Dr R Nagaswamy, the doyen of South Indian archaeology, epigraphy and history, has refuted charges made against him by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief MK Stalin and staunchly defended his position that classical Tamil text Thirukkural had Vedic influences, The New Indian Express reported.
Archaeologist Dr R Nagaswamy's reply to DMK president MK Stalin's charges is as under:
Last week, Stalin, in a statement, strongly objected to the appointment of Nagaswamy as a member of the selection committee for awards of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil for Tamil scholars. He claimed that Nagaswamy had been writing against Tamil language and culture. Stalin accused Nagaswamy of belittling Thirukkural by arguing that the couplets were influenced by the Vedas.
The 87-year-old historian and scholar has had an illustrious history, including spending many decades with the Archaeological Survey of India. Nagaswamy founded the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department and served as its director for 22 years.
In a strongly worded statement, Nagaswamy hit back at Stalin saying, “It is amusing that Stalin says I have belittled Thirukkural by asserting it was rooted in Vedic tradition. This is not just my view, but the views of great scholars before me for the past 1,000 years. Parimelazhagar and other traditional commentators and western scholars ... have said in no equivocal terms that Thirukkural has roots in Vedas.”
Nagaswamy also added that Stalin is clearly unaware of 300 years of Tamil historical studies and has exposed his ignorance of Tamil language among world Tamil scholars.
Nagaswamy quoted several scholars who have acknowledged the Vedic influence on Thirukkural
- Parimelalagar, a13th century Tamil poet and scholar, celebrated for his commentary on the Thirukkural.
- Francis Whyte Ellis, who was the collector of Chennai in early 19th century, established the "Chennai Kalvi SangamKural and was instrumental in getting Kural published in Tamil.
- G.U. Pope, who did the first complete English translation of the Kural and took the text to the western world
- Joseph Beschi (widely known as Vīramāmunivar), an Italian Jesuit priest who translated the Kural in to Latin.
- U.V. Swaminatha Iyer who played a pivotal role in bringing many long-forgotten works of classical Tamil literature to light.
Nagaswamy pointed out that in his work “Tiruvalluvar Nayanar” (1886), Pope pointed out that Thirukkural was influenced by Bhagavad Gita. He also mentioned that Tiruvalluvar used Chandogya Upanishad’s – Tat Tvam Asi.
Nagaswamy also recalled his close relationship with the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and how the latter recognised him on several occasions for his research works.
Nagaswamy also said that he had not received any communication till date about his nomination to the selection committee for awards of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil. He suggested that Stalin revise his appeal to the Government of India to save himself the embarrassment.
Nagaswamy, who was conferred the Padma Bhushan last year, is widely regarded as a guru for a generation of archaeologists in Tamil Nadu. A great field archaeologist, epigraphist, conservator of heritage and a relentless warrior for cultural literacy among Tamils, he has been a prolific writer, producing several scholarly works. Any archaeologist or epigraphist after him, even when he or she differs with him ideologically, acknowledges his influence. His contribution in bringing back the Pathur Nataraja statue won tremendous appreciation.