V. V. S. Aiyar 142nd Birth Anniversary: While the history of our nation’s freedom struggle is a fabrication that glorifies only two names and omits the real heroes who have sacrificed their entire lives for their motherland, the corresponding narrative in Tamilnadu has also omitted, with congenital animosity, a particular section of society, namely brahmins, who have contributed significantly not only to the freedom struggle but also to other fields. They were either obliterated entirely or, if that was not possible, their contributions were minimised. VVS Aiyar, Neelakhanta Brahmachari, Bhashyam alias Arya, Vanchinathan, S Satyamurthi, A Vaidyanatha Iyer, Bharatiyar, CV Raman, Ramanujam, Viswanathan Anand, and Sundar Pichai are just a few examples.
VVS Aiyar was born on 2 April 1881 in Varahaneri village, Tiruchi, to a middle-class brahmin family. He graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a B.A. in History, Politics, and Latin. In the year 1902, he studied law and passed the Pleader examination at the University of Madras. Later, he worked as a Junior Lawyer or Pleading in the Tiruchi District Courts. He moved to Rangoon in 1906 and worked as an associate in the chambers of an English barrister. In 1907, he left Rangoon for London and enrolled at Lincoln’s Inn with the intention of becoming a Barrister at Law.
Throughout his academic career, he has mastered several languages, including Tamil, Sanskrit, English, French, and Latin. He was also proficient in wrestling, shooting, and all athletic disciplines, including swimming.
His desire in London was to study English music and English dance. Up until that point, he was an intelligent, cheerful, and fashionable youth. At that moment, however, fate intervened, as it often does in film narratives. He met Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.
VVS Aiyar And Savarkar
At the conclusion of his conversation with Savarkar, his life underwent a transformation. He became active in the Indian independence movement. He became Savarkar’s right hand in organising the Indian Home Rule League and training for a violent uprising to liberate India.
VVS was the individual who supported Savarkar’s endeavours. He was inspired by Savarkar, who in turn influenced him. Savarkar, VVS Aiyar, and TSS Rajan (who later joined the Congress and served as a Minister in the Madras Presidency) were the three individuals responsible for making India House a centre of revolutionary activity.
Under the supervision of VVS Aiyar, one of Savarkar’s seminal works, ‘The Indian War of Independence,’ was translated from Marathi to English. When the British government arrested Savarkar for sedition, Aiyar attempted to free him from prison in London with the aid of Irish revolutionaries.
Aiyar, Shyamji Krishnavarma, and Madam Bikaji Cama devised a plan to liberate Savarkar at Marseilles while he was being transported from London to India on the SS Morea.
Activities of Aiyar in India
Aiyar resigned his membership at Lincoln’s Inn in 1910. Aiyar fled to Paris after the British issued an arrest warrant for him. He had no desire to remain in Paris as a political exile, however. Aiyar sailed from there to Pondicherry. En route, from Rome, he mailed Mandayam Srinivasachari in Pondicherry a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Aiyar, disguised as a bearded Muslim, arrived at Srinivasachari’s residence and inquired whether he had received a copy of the Divine Comedy. The title of the book was the identity password! Thus, he was able to return to India, although to French Pondicherry, and he met Subramaniya Bharathi and Aurobindo there. He remained in Pondicherry until the end of the First World War, a period of ten years.
Aiyar was involved in the plot to assassinate the Collector of Tirunelveli in Pondicherry. Vanchinathan, who murdered General Ashe, was his disciple, and Aiyar taught him how to use a pistol.
After World War I’s conclusion, VVS Aiyar returned to Chennai and became the editor of the journal Desabhaktan. He was arrested for sedition in September 1921 and sentenced to nine months in prison.
Contribution of Aiyar to Tamil Literature
As an aside, if the question, “Who is the father of modern Tamil short stories?’, the majority of us will invariably come up with names like Kalki or Pudumaippithan, depending on our personal preferences. Surprisingly, the correct answer is VVS Aiyar, despite the fact that both deserve a distinctive place in the literary history of modern Tamil.
It is commonly believed that a busy individual finds time for everything. In the midst of the freedom struggle and with the sword of Damocles of arrest hanging over his head at all times during his exile in Pondicherry, he translated Tirukkural into English. In addition, he wrote countless short stories. He has also translated into Tamil one of Rabindranath Tagore’s Bengali short stories, titled Kapulivala.
VVS Aiyar composed his magnum opus, a study of Kamban’s Ramayana, while incarcerated. As was his nature, he wanted to instill in people a sense of bravery and valor, and he wrote several biographies of freedom fighters and warriors to this end. As a serial in ‘India,’ he penned a biography of the Italian revolutionary Garibaldi. He also wrote a biography of Guru Govind Singh.
Aiyar drowned at the Papanasam falls in 1925 while attempting to save his daughter Subhadra, who was struggling in the water. However, many individuals believed that his death was unnatural and mysterious! Perhaps it will never be revealed!
On Aiyar’s passing, Aiyar’s comrade-in-arms, Vinayak Damodar Sarvakar, published a moving obituary in the journal Mahratta:
“Heavy sorrows have often tainted our lives, but nothing has ever tested our endurance like thy untimely demise, oh friend. Memories of those significant years and trying days flood our minds and, unable to find an outlet, continue to pound on the doors of our hearts. We wish we could have reminisced about them all and shared our memories. But our lips must remain sealed. How we wish we could write about the goodness and gentleness of disposition – how, when betrayed, you remained unshaken, how you served those who did not own you, and how you suffered when unknown and modest, but made no mention of it when you became famous – how we wish we could write about it all. But our pen is a broken reed.
The noble story of thy life must remain untold for the time being, and possibly forever. For as long as those who can recite it are alive, the time to tell it may not arrive, and when the time comes, when all that is worth telling will no longer be suppressed and will be eagerly listened to, the generation who could have recounted it may have died. Consequently, thy greatness must remain undimmed but unobserved by man, like the lofty Himalayan peaks. Your services and sacrifices must be forgotten, just as the mighty foundations of a mighty castle are.