CHENNAI: People know VO Chidambaram Pillai (VOC) (1872-1936) as a freedom fighter, but he was a multi-faceted personality and his contributions to Tamil literature are invaluable. The State government is publishing his works in four volumes and Chief Minister MK Stalin recently released two of them to commemorate VOC’s 150th birth anniversary.
The first volume contains his autobiography, works on spirituality, his address to the Congress party conference in 1927, poetry collection, his essays on varied subjects, including self-improvement. The second volume is dedicated to his Thirukkural commentary, which compared the commentary of Manakkudavar with that by Parimezh Azhagar.
One of his significant works on self-improvement is Manam Pola Vaazhvu, the translation of As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. The work aims at helping young individuals cultivate their mind for a better life. He also translated a few other works by James Allen.
On spiritual thoughts, Pillai registered his rational views on many places. The copies of these books will be available at the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation office within a week. The first volume of this book (1085 pages) is priced at Rs 355 while the second volume (728 pages)is priced at Rs 245. Tamil scholar Professor V Arasu, who has published 13 works of VOC and now editing the entire works of VOC on behalf of the State government, said the third volume will cover VOC’s commentary on Tholkappiyam (Ilampooranar Urai). The fourth volume will be a documentary on the life of VOC in its full perspective.
“VOC sacrificed so much for the Indian Independence struggle, but, at some point in time, the views of VOC did not go well with those in the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress. He did not agree with the Non-Cooperation Movement of Mahatma Gandhi owing to several reasons,” Arasu said, adding that VOC was even dubbed as an anti-national by a well-known leader in Tamil Nadu Congress.
Though Chidambaram Pillai accepted Bal Gangadhar Tilak as his political mentor, he differed even from him on certain issues. Pillai also vehemently supported the communal representation advocated by Periyar EV Ramasamy. In the later part of his eventful life, Chidambaram Pillai suffered financially and had to survive on the earnings from a petty shop, grocery shop, petrol bunk, etc.
Professor Arasu said one of Pillai’s biggest contributions is his commentary on Thirukkural. “VOC differed from the commentary of Parimel Azhagar, a 13th-century scholar. He discounted Parimel Azhagar at 74 places in his commentary. He, however, agrees with the commentary by Manakkudavar, an 11th century scholar who had some revolutionary views on Thirukkural. “VOC took great pains to publish this Manakkudavar commentary. Most of his important works were completed during his days of imprisonment,” he added.