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Tiruvalluvar was one of the greatest Tamil poets. Thirukkural, one of the greatest philosophical works in Tamil language was written by him.

Missing image
Portrait of Thiruvalluvar

Very little is known conclusively about the life of Tiruvalluvar. He is believed to have lived some time during the 1st millennium BC. He is also said to have been a textile weaver by profession, who led an austere life. His devoted wife was named Vasuki. The term Tiru is the Tamil term of respect, equivalent to the North Indian/Sanskrit Shri/Shree. This phrase of respect coupled with his supposed name Valluvan (pluralized by changing 'n' to 'r' as part of the Tamil honorific system), led to the name by which he is referred to today. The name Valluvan is ambiguous as well: it may have referred to his caste/occupation and may not have been his real name. There is a distinct caste to this day with this name, among the Tamils whose traditional occupation used to be textile weaving who trace their ancestry to Tiruvalluvar. However, the question of whether the author was named after his community or vice versa, has never been satisfactorily answered.

Legends abound about the birthplace of Thiruvalluvar. According to one legend he is supposed to have been born and lived in Mylapore, an ancient part of present day Chennai city. Another legend associates him to Madurai, the ancient capital of the Pandya rulers. This second legend probably has its origins due to the fact that Pandya rulers promoted Tamil by patronising a lot of Tamil poets and Thiruvalluvar is supposed to be one of them.

Tiruvalluvar's faith is disputed. Many Hindus claim that he was an Hindu, while there are also accounts of his having been a Jain. In any case, Tamils consider Tiruvalluvar to be a holy saint and his work is often referred to as 'poyyamozhi' or the 'book that never lies'. Indeed, many say that Tiruvalluvar was unconcerned about whether he was a follower of the Vedas or of Mahavira, and like his book, ignored the artificial boundaries between religions.


Thirukkural is one of the oldest and most revered works in the Tamil language. It consists of 133 adhikarams. Each adhikaram consists of 10 kurals thus making 1330 kurals in total. Each kural is a couplet. The first Kural is Agara mudhala ezhuthellam aadhi bhagavan mudhatrey ulagu.

Thirukkural has been broadly divided into three parts, of which the first deals with Aram (Virtue) the moral value of Life, the second discusses Porul (Wealth), socio-economic values of Life, and the third on Kamam (Love), depicts the psychological values of Life. There are 38 chapters in the first part, 70 chapters in the second part and 25 chapters in the third part. In the third part, Thiruvalluvar plays the role of creative artist. But in the first two parts, we find Thiruvalluvar as a moral philosopher and political scientist. Only in the third part, Thiruvalluvar portrays the fascinating aspects of lovers, the Akam tradition which he has inherited from his ancestors.

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