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10 Dec 2023, Edition - 3071, Sunday

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Scholar sheds new light on Thiruvalluvar birthplace

U Bharath


Kanyakumari: Even as many legends abound about the life and origin of Tamil savant Thiruvallurvar, the poet-philosopher and author of the immortal work Thirukkural, new dialectical and sociological evidence propounded by a Thiruvalluvar scholar sheds new light on the great poet’s origins. According to Thiruvalluvar scholar Dr S Padmanabhan, General Secretary of the Kanyakumari Historical and Cultural Research Centre, the great poet was born in Thirunayarnarkurichi in Kalkulam taluk of the present Kanyakumari district, known in ancient times as Valluvanadu.

Though Thirukkural is a gold mine of wisdom and moral instruction, it gives no clue about the life of its author. But one can get vital clues about its author and his life if the couplets are analysed dispassionately, Padmanabhan says. The diction and word usage in his immortal work, the allusions employed by him in various contexts, and the historical evidence, which points to the existence of ancient Valluvanadu in the present Kanyakumari district, support the fact that the moral genius who wrote “Ulaga pothumarai” was born at land’s end.

Dr Padmanabhan had first presented his findings in a research paper titled “Thenkumari thantha Thiruvalluvar” at the World Tamil Conference held in Mauritius in 1989, and since then he has been adding new findings to substantiate his conclusions.

Padmanabhan has based his research on the available linguistic evidences, customs and habits of people which are discussed in Thirukkural, and names of places which are still found in present day Kanyakumari district.

A lot of the word usage and diction employed by the poet in Thirukkural is still in vogue in Kanyakumari district. The ancient Tamil word ‘madi’ for laziness (there is even a chapter on ‘madiyinmai’ in the Thirukkural), ‘makka’ meaning ‘makkal’ (children), ‘uvarthal’ meaning thinking over, are still used in Kanyakumari district and find an echo in the Thirukkural.

Thiruvalluva nayanar might have been a chieftain (the word Nayanar means king) ruling over Valluvanadu (which was in existence till 12th century AD). The astounding depth of knowledge and references in state craft and warfare found in the Thirukkural could only be attributed to Thiruvalluvar having been a leader of men.

Agricultural practices such as ‘puzhuthi viraippu’ (sowing the seeds directly, a method of raising paddy) and hunting practices such as imitating bird calls mentioned in the Thirukkural are still practised by farmers and Kaani tribal hunters in Kanyakumari district.

In his autobiography, U V Swaminatha Iyer notes that Thirukkural was released in Perumkulam near ancient Korkai, the capital of Pandiyanadu in Tirunelveli district in the presence of Pandya king Ugraperuvazhuthi and in the immediate presence of 49 scholars. According to Tamil scholar Vaiyapuri Pillai, Ugraperuvazhuthi and Thiruvalluvar were contemporaries. From these facts it can be inferred that the saint poet had his origins in South Tamil Nadu.

A gurupooja conducted for the poet by a leading family in Nalllur in the district which is in possession of the palm leave scripts of Thirukkural and the Kaani tribal practice of offering prayers to Thiruvalluvar for rains at Valluvan kalpothai, a hillock near Keeriparai in the district are some of the sociological evidence the scholar is putting forth to substantiate his claim.

“The saint- poet might have renounced his kingdom in the fashion of Buddha and Mahavira and embraced asceticism in his later days. After completing his triple treatise on morality, material prosperity, and love, he might have left for Madurai and Mylapore, which could be the source of the varied speculations about Madurai and Mylapore being his birthplace. In fact Thiruvalluvar who was born in Thirunayanarkurichi in Kanyakumari district might have renounced the world at Mylapore, where his shrine stands today,” says Dr Padmanabhan.

Going by these linguistic, sociological and historical facts, it is evident that the great poet was born in Cheranadu (part of ancient Tamilagam) and the present day Kanyakumari district (part of the erstwhile south Travancore), the scholar says.

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