THE BEAUTY OF SIMILES IN TIRUKKURAL

Tiruvalluvar


During their recent visit to India, my brother Raghu and his wife Chandra asked me to write more articles based on ThirukKural as they found, for those who have not had the fortune to read the original in Tamil, the extracts with translation and commentary that I give are really an eye-opener to good living. Since I break my articles into various topics they find the reading more enjoyable. Every such attempt by me gives me a chance to go back to Kural, and so I too welcome it.

We hear a lot about the art of living nowadays. Those who are familiar with Kural will know that it is a treatise on the art of living.It is based on the culture and heritage of Tamilians who lived 2000 years ago!. It is a pointer to the intellectual attainments that the ancient civilisation had reached.

In one of my earlier articles I had given some samples of the suggestions given by Kural to promote the values of life They were certain guidelines on the essentials of friendship,the principles of management etc. I had also pointed out that the charm of kural is its brevity in words and profoundity in thought and meaning. In this article I would like to show how Tiruvalluvar handles similes adeptly, like Shelley or Shakespeare in English, Kalidasa or Valmiki in Samskrit or Kamban or Ilango in Tamil.

I have selected just a handful of Kurals which I am sure will go to show the mastery of the author in explaining even difficult things in simple and easy language.

Kural 66
Kuzhal inithu yazh inidu enbar tham makkal
Mazhalai chol keladavar

Meaning: Only those who haven't heard and enjoyed the lisping prattle of their children will say that the flute and the veena are sweet!
In this Kural the soft and .melifluous flow of the words is in keeping with the theme viz. .,the lisping of the child.Even the melody of musical instrument stands no comparison to the prattle of a baby.

Kural 80
Moppak kuzhaiyum anicham mukamtirinthu
Nokkak kuzhaiyum virundu.

Meaning:The delicate blossom 'anicham' (a flower) withers away even on smelling.A sensitive guest shrinks from the unwelcome look of the host!
This Kural wants us to treat our guests as delicately as we would treat a sensitive flower.The imagery and comparison described here are among the best that we have come across in any literature.

Kural 100
Iniya ula agha innathakooral
Kani iruppa kaay kavrnthatru.

Meaning: Using harsh words instead of kind ones is like going in for raw fruits when ripe fruits are avalable. When sweet ripe mango is available, will anyone go for kuchcha mango?

Kural 475
Peeli pey sagadum achchu irum appandam
Saala miguthu peyin

Meaning: Too great a load of even peacock feathers will break the axle tree ofthe cart.
This incisive comparison warns against over confidence and over-exhibition of one's own strength.

Kural 490
Kokku okka koombum paruvathu matru adhan
Kuththu okka seertha idathu.

Meaning: Bide your time in the manner of the stork waiting for its prey, but when the prey is spotted act with swift and sure aim. A person wanting to suceed in life has to be patient and bide his/her time till the right opportunity occurs.

Kural 964
Thalaiyin izhidha mayir anaiar maandhar
Nilaiyin izhindhak kadai

Meaning: Men who have fallen off from their high and noble estate will rate as hair that has fallen off the head.

The hair on the head is a thing of beauty.Removed from its place it becomes filth.The same is the fate of men/woman, who descend from their own level of honourable conduct and demean themselves. Can anyone carry conviction better than this?

I intend to write on some more similes in kurals in the next article.

R.Narasimhan
February 2007



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