Vedanayakam, like Serfoji Maharajah a disciple of C. F. Schwartz, never abandoned his sense of being a Vellalar of noble birth, nor his reverence for classical or high Sangam (Cankam) culture. An evangelical and an intellectual, he was both founder and fountainhead of modern Tamil literature and learning. There was hardly a subject on which he did not write. His students learned about events and places all over the world. In lyric Tamil verse, he described the wonders of the universe and the wonders of God's grace; the wonders of what science revealed in stars of the sky, beasts and birds of the field, cities of America, Asia and Europe, and absurdities of inhuman and sinful behaviour. His Bethlehem Kurvanchee, a drama presenting the gospel in kuruvanci genre (a tale told by a wandering woman soothsayer or fortuneteller), confronted eternal verities. Yet later, when castigated by younger missionaries for observing caste customs, such as segregated seating and eating in church services, he remained adamant: what, he asked, entitled these Europeans to make such judgements? Bishop Heber had remarked upon the hypocrisy of allowing Europeans to employ servants or own slaves while condemning caste. Vedanayakam's 'Tanjore Christians' would eventually be publicly flogged, at a missionary's request, for refusing to abandon caste strictures. His hymns and songs, using standard Tamil tunes and tempos, are still sung. As 'poet-laureate' to Serfoji, the Maharajah of Thanjavur, the title Sastriar was affixed to his name. 10
Satyanathan Pillai, Schwartz's second great disciple, witnessed the first 'mass movement' of India. This outbreak spread across Tirunelveli in 1799, after thirty years of incubation. Savarimuthu Pillai, a Company sepoy, and Rasa Clarinda, an affluent Brahman Christian, had opened a 'prayer-school' at Palaiyamkottai before Satyanathan came as the first pastor-missionary to the area. David Sundaranandam, commissioned to bring the gospel to his own people, was a powerful and charismatic preacher. Whole villages of'Shanars' (now known as 'Nadars') became Christian, sometimes turning temples into prayer-school halls. These events aroused the wrath of local landlords and warlords ('poligars': palaiyakarrars). Many new Christians suffered violence, chapel-schools were destroyed and books were burned. Thousands who lost their homes, and were stripped and sent into the jungle to die, established biblical 'villages of refuge'. In the decades that followed, Mudulur ('First Village') was
10 Vedanayakam was soon followed by H. A. Krishna Pillai. A Thanjavur Vellalar convert who taught in one of the modern schools, Krishna Pillai's greatest work was his epic Irakshaniya Vattirikam, a poetic rendering of Pilgrim's Progress set within the classical Tamil idiom.
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