322 – Sharing Food

National Integration Through Thirukkural And Sanskrit

Feeding the Poor

This narrative is from the epic Silappathikaaram. A women delivered a child whose parentage was suspected and fearing societal boycott, she, dumped it in a forest.  A cow spotted the child and  fed it,  in its initial days. A villager going through the forest, found the child and took it away and started bringing up the child. Since, it was fed by a Cow, he named it as “Aa putran” (meaning Cow’s child).

Years rolled by and Aaputran grew up into a man and had a good knowledge of various spiritual scriptures. One day, he observed a cow tied to a pole ready to be offered into the fire as an oblation. Seeing this, Aaputran pitied the cow and unfastened it and took it away. The villagers grew wild at this act and ostracised him from the village.

Aaputran wandered around nearby villages and spent the nights in the premises of local temples. He started begging during day time and in the night, he distributed the day’s begging to the aged and infirm people around him. As his gesture became widely known, more and more people flocked to him for food. He prayed God for a solution to satisfy the hunger of the people, who approached him with hope. God appeared in his dream and gave him a vessel which had the special quality of multiplying anything that is put into it. Thereafter, Aaputran started collecting the alms in that Vessel and started feeding all the people. He never turned away anybody for want of food.

Lord Indra was pleased with  Aaputran’s gesture. He offered to sanction any boon, Aaputran wished for.  Aaputran told Lord Indra that, satisfaction from worldly pleasures pales into insignificance when compared to the  face  of a man satisfied with a square meal.  Since, he is already experiencing it, he is not excited with Indra’s offer and had nothing to ask from him. Lord Indra was taken aback by Aaputran’s reply and interpreted it as a sign of his arrogance. He wanted to test Aaputran’s resilience. Lord Indra created a situation, where there was abundance of production of food and never a situation of its shortage. Nobody approached Aaputran for food. He was not able to put the Vessel into use.

Aaputran started moving to different places in search of people with hunger and on finding nobody, he put the Vessel into a nearby river praying that, the Vessel reaches the hands of people who would use it to feed the hungry. With this he went into a penance and finally died. It is believed that, the Vessel found its way into the hands of Manimekalai the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi.

Thiruvalluvar in the Thirukkural Couplet 322 emphasizes the same. Thiruvalluvar considered that Death due to impoverishment and starvation, tantamounts to murder due to the indifference of the privileged and affluent. Scholars admire the classification of this Couplet under  the  Chapter ‘Restraining from Killing’ , instead of under the Chapter ‘Charity’. This explains the importance of feeding the poor.

பகுத்துண்டு பல்லுயிர் ஓம்புதல் நூலோர்
தொகுத்தவற்றுள் எல்லாம் தலை

Paguth-thundu Palluyir Ombudhal Nooloar
Thoguththavatrul Ellaam Thalai

பரிமேலழகர் உரை:

பகுத்து உண்டு பல் உயிர் ஓம்புதல் – உண்பதனைப் பசித்த உயிர்கட்குப் பகுத்துக் கொடுத்து உண்டு ஐவகை உயிர்களையும் ஓம்புதல், நூலோர் தொகுத்தவற்றுள் எல்லாம் தலை -அறநூலை உடையார் துறந்தார்க்குத் தொகுத்த அறங்கள் எல்லாவற்றினும் தலையாய அறம். (‘பல்லுயிரும்’ என்னும் முற்று உம்மை விகாரத்தால் தொக்கது. ஓம்புதல்: சோர்ந்தும் கொலை வாராமல் குறிக்கொண்டு காத்தல். அதற்குப் பகுத்து உண்டல் இன்றியமையா உறுப்பு ஆகலின் அச்சிறப்புத் தோன்ற அதனை இறந்தகால வினையெச்சத்தால் கூறினார். எல்லா நூல்களிலும் நல்லன எடுத்து எல்லார்க்கும் பொதுபடக் கூறுதல் இவர்க்கு இயல்பு ஆகலின், ஈண்டும் பொதுப்பட ‘நூலோர்’ என்றும் அவர் எல்லார்க்கும் ஒப்ப முடிதலான் ‘இது தலையாய அறம்’ என்றும் கூறினார்.)

Sanskrit Translation by Shri S. N. Srirama Desikan

லப்³த⁴ம் விப⁴ஜ்ய பு⁴க்த்வா து யத்ப்ராணி-பரிரக்ஷணம் |
ஸா²ஸ்த்ர-காரோக்த த⁴ர்மேஷு ப்ரஸ²ஸ்த-மித³மீர்யதே ||