George Uglow Pope was born on 24 April 1820 in Prince Edward
Island in Nova Scotia. His family migrated to England when he was an infant.
Even as a child he cultivated many a language. He left for South India in
1839. It was at Sawyerpuram near Tuticorin. "The Student of Tamil" bloomed
into a scholar of Tamil, Sanskrit and Telugu. Pope setup several schools and
taught Latin, English, Hebrew, Mathematics and Philosophy. As he was a
martinet he was always in trouble. Of him Bishop Caldwell said:
"The chief drawback to his success was the severity of his
discipline which led, after a succession of petty rebellions, to his
Pope believed in the theory: "Things have tears". He worked
with the motto: "Conscience within and God above". He completed his
translation of Tirukkural on September 1, 1886. His "Sacred Kural" contains
introduction, grammar, translation, notes, lexicon and concordance. It also
includes the English translation of F.W.Ellis and the Latin Translation of
Fr. Beschi. It is a tome of 436 pages.
He had, by February 1893, translated Naaladiyaar. His magnum
opus, the translation of Tiruvachakam appeared in 1900. Of this he says:
"I date this on my eightieth birthday. I find, by reference,
that my first Tamil lesson was in 1837. This ends, as I suppose a long life
of devotion to Tamil studies. It is not without deep emotion that I thus
bring to a close my life's literary work".
The much coveted Gold Medal of the Royal Asiatic Society was
awarded to him in 1906. He passed away on 12 February 1908.
The services of this great soul to Tamil and Saivism defy reckoning by
weights and measures. In his last days he was a mature Saiva Siddhanti, with
his faith as ever rooted in Chiristianity. He delivered his last sermon on
May 26, 1907.
What he himself felt about it, is
extracted hereinbelow. It
is reproduced from the Light of Truth, Vol. VIII, February 1908, No. 11,
The Soul's Emancipation
[In Sanskrit, Mukti or Moksha]
The Last Message from Rev. Dr. G.U.Pope M.A, DD
In forwarding us a copy of his last Sermon preached in Balliol College
Chapel on May 26,1907, with all best Christmas wishes, Dr.Pope wrote to us
as follows in his Autograph which will interest all Indian lovers of this
old Tamil veteran Scholar and Savant.
26 Walton Bell Road,
Oxford, Dec.25, 1907.
My dear friend,
In the heart of this my last sermon, lie truths that harmonize with all that
is best in Tiruvachagam and Siva-nyanam(Siva-gnana bodham).
I am very old. May the Father bless you and yours.
Ever truly your friend
The best explanation of the Saiva Siddhanta doctrine of Mutti, or the Soul's
final emancipation from embodiment (erlosung von den weltlichen
banden-Seligkeit), is found in the treatise called Siva-piragacam by the
same great sage Umapathi(1.38, &c.) and has been translated(though from a
very imperfect MS.) by Mr. Hoisington(American Oriental Soc. Journal 1854).
This is a commentary on the Siva-gnana-bodham. Mr.J.M.Nallasami, a learned
Saivite of Madras, has recently published a translation of
Siva-gnana-bodham, with valuable notes, which is a most useful compendium.
Ten faulty (or imperfect) theories of this consummation, so devoutly wished
for by all Hindus, are enumerated in these works, or in the commentaries on
(1) There is the bliss aspired to by the Lokayattar ('Worldlings'. This is
simply grosss sensual enjoyment in this world. These heretics are
continually attacked in the Siddhanta books.(see Sarva-darcana-sangraha
(Trubner's Series).) They were atheistic Epicureans, followers of Charvaka
(2) There is the cessation of the five Kandhas. This is the Buddhist
Nirvana, and is always considered by Tamil authors to be mere annihilation.
The South-Indian view of Buddhism is illustrated in Note
(3) The destruction of the three(or eight) qualities is pronounced to be the
final emancipation by some Jains, and by the teachers of the atheistic
Sankhya system. This would reduce the human Soul to the condition of an
unqualified mass, a mere chaos of thought and feeling.
(4) There is the cessation of deeds by mystic wisdom. This is the system of
Prabhakara(Sarva-darcana-Sangraha, p.184). The deeds mentioned are all rites
and services whatsoever. The devotee becomes in this case, so the Saivite
urges, like a mere image of clay or stone.
(5) 'Mukthi' is represented by some Saiva sectaries as consisting in the
removal from the Soul of all impurity as a copper vessel is supposed to be
cleaned from verdigris by the action of mercury. There is a good deal of
abstruse reasoning about the pollution aforesaid. 'Copper is not really in
this sense purified by the removal of the green stain on its surface; the
innate weakness of the metal is in its constant liability to this
defilement. Gold is never coated by such impure matter. Copper will always
be so; it is, as it were, congenital. Now these sectarians preach that, by
the grace of Shivan, the innate corruption of the Soul may be removed, from
which will necessarily follow permanent release from all bonds'. This seems
to resemble very closely the Christian idea of the sanctification of the
souls of men by divine grace infused. The Siddhanta, however, insists upon
it that for ever, even in the emancipated state, the power of defilement,
the potentiality of corruption, remains(i.e. 'Pacam is eternal'). This
corruption cannot, it is true, operate any longer in the emancipated
condition: but it is still there,-dead, unilluminated, the dark part of the
Soul, turned away from the central light, like the unilluminated part of the
moon's orb. Personal identity, and the imperfections necessarily clinging to
a nature eternally finite, are not destroyed even in Mutti.
(6) Another class of Saiva sectaries taught that in emancipation the body
itself is transformed, irradiated with Shivan's light, and rendered
immortal. This system supposed that intimate union with shivan transmuted
rather than sanctified the Soul.
(7) There is then the system of the Vedantis, who taught that the absolute
union of the Soul with the Infinite Wisdom, its commingling with the Divine
spirit, as the air in a jar becomes one with the cirumambient air when the
jar is broken, was Mutti. But here personality is lost.
(8) The doctrine of Palkariyam(followers of Bhaskara) is, that in
emancipation there is an absolute destruction of the human Soul, which is
entirely absorbed in the supreme essence.
(9) There were some Saivities who taught that in emancipation the Soul
acquires mystic miraculous powers; that in fact, the emancipated one is so
made partaker of the divine nature and attributes, that he is able to gain
possession of and exercise miraculous powers, which are called the eight
'Siddhis'. Persons professing to wield such magical powers are not
unfrequently found in India, and there is in them very often a bewildering
mixture of enthusiasm and fraud.
(10) There were also some who taught that in emancipation the Soul becomes,
like a stone, insensible. This stationary, apathetic existence, if existence
it can be called, is the refuge of the Soul from the sufferings and
struggles of embodiment.
In opposition to all these faulty theories, the true doctrine of
emancipation is thus defined: When the Soul, finally set free from the
influence of threefold defilement through the grace of Shivan, obtains
divine wisdom, and so rises to live eternally in the conscious, full
enjoyment of Shivan's presence, in conclusive bliss, this is EMANCIPATION,
according to the Siddhanta philosophy. (See T.A.P.75 in NOTE VI).
A Tamil Student's
Headstone in a Cemetery - I. Shanmuganathan (Nathan)
Former Editor Thinathanthi), 1999
"G. U. Pope's life has captivated me most among the several
blessed Tamil savants I read about. Born an Englishman, this
great personality breathed Tamil and felt like a Tamil. G.
U. Pope was born on 24-4-1820 in a hamlet in Edwards Island
in the Canadian neighborhood. He came to Tamil Nadu as a
Christian missionary in 1839, and lived in the service of
Tamil and very early, he was highly influenced by the
excellence of the Tamil language. He published such great
works as Tholkapiyam. Nannool, and made classical Tamil
easier to English students, while Tamil students could
afford means for a more comprehensive and fruitful study of
the classics. He translated into
English, Thirukkural, Naladiyar, Thiruvasagam, etc.
Thirukkural was translated into other languages before Pope.
English translators did only partial translations. Rev. Pope
deserves the credit for researching and producing a
noteworthy full translation of Thirukkural . He spent a
greater part of his fortune to publish rare Tamil books.
In his Preface to the English Publication of Thirukkural, G.
U. Pope wrote on the excellence of Tamil:
"Tamil is a sophisticated unique language, with a rich
vocabulary. It is the mother of all South Indian languages,
Tamil literature was designed to create high moral
standards, ethical codes and Thirukkural is a great example
of that. It is in a land of people with very high ethical
codes and who nurture human discipline that such moral books
are created and could be created. Thirukkural is as clear as
an unpolluted spring. Yes! Thirukkural, the unique book, has
come to remove the impurities of this world. 'Within a short
time of my learning Tamil, I commenced translating
Thirukkural , for the benefit of Europeans. It took several
years to complete the translation and I offer my gratitude
to God for the final result."
Pope's love for Tamil and Thirukkural is abundantly clear
from such expressions. Pope returned to England in 1882,
having lived in Tamil Nadu for approximately 42 years. He
accepted a Professorship at Oxford University, to teach
Tamil and Telugu.
He received the coveted Gold Medal given once in three years
for meritorious service and to mark the Diamond Jubilee of
Queen Victoria in 1906. He wrote to the editor J. M. Nalla
Samy Pillai of "Siddhantha Deepika" on October 20, 1900,
requesting that after his death, the inscription on his
headstone should be "A Tamil Student" - and at least a
portion of the cost to erect such a headstone should come
with donations from wealthy and influential Tamils."
Pope died on February 11, 1908. Professor Selvakesavaraya
Mudaliyar, of the Tamil Department of Chennai Pachchayappan
College, collected funds according to Pope's last wish and
dispatched to London towards the headstone.
What is happening to the Tombstone? Many of us cherish the
idea of visiting this tombstone if we got a chance to go to
London. M. P. Somasuntharam (Somu) " the well known writer,
All India Radio fame for many years, and the successor to
editor KALKI at "KALKI," was able to locate where Pope was
buried in 1961 and paid his respects.
M. P. Somu wrote in his book 'akkaryc cImy" as follows:
"My several inquiries regarding the exact location of Pope's
tombstone in Oxford from several of my friends in London
came out blank. During my search in a book on Englishmen of
great achievements, I learnt that Pope was buried in the
Saint Sepulcher Cemetery on an old street called Walton in
Oxford. I chose the holiday a Sunday to visit the site.
Young M. Gopalakrishnan accompanied me. We reached Oxford
around 12.00 noon. Finally we reached the Saint Sepulcher
Cemetery, from direction given on our request, only to find
the two gates were locked. It was a great disappointment. We
approached a cigarette vendor across the street for
information. An old lady was taking care of business. She
sensed our sadness from our demeanor, told us with great
affection, "Friends! I sympathize with you. They have closed
the cemetery now. There are 4000 tombstones here and
interment of 12,000 bodies. They have closed this place for
lack of any more burial grounds."
Just imagine my disappointment at such news. "Friends", the
gentle lady advised. I can understand from your sadness, one
of your forefathers is buried here. Do one thing; the
Cemetery caretaker lives at the entrance to the cemetery.
Tell him that you have come to pay respects to one of your
forefathers and see what happens."
We got permission from the caretaker to enter the cemetery,
having spoken thus, "The one sleeping under is not only my
forefather; but also forefather to every Tamil and every
It was not an easy matter to identify Pope's tomb from among
4000 of them. Since the cemetery was not in use, there was
neither a Register nor a list of the tombs. M.
Gopalakrishnan and I went in two directions looking for
Pope's name. The caretaker joined us in the search.The
learned Pope's soul must have taken sympathy with our
Because, from a bush in some remote corner of the cemetery
the caretaker shouted "Pope." We ran to the spot in the
front entrance to the right, below a yew tree, covered with
dense vegetation was a large brush. Under which a marble
slab, once the bush was cleared, showed very faint
inscription. We dipped our handkerchief in the water
Gopalakrishnan fetched in a vessel, and started rubbing the
slab. The following inscription showed very clearly:
"George Uglow Pope D.D. of South India sometime lecturer in
Tamil and Telugu in the University and chaplain of Balliol
College, Oxford, born 24th April 1820. Died 11th February
1908. This stone has been placed here by his family and by
his Tamil friends in South India in loving admiration of his
life long labours in the cause of oriental literature and
I was excited reading these words! It was not Pope's family
alone that erected this tombstone. I read that written
portion that said his friends from South India over and over
again. The mere mention that he was a South Indian and Tamil
donations were also involved in erecting the tombstones are
words that should be engraved gems in Tamil history, don't
you agree? It is on those very words; jungle bush is
spreading now!His wife is buried next to him.
Goplakrishnan and I, on behalf of Tamils, paid our homage to
both while circling the tombs in our typical Tamil fashion.
The caretaker watching us developed a renewed devotion. He
also paid his respects in the Christian tradition.
"My friend! Please do not let the bush spread on this tomb.
This is the tomb of one of our forefathers. There are
thousands of us, his progenies, living in South India.
Future visitors to this site should not go through the same
ordeal we have gone through. From time to time smear with
oil and keep these letters shining. You will be blessed for
your good deed. My fellow countrymen will be grateful." With
these words, we also showed him our appreciation." These are