Thirukkural (Tamil: திருக்குறள் also known as the Kural) is a classic of couplets or Kurals (1330 rhyming Tamil couplets) or aphorisms. Tirukkural is the great poetic work by saint Tiru Valluvar, embodies values that are ever relevant and unchanging. It is one of the greatest classic of the Tamil language, which dates back anywhere between 2 BC and 8 AD. It comprises two parts, 'Tiru' and 'Kural': 'Tiru' can mean sacred, as well as beautiful, and 'Kural' means concise.
Thirukkural expounds various aspects of life and is one of the most important works in Tamil. This is reflected in some of the other names by which the text is known: tamilmarai (Tamil Veda); poyyamoli (speech that does not lie); and teyva nul (divine text).
Scope of Thirukkural
Thirukkural (or the Kural) is a collection of 1330 Tamil couplets organised into 133 chapters. Each chapter has a specific subject ranging from "ploughing a piece of land" to "ruling a country". According to the LIFCO Tamil-Tamil-English dictionary, the Tamil word Kural means Venpa verse with two lines. Thirukkural comes under one of the four categories of Venpas (Tamil verses) called Kural Venpa. The 1330 couplets are divided into 3 sections and 133 chapters. Each chapter contains 10 couplets. A couplet consists of seven cirs, with four cir1 on the first line and three on the second.
Thirukkural is organised into three sections aram(virtue), porul (realities of life) and inbam(pleasures experienced by a man and a woman in the course of their relationship). Chapters 1 to 38 deal with aram and are classified as Arathuppaal. Chapters 39 to 108 address Porul. Chapters 109 to 133(Inbathuppal) deal with inbam. It is based on the canonical dharma, artha and kama trivarga articulated in the Sanskritic classical texts. It is, also, presumed that if one leads life according to ethical principles set out in the text, the fourth Purusharthas - moksha or veedu (in tamil) or liberation will be automatically achieved
About the Author: Tiru Valluvar
Tirukural was written by the saint Tiruvalluvar approximately 2,200 years ago. It is written in a poetic form called Kural (couplets expounding various aspects of life). Tiru Valluvar stands on a high moral pedestal along with acharya-patanjali, Shankara and Buddha. He lived about 2000 years ago in Tamil Nadu, and worked as a weaver to earn his living. According to legends, he was a man of intense cognizance, enlightment, free spirit and hard work.
Universal Ethical Content
The greatest value of Kural is its universal ethical content. The scripture is divided into three books: Virtue, Wealth and Love — consisting of 1330 couplets clustered in 133 chapters elucidating different aspects of human virtues or vices. In the first chapter of Virtue, God is portrayed as Universal in content transcending the marginal line of God being Hindu, Jain, Muslim or Christian. Kural's primary concern is with the whole world and according to Tiru Valluvar a man's prosperity and adversity, heaven and hell, and his present and his future are products of his own actions.
"Rage, Envy, Greed and Harsh words Avoided is virtue." ~ Kural: 35
Tiru Valluvar sing the praises of affability, gratitude, self-control, right conduct and faithfulness in the first section of Virtue. Extolling the significance of vegetarianism Valluvar explains:
"How can one be kindly? If he fattens on other's fat?" ~ Kural: 251
On the Importance of Wealth
Tiru Valluvar knew that even though virtue is supremely important, without wealth it was seldom practicable:
"Will that hunger return? Which nearly killed me yesterday?" ~ Kural: 1048
At the same time, Tiruvalluvar criticizes useless wealth:
"He is poor though a millionaire Who neither gives nor spends." ~ Kural: 1005
On Politics & Governance
Valluvar has spoken words of wisdom on state administration by lucidly explaining the relationship between the king, his ministers and subjects. He has subtly put forward the importance of learning, friends, agriculture and social service, while condemning corruption and nepotism, the scourge of modern day politics as evil and unwise.
"Punish a sinner by paling him With a good deed, and forget." ~ Kural: 314
Love and Emotion
The last section of Kural is entirely devoted to love and Valluvar speaks in mystic beauty about this prime emotive feeling of human beings. It is a paean to youthful love and its trials and tribulations.
"A Goddess? A peacock? Or a woman Decked in jewels? Asks my heart amazed?" ~ Kural: 1081
Spiritual Liberation through Knowledge
Tiru Valluvar speaks in length about virtue, wealth and love with righteousness and touch the lives of many generations with his eloquent poetry and innate wisdom. Valluvar believes that with this knowledge of virtue, wealth and love one can lead the soul to nirvana and salvation. In effect, the fourth and final objective of human existence — 'moksha' or spiritual liberation is left to speak for itself.
Valluvar's valuable writings in the Tirukkural guide our actions and thoughts, with a perfect blend of personal character, social conduct and the state's responsibility to build a prosperous and thriving society.
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