The ‘Tribal Tribune: Beyond Feathers and Arrows’ consider it a
proud privilege to dedicate this February 2005 number to the
memory of Professor A. Aiyappan, who was born in this month in
1905. As this net-magazine is devoted to the cause of tribal
people, it will be most appropriate to pay homage to the late
scholar Prof. A. Aiyappan, who opted for research in anthropology,
after obtaining Master Degree in Zoology. While carrying out
doctoral research in Britain, his interest in tribal studies was
inspired by legendary scholars like Bronislaw Malinowski and
Raymond Firth, both of them came to anthropological discipline
from different back grounds. This amalgamation of knowledge from
various disciplines, could allow wide-angled view to study human
world. Aiyappan,s academic compatriots included E. Evanspritchard
who introduced the African tribal communities through classic
ethnographic syudy, L.S.B. Leakey, who discovered the famous
fossil hominids and established African claim for human evolution,
Cora Dubris, H.D. Saukhalia, and many others.
Aiyappan spent major part of his work life in the State Museum in
Chennai (Madras).so most of his research works are related to the
south Indian tribal communities. When he moved to Utkal University
in Bhubaneswar to take up responsibilities of a nascent post
graduate teaching department of anthropology, his field studies
were expanded to the tribal areas of Orissa. He retried from the
University services in 1996 and again moved to Thiruvanthapuram (Trivandram)
to assume the duties of Vice Chancellor. Elevation to coveted
posts may be lucrative, but do not secure a place in the enviable
academic school of con tributors to knowldge. The readers of
present generation would prefer to be aquinted with academic
contribution of Professor Aiyappan.
Prof. Aiyappan was a complete anth5ropologist in true sense of the
term. His activites were not limited in only the sub field of
social anthropology or ethnography. He greatly pioneered the mesum
movement and wrote a book on museology and museum preservation
methods, the most compitent in mid-twentieth century. Unlike other
social antthropologists, Aiyappan studied genetic and morphometric
variation in Wyand area and prehistoric cultures of Suth India.
His close association with renound archeologists like V. D.
Krishnaswamy, Subba Rao, Sankhia and even Mortimor Wheeler,
indicate his deep interest in prehistoric and proto-historic
cultures. In many articles he has tried to find the evolutionary
continum of people in India, tracling the problem from linguistic,
ritualistic, social practices and biological traits. This was
uncommon in his time of mid-twentieth century. The prosterity will
wonder from the vastness of the areas where professor Aiyappan has
expressed his inquisitiveness on human life. He composed his
articles with such élan and simplicity of language, that these
could be understood by any layman.
Aiyappan did show little interest in theorizing his observations like his contemporary renowned scholars, but tried to extricate
the inner details from which generalization can be arrived easily.
Once he was asked by his American friends (in early sixties of
last century) about the secret of family piece in India in spite of
poverty, and for which his curt reply was, general Hindu couple
gave immense value to the rituals of marriage, the promise before
sacred fire ("homa"). A couple will prefer quarrel but
not think of divorce. Marriage matches are believed to be
predetermined. Such fundamental observation and deep
introspection, characterized Professor Aiyappan.
room teaching was never piece-meal incidents of people’s life
and developing these into anthropological interpretation. Probably
for these reasons, I was attracted to anthropological science in a
holistic manner, combining all the approaches. Writings of Prof.
Aiyappan was very lucid and wrinkle-free, so that the meaning is
conveyed easily to the reader who is not conversant with jargons.