1. Tamil veda
Tirukkural occupies a place of pride in ‘Tamil’ Literature. It is venerated by the Tamils in much the same way as the Vedas and the Gita, the Sanskrit works, Hence the appellation ‘Tamil Veda’ by which this supreme work is referred. Three of the four purusharthas that mankind should strive for viz. Dharma (Duty) , Artha (Wealth) and Kama (Love or Happiness) are dealt with at great length in this work under the names Arathupal, Porutpal and Kamathupal respectively. The fourth purushartha viz. Moksha has not been treated separately. It may be because at the beginning of Arathupal, Moksha is dealt with in an allusive and indirect way. To him who follows the principles of righteousness and thereby earns his living and gets his legitimate desires fulfilled, salvation is assured. Where then, is the need for a separate treatment of the subject? This may be another reason. Moksha is an abstract concept not easily perceived by the senses and so is beyond the ken of ordinary mankind. Hence as seems more acceptable than the others, this may have been the reason for the omission of its separate treatment.
2. Norms of Life
How should man live? What are the virtues to be practiced by him and what, the code of
conduct? What are the duties of the various Asramas into which man’s life falls? How should a king govern his country? What is the code of conduct prescribed for him? How can the best be got out of domestic life? These and similar questions have been admirably answered in this beautiful work.
‘Tiru’ is an honorific title. ‘Kural’means small i.e., small Virutham (one of the names in Tamil Prosody). As the whole of the work has been composed in this meter, the work itself has come to be known to the world by the sacred name ‘Tirukkural’. We are however entirely in the dark ó this day as to why the title has been given to it by the author himself.
The names given to this work by later scholars are (I) Muppanool, (2) Uttaravedam (3) Deivanool (4) Poyyamozhz (5) Vayurai. Vahthu (6) Tamihmarai and (7) Podumaraz Each one of these names is significant serving to proclaim the divine nature of the entire composition. Scholars of the Sangam Age, such as Nakkirar, have given unstinting praise to this work. The entire work is divided into 3 parts and consists of 1330 Kurals. There are 133 Chapters, 10 Kurals constituting each chapter.
4. The Author
The author of the work is the saintly Tiruvalluvar. Valluvar is the name of the clan to which he belonged. A man of ordinary birth whose duty it is to proclaim the king’s decree seated on an elephant is traditionally known as a ‘Valluva’. Up to this day his real name remains unknown. Research scholars have put down his period as from the first to the third century, B.C. The only historical fact known about him is that he was living the life of a householder with his wife, Vasuki, following the profession of a weaver, in Mylapore, a part of modern Madras. Taking the two words “Adi” and “ Bhagavan” in the first verse of the Kural, it has been surmised, that the first name indicates the name of his mother, and the second that of his father.
A question was once put to Tiruvalluvar as to the relative merits of the life of a householder and that of an ascetic. The author simply accosted his wife who was then drawing water from a well. Leaving the vessel dangling half way down the well, she promptly rushed to answer her husband’s call. To the immense wonder of the questioner the vessel remained in its dangling position unaffected by gravity. This was unspoken but sure proof that the life of a householder is superior to that of an ascetic. Tradition assigns this and some other events to him though we do not find evidence of any of them in his work. So far as is known, this is the only work of the author. The other names by which the author is known are:
The saintliness of the author is corroborated by these names. To this feeling must be attributed the fact that the work has been preserved almost intact to the present day, with no variation in reading.
There are many commentaries on this work, ten of them being very ancient. Parimelazhagar’s commentary is the most famous of them. Every scholar depends on it for a correct Interpretation of the kural. The author of this commentary is believed to have flourished in the 13th century, A.D. lie is said to have belonged to the family of the Archakas of the Ulagalandaperumal Koil in Kancheepuram. The special merit of this commentary is the exhibition of his erudition in the different branches of Sanskrit learning- Tarka, Vyakarana, Mimamsa and Vedanta.
The commentator journeyed to madura to establish the supreme merit of his commentary in the presence of the Pandya King. The king suggested that, to prove the fact, he must ascend a bronze horse which would, if the commentary were really greats begin to move of its own accord. What took place when the commentator ascended the horse was exactly as the king had said; and from that day the author came to be known as Parimelazhagar (pari, meaning horse). This is the traditional account of the origin of the name.
7. Jainism and Other Religions
TIRUKKURAL is so composed that the followers of all religions claim that it is theirs—this is a testimony to the greatness of Valluvar. The basic truths of all religions are the same; and this work’s chief aim is to expound these; as such, what is the wonder in all religionists laying claim to it? It will be found that this work is in harmony with 80 per cent of the principles of all religions. The Jams lay most claims to this as being their religious treatise. In support, they point to the phrases—”Abiding on the blossom, “Prime Lord” and “Person of eight attributes,” occurring in the first chapter; to the order of the first four chapters, and to the stress on “nonviolence”, and “avoidance of flesh-eating”. Further, the Jams hold that Tirukkural was composed by their Guru—”KundaKundar” alias “Elaacharya” at Mylapore and was first publicly released at Madurai. The commentator of the Tamil Kavya’Neelakesi’ (Samaya Divaakara Muni) has referred with pride in his notes, to Tirukkural, as a Jam Veda.
A Chakravarti Nayanar has brought to notice the close correspondence in idea between . each verse of Tirukkural and the Jam work “Merumantra-purana”. The famed Tamil work Naaladiyaar, which is designedly an exposition of the essence of Tirukkural was composed by Jam poets; this is another argument for the Jams holding that Tirukkural, the original work, is also a Jair composition. There is also the uncontrovertible fact that during the period between the Sangam classics and the emergence of devotional (Bhakti) works, all the 18 minor works (Tamil literary compositions) - ‘‘Pathinenkeezh kanakku” as well as the five great epics and the five minor epics were all composed by Jams. Thus the Jams conclude that Tirukkural which is included in the above said groups should be a Jam composition. The great savants, Sri S. Vaiyapuri Pillai and Thiru. Kalyanasundara Mudaliar also has supported this view, with cogent arguments.
Dr. Pope, the English litterateur contradicts this On the ground that Verse 25 in Tirukkural refers to a Hindu puranic episode—Sage Gautama cursing his wife Ahalya to become a stone—which is not in accord with Jam principle—a ‘muni’ cannot have a wife; he cannot give way to anger; and in any case, he should not pronounce a curse.
On the other hand, some persons consider that Tirukkural should be a Buddhist work on the strength of the phrases uniquely applicable to Buddha in the first chapter “The holy one of the wheel of righteousness” (“ aravaazhi andhanan”). “Abiding in the (lotus) blossom”, “non - pareil”, etc. Dr. B.C. Law has indicated 253 places where the ideas in the Buddhist Scripture ‘ Dhammapada” correspond to those in Tirukkural. But, Tirukkural refers to ‘soul’ and ‘rebirths’, which the Buddhists do not believe in—how then can the work be a Buddhist one?
Saivaites point out to a phrase in Manickavachakar’s ‘Tiruvaachakam’, which apparently is a gloss on Tirukkural’s phrase—”Abiding in the (lotus) blossom” and so dignify Valluvar as a Naayanaar Saivaite Saint. It does not seem that there is any vaIidityin this contention also.
Valluvar refers (in veres 3 of chapter 1 1 1 ) to the “Abode of the Lotus - eyed Lord” (i.e., the Region of Vishnu - Vaikuntha) by way of a simile. Likewise, Valluvar has referred to the Vamana Trivikrama Avatars of Vishnu in verse 10 of chapter 61. Further, the later Vaishnava expositors have incorporated the verses in Kural in their writings. For these reasons, Vaishnavites try to stake their right to Tirukkural. Now Kamban has in many places used the phrase “lotus-eyed Lord” in the sense of ‘Indra’ (the celestial Ruler)—surely, the phrase cannot be held to be unique to Vishnu, this is one other view.
There are also others who urge that Valluvar, a resident of Mylapore contacted St. Thomas who then came to San Thome, learnt the Bible through that ‘guru and incorporated those ideas in his work!
Readers will now understand that the author should have been very well acquainted with the tenets of Jainism, Buddhism and other religions. There are also references, i his work to Vaishnavism, Saivism, Adwaita and Visishtadwaita, and hence it Is difficult to state with certainty the re)i8ious affiliation of the poet. But it can be safcly asseited that his work reflects the essence of all faiths.
8. Vedic Religion
The Veda has been held from time immemorial to be ‘Sacred Scripture’ (Maralmozhi) and the comprehensive word (Niraimozhi)not being composed by any human agency, but in vogue in all times. The fact that Vedic Ideas were prevalent in Tamil Nadu in Valluvar’s time and that he also followed them Is evident from such verses as Np. 14-3, 14-4, 55-3, 56-10, 74-1 which contain the ideas of four castes, four ashramas, the Brahmins belonging to he fir class engaging themelves in the study and pppagation of the Vedas, the Ruler having to protect the country according to the Vedic way propounded by the rabmius, whose duties are six-fold—-study, Instruction making and receiving gifts etc., the Brahniins having ever to be wary of slipping from the path of virtue,—forgotten Veda may be re-learnt, but a fall from Brahminism is irrevocable and a country worth the name having to be composed of all the four classes.
Valluvar reminds us also of the duties of the rest two of the four ashramas viz., the Brahmachari (Bachelor) and the householder, the former has to stay with the Guru and get instruction ; the latter has to be the support of all the other three ashramites. The householder’s duties are five fold affording hospitality to guests ; offering oblations and performing annual ceremonies (Shraaddha) to the “manes”; worship of the heavenly powers ; and giving food to “Sannyaasis”; he has also to get progeny for the continuance of the race.—vide : Verses 41 , 42, 43 61. 62, 674 and 69, in the Section pertaining to the “householder’s life”.
The way of the other two Ashramas the ‘Vaanaprastha’ and ‘Sanyáasa ‘ is dealt with at length in 13 chapters entitled ‘Life of Renunciation”—vide : In particular,verses 25-1, 262, 271, 32-4, 34-2, 368 and 37-10.
In chapter 96, “Citizens—High Birth”, Valluvar explains in 10 verses “gradations arising from birth”, “high qualities seen in persons of noble birth, testifying to their glory”, and “assessment of their excellence from their speech.’‘ The author’s view is that all are born equal but that variation, in occupation leads to classification as “8reat’ and “little” (vide: verse 2 in chapter 98). Though born in a high caste, persons devoid of noble qualities cannot glory, while those born low but have noble qualities will be deemed great. These declarations (vide: verse in chapter 98) bring out indirectly the value to be attached to birth.
9. Law of Karma Rebirth
It is clear from the following fundamental noble ideas referred to by Valluvar that he had a firm faith in the law of Karma and Re-births: “Those that hold on to the feet of the Supreme Lord will cross the ocean of births”; “from the control of the senses arises the power to save oneself in seven births”; death is but a sleep”; “birth is only a wakening from sleep”; ‘low birth is the consequence of delusion”; “liberation can be secured through true wisdom ‘‘; ‘‘detachment is the means to escape from births”; “learning got in one birth will stand in good stead through seven births”; “when the lover said that he would not part from her in this life, his lady—love wept in fear that there might be parting in the next birth;” - (vide: verses 1-10, 13-6, 349, 361, 36-6, 36-8, 372, 40-8, and 1 32-5 . Reference to “seven births” is repeated six times.
See verses 7-2, 11-7, 13-6 40-8, 54-8, 84-5, and it is emphasised that one’s good and evil actions will bear fruit in seven births—this is the heart of Vedic belief. It. is also stated specifically that good deeds come to the aid of a person even after his death—It is asked what is the need of scripture to prove this, when we see in actual experience one carrying a palanquin while another is seated within: (See Verses 4-6 and 4-7).
The term “residents of the southern region used in verse 54, in the sense of the “manes” (pitrus) dwelling in the Southern quarter, clarifies that in Valluvar’s time, there was the custom of doing annual ceremonies (shraaddha) to the “manes” and that Valluvar himself had faith In it. Again, his belief in the spirit is evident from verse 34-8 which indicates that the relation between the body and the soul is like that between a bird’s nest and the bird, after the bird had[fled away. Similarly, verse 26-9 which declares that refraining from flesh-eating is more meritorious than 1000 oblations in a fire is a pointer to the prevailing custom of performing sacrifices (yajnas) and the benefits expected therefrom.
10. Destiny or Fate
In the chapter entitled “Destiny (fate)”, Valluvar sets out the dicta in 10 verses:
“No one can overcome fate ; everything will happen only as pre - ordained ; it is proper to accept whatever happens ; no one can at any time circumvent the destined course ; a deed from the remote past may fructify now ; acquisition of wealth and learning at present is a consequence of the past ; if the resultant (fate) is good, wealth may accrue at any time ; if adverse, wealth may not accrue in time ; the lastingness or decay of acquired wealth is governed entirely by such consequence ; to the extent it is ordained alone, anything will accrue ; fate will wipe out man’s effort and triumph in the end’.
11. The Other World (Heaven and Hell)
“He who lives righteously will attain heaven.”
“He who affords hospitality to a guest will go to the celestial region”; “the debt owed to a person who aids us on his own, without being asked, cannot be discharged in full, even if both the worlds are offered to him in exchange.”—These ideas - (See verses 5-10, 9-6 and 11-1) testify to the belief that there is a heaven to be attained through virtuous actions.
Heaven is connoted by different terms such as “the abode of the celestials”, “the world of the celestials”, “the upper world heaven” and “Space”. The “wages” of sin is hell—this fundamental data is reiterated -“Benevolence is not to be forsaken even if hell were its
consequence ; the compassionate men will not go to hell even unto seven births ; the fool commits sins in one birth which cannot be expiated even in seven births ; the bosom of the harlot is like unto the hell to which the fool is destined.—See verses 23-2, 25-3, 84-5. 92-7. ‘Hell’ is signified by different terms - “mire”, “utter darkness” and “the miserable world of darkness”.
Other significant ideas are: — “Saints do not fear the god of death. “Death dares not approach the person vowed to non - killing. “Attracting the enmity of a strong person is like unto a call to death.” These reflect the basic puranic idea about the inescapability of a sinner from the clutches of the god of Death.—See verses 27-9, 33-6, and 90-4.
Valluvar’s belief in “Devils”, “Sri Devi”, “Moodevi”, “Mohini”, etc. is indicated in verses 575, 62-7, and 85—10, 109-2.
The Vedantic idea that ‘liberation’ (Mukti) Is higher than life in the celestial regions,—it is the final goal—it is imperishable and changeless—-it can be reached by those who have got beyond all desire and egoism—. is set out in verses 1-3, 35-6, 36-3, and 37-10.
The phrase “it is stated” (“enba”/Joy) is used in many places in Tirukkural. The connotation is—”Great persons say thus”. This no doubt indicates that the chief ideas in Tirukkural are derived from ancient works. This would also seem to support the
contention of those who hold that Valluvar has used the ideas found in Sanskrit works
(e. g., Mahabharata)
A consideration of the points stated above will make it clear that there is no iota of truth in the contention that Valluvar has not used ideas found in Sanskrit works even a whit, arid that he is an exponent of pure Tamil culture which is not Vedic, and stands unique.
It is strange that theistic Tamilians who accept with pride and glorify the many literary contributions of the atheistic Jams, permeated by their own beliefs should hesitate to accept the Vedic culture inextricably mixed with Tamil culture in its own domain. Why should the “broadmindedness”manifested in accepting Jain literary contributions get “narrowed” in respect of Vedic culture?
12 . Conclusions of Scholars
Sri P. S. Subrahmanya Sastrigal, Ex-Principal of Tiruvaiyar College and a great Oriental Scholar well versed in Sanskrit and Tamil, has prepared a work entitled ‘Balar Urai ‘for the Aiathuppal of Tirukkural. Under each Kurair he has given parallel quotations from the Mahabharata, the Upanishads and Manusmriti, and has brought out the striking similarity of ideas between the Tamil work and the Sanskrit works.
Sri Panditamani Kadiresan Chettiar, rendering Kautilya’s Arthasastra in Tamil has quoted the Kural in many places and has shown how greatly the same ideas are echoed in the two works.
Sri V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar has set out the:
Line - to - line correspondence between Tirukkural and Sanskrit works as shown below:
Part I - ‘On Virtue’ (Aratthuppaal): With ideas in Rigveda, Rarnayana, Mahabharata, Parasarasainhita, and Srimad.
Part II Wealth (Polity): With ideas in Kainantaka Niti, Kautilya’s Artha Sastra, Sukra niti and Bodhayana Smriti.
Part III - ‘On love’: with ideas in Vatsyayana’s Kamasutras.
Not only such ideas but also pure Sanskrit terms — over 1 25 in number-have been used by Valluvar —This has been stressed by Prof. S. Vaiyapuri Pillat. who has also boldly expressed the view that Tirukkural shGuld have been composed only in the 6th Century A. D. He has further indicated that the chapters on ‘ Nature of fortifications (Araniyalbu),’‘Espionage’ and “Messenger (Ambassador) are derived from Kautilya’s ‘Artha Sastra’.
The great Tamil Scholar, Prof. S. Vaiyapurl Pillai is the author of a book entitled ‘Ilakkia Vilakkam’. It contains an essay—Val1uvar and Manu,. This is what he says in it on page 97: “Many chapters in Tirukkural embody the ideas contained in many Sanskrit works.
Many Kurals are translations of Manu’s work.” He has quoted the relevant passages in support of his statements.
Others go a step further and declare that all the essential passages have been translated verbatim from Sanskrit and have adduced sufficient proof in support of the contention. A dispassionate comparison of the Sanskrit passages and the Kurals reveals the truth of this statement; Dharma Sastra, Artha Sastra, and Kaina Sastra have been translated, as it were, as three different parts
Into which the whole of Tirukkural is divided. It is not our purpose to labour this point ; itis left to the impartial consideration of scholars.
Tiruvalluvar was thoroughly familiar with Sanskrit works and had mastered the teachings of Jainism Buddhism and Vedanta. He must have realised that it was beyond the capacity of the ordinary man to learn and assimilate all that has to be learnt from the Dharmasasiras and Vedas and hence he has epitomized their essentials in his Tirukkural for the benefit of the common man. Hence it would be appropriate to call the work—The Quintessence of all the Sastras (Sacred lore), We shall content ourselves with stating that the Sastras and the Kural are parallel in content and treatment.
The supremacy of the work can easily be gauged from the fact that it has been translated into many other Indian languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, and Kannada, and even into foreign languages such as English and French, German and Latin, and has acquired world wide reputation.
One noteworthy feature of Tirukkural is that the composition and arrangement of chapters and the number of verses In each have been preserved almost intact up to this time, as written by Valluvar initially.
The first printed version of Tirukkural was published by the Englishman, Ellis, in 1831, with the help of Tamil scholars.
In regard to this Part, three commentators have rearranged the order of the verses in the chapter on ‘Education’. [In the later section pertaining to ‘love’, some verses are interchanged among chapters 120, 121, and 127 in different editions.
Another point is that this Part on ‘Wealth’ containing 70 chapters and 700 verses has been grouped under 3, 6 or 7 broad divisions by different editors. But the very first verse of this Part lends support to the grouping under 7 divisions—’On Kings’, ‘On the Ministry’, On fortifications’, ‘On Resources’, ‘On the army’, ‘On friendship’ and Citizens’,—as has been adopted in this Edition.
The author has in this Part explained clearly the duties of the Ruler, Ministers and Citizens, the proper form of fortifications, nature of friendship and nature of the army, in this order. Considering the indispensability of wealth to a Ruler, this Part has been entitled ‘Wealth’ (e.g. Arthashastra.). While detailing the way a Ruler should protect the people, Valluvar also emphasises the proper attributes of the citizens. In chapter 91-“To be guided by the wife’s counsel”- the idea is emphasised that a person letting himself be guided by the wife’s counsel will forego all prosperity and being unable also to do good acts, will lose his honour and status in Society—this echoes the dictum of Manu that no woman deserves freedom and that a woman should always be guided by men.
Further this Section incorporates ideas about the means to be adopted for progress in life, the way of behaving with people, etc.—which are basic to the people at large.
14. Sri Rama Desikan’s Submission
Valluvar composed his unique work for propagating Indian culture—Vedic culture - not only in Tamil Nadu but also throughout the world. It is clear that he set greater store, in calling himself an ‘Indian’ or even a ‘World - citizen’ than a Tamilian. Sangam poets have in their works dealt with the history of the Tamils, their nature and culture, their language and their Rulers’- Valluvar has not referred to these at all. Why, the very word ‘Tamil’ or Tamilian’ is conspicuous by its absence - there is no mention of the Chola, Pandya and Chera dynasties - no reference is made to the special characteristics of the Tamil people either these points deserve full enquiry by Research scholars.
He has deemed it properly to render into the world- language of Sanskrit, this Tamil work deliberately meant for the whole world. As a first installment, he published his work in 1961, the Sanskrit translation of the first Part ‘On Virtue’ (Aratthuppaal)—380 verses. Later he translated the 700 verses of “The Second Part”- (Wealth) into Sanskrit and added on the basis of these slokas, was rendered in Tamil and English also.
Sri Sriramadesikam has published 380 Kurals (constituting Arathupal) in the form of Sanskrit Slokas. Readers are well aware of the difficulties involved in the translation of works of merit from one language into another. And therefore, an attempt was made by him to capture the thought and sentiment of the original in as large a measure as possible.
This translation has freely drawn on all the well-known commentaries, but mainly follows that of Parimelazhagar. Many of the specialties found in the latter may be observed in the present work.
Tharkarnava, Ubhaya Mimamsa Vallabha, Pandita Ratna, Sri Uttamur Viraraghavacharya Swamy, the great Visishtadwaita preceptor and a recipient of the Presidential Award in Sanskrit, at whose feet Sri Sriramadesikan studied the Sastras, has placed him under a deep debt of gratitude by kindly going through the entire translation, suggesting improvements, and, in fact, guiding him in every way in its completion.
1. On the Lord (Adoration)
2. The glory of rain
3. Glory of non-attachment
4. Glory of virtue
(II) On home and duty
5. Householder’s life
6. The wife
7. The blessing of progeny
8. Love (good feeling)
10. Kind speech
12. Impartiality (uprightness)
13. Humility (meekness)
14. Good conduct (morality)
I5. Lusting not after another’s wife
17. Freedom from envy
18. Freedom from greed
19. Avoidance of back- biting
20. Avoidance of idle talk
21. Fear of evil-doing
23. Bounty (charity)
(III) On Asceticism
26. Abstinence from meat-eating
27. Asceticism (Austerities)
28. False behaviour
31. Freedom from Anger
32. Non-injury (Non-violence)
33. Non- killing
36. Apprehension of Reality
38. Fate (Destiny)
© Copyright by snsriramadesikan.com