Sri La Sri ArumugaNaavalar
(18.12.1822 – 5.12.1879)
Birth and Chidhood
Sri ArumugaNaavalar was the sixth of the eight children of Sri P. Kanthappillai and Srimathi Sivagami. Sri Kanthappillai was a Government Researcher, medical practitioner, author of medical books, Tamil scholar and, a drama artist as well. Naavalar Perumaan’s original name was Arumugam. He was born in Nalloor, in the asterism of Avittam (Wednesday 5th day of the Tamil month of Maarhal(z)i, in the year Chitthirabaanu).
Arumugam learnt the Tamil Language and Literature from great scholars like Sri Subramania Piilai, Sri M.Saravanamuthu and Senathirayar. He learnt English at the Methodist Missionary College. He was well-versed in Sanskrit.
Education: Arumugam worked as a teacher in the Methodist College from 1841 to 1848. He became the respected Tamil teacher of Lord Peter Percival who established the college.
As students with thiruNeeRu on their forehead were not allowed entry in the Missionary schools, from 1845 onwards, Sri Arumugam started classes for all the Saivite children at the platform in front of a house, (thiNNai paLLikkoodam). In 1848 he started Saiva Pirahaasa Vitthiyaasaalai at VaNNaarpaNNai. This school acquired its permanent building in 1951, when one philanthropist Sri A. Arumugam Chettiyar donated a piece of land. The teachers were paid their salaries through the donations of some kind philanthropists. A corresponding school was established, with great efforts of Sri Arumugam, at Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu in 1864. These schools have produced many outstanding scholars.
Religion: Our revered Arumugam used the reading of puraanams at temples, speeches and leaflets as means of spreading Saiva knowledge. He was the one who introduced the reading of puraaNams in Temples. He was an eloquent and impactful speaker. In 1849, the chief of Thirruvaavaduthurai Aadheenam, conferred the title ‘naavalar’ on Arumugam as an acknowledgement of his impressive speeches.
Although Sri Arumugam worked in the Missionay School of Sir Peter Percival, he went to work, dressed as a Saivite. Using his vast knowledge of Saivism and appreciable eloquent power, he stopped the Saivites from being converted to Christianity. He used the experience he gained from the missionaries, to spread the knowledge of Saivism through simplified, effective means of paraphrasing the existing Saiva literature, reading the puraaNaams with explanations (in temples), giving speeches and circulating leaflets with simple explanations. He gave very clear and strong answers to all the accusations and mockery put forth toward Hinduism by the missionaries, through his word of mouth and writings, as well.
If his boss questioned him about working against the norms of the Missinory School, he would answer that he was doing his commitment toward his religion. If he was further pressurized he was ever ready to quit his job. His boss, who was aware of Sri Arumugam’s honesty, intelligence and capability, was hesitant to lose Sri Arumugam’s service. Eventually, Sri Arumugam left his job, much to the grievance of his boss, to fully commit himself to Tamil and Saivism.
ArumugaNaavalar was a man of humanity above all. He never hesitated to appear in a situation where any kind of immediate help was needed.
Publications: In 1849, ArumugaNaavalar brought a printing machine from India and established Vidhyaanupaalana Yandhirasaalai, the first printing office set up by Saivites in Jaffna. As this alone could not meet the needs of Naavalar, he also used the printing facilities available in Chennai. In 70’s, he established a branch of his printing office in Chennai. He published about 60 over books. He brought in print, the existing literature and also his own writings. Some of the books are: Baalapaadam (4 books), SaivaVinaa-vidai (2books), Ilakkana Kotthu, Puraana Vasanam, Padhinoaraam Thirumurai, Pattinatthu Pillaiyaar Paadalhal, etc.
ArumugaNaavalar spent sleepless nights to ensure that his publications were rid of any printing and grammatical error.
ArumugaNaavalar breathed his last on 5.12.1879, in the asterism of Maham of the Tamil month of Kaartthihai. ArumugaNaavalar’s service and contribution to Tamil and Saivism surpass his life span of 57 years. It will not be wrong to say, ‘If ArumugaNaavalar was not born in Jaafna during the Christian Rule, practically all Saivites of Jaffna would have become Christians’. ArumugaNaavalar was a great and effective Movement of his own!