Valluvar’s Shawl

One of the fabulous things from this weekend at the FeTNA award ceremony, is that they gave me a shawl along with my award, draping it around me on stage, similar to what happens when you’re hooded with your doctoral robes.

My impression is that education & literary / arts culture are highly valued in Tamil society; teachers command a lot of respect there. If only that were true everywhere!

The shawl is printed with an image of Thiruvalluvar (Tamil: திருவள்ளுவர்), commonly known as Valluvar, a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher.

“He is best known as the author of the Tirukkuṟaḷ, a collection of couplets on ethics, political and economical matters, and love. The text is considered an exceptional and widely cherished work of Tamil literature.”

One of the awardees at the event was a young teen who had memorized all 1,330 couplets. Impressive, and shows the significance this work holds culturally.

I’m not sure how likely I am to wear this, but it’s such a lovely token; I feel very honored. Perhaps I’ll hang it in my study, and it will inspire me to write more poetry and philosophy.

My father’s father, Chinniah Vethanayagam Edward Navaratnasingam, was a much beloved school principal in Delft; I think he would’ve been pleased to know his granddaughter was awarded such a shawl.


I’m not very familiar with the work itself — I’ve skimmed a little of it in translation, but I’m sure much beauty is lost thereby. Regretting once again my lack of Tamil reading ability.
This couplet did make me laugh, though:

If household excellence be wanting in the wife,
Howe’er with splendour lived, all worthless is the life.”

I would be perhaps irritated, if the entire previous section hadn’t been extolling the virtues of household excellence in men. 🙂


The men of household virtue, firm in way of good, sustain The other orders three that rule professed maintain.”
There are multiple couplets about the wife’s chastity, though, and no parallel couplets about the husband’s. Alas — it were ever thus.


No idea if this is considered a good translation or not, but you can find it here:

According to a book on Amazon: “The Tirukkuṟaḷ is believed to be the most translated of all literary works in the world, barring religious works like the Bible and the Koran. There are about 130 translations of the Kuṟaḷ in the languages of the world and in English alone (until March 2006) about 50 translations have appeared.”

“…The text is divided into three books, each with aphoristic teachings on virtue (aṟam, dharma), wealth (poruḷ, artha) and love (iṉpam, kama). Considered one of the greatest works on ethics and morality, it is known for its universality and secular nature.”ṟaḷ-Translations-English-Ar̲attuppāl/dp/8190800027/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Learn more at Wikipedia:

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