Tirukkural

Tirukkural is a text on Aram, Porul and Imbam i.e. Righteousness, Wealth and Love; or in Sanskit terms, Dharma, Artha and Kaama. Accordingly, Tirukkural is arranged into three books or parts dealing with Dharma, Artha and Kaama. The text is predominantly philosophical in nature.

Authorship

Traditionally the work called Tirukkural is attributed to a sage named Thiruvalluvar. It is possible that Tiruvalluvar was its original author and the work got expanded by his disciples and other contributors. Sage Tiruvalluvar was also known as Theiva Pulavar ("Divine Poet"), Valluvar, Poyyamozhi Pulavar, Senna Pothar, or Gnana Vettiyan. One of my analysis reveals that he was a descendant of sage Pulaha mentioned in the Sanskrit texts as one among the seven great sages. He had a Naga wife by the name Vasuki and lived in Madurai, the capital of Pandya kingdom. As per some folklore, he was born and lived in Mylapore, (in modern Chennai), and traveled to Madurai to submit his work viz. Thirukural, for approval of the king (Pandian) and his college of poets.

The name Thiruvalluvar is first mentioned in the 10th century in a text called Thiruvalluvarmaalai ("Thiruvalluvar's garland"). Tiru means honorable. Valluva is the name of a caste whose occupation includes singing and composing of songs in praise of kings, warriors or gods.

Approximate Dating

Tiruvalluvar lived in the post-Vedic Pandya kingdom that prospered after the Kurukshetra War event (around 3100 BCE). Tirukkural is philosophical in nature. It is based on the post-Vedic literature in Sanskrit dealing with the Dharmashastras, Arthashastras and Kaamashastras, or could have co-evolved along with them. There is no Buddhist or Jain influence on the text. There are references to Vedas and Brahmanas. Vedic deities like Vishnu, Lakshmi, Indra and Yama are mentioned.

Thus Tiruvalluvar and his work Tirukkural can be dated to 7th century BCE or beyond in past. The dating of 2nd century BCE to 8th century CE based on linguistic analysis of his writings doesn't seems to be accurate. However it is possible that Tirukkural grew with additions during this period as well. The book is considered to precede the Tamil Epics viz. Manimekalai and Silapathikaram since they both acknowledge the Kural text.

Content

The text is divided into three books. First book deals with Dharma (righteousness, virtue etc) which in Tamil is called Aram. This book is equivalent to a Dharmashastra. The second book deals with Artha (wealth, especially wealth management by kings). In Tamil it is called Porul. This book is equivalent to an Arthashastra. The third book deals with Kaama (love, lust etc). In Tamil it is called Imbam or Kaatal. This last book is equivalent to a Kaamashastra though focusing mostly on the mental (rather than physical) aspects of relationship between men and women.

Tirukkural is also known by other names such as Uttra Vedam (the ultimate Veda), Tamil Marai (Tamil Vedas); Poyyamozhi (words that never fail), Vayurai vazhthu (truthful praise), Muppal (three fold path), Pothumarai (the common Veda) and Daiva Nool (divine text).

Structure

The three BOOKS or Parts of Tirukkural is further divided into DIVISIONS (a total of 10 divisions, 4:4:2). Each division is divided into chapters called ADHIKARAMS. There are a total of 133 Adhirkarams or chapters. Each Adhikaram contains 10 couplets. Thus Tirukkural contains a total of 1330 couplets called Kurals (short verses). Aram contains 380 verses, Porul 700 and Imbam 250.

Noun Analysis

The text is predominantly philosophical in nature and hence contains very less number of nouns dealing with names of people, place-names etc. Around 570 nouns are found. The only gods mentioned are Vishnu, Lakshmi, Indra and Yama. Interestingly, Shiva who is very popular in southern India is not mentioned. Apart from the names of Vedic gods, the text also contains nouns like Brahman, Brahmans, Brahmin, Brahmins, Vedas and Vedic that indicates the Vedic connections of Trirukkural. This also establish Titukkural as a post-Vedic text in the Tamil country comparable to the post-Vedic Upanishads, Sashtras and Sutras in Sanskrit language.

Unique nouns specific to Tamil language include Anthanar, Kaman, KAVADI, Kunri, Latchmi, Mudevi and Nerunji.

The most frequent nouns are Wealth (Artha or Porul) and Love (Kaama or Imbam). Then comes King and Virtue (Dharma or Aram). These are the subject matter of Tirukkural. King comes as a frequent noun since the book-2 dealing with wealth mostly speaks about wealth management by a king in his kingdom.

Further Reading

Internal Sources

  1. Tirukkural - An Introductory Article on Tirukkural
  2. Tirukkural Wiki - A Wiki for Tirukkural
  3. Alphabetical List of Nouns in Tirukkural
  4. Frequency Analysis of Nouns in Tirukkural

External Sources

  1. Tirukkural in Tamil and English
  2. Tirukkural in English
  3. Tirukkural - wikipedia

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 10 Oct 2011 12:13 and updated at 11 Oct 2011 10:16

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