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K. Narayanaswami Aiyer

Brief Biographical Note



K. Narayanaswamy Aiyer, son of Krishnaswami Aiyer, was born at Kazhukanimattam Village, Tanjavur District, South India, in the year 1854. He was the second of four brothers, three of whom occupied fairly comfortable positions in life. One of them was the late K. Veeraswami Aiyer, a prominent Vakil of Tiruvarur in the early twenties of this century, and another, an engineer of the Public Works Department of the Government.

Educated at his village school at Kazhukanimattam and, later, at the Kumbakonam Town High School and at the Kumbakonam Government Arts College, he was a first grade pleader at Kumbakonam and made a reasonably prosperous living there. He had a son and two daughters.

He joined The Theosophical Society during the presidentship of Col. H. S. Olcott and travelled very widely all over India including far places like Kabul and Srinagar at a time when communications were poorly developed (1905-18), spreading the message of The Theosophical Society.

His task was also to help in weaning away Indians from the Christian missionary influence and from an imitative way of life patterned on the West. His rare persuasiveness and lucidity of expression brought good results. His personal life as a real Saṃnyasin carried profound conviction everywhere. His scholar­ship in Sanskrit and English and his deep knowledge of his own and western religions earned for him a great measure of contemporary veneration. He died in December 1918 at Pudukkottai on one of his lecture tours. An assiduous writer, his articles regularly ap­peared in The Theosophist, then published from London. He wrote six major books: Hindu God Universal, Thirty Minor Upanisad-s, Thirty-two Vidyā-s, Purāṇa-s in the Light of Modern Science, raga: Lower and Higher and a translation of Laghu Yoga Vāsiṣṭha. A minor work which attracted attention particularly among Western scientists was Prof Bergson and Hindu Vedanta which appeared in a pamphlet form.

Though K. Narayanaswamy Aiyer passed away some fifty-five years ago, the demand for some of his works has persisted. The Adyar Library and Research Centre has reprinted two of his works: The Laghuyogavāsiṣṭha and Thirty-two Vidya-s, half a century after his demise.1

  1. Now, in 2012, it is more than a century ago since the translation was first published. The most recent – revised – edition is of 2001 by The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar TN, India. []