Friday, 20 January 2017

A Modern Writer's Admiration for the Tamil Classic

Eminent English philosopher Francis Bacon's popular quote differentiating kinds of books as 'Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested' can hardly include one book in Tamil for its exceptional quality, as heard from its definition by famed modern Tamil writer Jeyamohan. And the book is none other than Thirukural. 

 Readers cannot get the essence of a couplet in Thirukural just by reading it as a mere group of words. Rather, they should 'train' themselves in its every letter, word and contemplate it to obtain the wisdom, which the great poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar conveyed through the seven- worded Kural Venba - a short verse form, whose composition requires strict prosodic rules “ averred Jeyamohan.

Addressing the three-day programme 'Kuralinuthu' ( sweet is Thirukural) on the immortal Tamil classic, which was organised by Sri Krishna Sweets in the city, the modern writer said:

Kural Venba is a 'sutra' - a concise form, which expresses what is needed, but strictly in a very few words. And the couplets in Thirukural were primarily meant for learning and saying by heart. Nevertheless, in the modern age, the method has been changed from 'payiluthal' (knowing by practice) to 'vasithal' ( mere reading) ”

Describing such serious methods of 'exercising' or 'practising' the Thirukural couplets, he informed:

One of the disciples of the social reformer Sree Narayana Guru practised Thirukural in such a way. Because, the classic, which should be called 'a book of meditation' is to be learned deeply throughout one's life, as the work is incomparably wise to provide answers for all questions in human life”

Quoting T.S.Eliot, a famous 20th century British poet, essayist and literary critic, Jeyamohan said that Eliot defines a classic as a literary piece that has the capability of producing more such works in the days to come.

And Thirukural, being one such classic, stood as an inspiration  for the birth of similar didactic pieces of literature like Cilapathikaram, Manimekalai and Naladiyar , which appeared later and preached the virtues for mankind ”

Paying his tribute to the recent demise of Vanavan Mahadevi, a 36 year-old muscular dystrophy patient and founder of Aadhav Trust for the development of similar patients of her kind, Jeyamohan explained how a couplet in Thirukural defines life and death philosophically thus:

Death is like a slumber deep

And birth like waking from that sleep

Describing a classic being the supreme creation of a culture, Jeyamohan admired Thiruvalluvar for his love and concern to mankind that he curses even the creator of the world 'to wander and perish', if human beings were destined to survive by begging and living. The 1062nd couplet reads thus:

If he that shaped the world desires that men should begging go,

Through life's long course, let him a wanderer be and perish so.

Sharing his visit to Shravanabelagola, a pilgrimage destination of the Jains, Jeyamohan said:

The Jain ascetic Bhadrabahu migrated with thousands of his disciples including Chandragupta Maurya, the king-turned monk, to Shravanabelagola, a pilgrimage destination in Karnataka for Jains today. Thiruvalluvar, who was also a Jain scholar, is believed to have breathed his last at Shravanabelagola, which was once called as 'Saravana Vellai Kulam' in Tamil. In the bygone era, it was a practice there to outline a Jain scholar's feet and engrave them on rocks. And I walked amidst such plenty of engravings on the mountain”

The audience were moved to tears, as Jeyamohan closed his speech thus:

Of the large number of foot prints engraved at Shravanabelagola, one could be Thiruvalluvar's. At this point, I touch and make obeisance to it ”

Link to my story in The New Indian Express:

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