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Sage Thiru-valluvar
"The Bard of Universal Man"
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  A Jewel in World Literature       

 
   

Thirukural has been acclaimed as one of the most precious jewels in world literature.



“There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find such lofty wisdom.”
- Dr Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Laureate, Germany & France



“Thiruvalluvar’s Kural is one of the gems of the world literature.” 
- Professor M. Winternitz, Germany
 

It has received several appreciations:


“…one of the highest and purest expressions of human thought."
-M. Ariel , Translated Thirukural into French, France

No wonder that this book has been translated into more than 30 languages of the world (List Here). As far as English is concerned, there are more than 25 different translations (List Here).

 
 
Jewel amongst Jewels

           
  Subject Matter of the Book       

 
   

Full Spectrum of Human Conduct & Endeavor


 
“It contains all things, and there is nothing which it does not contain."
- Edward Jewitt Robinson, -----

Thirukural deals with human conduct & endeavors in almost all aspects. Its three books cover:

  • Virtues:  like faith, hospitality, truthfulness
  • Wealth: acquisition & management issues like qualities of a king, selection of ministers, faithless friendship, poverty
  • Love: before marriage and after marriage

 
 
Full Spectrun of Human Conduct
Source: Cayusa, Flickr

           
         

 
   

Brevity



"Nothing in the whole compass of human language can equal the force and terseness of the distiches in which the author of
Kural conveys the lessons of wisdom."
- Rev. P. Percival


Thirukural is a collection of 1330 very short verses – so brief that they are often called “maxims.”   So concise is the treatment that one poetess said about it:


"The Kural contains much in a little compass. Such is the ingenuity of its author that he has compressed within its narrow
limits all the branches of knowledge, as if he had hollowed an atom, and enclosed all the waters of the seven seas in it.
- Ouvvay

 
 
Concise
Souce: Kuw_son, Flickr

           
         

 
   

In Summary

Thirukural was composed about 1800 years back by Thiruvalluvar in Tamil language. Today this language is spoken by 70 million people, mostly living in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India.

The book consists of 1330 very short poems. Ten of them constitute one chapter making 133 chapters. Each chapter deals with a different topic, for example Not Envying, Power of Speech, Rejoicing in the Embrace. The chapters are divided into three books – Virtue, Wealth, & Love.

 
 
Ancient Wisdom

           
  A Universal Morality for a Secular Society       

 
   

A Universal Morality


"This work proclaims the basic principles for the moral and material life of the people. The aphorisms about 'loving-kindness' reveal the humane approach of the poet to the problems of life. The lofty ideals that are enshrined in thus didactic work transcend the barriers of race, creed, place and time."
- Dr. Wilfried NoelleThiruvalluvar has emphasized the basic moral principles but left out of specific practices - religious & other. A few examples here would suffice:

  • He talks about worship, but nothing about the way of worship.
  • He refers to God or an 'Ultimate Reality', but refrains from calling Him by any name.
  • He talks about the value of reading and reciting scriptures, but never names them.
  • He emphasizes the values of 'charity' but never lays down the rules.
  • He repeatedly speaks about the importance of 'learning', but never says what is to be learnt!
  • He refers to the taxation in governance and not about proportion of collection.
  • He talks about land, village and country, but does not refer them by any name.
  • There are couplets referring to Kings and Ministers but none of them contain any reference to particular King or Kingdom.
  • Even the very world 'Tamil' itself is missing form the text.
It is for these reasons that the Thirukural is considered a book of universal application on the Art of Living and

  • Rev. Dr. G. U. Pope, called Thiruvalluvar the “bard of universal man”.
  • E.H. Hopkins said, the Thirukural stays at the level of general principles, what may be called as "Mandatory Ethics."


Since Thiruvalluvar's message is general, his teachings can be applied to varying contexts.

 
 
Universal Morality

           
         

 
   

For a Secular Society

The greatest relevance of Thirukural to today's society lies in its secular view.

At the time & in the land where Thiruvalluvar lived, several religions were followed. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism were certainly followed in 2nd Century A.D in Tamil Nadu. Christianity was most likely known due to pre-existing trade with Rome, and perhaps adherents were also living in India.

Still so secular are the ethics expounded by him that followers of different religions - Hindus, Buddhists, & Jains - in India have claimed that the poet Thiruvalluvar was their co-religionist.

Even Reverend G. U. Pope, the Christian missionary in India who first translated the full composition into English, says that Thirukural is

"......one Oriental book, much of whose teaching is an echo of the "Sermon on the Mount."

Eminent Muslims have also appreciated the secular nature of the work:


"Thirukkural was a treasure house of worldly knowledge, ethical guidance and spiritual wisdom."
- Dr. Zakir Hussain, President of India

Steering clear of religion in his book was surely a deliberate decision of the poet in the above circumstances. We can conclude that Thirukural was composed in a multi-religious society and addressed to a multi-religious audience.


"The teaching of Thiruvalluvar is however, purely eclectic and inculcates such principles as are common to all systems of
morality."
- Dr. R. W. Frazer

"The poet (Thiruvalluvar) in fact, stands above all races, caste and sects inculcating a general human morality and worldly
wisdom.”
- Dr. A. A. Macdonell

 
 
Religions Must Be the Cause of Unity

           
  Pole Star for India and the World       

 
   

India: The Underbelly of Asia

Here is one picture of India thru the eyes of of National Geographic, on completing 50 years of Independence:

"Stare at the underbelly of Asia and behold the Indian behemoth: 950 million people—one-sixth of the world's population—who live in a country one-third the size of the U.S., who speak more than a thousand languages and dialects, and who support more than 20 political parties in the world's biggest and perhaps boldest experiment in democracy.

Memories of maharajas past loom large in Jodhpur, where, on its outskirts, green chilies spice dinner."

—From "India: Fifty Years of Independence," May 1997, National Geographic magazine Photograph by Steve McCurry

 
 
India : 50 Years of Independence in 1997
Source: Steve McCurry, National Geographic

           
         

 
   

For India

India is already the world's most complex society - as all major religions of the world are followed here, languages from major language-families of the world are spoken here, and it is a functioning democracy! It is on the way to becoming the most populous country in the world. too. In these circumstances, India's quest today is achieving economically better living conditions and a more socially just society in these rapidly changing times.

Ethical & moral renewal is the base of, and has preceded, every social & economic re-generation in the history of world. In absence of ethical & moral renewal, advancement cannot be sustained. That base is exactly what Thirukural can provide to Tamil Nadu & rest of India. Mahatma Gandhi also underlined the uniqueness of Thiruvalluvar:



"Only a few of us know the name of Tiruvalluvar. The North Indians do not know the name of the great saint. There is none who
has given such a treasure of wisdom like him."
- Mahatma Gandhi

 

 
 
Sunrise, Matanga Hills, Hampi, India
Source: Paintedstock, Smugmug

           
         

 
   

For the World

With increasing exchange of knowledge between world cultures, the Thirukural is bound to get increasing & ever greater recognition and occupy its due place as one of the greatest works in world literature.


"In its own land, the Kural owes its popularity as much to the beauty of its versification as to its morality, but it is in
its breadth of view and its speaking that to the heart of men, must make it a favourite work with the world at large."
- Dr R. C. Temple


 
“Thiruvalluvar’s Kural is one of the gems of the world literature. He stands above all races, castes, and sects, and what he
teaches is a general human morality and wisdom. No wonder, that the Kural has been read, studied and highly praised in the
land of its origin for centuries, but also found many admirers in the west, ever since it has become known.”
- Professor M. Winternitz, Germany

The message is bound to spread. Translations into more than 30 languages of the world (List Here) will help as will the 25 translations into English (List Here).

 
 


           
           

       
   


A Family: Forgive us Saint - No excuses for not learning 'Thirukkural'.
Thiruvalluvar Memorial (133 Feet, 7000 Tonnes), Kanyakumari,India
Credit: Selvanambi, Flickr

 

           
           

   

References

     
     

 

     

           
Kural
       
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