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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home >Tamils - a Trans State Nation > One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century > Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam

One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century

Sir Ponnamblam Arunachalam
1853 - 1924

[see also Tamil Eelam in 1922 - Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam  and
Professor A. Jeyaratnam Wilson in 'The Contribution of some leading Ceylon Tamils
to the Constitutional and Political Development of Ceylon during the 19th and 20th centuries']


"Sir.Ponnamblam Arunachalam, younger brother of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was the third son of Gate Mudaliyar Ponnambalam and Sellachchi Ammaiyar. He was born in Colombo, on 14th September 1853. He had his early education at the Royal Academy (the present Royal College). He then proceeded to Christ’s College, Cambridge. There he distinguished himself in Classics and Mathematics, winning the Foundation Scholarship and obtaining the Masters degree. Later he was called to the Bar.

He was one of the first Ceylonese to enter the Ceylon Civil Service which he did in 1875. He was appointed Registrar General in 1887. He showed his eminence in all the positions he held. His scientific compilation of the National Census Report in 1911 was a masterpiece. The introductory report contains “the most luminous dissertation on the ethnological, social and economic conditions of the Island”.

On his retirement from the Public Service in 1913, he was Knighted in recognition of his distinguished service to the country. He was also nominated by the Governor to a seat in the Executive Council. He was the first Ceylonese to be elected President of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. As President of the Saiva Paripalana Sahai he took much interest in Hindu Cultural matters. He was the first person to start agitating for a University for Ceylon (one of the Halls of residence at the Peradeniya University was named Arunachalam Hall, in 1951).

His famous speech on “Our Political Needs”, delivered in 1917, under the auspices of the Ceylon National Association, shows his yearning for Ceylon’s political progress. The Ceylon Reform League was founded in May of that year with Sir Arunachalam as Chairman. This led to the formation of the Ceylon National Congress later in 1919. However differences arose, and he withdrew from that institution, for the formation of which he worked hard... He died at Madurai on 9th January 1924, while on a pilgrimage worshipping at the Hindu Temples in South India...

Among his writings are: 

Sketches of Ceylon History; Studies(1906)
A Digest of the Civil Law of Ceylon, Census Report of 1901. 

His Philosophical and Religious contributions have been collected and published later in 1937 with the title Studies and Translations. Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Aiyar in his Foreword writes, 

"the world cannot be sufficiently grateful to Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam for having in his philosophical and religious ‘Studies and Translations’ unlocked these treasures of thought and of language to those wholly or partially unacquainted with the wonders of Tamil thought and Tamil poesy.”

The volume is a veritable treasure in the home. It was out of print for a long time but has since been reprinted and is now available." (excerpts from S.Arumugam's Dictionary of Biography of the Tamils of Ceylon  - published here with permission)

 

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