Vedanayagam Pillai was born in Trichy on October 11, 1826 to Savarimuthu Pillai and Arockia Mariammal. His father was his first tutor and later he learned Tamil and English under a tutor named Thayagaraja Pillai. On completing his education, Vedanagam joined the judicial court of Trichinopoly as record keeper and soon was elevated as a translator.He learnt Sanskrit, French and Latin during his tenure and then cleared his law exams.
He became the District Muncif of Mayuram (presently Mayavaram) and served there for 13 years. Vedanayagam showed a passion for writing from early age. He translated law books to Tamil and his ethical book called Neethi Nool was well accepted. In total he wrote 16 books of which Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram is regarded as the first Tamil Novel. The novel reflects Vedanaygam’s own ideals of women’s liberation and education.
Vedanayagam’s contribution to carnatic music is immense. His songs are still a popular choice among singers in concerts.One can find a profusion of Sanskrit words in his Tamil compositions. On the lines of Tyagaraja’s “Nidhichala sukhama” he wrote “Manam Peridha, Varumanam Peridha?” Some of the popular songs of Pillai are “Naale Nalla Nall,” “Nee Malaikkade Nenje,” “Tharunam, tharunam… “Karunalaya nidhiye…” etc. He was a secular person and his songs never addressed to any particular religious deity.He suitably titled his collection of songs as ‘ Sarva Samaya Samarasa Kirtanaigal’. People like Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai and Ramalinga Swamigal were admirers of his works.