BOOK DIVINE - Thirukkural; Get your copy soon

Topic started by Lt Col CR Sundar (@ on Tue Oct 9 09:36:13 .
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For too long, almost 2000 years. Thirukkural has remained a pride exclusively of the Tamil race for want of an adequate translation.

To set that lacunae right I have translated the Thirukkural into rhyming couplets and have published it as BOOK DIVINE. Now each of the 1330 Kural is a couplet in contemporary English and at last Kurals are quotable in the same way one quotes Shakespeare.

BOOK DIVINE costs US $ 5.00 per copy. In India it costs Rs.110.00 per copy. A rebate of 25% is available on orders of 10 books or more.

Please send your cheques to:-
Lt Col CR Sundar,
Plot No. 43, 24th Cross Street,
Padmavathy Nagar, Selaiyur,
Phone: 044-229 0186

Please see the attachments for a preview of BOOK DIVINE.

Lt Col CR Sundar

The ruiner and ruin repairing fount
All is rain the ever paramount.
Kural 15
He that his five senses fastens in wisdom
Shall seed the world in sagedom.
Kural 24
Not God; her husband ever who adores
"Rain" she says and it pours.
Kural 55
Thus should act the son it be said,
Of the father, " How sired he this lad?"
Kural 70
True merchandise of merchants is care
Of others concern as their own.
Kural 120
Forces, people, wealth, ministry and fort gates
And allies make a king lion among potentates.
Kural 381
He may be ill fortified and weak of hand
But beware assaulting him on his land.
Kural 498
To the water level grows the lotus
To the visions height the man in us.
Kural 595
All men are born the same indeed;
But differ in greatness by their deed.
Kural 972
They only live who live by agronomy;
All others follow in cringing ignominy.
Kural 1033
Her eye-lined looks ever doubly peridicate,
Some cause pain; others medicate.
Kural 1091
My lover, he stole my grace and modesty
And gave in return this grave morbidity.
Kural 1183
In this life no parting for us, I said, fond
"Next life?", she said; tears welled, eyes a pond.
Kural 1315


Take all the knowledge about life available on the earth. Divide it into three segments whichever way you will. Under each of those list out fifty or so subjects; and on each of those subjects write ten relevant couplets in such a way that their inherent wisdom is true today and remains so two thousand years hence. This is what The Great Saint Thiruvalluvar did when He created the timeless Tamil Classic Thirukkural.

Kural in Tamil means short verses. Thiruvalluvar chose this style of poetry since it is easy to memorise and recite. It is the Saint’s genius that in such verses he could impart such weighty knowledge.

I am but a small, insignificant human who has tried to give the Saint’s great work my own interpretation. It is true that my translation goes nowhere near in comparison to the beauty and profundity of the original. Neither in Valluvar’s Tamil nor in the English language is my knowledge deep enough to do full justice.

So why did I undertake this task? I know not, but I know this; on many an occasion I have felt Him look down over my shoulder as I was crouched at work, and I could perceive on His visage an understanding and encouraging smile much the way He would grace a child that is learning to walk. I humbly lay this work at His lotus feet.

My sincere thanks go to the great Tamil lover and scholar Mr. O. Amirtha Rajan, M.A., B.L., (Retired Judge) for his patient counsel and learned guidance and to Mr. A. Manoharan for precious and inestimable contribution in the preparation of this work.

Chennai Lt Col CR Sundar
05 June 2001

M.A., Ph.D., CHENNAI - 600 009
Minister for Tamil Official
Language, Tamil Culture,
Hindu Religious and Charitable
Endowments Dated: 22 March 2001

Thiruvalluvar is a Universal Bard and his work, Thirukkural has unique privilege. There is no doubt that Thiruvalluvar was one of the great geniuses of the world. The monumental work, Thirukkural was authored two thousand years ago and it has been praised through all the ages. It is a great treasure-house of wisdom and beauty. The greatness of the Thirukkural is seen in the background of all the religions and philosophies of Tamil land interpret it as though it were their respective authority.

During the last two centuries Thirukkural attained very great popularity and now its popularity has gone to almost all the countries of the world. It has attracted scholars of different countries and many have attempted to translate the Thirukkural into different languages. Among foreign languages English holds the prime place in Thirukkural translations and many English renderings have appeared. Dr. G. U. Pope, Rev. W. H. Drew, Rev. John Lazarus and Mr. Ellis are a few whose names stand out among those who have laboured at great lengths to render the Thirukkural into fine English verses and prose.

The peculiarity of diction of Thirukkural, both in its expression of the Tamil culture and also in Thiruvalluvar’s versatility with ellipsis sometimes causes great difficulties in adequately translating with elegance. I feel it could perhaps be because of this that many succeeded in translating it only in prose form.
Though there are many English translations of Thirukkural available, there is no denying the fact that additional translations make it more interesting and easy to understand thus leaving a lasting impact.

I appreciate Lieutenant Colonel CR Sundar who for the first time has translated the entire work in rhyming couplets in contemporary English. I welcome his effort and I wish him all the Very Best.

Chennai M Thamizhkudimagan
22 March 2001


It happened about 2000 years ago, no one is sure when. It happened in a village known as Mylapore which means a ‘town of peacocks’. Mylapore is today a part of the Chennai city, the
capital of Tamil Nadu, home of the great Tamil people. Mylapore nestles on the shore of the sea now known as the Bay of Bengal but in the ancient times known simply as the ocean, referred to by our poet as nama neer, the great waters with ponderous waves.

So we have a village on the sea shore with groves and gardens around old temples, sacred tanks and belts of coconut trees and a squares of thatched hut dwellings. This was the Thirumailai where one of the greatest literary geniuses of mankind, Thiruvalluvar was born and spent his early years.

We do not know his name. We know him simply as Valluva Nayanar or Thiruvalluvar. Valluvan means a sacred devotee, priest or a soothsayer. In modern days we do not talk of castes and depict them as low or high. Neither can a non-Bharath mind grasp the background of caste stratification in our society. But it was in Thiruvalluvar’s time that the evil of caste system was taking root in the Tamil society. Prior to that we have no evidence of this evil. So, traditions brought down to us say he was of the pariah caste, then considered low in the social hierarchy. He hailed from a family of weavers. Stories abound about his parentage but cannot be verified. Uncertain traditions assigns him a Brahmin father and a no-caste mother and tell us that the great Tamil poetess Avvaiyyaar (‘respectable elderly woman’) was his sister. He married Vasuki, daughter of Maarka Sakaayan.

He is known to have had a friend or perhaps even a patron in
Yelaala Singan, an itinerant sailor who did a regular trading route on his Thoni between Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, Burma and the Far East.

After spending his youth at Thirumailai his erudition and abilities led him to Madurai where he ultimately rose to a very high position. It was while he was serving as a confidential secretary in the ministry of the then Pandya King that he had the opportunity to observe from close quarters the functioning of the state, the court, the king and the dignitaries big and small associated with running the state. This knowledge came to stand him in good stead when he took up composing the Thirukkural.

Thiruvalluvar was a poet of unsurpassed genius who realised that the Tamil society was asking him to give a text to serve them as law and at the same time as an oracle. He rose to the occasion and on palm leaves wrote verses unerasable from human memory. He wrote not about his beliefs, religions then in vogue or about systems and practices of life and society as he found them. He knew the difference between the permanent and the ephemeral and created a didactic work which deals only with matters that will remain unchanged for all times to come.

Thiruvalluvar intended that his writings must convey his thoughts to even the lay in a metered tone as any elderly person instructing a youngster. This in Tamil is known as seppal - to tell. The ‘Venba’ style adapted was the most ideally suited for this. Thus we have Kural. Kural means diminutive, dwarfish or small verses. Out of respect the honorific Thiru has been added to give us Thirukkural. As with our poet his verses too has no specific name and is simply known by what they actually are.

The poet’s great and only work is divided into three books, namely Virtues, Wealth and Love. There are a total of 133 Chapters of 10 couplets each thus making a total of 1330 Kurals. This work is by no means long; just 2660 lines. But their value far out weigh the entire remaining Tamil literature.

He lived in a period of great turmoil when waves of Vedic Hinduism were crashing against a Tamil society seething in internal strife. A rudderless Tamil society needed a Vedam, a gospel as it were. It is this demand that Thiruvalluvar met admirably.

In the centuries that followed various Tamil scholars such as Parimelazhagar, Manakkadavar, Parithiyaar and Kalingar have attempted to reset the sequence of the couplets of the Thirukkural. The version that has come down to us is the arrangement of Parimelazhagar. It is also his interpretation of the Thirukkural that is accepted as the most authentic.

However, it is remarkable that during all the stream of ages the text of the Thirukkural has remained almost uninjured. Though every rival sect has claimed the Kural to be their own and even furnished interpretations to suit their purposes the greatness of the Tamil race lies in the fact that no one tampered in any considerable degree with the original as given to us by the bard himself.

Apart from various Hindu sects some sections of Jains too lay claims on Thiruvalluvar in view of the fact that he has given cognizance to many of their systems. Reverend GU Pope disputes this contention that Thiruvalluvar was a Jain. He says, “In Chapter III, fourth couplet, a story regarding Indra is referred to as proving that ascetics have power over the gods. The sage was Gautama, who cursed Indra for deceiving the sage’s wife, Ahalya. Now, according to Jain ideas, a sage could have no wife, nor could he feel the emotion of anger, nor had he the power to inflict punishment. A Jain could not believe the story, and could scarcely use it as the author of the Kural has done”.

Here again I must humbly point out that the Rev Pope himself could not have but been in error regarding the Christian influence on Thiruvalluvar and Thirukkural. He draws attention to the fact that Saint Thomas too lived and preached in Mylapore and was here done to death by a spear. His sacred remains were buried here and later shifted to St. Thomas Mount. Pantaenus of Alexandria also taught in the vicinity. Pope feels that it is because of these teachers that Thiruvalluvar shows no caste prejudices. He also cites these evidences to state that the probable date of Thirukkural could be between AD 800 to 1000.

Scholars differ with him on both counts. Long before the birth of Christ and advent of Christianity there existed an egalitarian caste-free society in South India. Kural is a flower of that civilisation. The deplorable system of castes entered Tamil society in the closing years of BC and the resulting turmoil was what prompted Valluvar to write the Thirukkural. He was not a votary of the system and gave it scant recognition.

St. Thomas came long after Valluvar was gone and yet found a society not totally besmirched by the evil of castes -- ideal environs for him to do his God’s work. St. Thomas revered Valluvar and not the other way around. If Valluvar’s teachings and Christianity have common grounds it is because truth and goodness are common and can spring anywhere in the world unrelated and independent of each other. It is evil that spreads and worsens by example.

The greatest of literary works any where in the world, Thirukkural has remained solely a pride of the Tamil people because of the stupendous difficulties any one will face in translating the couplets. The first of these difficulties is ellipsis. To compress phenomenal ideas into just two lines with meters having but seven feet was possible for Valluvar in Tamil. Thus ellipsis is Kural’s greatest, most astounding beauty; but also there lies the rub. To capture it in its entirety in any other language has proved beyond the ability of ordinary mortals.

The other aspect that defies translation is the construction of the ideas themselves. It is so extraordinarily marvelous that it has been described as an ‘apple of gold in a network of silver’.
Complete and striking ideas have been intricately meshed in each couplet with charming effect. It forms an exquisite mosaic or perhaps a gem of matchless magnificence. Place one on a pedestal and walk around it. With each movement, each step you catch a different ray of a different colour and as your go around you are struck by glint after unexpected glint of brilliance. And yet you are left admiring only the outer structure. It is only when you have gone around it twice or perhaps thrice suddenly, quite unexpectedly you catch a hint. In a moment you see the heart of the jewel, and then all is revealed. What you see is unbelievably graceful and at the same time admirably grotesque, quaint and also quintessential, common and yet of such rare splendour. But beware, each viewer sees the core in the light of his own wisdom and maturity. Such is the nature of this creation!

Thus on each Kural it is easy to write a paragraph, page, chapter or even a book. How then is man to convey its full purport in a couplet? Many have attempted. Some have translated it into verses and many have ended up with commentaries and explanations.

Book Divine by Lt Col CR Sundar is perhaps the first and commendable attempt to translate the entire Thirukkural into couplets. Some of the couplets capture the beauty of the original, some others the true meaning and yet rare few bestow both to give the reader a true delight.


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