Learning from Tamil Literature | Sunday Observer

Learning from Tamil Literature

 As most of us know, there are 12 vowel letters in Tamil.

Tamil Literatures is one of the oldest literature in the world. Evidence shows that it existed several decades before 3rd century B C.

Among the many scholars, writers and poets was a woman poet named Avvaiyaar. The exact period of her existence has not been established, as there were others with the same name. However, a set of couplets of wisdom is believed to have been written by her. A Tamil film produced by Gemini Productions in Chennai in the 1950s narrates her history with her couplets and songs. The late K B Sundaraambal was featured as Avvaiyaar.

In 2018, The Hindu Religious Moral Education Section of the Hindu Religious Cultural Affairs Department, Ministry of Culture in Sri Lanka has under the direction of its Director, A Uma Maheswaran published a series of booklets of moral values found in Tamil Literature several centuries ago. Dr K Raghuparan, Senior Lecturer, Linguistic Department, South Eastern University has compiled in alphabetical order couplets from Aaththisoodi enunciated by the earliest woman Tamil Poet, Avvaiyar. There are 91 such couplets with explanatory notes.

I have translated some of them into English for the benefit of non-Tamil speaking readers. These maims are universal and some of the sayings may not be in consonance with the belief of some. Nevertheless, I am sure some seniors may remember the good sayings they may have learnt in the good old days.

1. Desire to offer Alms

2. Anger should be subsided

3. Do not tell others of your good and bad characteristics

4. Do not abandon your enthusiasm

5. Do not ignore your mathematical and linguistic knowledge

6. To beg is demeaning

7. Give the needy the food and then eat

8. Adjust yourself to what is practical in the world

9. Do not give up what you learn

10. Do not mouth jealous words

11. Say what you saw

12. Say all things in kind words

13. Befriend only when you are sure of the other’s good characteristics

14. Protect your parents

15. Never forget the help given by others

16. Cultivate in the right season

17. Do not do what you cannot do

18. Sleep on a soft cotton mattress

19. Do not speak cheating others

20. Do not do uncivilized acts

21. Learn all you want while young

22. Do not forget to give others

23. Do not sleep long

24. Give up scolding others in anger

25. Cleanse yourself from bad elements

26. Do not give up your good nature

27. Do not move away from good friends

28. Do not harm others

29. Listen to what the learned say

30. Do not hide your skills from others

31. Join the group of learned people

32. Do not speak lies as if it was the truth

33. Do not forget your good qualities

34. Do not use harsh words that make others angry

35. Do not desire gambling

36. Do what you do perfectly

37. Do not idle

38. Act good so that the world praises you

39. Do volunteer service to Lord Vishnu

40. Don’t leave room for sorrow

41. Don’t defame the deity

42. Don’t swim in deep sea

43. Don’t eat food that brings ill health

44. Read many good books

45. Dispel your ignorance

46. Don’t use unnecessary words

47. Don’t eat too much

48. Don’t go after other women

49. Don’t praise yourself

50. Desire to learn the skills

51. Get up at dawn

52. Don’t believe what your enemies say

53. Never show partiality in your words

Of 108 couplets I have given only the above maxims.

The booklet is primarily meant for children in primary classes.

The remaining part of the booklet has 89 quatrains from Kontrai Venthan.

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