The Thirukkural, often referred to as The Vedas of the Tamils, is one of the most universally acclaimed book. Yet, whilst almost every Mauritian Tamil is aware of this and can recognise Thiruvalluvar’s image from afar, few of us can boast thorough knowledge of this ‘Book of Life’ or of the following fascinating facts.
1.What’s in a name?
Thirukkural was originally named by its author as Muppaal meaning “The Three-Sectioned”. Over the course of time though, several others names have been attributed to this universal book. Some of them are listed below:
- Poyyāmoḻi – “Statements Devoid of Untruth”
- Uttharavedham – “Northern Veda”
- Vāyurai Vāḻttu – “Truthful Utterances”
- Teyvanūl – “The Holy Book”
- Potumaṟai – “The Universal Veda” or “Book for All”
- Tamiḻ Maṟai – “The Tamil Veda”
- Muppāṉūl – “The Three-Sectioned Book”
- Iradi ṉūl – “The Two-Lined Book”
- Thiruvalluvam – “Thiruvalluvarism” or “The Work of Thiruvalluvar”
2. Seek and ye shall find!
The image of Thiruvalluvar with which we are all so familiar today has actually been conceptualised by Mr.K.R.Venugopal Sharma. In his quest to paint an apt portrait of Thiruvalluvar, he even learned the Thirukkural thoroughly. Successful in his endeavour, this portrait of Thiruvalluvar later came to be officially recognised by the State of Tamil Nadu.
3. Weaver, but also of magic through poetry
Not a priest, nor a scholar, but a weaver by profession was Thiruvalluvar. A beautiful reminder that wisdom is definitely not attached to occupational status.
4. On the Holy Kural, I swear..
The Thirukkural is sworn upon when testifying in Tamil Nadu’s courts of law. Such recognition bears testimony to the code of conduct prescribed by this secular book and, perhaps, brings it to its pinnacle.
Short, sharp and shiny, each kural/verse composed by Thiruvalluvar consists of exactly 7 words. Following the Kural Venpa, a form of classical Tamil poetry, these 7 words are written in 2 lines; the first one containing 4 words and the second line, the remaining 3 words.
6. À la française
Among other languages, the Thirukkural was also translated in French but, perhaps, a more beautiful appreciation of it in the remarkable appearance that one of Thiruvalluvar’s poetic verses makes in a train in France, as pictured below.
7. Befitting 133-feet!
Thiruvalluvar’s majestic statue in Kanyakumari pays ultimate tribute to the masterpiece of this great man. The 95-feet statue, representing the 70 chapters on Porul (Wealth) combined with the 25 chapters on Inbam (Love), stands on a 38-feet pedestal, representing the 38 chapters on Aram (Virtue). The significance, thus, boils down to the fact that wealth and love can only rest on the solid foundation of virtue.
This article sought to stimulate interest in The Thirukkural and to provide the groundwork for further personal research. Whatever could have been the reasons behind our lack of ‘Thirukkural literacy’, the onus is now on us to not only discover those precepts that have successfully stood the test of time, but also learn about the history of the Thirukkural as well as its relevance today.
Preesheila Selvina Ramasawmy