Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Avvaiyar - Life History

Auvaiyar (Tamil: ஔவையார்)(also Auvayar) was the name of more than one poet who was active during different periods of Tamil literature. They were some of the most famous and important female poets of the Tamil canon. Among them, Auvaiyar I lived during the Sangam period (c. first and second century C.E.) and had cordial relation with the Tamil chieftains, Pari and Athikaman. She wrote 59 poems in Purananuru(புறநானூறு).

Auvaiyar II lived during the period of Kambar and Ottakkuttar during the reign of the Cholas in the 13th century C.E. She is often imagined as an old but intelligent lady by Tamil and primarily referred by them as Auvai.

Auvaiyar II wrote many of the poems that remain very popular even now and are inculcated in school text books in the State of Tamil Nadu. These books include a list of dos and donts, useful for daily life, arranged in simple and short sentences.

Abithana Chintamani states that there were three female poets in the name of Auvaiyar.

Sangam age Auvaiyar

The Auvaiyar who lived during the Sangam period was the court poet of the rulers of the Tamil country. She travelled from one part of the country to another and from one village to another, sharing the gruel of the poor farmers and composing songs for their enjoyment. The Purananuru poet wrote most of her songs on the small time chieftain Vallal Athiyamaan Nedumaan Anji and his family. The rest of her songs related to the various aspects of state governance.

Chola age Auvaiyar

The medieval period Auvaiyar was the court poet of the Chola monarch and was the contemporary of Kambar and Ottakkuttar. She found great happiness in the life of small children. Her works, Aathichoodi and Konraiventhan written for young children, are even now generally read and enjoyed by them.

Her two other works, Mooturai and Nalvali were written for older children. All the four works are didactic in character — they explain the basic wisdom that should govern mundane life.

Auvaiyar Quotes

The following quotes from Aathichoodi illustrate the simplicity of her style and profoundness of the messages:


அறம் செய விரும்பு Enjoy giving alms
ஆறுவது சினம் controllable thing is anger
இயல்வது கரவேல் Never stop learning
ஈவது விலக்கேல் Don't prevent charity (Always be charitable)
உடையது விளம்பேல் Avoid injurious words
ஊக்கமது கைவிடேல் Don't give up persevering
எண் எழுத்து இகழேல் Don't despise learning
ஏற்பது இகழ்ச்சி Accepting alms is despicable
ஐயமிட்டுண் Eat after donating (to the needy)
ஒப்புர வொழுகு Act virtuously
ஓதுவது ஒழியேல் Don't give up reading (scriptures)
ஒளவியம் பேசேல் Don't carry tales

"Thol Ulagil Nallaar Oruvar Ularael Avar Poruttu Ellarkum Peiyum Mazhai" - The rain falls on behalf of the virtuous, benefitting everyone in the world.

"Nanri Oruvarku Seithakal An Nanri Enrum Thalaravalarthengu Thaan Unda Neerai Thalaiyaalae Thaan Tharuthalal" - A good deed will pay back, as the coconut tree that gives the benefit holding on its head, for the water you pour in its feet.

Her quote "Katrathu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallathathu Ulagalavu" has been translated as "What you have learned is a mere handful; What you haven't learned is the size of the world" and exhibited at NASA. Her famous works include:


In Muppandal, a small village in the Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu. there is an image of Auvaiyar. By tradition, this is stated to be the spot where the great poetess left the mortal world.


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