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Exemplary contemporary reading edition of the Tirukkural with modern commentary (PDF file, click on the image to open)

The Tirukkural ( Tamil திருக்குறள் Tirukkuṟaḷ [ ˈt̪iɾɯkːurəɭ ]), Kural for short ( குறள் Kuṟaḷ [ ˈkurəɭ ]), is a classic work of Tamil literature . It is attributed to the author Tiruvalluvar and probably dates from the 5th or 6th century AD, although the dating is uncertain. The Tirukkural is a didactic poem about the right way of life. It comprises 1330 aphorism-like double verses, which are divided into three books, each of which has one of the three goals of human life (virtue, prosperity and love) as its topic. The Tirukkural is considered the most important work of Tamil literature and has enjoyed great popularity among Tamils ​​at all times. Today the Tirukkural is probably the most important icon of the Tamil culture.

Authorship and dating

Modern representation of Tiruvalluvar

The Tirukkural is ascribed to an author named Tiruvalluvar or Valluvar for short ( Tiru - is a respectful prefix). There are numerous legends about Tiruvalluvar, but no historical facts are known about him. Not even his real name is known: Valluvar is the title of ritual specialists in the Paraiyar caste , a group of Tamil Dalits ("untouchables"). Legend has it that Tiruvalluvar was born the son of a Brahmin and an untouchable man and lived as a weaver in Mylapore (now a district of Chennai ). After he had completed the Tirukkural , he is said to have performed his work in front of the poetry academy in Madurai (cf. Sangam legend ). Because of Tiruvalluvar's lower caste, the poets are said to have initially refused to accept his work, whereupon the bench on which they were sitting has miraculously shrunk. Then the poets had to admit their defeat and accepted Tiruvalluvar into their ranks.

As with many works of ancient Indian literature, the dating of the Tirukkural is uncertain. What is certain is that the Tirukkural is younger than the works of Sangam literature , the oldest layer of Tamil literature. This is shown by various linguistic innovations and the stronger influence of Sanskrit . Nevertheless, the Tirukkural is older than the epic Manimegalai , in which it is quoted verbatim at one point. In general, a period of origin in the 5th or 6th century AD is suggested for the Tirukkural . In contrast, Tamil nationalist circles set the Tirukkural date much earlier. The government of the state of Tamil Nadu officially set the year of Tiruvalluvar's birth to 31 BC. BC (cf. Tiruvalluvar era ).

The text


The Tirukkural consists of 1330 aphorism -like two-line lines . The meter is a special form of Venba -Metrums that Kural- ( "dwarf") Venba , which is characterized by its length of only two lines. The name of the meter was adopted (with the respectful prefix Tiru- ) as the work title. At the same time, the individual (double) verses are also referred to as kural , i.e. H. Kural can either stand for the work as a whole or for its constituent elements.

The first line of a kural consists of four verse feet (sir) , each consisting of two or three metric units (asai) . A metric unit is either a long syllable (ner) or a short syllable followed by another syllable (nirai) . In contrast to the first line, the second line has only three verse feet, the last of which consists of only one metric unit, possibly followed by a short u . The sequence of the metric units between the feet follows certain rules. In addition, there is a special form of the opening rhyme (edugai) , in which the beginnings of the two lines usually rhyme.

As an example, the first verse of the Tirukkural is given in the original, transcription and metrical analysis. According to the usual convention, the feet of the feet are marked by hyphenation. In metric analysis - stands for ner (long syllable), = for nirai (short syllable followed by another syllable) and ˘ for a short u at the end of the verse. The starting rhyme is indicated by underlining.

அக ர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் ஆதி
பக வன் முதற்றே உலகு.
Aka ra mutala eḻuttellām āti
paka vaṉ mutaṟṟē ulaku.
= - / = - / = - - / - -
= - / = - / = ˘


"A is
the beginning of all letters God is the beginning of the world."


The Tirukkural comprises 133 chapters of ten double verses each, which are divided into three books. Each book deals with one of the three goals in life ( Purusharthas ) that are generally recognized in the Indian tradition. these are

  1. Aram ( அறம் aṟam ): Dharma , virtue
  2. Porul ( பொருள் poruḷ ): Artha , prosperity
  3. Kamam ( காமம் kāmam ) or Inbam ( இன்பம் iṉpam ): Kama , love.

The fourth goal in life, moksha or salvation, does not occur in the Tirukkural .

The first two books contain aphoristic statements about the right way of life. The first book, the "Book of Virtue", deals with questions of ethics and morals . After an introduction praising God, rain, asceticism, and virtue as such, the text deals with domestic life (the duties of the householder, the virtues of a wife, the joys of parenting, etc.) and the basics dealing with others (hospitality, gratitude, decency, etc.). Then the text turns to the virtues of the ascetic who strives to achieve a higher form of existence through charity and renunciation. The second book, the “Book of Prosperity”, is about social issues. To a large extent, it deals with the actions of the king and his ministers, so it has the character of a textbook on statecraft in parts. But it also contains instructions for the common man who seeks to acquire wealth. An example of the aphorisms of the first two books is Tirukkural 66, which is about parenting:


குழல் இனிது யாழ்இனிது என்பதம்
மக்கள் மழலைச்சொல் கேளா தவர்.


Kuḻal iṉitu yāḻ iṉitu eṉpa tam makkaḷ
maḻalaiccol kēḷātavar.

"The flute is beautiful, the lute is beautiful, says those who
do not know their own child's chatter."

- Tirukkural 66

The third book, the "Book of Love", differs significantly from the first two books. It follows the conventions of the classic Tamil love poetry and is thus in the tradition of the older Sangam literature . The "Book of Love" describes in chronological order the love relationship between an idealized couple. The verses take the form of a dramatic monologue by one of the people involved in the plot. An example is the first verse of the third book ( Tirukkural 1081), in which the man sees the woman for the first time and whether her beauty doubts whether she can be a person:


அணங்குகொல் ஆய்மயில் கொல்லோ கனங்குழை
மாதர்கொல் மாலும் என் நெஞ்சு.


Aṇaṅkukol āymayil kollō kaṉaṅkuḻai
mātarkol mālum eṉ neñcu.

"A goddess? A beautiful peacock? Or is she
a woman with the heavy earrings ? My heart is confused. "

- Tirukkural 1081


The following is an overview of the 133 chapters of the Tirukkural :

  1. Book of Virtue ( அறத்துப்பால் Aṟattuppāl ): 38 chapters
    1. Praise to God ( கடவுள் வாழ்த்து kaṭavuḷ vāḻttu ): 1–10
    2. The excellence of rain ( வான் சிறப்பு vāṉ ciṟappu ): 11–20
    3. The size of the ascetics ( நீத்தார் பெருமை nīttār perumai ): 21–30
    4. Confession of virtue ( அறன் வலியுறுத்தல் aṟaṉ valiyuṟuttal ): 31–40
    5. Domestic life ( இல்வாழ்க்கை ilvāḻkkai ): 41–50
    6. Wife's Kindness ( வாழ்க்கைத்துணை நலம் vāḻkkaittuṇai nalam ): 51–60
    7. The birth of a son ( புதல்வரைப் பெறுதல் putalvaraip peṟutal ): 61–70
    8. Possession of love ( அன்புடைமை aṉpuṭaimai ): 71–80
    9. Hospitality ( விருந்தோம்பல் viruntōmpal ): 81–90
    10. Pleasant Words ( இனியவை கூறல் iṉiyavai kūṟal ): 91–100
    11. Gratitude ( செய்ந்நன்றி அறிதல் ceynnaṉṟi aṟital ): 101–110
    12. Impartiality ( நடுவு நிலைமை naṭuvu nilaimai ): 111–120
    13. Self-control ( அடக்கமுடைமை aṭakkamuṭaimai ): 121–130
    14. Decency ( ஒழுக்கமுடைமை oḻukkamuṭaimai ): 131–140
    15. Not to covet another's wife ( பிறனில் விழையாமை piṟaṉil viḻaiyāmai ): 141–150
    16. Patience ( பொறையுடைமை poṟaiyuṭaimai ): 151–160
    17. Not To Be Envious ( அழுக்காறாமை aḻukkāṟāmai ): 161–170
    18. Not To Be Desirous ( வெஃகாமை veḵkāmai ): 171–180
    19. Not to talk behind one's back ( புறங்கூறாமை puṟaṅkūṟāmai ): 181–190
    20. Not to speak useless words ( பயனில சொல்லாமை payaṉila collāmai ): 191–200
    21. The Horror of Evil Deeds ( தீவினையச்சம் tīviṉaiyaccam ): 201–210
    22. Knowing the right measure ( ஒப்புரவறிதல் oppuravaṟital ): 211–220
    23. Giving ( ஈகை īkai ): 221–230
    24. Fame ( புகழ் pukaḻ ): 231–240
    25. Kindness ( அருளுடைமை aruḷuṭaimai ): 241–250
    26. The renunciation of meat ( புலான்மறுத்தல் pulāṉmaṟuttal ): 251–260
    27. Asceticism ( தவம் tavam ): 261–270
    28. Improper Conduct ( கூடாவொழுக்கம் kūṭāvoḻukkam ): 271–280
    29. Not to be stolen ( கள்ளாமை kaḷḷāmai ): 281–290
    30. Truthfulness ( வாய்மை vāymai ): 291-300
    31. Not to be angry ( வெகுளாமை vekuḷāmai ): 301–310
    32. Do not do evil ( இன்னாசெய்யாமை iṉṉāceyyāmai ): 311-320
    33. Not to be killed ( கொல்லாமை kollāmai ): 321–330
    34. Impermanence ( நிலையாமை nilaiyāmai ): 331–340
    35. Renunciation ( துறவு tuṟavu ): 341-350
    36. Knowledge of Truth ( மெய்யுணர்தல் meyyuṇartal ): 351–360
    37. The Extinction of Desire ( அவாவறுத்தல் avāvaṟuttal ): 361–370
    38. Fate ( ஊழ் ūḻ ): 371–380
  2. Book of Prosperity ( பொருளியல் Poruṭpāl ): 70 chapters
    1. The height of the king ( இறைமாட்சி iṟaimāṭci ): 381–390
    2. Education ( கல்வி kalvi ): 391–400
    3. Uneducation ( கல்லாமை kallāmai ): 401-410
    4. Listening ( கேள்வி kēḷvi ): 411-420
    5. Possession of Knowledge ( அறிவுடைமை aṟivuṭaimai ): 421–430
    6. The elimination of mistakes ( குற்றங்கடிதல் kuṟṟaṅkaṭital ): 431–440
    7. Taking Great Men to Help ( பெரியாரைத் துணைக்கோடல் periyārait tuṇaikkōṭal ): 441–450
    8. Avoiding Common People ( சிற்றினஞ்சேராமை ciṟṟiṉañcērāmai ): 451–460
    9. Act wisely ( தெரிந்துசெயல்வகை terintuceyalvakai ): 461–470
    10. Knowing one's strength ( வலியறிதல் valiyaṟital ): 471-480
    11. To know the right time ( காலமறிதல் kālamaṟital ): 481–490
    12. Knowing the right place ( இடனறிதல் iṭaṉaṟital ): 491–500
    13. Examination and selection ( தெரிந்துதெளிதல் terintuteḷital ): 501–510
    14. Examination and Employment ( தெரிந்துவினையாடல் terintuviṉaiyāṭal ): 511–520
    15. Appreciating Kinship ( சுற்றந்தளால் cuṟṟantaḻāl ): 521-530
    16. Not to be Forgetful ( பொச்சாவாமை poccāvāmai ): 531-540
    17. Just Reign ( செங்கோன்மை ceṅkōṉmai ): 541-550
    18. Unjust rule ( schaft koṭuṅkōṉmai ): 551-560
    19. Not to exercise a reign of terror ( வெருவந்தசெய்யாமை veruvantaceyyāmai ): 561-570
    20. Benevolence ( கண்ணோட்டம் kaṇṇōṭṭam ): 571-580
    21. Espionage ( ஒற்றாடல் oṟṟāṭal ): 581-590
    22. To Be Eager ( ஊக்கமுடைமை ūkkamuṭaimai ): 591–600
    23. Not To Be Indolent ( மடியின்மை maṭiyiṉmai ): 601–610
    24. Manly Dedication ( āḷviṉaiyuṭaimai ): 611–620
    25. Not to despair when faced with difficulties ( இடுக்கண் அழியாமை iṭukkaṇ aḻiyāmai ): 621–630
    26. The Minister Office ( அமைச்சு amaiccu ): 631-640
    27. The power of speech ( சொல்வன்மை colvaṉmai ): 641–650
    28. Unpolluted Action ( வினைத்தூய்மை viṉaittūymai ): 651–660
    29. Strong Action ( வினைத்திட்பம் viṉaittiṭpam ): 661–670
    30. Types of action ( வினைசெயல்வகை viṉaiceyalvakai ): 671–680
    31. Ambassador ( தூது tūtu ): 681–690
    32. Behavior towards the king ( மன்னரைச் சேர்ந்தொழுதல் maṉṉaraic cērntoḻutal ): 691–700
    33. Knowledge of the signs ( குறிப்பறிதல் kuṟippaṟital ): 701–710
    34. Knowledge of the council assembly ( அவையறிதல் avaiyaṟital ): 711–720
    35. Not to fear the council ( அவையஞ்சாமை avaiyañcāmai ): 721–730
    36. The Land ( நாடு nāṭu ): 731–740
    37. Fortresses ( அரண் araṇ ): 741–750
    38. Ways to Acquire Wealth ( பொருள்செயல்வகை poruḷceyalvakai ): 751–760
    39. The size of an army ( படைமாட்சி paṭaimāṭci ): 761–770
    40. The Zeal of the Army ( படைச்செருக்கு paṭaiccerukku ): 771–780
    41. Friendship ( நட்பு naṭpu ): 781–790
    42. Trial of Friendship ( நட்பாராய்தல் naṭpārāytal ): 791–800
    43. Familiarity ( பழைமை paḻaimai ): 801–810
    44. Bad friendship ( தீ நட்பு tī naṭpu ): 811–820
    45. Insincere friendship ( கூடாநட்பு kūṭānaṭpu ): 821–830
    46. Folly ( பேதைமை pētaimai ): 831-840
    47. Ignorance ( புல்லறிவாண்மை pullaṟivāṇmai ): 841–850
    48. Hatred ( இகல் ikal ): 851-860
    49. The magnitude of hostility ( பகைமாட்சி pakaimāṭci ): 861–870
    50. Knowing the nature of hostility ( பகைத்திறந்தெரிதல் pakaittiṟanterital ): 871–880
    51. Internal hostility ( உட்பகை uṭpakai ): 881–890
    52. To do no wrong to great men ( பெரியாரைப் பிழையாமை periyāraip piḻaiyāmai ): 891–900
    53. To be led by women ( பெண்வழிச்சேறல் peṇvaḻiccēṟal ): 901–910
    54. Prostitutes ( வரைவின்மகளிர் varaiviṉmakaḷir ): 911–920
    55. Not consuming alcohol ( கள்ளுண்ணாமை kaḷḷuṇṇāmai ): 921–930
    56. Gambling ( சூது cūtu ): 931–940
    57. Medicine ( மருந்து maruntu ): 941–950
    58. Nobility ( குடிமை kuṭimai ): 951–960
    59. Honor ( மானம் māṉam ): 961–970
    60. Size ( பெருமை perumai ): 971–980
    61. Refinement ( சான்றாண்மை cāṉṟāṇmai ): 981–990
    62. Kindness ( பண்புடைமை paṇpuṭaimai ): 991–1000
    63. Useless Wealth ( நன்றியில்செல்வம் naṉṟiyilcelvam ): 1001-1010
    64. Decency ( நாணுடைமை nāṇuṭaimai ): 1011-1020
    65. Ways to Support a Family ( குடிசெயல்வகை kuṭiceyalvakai ): 1021–1030
    66. Agriculture ( உழவு uḻavu ): 1031-1040
    67. Poverty ( நல்குரவு nalkuravu ): 1041-1050
    68. Begging ( இரவு iravu ): 1051-1060
    69. The horror of begging ( இரவச்சம் iravaccam ): 1061-1070
    70. Meanness ( கயமை kayamai ): 1071-1080
  3. Book of love ( காமத்துப்பால் kāmattuppāl or இன்பத்துப்பால் iṉpattuppāl ): 25 chapters
    1. To be overwhelmed by its beauty ( தகையணங்குறுத்தல் takaiyaṇaṅkuṟuttal ): 1081-1090
    2. Recognizing the signs ( குறிப்பறிதல் kuṟippaṟital ): 1091–1100
    3. Enjoying the union ( புணர்ச்சிமகிழ்தல் puṇarccimakiḻtal ): 1101–1110
    4. Praising Her Beauty ( நலம்புனைந்துரைத்தல் nalampuṉainturaittal ): 1111–1120
    5. To proclaim the excellence of love ( காதற்சிறப்புரைத்தல் kātaṟciṟappuraittal ): 1121–1130
    6. Taking off shame ( நாணுத்துறவுரைத்தல் nāṇuttuṟavuraittal ): 1131–1140
    7. To report on the talk ( அலரறிவுறுத்தல் alaraṟivuṟuttal ): 1141–1150
    8. Not being able to bear the separation ( பிரிவாற்றாமை pirivāṟṟāmai ): 1151–1160
    9. To lament sorrow ( படர்மெலிந்திரங்கல் paṭarmelintiraṅkal ): 1161–1170
    10. Getting cloudy eyes ( கண்விதுப்பழிதல் kaṇvituppaḻital ): 1171–1180
    11. Going pale ( பசப்பறுபருவரல் pacappaṟuparuvaral ): 1181–1190
    12. Solitary Suffering ( தனிப்படர்மிகுதி taṉippaṭarmikuti ): 1191–1200
    13. Sad Memories ( நினைந்தவர்புலம்பல் niṉaintavarpulampal ): 1201–1210
    14. Nocturnal Dreams ( கனவுநிலையுரைத்தல் kaṉavunilaiyuraittal ): 1211–1220
    15. Evening Laments ( பொழுதுகண்டிரங்கல் poḻutukaṇṭiraṅkal ): 1221–1230
    16. Physical withering ( உறுப்புநலனழிதல் uṟuppunalaṉaḻital ): 1231–1240
    17. Self-talk ( நெஞ்சொடுகிளத்தல் neñcoṭukiḷattal ): 1241–1250
    18. Shedding reluctance ( நிறையழிதல் niṟaiyaḻital ): 1251–1260
    19. To miss him ( அவர்வயின்விதும்பல் avarvayiṉvitumpal ): 1261–1270
    20. Acquiring knowledge of the signs ( குறிப்பறிவுறுத்தல் kuṟippaṟivuṟuttal ): 1271–1280
    21. To miss the union ( புணர்ச்சிவிதும்பல் puṇarccivitumpal ): 1281–1290
    22. Arguing with oneself ( நெஞ்சொடுபுலத்தல் neñcoṭupulattal ): 1291–1300
    23. Dispute ( புலவி pulavi ): 1301–1310
    24. Dispute for flimsy reasons ( புலவி நுணுக்கம் pulavi nuṇukkam ): 1311–1320
    25. The Pleasures of Pouting ( ஊடலுவகை ūṭaluvakai ): 1321–1330


Page from an edition of Tirukkural including Parimelalagars commentary

There are numerous commentaries on the Tirukkural , both from premodern and modern times. The task of a comment is, on the one hand, to make the ancient language of the Tirukkural understandable through a paraphrase of the wording. On the other hand, he provides the aphorisms, which are often in need of explanation due to their brevity, with a context. According to tradition, there should have been ten old commentaries on the Tirukkural . Only five of these have survived. The commentaries differ considerably in terms of the order of the verses. The commentary by Parimelalagar (13th century), by far the most influential of the ancient commentaries, is decisive for the textual form and interpretation of the Tirukkural . The number of modern commentaries on the Tirukkural is almost unmanageable because of the large number of text editions; it should be in the hundreds.

Literary-historical and historical classification

The Tirukkural belongs to the so-called post-Sangam period. This is the phase of Tamil literary history that immediately follows Sangam literature , the oldest layer of Tamil literature. Compared to the love and hero poetry of the Sangam period, literature, which, like the Tirukkural, deals with the virtuous lifestyle, embodies an innovation. This genre is usually referred to as "didactic literature" (cf. didactic poem ). The emergence of didactic literature is mostly associated in the historiography of South India with the growing influence of Buddhism and Jainism during the Kalabhra rule between the 4th and 6th centuries. The influence of Sanskrit culture is also greater in the Tirukkural than in Sangam literature. The Tirukkural is committed to Sanskrit works such as Manusmriti or Arthashastra . The most obvious way of showing the influence of Sanskrit culture is the adoption of the concept of the three (later four) goals in life ( Purusharthas ) on which the Tirukkural is based.

The Tirukkural is traditionally part of a body with the name Padinenkilkkanakku ("eighteen minor works") or Kilkkanakku for short . This corpus comprises 18 texts, all of which date from the post-Sangam period. Most of them, like the Tirukkural , represent the genre of didactic literature. With the exception of Naladiyar , none of the other Padinenkilkkanakku works has even come close to being as well known as Tirukkural .

History of transmission and reception

Lore history

Page from a palm leaf manuscript of the Tirukkural
Title page of the Tirukkural - first edition from 1812

Like other works of Tamil literature, the Tirukkural has been handed down for centuries in the form of palm leaf manuscripts . Unlike the Sangam literature, which was largely forgotten in the meantime and had to be rediscovered around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Tirukkural seems to have enjoyed great popularity at all times. This is shown by the large number of comments that have been written on the Tirukkural as well as the numerous Tirukkural quotations in other texts. The Tiruvalluvamalai , a poem in praise of the author Tiruvalluvar, which possibly dates from the 10th century, also testifies to the importance of the Tirukkural in premodern times .

In the 19th century, the Tirukkural was one of the most important works in the canon of Tamil literature. It was taught to very young students at the beginning of their studies. When letterpress printing began to take hold in India, the Tirukkural was one of the first classic Tamil works to be printed. The first printed edition of the Tirukkural appeared in Madras (now Chennai) in 1812 .

Modern reception

The Tamil renaissance , which led to an increase in Tamil cultural awareness in the early 20th century, only increased the importance of the Tirukkural . Activists of the Dravidian Movement , who postulated an independent identity of the Tamils ​​as “ Dravids ” versus the “ Aryans ” of northern India, saw the ideals of the original Dravidian social order realized in the Tirukkural . Even the radical social reformer EV Ramasami , who was otherwise rather critical of Tamil literature, praised the Tirukkural as a guide for the right way of life. CN Annadurai saw the essence of Tamil literature in the Tirukkural and recommended that every Tamil household should have a copy of the text.

The Tiruvalluvar statue in Kanyakumari

After the DMK party, which emerged from the Dravidian movement, came to power in 1967 in the state of Madras (now Tamil Nadu ), it initiated a series of measures to increase the visibility of the Tirukkural . To date, every session of Tamil Nadu's parliament has started with a Tirukkural recitation. A sticker with a Tirukkural verse is also attached to the front of every bus of the federal transport company . M. Karunanidhi , who took over the management of DMK in 1969, made a name for himself through several prestige projects that served to glorify Tiruvalluvar, the author of Tirukkural . Under his government, the Valluvar Kottam , a temple-like memorial for the author of the Tirukkural , was built in Chennai in 1976 and the monumental Tiruvalluvar statue in front of Kanyakumari on the southern tip of India in 2000 . Tiruvalluvar is also present elsewhere through numerous statues in public spaces, for example at a prominent location on Chennai's city beach Marina Beach .

Today the Tirukkural is arguably the most important icon of Tamil culture and unquestionably the most widely read text in Tamil literature. The Tirukkural is curriculum at the Tamil Nadu schools and is available in numerous text editions, from simple booklets to scientific editions to mobile phone apps. The edition with the modern commentary by the author M. Varadarajan alone has seen a record number of more than 100 editions since it was first published in 1949.


European orientalists and missionaries became aware of the Tirukkural early on . The Italian Jesuit missionary Constanzo Beschi translated the first two books of the Tirukkural into Latin as early as 1730 . Around 1816, the British colonial official Francis Whyte Ellis translated part of the text into English . In 1856 the entire Tirukkural was translated into German by the missionary Karl Graul . The British missionary and orientalist GU Pope published a complete translation into English in 1886, which is still considered authoritative today. Since then, numerous new translations into English have appeared. The Tirukkural was last translated into German in 1977. There are also translations into many other languages, including Bengali , Burmese , Chinese , Fiji , French , Gujarati , Hindi , Kannada , Malay , Malayalam , Marathi , Polish , Russian , Sanskrit , Swedish , Telugu and Urdu .

By arranging the translations, the Tirukkural was partly received outside of the Tamil area. Leo Tolstoy, for example, quoted from the Tirukkural in his letter to a Hindu in 1908 . Even Albert Schweitzer put in his book The belief of the Indian thinkers (1934) with the Tirukkural apart.

Tirukkural and religion

The Tiruvalluvar Temple in Mylapore

To which religion Tiruvalluvar belonged is controversial; but the author of the Tirukkural was probably a Jaina . This is shown by the designations for God that he uses in the Tirukkural , as well as the value that he accords asceticism . Nevertheless, the Tirukkural has little specifically religious content. Almost all Tamil Nadu religious communities have claimed the Tirukkural for themselves. This is how the commentator Parimelalagar interpreted the Tirukkural in the 13th century under the auspices of Orthodox-Brahmanic Hinduism . Today followers of the Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta direction of Hinduism see the basic ideas of Shaiva Siddhanta realized in the Tirukkural . In Mylapore , the supposed birthplace of Tiruvalluvar (now a district of Chennai), there is a Hindu temple that is said to date back to the 16th century and is dedicated to the author of the Tirukkural . Christian missionaries like GU Pope believed that they could identify the influences of Christianity in the Tirukkural . They assumed that the author Tiruvalluvar had come into contact with Christian teachings in his hometown Mylapore, which is also said to be the place of death of the apostle Thomas . The supporters of the religion-critical Dravidian movement, on the other hand, tried to secularize the Tirukkural and present it as a text that transcends religious boundaries. Finally, attempts can be observed to take over the Tirukkural or its author Tiruvalluvar in the sense of the Hindutva ideology. The Hindu nationalist BJP party in Tamil Nadu started a campaign in 2019 with which it tried to consolidate a "Hindu" image of Tiruvalluvar with an orange robe, prayer beads and holy ashes .


  • The Kural of Tiruvalluver. A gnomish poem about the three striving goals of man. Translation and explanation by Karl Graul . Leipzig: Dörffling & Franke, 1856 ( digitized ). Reprint: Osnabrück: Zeller, 1969.
  • Tirukkural from Tiruvalluvar. Translated from Tamil. by Albrecht Frenz. Madurai: Galaxy Press, 1977.
  • Thomas Lehmann: "Tiruvaḷḷuvar: Tirukkuṟaḷ". In: Kindlers Literature Lexicon (online edition).
  • Kamil Zvelebil: "The Book of Lofty Wisdom". In: The Smile of Murugan. On Tamil Literature of South India . Leiden: Brill, 1973. pp. 155-171.

Web links

Commons : Tirukkural  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Stuart Blackburn: “Corruption and Redemption: The Legend of Valluvar and Tamil Literary History”, in: Modern Asian Studies 34.2 (2000), pp. 449-482, here p. 455.
  2. Blackburn 2000, pp. 460-462.
  3. S. Vaiyapuri Pillai: History of Tamil Language and Literature (Beginning to 1000 AD), Madras: New Century Book House, 1956, p 84th
  4. ^ Kamil Zvelebil: Lexicon of Tamil Literature, Leiden, New York, Cologne: EJ Brill, 1995, p. 669.
  5. For the structure of the Tirukkural see Kamil Zvelebil: The Smile of Murugan. On Tamil Literature of South India, Leiden: Brill, 1973, pp. 164-165.
  6. On the “Book of Love” see François Gros: “Introducing Tiruvaḷḷuvar: the Book of Love”, in: Kannan M. and Jennifer Clare (eds.): Deep Rivers. Selected Writings on Tamil Literature, Pondicherry / Berkeley: Institut Français de Pondichéry / Tamil Chair, Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California at Berkeley, 2009, pp. 123–152.
  7. Norman Cutler: “Interpreting Tirukkura: The Role of Commentary in the Creation of a Text”, in: Journal of the American Oriental Society 112 (1992), pp. 549-566, here pp. 551-552.
  8. ^ François Gros: "Five Times Five is Twenty Five: Around the Commentaries on the Book of Love of Tiruvaḷḷuvar", in: Kannan M. and Jennifer Clare (eds.): Deep Rivers. Selected Writings on Tamil Literature, Pondicherry / Berkeley: Institut Français de Pondichéry / Tamil Chair, Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California at Berkeley, 2009, pp. 153–173, here p. 162.
  9. Cutler 1992, p. 551.
  10. ^ KA Nilakanta Sastri: A History of South India. From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar . 3rd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1966, pp. 144-145.
  11. Vaiyapuri Pillai 1956 at 82.
  12. ^ Norman Cutler: "Three Moments in the Genealogy of Tamil Literary Culture", in: Sheldon Pollock (ed.): Literary Cultures in History. Reconstructions from South Asia, University of California Press: Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 2003, pp. 271–322, here pp. 292–293.
  13. Cutler 2003, p. 277.
  14. ^ Stuart Blackburn: Print, Folklore and Nationalism in Colonial South India, Delhi / Bangalore: Permanent Black / Orient Longman, 2003, pp. 87–90.
  15. Dagmar Hellmann-Rajanayagam: Tamil. Language as a political symbol, Wiesbaden: Franz-Steiner-Verlag, 1984, p. 71.
  16. Hellmann-Rajanayagam 1983, p. 75.
  17. Jakob Rösel: Shape and emergence of Tamil nationalism, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1997, p. 116.
  18. On Valluvar Kottam see Rösel 1997, pp. 120–121.
  19. Cutler 1992, p. 551.
  20. Zvelebil 1974, p. 122, fn. 24.
  21. Blackburn 2003, pp. 92-95.
  22. ^ Andreas Nehring: Orientalism and Mission. The representation of Tamil society and religion by Leipzig missionaries 1840–1940, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2003, pp. 228–241.
  23. Tirukkural of Tiruvalluvar. Translated from Tamil. by Albrecht Frenz. Madurai: Galaxy Press, 1977.
  24. Kamil Zvelebil: Tamil Literature, Leiden, Cologne: EJ Brill, 1975, pp. 126-127.
  25. Albert Schweitzer: The world view of the Indian thinkers. Mystik und Ethik, 2nd, revised edition, Munich: CH Beck, 2010, pp. 180–184.
  26. Blackburn 2000, p. 453
  27. Cutler 1992, pp. 553-561.
  28. Rafael Klöber: Saiva Siddhanta in the course of change. The Tamil Saiva Siddhanta since the 19th century, Halle: Verlag der Francke Foundations in Halle, 2019, pp. 168–169 and 201–202.
  29. Pradeep Chakravarthy and Ramesh Ramachandran: "Thiruvalluvar's shrine" , in: Madras Musings XIV.9 (16–31 August 2009).
  30. Zvelebil 1973, pp. 156–157.
  31. Cutler 1992, pp. 561-564.
  32. The Times of India: " Thiruvalluvar saffronisation triggers political row in Tamil Nadu ", November 4, 2019.