THE LEGACY OF SASTRIAR
Written By: Mrs. Shanthi Selvaraj
Member of Sastriar Educational and Charitable Trust
INTRODUCTION:- The songs of Poet-Lyricist Vedanayagam Sastriar form an inalienable part of Christian worship in South India. The richness of the Tamil language and the religious fervour of the songs instantly evoke zeal in the worship. The reverence in the songs is further augmented by their pleasing melodies. One is tempted to go back in time to trace the life and history of Vedanayagam Sastriar to appreciate the circumstances and events that shaped him to be a prolific and poetic crusader for the Triune God.
A BRIEF HISTORY :- Vedanayagam Sastriar was born on the 7th of September, 1774, the first son of Mr. Devasahayam, a native of Tirunelveli. He lost his mother at a young age. At the age of ten, he had a clear vision of the Cross and Christ, an event which was to influence his entire life. In 1785, a German Missionary, Rev. Swartz visited Tirunelveli. He took Vednayagam with him to Tanjore. At that time, Prince. Serfoji was also studying under Rev. Swartz. Vedanayagam went on to study Theology at the Lutheran Seminary in Tharangambadi, now known as Tranquebar.
After completing his studies, Vedanayagam worked in the villages around Tanjore. He worked as a teacher in a missionary school for a short time. He began to write Christian lyrics and literature. He wrote 133 books and his most famous work is ‘Bethlehem Kuravanji’. His well known songs include ‘Thandanai Thudhipome’, ‘Amen Alleluyah, Mahathuva Thambarabara’ and ‘Esuvaiye Thudhi sei nee Maname.’
A turning point in his life came when his former classmate, Prince Serfoji became king of Tanjore and appointed Vedanayagam as the official court poet. Vedanayagam was conferred various titles such as ‘Gnanadeepa Kavirayar’, Veda Sastrigal and ‘Suvisesha Kavirayar’ which established him the King of Evangelical Poets.
Sastriar’s songs were based on Thevaram (hymns of SaivaiteSaints) and Tiruppugazh rhymes. Some songs in Thayumannavar’s style are found in his song collection called the ‘Jebamalai’ which means ‘Garland of Prayers’. His compositions glorify the Triune God and are characterized by high literary quality. He continued to glorify God and he spread the Gospel as far as Ceylon in spite of personal tragedies and setbacks. His songs are still being sung in Tamil churches and are peerless in their richness and melody.
Sastriar in Wikipedia
A BRIEF HISTORY