at Annamalai University, Pandarathar produced commendable works on the reigns of ancient south Indian dynasties – apart from numerous research articles on epigraphy and Tamil literature. By nationalising his works recently, the government has paved way for republishing his texts some of which are currently out of print.
Pandarathar was born in 1862 at Thiruppurambiyam, near Kumbakonam. His early years of study happened in his birthplace and later in Kumbakonam. His high school teacher, Pinnathur Narayanaswami Iyer seems to have been a major source of inspiration for developing deep rooted interests in epigraphy, during those early years. The Saakshinatha temple at Thiruppurambiyam, with its rich historic background and inscriptions, provided the much required appetite for Pandarathar’s quest.
After finishing high school studies, Pandarathar passionately took up a study of Tamil grammar and literature under Valampuri Balasubramaniya Pillai. This critical study later on became Pandarathar’s major source of strength in deciphering early inscriptions and Saasanas.
After brief stints in Papanasam Taluk Office and Kumbakonam high school, Pandarathar found a more stable career at vanathurai high school in Kumbakonam wherein he served as a senior Tamil teacher for almost 25 years (1917-1942). The cultural ambiance of Thanjavur district and Kumbakonam in particular was instrumental in keeping the passion of Pandarathar alive and well during this period. He started contributing articles to “Senthamizh”, a monthly journal which featured pandarathar’s writings almost regularly. His first article titled “Chozhan Karikaalan” exhibits a deep sense of understanding history in the light of literature and other contemporary sources; Pandarathar was just 23 when he wrote this article.
His early writings and research received accolades from Tamil scholars like N.M.Venkatasamy Nattar, Karanthai Thamizhvel Umamaheswaran Pillai, LD Swamikkanu Pillai, Thiru.V.Kalyanasundaranar and P.V.Manicka Nayakkar who were working on related fields.
Pandarathar started doing field research by visiting various places in Thanjavur District directly associated with later Chola history. One famous Chola King in particular, caught his attention and Pandarathar devoted his time and energies in understanding the life and times of Kulothunga Chola – I.
When the book “Mudhalam Kulothunga Chozhan” (Kulothunga Chozha – the first) was published in 1930, it at once set the standards for historic research works in Tamil. Dr. U.V. Swaminatha Iyer, the doyen of Tamil literature, offered the following comments on Pandarathar’s first book: “…this book illustrates that it has been written by one who has been studying and researching Silasaasanas and Sangam literature for a long time.”
Those were the days when most research works on South Indian history were published only in English, predominantly by English speaking scholars. Pandarathar wanted to change this situation and sought to bring out quality works in Tamil. Prof V.Rengachariar writes (on book Mudhalam kulothunga chozhan) :”.. It is commendable that the work has been produced in Tamil thereby extending its sphere of usefulness”.
Encouraged by the reception received for his first book, Pandarathar sought to go deeper into the annals of south Indian history and produced two magnum opuses – one on Pandiya history and another on later Chola history.
The latter, titled “Pirkaala Chozhar Sarithiram” – published in three volumes during the years 1949, 1951 and 1961 respectively is a monumental effort to chronographically list and analyze the life and regimes of later Chola Kings who ruled south India for almost two and half centuries. Starting from the birth and political conditions of each regime, Pandarathar goes at length to discuss the key events of the period discussed and complements the discussion with a briefing on all important people associated with the king’s regime like his wives, feudatories, officials and flag bearers. To this day, Pandarathar’s remarkable work on Cholas remains as a standard text on the subject and is seen as his major contribution to the study of south Indian history.
In 1942, Pandarathar was invited by Annamalai Chettiyar to serve in the department of history in Annamalai University – a position he cherished till his very end in 1960. The university published some of his major research works – including the history of later Cholas.
Pandarathar broke new grounds in writing the history of holy places, called the “Thala Varalaaru” books in Tamil. His two works, one on Thiruppurambiyam and another on Cheramadevi, set the standards for writing such books in the light of history and epigraphs rather than fabricated and hearsay stories.
Pandarathar was one of the early scholars who immensely contributed to the study of the history and evolution of Tamil literature. His book on the 13th to 15th century literary sources, commentary on Tholkappiyam’s Paayiram and numerous other research articles are standing examples of his insights on the subject.
Pandarathar will always be remembered as a great Tamil scholar and a historian who invested all his knowledge of Tamil literature and Grammar to unlock the mystical doors of south Indian history.