Kannadasan (24 June 1927 – 17 October 1981) was a Tamil poet and lyricist, heralded as one of the greatest and most important writers in the Tamil language.
Frequently called Kaviarasu (English: King of Poets), Kannadasan was most familiar for his song lyrics in Tamil films and contributed around 5000 lyrics apart from 6000 poems and 232 books, including novels, epics, plays, essays, his most popular being the 10-part religious essay on Hinduism, captioned Arthamulla Indhumatham (English: Meaningful Hindu Religion).
He won the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel Cheraman Kadali in the year 1980 and was the first to receive the National Film Award for Best Lyrics, given in 1969 for the film Kuzhanthaikkaga.
Kannadasan worked in "Thiraioli", a Cine magazine run by Rama.Thiyagarajan in Rayavaram. Pudukkottai Distt and in Chennai. He also worked for "Thirumagal" magazine in Ramachandrapuram, Pudukkottai Distt.
Atheism to Hinduism
Muthiah was a staunch atheist and a follower of the Dravidian atheistic movement. He had great love for the Tamil language and culture, and excelled in Tamil literature, prose and poetry.
He once read the Thiruppavai of Andal, and was amazed at its mystic poetry, that was to have a deep and everlasting impact on him.
After a lot of introspection, he decided to reconvert back into Hinduism, renamed himself as Kannadasan, meaning the servant of Lord Krishna (In Tamil Kannan means Krishna, and in Sanskrit, Dasa means servant), dug deep into understanding Hinduism, and wrote his series of books on Hinduism titled "Arthamulla Indhu Matham".
Kannadasan's greatest contribution to Tamil culture is his songwriting. Lyrics with simple words but having a philosophical message is his trademark style. Before Kannadasan, many lyricsists like Papanasam Shivam, Kambadasan, Vindhan, Maruthakasi, and Ku.Ma.Balasubramanian were sought after in Tamil music industry, but after Kannadasan the scene changed. He quickly became the most sought after, which he was till his death.
Kannadasan was so popular that though there were many excellent poets like Vaali, Pulamaipithan, Alangudi Somu, Avinasimani, Panchu Arunachalam and Jayakanthan during that period, their hits are wrongly considered by many of Kannadasan fans as songs written by him.
Though, after his death, film lyrics have come a long way from Vairamuthu to Tamarai, many people still consider Kannadasan to be the best songwriter. New songs trend for some time and eventually fade away after a months or even days, but Kannadasan's songs are still popular in Tamil Nadu. He is considered to be the greatest modern Tamil poet after Subramanya Bharathi.
He was the producer of historic Tamil film "Sivagangai Seemai" portraying the pioneers of the Indian freedom struggle "Marudhu Pandaiars". The song "Santhupottu" in that film is popular even today.
Kannadasan was the poet Laureate of the Tamil Nadu Government at the time of his death. He wrote two notable autobiographies, titled Vanavasam, a book about his past life whilst he was atheist, with the DMK and a sequel, titled Manavasam a book about his life after he had left DMK
His contribution to Tamil literature
Kannadasan was a prolific writer and his writing covered a variety of forms- poems, novels, lyrics for Tamil films and books on spirituality. His series titled Arthamulla Indu Matham or The meaning of Hinduism is known for its simplicity in explaining the principles of Hinduism. He wrote a number of spiritual works in the later part of his life including Yesu Kaviyam the story of Jesus told in the poetic form.
He wrote and published several volumes of poetry. He was an admirer of Kambar and wrote a number of poems praising Kambar's artistry,contrary to the satire ("Kambarasam") on the same by C.N.Annadurai. He also spoke at several of the Kambar festivals. He sang the beauty of Seethai's gait and the shoulders of Rama; he spoke of beauty intoxicating and dropped me in a vessel of amrut(liquour)" This is one of Kannadasan's tribute to the poet Kambar.
Kannadasan died on 17 October 1981 in Chicago, United States, where he had gone from India to attend a Tamil conference organised by the Tamil Association of Chicago. A house in Sirukoodalpatti is now a memorial for the Tamil film music's evergreen favourites. The Kannadasan memorial museum was inaugurated on October 21, 1992.