The Thirukural is one of the most valuable literary works in the Tamil language. It is a masterpiece of Tamil literature and is regarded as containing the purest form of human thoughts. Thirukural is a universal bible composed during the last of three Sangam eras. Thirukural was written by a great Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar, who is believed to have lived sometime between 500-200 BCE. It is a classic of 1330 couplets, structured in 133 chapters in 3 sections. Other names for Thirukural are Uttaravedam, Poyyamozhi, Vayurai Vazhthu, Deyvanool, Pothumarai, Muppal, and Tamil Marai. Thirukural is unique in providing of a code of conduct for mankind to follow through all time. It speaks to a number of topics, such as behavior, administration, family, love, wealth, and virtue.
Thirukural has been divided into three sections: Arathupaal, Porutpaal and Kaamathupaal.
Arathupaal – This section teaches aram (right conduct), good ethical behavior with conscience and honor.
Porutpaal – This section teaches porul, the right manner of conducting worldly affairs.
Kaamathupaal – This section teaches inbam (love), ultimate intimacy between men and women.
The first section has 38 chapters, the second has 70 chapters, and the third has 25 chapters. Each chapter consists of 10 kural (couplets) each, making a total of 1330 kural in 133 adhigaarams (chapters). Each kural consists of seven words in two lines – four words in first line and three words in the second line.
The first kural that is written is:
அகர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் ஆதி
பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு.
Agara Mudhala Ezhuthellam Aadhi
Bhagavan Mudhatre Ulagu
Just as the alphabet ‘A’ is the beginning of all letters,
so also, God is the beginning for this universe.
An early commentary by Parimelazhagar, dating to the 12th century, gives us an idea about the amount and the value of the information provided in each and every kural.
The Thirukural is believed to have been written by a great Tamil poet called Thiruvalluvar. Thirukural itself does not reveal the name of the author. Records have been found in the 10th-century text Thiruvalluvarmaalai mentioning the name of Thiruvalluvar. The name Thiruvalluvar consists of “Thiru,” meaning “Mr.” or “honorable,” and “Valluvar,” representing the caste or occupation. However, it has not yet been identified whether the caste was named after the author or vice versa.
There are many controversies as to the birth place of Thiruvalluvar. Some people say that he was born in Madurai as Valluvar, meaning the devotee of Valluva caste. Valluvas are Pariahs (now called Harijans), and their occupation is to proclaim the instructions provided by the king using drums. Others say that Thiruvalluvar was born in Mylapore. Recent studies have discovered that he was born in Tirunayanarkurichi in the erstwhile Valluva Nadu.
It is believed that Thiruvalluvar was the son of Bhagavan, a Brahmin, and Adi, a Pariah woman whom he had married. The wife of Thiruvalluvar was Vasuki, a devoted wife to her husband. She is remembered for her obedience. She never failed to act according to the instructions of her husband, Thiruvalluvar.
Thiruvalluvar was a great sage as well as a great Grihastha (householder) at that time. He proved to everyone that a man need not convert into a Sanyasi (saint) to be pure. A man can be a Grihastha and lead a pure divine life with sanctity.
The pure thoughts of Thiruvalluvar revealed in his work Thirukural not only suited the lifestyle of the people belonging to the age in which it was written, but also are relevant to the lifestyle of the present generation and upcoming generations.
Upon completion of the work Thirukural, Thiruvalluvar took his manuscript to Madurai, where there was a prevailing practice of reading out the literary work in public where scholars and critics would be present. To measure the purity of the work, manuscripts were placed on a plank of wood in the water tank of the Madurai Meenakshi temple. It is said that the divinity of Thirukural kept the manuscript afloat. It is also said that, to the amusement of the critics, the plank shrunk in size to hold only the Kural manuscript and let the rest of the works fall into the water.
The Thirukural was translated into Latin by Constanzo Beschi in 1730. The translation brought popularity to the Tamil work in European countries. The couplets were translated into English by G. U. Pope in 1886, which brought worldwide popularity.
Other translations of Thirukural were done in languages such as Burmese, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Fijian, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Malay, Polish, Russian, Sinhala, and Swedish. It has also been translated into the Indian languages of Bengali, Gujarathi, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Saurashtra, Telugu, and Urdu.
The literary work Thirukural is popular all over the world, as it was translated into a number of languages.
There is a weekly train in India named after Thirukural: the Thirukural Express, running between Kanniyakumari and Hazrat Nizamuudin in Delhi.
A memorial to honor Thiruvalluvar was constructed in 1976 in Kodamabakkam of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The monument, called Valluvar Kottam, is in the form of a temple chariot. The construction of this temple-like memorial is in Dravidian style.
A statue 133 feet tall was built in Kanyakumari near the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in commemoration of the great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar. The height of the statue, 133 feet, represents the number of adhigaraams (chapters) present in Thirukural.
There is also a Thiruvalluvar statue outside the School of Oriental and African Studies in Russell Square, London.
The Tamil Nadu government celebrates the 15th of January as Thiruvalluvar Day as part of the Pongal celebrations in his honor.
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