Ramalingam Shanmugalingam AppuArchie at AOL.COM
Tue Nov 30 14:04:51 UTC 1999

English Version by Ramalingam Shanmugalingam

{A Tamil Student's Headstone in a Cemetery By I. Shanmuganathan (Nathan)
Former Editor THINATHNTHI.}

"G. U. Pope's life has captivated me most among the several blessed Tamil
savants I read about. Born an Englishman, this great personality breathed
Tamil and felt like a Tamil. G. U. Pope was born on 24-4-1820 in a hamlet in
Edwards Island in the Canadian neighborhood. He came to Tamil Nadu as a
Christian missionary in 1839, and lived in the service of Tamil and very
early, he was highly influenced by the excellence of the Tamil language. He
published such great works as THOLKAPPIYAM, NANNOOL, and made classical Tamil
easier to English students, while Tamil students could afford means for a
more comprehensive  and fruitful study of the classics. He translated into
    THIRUKKURAL was translated into other languages before Pope. English
translators did only partial translations. Rev. Pope deserves the credit for
researching and producing a noteworthy full translation of THIRUKKURAL. He
spent a greater part of his fortune to publish rear Tamil books.
    In his Preface to the English Publication of THIRUKKURAL, G. U. Pope on
the excellence of Tamil wrote:
    "Tamil is a sophisticated unique language, with a rich vocabulary. It is
the mother of all South Indian languages, Tamil literature was designed to
create high moral standards, ethical codes and THIRUKKURAL is a glaring
example of that. It is in a land of people with very high ethical codes and
who nurture human discipline; such moral books are created and could be
created. THIRUKKURAL is as clear as an unpolluted spring. Yes! THIRUKKURAL,
the unique book, has come to remove the impurities of this world. 'Within a
short time of my learning Tamil, I commenced translating THIRUKKURAL, for the
benefit of Europeans. It took several years to complete the translation and I
offer my gratitude to God for the final result."
    Pope's love for Tamil and THIRUKKURAL is abundantly clear from such
    Pope returned to England in 1882, having lived in Tamil Nadu for
approximately 42 years. He accepted a Professorship at Oxford University, to
teach Tamil and Telugu.
    He received the coveted Gold Medal given once in three years for
meritorious service and to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1906.

Tamil Student.
    He wrote to the editor J. M. Nalla Samy Pillai of "Siddhantha Deepika" on
October 20, 1900, requesting that after his death, the inscription on his
headstone should be "A Tamil Student -  and at least a portion of the cost to
erect such a headstone should come with donations from wealthy and
influential Tamils."
    Pope died on February 11, 1908. Professor Selvakesavaraya Mudaliyar, of
the Tamil Department of Chennai Pachchayappan College, collected funds
according to Pope's last wish and dispatched to London towards the headstone.

What is happening to the Tombstone?
    Many of us cherish the idea of visiting this tombstone if we got a chance
to go to London.
M. P. Somasuntharam (Somu) " the well known writer, All India Radio fame for
many years, and the successor to editor KALKI at "KALKI," was able to locate
where Pope was buried in 1961 and paid his respects.

M. P. Somu wrote in his book  'akkaryc cImy" as follows:
    "My several inquiries regarding the exact location of Pope's tombstone in
Oxford from several of my friends in London came out blank. During my search
in a book on Englishmen of great achievements, I learnt that pope was buried
in the Saint Sepulcher Cemetery on an old street called Walton in Oxford. I
chose the holiday a Sunday to visit the site. Young M. Gopalakrishnan
accompanied me. We reached Oxford around 12.00 noon. Finally we reached the
Saint Sepulcher Cemetery, from direction given on our request, only to find
the two gates were locked. It was a great disappointment. We approached a
cigarette vendor across the street for information. An old lady was taking
care of business. She sensed our sadness from our demeanor, told us with
great affection, "Friends! I sympathize with you. They have closed the
cemetery now. There are 4000 tombstones here and interment of 12,000 bodies.
They have closed this place for lack of any more burial grounds."
    Just imagine my disappointment at such news.
    "Friends" I can understand from your sadness, one of your forefathers is
buried here. Do one thing; the Cemetery caretaker lives at the entrance to
the cemetery. Tell him that you have come to pay respects to one of your
forefathers and see what happens." The gentle lady advised.
    We got permission from the caretaker to enter the cemetery, having spoken
thus, "The one sleeping under is not only my forefather; but also forefather
to every Tamil and every South Indian."
    It is not an easy matter to identify Pope's tomb from among 4000 of them.
Since the cemetery was not in use, there was neither a Register nor a list of
the tombs. M. Gopalakrishnan and I went in two directions looking for Pope's

The caretaker joins us in the search.
    The learned Pope's soul must have taken sympathy with our quandary.
Because, from a bush in some remote corner of the cemetery the caretaker
shouted "Pope." We ran to the spot in the front entrance to the right, below
a yew tree, covered with dense vegetation was a large brush. Under which a
marble slab, once the bush was cleared, showed very faint inscription.
    We dipped our handkerchief in the water Gopalakrishnan fetched in a
vessel, and started rubbing the slab. The following inscription showed very
    "George Uglow Pope D.D. of South India sometime lecturer in tamil and
telugu in the university and chaplain of balliol college, oxford, born 24th
April 1820. Died 11th February 1908. This stone has been placed here by his
family and by his Tamil friends in south india in loving admiration of his
life long labours in the cause of oriental literature and philosophy"
    "I was exited reading these words! It was not Pope's family alone that
erected this tombstone. I read that written portion that said his friends
from South India over and over again. The mere mention that he was a South
Indian and Tamil donations were also involved in erecting the tombstones are
words that should be engraved gems in Tamil history, don't you agree? It is
on those very words; jungle bush is spreading now!
    His wife is buried next to him. Goplakrishnan and I, on behalf of Tamils,
paid our homage to both while circling the tombs in our typical Tamil
fashion. The caretaker watching us developed a renewed devotion. He also paid
his respects in the Christian tradition.
    "My friend! Please do not let the bush spread on this tomb. This is the
tomb of one of our forefathers. There are thousands of us,  his progenies,
living in South India. Future visitors to this site should not go through the
same ordeal we have gone through. From time to time smear with oil and keep
these letters shining. You will be blessed for your good deed. My fellow
countrymen will be grateful." With these words, we also showed him our
appreciation." These are Somu's words.

What are the lessons from this?
1. Pope's tomb is covered in brush for lack of proper care. If it was like
that 40 years ago, what is the situation now?
2. The headstone does not reflect Pope's last wish. It should have the
inscription "Tamil Student."

A request to London Tamils.

G. U. Pope was English by birth. But he was Tamil, Out and out pure Tamil. He
was one of our Mother Tamil's blessed sons. "A few shining stars, the gift of
God to foster virgin Tamil, and G. U. Pope was one of the few." So praised
'Tamil gentle breeze' Thiru V.Ka, G. U. Pope with his "word garland of
    We are indebted to such a praiseworthy one and deserve our gratitude.
    Pope's tomb needs checking now. We have to make it presentable. A
memorial marble headstone with the appropriate inscription both in English
and Tamil describing his several good deeds to Tamil with

            TAMIL STUDENT

   Dr. G. U. Pope is sleeping here.

Born                            Died

24 - 4 - 1820                       11 - 2- 1908
(Inscribed in both Tamil and English)

    Pope deserves a mausoleum at the site of his tomb for his services to
Tamil. Since, it is in a different country that may not be practical. But
there should be no difficulty in erecting a memorial headstone.
    Any government action involves another country that will be time
consuming as exchange of files take years.
    London Tamils, if they decide, can accomplish this within a month.

Is donation required?

Indications are Tamil nobilty within Tamil Nadu and elsewhere are ready to
donate generously.

Tamils of London!

    If you desire, - if you undertake, a mausoleum for Pope with no equal
will be a reality in no time.

    Do this; do in haste; then and then only Pope will rest in Peace.]

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list