Vedic Tradition in Kerala


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It is with mixed feelings that we are publishing the Seventh Prof. M.S. Menon Endowment Lectures entitled "The Vedic Tradition of Kerala' by late Dr. E.R. Sreekrishna Sarma. While the publication of this important work, though small, gives us great pleasure and satisfaction, the thought that Dr. Sarma himself is not with us to see it in print saddens us greatly. We dedicate this work to his memory.

"Vedic Tradition of Kerala" is the eight book in the Calicut University Sanskrit Series, the others being the "Catalogue of Manuscripts" edited by Prof. M.S. Menon and Dr. N.VP. Unithiri, "Mimamsa Contribution to Language Studies" by Dr. K. Kunjunni Raja, "The Traditional Sanskrit Theatre of Kerala", by Dr. C. Rajendran, "The Ethics of Sankara" by Dr. K.N. Neelakantan Elayath, "Observational Astronomy in India" by Prof. K.V Sarma, "Contribution of Nyaya System to Indian Thought Structure" by Dr. V.N. Jha and "Contemporary Approaches to India Philosophy" edited by Dr. C. Rajendran.

Prof. M.S. Menon Endowment Lecture was instituted in the Department of Sanskrit in 1985 at the time of the retirement of Prof. M.S. Menon, the founder and former Head of the Department. The distinguished scholars and litteratures who have so far been associated with the endowment lecture programme are Dr. K. Kunjunni Raja, Hon. Director of the Adyar Library and Research Centre. Dr. V Swaminathan, former Principal of Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Guruvayur, late Dr. N.V Krishna Warrier, poet, scholar, critic and former Chief Editor of Mathrubhumi, Calicut. Prof. K.V Sarma, Hon. Professor of Sanskrit, Adyar Library and Research Centre, Dr. VN. Jha, Director. Centre for Advanced Study in Sanskrit. Prof. D. Prahlada Char, Professor of Sanskrit, Bangalore University, Sri. E.M.S. Namboodiripad, the veteren marxist leader and Director, A.K.G. Centre for Studies and Research, Thiruvananthapuram, Prof. M.N. Vijayan, the famous critic, Dr. Saroja Bhate, Professor & Head, Department of Sanskrit, University of Po on a and Dr. M.T. Vasudevan Nair, famous litterateurs and Jnanapeetha award winner, besides Dr. E.R. Sreekrishna Sarma, who delivered the lectures in 1993.

Dr. E.R. Sreekrishna Sarma (1922-94) combined in himself an "erudite scholar of the traditional type and a modern critic well versed in comparative and historical methods." After completing his traditional education in Pattambi Sanskrit College and Vedanta Pathasala of Kaladi, he went to Germany and got doctorate for his thesis on "The Theories of Ancient Indian Philosophers about Word, Meaning and their Mutual Relationship". He joined the S.Y. University in 1956 where he worked for 24 years. During the period he went again to Germany as a Visiting Professor. He actively collaborated with Prof. J.P. Staal in the sacrifice project conducted in Kerala in 1975. He worked as an Honorary Professor in Adyar Library and Research Centre after his retirement till his death.

The publications of Prof. Sarma include Manikana, a manual of Navy a Nyaya edited with translation, the two-volume Descriptive Catalogue of the Viswabharti Collection of Sanskrit Manuscripts, critical edition of Kausitaki Brahmana, critical edition of Apaniniyapramanya sadhana of Narayana Bhatta, critical edition of two works on elephantogy and several research articles and papers. His notable works in Malayalam include Kanninte Kannu, a collection of Upanisadic stories, a translation of Thoreau's Walden, 'Bharatam Yugannalilute', ten short plays translated from English, translation of Sankara's Sanatsujatiyam and 'Upadesa sahasri' and 'Gandhiyute Ancu nimisannal', translated from German. He has also translated 'Sandhya', a symbolic play of G. Sankara Kurup from Malayalam to Sanskrit.

In the present work, Dr. Sarma has discussed the contribution of Kerala to Vedic studies in a comprehensive manner. Since this is grossly neglected area of study, Dr. Sarma's work fulfils a long felt want by presenting necessary information lucidly within the canvas of booklet, which should stimulate further research and study. Dr. Sarma points out that Vedic tradition in Kerala has been unique in that it provides for training in oral recitation, training in what is learnt, participation in Vedic rituals and even taking up Sannyasa. He reviews the instiutional facitlities available in Kerala for imparting instruction in Vedic lore, and the sacrificaial practices which gave opportuniry for putting the knowledge to actual use. He also discusses the important works penned by Keralites scholars in Vedic lore which kept the tradition alive. In short, this booklet, small as it is, is information-packed and a valuable contribution to a new field of study of considerable academic interest.

I hope this book will be received by the scholarly world with great enthusiasm.

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