R. Nagaswamy
Ramachandran Nagaswamy.JPG
Nagaswamy at a lecture in 2015
Director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department
In office
Preceded byT. N. Ramachandran[a]
Succeeded byNatana Kasinathan
Personal details
Ramachandran Nagaswamy

(1930-08-10)10 August 1930
Madras, Madras Presidency, British Raj
Died23 January 2022(2022-01-23) (aged 91)
Chennai, India
OccupationArt historian, archaeologist

Ramachandran Nagaswamy (10 August 1930 – 23 January 2022) was an Indian historian, archaeologist and epigraphist who was known for his work on temple inscriptions and art history of Tamil Nadu. He was an authority on Chola bronzes.

Nagaswamy became the inaugural director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department in 1966, serving in that capacity till 1988. He also founded the annual Chidambaram Natyanjali festival in 1980. In 2018, he was awarded India's third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.[2]

Early life

Nagaswamy was born on 10 August 1930, the son of Sanskrit pandit Ramachandran Sastrigal.[3][4] He graduated in Sanskrit from the University of Madras and pursued a master's degree in Sanskrit.[3] Nagaswamy obtained his PhD in arts and archaeology from the University of Poona.[3] Nagaswamy underwent archaeological training under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and in 1959, joined the Government Museum, Chennai as curator for art and archaeology.[3]


Nagaswamy served as curator for art and archaeology in the Government Museum in Chennai from 1959 to 1963. In 1963, he was appointed assistant special officer for archaeology for Tamil Nadu state and from 1966 to 1988, he headed the newly formed Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department as its first director, serving until his retirement.[5]

Nagaswamy made archaeology a popular subject in Tamil Nadu, especially among children through publication of pocket book guides. He was responsible for involving several thousand school and college students in cleaning and preserving nearby historical places and monuments. He also popularized monuments by bringing out popular guides in the form of newspaper, priced at ten paise per copy.[6] He was responsible for protecting several historic monuments like the first-century Chera inscriptions at Pugalur, the palace site of the Imperial Cholas at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the famous 17th-century Thirumalai Nayak palace at Madurai, the 17th-century Danish Fort at Tranquebar, and the birthplace of poet Subramania Bharati at Ettayapuram besides excavating the palace site of Virapandya Kattabomman at Panchalankurichi.[5] He also led the first under-sea survey in Tamil Nadu when he surveyed the region off the Poompuhar coast in Mayiladuthurai.[5]

Nagaswamy composed dance dramas chronicling the lives of the Chola rulers Raja Raja Chola and Rajendra Chola I, and the poets Arunagirinathar, Manimekhala, and Appar.[5] He wrote on South Indian works and statues and was considered an authority on Chola bronze statues. He founded the annual Chidambaram Natyanjali festival in 1980.[5]


Nagaswamy was awarded the Kalaimamani award by the Government of Tamil Nadu for his work on Sekkilar's Periyapuranam.[7][5] He appeared as an expert witness in the London High Court, in the "London Nataraja case" in the 1980s, which resulted in a Chola-era Nataraja statue that had been smuggled to London being returned to India.[8]

Nagaswamy was awarded India's third highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan, in 2018.[9]


Nagaswamy had been accused of indulging in Brahminical Sanskrit interpretation of Tamil history. He stressed that the Tamil work Thirukkural was an "abridgement" of the Hindu shastras, thereby inviting criticism from Tamil nationalists and politicians from Dravidian parties. When the Government of India proposed Nagaswamy's candidature for the Central Institute of Classical Tamil, Dravida Munetra Kazhagam leader M. K. Stalin opposed the proposal.[10][11]

Personal life

Nagaswamy was married to Parvathi with whom he had two sons and two daughters.[12] He died at his home in Besant Nagar, Chennai, on 23 January 2022, at the age of 91.[13][14][15]


Explanatory notes

  1. ^ T. N. Ramachandran was designated as a 'Special Officer'.[1]


  1. ^ "Who Is Who". Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  2. ^ "6 Padma awardees are pride and joy of Tamil Nadu". The Times of India. 26 January 2018. Archived from the original on 28 January 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Biodata of R. Nagaswamy". Tamil Arts Academy. Archived from the original on 15 April 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  4. ^ Kausalya Santhanam (24 February 1995). "The Achievers". The Hindu.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Eminent archaeologist R Nagaswamy no more". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Tamilarts Academy". Archived from the original on 30 January 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Grateful2Gurus 2017–18". Indic Today. 5 April 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  8. ^ "The case of the peregrinating Nataraja". The Hindu. 3 April 2003. Archived from the original on 3 January 2004.
  9. ^ "Eminent archaeologist R Nagaswamy passes away; PM condoles Padma Bhushan awardee's demise". Firstpost. 23 January 2022. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  10. ^ Ravishankar, Prathap (1 April 2019). "Why is this 88-year-old historian riling Stalin and other Dravidianists". The Federal. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Stalin shows his ignorance of Tamil history: Noted archaeologist Dr Nagaswamy responds". The News Minute. 8 March 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  12. ^ "Eminent archaeologist, TN archaeology dept's first director Nagaswamy dead". PTI. Archived from the original on 23 January 2022. Retrieved 23 January 2022 – via The New Indian Express.
  13. ^ "R Nagaswamy: Archaeologist who kept digging for knowledge". The Times of India. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  14. ^ "முதுபெரும் தொல்லியல் அறிஞர் ஆர்.நாகசாமி மறைவு". Dinamani. 23 January 2022. Archived from the original on 23 January 2022. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  15. ^ "Archaeologist R Nagaswamy passes away in Chennai". Hindustan Times. 24 January 2022.