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Niitthaar Perumai, The Fundamental Role of the Ascetic: Canto 3, K29 and K30 of the Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar
(In these kurals, I give both the "unrefined" versions using connective particles and modified post-positions (in Tamil: according to the rules of "punarcchi", etc.) of the seven groups of words and, subsequently, the "refined" versions where the alliterative phonemes are clearly apparent.)
K29: anthana renpoo raravoormar revvuyirkkunc
senthanmai poondoluga laan (unrefined)
anthanar enpoor aravoormarru evvuyirkum
senthanmai poondoluga laan (refined)
Towards all that breathe, with seemly graciousness adorned they live;
And thus to virtue's sons the name of 'Anthanar' men give. (Tr. G.U.Pope)*
The virtuous are truly called Andanar; because in their conduct towards all creatures they are clothed in kindness. (Tr. W.H.Drew & J. Lazarus)*
(*In both the above works, this kural is #30.)
The Virtuous are deemed "Anthanar"*, those who towards all creatures,
being imbued with love, show respect, these will be so acclaimed. (Tr. T. Wignesan)
*(meaning "ascetics" or "sages"; Anthanan= The Supreme Being)
K30: urannennunth thooddiyaa noorainthung kaappaan
varanennum vaippukkoor vitthu (unrefined)
urannennum thooddiyaan ooraintthum kaappaan
varanennum vaippirkuoor vitthu (refined)
He, who with firmness curb the five restrains,
Is seed for soil of yonder happy plains. (Tr. G.U.Pope)*
He who guides his five senses by the book of wisdom, will be a seed in the world of excellence. (Tr. G.W. Drew & J. Lazarus)*
(*This kural occupies the fourth place, i.e., #24 in the above translated works. The order of the couplets, as far as I can judge is of no great moment.)
The man who persists in controling all the five senses from going astray
His is the seed that will propagate in Elysian fields. (Tr. T. Wignesan)
[It should be evident to the reader of these couplets in this Canto 3 of the Thirukkural that the poet had some other design in mind when he set himself the task of having to elaborate on one given and self-chosen topic or theme in a fixed decade for all 133 chapters, that is, his monumental task of having to encapsulate an entire philosophical perspective of the Hindu PURUSHA aims in life.
The question is why would the author choose the extremely difficult and concise venba metre to restrict and confine his thoughts in? The answer should be evident to all. He was writing at a time when there was obviously no printing paper nor printing press. He had a code of ethics to impart, and he had to find a means to make quotation and repetition possible for all - the learned and the ignorant, so something that approximates the proverb would fall within his choice; and hence the reliance on mnemonics: alliteration and initial rhyme, the riddle in the form of the complex clause with the key word falling often on the fourth word or feet, not to mention the last foot in the form of a long syllable (neer) or two or three short syllables (nirai) and often ending in the phoneme "u".
And as for the reason why the poet insisted on expatiating the kernel of an idea in a topic into TEN couplets, I do not think, however, it has anything to do with the Judeo-Christian penchant for the Ten Commandments by way of an influence. T. Wignesan).
© T. Wignesan - Paris, 2017.
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