A GIANT AMONG SCHOLARS
Dr.P. S. Subrahmanya Sastri, a rare combination of occidental scientific thinking and oriental orthodox culture was born on 29th July 1890 in a remote village in Tiruchi District. He acquired unequalled mastery of both Sanskrit and Tamil language and literature. He contributed richly to both the languages as could be gathered from his various writings. The 125th Birth Anniversary of this pioneering and prolific writer was celebrated on 29th July 2015.
Sastriar was born in a family of hereditary Sanskrit scholars like Chokkanatha Makhi (17 Cent. A.D.) and Bala Patanjali. As he was not born into a rich family his scholastic life was full of troubles. He passed S.S.L.C. through the Tiruchy National High School, F .A. at St. Joseph' s College and B.A. Mathematics at SPG (later Bishop Heber's) College - all in Tiruchy. He started his professional career as a Mathematics Assistant in the erstwhile Central High School (now Srinivasa Rao Higher Secondary School), Thiruvaiyaru and National High School, Tiruchy.
His sustained enthusiasm for studies made him walk 20 kms daily from Thiruvaiyaru and back to study Sanskrit under Brahmasri Nilakantha Sastri, specialist in grammar and philosophy, residing at Kshetrapalapuram. He also learnt Nyaya and Alankara Sastra from Mm.Prof. S.Kuppuswami Sastri of the Madras Presidency College and Mimamsa from Mm.Chinnaswami Sastri of Benares Hindu University. Taught by such eminent scholars, Sastri passed Sanskrit M.A. in 1914 as a private student. He also passed L.T. through the Teachers' Training College at Saidapet, Madras.
He was appointed Professor of Oriental Studies at SPG college, Tiruchy by Fr.Gardiner in 1917 and served his alma mater till 1926. He then became the Asst. Editor, Tamil Lexicon, University of Madras in which capacity he served till 1932. He was also an editor of the Lexicon for a brief period of one month. He served as Principal, Rajah's College, Thiruvaiyaru between 1932 and 1942 and as the Head of the Department of Sanskrit of the Annamalai University between 1942 - 47.
While teaching Sanskrit, Prof. Sastri had to teach Tamil also. This paved way for his in depth study in both Sanskrit and Tamil specifically their grammars. Prof. Kuppuswami Sastri also taught him the Comparative Philology of Indo Aryan languages. All this along with his experience at the Tamil lexicon office which had galaxy of eminent Oriental scholars like Sri M.Raghava Iyengar, Sri V.M.Gopalakrishnamacharyar and Sri E.S.Varadaraja Iyer gave him inspiration to take up a systematic study of Tamil literature and grammar. With his harmonious combination of Sanskrit and Tamil study and strong footing in Comparative Philology, Prof.P.S.S. Sastri submitted to the University of Madras in 1930, the Ph.D. thesis entitled "History of Grammatical Theories in Tamil and their relation to grammatical literature in Sanskrit" independently without any official supervisor. His dissertation was the first to obtain Ph.D. degree in Tamil awarded by the University of Madras, and was highly praised by all the three European examiners Profs. Jules Bloch (France), R.L.Turner and Dr.L.D.Barnett (both from England). The study carried out by Prof. Sastri was indeed a landmark in India and outside, on matters relating to the history of Tamil Grammatical tradition. This work which established his place securely as the foremost interpreter of the ancient Tamil Grammatical tradition, saw the light of the day, through the issues of the prestigious Journal of Oriental Research (1932-35) and later in the form of the book by the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute (1934, 1997).
The Institute places before the discerning readers the reprint of the Volumes I to VI of Lectures on Patanjali's Mahdbhdsya by Prof.P.S.Subrahmanya Sastri with great joy and pride.
Prof. P.S.S. Sastri was a combination of traditional Sastraic knowledge and analytical modem scholarship. He was equally proficient in Sanskrit and Tamil that he contributed immeasurably to the development of research in both the languages.
A younger contemporary and an ardent student of Prof.S.Kuppuswami Sastri, Prof.P.S.S. Sastri was associated with him in different academic capacities at Chennai, Thiruvaiyaru and Annamalai University. Prof. P.S.S. Sastri was also associated with the Institute founded in memory of his mentor Prof.S. Kuppuswami Sastri in the capacity of a member of the Research Committee from its inception in 1944 - 45 . till his demise in 1978.
It was therefore quite appropriate that the monumental contributions of Prof. P .S.S. Sastri, namely - (i) His thesis " History of Grammatical Theories in Tamil " that threw much light on the evolution of Tamillanguage and its grammar, which brought him the honour of being the first person to be awarded a Ph.D. degree in Tamil by the University of Madras and (ii) The edition of Tolkappiyam with Roman transliteration and with short English commentary, again the first of its kind, were originally published as supplement to the Journal of Oriental Research, Madras started by Mm.Prof. S. Kuppuswami Sastri in 1927. These were later brought out in book form by our Institute in 1934 (History of Grammatical Theories in Tamil), 1930 (Tolkappiyam, Vol.I - Eluttatikaram) and in 1936 (Tolkappiyam, Vol.II - Porulatikaram) and later reprinted in 1997, 1999 and 2002 respectively.
Again, it is in fitness of things that his "Lectures on Patanjali's Mahabhasya" envisaged by him in 14 volumes is getting published through the same Institute.
It is a well known adage in Sanskrit that one should either study the Mahdbhasya or rule over a big kingdom :
The comparison is full of significance. It was this lofty ideal that acted as the incentive to the study of this great commentary in the past and it is the same ideal that is responsible for the continuance of its study up to the present times. To translate the Mahabhdsya is not an easy task. It requires in addition to sound scholarship a good deal of courage, patience and perseverance. Dr.P.S.Subrahmanya Sastri, a versatile scholar possessed these requisite qualities in abundance.
Actually the Lectures on Patanjali's Mahabhasya as Prof.P.S.S.Sastri has titled his book, are as much useful to an advanced scholar as to an undergraduate. Most of the problems connected with the Mahabhasya have been raised and solutions are offered in a satisfactory manner.
Under each sutra just before taking up the bhasya Prof. Sastri has pointed out the topics that would be dealt with in the great commentary. Then giving the original in the Devanagari script itself, he translates the text, passage by passage. With a view to elucidating the obscure points he often adds Notes, mostly based on Kaiyata ' s Pradip a and Nagesabhattas Udyota. Footnotes are also given offering further explanation and showing variance in readings. No greater testimony regarding the usefulness of this work is needed than the following words of the late revered Mm. Prof. S.Kuppuswami Sastriar in his Foreword to the first volume of the book: "The exposition is critical, and accurate as far as it goes and is lucid, easy and quite in conformity with traditional commentaries. A very useful and copious introduction is prefixed to this work and Dr.Sastri has used and reviewed all the available material of importance in thewritings of several modern scholas - Dr. Kielhorn, Dr. Bhandarkar, Dr. Max Muller, Dr. Goldstucker, Dr. Faddegon, Dr. Thieme and Dr. Pawate”. The Index of words occurring in the text of the Bhasya is a welcome addition.
My friend Dr. P. S. Subrahmanya Sastri, M.A., L.T., PH. D., has decided to confer upon me the pleasant and precious privilege of sponsoring, in a short foreword, these lectures in English on the first three ahnikas of Sri Mahabhasya by Bhaqauini Pataiijali. In exercising this privilege. I am happy to say that Dr. Subrahmanya Sastri has had the good fortune of studying the Mahabhaaya under able teachers and has eagerly sought to acquire suitable opportunities for teaching the Mahabhasya through the medium of Sanskrit as well as English to Siromani students and to undergraduates studying for the Sanskrit Honours examination of the Annamalai University. A modern belletrist of the Paramaikiuitin. type in English and Sanskrit would prefer Shakespeare and Kalidasa to the whole of the British Empire if he were asked to choose between the Empire and the works of these great poets. In India, the Vaiyakarana tradition cherishes the oft-repeated saying If a privilege-calculus, similar to the Ananda-calcuius of the Taittiriyopanisad should be worked out by Vaiyakarana traditionists. they would give a scheme in which the opportunity to study and teach the Mahabhasya is on a par with Supreme Sovereignty in a. political sense. Remembering all this. Dr. Subrahmanya Sastri has happily chosen portions of the Mahabhasya for critical exposition through the medium of English in this work which is designed particularly to be of use to undergraduates studying for the Honours Degree examinations in Indian Universities. The exposition is critical and accurate as far as it goes and is lucid, easy and quite in conformity with traditional commentaries. A very useful and copious Introduction is prefixed to this work and Dr. Sastri has used and reviewed all the available material of importance in the writings of several modern scholars- Dr. Kielhorn. Dr. Bhandarkar, Dr. Max-Muller, Dr. Goldstucker, Dr. Faddegon, Dr. Thieme and Dr. Pawate. This work, which is now being published by Dr. P. S. Subrahmanya Sastri, carries with it my prayerful wishes and hearty congratulations in the same way and to the same extent as many other works he has been producing and publishing of late in Sanskrit and in Tamil.
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