constitutes one of the most important literary works in Tamil. It is generally
reckoned that Kural was composed during the Sangam Period of literary development
in Tamil (500-200 BC). Kural continues to be important today, in the twentyfirst
century, for scholars believe that Kural conveys many many important messages
to the society. International interest in the study of Kural can be traced
to the second half of the Nineteenth century.
reference has been made possible due to the availability of the Multilingual
software from IIT Madras. Visitors to these pages should be able to view
the text in Tamil script on most graphic enabled web browsers. The presentations
are unique and one of a kind on the web.
Tirukkural is a masterpiece
of Tamil literature, composed during the last of the three Sangam eras.
While it has not been possible to exactly date the work, the reference
to Kural in the great epics Manimekalai and Silappadhikaram give us some
idea of when it would have been composed.
Not much is known
about Tiruvalluvar, the author of the work though it is believed that he
was born in Mylaopore (Chennai, Tamilnadu) and belonged to the weaver community.
He is also known by several other names e.g., Nayanar, Theivappulavar,
Perunavalar. The work itself is often called Tamil Marai, a reference to
its identification with the Vedas.
It is believed that
Valluvar composed the work on request from his close friend and student
by name Elela Singan. Upon completion, Valluvar took the work to Madurai,
as per the prevailing practice of reading out new compositions in a public
forum where critics and scholars would be present.
The conceited scholars at
Madurai, insisted on measuring the greatness of the work through a test
where the manuscript would be placed with other works on a plank kept afloat
in the tank of the great temple and it was to be seen if the plank remained
afloat. The significance of this is that the greatness of a work is realized
on the basis of not the weight of its manuscript (written on Palm leaves)
but the devine qualities of the work which foced the plank to stay afloat.
It is said that to
the amazement of the critics, the Sangam Plank shrunk itself in size to
hold only the Kural manuscript and in the process throwing out the rest.
There is also a belief
that Valluvar and the great poetess Auvaiyar were siblings and it was Auvaiyar
who went one step ahead of what had been said about Kural earlier. Idaikkadar
had praised Kural with a reference that the greatness of Kural is such
that Valluvar had packed inside a mustard seed, the essence of all knowledge
from the broad world spanned by seven seas. Auvaiyar had substituted the
term kadugu (mustard) by Anu (meaning an atom). It is interesting to note
that the concept of Atom had already been established in the Tamil country
two thousand years ago!
Tirukkural is a work
of 1330 couplets each of which conforms to the structure of "Kural Venba",
a grammatical construction with two lines of
four and three words respectively.
The work is arranged in 133 Adhikarams, each with 10 couplets. The 133
Adhikarams are divided into three major groups known as "Aram", "Porul"
and "Inbam". Aram represents Virtue, Porul defines the principles of Life
for common people as well as the State.
The last section deals with
aspects of Love. The overall organization of Tirukkural is as follows,
based on seven ideals prescribed for people followed by observations on
40 couplets on God, Rain,
Virtue and Ascetics.
200 couplets on Domestic
140 couplets on Higher Virtue
based on Grace
250 couplets on Royalty
100 couplets on Ministers
220 couplets on the Essential
requirements of Administration
130 couples on Morality,
both positive and negative
250 couplets on Human Love
The list provides the titles of the 133 Adhikarams (in Tamil script).
praise of Kural
Today, one also reads an appendix to the
work where great men had praised the author. This appendix is known as
"Tiruvalluva Malai" or the "Garland of Valluvar". It has fiftythree verses
from fiftythree different poets spanning several centuries. This appendix
is a goldmine of information about Tirukkural. Thiruvalluva
Malai is presented in an independent page with the text in the Tamil