Tirukural, the Great Tamil Classic Defines Human Virtues in 1330 Verses – A Review Using Ten Verses

Tirukural- the Tamil Veda (HOLY BOOK) was written 2000 years back and so its author Saint Tiruvalluvar was a contemporary to Jesus Christ. The contents of Tirukural apply even for modern thinking and education. Kural means any brief verse. The title ‘Tiru’ (or Thiru) is added as a sign of respect to both the verses and the poet. For brevity, it is mentioned in some places as Kural and Valluvar respectively. Tirukural belongs to SANGAM LITERATURE of Tamil language. Tamil Sangam means an association of learned Tamil Scholars of Madurai, the erstwhile capital of PANDYA kingdom where, written works of poets were recognised after great scrutiny and review by eminent Tamil scholars. Tirukural is one such literal work recognised among 18 books by Sangam during the first century B.C. Tirukural has been translated in all major languages of the world. In fact, Rev Father G.U.Pope was impressed greatly by its Latin translation and ventured to translate it in English. He compared the saying of Tiruvalluvar “All the living beings are born equal”(pirappokkum ella uyirkkum) to the teaching in Bible.

There are 1330 verses in toto in 133 chapters of 10 verses each on different topics.

This article deals with what Tiruvalluvar has to say about EDUCATION. The ten verses he has written about education form couplets 391 to 400, i.e. the 40th chapter which falls under the category of Materialism. This is not a word to word translation, but a treatise on the subject how Bliss can be obtained in one birth itself by getting the high value of Education during one’s life time.

1. (Kural 391 onwards): one should learn whatever has to be learnt without any fault. Once such learning is complete, he should live according to the lessons he has already learnt true to the spirit of learning. Perfect learning, devoid of all errors and doubts, is the basis of education. One should be clear about all aspects in the subject chosen. More importantly, there should not be any doubt about the questions that might arise at a later date even after the education is completed. Only such an education could make one fit for higher self. Also, on completion of education, one should never deviate from the path guided by education. Thus such a high value to education, regardless of the chosen field of profession such as medicine, jurisprudence, engineering, and what not!

2. Numbers (which form a part of arithmetical knowledge) and Alphabets (which are the basis of literal knowledge) are to be considered as two eyes for living beings.

3. Only educate people are considered as having Vision. The uneducated do not have ‘eyes’, but have only two punctures in the place of eyes. Without education, the supposed eyes will serve no purpose at all. Is it not true that eyesight is the most important physical property of a human being, only by use of which one can visualise the entire physical Universe? Education is compared to this unique property of the living person through these 2 Kurals

4. Even friendship is given a new definition among those who are well-educated. Their meeting and mutual discussions each time is a matter of great pleasure and joy and when they part with each other there is a great yearning to meet again.

5 An educated person is rich in all aspects because he is in possession of knowledge, when compared to an uneducated person who has to bow with all humility as he is in the lowest cadre of the society.

6. A lot of similes are used to bring home these points. Knowledge is compared with water that springs from muddy land. A water pond will spring water in proportion to the extent it is dug and in the same way knowledge will improve progressively as one learns deeply.

7. For an educated person, every town is his own town and every country is his country. “Then why one is persistently wasting his life until death without education?” Tiruvalluvar wonders.

This Kural can be compared to the saying in another Sangam classic ‘Purananuru’ (four hundred songs depicting social external life): which states:

“All places are my native place, and All men are my kinsmen”

(“yadhum urey, yavarum kelir”-Tamil equivalent)

These words are specially quoted here because these are the most favourite words of learned Tamils. It emphasises the oneness and a universal brotherhood with an exceptional sense of understanding and peaceful co-existence.which existed 2000 years ago.

8. Popular Hindu belief is that one has seven births before reaching salvation. But, the poet asserts that, the education one learns in one birth will suffice for all the seven births. Needless to add, he should learn it without any flaw and to the best of its contents. Such an education will give him pleasure for all the seven births. In other words, perfect education gives one MUKTHI i.e. salvation in the present birth itself. Even if one is a non-believer of subsequent births, he can accept this Kural which assures him permanent peace in one birth itself, provided he is perfectly educated.

9. It is also insisted that the nature of an enlightened person is to derive more pleasure in learning and also to yearn for more knowledge, on seeing that such pleasure he earns through education is shared by the society as a whole. The benefit and pleasure of education is not for the individual alone but collective. The pleasure of others acts as a catalyst to him to empower him for such an accumulation in learning. He does not lose anything by sharing the knowledge with others, and in fact his knowledge and pleasure multiply in due course.

10. It is categorically stated that the only viable wealth, a person can possess is education and other riches are in fact,of no use. No flood, fire, or theft can take away the great wealth of knowledge earned by education.

An introduction has been given to this world-famous epic and if the readers’ interest to learn the entire book has been enkindled, the purpose of this article is served. Needless to add, such readers will attain eternal bliss in this birth itself as enumerated in the above paragraphs.