K.K. Pillay had his primary education in the village school and later joined the English High School at Kottar, Kanyakumari district. After schooling, he joined the Scott Christian College, Nagercoil, when Raw Eastaff and G.H. Marsdan were the Principals, as a student of History for his intermediate course with his optional subjects as Ancient History, Indian History and History of Great Britain.
He completed his Honours degree in history with distinction from Maharaja's Arts College at Trivandrum, when Prof.K.V. Rengaswamy Iyengar and Prof. C.V. Chandrasekaran were the Principals. He started his career as a lecturer at Government Arts College, Kumbakonam, in 1927 and subsequently became the Professor of History at the Presidency College, Madras. In 1946, he received the D. Litt. degree for his historical research publication titled The Suchindrum Temple, for the complilation of which he was motivated and inspired by Kavimani Desikavinayagam Pillay to whom he dedicated the volume. Undoubtedly, the book is a distinct contribution to our knowledge of south Indian history. In 1948, he obtained his D. Phil. degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies of the Oxford University for his work "History of self governance in the Madras Presidency (AD 1882-1918)," under the guidance of Prof. C.H. Philips. Appointed in 1954 as Professor of Indian History in the University of Madras, he became in 1961 Professor of Area Studies in the same University. After retiring from the University, he took up the directorship of the Institute of Traditional Cultures of South and South-East Asia, succeeding Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri. Thus he has had the association with the handling of problems of history and culture for well over half a century.
Dr. K.K. Pillay was one of the pioneers to encourage research in historical studies. His historical research works have paved the way to unearth many historical facts. He reiterated that historians should possess the basic qualities of honesty, sincerity, judiciousness and impartiality, and that a narrow-minded, one-sided and emotional approach towards issues relating to caste, language and regional issues should be strictly avoided. He also had the strong notion that historians should not rely totally on data from stone inscriptions alone to put forth their research findings but should be well-informed about the fields of literature, anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy and politics, to present their research findings in an effective and unbiased manner.
Dr. Pillay has delivered presidential addresses at the Indian History Congress at Jubbalpore, 1970, and at the History Associations at the Madurai Kamaraj, Annamalai and Calicut Universities, the Presidency College, Pachaiyappa's College and the Christian College, Madras.
Besides several books in Tamil on the history and culture of Tamil Nadu, Dr. Pillay has several other publications which include
The Suchindrum Temple O A Social History of the Tamils, Vol. I
South India and Ceylon
History of Local Self Government in the Madras Presidency 1850-1919.
Studies on the History of India with Special Reference to Tamil Nadu.
Dr. Pillai was married to V Saraswati Ammal from Theroor, Kanyakumari District. They had three daughters and one son, Mani.
The eldest daughter, Rajam, pursued her research on the Kanyakumari Temple. She was married to Yogeswaran, a Tamil Professor Sabapathy, their son, is a lecturer at Venkateswara Engineering College, who married Ambika, and has a son named Aswin. Their daughter Rajeswari is married to Mariappan, an Engineer in AUDCO, and they have a son named Manikandan.
Dr. Pillay's second daughter Thangam was married to Perumal of Veerani, Kanyakumari District. They have a son Srinivas married to Kohila, and they have a daughter and a son.
His third daughter, Vimala, was married to Kanniperumal, an Engineer. They have two daughters-Ambujam who is a lecturer at Anna University and is married to Madhusoothana also a professor at Anna University, and Vanitha Vedam who is a sociologist, and married to Madhavan, working at Neyveli Lignite Corporation. The former have two daughters Manu Vaasanthi and Vimala Madhangi. The latter have two sons, Dinesh Damodar and Vimalesh Kannan.
Great as these writers were, their sweeping generalization is unacceptable. Even in respect of the major part of medieval and modern history of countries like India much data have been collected and conclusions formulated. No doubt, there is still much that is unknown or indefinitely and incompletely known. But this, too, has to be explored by assiduous effort; we must remember that many facts unknown some decades ago have since been brought to light. It is important to remember that the progress of archaeology, sociology, linguistics and other studies has disclosed several new facts and ideas.
In respect of known facts deliberate perversion of truth actuated by chauvinism, prejudice and such other reprehensible factors must be cast aside. It is unwarranted to assume that at no time can we reconstruct the true history of many countries of the medieval and modern periods. But it calls for a sustained effort and a balanced outlook.
Equally important is the need for delving deep into the relatively unknown periods of the early history of the various countries. Regarding India, for instance, did we know anything about the marvelous Indus Valley civilization before 1922? We had known only about the Egyptian, Assyrian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Syrian and Chinese civilization, to mention some. But the discovery of the Indus Valley or Harappan, as it is briefly known, culture has revolutionized the history of India and of the world. Thanks to the C-14 Test it has been taken to have flourished between 2500 and 1900 sc. It is important to notice in this connection that very recent excavations in certain sites now in Pakistan throw new light on the extent, and more important, on the date of the Indus Valley civilization. Excavations at Rehman Dheri, 14 miles north of Dera Ismail Khan city, have revealed the amazingly wide extent of the so-called Indus Valley civilization. There appears to have existed a cultural closeness between the northern part of Pakistan, Mundi Gak in Afghanistan, Hissar in Iran and even so far as Namaz Gah and other sites in Soviet Turkemania. Moreover, this discovery establishes the beginning of Rehman Dheri a few hundred years earlier than Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. The first major steps towards urbanization on the Indus plain, as well as the initiation of a proto-literate society, are evident from the recovered material. The date of the rise of Rehman Dheri as a town associated with the Indus civilization is reckoned by experts as about 3200 BC.
Even more arresting is the fact that a factory site believed to have existed at Lewan in North Pakistan about 4000 sc connected with the Indus civilization. The excavators have said that the Lewan factory was used for the manufacture of stone tools of different types, including querns, grinding stones, axes, hammers and ring stones. It may be noted that the relics discovered at Rehman Dheri produced striking jewellery and pottery. Artisans there made beads of gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian, agate, jasper, turquoise, ivory and bone, terracotta and bone ivory bangles. Cultivation of wheat and barley, chillies, mustard and wild oat seeds also seems to have been adopted. It is likely that the area was irrigated by the Comal Tank-Zam River and by the Indus River, which apparently flowed nearer the site then. Thus Rehman Dheri, Lawan and the adjoining places were at once agricultural and industrial; they witnessed a stage of transition from the rural to the urban setting.
Now there raises the question of the identification of the Harappan script; it continues to this day a baffling problem. Fr. Heras thought the language of the Harappan inscriptions was proto-Indian, Proto-Indo-Mediterranean or more specifically Proto-Dravidian, supposed to have been the parent of all the modern Dravidian languages of India.' This has been supported more recently by the Russian and Finnish experts, who, working independently concluded that the language was Dravidian. Moreover, Iravadam Mahadevan has made an intensive study of the script and the words occurring in the Harappan inscriptions and thinks that they represent old Tamil. They are recorded in his "Corpus of Tamil-Brahmi Inscriptions", the product of an intensive study.
But as against these, Dr. S.R. Rao of the Archaeological Survey of India claims that the old Indus Valley script can be deciphered on the basis of its later development. He conducted excavations at Lothal, Rangpur, Rojdi and Prabhas and concluded that in those places the old Indus script has survived and undergone certain modifications between 1900 sc and 1500 sc. The script had become simplified as found from the writing on the pottery in the post-Harappan period similar to that in Lothal, Rojdi and Rangpur which had become simplified and disciplined into an alphabetic system of 21 letters, with only two vowels, of which one was rarely used. According to Dr. S. R. Rao, this late Harappan script is identical with the north Semetic writings of the 18th to 12th centuries sc. It is significant that vestiges of the late Harappan culture have been discovered recently in Andhra Pradesh in painted pottery.
Another interesting fact stated by him is that he read nearly 85 inscriptions in Lothal, Rangpur and other places and from them he found the names of Rishis, Deities, Asuras and Demi-gods and also the names of ordinary individuals, of commodities, of planets and constellations. He added that the names of deities, which later came to be identified with Shiva, Vishnu and other deities were also found. Dr. Rao added that of the nearly 70 words read so far, at least 60 are traceable to the Indo-European group of languages. They showed the transition from the old Indo-Iranian to the Indo-Aryan (Vedic) branches of the Indo-European group.
But he added that a small section of the Harappan population spoke a language not of the Indo-Aryan group but, at the same time, not Dravidian. His contention was that "the phonology and structure of the Harappan script so far deciphered did not suggest any appreciable connection with the Dravidic or so-called Proto-Dravidic group of languages." However, he thinks that the Indus population must have been cosmopolitan in character.
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Emperor & Queen (484)
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