Pioneer scholar in Thamil studies
all over the world are indebted to the late Swami Vipulananda of the
Ramakrishna Mission for his pioneering researches in the fields of
Literature, Music and Drama (Iyal, Isai and Nadagam).
He was a Lankan scholar respected and considered a forerunner in many
fields even in Thamilnadu in India. Born in Kaaraitheevu in the
Maddakkalappu (Batticaloa) district as Mylvaganam and excelled in
Mathematics and Physical Sciences. After joining the Ramakrishna Mission
with headquarters in Kolcatta (Calcutta) he turned his life as a savant
scholar excelling in Thamil, Sanskrit, English and other languages.
The focus here is on one of the important aspects of Swami's
contributions made known to the uninitiated and the new generation in
the form of a seminar organized by the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam at 57th
Lane in Wellawatta on February 21, 2010. Dean of the Faculty of
Education, University of Colombo, Prof. S. Santhirasegeram chaired the
academic oriented discourses.
The lectures for most part heavy for of most of those present.
However those benefited enjoyed the arrangement.
The one aspect explored at the seminar was the research undertaken by
the learned Swami in unearthing and reconstructing an ancient musical
instrument used by the ancient Thamilians. The instrument was called
Yaal that resembled the Harp.
Dr Nagalingam Sivayohan, Head of the Physics Department of the
Yaalpaanam (Jaffna) University understandably laboured hard to
reconstruct with illustrations, the methodology employed by Swami
Vipulananda in his Magnum Opus, the Yaal Nool.
Dr V. Maheswaran, Senior lecturer in the Department of Thamil at the
University of Peradeniya introduced the book from the angle of
Thamilolgy. His was also a difficult subject to water down to an
And finally Dr Pramila Gurumoorthy, a Lankan born Professor and Head
of the Department of Indian Musicology at the University of Chennai
(Madras) gave an enchanting talk with intermittent singing in her
Her subject was in relation to the musical aspects of the great work.
Incidentally she is the daughter of a very popular broadcaster in the
1950 s over the then Radio Ceylon. The stylistic newsreader was S.
Cunjitha Paatham and Pramila's mother was the then Head of the education
service of Radio Ceylon, Monie Elias. The musicologist Pramila is an old
girl of St.Bridget's Convent in Colombo.
Fortunately at least one speaker's talk had text that was distributed
among the participants, although the speaker spoke almost extempore in a
clear diction. That helped the listeners follow her points in a lucid
manner. The speaker was Pramila Gurumoorthy.
Main points from her elucidatory
* Swami Vipulananda's long researched book Yaal Nool was published in
1947 with the financial assistance of Chithambaram Chettiar of
Thamilnadu. There are seven sections in the book.
* The Afghans use a musical instrument called Kafir Harp This Harp is
similar to the Vil Yaal used by the ancient Thamilians and an
improvement of the Thamilian Harp is the Kafir Harp (Thomas Alvad in an
article on Kafir Harp published in a magazine called Man in 1954) This
is mentioned in pages 70-71 in a book titled Innisai Yaal by Prof
* Swami Vipulananda quoting Sangam Literature mentions the existence
of PeariYaal, Mahara Yaal, Seeri Yaal, Sengoatti Yaal, and Sakoda Yaal.
Information regarding these can be found in the paintings and sculptures
museums, in London and Cairo
* He provides sketches of these different kinds of Yaals and suggests
comparative studies with the music of other nations.
* Mahara Yaal is a gift to the Thamilians by the Greeks. There are 19
strings attached to this particular kind of Yaal.
* Yaal Nool is a scientific examination of the ancient Thamil musical
instrument and a study of Thamil Music written in the 20th century.
Who is Swami Vipulananda?
Swami Vipulananda studied in Kalmunai and at Methodist Central
College and passed the then Cambridge Junior School in 1906. Then he
joined St. Micheael's College in 1908 and was teaching in the school in
1910. In 1911 he taught at Kalmunai Catholic Mission School. He
underwent training as a teacher at the Government Training College in
Colombo. In 1916 he studied engineering at Government Training College
and obtained a Diploma... In the same year he became the first Pundit
from Lanka to pass out from the Mathurai Thamil Sangam Examination for
In 1920 he taught at St.Patrick's College, Yaalpaanam and obtained
his BSc London degree. He established the Yaalpaanam Ariya Dravida
Bhasha development Sangam and in the following year he was appointed the
Principal of Maanippai Hindu College. Soon after he left for Mylapoor
Ramakrishna Madam in Thamilnadu to become a Swami renouncing the
materialistic world. He was named Prabodha Chaithanya and became the
Editor of Vedanta Kesari (English) and Ramakrishna Vijayam (Thamil)
published by the Mission. He published Ulakiyal Vilakkam written by
Pandithamani Nakrishna Bharathi with a commentary by Vidwan
He was named 'Vipulanandara' in 1924 and he returned to Lanka in
1925. From then to 1947 what Swami Vipulananda did for the country and
Thamil studies deserve a separate article.