International Thirukkural Conference: A Message by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam


The masterpiece of Tamil literature – one of the highest and purest expressions of human thought. That which above all is wonderful in the Kural is the fact that its author addresses himself, without regard to castes, peoples or beliefs, to the whole community of mankind; the fact that he formulates sovereign morality and absolute reason; that he proclaims in their very essence, in their eternal abstractedness, Virtue and truth; that he presents, as it were, in one group the highest laws of domestic and social life; that he is equally perfect in thought, in language and in poetry, in the austere metaphysical contemplation of the great mysteries of the Divine Nature, as in the easy and graceful analysis of the tenderest emotions of the heart.

“The following works of art and literature are among the most remarkable contributions of the Tamil creative genius to the world’s cultural treasure and should be familiar to the whole world and admired and beloved by all in the same way as the poems of Homer, the dramas of Shakespeare, the pictures of Rembrandt, the cathedrals of France and the sculptures of Greece….. the Thirukural, one of the great books of the world, one of those singular emanations of the human heart and spirit which preach positive love and forgiveness and peace…..” The Tamil Contribution to World Civilisation – Czech Professor Dr. Kamil Zvelebil in Tamil Culture – Vol. V, No. 4. October, 1956 “…On the most varied questions concerning the conduct of man to himself and to the world, Thirukural’s utterances are characterised by nobility and good sense. There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find so much lofty wisdom…” Albert Schwieitzer

——————– Thirukural written by Thiruvalluvar consists of three books, the first book on aram (the way or dharma), the second on porul (material or artha) and the third on inbam (joy or kama). There are 37 chapters in the first book, the first four called payiram or prefactory matter, the next twenty about ill-aram (the householder’s dharma) and the next thirteen about turavaram (the path of renunciation) The second book on porul contains seventy chapters, the first twenty dealing with kings and their duties, the succeeding thirty two chapters with the other matters concerning the state, and next thirteen, with sundry concerns. The third book on inbam contains twenty five chapters, the first seven being on pre marital love (kalavu) and the next eighteen on marital love. There are 133 chapters in all, each chapter contains ten distichs in the metre known as Kural and the work itself is now called by that name.

Professor S.Vaiyarapuri Pillai comments in his well regarded ‘History of Tamil Language and Literature’: “Never before nor since, did words of such profound wisdom issue forth from any sage in Tamil land… Manu had features which were peculiar to his own time… His society was god ordained, hierarchic in its structure and unalterably fixed by the Karmic influence. It denied equality between man and man, in the eye of the law. Kautiliya was more a politician that statesman. He found in his great work room for a statecraft motivated by an unquenching thirst for conquest …

Vatsyayana devoted himself in his Kamasutra to a treatment of carnal pleasure in all its ramifications and he had no eyes for the enobling aspect of love which is one of the most fundamental urges in human nature. Valluvar, the Tamil sage excels each one of these ancients in his respective sphere. He makes humanity and love the cementing force of society, and considerations of birth are of no account to him. His political wisdom is characterised by a breadth of vision at once noble and elevating. The sexual love which he depicts with inimitable grace and delicacy is idealistic, even if it be schematic and mannered. Its romance is ethereal and carries us to an atmosphere where purity of emotion, freshness and beauty reign supreme… The utter simplicity of his language, his crystal clear utterances, precise and forceful, his brevity, his choice diction, no less his inwardness, his learning, culture and wisdom, his catholicity and eclecticism, his gentle humour and wholesome counsel have made him an object of veneration for all time and his book is considered the Veda of the Tamils. The genius of the Tamil race has flowered to perfection in this great author … (and) the influence which his work, since its publication (more than 1400 years ago) exercised over the mind, life and literature of the Tamils is phenomenal.” V.V.S.Aiyar, an early Tamil revolutionary wrote in the preface to his English translation of the Kural in March1915: “…Very few in the world outside of the Tamil country have heard the name of the poet whose work is presented here in a new English garb. And yet he is one of those seers whose message is intended not merely for their own age or country but for all time and for all mankind…

 Tiruvalluvar has given to the world a work to which, in perfection of form, profundity of thought, nobleness of sentiment, and earnestness of moral purpose, very few books outside the grand scriptures of humanity can at all be compared. Indeed his work is eulogised by the Tamil people as the Tamil Veda, the Universal Veda, the later Veda, the Divine Veda, etc. etc. It is a great pity that such a treasure should have been confined for so many ages to one single people even in Hindustan… …It is my object not only to spread a knowledge of Tiruvalluvar’s grand work as widely as possible in the world, but also to induce my own countrymen speaking languages other than Tamil to retranslate it into their different vernaculars, so that the words of a great moral teacher who intended his message for all the world and for all time may not fail at least now to reach the ears of the poorest of the poor and the simplest of the simple of his own countrymen, and to sow in their hearts the seeds of a noble, dignified, virtuous and manly life.. …

In Part I, under the title of righteousness, our author treats of the life of the householder and of the life of the ascetic…What is the grand feature of the first part is its healthy outlook on life. ‘The chiefest blessing,’ declares our author, ‘is an honourable home, and its crowning glory its worthy offspring.’ How charming is his love for children! ‘The touch of our children is the delight of the body.’ ‘It is only they who have not listened to the prattle of their little ones that are attracted by the guitar and the flute!’ The poet insists greatly on the love of mankind and the honouring of guests as among the chief virtues of man…the first section ends… with a chapter on Glory, for ‘They alone live who live without blemish; and they alone die who lived without glory.’ It will thus be seen that it is a cheerful, smiling, benignant humanity that Tiruvalluvar wants to create in his country and the world…

“The fact that (Part II on Wealth) is about twice the size of the first and thrice the size of the third shows what importance the sage gives to politics and wealth in his scheme of life. As in the first part the poet shows himself as a moral teacher of the very highest order, so in this part he appears as a consummate statesman and thorough man of the world…” ….(And in Part III on Love) the most ardent admirers of ‘Locksley Hall’ will have to admit that the Tamil poet is easily the superior of Tennyson in analysing the infinite number of moods that chase each other in the agitated minds of lovers.. …Whether he speaks of moral duties or State policy, of the principles of action to be followed in order to succeed in life, or the varying emotions in the trembling hearts of lovers, everywhere Tiruvalluvar has sounded the depths of human thought.

The prophets of the world have not emphasised the greatness and power of the moral law with greater insistence or force; Bhishma or Kautilya, Kamandaka or Ram Das, Vishnu Sharman or Machiavelli or Confucius have no more subtle counsel to give on the conduct of the State; ‘Poor Richard’ has no wiser say for raising up of clever businessmen; and Kalidasa or Shakespeare have no deeper knowledge of the lovers’ heart and its varied moods than this weaver of Mylapore! Such is the universality of mind of this great seer who was born in the Tamil country but who belongs to all mankind…”

அகர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் ஆதி
பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு.
A as its first of letters, every speech maintains;
The Primal Deity is first through all the world’s domains


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