Kallidaikurichi Aiyah Nilakanta Sastri (August 12, 1892 – June 15, 1975) was an Indian historian and Dravidologist who is generally regarded as the greatest and most prolific among professional historians of South India

Nilakanta Sastri was born in a poor Brahmin family in Kallidaikurichi near Tirunelveli, on August 12, 1892.[2] He completed his FA in M.D.T Hindu College, Tirunelveli and his college education in Madras Christian College.[3][4]
Sastri obtained his MA by coming first in the Madras Presidency. He joined the Hindu College as lecturer in 1913 where he taught till 1918.[5][6] He served as Professor of History, Banaras Hindu University from 1918 to 1920.[5] After that he became the Principal of the (then) newly started Arts College of Annamalai University.[7] In 1929, he was employed as Professor of History at National College, Trichy. The same year, he succeeded Sakkottai Krishnaswamy Aiyangar[8] as the Professor of History and Archaeology at the Madras University,[1] a post he held till 1946.[3] He was the Professor of Indology (Currently renamed as Department of History and Archaeology) at the University of Mysore from 1952 to 1955.[1][3][5] He was appointed as the ex-officio Director of Archaeology for the Mysore State in 1954. He was also the President of the All-India Oriental Conference in the early 1950s.[9] From 1957 to 1972, he served with the UNESCO's Institute of Traditional Cultures of South East Asia, as the Director of the institute.[1][3] In 1957, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honour. In the summer of 1959, he was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago where he delivered a series of lectures on South Indian History .[5] Nilakanta Sastri died in 1975.[1]

Eminent Historian Professor R.S. Sharma writes of him as: "K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, the great historian from South India, was not a revivalist. His "History of South India" is a very dependable book."[10] Tamil historian A R Venkatachalapathy views him as "arguably the most distinguished historian of twentieth-century Tamil Nadu".

In 1915, a Bengali historian Jadunath Sarkar, wrote an essay Confessions of a History Teacher in the Modern Review regretting the lack of acclaimed historical works in vernacular languages and stressed that efforts should be made to write history books and teach history in vernacular languages.[11] Nilakanta Sastri, who was then a young teacher in Thirunelveli, wrote a letter to the newspaper opposing Sarkar's suggestion by saying that "English serves me better as a medium of expression than Tamil - I mean in handling historical subjects. Perhaps the vernacular is not so well off in this part of the country as it should be".[11] Sastri's comments evoked sharp criticism from the nationalist poet Subramanya Bharathi.[11][12] According to Venkatachalapathy, Sastri's Tamil proficiency was not good and he relied on Tamil scholar S. Vaiyapuri Pillai for understanding Tamil literary works. Thus he was not able to analyze the changing meaning of words over time. Venkatachalapathy says, the professional historiography in Tamil Nadu practiced during K. A. Nilakanta Sastri's period there was rarely any interrogation of sources (except in terms of authenticity and chronology.

In all, Nilakanta Sastri authored 25 historical works mostly on the history of South India.[1]
Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta (1929). The Pāṇḍyan Kingdom from the Earliest Times to the Sixteenth Century. Luzac.
Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta (1932). Studies in Chola history and administration. University of Madras.
Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta (1935). The Cholas. University of Madras.
Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta (1936). A comprehensive history of India. Orient Longman.
Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta (1941). Historical method in relation to problems of South Indian history. University of Madras.
Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta (1945). Gleanings on social life from the Avadanas. Indian Research Institute.
Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta (1946). Furth