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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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HomeTamils - a Trans State Nation > One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century > Rev.Father S.Gnanapiragasar

One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century

Rev. Father S. Gnanapiragasar

[Nominated by Dushyanth Gnanapragasam]

" Rev.Father S.Gnanapiragasar, was born on 30th August 1875, in Manipay, Jaffna. His father Rajasingham Swaminathan, a Hindu, was the fifth descendant of Puvirajasingam of Manipay and was Manager of the Velakkai Pillaiyar Temple. His mother Thangamuthu was the eldest daughter of Gardiner Sittampalam, son of Vairamuthu Vldanayar.

Known as Vaithilingam in his early days, he lost his father when he was young; his mother then married Thambimuttu Pillai, a Roman Catholic from Achchuvely. In the changes that ensued, Vaithilingam adopted the Roman Catholic faith and the name of "Gnanapiragasar".

Gnanapiragasar, the youth, studied Book keeping and joined the Railway Telegraph Service. Whilst there, he met Rev. Father Charles, who impressed him so much that he resigned the Railway Service in 1895 and dedicated himself to the service of the Church. He was ordained a Priest on 1st December 1901. and commenced a new chapter in his life.

He went to Nallur in 1904, where he embarked on his new missionary activity with zeal and enthusiasm. Many persons, estimated at about three thousand, were reported to have been converted. In the course of his activity he fell out with the stalwarts of other faiths and long controversies ensued. There were several publications from both sides.

He was a great scholar. His knowledge of Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy were his assets. The study of Jaffna History was one of his special subjects.

The valuable work he did was research regarding the antiquity of the Tamil language. He held the view that Tamil was the earliest human speech and that all other languages were derived from the Tamil language. Philology and Linguistics were his forte. Through these he argued that Indo-European languages were offspring of the Dravidian family, the parent of which is Tamil. Unfortunately, the "Etymological and Comparative Lexicon of the Tamil language", over which he was labouring hard, was never completed.

He collected valuable manuscripts and old coins from many sources and became an authority on these. He contributed several articles on his favourite subjects History and Ethnology, to learned Societies and select Journals.

He produced several publications, some of which are of great historical value. Among his writings, some of them in Tamil, are: Sources of the Yalpana Vaipava Malai., 1935, Forgotten Coinage of the Jaffna Kings, The Kings of Jaffna during the Portuguese period, Yalpana Vaipava Vimosanam (Tamil), Tamils and Ceylon, History of the Catholic Church in Ceylon, Sources for the study of the History of Jaffna, Tamil Culture.

He passed away in 1947."from S.Arumugam's Dictionary of Biography of the Tamils of Ceylon  - published here with permission)

 
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