M. Rajaram is an officer in the Indian Administrative Service with a postgraduate degree in English Literature, an Med degree in Education, a BL and a PhD (HRD).
He was in the Education Department, Government of Tamil Nadu for about two decades in various capacities. His other books, including Changing Faces of School Inspection, Towards Quality in Educational Administration, The Elemental Warriors and Food for Thought have received wide acclaim.
His research papers have won him recognition at the national level, winning him several awards including the Malcolm Adiseshiah Award, Best Collector Award, Vashista Vidya Shiksak National Award for Gandhian activities, etc.
His taste for literature and love for Tamil inspired him to bring out this new translated version of Thirukkural in a simple and lucid style.
Thirukkural as a book that deals with the art of living is gaining increasing acceptance. It transcends national boundaries, historical, social limitations and language barriers. It makes great sense and relevance even today and for all times. Among the ethical works in Indian languages, Thirukkural stands supreme.
Thirukkural was written 2000 years ago. It was more truly presented in a language that was in vogue at that time. Thiruvalluvar, who brought out ‘Thirukkural’, the book for all ages, was an eminent and exceptional scholar endowed with divine quality.
He was not only a sage with a humane heart but also a psychologist with a deep insight into the complexities of human nature and a philosopher with an urge to reform. As Subramania Bharathi, the Indian national poet, has rightly observed, “Tamil Nadu gave unto the world Valluvar and thereby won great renown.” Shri Sane Guruji goes on to say, “Great thinkers belong to the world. More truly, Thiruvalluvar belongs not only to Tamil Nadu but also to the whole world.” Thiruvalluvar has been compared with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Rousseau and the like.
Thiruvalluvar has not dwelt upon any abstract thought or dogma. He is intensely conscious of the practical world. The noble as well as the ignoble, the haves as well as the have-nots, the honest as well as the dishonest dwell side by side. He is solely concerned with the present world. To him, how one lives at present is a matter of supreme importance. He does not consider ascetic life better than family life. He gives the ploughmen the highest place in the society because they provide food for all.
Thirukkural is recognized as a classic in the literature of the entire world and it is a part of world literature. It is not only a work of great aesthetic and literary value but also a guide to the art of living with nuggets of valuable wisdom sprinkled everywhere. It consists of 1330 couplets. They have been systematically arranged in three parts-Virtue, Wealth and Love. All of them deal with various aspects of human activities like devotion to God, ascetic life, family life, charity, kingship, military spirit, friendship, love, etc.
Thirukkural covers subjects like ethics, statecraft, citizenship, etc in myriad forms. The profound thoughts of the great saint-poet, Thiruvalluvar, are encapsulated in the shortest Tamil metre called ‘Kural’ which means anything short. Thiru means sacred, beautiful, etc. each couplet conveys maximum sense in minimum words. It is appealing to the mind, sweet to the ear and delicious to the tongue. We can say, “Age cannot wither it nor custom stale its infinite variety.”
It is not easy for all to comprehend the real meaning of the Kural at the first reading itself. G.U. Pope, who translated this work into English metric verse a century ago, explains poetically the beauty of Thirukkural thus: Their construction resembles that of a design in a mosaic. The materials fitted together are sometimes mere bits of coloured glasses, but sometimes also very precious stones and pure gold.
Thirukkural was among the earliest of the Tamil classics translated by the Christian missionaries. Rev. Fr. Beschi (1700-1742) translated it into Latin. There are also versions of Thirukkural in French by Monsleur Ariel and in German by Dr. Graul. The great attraction of Thirukkural for the missionaries and others has been its ethical content.
The dynamics of Thirukkural has been richly complimented by various scholars. Dr. Albert Schweitzer says, “There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find so much of lofty wisdom.” Mahatma Gandhi calls it ‘a textbook of Indispensable authority on moral life’ and goes on to say, “The maxims of Valluvar have touched my soul. There is none who has given such a treasure of wisdom like him”. He has also said that he came to know about Thirukkural from Leo Tolstoy, who had said that the concept of non-violence was taken by him from a German version of the Kural. And so he expressed his desire to learn Tamil so as to study Thirukkural in original. As Sri Aurobindo states, “Thirukkural is gnomic poetry, the greatest in planned conception and force of execution ever written in this kind”. Rajaji says, “It is the gospel of love and a code of soul-luminous life. The whole of human aspiration is epltomized in this immortal book, a book for all ages.”
According to K.M. Munshi, “Thirukkural is a treatise par excellence on the art of living.” it cuts across castes, creeds, climes, ages, etc and has a freshness which makes one feel as if it is meant for the present time. Dr. Zakir Hussain, late President of India, says, “Thirukkural is a treasure house of worldly knowledge, ethical guidance and spiritual wisdom.” Monsieur Ariel calls it ‘a masterpiece of Tamil literature, one of the highest and purest expressions of human thought.’
E.J. Robinson finds that it contains all things and there is nothing which it does not contain. Rev. Emmons E. White opines, “Thirukkural is a synthesis of the best moral teachings of the world.” As Rev. J. Lazarus declares, “No Tamil work can ever approach the purity of the Kural. It is a standing repute to modern Tamil.”
There are several translations already made available by eminent scholars like F.W. Ellls, Rev. G.U. Pope, Rev. W.H.Drew, Dr. John Lazarus, Yogi Suddhananda Bharathi, Rajaji, K.M. Balasubramanalam, P.S. Sundaram, J. Narayanasamy and others. Then, what is the need for one more English translation of this Tamil classic?
Although there are numerous translations of Thirukkural, the fact remains that no translation could render full justice to the original. As the ancient Tamil poet, Avvalyar, observes, “Thiruvalluvar plerced an atom and injected seven seas into it and compressed it into what we have today as Kural.” Dr. Graul rightly states that no translation can fully convey the charming effect of Thirukkural.
Because of its universality, social philosophy and non-denominational nature, it finds its echoes in the teachings of every religion.
The present translation is an attempt to bring out the Tamil text of Thirukkural into English in a complete form.
I congratulate Dr. M. Rajaram, IAS for the efforts he has made in translating the original work of poet saint Thiruvalluvar, the famous Thirukkural. It is considered to provide the code of conduct for the humanity of the planet earth for all time, which makes the past meet the present and creates the future.
Dr. Rajaram’s translation of Thirukkural on the three parts i.e. Virtue, Wealth and Love –makes a garland of knowledge guiding the people on the right path always and every time. There have been a number of translations of Thirukkural by many authors. The present translation is unique in its simplicity, elegance and maintenance of poetic rhythm on the lines of original Thirukkural. Dr. Rajaram has made special efforts to see that the spirit of Thiruvalluvar is not compromised through his translation.
I would like to cite a few examples of translated couplets to demonstrate the rhythmic feature of translation.
Smile, charity, pleasant words and civility
These four are marks of true nobility.
Dig deeper the sand-well, more water flows,
Read deeper, more wisdom grows.
The translated couplets virtually provide the intended meaning conveyed by Thiruvalluvar. This document will certainly be useful to Non-Tamil speaking people to understand the richness of Tamil culture and its civilizational heritage. Also it will be a friend to the Tamil Community who are not fortunate to educate the new generation in Tamil living in various parts of the world.
I am sure the book will be read by a number of people, understood and become a part of their guide in their day to day living leading to the promotion of an enlightened citizen who in turn will make the realization of peaceful, happy and harmonious planet earth.
I congratulate Dr. Rajaram for making this notable contribution for propagating the richness of Thirukkural to world citizens.
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