There are 37 chapters in the first book, the first four called payiram or prefactory matter, the next twenty about ill-aram (the householder’s dharma) and the next thirteen about turavaram (the path of renunciation)
The second book on porul contains seventy chapters, the first twenty dealing with kings and their duties, the succeeding thirty two chapters with the other matters concerning the state, and next thirteen, with sundry concerns.
The third book on inbam contains twenty five chapters, the first seven being on pre marital love (kalavu) and the next eighteen on marital love.
There are 133 chapters in all, each chapter contains ten distichs in the metre known as Kural and the work itself is now called by that name. Professor S.Vaiyarapuri Pillai comments in his well regarded ‘History of Tamil Language and Literature’:
"Never before nor since, did words of such profound wisdom issue forth from any sage in Tamil land…
Manu had features which were peculiar to his own time… His society was god ordained, hierarchic in its structure and unalterably fixed by the Karmic influence. It denied equality between man and man, in the eye of the law. Kautiliya was more a politician that statesman. He found in his great work room for a statecraft motivated by an unquenching thirst for conquest … Vatsyayana devoted himself in his Kamasutra to a treatment of carnal pleasure in all its ramifications and he had no eyes for the enobling aspect of love which is one of the most fundamental urges in human nature.
Valluvar, the Tamil sage excels each one of these ancients in his respective sphere. He makes humanity and love the cementing force of society, and considerations of birth are of no account to him. His political wisdom is characterised by a breadth of vision at once noble and elevating. The sexual love which he depicts with inimitable grace and delicacy is idealistic, even if it be schematic and mannered. Its romance is ethereal and carries us to an atmosphere where purity of emotion, freshness and beauty reign supreme…
The utter simplicity of his language, his crystal clear utterances, precise and forceful, his brevity, his choice diction, no less his inwardness, his learning, culture and wisdom, his catholicity and eclecticism, his gentle humour and wholesome counsel have made him an object of veneration for all time and his book is considered the Veda of the Tamils.
The genius of the Tamil race has flowered to perfection in this great author … (and) the influence which his work, since its publication (more than 1400 years ago) exercised over the mind, life and literature of the Tamils is phenomenal."
V.V.S.Aiyar, an early Tamil revolutionary wrote in the preface to his English translation of the Kural in March1915:
தமிழில் உள்ள நூல்களிலேயே சிறப்பிடம் பெற்ற நூல் திருக்குறள்.
இது அடிப்படையில் ஒரு வாழ்வியல் நூல். மனித வாழ்வின் முக்கிய அங்கங் களாகிய அறம் அல்லது தர்மம், பொருள், இன்பம் அல்லது காமம் ஆகியவற்றைப் பற்றி விளக்கும் நூல்.
திருவள்ளுவரை நாயனார், தேவர், தெய்வப்புலவர், பெருநாவலர், பொய்யில் புலவர் என்றும் சில சிறப்புப்பெயர்களால் அழைப்பர்.
பிற்காலத்தில் திருவள்ளுவர் பெயரால் வேறு சிலநூல்களை வேறு சிலர் இயற்றியுள்ளனர். அவை சித்தர் இலக்கியத்தைச் சேர்ந்தவை.
திருக்குறள் இயற்றப்பட்ட காலம் இன்னும் சரியாக வரையறுக்கப்படவில்லை. கிருஸ்துவ சகாப்தத்தின் முன் பகுதியைச் சேர்ந்ததாகப் பலர் கருதுவர்.
அவற்றில் பதினென்கீழ்க்கணக்கு எனப்படும் பதினெட்டு நூல்களின் வரிசையில் "முப்பால்" என்னும் பெயரோடு இந்நூல் விளங்குகின்றது.
பழங்காலத்தில் இதற்குப் பலர் உரை எழுதியுள்ளனர். அவற்றில் புகழ் வாய்ந்ததாக விளங்குவதும் அதிகமாகப் பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டதும் பரிமேலழகர் உரைதான். தற்காலத்திலும் பலர் உரை எழுதியுள்ளனர். அவற்றில் தற்சமயம் சிறப்பாகக் கருதப் படுவது திருக்குறள் முனுசாமியின் உரை.
உலகிலேயே அதிக மொழிகளில் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ள நூல்களில் மூன்றாம் இடத்தைத் திருக்குறள் வகிக்கிறது. இதுவரை 80 மொழிகளில் மொழி பெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.
"இறைவன் மனிதனுக்குச் சொன்னது கீதை
|ThirukkuRaL (திருக்குறள்) written by ThiruvaLLuvar (திருவள்ளுவர்) is the most well known and highly regarded work in the series of PathineN kIz kaNakku. While all other Sangam works varied in their degree of popularity among Thamizh people, ThirukkuRaL proved to be the cream of Thamizh literature cherished both by the elite and the common man alike. The complete work of 1330 couplets is available. It has been described by Pope as "the perfect and most elaborate work of one master" |
The couplets in ThirukkuRaL contain two lines, the first usually of four feet and the second three. As usual the date of the author and personal accounts have been, and still are, the subjects of controversy among experts in the field. Based on the fact that ThirukkuRaL is referred to in MaNi mEkalai, a later literary classic, Zvelebil (1995) has concluded that the date should be c. 500 -550 A.D.
The par excellence of ThirukkuRaL is usually attributed to four of its major unique features. The first pertains to the ability of the poet to concentrate certain profound thoughts in two short lines of the veNpA (வெண்பா) type. It is said that the poet has pierced the atom and has packed within it the seven seas of the world (அணுவைத் துளைத்து எழு கடலைப்புகுத்தி) . The second trait refers to the maxims proposed on various aspects of human endeavours ranging from righteousness through worldly pursuits to love. It is no wonder that any talk by the present day Thamizh scholars on any topic is studded with quotes from ThirukkuRaL. The third attribute of ThirukkuRaL lies in its secular and cosmopolitan view of righteousness which would be acceptable to mankind as a whole, transcending linguistic, religious and national boundaries.
At a time when the order of the day was an elaboration of the akam theme, ThirukkuRaL was not only different in its literary style but also in its emphasis on the badly needed set of moral codes for human conduct. He was a social reformist and stood firmly against prostitution. He condemned the consumption of alcohol and meat eating. The final significance of ThirukkuRaL is that it opens up with an invocation wherein the poet pays homage first to the Absolute Being and not to any particular deity or godhead and secondly to all learned people.
The couplets bear testimony to the catholic perception of the author. The vEdhAntic philosophy of the oneness of the Supreme expressed in these lines and the lack of sectarian dogmas of individual religions have appealed to righteous people in India and elsewhere. The translation of ThirukkuRaL into English by Pope in the nineteenth century is an example of its secular nature. In a world divided and torn on the basis of religion and language, the Thamizh people can be proud to have in their ancient literature a work which has the moral dictum to alleviate the social and ethical dilemmas facing the world today.
It is significant that ThirukkuRaL has been composed in pure Thamizh and the very few words introduced from Sanskrit have been made to assume a Thamizh garb (Pope). The need to compress the meter into two lines has necessitated the omission of the finite verbs. Thus the use of ellipsis (தொகை) became indispensable and characteristic of the couplets.
The highest priority given to virtue in ThirukkuRaL could be appreciated by the fact that it is the topic of discussion in the first of the three part series (அறத்துப்பால்). This priority has never been seen before in any literary work in Thamizh upto that time. The second chapter on the excellence of rain, (வான் சிறப்பு) depicts the agricultural background of the author and the dependence of rural folks on rain for their prosperity. Immediately following the greatness of the ascetics, ThiruvaLLuvar emphasizes family and personal virtues. Collectively these verses represent the didactic motivation of the author in undertaking this timely and laborious work.
In the second part on worldliness, (பொருட்பால் ) the importance of learning and the duties of the state and the individual has been discussed.
The need to be able to get along well with others, even if one is highly educated, is stressed in the following couplets:
The idealism and convictions of ThiruvaLLuvar are brought to light in his placement of chastity in the chapter on worldliness, (பொருட்பால்) rather than in the section on love, (காமத்துப்பால்)
In the third chapter on love, (காமத்துப்பால்)ThiruvaLLuvar has placed the seven sections on furtive love (களவியல்) ahead of wedded love (கற்பியல்) in keeping with the traditions of the time. The following verses in the chapter on furtive love describe the recognition of the signs of love in a maiden by the hero:
The couplets in the chapter on furtive love and their placement prior to wedded love support the contention that the furtive love was a socially accepted practice. Furtive love culminates in married life in which the commitments and responsibilities of the couple towards each other and towards their families and society at large have been well defined. These verses would be particularly relevant today when genuine commitment between married couples is gradually becoming conspicuous by its absence. One also wonders at what point in history the financial and religious inputs began to creep into the matrimonial relationships in the Thamizh social fabric !
Two subtle points can be noticed whenever the akam, (அகம்) concepts are discussed : a) the phraseology for the description of human emotions is made in a very polished manner and b) ThiruvaLLuvar reiterates his warnings on unchaste behaviour at every opportunity.
Usually classical works on morality tend to lay down strict rules for implementation. Unfortunately in real life situations one is always confronted with gray areas and is lost as to what the correct course of action should be. Recognizing this dilemma, ThiruvaLLuvar has suggested exceptions wherever necessary. For example, telling a lie is not good but one can do so if it is going to be beneficial for the good of all.
Though the few couplets quoted above cannot do justice to demonstrate ThiruvaLLuvar's poetic skills or his heroic attempts to inculcate strict moral codes into the minds of all sections of society, they can at best give only a glimpse of the precision of his delivery, depth of his convictions and finally his comprehension of human psychology. If one aspect of ThirukkuRaL has to be identified for its universal recognition, it is the lack of theological or religious dogmas in the couplets.
To quote the words of Swift (radhAkrishNan, p.44), "We have enough religion to hate one other but not enough to love one another". It is amazing that ThiruvaLLuvar seemed to be aware of this maxim a thousand years back !
As many as ten scholars have written commentaries on ThirukkuRaL as stated in the following poem:
The commentary of ParimElazhakar, (பரிமேலழகர்)on ThirukkuRaL has been acclaimed to be outstanding for its interpretation of the literary niceties of the couplets and depth of perception of ThiruvaLLuvar's ideologies. Many modern interpretations of ThirukkuRal are now available including KuRaLOvium (குறளோவியம்) by Dr. M. KaruNAn^ithi (மு.கருணநிதி)