Among Tamils, poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar is regarded as a cultural icon. His most popular work is Thirukkuṛaḷ, which is basically a collection of couplets on politics, ethics, economy, and love. To honour his contribution, the Tamils observe Thiruvalluvar Day either on January 15 or 16 as a part of Pongal celebrations. Previously in the 1930s, Thiruvalluvar Day was celebrated either on May 17 or May 18 but in recent years, it is observed in January. And this year, it is celebrated on January 15.
Who was Thiruvalluvar?
Except for his work, nothing much is known about Thiruvalluvar’s life. People have made speculations about it, largely by deducing his work Thirukkural and other Tamil texts. Multiple accounts regarding Thiruvalluvar are available but no information is available on his family background, religious affiliation, or birthplace.
It is believed that he used to live in the town of Mylapore, which in today’s time is a neighborhood in Chennai. In the early 16th century, a temple was built within the Ekambareswarar temple complex in Mylapore and it was dedicated to Thiruvalluvar. Hence, locals believe that he was born in Mylapore, underneath the tree that is situated within the temple complex.
That’s not it, another temple-memorial called Valluvar Kotam was built, back in 1976, in Chennai. It houses one of the largest auditoriums in Asia, and a 133-foot tall statue of Thiruvalluvar stands at Kanyakumari as well.
The last statue of the Tamil poet got unveiled in Ulsoor, near Bengaluru, in 2009.
Though the period in which he existed is also debatable, some people claim that he lived between the 8th and 9th centuries. Tamil orator, writer, and father of the Pure Tamil movement, Maraimalai Adigal had stated 31 BC as the birth year of Thiruvalluvar, while the Czech scholar in Indian literature and linguistics, Kamil Zvelebil, had noted that Valluvar lived around 500 AD.
Thiruvalluvar’s famous work
Thiruvalluvar’s primary work is Thirukkural, which has 1330 couplets (kurals). These kurals are divided into 133 sections of 10 couplets each, and further, the text is divided into three parts – Teaching on dharma, artha, and kama meaning, virtue, wealth, and love.