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The First Tamil Layman Arumuga Navalar: Protector Of Hinduism in British Ceylon

Over 100 primary and secondary schools were built based on Arumuga Navalar's teaching methods

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Map of Ceylon. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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  • Arumuga Navalar (1822-1879) is considered the first Tamil layman to undertake as his life’s career the intellectual and institutional response of Saivism to Christianity in Sri Lanka and India
  • The title ‘Navalar’ means  ‘one who is learned’ was bestowed upon him by a Saiva monastery in India in 1849
  • He distributed a series of tracts and pamphlets for the public, expounding the principles of Hinduism and answering all criticisms of the missionaries head on

The native traditions and religious knowledge needed reviving and reforming as they had come under a long period of dormancy and decline during the 400 years of colonial rule by various European powers. The 18th and 19th century Tamils in India and Sri Lanka found themselves in the midst of intrusive Protestant Missionary activity and conversions.

The masses of the Hindu faith needed to be schooled to prevent these conversions. Arumuga Navalar (1822-1879) is considered the first Tamil layman to undertake as his life’s career the intellectual and institutional response of Saivism to Christianity in Sri Lanka and India. The Saivite revival in Jaffna, the capital city of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka is dominated by him.

Arumuga Navalar was born in Nallur, Jaffna as Arumugam Pillai. The title ‘Navalar’ means ‘one who is learned’ was bestowed upon him by a Saiva monastery in India in 1849. His father was a Tamil poet and mother, a devout Hindu. He was a student of the Christian missionary school system that assisted in the translation of the King James Bible into Tamil.

He studied at the Jaffna Central College, a Wesleyan mission school and was educated in both the Saivite and Christian traditions but never converted to. He not only prevented large-scale conversions to Protestantism but also founded schools that produced pupils who were well versed in Hinduism and could successfully defend Saivism against Christian charges.

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According to the LankaWeb article, Arumugam started to question Christianity from his early years. He published a comparative study of Christianity and Saivism pointing out the weakness in the argument that Protestant missionaries had used against local Saiva practices in the Morning Star.  He concluded the seminar letter stating that there was no difference between Christianity and Saivism as far as idol worship and temple rituals were concerned, thus admonishing the missionaries for misrepresenting their own religion.

Arumuka Navalar.jpg
Arumuka Navalar Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Using the same techniques adopted by the missionaries to educate and promote their religion, Arumugam wanted to establish Saiva schools in every village, where Hindu education could be imparted in a Hindu environment with the aid of school textbooks specially written for the purpose. He found value in English education and founded the Saivanagala Vidyasalai in 1872 which later became Jaffna Hindu College, the premier Hindu English School in the island.Over 100 primary and secondary schools were built based on his teaching methods and they flourished producing pupils who could also function effectively in a western oriented world.

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Having realised that the Hindus of Jaffna needed a clearer understanding of their religion if they were to stop Christian conversion, Arumuga Navalar decided to provide an authoritative restatement of the Saiva doctrine and a systematic compilation of its ideas. With his efforts, he succeeded in building confidence in Hindus and in their religion which they had previously lacked, says the LankaWeb post.

With the help of the printing press he established in 1849 at Vannarponnai and another in Madras, Arumugam published two texts,  a teachers guide Cüdãmani Nikantu and Saundarya Lahari, a Sanskrit poem geared towards devotion.The  Saiva dusana parihara, (the abolition of the abuse of Saivism) published in 1854, a training manual for the use of Saivas in their opposition to the missionaries had done the maximum damage to the Christian missionaries.

He served as a true hero who took all the necessary steps in protecting the faith of the believers. He even distributed a series of tracts and pamphlets for the public, expounding the principles of Hinduism and answering all criticisms of the missionaries head on. His efforts earned him the respect of the missionaries who admitted that the adroitly anticipated every possible objection and replied them.

– This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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  • AJ Krish

    Leaders and heroes like him are required even now as conversions still carry on.People seem to have forgotten their ideals and have no pride to belong to the oldest living tradition.

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15 Amazing Facts About The Revolutionary Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh is considered to be a legend. Many of his actions are well-known. Even after his death, his inspiring actions continued to stir the desire for freedom.

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Bhagat Singh belonged to Punjab and popularly referred as legendary revolutionary Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh. Wikimedia Commons
Bhagat Singh belonged to Punjab and popularly referred as legendary revolutionary Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh. Wikimedia Commons
  • Bhagat Singh was born on 28 September 1907
  • At a very early age, he got inclined towards socialism and socialist revolutions
  • Bhagat Singh was a very versatile theatre artist

Bhagat Singh stands out to be one of India’s greatest revolutionary freedom fighter who was given the death penalty by the British colonizers. Although he died at a very young age of 23 but his actions inspired the youth of the nation to fight for the nation’s freedom.

Bhagat Singh belonged to Punjab and popularly referred as legendary revolutionary Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh. He was born on 28 September 1907 in the village of Banga, Lyallpur district (now in Pakistan). Bhagat Singh is considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. He inculcated the spirit of martyrdom since his childhood.

Due to the utter influence of Bhagat Singh, Britishers hanged him an hour ahead of the official time. Wikimedia Commons
Due to the utter influence of Bhagat Singh, Britishers hanged him an hour ahead of the official time. Wikimedia Commons

At a very early age, he got inclined towards socialism and socialist revolutions led by Lenin and soon he started to follow and read about them. The leaflet that he threw in the Central Assembly on 9 April 1929, he stated, “It is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas. Great empires crumbled while the ideas survived.”

Also Read: 8 must-read works of Rabindranath Tagore

Take a look at the life of one of the most celebrated Indian freedom fighters.

  1. Bhagat Singh was a great actor in college and a theatre artist. He took part in several plays. The most notable plays he was part of were ‘Rana Pratap’, ‘Samrat Chandragupta’ and ‘Bharata-durdasha’.
  2. When the Jalianwala Bagh incident occurred, Bhagat Singh was in school. He immediately left the school and went straight to the place of the tragedy. He collected the mud of that place which was mixed with the blood of Indians and worshipped the bottle every day. At that time, he was just 12 years old.
  3. In his childhood, Bhagat Singh often talked and wanted to grow guns in the fields, so that he could fight the British and push them back.
  4. Being a kid, he never talked about toys or games. He used to speak about driving out Britishers from India.
  5. The bomb that Bhagat Singh and his associates threw in the Central Assembly, were made of low-grade explosives. They were thrown away from people in the corridors of the building and were only meant to startle and not harm anyone. The British investigation report and forensics details also confirmed this.
  6. Bhagat Singh coined the word “political prisoner” during his stay in prison in 1930. He demanded basic amenities for his comrades in the prison which were even given to British looters and goons in the jail.
  7. ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was the very famous phrase of Bhagat Singh. It fueled the independence vision of the people and later on became the slogan of India’s armed freedom struggle.
  8. Due to the utter influence of Bhagat Singh, Britishers hanged him an hour ahead of the official time. He was then secretly cremated on the banks of the river Sutlej by jail authorities. However, on hearing the news of his execution, thousands of people gathered at the spot of his cremation and took out a procession with his ashes.
  9. When Bhagat Singh was imprisoned in Lahore Jail, he kept a diary with him in which he penned down his fervent thoughts about freedom and revolution.
  10. At the very young age of 14 years, Bhagat Singh took part in a protest against the killing of a large number of unarmed people at Gurudwara Nankana Sahib.
  11. Bhagat Singh debunked Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. After the 1922 Chauri Chaura incident, he joined the Young Revolutionary Movement and began to advocate for the violent methods to overthrow the British Government in India.
  12. To avoid a forced marriage by his family, Bhagat Singh ran away to Kanpur and left a letter, which read, “My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore, there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now.”
  13. When the British police became aware of Singh’s influence on youth, they immediately arrested him on the false pretext of having been involved in a bombing.
  14. After witnessing the Hindu-Muslim riots that broke out after Gandhi disbanded the Non-Cooperation Movement, he began to question religious ideologies of the society. After that point, Singh dropped his religious beliefs. He believed that the religion hinders the revolutionaries’ struggle for independence, and started studying the works of Bakunin, Lenin, Trotsky – all atheist revolutionaries. Later on, Bhagat Singh also wrote an essay titled ‘Why I am an Atheist’ in 1930 in Lahore Central Jail.
  15. Bhagat Singh wrote for Urdu and Punjabi newspapers which used to get published from Amritsar. He also contributed to the publishing of pamphlets by the Naujawan Bharat Sabha that excoriated the British. In his college time, Singh won an essay competition set by the Punjab Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. Bhagat Singh also published a series of articles on anarchism in Kirti and used many pseudonyms such as Balwant, Ranjit and Vidhrohi for publishing his writings.
    ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was the very famous phrase of Bhagat Singh. Wikimedia Commons
    ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was the very famous phrase of Bhagat Singh. Wikimedia Commons

     

    Also Read: 10 Facts You Need To Know About Homi Bhabha

    Bhagat Singh is considered to be a legend. Many of his actions are well-known. His execution ignited the feeling of unity in many people to take up the revolutionary path, playing an important role in India’s freedom struggle. On the other hand, many didn’t agree with his radical approach to attain freedom. Even after his death, his inspiring actions continued to stir the desire for freedom.

    Once Bhagat Singh said, “They may kill me, but they cannot kill my ideas. They can crush my body, but they will not be able to crush my spirit.