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Monday, May 4, 2015


 Thiruvalluvar Statue and the adjacent Vivekananda Rock Memorial at sunrise.

 Original uploader was Infocaster at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:BishkekRocks using CommonsHelper.

       I have always been fascinated by Thirukkural for it is sheer breath and depth. Every time you study the couplets you get a new insight into a whole range of subjects and issues. 

       Once, in a casual discussion with some of my North Indian friends I happened to mention the book . The topic of discussion was Indian contribution to Civilization. Just as I was preparing to build a case for arguing that this was the greatest contribution to the world by India, I noticed the blank faces and raised eyebrows all around. I kept going nonchalantly, till a guy blurted out ,“ Thirukkural ? What the hell is  it ?” Since then I generally kept my thoughts to myself on this great work, particularly when in the company of friends from north of the Vindhyas. 

       Of late I have noted some quotes and mis-quotes on the social media and for whatever reason people seem to be showing some interest in talking about it , if not studying it or following the teachings. So, I venture to write a brief note on what it is all about. It would be preposterous to say , it is a critique or a review of the work ,may be  just a glimpse of one view of a huge mountain as seen from a particular spot; just a primer for my North Indian friends

            Basically, it is composed of couplets like the dohas of Kabir das or Rahim. What is remarkable is that  these verses are so well organized to cover every aspect of human endeavour over centuries. It pans across time and space to continue to be as relevant today in this 'Whatsapp Age' as it was 2000 years before in an agrarian society. The book covers Ethics and value system in a society as much as an individual's quest for fulfilment in terms of peace , prosperity fame and love.  If Valluvar's advice to a king during war places him at par with SunTzu , his verses on ethics and love reminds you of Lao-Tzu and Vatsyayana. Unlike Vatsyayana who covers the physical aspects of Love  in detail, Valluvar focuses more on the psychological aspects.

            Keeping in line with the concept of Dharma (Duty or Righteousness), Artha (Wealth) and kama (Pleasure) , it is broadly divided into 'arathuppal', 'porutpal' and 'Kaamathupal' Then there are chapters under each part and each chapter is divided into sections . Each section has 10 verses . Thus the book of 1330 verses covers 133 sections. The importance  of an aspect to life  may be gauged by the number of verses on a particular aspect. For eg the importance of 'company one keeps' can be seen from the 50 verses under various heads viz 79 - 83.   The 133 subjects covered are tabulated below.   (Courtesy :

Tamil English Transliteration Kurals
1 கடவுள் வாழ்த்து The Praise of God Katavul Vaazhththu Kurals
2 வான்சிறப்பு The Blessing of Rain Vaansirappu Kurals
3 நீத்தார் பெருமை The Greatness of Ascetics Neeththaar Perumai Kurals
4 அறன் வலியுறுத்தல் Assertion of the Strength of Virtue Aran Valiyuruththal Kurals
5 இல்வாழ்க்கை Domestic Life Ilvaazhkkai Kurals
6 வாழ்க்கைத் துணைநலம் The Worth of a Wife Vaazhkkaith Thunainalam Kurals
7 மக்கட்பேறு The Wealth of Children Pudhalvaraip Perudhal Kurals
8 அன்புடைமை The Possession of Love Anputaimai Kurals
9 விருந்தோம்பல் Hospitality Virundhompal Kurals
10 இனியவை கூறல் The Utterance of Pleasant Words Iniyavaikooral Kurals
11 செய்ந்நன்றியறிதல் Gratitude Seynnandri Aridhal Kurals
12 நடுவு நிலைமை Impartiality Natuvu Nilaimai Kurals
13 அடக்கம் உடைமை The Possession of Self-restraint Atakkamutaimai Kurals
14 ஒழுக்கம் உடைமை The Possession of Decorum Ozhukkamutaimai Kurals
15 பிறனில் விழையாமை Not coveting another's Wife Piranil Vizhaiyaamai Kurals
16 பொறையுடைமை The Possession of Patience, Forbearance Poraiyutaimai Kurals
17 அழுக்காறாமை Not Envying Azhukkaaraamai Kurals
18 வெஃகாமை Not Coveting Veqkaamai Kurals
19 புறங்கூறாமை Not Backbiting Purangooraamai Kurals
20 பயனில சொல்லாமை Against Vain Speaking Payanila Sollaamai Kurals
21 தீவினையச்சம் Dread of Evil Deeds Theevinaiyachcham Kurals
22 ஒப்புரவறிதல் Duty to Society Oppuravaridhal Kurals
23 ஈ.கை Giving Eekai Kurals
24 புகழ் Renown Pukazh Kurals
25 அருளுடைமை Compassion Arulutaimai Kurals
26 புலால் மறுத்தல் Abstinence from Flesh Pulaanmaruththal Kurals
27 தவம் Penance Thavam Kurals
28 கூடா ஒழுக்கம் Imposture Kootaavozhukkam Kurals
29 கள்ளாமை The Absence of Fraud Kallaamai Kurals
30 வாய்மை Veracity Vaaimai Kurals
31 வெகுளாமை Restraining Anger Vekulaamai Kurals
32 இன்னா செய்யாமை Not doing Evil Innaaseyyaamai Kurals
33 கொல்லாமை Not killing Kollaamai Kurals
34 நிலையாமை Instability Nilaiyaamai Kurals
35 துறவு Renunciation Thuravu Kurals
36 மெய்யுணர்தல் Truth-Conciousness Meyyunardhal Kurals
37 அவா அறுத்தல் Curbing of Desire Avaavaruththal Kurals
38 ஊழ் Fate Oozh Kurals
39 இறைமாட்சி The Greatness of a King Iraimaatchi Kurals
40 கல்வி Learning Kalvi Kurals
41 கல்லாமை Ignorance Kallaamai Kurals
42 கேள்வி Hearing Kelvi Kurals
43 அறிவுடைமை The Possession of Knowledge Arivutaimai Kurals
44 குற்றங்கடிதல் The Correction of Faults Kutrangatidhal Kurals
45 பெரியாரைத் துணைக்கோடல் Seeking the Aid of Great Men Periyaaraith Thunaikkotal Kurals
46 சிற்றினம் சேராமை Avoiding mean Associations Sitrinanjeraamai Kurals
47 தெரிந்து செயல்வகை Acting after due Consideration Therindhuseyalvakai Kurals
48 வலியறிதல் The Knowledge of Power Valiyaridhal Kurals
49 காலமறிதல் Knowing the fitting Time Kaalamaridhal Kurals
50 இடனறிதல் Knowing the Place Itanaridhal Kurals
51 தெரிந்து தெளிதல் Selection and Confidence Therindhudhelidhal Kurals
52 தெரிந்து வினையாடல் Selection and Employment Therindhuvinaiyaatal Kurals
53 சுற்றந் தழால் Cherishing Kinsmen Sutrandhazhaal Kurals
54 பொச்சாவாமை Unforgetfulness Pochchaavaamai Kurals
55 செங்கோன்மை The Right Sceptre Sengonmai Kurals
56 கொடுங்கோன்மை The Cruel Sceptre Kotungonmai Kurals
57 வெருவந்த செய்யாமை Absence of Terrorism Veruvandhaseyyaamai Kurals
58 கண்ணோட்டம் Benignity Kannottam Kurals
59 ஒற்றாடல் Detectives Otraatal Kurals
60 ஊக்கம் உடைமை Energy Ookkamutaimai Kurals
61 மடி இன்மை Unsluggishness Matiyinmai Kurals
62 ஆள்வினை உடைமை Manly Effort Aalvinaiyutaimai Kurals
63 இடுக்கண் அழியாமை Hopefulness in Trouble Itukkan Azhiyaamai Kurals
64 அமைச்சு The Office of Minister of state Amaichchu Kurals
65 சொல்வன்மை Power of Speech Solvanmai Kurals
66 வினைத் தூய்மை Purity in Action Vinaiththooimai Kurals
67 வினைத்திட்பம் Power in Action Vinaiththitpam Kurals
68 வினை செயல்வகை Modes of Action Vinaiseyalvakai Kurals
69 தூது The Envoy Thoodhu Kurals
70 மன்னரைச் சேர்ந்து ஒழுகல் Conduct in the Presence of the King Mannaraich Cherndhozhudhal Kurals
71 குறிப்பறிதல் The Knowledge of Indications Kuripparidhal Kurals
72 அவை அறிதல் The Knowledge of the Council Chamber Avaiyaridhal Kurals
73 அவை அஞ்சாமை Not to dread the Council Avaiyanjaamai Kurals
74 நாடு The Land Naatu Kurals
75 அரண் The Fortification Aran Kurals
76 பொருள் செயல்வகை Way of Accumulating Wealth Porulseyalvakai Kurals
77 படை மாட்சி The Excellence of an Army Pataimaatchi Kurals
78 படைச் செருக்கு Military Spirit Pataichcherukku Kurals
79 நட்பு Friendship Natpu Kurals
80 நட்பாராய்தல் Investigation in forming Friendships Natpaaraaidhal Kurals
81 பழைமை Familiarity Pazhaimai Kurals
82 தீ நட்பு Evil Friendship Thee Natpu Kurals
83 கூடா நட்பு Unreal Friendship Kootaanatpu Kurals
84 பேதைமை Folly Pedhaimai Kurals
85 புல்லறிவாண்மை Ignorance Pullarivaanmai Kurals
86 இகல் Hostility Ikal Kurals
87 பகை மாட்சி The Might of Hatred Pakaimaatchi Kurals
88 பகைத்திறம் தெரிதல் Knowing the Quality of Hate Pakaiththirandheridhal Kurals
89 உட்பகை Enmity within Utpakai Kurals
90 பெரியாரைப் பிழையாமை Not Offending the Great Periyaaraip Pizhaiyaamai Kurals
91 பெண்வழிச் சேறல் Being led by Women Penvazhichcheral Kurals
92 வரைவின் மகளிர் Wanton Women Varaivinmakalir Kurals
93 கள்ளுண்ணாமை Not Drinking Palm-Wine Kallunnaamai Kurals
94 சூது Gambling Soodhu Kurals
95 மருந்து Medicine Marundhu Kurals
96 குடிமை Nobility Kutimai Kurals
97 மானம் Honour Maanam Kurals
98 பெருமை Greatness Perumai Kurals
99 சான்றாண்மை Perfectness Saandraanmai Kurals
100 பண்புடைமை Courtesy Panputaimai Kurals
101 நன்றியில் செல்வம் Wealth without Benefaction Nandriyilselvam Kurals
102 நாணுடைமை Shame Naanutaimai Kurals
103 குடிசெயல் வகை The Way of Maintaining the Family Kutiseyalvakai Kurals
104 உழவு Farming Uzhavu Kurals
105 நல்குரவு Poverty Nalkuravu Kurals
106 இரவு Mendicancy Iravu Kurals
107 இரவச்சம் The Dread of Mendicancy Iravachcham Kurals
108 கயமை Baseness Kayamai Kurals
109 தகை அணங்குறுத்தல் The Pre-marital love Thakaiyananguruththal Kurals
110 குறிப்பறிதல் Recognition of the Signs Kuripparidhal Kurals
111 புணர்ச்சி மகிழ்தல் Rejoicing in the Embrace Punarchchimakizhdhal Kurals
112 நலம் புனைந்து உரைத்தல் The Praise of her Beauty Nalampunaindhuraiththal Kurals
113 காதற் சிறப்புரைத்தல் Declaration of Love's special Excellence Kaadharsirappuraiththal Kurals
114 நாணுத் துறவுரைத்தல் The Abandonment of Reserve Naanuththuravuraiththal Kurals
115 அலர் அறிவுறுத்தல் The Announcement of the Rumour Alararivuruththal Kurals
116 பிரிவு ஆற்றாமை Separation unendurable Pirivaatraamai Kurals
117 படர்மெலிந் திரங்கல் Complainings Patarmelindhirangal Kurals
118 கண் விதுப்பழிதல் Eyes consumed with Grief Kanvidhuppazhidhal Kurals
119 பசப்புறு பருவரல் The Pallid Hue Pasapparuparuvaral Kurals
120 தனிப்படர் மிகுதி The Solitary Anguish Thanippatarmikudhi Kurals
121 நினைந்தவர் புலம்பல் Sad Memories Ninaindhavarpulampal Kurals
122 கனவுநிலை உரைத்தல் The Visions of the Night Kanavunilaiyuraiththal Kurals
123 பொழுதுகண்டு இரங்கல் Lamentations at Eventide Pozhudhukantirangal Kurals
124 உறுப்புநலன் அழிதல் Wasting Away Uruppunalanazhidhal Kurals
125 நெஞ்சொடு கிளத்தல் Soliloquy Nenjotukilaththal Kurals
126 நிறையழிதல் Reserve Overcome Niraiyazhidhal Kurals
127 அவர்வயின் விதும்பல் Mutual Desire Avarvayinvidhumpal Kurals
128 குறிப்பறிவுறுத்தல் The Reading of the Signs Kuripparivuruththal Kurals
129 புணர்ச்சி விதும்பல் Desire for Reunion Punarchchividhumpal Kurals
130 நெஞ்சொடு புலத்தல் Expostulation with Oneself Nenjotupulaththal Kurals
131 புலவி Pouting Pulavi Kurals
132 புலவி நுணுக்கம் Feigned Anger Pulavi Nunukkam Kurals
133 ஊடலுவகை The Pleasures of Temporary Variance Ootaluvakai Kurals

(Courtesy :

      It would neither  be feasible nor desirable to cover the whole book , but I would like to quote a few verses on different subjects, to give an idea of the clear, concise, and precise way the verses are composed, even while retaining the poetic form.I suppose a gentle warning is in order here ."the English translation can never capture the original meaning and form"

On Education

Learning is the true imperishable riches; all other things are not riches

On Purity of Action 

Though a person may see his mother starve; let him  not act in a way which the wise would treat with contempt.

the kural takes a clear unambiguous stand on the eternal debate between 'means and ends'

On Friendship

(True) friendship hastens to the rescue of the afflicted (as readily) as the hand of one whose garment is loosened (before an assembly)

this kural, defines what a friend means

On Children

"The pipe is sweet, the lute is sweet," say those who have not heard the prattle of their own children

the poet in Valluvar is at his best

On Social Gossip about young lovers (Page 3 ?!)

This malady (of lust) is manured by the talk of women and watered by the (harsh) words of my mother

What an insight into the effect on young lovers on gossip by the society and admonition by parents.

      The reductionists that we are , the first challenge for anyone coming across a book today, is on how to classify it. (A trivia on Shiva Triology by Amish Tripati; the publishing was delayed since the the publishers couldn't agree on whether the book would be classified under non-fiction,  fiction, religion, mythology or anything else.)

     Is Thirukkural , a religious book ? Well, many atheists love it. Is it for 'self Improvement' ? May be, but there are many verses on 'vegetarianism' , 'non violence' , 'refraining from alcohol' which may not gel with a mind influenced by the western way of thinking. There is advice on virtues,vices, health, wealth , governance , diplomacy and everything under the sun, which cannot be classified  under any school of thinking. 

        One may not agree with every verse nor is there a need to. It has something for everyone. Every individual is inspired by a different verse, at different point of time in his life. There is something in it for every one , any time. Take what appeals to you , leave out what doesn't , but make sure you revisit  the verses at a later stage in life. Whatever be,  learning and dwelling on just 10 – 20 of your favourite verses from the 1330 verses can definitely enrich one's life to a great extent.     

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