(Last Updated on : 19/01/2013)
Dr U. Ve Swaminatha Iyer was a great poet of South India. He was born in 1885 at Uttamathanapuram. At a young age, he came under the guidance of the great master, Maha Vidhwan Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai.
Under the tutelage of his guru, U. Ve Swaminatha Iyer became a Tamil teacher at the Kumbakonam Government College. He corroborated a keen interest in bringing out the five great epics of Tamil known as the 'Aymperumkaappiyanjjal'. He was regarded as the greatest teacher of teachers. The great poet Bharathi once compared him with the legendary sage Agasthya. Agasthya pioneered the first literary outburst in Tamil and U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer after several millennia was believed to have retrieved the lost leaves of the great Tamil classics. He gave his best effort to bring out all of them but ended revealing only three of them, namely the Jeevaka Chinthamani, the Silappadikaram, and the Manimekalai.
Dr U. Ve Swaminatha Iyer was a Tamil person and the 'Jeevaka Chinthamani' was a Jain classic. So he had to go to the homes of Jains in Kumbakonam to get doubts clarified regarding the meanings. This, he gathered numerous manuscripts and finally published it in 1887. After some time, he also published the other two works of Tamil Academies (Sangams) starting from the anthology called 'Paththup-pattu'. Most of his lifetime was involved in studying the damaged palm leaf manuscripts.
Dr U. Ve Swaminatha Iyer had mastered the art of decoding the ancient Tamil script. In his early periods, he was supported by the Saiva Adheenams such as Thiruvava and Duthurai. The Madras Government honoured him with the title 'Mahamahopadhyaya' in 1932 to give recognition of his services in 1906. At the Madras Presidency College he held senior academic positions in Tamil. He brought out the buried classics of Tamil literature in broad daylight. He edited and published a hundred books on Sangam works, kavyas, Prabbandhas, Sthalapuranas throughout his life. He was a talented writer and his proficiency in Tamil prose is proved by the biography of his master 'Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai Charithram' and his autobiography 'En Charitbram', which was serialised in Kalaimagal.
Dr U. Ve Swaminatha Iyer was lucky to meet the great personalities of his time such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindra Nath Tagore
and the Prince of Wales. He died at an age of 87 years in 1942. The great composer, Bharathi said the name of Dr U. Ve Swaminatha Iyer will remain alive till the Tamil language exists.