Glory of Bharath  »  Literary Giants of Bharath – Part Twelve
Thiruvalluvar

Thiruvalluvar was a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher whose contribution to Tamil literature is the Thirukkural, a work on ethics. Thiruvalluvar is thought to have lived sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 8th century AD. This estimate is based on linguistic analysis of his writings, as there is no archaeological evidence for when he lived. He is sometimes also called Theiva Pulavar ("Divine Poet"), Valluvar, Poyyamozhi Pulavar, Senna Pothar, Gnana Vettiyan or Ayyan.


Personal Life
Literary accounts indicate that he was a weaver by profession and lived at Mylapore, Chennai with his wife Vasuki. There are various claims as to who Tiruvalluvar was a Jain, Whoever he was his thoughts have been addressing universal values. Jains claim that he might have been influenced at least with the tenets of Jainism- Ahimsa, Asteya, Aparigraha. But these tenets are themselves drawn from yogic concept developed by rishis and munis and hence cannot be narrowed down to a subsect, of universal philosophies.


Traditional Accounts
Tirukkuṛal itself does not name its author or authors. The name Thiruvalluvar is first mentioned in the 10th century in a text called Thiruvalluvarmaalai ("Thiruvalluve traditions of Thiruvalluvar appeared after this text had been written.”) It is generally believed that the name Thiruvalluvar consists of Thiru (a Tamil word meaning honorable, similar to Mr rather to the Sankrit word Shree) and Valluvar (a polite name for Valluvan, according to Tamil tradition). The name Valluvan is a common name representing his caste or occupation rather than his proper name. However, it is not known whether the author of Tirukkuṛaḷ (Valluvan) was named after his community, Valluvar or vice versa.

There are several claims regarding where he lived, but none of them have been verified. One legend associates him with Madurai, the ancient capital of the Pandya rulers who vigorously promoted Tamil literature. According to another he was born and not lived in Mylapore, a part of present day Madras, and traveled to Madurai to submit the Thirukural, for approval of the king (Pandian) and his college of poets.

Thiruvalluvar may have spent part of his life in Madurai because it was under the Pandiya rulers that many Tamil poets flourished. There is also the recent claim by Kanyakumari Historical and Cultural Research Centre (KHCRC) that Valluvar was a king who ruled Valluvanadu in the hilly tracts of the Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu.


Thirukkural
Thirukkural is one of the most revered ancient works in the Tamil language. It is considered a 'common creed', providing a guide for human morals and betterment in life. Thirukkural has been translated into several languages, including a translation into Latin by Constanzo Beschi in 1730, which helped make the work known to European intellectuals. Thirukkuṛaḷ is a combined word formed by joining the two words Thiru (meaning revered) and Kural (is a form of poem writing style, like Ballad in English Poems).

Thirukkuṛaḷ is divided into three sections: section one deals with Aram, good ethical behavior with conscience and honor ("right conduct"); section two discusses Porul, the right manner of conducting worldly affairs; and section three dwells on Inbam, love between men and women. The first section has 38 chapters, the second 70 chapters and the third 25 chapters. Each chapter consists of 10 couplets or kurals, for a total of 1330 couplets. Although two sections, Aram and Inbam, are devoted to the private life of an individual more than half the couplets in Thirukural are grouped under Porul which discusses ethics in public life. Thus Thiruvalluvar gives more importance to righteous living in public life.


Other Works
Other than the Thirukkuṛaḷ, Thiruvalluvar is alleged to be the author of two Tamil texts on medicine, Gnana Vettiyan and Pancharathnam; although many scholars claim that they were by a later author with the same name, since they appear to have been written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.


Memorials
A temple-like memorial to Thiruvalluvar, Valluvar Kottam, was built in Chennai in 1976. This monument complex consists of structures usually found in Dravidian temples, including a temple car carved from three blocks of granite, and a shallow, rectangular pond. The auditorium adjoining the memorial is one of the largest in Asia and can seat up to 4000 people.

There is a 133-foot tall statue of Thiruvalluvar erected at Kanyakumari at the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, where the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean converge. The 133 feet denote Tirukkural's 133 Chapters or athikarams and the show of three fingers denote the three themes Aram, Porul, and Inbam, i.e. the sections on Morals, Wealth and Love. The statue was designed by V. Ganapati Sthapati, a temple architect from Tamil Nadu. There is also a statue of Thiruvalluvar outside the School of Oriental and African Studies in Russell Square, London. The government of Tamil Nadu celebrates the 15th of January as Thiruvalluvar Day as part of the Pongal celebrations in his honour.



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