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Thambi Ayya Fernando


Perhaps some of you would have known that we have referred to this medal in one of our earlier postings in this website. Yes, it was in the article on Capt. Michael Gomez that we referred to this Medal.

This special medal is given by the POPE to those — laity as well as clergy — who have done outstanding work in and for the church. It is this medal which was pinned by the Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Fidelis Lionel Immanuel Fernando on 28th june 2012 in a glittering function at the basilica , Tuticorin in the presence of the Rector of the Basilica and the Vicar General of Tuticorin on THAMBI AYYA FERNANDO OF VEMBAR for his outstanding service in unearthing church history, coastal history, archaeology, epigraphy and for collection , preservation and documentation of literature of the Coastal poets and dissemination of such knowledge gained to those who are in need to pursue their doctoral and other studies.

Thambi Aiah Fernando a very embodiment of simplicity and grace humbly accepted the award spoke a few words of thanks to the Holy Father, and the Auxiliary Bishop who pinned the medal on him. It was a great moment of joy to see someone who has not had the benefit of any university education being honoured by a Papal Medal for acquirement and spread of Knowledge on church and related matters. Rev. Fr.XAVIER RAJAN . SJ , Student Counsellor, ST. Francis Xavier Highier Secondary School , Tuticorin had been the prime mover to get this recognition from ROME, for Thambi Ayya and the Bishop of Tuticorin had amply supported the move with very strong recommendation to Rome. Our heartfelt thanks to them.

Thambi Ayya Fernando was born in VEMBAR and had his education In Trichirapalli and left for CEYLON in 1942.After being in Ceylon for thirty years he returned to India in 1972 and indulged in his passion of reading, studying. thinking, analyzing, codifying , and writing.

His articles appeared in most of the Tamil Catholic Magazines, in the initial days which attracted the attention of ALL INDIA RADIO ,TIRUNELVELI station, where he was called to speak on different subjects of varied interests .His deep and studied presentations won a wide audience for him.

His interest in archaeology as evidenced in his radio talks attracted the attention of the Department of Archaeology of the Government of TamilNnadu which requested him to speak on PANDY NAATUKAYAL- a series of lectures in the V.O.C. College, Tuticorin. The lectures were stimulating and scholarly and moved many scholars to think of areas of new research.

Single handed he went about recording the Photographs of many epigraphic inscriptions in and around Tirunelvely and Tuticorin districts and preserved them for posterity. The Palm leaf script ofPERINBA KADhAL byf Manapadu ANTHONI KUTTY ANNAVIAR was colleted and preserved by him thus.The Palm Script ofARULANANDAR SARITHRAM preserved in TANJAVOOR TAMILUNIVERSITY is a gift by Thambi Ayya Fernando. In discovering and preserving our rich literary heritage he reminds us of Dr. U.V.SAMINATHA AYYAR.

Thambi Ayya has an impressive library which contains innumerable books and writings including those of St. Francis Xavier ,and Fr.Henry Henriques. He has many briefs and notes on Fr. Xavier Thani Nayagam . Thhe Library has the first copy of the first edition ofTHEMBAVANI that came out in 1851., copies of Gnana thoothan of 1933, old books that narrate the history of the TUTICORIN DIOCESEand on different matters pertaining to the coast and coastal church down the ages.

Thambi Ayya Fernando, is now ready with three scripts of Tamil books for publications. They are MUTHUKULITHURAIYILCHRISTUAMPANDIYAR PANPATTIL PALAYA KAYAL, SAMAYATHHIL SANGAMITHA SAMUDAYAM.

Thambi Ayya Fernando’s greatest contribution is to be seen in locating the skull of Fr. Henrique Henricks, which lay un- attended in the sacristy of the basilica. The body of Fr. Henririques which was buried in the church of our Lady of Snows,originally was subsequently interred in the vaults and in the Sacristy. As days rolled by few remembered the location of the interred body in the Sacristy. There lay a skull lay abandoned and unnoticed. None knew whose skull it was. But it was there in the Sacristy.

It was Thambi Ayya who unraveled the mystery of the Skull. It was he who decipherd that the skull was that of Fr. Henriques. This is how he did it. He saw Fr. Heriques’ relic in the archives of Jesuits, at Shenbaganur in KODAIKANAL , and studied how the relic came to Shenbaganur and unearthed that it was Fr. D’ almeida of Tuticorin who dispatched the relic to Shenbaganur. He pieced together the skull and the relic and concluded that the skull was that of Fr. Henriques. The contribution of Thambi Ayya to the researchers in coastal affairs . coastal history, coastal literature, coastal church affairs, coastal ethos is immense and Himalayan. His knowledge is vaste and wide that scholars whio come and contact him drink deep from his font of Knowledge.

Though Thambi Ayya has not got a doctorate in any of the subjects he deals with ease, he is worth many doctorates. And the POPE has rightly honourd him. Though old and soft spoken his eyes glistens when he speaks on books and subjects he has mastered without any master or guide!. His master has been the master of all knowledge.—THE OMNISCIENT._(OUR CONGRATULATIONS. The Material for this essay has been culled from NEITHAL ANTO”S AALAVAITHEDAL” . We thank him profusely. EDITOR )

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