Archive for the ‘ThirukkuraL’ Category

Tamil – Class: 3 / Teaching Tamil Through English

November 9, 2017

Class – 3

In class-1 we learnt Tamil Alphabets with their pronunciations. We learnt about basic vowels(6), extended vowels(6), consonants(18), and symbols for modifying these consonants. In class-2, we learnt a few words with their meanings. We also learnt about so called ‘northern alphbets’ to help us write and pronounce correctly, words from other languages. In this class-3, let us learn about some special features of Tamil phonetics.

First, let us see a few words where the hard consonants appear in there different vocal forms.

காரம் – KaaRaM – Spicy; ராகம் – RaaGaM – Melody, மேகம் – MEHum/MEGaM – Cloud. (Ka being used in three different vocal forms: Ka, Ga, Ha)

தங்கம் – ThaNGaM – Gold (here a soft consonant is explicitly used to soften ‘Ka’ to ‘Ga’)

சக்கை – ChaKKai – Remains of a fruit after Juice is extracted. Ka is doubled for harder accent.

சித்தி – ChiTThi – Mother’s younger sister, மோசம் – MoSaM – bad, பச்சை – PaChChai – Green, மஞ்சள் – MaNJaL –Yellow (here Cha is used in different vocal forms. Soft consonant again used in the last word, Tha is doubled for harder accent in the first word)

‘Ta, Tha, Pa, Rra’  (ட, த, ப, ற​)   also have different vocal forms as below

ட :  டீ – Tea – Tea, பாடு – PADu – Sing, பாட்டு – PATTu – Song, நண்டு – NaNDu – Crab

த : தங்கை – ThaNGai – Younger Sister, பாதி – PAdhi – Half, கத்தி – Katthi – Knife, பந்து – PaNDhu – Ball :

ப :  படம் – PaDaM – Picture, சுபம் – SuBaM – All well, கப்பல் – KaPPaL – Ship,  கம்பி – KaMBi – Metal Rod

ற : பறி – PaRri – Grab, வெற்றி – VeTRri – Victory, பன்றி – PaNDRri – Pig

It may be puzzling for some, to know which vocals to use. However in most of the cases meaning do not change even if we use a different vocal form. The words will be understood properly in its context.

There are some letters which even some Tamils do not pronounce correctly. They are La, (r)La and Zha; (i.e) ல, ள and ழ. Let us learn a few words involving these letters:

La (ல) is pronounced with the tip of the tongue just behind the upper teeth. (r)La (ள) is done with the tip of the tongue slightly behind in upper cavity. Zha (ழ) is done with the tip of the tongue still behind, deep in the upper cavity. The following words show their use. Sound bytes are included to help you pronounce them properly.

வலி, வளி, வழி – VaLi, Va(r)Li, VaZhi – Ache/Pain, Air(Atmosphere), Path

தலை, தளை, தழை – ThaLai, Tha(r)Lai, ThaZhai – Head, impediment/Bond, vegetation

பல்லி, பள்ளி, பழி – PaLLi, Pa(r)LLi, PaZhi – Lizard, School, Blame/revenge

வலம், வளம், பழம் – VaLaM, Va(r)LaM, PaZhaM – Right side, prosperity, Fruit

Ancient Tamil Literature

Tamil is one of the classical Languages of the world, along with Sanskrit. Tamil literary history is very ancient and rich. There were distinctly three periods of development of Tamil literature usually called as Sangam periods. Sangam means Academy and there were three Sangams. The last Sangam was from 400BC to 400AD and called as Kadai Sangam (கடைச்சங்கம், or the Last Academy). The literature of this period, known as Sangam Literature, are the only ones available from these ancient periods. The works of earlier two Sangams are many centuries older and now only known as just names. The literary history of Tamil records them as ‘lost in tsunami’. Sangam literatures, and even some ancient Sanskrit works, record a massive tsunami much before 400BC which destroyed a very big landscape known as Kumari Kandam (Continent of Kumari), also known as Lemuria. All the works of earlier two academies were lost forever as per this historical account. However modern history could not find much evidence of this tsunami and the Lost Land. The (3rd) Sangam literature is grouped into three parts – பத்துப்பாட்டு (Ten Anthologies), எட்டுத்தொகை (Eight Collections) and பதினெண்கீழ்கணக்கு (Eighteen Poetic Works).

Tirukkural (திருக்குறள்), by a saint poet Tiruvalluvar is one of the works in the last group of eighteen and is widely translated in almost all major languages of the world. I am giving below the first couplet of this great work consisting 1330 couplets, divided into 133 chapters of ten each

அகர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் – ஆதி

பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு

Akara Mudala ezhutthellam – Aadhi

Bhagavan Mudatre’ Ulagu


‘A’ is the start of all alphabets (of all languages) – (Just as)

GOD is the Origin of the world (of this whole Universe)

You may like to listen the audio of this verse given below:


Here is a Tamil proverb which states the importance of ‘Letters and Numbers’.

எண்ணும் எழுத்தும் கண் எனத் தகும்.

Ennum Ezhutthum Kann ena Thahum.


Numbers and Letters are rendered as the eyes (for obtaining knowledge)


With this thought let us conclude our Tamil class – 3



Thirukkural – 178

October 19, 2012

Thirukkural – 178

அஃகாமை செல்வத்திற்கு யாதெனின் வெஃகாமை

வேண்டும் பிறன்கைப் பொருள்

Ahkkamai selvatthiRku yadhenin vehkkamai

VeNdum piran kai PoruL


Ahkkamai – conservation, retention

Selvam – Ones prosperity, wealth

Vehkkamai – not to crave for, not to grab or not to seize

Piran Kai PoruL – belongings in other’s hands.


What is the best way to retain one’s own prosperity? One should not yearn for, or grab, or seize the belongings in other’s hands.

You are considered rich only when there is no need for  you to earn more. Desire to earn by unfair means renders you among the poor.


Wealth in your hand should never decay – then

Grabbing from others should never be the way

– by L V Nagarajan


Thirukkural – 302

August 31, 2010

செல்லா இடத்துச் சினந்தீது செல்லிடத்தும்
இல்அதனின் தீய பிற.

CellA idatthu china(m)theedhu cellidatthum

il adhanin theeya pira.

CellA Idatthu – in places beyond your reach or control

China(m) theedhu – Anger is harmful

Cellidatthum – even in places under your reach/control

adanin theeya pira – more harmful than it (i.e. anger)

il – one cannot find

One should not get angry in places not under one’s reach or control, since the same will not be tolerated. It may recoil on you. In addition, you will lose your purpose and also your goodwill for the future. This is easy to see. But, one should also understand that, even in places under one’s reach and command, there is nothing more harmful than anger. It has the danger of being highly disproportionate and will create ill will in your own camp.

In high places, wrath recoils, you know; 

In your own den, it’s a wild fire, you blow.

Thirukkural – 419

June 9, 2009

Thirukkural – 419

 நுணங்கிய கேள்விய ரல்லார் வணங்கிய
வாயின ராதல் அரிது

nuNangiya kELviyar allAr vaNangiya

vAyinar Adhal arithu.

nuNangiya  kELviyar – Attentive listener

allAr – one who is not

vaNangiya vAyinar – a respected speaker

Adhal arithu – (he) rarely becomes

Listening to others is an essential part of any communication. There is a wise saying. God has given us just one mouth but two ears so that we listen more and speak less. Most of our knowledge is acquired by four of our sensory organs whereas mouth helps us in sharing our knowledge with others. In Tamil culture, we denote knowledge as kalvi/kELvi – (i.e.) study and listening. Knowledge acquired by listening to a Guru (Master) is considered supreme. A speaker, who regularly listens to others, inherently maintains a dialogue even when he is delivering a lecture on his own. This inherent dialogue and the ensuing respect for his expressions will be absent in a speaker who neglects listening to others.

An attentive listener, if one is not

A respected speaker, he becomes not

Thirukkural – 370

February 23, 2009

ஆராஇயற்கை அவாநீப்பின் அந்நிலையே

பேரா இயற்கை தரும்.

AarA iyarkai avA neeppin annilayE

pErA iyarkai tharum



annilayE –  stand taken          

neepin –  to avoid

avA     –  desire (greed)

Aara iyarkai – of insatiable nature

Tharum –  will bestow

pErA iyarkai – (a mind of) steady nature


All desires are not bad. There are some desires (or needs) which can be met and satisfied, totally, like hunger, thirst, love, shelter etc. We cannot say the same thing with desire for money, power, lust etc. Such desires are by nature insatiable. If we do not take care to avoid such desires of insatiable nature at some point, it will keep our mind totally restless and may even lead us to destruction.


You may be reminded of a story about a man who was gifted by God, that all the lands he runs over will be his. The man started running, claiming a lot of land under his tiring feet, but poor fellow, he could never stop running, thinking of lands he may ‘lose’, by not continuing his run, ……  , till he finally dropped dead.


That is the AarA iyarkai avA (desire of insatiable nature) you should avoid.


Desires are by nature insatiable. Avoiding them will bestow peace on you.



Thirukkural – 377

November 11, 2008

வகுத்தான் வகுத்த வகையல்லால்

கோடி தொகுத்தார்க்கும் துய்த்தல் அரிது.

VahutthAn vahuttha vahai allAl kOdi

ThohutthArkum Thuythal arithu.


VahutthAn – The Devisor or the designer

Vahuttha Vahai allAl – away from the ways and means decreed

kOdi ThohutthArkum – Even for those who have earned millions

Thuytthal – to consume and enjoy

Arithu – is next to impossible


Here the poet talks of three activities of economics. Thohutthal – collection, Vahutthal – Distribution, Thuytthal – Consumption. One may earn and accumulate wealth. He may even plan and distribute the wealth in his own way. But what he can on his own consume and enjoy, is already decreed by God. Nothing more and nothing less. We may compare this with the present day saying: “Dane dane par likha hai, Khanewalleh ka naam” – (i.e.), in each grain is engraved its eater’s name.


Even a person who has earned millions cannot enjoy his wealth any more or any less, except by the way decreed by the Eternal Designer.





Thirukkural – 140

October 28, 2008

Thirukkural – 140

உலகத்தோடு ஒட்ட ஒழுகல் பலகற்றும்
கல்லார் அறிவிலா தார்

ulagatthOdu otta ozhukal palakatrum

kallAr arivilAdhAr



ulagatthOdu otta       –     to be on par with people

Palakatrum                    having learnt so much

ozhukal KallAr              those, not learning discipline

arivilAdhAr                    are deemed uneducated


ozhukal palakatrum kallAr          those learning many things but discipline


This verse is from the chapter titled ‘good conduct or discipline’ (Ozhukkam Udaimai). Hence ‘ozhukal’ is given more importance than ‘ulagatthodu ottal’.


We may compare it with the present day saying:

If Wealth is lost, nothing is lost

If Health is lost, something is lost

If Character is lost, everything is lost


To be on par with other people in the world one may learn many things. But if discipline is not learnt, he will be deemed uneducated. 

Thirukkural – 35

October 17, 2008

அழுக்காறு அவாவெகுளி இன்னாச்சொல் நான்கும்
இழுக்கா இயன்றது அறம்.                                         (35)

azhukkAru  avA vekuli  innAchol  nAngum

IzhukkA iyandrathu arram


azhukkAru  avA vekuli  innAchol – Envy, greed, anger and harsh words

nAngum – these four,  IzhukkA – not committing or not drawing

iyandrathu arram – the conduct of dharma or righteousness.


IzhukkA – this word can be interpreted in two ways.

Izhaitthal- Committing or Izhutthal- drawing.


Not only one should be away from envy towards others, one should also not draw unto oneself envy of others by one’s flamboyance; one should not be greedy, neither he should provoke greed in others by making empty inducements; one should never be angry and neither he should draw other’s anger by unfit behaviour; one should not speak harsh words neither he should provoke harsh words from others. This is the conduct of people who follow the path of dharma or righteousness.


Envy, Greed, Anger and Harsh words are the four things, not to be committed or provoked, if one wants to follow the path dharma or righteousness.




September 24, 2008



akara mudhala ezhutthellAm – Adhi

Baghavan mudhatrE ulagu


ezhutthellAm Akara mudhala : All letters, (all written knowledge), have their start in alphabet A.

ulagu Adhi Baghavan mudhatrE : (In the same way), God is the origin, prime-mover of this world


This is the first couplet of the first chapter of Thirukkural, a centuries old masterpiece composed by the sage poet Thiruvalluvar. He is dated earlier than 8th century AD, earliest being 2nd century BC. This work details the rules of quality living in 133 chapters, each consisting of ten couplets as above. The work is divided into three parts as,

arratthu pAl     – Path of dharma (or righteousness)

porut pAl         – Path of prosperity

kAmatthu pAl – Path of love


The first chapter is an invocation for the whole work. But the work still remains totally secular in approach. Even in this invocation the poet has not referred to a God of any religion. The poet himself is claimed variously to be a Hindu, a Jain or a Buddhist.


In this series of write-ups, it is proposed to discuss some of the kurals (couplets), not necessarily in any order.


Let us now go straight to the 9th kural: (Next Page)


Thirukkural – 9



koLil poriyil guNamilavE – eNguNatthAn

thALai vanangA thalai


koLil poriyil guNamilavE : Non-functional sensory organs do not serve their purpose and hence useless.

eNguNathhAn – God (with eight attributes)

thALai vanangA thalai – the head that does not bow to God’s feet (is also as useless as above)


Here God is referred as eNguNathhan, of eight attributes. This being the 9th kural it is possible that the poet refers to the God, whom he has already described in his earlier eight couplets. Let us see them:


  1. mudhatrE ulagu                      – Prime mover of this world
  2. vAlarivan                                – Abode of pure and full knowledge
  3. malar misai EkinAn                 – Residing in our heart (of lotus)
  4. vEnduthal vEndAmai IlAn    – devoid of likes and dislikes
  5. iruvinaiyum sErA iraivan        – The leader devoid of the duality of ignorance
  6. aindhu avitthAn                      – Who has vanquished all the five senses
  7. Thanakku uvamai IllAthAn    – Peerless, incomparable
  8. aravAzhi andhaNan                – riding the sea of virtue and dharma


The sage poet Thiruvalluvar has described the God, only as a personification of the above eight attributes in this invocation chapter.


Sightless eye, soundless ears, nose lacking smell, mouth lacking taste and body lacking sense of touch are useless. Same way the head (i.e., the mind and the knowledge it has acquired through the above sensory organs) will be of no avail unless it bows modestly to God.


Another kuraL next time.