423 – Analysing Opinions

National Integration Through Thirukkural And Sanskrit

Analyse Opinions

Parimelazhagar was a multi-lingual scholar who lived around 13th Century. He wrote an in-depth commentary on Thirukkural  and  generations of scholars have come to rely upon his work as one of the most authoritative commentaries on Thirukkural.

Devaneya Paavanar, a well-learned Tamil scholar, re-interpreted Thirukkural in the beginning of the 20th Century.

Interpretations and re-interpretations of scriptures on a continuous basis, is a very healthy tradition, as it provides scope for rational and informed debates. They help improve the understanding of the underlying meaning and encourage people to engage in more research.

Any re-interpretation has to necessarily include an analysis of earlier interpretations and the areas where the current commentator, has a different perspective. Evaluation of earlier commentaries is generally based on the following criteria:

  • Analysis of earlier commentators’  personal faith and beliefs
  • Historical period
  • Political environment
  • Social and cultural environment
  • Identifying inconsistencies in the commentaries
  • Availability of additional and stronger evidences not available to the original commentator.
  • Interpretations no longer valid in the ever-changing environment.

Devaneya Paavanar largely adopted the above approach and re-interpreted Thirukkural. In his prologue, he has acknowledged Parimelazhagar’s contribution in propagating Thirukkural, through Centuries. However, he differed with Parimelazhagar’s interpretation of approximately  100 out of the 1330 couplets. The difference in interpretation was largely attributed to three factors:

  • Parimelazhagar’s belief in existence of God
  • Views which were considered pro-Aryan race and
  • His extensive quote of similarities with Sanskrit literature.

Devaneya Paavanar mentions that, the above three factors largely, influenced Parimelazhagar’s interpretation of some couplets of Thirukkural. He believed, Parimelazhagar did not interpret Thirukkural, as Thiruvalluvar would have intended it to be done. He considered those interpretations as irrational and highly subjective.

Devaneya Paavanar, in fact contended that, Thirukkural itself, has been subject to deliberate distortion. He opined that, even Chapter headings and words in some of the couplets have been manipulated to promote theologies different from the one, originally intended by Thiruvalluvar.

Unfortunately, Historians have not been able to retrieve the original manuscript of Thirukkural to date.

Now the question before everybody who wants to understand Thirukkural is, which interpretation to rely on?

The guiding factors in the understanding of any scriptures, its interpretation and commentaries are:

  • The back ground of the creator/commentator
  • Evidence produced in support of a theory as against mere negation
  • Contextualization of a word or narrative as against its literal meaning
  • Ability to discern opinions from facts
  • Assumptions standing the test of time
  • Opinions of scholars who have an unbiased, dispassionate, rational and consistent approach in the understanding of a subject

It is not necessary for everybody to agree with anything and everything one has said.  Everybody has a right to disagree with any view, as long as it is supported with knowledge, wisdom and experience. One has to search and investigate in order to find out the one closest to the correct opinion.

Thiruvalluar advises in Couplet 423 that, instead of believing whatever one hears as true, it is necessary for one to analyze and find out the inner-meaning behind what has been said. The identity, background or qualification of the person who gives an opinion is irrelevant. Any opinion has to be considered it on its merits.

எப்பொருள் யார்யார்வாய்க் கேட்பினும் அப்பொருள்
மெய்ப்பொருள் காண்பது அறிவு

Epporul Yaar-yaar-vaaik Ketpinum Apporul
Meyp-porul Kaanbadhu arivu

பரிமேலழகர் உரை:

எப்பொருள் யார் யார் வாய்க் கேட்பினும் – யாதொரு பொருளை யாவர் யாவர் சொல்லக் கேட்பினும், அப்பொருள் மெய்ப்பொருள் காண்பது அறிவு – அப்பொருளின் மெய்யாய பயனைக் காணவல்லது அறிவு. (குணங்கள் மூன்றும் மாறி மாறி வருதல் யாவர்க்கும் உண்மையின், உயர்ந்த பொருள் இழிந்தார் வாயினும், இழிந்த பொருள் உயர்ந்தார் வாயினும், உறுதிப்பொருள் பகைவர்வாயினும், கெடுபொருள் நட்டார்வாயினும், ஒரோவழிக் கேட்கப்படுதலான், ‘எப்பொருள் யார் யார் வாய்க் கேட்பினும்’ என்றார். அடுக்கு, பன்மைபற்றி வந்தது. ‘வாய்’ என்பது அவர் அப்பொருளின்கண் பயிலாமை உணர்த்திநின்றது. மெய்யாதல் , நிலைபெறுதல். சொல்வாரது இயல்பு நோக்காது, அப்பொருளின் பயன் நோக்கிக் கொள்ளுதல் ஒழிதல் செய்வது அறிவு என்பதாம்.).

Sanskrit Translation by Shri S.N. Srirama Desikan

ப₃ஹுப்₄யோ விஷயான் ஸ்₂ருத்வா தேஷு ய: க்ஷேம தா₃யக: |
விம்ருஸ்₂ய தஸ்ய நிஷ் கர்ஷே ஸாத₄னம் ஜ்ஞான முச்யதே ||