Samuel Vedanayagam Pillai

Samuel Vedanayagam Pillai (1826–1889), also known as Mayavaram Vedanayagam Pillai, was an Indian civil servant . Tamil poet, novelist and social worker who is remembered for the authorship of Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram, recognized as the "first modern Tamil novel". The novel reflects Vedanayagam's own ideals of women's liberation and education. Despite his times, he spoke passionately about independence in woman and feminism. He was born and remained a Roman Catholic till his death. Coming from the lineage of Vellalar Pillai known to be a Tamil and also Malayalam speaking high ranking dominant sub-group of the elite caste of landlords called Vellalars. The Vellalars identified with ruling authority and were lords in the predominantly wet-land villages which they controlled. His parents owned a majority part of the land in Thanjavur. His ancestral line now largely remains mostly in Malaysia, India and Singapore. He was survived by his son Samuel A.Pillai who was subsequently survived by his sons Maria Joseph (MJ) Francis Pillai and Maundy Jacob (MJ) Francis Pillai. His last known heritage remains to be Roach Francis Pillai and Michale Pillai His literature is celebrated and still practised by famous poets and theologians worldwide. His work has appeared in many recent Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada movies and songs. His great grandson is the notable music composer and actor Vijay Antony .

Samuel Vedanayagam Pillai

Early lifeEdit

Vedanayagam Pillai was born in Thanjavur on 11 October 1826 to Savarimuthu Pillai and Arockia Mariammal. His father was his first tutor and later he learned Tamil and English under a tutor named Thayagaraja Pillai. On completing his education, Vedanayagam joined the judicial court of Trichinopoly as record keeper and soon was elevated as a translator. He learnt Sanskrit, French and Latin during his tenure and then cleared his law exams.

Literary worksEdit

He became the District Muncif of Mayuram (presently Mayiladuthurai) and served there for 13 years. Vedanayagam showed a passion for writing from early age. He translated law books to Tamil and his ethical book called Neethi Nool was well accepted. In total he wrote 16 books of which Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram is regarded as the first Tamil Novel. The novel reflects Vedanaygam's own ideals of women's liberation and education.

Carnatic musicEdit

Vedanayagam's contribution to carnatic music is immense. His songs are still a popular choice among singers in concerts. One can find a profusion of Sanskrit words in his Tamil compositions. On the lines of Tyagaraja's "Nidhichala sukhama" he wrote "Manam Peridha, Varumanam Peridha?" Some of the popular songs of Pillai are ``Naale Nalla Nall," ``Nee Malaikkade Nenje," ``Tharunam, tharunam... People like Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai and Ramalinga Swamigal were admirers of his works.

One of his compositions Nayagar Pakshamadi, (a ragamaliga - Saama / Shanmugapriya / kedara gowla) was included for a dance scene in the 1955 Tamil film Doctor Savithri.

See alsoEdit


  • Zvelebil, Kamil (1973). The Smile of Murugan on Tamil Literature of South India. BRILL. p. 279. ISBN 90-04-03591-5.
  • S. Muthiah (18 December 2017). "The confusing Vedanayagams". The Hindu. Chennai. Retrieved 13 January 2019.

External linksEdit