Saturday, October 18, 2014

Some Notes on Tirukkural.

    There is a quatrain in Tamil which eulogizes Tirukkural and the commentary thereon of Parimelalagar. The quatrain may be rendered into English as follows: - All milk is not cow's milk: all work is not Valluvar's work; all commentary thereon is not Parimelalagar's commentary. We do not question this eulogium. But every man has a right to give free expression to his own sentiments. There can be no doubt that Parimelalagar is a master-hand, and that his commentary, which has superseded its nine predecessors, is a master-piece. But every man had got his own point of view.

    Parimelalagar seems to view Kural through Sanskrit spectacles. There are also those who view it with Christian eyes. We gaze on it with catholic eyes. Man's work is not complete it is always susceptible of improvement. The indigenous literature of any nation is not complete; it is always susceptible of improvement. We are only beginning to enjoy the blessings was universal from time immemorial; but it was never so widely advocated as in these present enlightened times. Translations and adaptations, mutual exchange and barter enliven the literatures of nations. The Dravidian group of languages and Sanskrit must have affected each other. Sanskrit has been for a very long time a dead language, and scholars scoop out Dravidian elements from Aryan cliffs. One nation does not lose credit by exporting its superfluous products and importing other useful ones. One language loses no merit by borrowing from another. The infusion of fresh blood adds energy and vigor. Currents of water flow with greater life and glow than stagnant pools. A progressive nation cannot but absorb and assimilate foreign materials. A progressive literature cannot but absorb and assimilate foreign thoughts and foreign ideas. Original elements and foreign elements may fuse together and create a new product. This is our point of view. Valluvar was a Tamil scholar. He might have read Sanskrit, or he might have read translations from Sanskrit, or he might have heard discourses in Tamil by Sanskrit scholars. We cannot get ourselves to believe that Kural is a mere compilation from Sanskrit moral codes. Kural is the product of the deep study of man and books. It is not the creation of a mere literary glutton, nor is it the work of observation pure. It is not the fruit of a few days or a few months toil. It is the life-work of Tiruvalluvar. The work is one connected whole with the author's own design and plan binding the parts all together. It is not for us to say that Valluvar echoes others, or the reverse. We only wish to note here two points where we differ from Parimelalagar. Our readers are at liberty to dissent from the opinions expressed here.

    1.    The first chapter – கடவுள்
(divine praise) is taken by Parimelalagar and others to be an invocation addressed to God. "According to established rule, all do composition ought, and, with few exceptions, all do commence with an invocation of the Deity, varying according to the sect of the writer." This invocation is for the work to be completed without hindrance. There is also a kind of invocation which is in accordance with the theme undertaken. The invocation is Kural is said to be of the latter sort. Our contention here is that this chapter is not an invocation of any kind of Deity in order that the work may safely reach its end. We say that Tiruvalluvar makes no invocation here.

    The first four chapters of Kural from the author's introduction to his work. In the fourth chapter, he emphasizes the all important power of Virtue, before entering upon the First Book of his work, which treats of Virtue. The preceding chapter is allotted to the Greatness of Ascetic, because they are the best fitted to advise the world about Virtue. The second chapter speaks of the Importance of Rain, as without it the world cannot go on. In the first chapter, the author speaks of God – His nature and the good of obeying and praising Him, and does not invoke his aid. The author is desirous in his work to give the clue to salvation. Virtue, Wealth, and Domestic Happiness form the steps of the Stair-case to Heaven. God is the First cause of the Universe, and reaching His Holy Feet is the goal of Man. So the author hints in the first chapter the summum bonum of his work. That the author nowhere in this chapter speaks of himself in the first person, nor of God in the second person serves only to strengthen our view of the chapter. It is the faulty apprehension of this chapter which has given rise to many a hot controversy among sectarians. View the chapter with our spectacles and you will find no Aruha or Siva or Vishnu or Brahma moving before your eyes. We may therefore assert that in this chapter Valluvar only speaks of the existence of God and of the way of obtaining His Grace.

    2.    The Second Book is named – பொருட்பால் the Book on Wealth. Parimelalagar states that wealth comes under and is included in Sovereignty which is the means or instrument of wealth that Sovereignty is the administration of a country, and that Valluvar discusses the subject under the headings names Sovereignty, the constituents of Sovereignty, and appendix. We dissent from this view. The author is of opinion that wealth is essential for Virtue and Happiness. An organized country has a king and subjects. Without wealth the king cannot do anything; without wealth the subjects cannot live as men ought to. The king is an ideal king; the subjects are ideal citizens. The king must earn wealth and this is treated in பொருள்
. The subjects must earn wealth, and the best means for them to produce wealth is agriculture – உழவு. In this book the author discusses Sovereignty in all its aspects, and also Citizenship in all its aspects, the central point being the importance of wealth. Chapters 59 to 95 are devoted to Sovereignty and its accessories; chapters 96 to 108 to Citizenship. Citizenship is only an epitome of Royalty. The king will find some hints for himself in the chapters on Citizenship, and the citizens will find some hints for themselves in the chapters on Sovereignty. In திருவள்ளுவமாலை, a collection of panegyrics by the scholars of the Madura Academy on Kural, we find that the quatrain No. 25 explains the classification, as made by Valluvar, of the First Book; the quatrain No. 27 that of the Third Book. The quatrain No. 26, by போக்கியார் states the classification of the Second Boom (Wealth): -






that is, அரசியல் (royalty -25), அமைச்சியல் (ministers -10), அரண் (fortification -2) கூழ் (பொருள்செயல்வகை - the way of earning wealth -1), படை (the army -2). நட்பு (friendship -17), and குடியியல் (citizenship – 13). Though Parimelalagar adopts the original classification in the other two books, he sets aside the above classification, and has his own in the Second Book What is குடியியல் in the above classification is ஒழிபியல் for Parimelalagar, and what is குடி in "படை குடிகூழமைச்சு நட்பரணாறு முடையானரசருளேறு" is நாடு by synecdoche. The author must have had some purpose in discussing அரசியல் first, and குடியியல் last, putting the rest in the middle. The wealth of the state and the wealth of the nation, the prosperity of the king and that of his subjects – these are the subject proper of this Book. It cannot really be sovereignty which is of course instrumental in safeguarding wealth. If the author, as stated by Parimelalagar, intended only this to be the subject of the second book, he would not have discussed the essentials of a good citizen, namely, honour, nobility, benevolence, etc., and concluded the book with poverty, begging, and baseness. We have no crusade against the great Parimelalagar. Only in the big harvest of his commentary, he hath missed an ear or two which has, fallen for our share to glean.


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