Biography of Robert Caldwell -Irish-Indian Researcher of South Indian Languages


Robert Caldwell

Date of Birth: 07th May 1814

(On 07th May 2014 the ‘200 years/ Bi-Centenary of Robert Caldwell’s Bith Day gets Completed)

Nationality: British

Place of Birth: Clady-Antrim in Ireland

Place of Education: University of Glasgow, Scotland

Place of Life  and Work: Tirunelveli,Tamilnadu,India

Date of Death: 28th August 1891 (Aged 77 Years)

Place of Death: Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu

Burried at: Idayankudi Village, Tirunelveli District, Tamilnadu

Occupation: Missionary-Bishop and a Linguistic

Notable Works of  Robert Caldwell in Linguistic Research in India:

  • A comparative grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian family of languages.
  • The Relation of Christianity to Hinduism
  • A Political and General History of the District of Tinnevelly  (Tirunelveli)

Robert Caldwell and India: 

Robert Cald well came to India as one of the Protestant Christian Missionary on 8th January 1938 at the age of 24 years and worked on Christian missionary in Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu, India for more than 50 years.

Robert Caldwell earnestly learnt  the language of Tamil and he became so proficient in the language and he learnt almost all the Dravidian languages of Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam apart from Tamil.

Robert Caldwell used the word “Dravidian Languages” for the first time in the year 1856 to denote the inter-related South Indian languages.

Earlier, it was considered that the South Indian languages of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam were from the language of ‘Sanskrit’.

However, Robert  Caldwell made researches and confidently said that each of the ‘Dravidian’/South Indian language  had their own independent origin and existence despite borrowing words from Sanskrit and Caldwell’s theory was accepted and as of now Sanskrit and Tamil are among the world’s six classical languages.

Honours Given to Rober Caldwell by India:

A commemorative postage stamp on Robert Caldwell was issued on 7 May 2010 by the Indian Union Government.

Commomorative Postage Stamp on Robert Caldwell Released in India in 2010

The Tamilnadu State Government has erected a statue of Robert Caldwell on 2nd January 1968, during the time, ‘The World Tamil Summit’ was held at Chennai, on the ‘marina beach’ to honour him for his contributions to the people of Tamilnadu and in particular to the language of Tamil.

The State Government of Tamilnadu had announced in the year 2010 that the old house at ‘Idayankudi’ village in Tirunelveli District, Tamilnadu would be converted into ‘Robert Caldwell’ Memorial house.
The State Government of Tamilnadu has decided to celebrate the 200th ‘Birth annivarsary’ /Bi-Centenary of Robert Caldwell on 7th May 2014  as a State Government’s function in a grand manner.

Pedastal of Robert Caldwell's statue in Marina Beach Chennai in Tamil

The statues of Robert Caldwell at Idaiyankudi village in Tirunelveli District  and at the ‘marina beach’ in Chennai would be garlanded by the State Ministers and homage would be done at his tomb at Idaiyankudi.

Pedastal of Robert Caldwell's statue in Marina Beach Chennai

Robert Caldwell who was born in Ireland, studied and brought up in Scotland, lived in India from his age of 23 years till his death at the age of 77 years, for 54 years.

Pedastal of Robert Caldwell's statue in Marina Beach Chennai in Tamil

Robert Caldwell spent the most of  his life in and for the people of India and Tamilnadu, engaging  himself in his Protestant-Christian Missionary works/lectures and in study and research/writing  works in the ‘Dravidian’/South Indian languages of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

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