The Indian Geographical Society

Prof. N. Subrahmanyam, M.A., L.T., F.R.G.S.,

(14.01.1885 29.01.1943)


I. Birth and Formative Years


The late N. Subrahmanyam was born in the town of Polur, (Polur Taluk, North Arcot District), his mother's maternal uncle's place on 14th January 1885. He came of Appayya Dikshita family which has produced in these four centuries a long line of celebrated Sanskrit scholars.

His father Arunachala Dikshitar (d. 1918) was an Additional Translator to the High Court, Madras, for thirty years. His services were engaged where high accuracy was required as in Privy Council Cases, thanks to his mastery of Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and Law English.

Mrs. Balakucham, his mother, died when he was scarcely five years old; but her mother, Mrs. Lakshmi, a sweet flower of ancient Hindu womanhood, lived long enough to shed upon him her benignant influence.

Many a trait of his, observed in later life - his successful leadership of excursion parties and his drive, his wander-lust and impulse to travel far and wide to geographise his knowledge and concretise his Geography with tours all over India, Great Britain and the Continent, at his own cost - all these were derived from his maternal grandfather, C. Sivarama Aiyar (d. 1905), a man of strong will and decision of character, great drive and physical endurance, who did the pilgrimage from near Arcot to Benares on foot twice and would lead pilgrims of undisciplined relations without a mishap on the way in the eighties and nineties of last century when railway communications and means of transport were still primitive and circuitous.

Apropos, it may be mentioned that N. Subrahmanyam planned to write an Historical Geography of South India and for that purpose gathered materials and made tours to most places to trace on the ground the several routes and the scenes of battle and realise the geographical factors behind. But he sacrificed his own research opportunities, precarious as they were, in order to create full and substantial research opportunities for others at large.

From those grand-parents, five generations have come up, many of whom have made their mark in public life and service; by this widening circle of relations he was received with esteem; and he kept up affectionate contacts with them.

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