(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Tiruvalluvar (TEE-rew-VAH-lew-vahr) is the author of Tirukural (third or fourth century c.e.; English translation, 1987), the widely read Tamil classic. Very little is known about his life. Scholars have varied theories about his birth; some consider him to be of the weaver caste, and others deem that he is of mixed parentage, with a lower-caste mother and Brahman father. The general assumption is that he was born in Maturai and lived in Mylapore (modern Chennai). The Tirukural, composed in the kural-venpa, or the short verse meter, is written as three books, one each on aram (the way), porul (material), and inbam (joy). It has 133 chapters with ten couplets in each, making a total of 1,330 verses. These verses are words of wisdom that relate to love, ethics, economics, and politics.

Tiruvalluvar’s ideas were probably influenced by Jain traditions and written in the years between the Cankam era and the bhakti era when the Tamil country was exposed to Jain and Buddhist influences. Tiruvalluvar is exalted as a Tamil sage. As an effective educator, Tiruvalluvar uses simple language that is clear, precise, and forceful. In addition, he uses wisdom and humor that make his verses the most quoted in the Tamil language.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Diaz, S. M. Aphorisms of Valluvar: Commentary and Comparative Study. Madras, India: International Society for the Investigation of Ancient Civilizations, 1982.

Tiruvalluvar. The Kural. Translated by P. S. Sundaram. Madras, India: P. S. Sundaram, 1987.

Tiruvalluvar. Weaver’s Wisdom. Translated by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Kapaa, Hawaii: Himalayan Academy, 1999.