Tirukkuṛaḷ(Redirected from Tirukkural)
The Tirukkural or Thirukkural (Tamil: திருக்குறள், literally Sacred Verses), or shortly the Kural, is a classic Tamil text consisting of 1330 couplets or kurals, dealing with the everyday virtues of an individual. Considered one of the greatest works ever written on ethics and morality, chiefly secular ethics, it is known for its universality and non-denominational nature. It was authored by Valluvar, also known in full as Thiruvalluvar. The text has been dated variously from 300 BCE to 7th century CE. The traditional accounts describe it as the last work of the third Sangam, but linguistic analysis suggests a later date of 450-500 CE.
A typical published original Tamil version of the book
|Published||Palm-leaf manuscript of the Tamil Sangam era (dated variously between 300 BCE and 7th century CE)|
|1812 (first known printed edition)|
Published in English
|Tamil Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
Considered as chef d'oeuvre of both Indian and world literature, the Tirukkural is one of the most important works in the Tamil language. This is reflected in some of the other names by which the text is given by, such as Tamiḻ maṟai (Tamil veda), Poyyāmoḻi (words that never fail), and Deiva nūl (divine text). Translated into at least 40 languages as of 2014, Tirukkural is one of the most widely translated non-religious works in the world. Because the life, culture and ethics of the Tamils are considered to be solely defined in terms of the values set by the Tirukkural, the government and the people of Tamil Nadu alike uphold the text with utmost reverence. Along with the Gita, the Tirukkural is a prime candidate nominated to be the national book of India, for which a declaration was passed at the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 2006.
Structure of the bookEdit
- Book I: Aṟam (Tamil: அறத்துப்பால், Aṟattuppāl ?) (Dharma) dealing with virtue (Chapters 1-38)
- Book II: Poruḷ (Tamil: பொருட்பால், Poruṭpāl ?) (Artha) dealing with wealth or polity (Chapters 39-108)
- Book III: Inbam (Tamil: காமத்துப்பால், Kāmattuppāl ?) (Kama) dealing with love (Chapters 109-133)
Each kural or couplet contains exactly seven words, known as cirs, with four cirs on the first line and three on the second. A cir is a single or a combination of more than one Tamil word. For example, Thirukkural is a cir formed by combining the two words thiru and kuṛaḷ. The book on virtue (aram) contains 380 verses, that of wealth (porul) has 700 and that of love (inbam) has 250.
The overall organisation of the Kural text is based on seven ideals prescribed for a commoner besides observations of love.
- 40 couplets on God, rain, ascetics, and virtue
- 200 couplets on domestic virtue
- 140 couplets on higher yet most fundamental virtue based on grace, benevolence and compassion
- 250 couplets on royalty
- 100 couplets on ministers of state
- 220 couplets on essential requirements of administration
- 130 couplets on morality, both positive and negative
- 250 couplets on human love and passion
The couplets are generally numbered in a linear fashion across the three books, covering all the 1,330 couplets. They can also be denoted by their chapter number and couplet number within the chapter. Thus, the third couplet in Chapter 104 (Agriculture), for instance, can be numbered either as 1033 or, less commonly, as 104:3.
Tirukkural was originally known as 'Muppaal', meaning three-sectioned book, as referred to by its author himself, since it contained three sections, viz., 'Aram', 'Porul' and 'Inbam'. The word Kural applies in general to something that is short or abridged. More specifically, it is a very short Tamil poetic form consisting of two lines, the first line consisting of four words (known as cirs) and the second line consisting of three, which should also conform to the grammar of Venpa, and is one of the most important forms of classical Tamil language poetry. Thiru is a term denoting divine respect, literally meaning 'holy' or 'sacred'. Since the work was written in this poetic form, it came to be known as 'Tirukkural', meaning 'sacred couplets'.
Originally mentioned as 'Muppaal' by its author, Tirukkural has been known by many names in various literature works:
- முப்பால் (Muppāl) – "The three-sectioned" or "The three-fold path" (Original name given by Valluvar)
- பொய்யாமொழி (Poyyāmoḻi) – "Statements devoid of untruth"
- உத்தரவேதம் (Uttharavedham) – "Highest Veda"
- வாயுறை வாழ்த்து (Vāyurai Vāḻttu) – "Truthful utterances"
- தெய்வநூல் (Teyvanūl) – "The holy book"
- பொதுமறை (Potumaṟai) – "The universal Veda" or "Book for all"
- தமிழ்மறை (Tamiḻ Maṟai) – "The Tamil Veda"
- முப்பானூல் (Muppāṉūl) – "The three-sectioned book"
- ஈரடி நூல் (Iradi ṉūl) – "The two-lined book"
- வள்ளுவம் (Valluvam) – "Valluvarism" or "The work of Valluvar"
The Tirukkuṛaḷ has been dated variously from 300 BCE to 7th century CE. According to traditional accounts, it was the last work of the third Sangam, and was subjected to a divine test (which it passed). The scholars who believe this tradition, such as Somasundara Bharathiar and M Rajamanickam, date the text to as early as 300 BCE. Historian K. K. Pillay assigned it to the early 1st century CE.
Linguist Kamil Zvelebil is certain that Tirukkuṛaḷ does not belong to the Sangam period, and dates it to somewhere between 450-500 CE. His estimate is based on the language of the text, its allusions to the earlier works, and its borrowing from some Sanskrit treatises. Zvelebil notes that the text features several grammatical innovations, that are absent in the older Sangam literature. The text also features a higher number of Sanskrit loan words compared to these older texts. According to Zvelebil, besides being part of the ancient Tamil literary tradition, the author was also a part of the "one great Indian ethical, didactic tradition", as a few of his verses seem to be translations of the verses in Sanskrit texts such as Mānavadharmaśāstra and Kautilya's Arthaśāstra.
S. Vaiyapuri Pillai assigned the work to c. 650 CE, believing that it borrowed from some Sanskrit works of 6th century CE. Zvelebil disagrees with this assessment, pointing out that some of the words that Pillai believed to be Sanskrit loan words have now been proved to be of Dravidian origin by Thomas Burrow and Murray Barnson Emeneau.
Very little is known about Valluvar, the author of the Tirukkural. In his work The Smile of Murugan, Czech Scholar Kamil Zvelebil cites a tradition suggesting he was an outcaste by birth, the issue of a union between a Brahmin man and a Pariah woman. Some think that he was a weaver by caste. He is believed to have been born in the temple town of Mylapore, a locality within the present-day Chennai, and is said to be a simple weaver by profession who wrote the kurals with divine inspiration. He was married to Vasugi. The first instance of the author's name mentioned as 'Thiruvalluvar' is found to be several centuries later in a song of praise called the Thiruvalluva Malai (literally 'Garland of Thiruvalluvar'). Just as the book remained unnamed at the time of its presentation at the court of the ruler, the author too did not name himself in the writing of the book. Over the centuries that followed, people started calling the work "Tirukkural" and its author as "Thiruvalluvar". Monsieur Ariel, who translated the Kural text into French, thus praised it "the book without a name by an author without a name." There are also claims and counter-claims as to the authorship of the book and to the exact number of couplets written by Valluvar.
Thiruvalluvar is thought to have belonged to either Jainism or Hinduism. This can be observed in his treatment of the concept of ahimsa or non-violence, which is the principal concept of both the religions. Valluvar's treatment of the chapters on vegetarianism and non-killing reflects the Jain precepts, where these are stringently enforced. The three parts that the Tirukkural is divided into, namely, aram (virtue), porul (wealth) and inbam (love), aiming at attaining veedu (ultimate salvation), follow, respectively, the four foundations of Hinduism, namely, dharma, artha, kama and moksha. His mentioning of God Vishnu in couplets 610 and 1103 and Goddess Lakshmi in couplets 167, 408, 519, 565, 568, 616, and 617 suggests the Vaishnavite beliefs of Valluvar. Other eastern beliefs of Valluvar found in the book include previous birth and rebirth, seven births, and some ancient Indian astrological concepts, among others. Despite using these contemporary religious concepts of his time, Valluvar has limited the usage of these terms to a metaphorical sense to explicate the fundamental virtues and ethics, without enforcing any of these religious beliefs in practice. This, chiefly, has made the treatise earn the title Ulaga Podhu Marai (the universal scripture).
There is also the recent claim by Kanyakumari Historical and Cultural Research Centre (KHCRC) that Valluvar was a king who ruled Valluvanadu in the hilly tracts of the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. The only other book that Valluvar is attributted to other than the Kural text is Gnanavetti, a text that deals with spiritual aspects, due to which the author is also known as 'Gnanavettiyan'.
Tone of the bookEdit
Written on the basis of secular ethics, Tirukkural expounds a secular, moral and practical attitude towards life. Unlike religious scriptures, Tirukkural refrains from talking of hopes and promises of the other-worldly life. Rather it speaks of the ways of cultivating one's mind to achieve the other-worldly bliss in the present life itself. By occasionally referring to bliss beyond the worldly life, Valluvar equates what can be achieved in humanly life with what may be attained thereafter. Only in a couple of introductory chapters (Chapters 1 and 3) does Valluvar sound religious. Even here, he maintains a tone that could be acceptable to people of all faiths.
It is believed that Valluvar composed every chapter in response to a request to produce ten best couplets on a particular subject. Nevertheless, he seldom shows any concern as to what similes and superlatives he used earlier while writing on other subjects, purposely allowing for some repetition and mild contradictions in ideas one can find in the Kural text. Despite knowing its seemingly contradictory nature from a purist point of view, Valluvar employs this method to emphasise the importance of the given code of ethic. Following are some of the instances where Valluvar employs contradictions to expound the virtues.
- While in Chapter 93 Valluvar writes on the evils of intoxication, in Chapter 109 he uses the same to show the sweetness of love by saying love is sweeter than wine.
- To the question 'What is wealth of all wealth?' Valluvar points out to two different things, namely, grace (Kural 241) and hearing (Kural 411).
- In regard to the virtues one should follow dearly even at the expense of other virtues, Valluvar points to veracity (Kural 297), not coveting another's wife (Kural 150), and not being called a slanderer (Kural 181). In essence, however, in Chapter 33 he crowns non-killing as the foremost of all virtues, pushing even the virtue of veracity to the second place (Kural 323).
- Whereas he says that one can eject what is natural or inborn in him (Kural 376), he indicates that one can overcome the inherent natural flaws by getting rid of laziness (Kural 609).
- While in Chapter 7 he asserts that the greatest gain men can obtain is by their learned children (Kural 61), in Chapter 13 he says that it is that which is obtained by self-control (Kural 122).
The Tirukkural is praised for its universality across the globe. The ancient Tamil poet Avvaiyar observed, "Thiruvalluvar pierced an atom and injected seven seas into it and compressed it into what we have today as Kural." The Russian philosopher Alexander Piatigorsky called it chef d'oeuvre of both Indian and world literature "due not only to the great artistic merits of the work but also to the lofty humane ideas permeating it which are equally precious to the people all over the world, of all periods and countries." G. U. Pope called its author "a bard of universal man." According to Albert Schweitzer, "there hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find so much of lofty wisdom." Leo Tolstoy was inspired by the concept of non-violence found in the Tirukkural when he read a German version of the book, who in turn instilled the concept in Mahatma Gandhi through his A Letter to a Hindu when young Gandhi sought his guidance. Mahatma Gandhi, who took to studying Tirukkural in prison, called it "a textbook of indispensable authority on moral life" and went on to say, "The maxims of Valluvar have touched my soul. There is none who has given such a treasure of wisdom like him." Sir A. C. Grant said, "Humility, charity and forgiveness of injuries, being Christian qualities, are not described by Aristotle. Now these three are everywhere forcibly inculcated by the Tamil Moralist." Edward Jewitt Robinson said that Tirukkural contains all things and there is nothing which it does not contain. Rev. John Lazarus said, "No Tamil work can ever approach the purity of the Kural. It is a standing repute to modern Tamil." According to K. M. Munshi, "Thirukkural is a treatise par excellence on the art of living." Sri Aurobindo stated, "Thirukkural is gnomic poetry, the greatest in planned conception and force of execution ever written in this kind." Monsieur Ariel, who translated and published the third part of the Kural to French in 1848, called it "a masterpiece of Tamil literature, one of the highest and purest expressions of human thought." According to Rev. Emmons E. White, "Thirukkural is a synthesis of the best moral teachings of the world." Rajaji commented, "It is the gospel of love and a code of soul-luminous life. The whole of human aspiration is epitomized in this immortal book, a book for all ages." Zakir Hussain, former President of India, said, "Thirukkural is a treasure house of worldly knowledge, ethical guidance and spiritual wisdom."
Along with Nalatiyar, another work on ethics and morality from the Sangam period, Tirukkural is praised for its veracity. An age-old Tamil maxim has it that "banyan and acacia maintain oral health; Four and Two maintain moral health," where "Four" and "Two" refer to the quatrains and couplets of Nalatiyar and Tirukkural, respectively.
Although it has been widely acknowledged that Thiruvalluvar was of Jain origin and the Tirukkural to its most part was inspired from Jain, Hindu and other ancient Indian philosophies, owing to its universality and non-denominational nature, almost every religious group in India and across the world, including Christianity, has claimed the work for itself. For example, G. U. Pope speaks of the book as an "echo of the 'Sermon on the Mount.'" In the Introduction to his English translation of the Kural, Pope even claims, "I cannot feel any hesitation in saying that the Christian Scriptures were among the sources from which the poet derived his inspiration." However, the chapters on the ethics of vegetarianism (Chapter 26) and non-killing (Chapter 33), which the Kural emphasizes unambiguously unlike religious texts, suggest that the ethics of the Kural is rather a reflection of the Jaina moral code than of Christian ethics.
Similarities with Confucian thoughtsEdit
The Kural text and the Confucian sayings recorded in the classic Analects of Chinese (called Lun Yu, meaning "Sacred Sayings") resemble each other in many ways. Both Valluvar and Confucius focused on the behaviors and moral conducts of a common person. Similar to Valluvar, Confucius advocated legal justice embracing human principles, courtesy, and filial piety, besides the virtues of benevolence, righteousness, loyalty and trustworthiness as foundations of life. Incidentally, Valluvar differed from Confucius in two respects. Firstly, unlike Confucius, Valluvar was also a poet. Secondly, Confucius did not deal with the subject of conjugal love, for which Valluvar devoted an entire division in his work.
Publication of the workEdit
Save for the highly educated circle of scholars and elites, Tirukkural remained largely unknown to the outside world for close to two millennia. It had been passed on as word of mouth by parents to their children and by preceptors to their students for generations within the Tamil-speaking regions of South India. It was not until 1595 when the first translation of the work appeared in Malayalam that the work became known to the wider circle outside the Tamil-speaking communities. It was only in 1812 that the work first came to print, when the Kural text was published in Tamil, chiefly by the efforts of the then Collector of Madras Francis Whyte Ellis, who established the 'Chennai Kalvi Sangam'. It was only in 1835 that Indians were permitted to establish printing press. Thus Tirukkural became the first book to be published in Tamil.
Commentaries and translationsEdit
Commentary refers to prosaic interpretations written by various persons for the original verse form of the Kural couplets. These commentaries are chiefly written in Tamil by pioneer writers over the millennia. Translation, on the other hand, refers to any interpretation, either in prose or in verse, verbatim or otherwise, of the Kural couplets in other languages. Thus, any commentary written in a language other than Tamil is considered a prose translation of the Tamil original in that particular language.
Tirukkural is arguably the most reviewed of all works in Tamil literature, and almost every major writer has written commentaries (explanation in prose) on it. There have been several commentaries written on the Tirukkural over the centuries. There were at least ten ancient commentaries written by pioneer poets of which only six are available today. The ten canonical ancient commentators include Manakkudavar (10th century CE), Dharumar, Dhaamatthar, Nakkar, Paridhi, Thirumalaiyar, Mallar, Kaliperumal or Pari Perumal (11th century CE), Kaalingar (12th century CE), and Parimelazhagar (late 13th century CE). Of these, only the works of Manakkudavar, Paridhi, Kaalingar, Pari Perumal, and Parimelazhagar are available today. The works of Dharumar, Dhaamatthar, and Nakkar are only partially available. The commentaries by Thirumalaiyar and Mallar are lost. The pioneer among these commentators are Manakkudavar and Parimelazhagar. Several commentaries started appearing in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. In 1935, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai had written commentary on the first part of the Tirukkural (virtue) and was published in a different title, although it was only in 2008 that the complete work of his commentary on the Tirukkural was published. Some of the commentaries of the twentieth century include those by Thiru Vi Ka, Bharathidasan, M. Varadarajan, Namakkal kavignar, Devaneya Pavanar, M. Karunanithi, and Solomon Pappaiah. Almost every celebrated writer has written a commentary on the Kural text.
The first translation known of the Kural text is a Malayalam translation that appeared in about 1595. However, the manuscript remained unpublished and was first reported by the Annual Report of the Cochin Archeological Department for the year 1933–34. The Christian missionaries who came to India during the colonial era, inspired by the similarities of the Christian ideals found in the Kural, started translating the text into various European languages. The Latin translation of the Tirukkural, the first of the translations into European languages, was made by Constantius Joseph Beschi in 1730. However, he translated only the first two parts, viz., virtue and wealth, leaving out the section on love assuming that it would be inappropriate for a Christian missionary to do so. The first French translation was brought about by an unknown author by about 1767 that went unnoticed. The first available French version was by Monsieur Ariel in 1848. Again, he did not translate the whole work but only parts of it. The first German translation was made by Dr. Karl Graul, who published it in 1856 both at London and Leipzig. Graul's translation was unfortunately incomplete due to his premature death. The first, and incomplete, English translations were made by N. E. Kindersley in 1794 and then by Francis Whyte Ellis in 1812. While Kindersley translated a selection of the Kural text, Ellis translated 120 couplets in all—69 of them in verse and 51 in prose. W. H. Drew translated the first two parts in prose in 1840 and 1852, respectively. It contained the original Tamil text of the Kural, Parimelazhagar's commentary, Ramanuja Kavirayar's amplification of the commentary and Drew's English prose translation. However, Drew was able to translate only 630 couplets, and the remaining were made by John Lazarus, a native missionary. Like Beschi, Drew did not translate the part on love. The first complete English translation of the Kural was the one by George Uglow Pope in 1886, which brought the Tirukkural to the western world.
By the end of the twentieth century, there were about twenty-four translations of the Kural in English alone, by both native and non-native scholars, including those by V. V. S. Aiyar, K. M. Balasubramaniam, Shuddhananda Bharati, A. Chakravarthy, M. S. Purnalingam Pillai, C. Rajagopalachari, P. S. Sundaram, T. S. Ramalingam Pillai, and Gopalkrishna Gandhi. At present, the Tirukkural has been translated into 37 languages. It is the most translated Tamil literature and also the most translated non-religious text of India.
It is also said that the work has also been translated into 'Vaagriboli', the language of the Narikuravas, a tribal community in Tamil Nadu.
Valluvar has been highly venerated as a poet-saint over the centuries. In the early 16th century, a temple was constructed in Mylapore, Chennai, in honor of Valluvar. It was extensively renovated in the 1970s.
To honor the Kural literature and its author, a monument named Valluvar Kottam was constructed in Chennai in 1976. The chief element of the monument includes a 39-m-high chariot, a replica of the chariot in the temple town of Thiruvarur, and it contains a life-size statue of Thiruvalluvar. All 133 chapters and 1330 verses of the Kural text are inscribed on bas-relief in the corridors in the main hall.
To honor Thiruvalluvar, a 133-feet (40.6 m) statue, sculpted in stone, was erected in 2000 atop a small island near the town of Kanyakumari on the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, where two seas and an ocean, viz., the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean meet.
- Kamil Zvelebil 1975, p. 124.
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- A stone inscription found on the walls of a well at the Periya palayathamman temple at Royapettai indicates Ellis' regard for Thiruvalluvar. It is one of the 27 wells dug on the orders of Ellis in 1818, when Madras suffered a severe drinking water shortage. In the long inscription Ellis praises Thiruvalluvar and uses a couplet from Thirukkural to explain his actions during the drought. When he was in charge of the Madras treasury and mint, he also issued a gold coin bearing Thiruvalluvar's image. The Tamil inscription on his grave makes note of his commentary of Thirukkural.Mahadevan, Iravatham. "The Golden coin depicting Thiruvalluvar -2". Varalaaru.com (in Tamil). Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- The original inscription in Tamil written in the Asiriyapa meter and first person perspective: (The Kural he quotes is in Italics)
சயங்கொண்ட தொண்டிய சாணுறு நாடெனும் | ஆழியில் இழைத்த வழகுறு மாமணி | குணகடன் முதலாக குட கடலளவு | நெடுநிலம் தாழ நிமிர்ந்திடு சென்னப் | பட்டணத்து எல்லீசன் என்பவன் யானே | பண்டாரகாரிய பாரம் சுமக்கையில் | புலவர்கள் பெருமான் மயிலையம் பதியான் | தெய்வப் புலமைத் திருவள்ளுவனார் | திருக்குறள் தன்னில் திருவுளம் பற்றிய் | இருபுனலும் வாய்த்த மலையும் வருபுனலும் | வல்லரணும் நாட்டிற் குறுப்பு | என்பதின் பொருளை என்னுள் ஆய்ந்து | ஸ்வஸ்திஸ்ரீ சாலிவாகன சகாப்த வரு | ..றாச் செல்லா நின்ற | இங்கிலிசு வரு 1818ம் ஆண்டில் | பிரபவாதி வருக்கு மேற் செல்லா நின்ற | பஹுதான்ய வரு த்தில் வார திதி | நக்ஷத்திர யோக கரணம் பார்த்து | சுப திநத்தி லிதனோ டிருபத்தேழு | துரவு கண்டு புண்ணியாஹவாசநம் | பண்ணுவித்தேன்.
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