Tiruvalluvar was born about two centuries BC in Mylapore,Tamil Nadu. He grew up as a modest weaver, but soon, bestowed with special powers,he started writing one of the finest pieces of world literature. His book, universally known as Tirukkural and translated in many languages, contains 133 chapters each consisting of 10 verses.
Tirukkural is divided in three sections, namely Virtue, Wealth and Pleasure and deals with a variety of issues concerning the attributes and responsibilities of family, the administrator, the minister, the king and people in almost all spheres of human activity. For instance, under Virtue, Tiruvalluvar dwells on themes like praise of God, respect for nature and environment, impartiality, self-restraint, choice of words, truth, fraud, etc. Under Wealth, we find themes like good governance, correct behavior of state agents, management of state affairs, condemnation of corrupt practices, etc. Finally, under Love, Tiruvalluvar writes exquisites verses on virtues of marriage, profound meaning of love in conjugal life, parental responsibility in the upbringing of children, etc.
Thinkers, philosophers, writers, poets, educators and people of all walks of life have regarded Kural as a universal guide to Humanity, as a reference for all generations, shedding its benevolent light to anyone who cares to put the teachings into practice to ensure an inclusive society and a virtuous world.
While our world is facing all sorts of problems, from Covid-19 pandemic, economic stress, natural and manmade calamities, food shortage, environment degradation, pollution, corruption, regional conflicts to lack of good governance and threats to international peace and security, I believe the present reawakening of the Kural constitutes a solid rampart of hope for the human race.
I had the opportunity to participate recently in a virtual conference under the aegis of the International Tirukkural Foundation, chaired by Professor Armoogum Parsuramen. He has been organizing monthly virtual conferences with the participation of eminent personalities in the global Tamil diaspora to bring to each country a greater awareness of this treasure house of beauty and wisdom. I chose to address the learned participants on the process of Thirukkural reawakening and the way forward. I must thank Mr Cassam Uteem, former President of the Republic, for having spared the time to listen to my address via zoom and shared his views with us spontaneously. I spoke of six triggers which have provoked a timely reawakening of Thirukkural for the benefit of mankind. Here is a summary.
Trigger no 1 – Court Case
In 2015 one Mr S. Rajaratmam, a retired government official in Tamil Nadu took the bold step of filing a Public Interest Litigation before the Madras High Court, stating that moral values have declined and threatened the quality of life and the security of the citizens, including the elders and requesting the court to issue a writ of Mandamus to modify the school syllabus to ensure that the moral lessons of Kural find their rightful place in the school curriculum. Little did Mr Rajaratman realize that his petition would lead to a train of unforeseeable events in Tamil Nadu and beyond the shores of India. He should be blessed for taking that historic initiative.
Trigger no 2 – Judgement
Trigger no 2 – Judgement Fate has it that the petition was heard by a Judge known and respected for his vast knowledge and interest in social issues. No doubt the pronouncement of judge R. Mahadevan was awaited with profound interest in not only the Educational sector but also in many other sectors.On the 26 April 2016, Judge Mahadevan delivered a highly motivated judgement in favour of the petitioner. The quality of the judgement is impressive from different angles.For example, the judge displayed a thorough understanding of the Kural and profusely quoted specific couplets to buttress his arguments. Convinced of the immense benefits that the teachings of Kural as from primary schools would bring to the whole society, the judge broadened his horizon to an global plane by quoting from international stalwarts like Aristotle, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr Socrates, Victor Hugo, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Swami Vivekananda, G.U. Pope, Albert Schweitzer and Subramaniya Bharat in their unanimous praise for Tiruvalluvar and the Kural. Judge Mahadevan refers to Kural as “a clear and unpolluted spring, a book with sharp observations of real life, a deep understanding of human weaknesses and strengths and wise suggestions as to how we can live up to our fullest capacities as free human beings”. Qualifying the Kural as a gem of the world literature, standing above all races, castes and sects, judge Mahadevan underlined that by the nature of its universality, the Kural appealed to the entire human race. In his landmark pronouncement, Judge Mahadevan addressed himself to the governments and peoples of the world: “If the Kural is taught with all its avenues and dimensions elaborately, the students would be equipped with all the facets of life, the probable problems and solutions.”
Trigger no 3 – Judgement Implementation
The third trigger is the immediate action taken by the Tamil Nadu government to hail and support the judgement and implement it. Relevant amendments were promptly made to the Education laws and school syllabus, ushering a new era for moral education in schools. The Tamil Nadu government struck the correct note and paved the way for Kural to find its rightful place among the students, teachers and parents. This mature decision would have an extremely beneficial impact on subsequent developments in the propagation of Kural.
Trigger no 4 – Endorsement by Indian Government
The fourth trigger came from the Indian government which took stock of the Mahadevan judgement and found that there would be tremendous merit for the central government to follow suit. The following advice of judge Mahadevan kept ringing loud and clear throughout India. “When the seeds are cultivated early, the result would be fruitful. When the young minds of this country are taught about the moral philosophy and methods as contained in the Kural we can expect a better reformed generation. That would definitely take the nation into a progressive mode.” The Indian government got the message and issued the necessary instructions for the inclusion of moral education, as expounded in the Kural, in other Indian states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is known to tweet messages on Thiruvalluvar Day (15 January) and to quote from the Kural in several of his speeches. He did so in Thailand on the 2nd November 2019 when he released the Thai translation of the Kural and in the following year when he paid a surprise visit to the Indian soldiers in Ladakh, he inspired them with the following words from the saint poet “Maramanam manda vazhichelvam thetram yeni nangey yenam padaikku”. He urged them to abide by the tradition and credibility of valour, honour and dignified behavior.
Trigger no 5 – Book on the Judgement
The ripples of the Mahadevan judgement were felt far and wide and quickly reached the shores of Mauritius. Professor Parsuramen was the first person to inform me of the judgement and share a copy with me. He was thrilled. As a matter of fact, we were all thrilled and soon we partnered with friends in Tamil Nadu to publish the respected judgment in the form of a book entitled “Thirukkural:The judgement and the solution”. The book, published in English has been put on international sale for widest possible dissemination.
Trigger no 6 – Taking Thirukkural to UNESCO
The judgement provided the International Thiruvalluvar Foundation with an excellent platform for enlarged discussions on the Kural among the Tamil diaspora worldwide. How to carry the Kural agenda forward was the subject of a series of virtual international conferences organized during the pandemic period. The idea emerged that we should take the Kural to the seat of UNESCO in Paris and that an International conference on kural should ideally be held after the pandemic restrictions are lifted. There can be no better venue, as pointed out by Mr Frederico Mayor former UNESCO Director General in his recent intervention on the Kural, than UNESCO, Paris for such important discussions. As there is unanimity on this, I consider that we should start preparing far reaching resolutions which, once adopted by UNESCO, would shower Tiruvalluvar’s guiding light to the entire planet.
Having spent my entire career in the Mauritius Public Service and worked closely with different Ministers, Prime Ministers, and Heads of State in the formulation and implementation of public policies, I am convinced that the success of our coordinated actions rests on the following yardsticks:
- Sustainable and equitable socio economic development
- Environmental conservation
- Preservation and promotion of culture
- Good governance
All these issues are masterly dealt with in the Kural. On Governance, Tiruvalluvar reminds us that “Good Governance requires day to day dispensation of justice and elimination of wrongs. The Administrator who fails in this is leading the country to ruin day by day.” How true! We need to educate ourselves, our children and all those around us so that generations can continue to be inspired by Thiruvalluvar’s eternal words of wisdom. We just have to follow the route designed for us in such a loving and friendly manner by the modest weaver of Mylapore.
Thirukkural is undoubtedly one of the most precious assets for mankind, especially at this juncture where our planet is in a state of survival. Let our leaders drink at the fountain of Tiruvalluvar’s wisdom so that they can be inspired to take wise decisions and reach a mature consensus for the sake of the human civilization.