Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Pura Naanooru – 183

Helping (the teacher) in distress, giving many a gift,
it’s good to learn from him, regardless of his poverty;
even among children born in her womb,
a mother favors the learned;
even among members of a clan,
a ruler doesn’t call for the eldest
but follows one who is learned;
even in a caste system that differentiates,
if a lower caste person is learned,
upper caste person will bow before him.

உற்றுழி உதவியும், உறு பொருள் கொடுத்தும்,
பிற்றை நிலை முனியாது, கற்றல் நன்றே;
பிறப்பு ஓரன்ன உடன்வயிற்றுள்ளும்,
சிறப்பின் பாலால், தாயும் மனம் திரியும்;
ஒரு குடிப் பிறந்த பல்லோருள்ளும்,
‘மூத்தோன் வருக’ என்னாது, அவருள்
அறிவுடையோன் ஆறு அரசும் செல்லும்;
வேற்றுமை தெரிந்த நாற்பாலுள்ளும்,
கீழ்ப்பால் ஒருவன் கற்பின்,
மேற்பால் ஒருவனும் அவன்கண் படுமே.

This Puranaanooru poem talks about the importance of education. One should help a teacher in distress, give him various gifts and learn from him, irrespective of his poverty. Why? Because an educated man is valued more by a mother, a ruler, and the society in general. Education adds value to life. The upper caste person will bow to the lower caste person who is learned.

It is interesting to note the last three lines, especially ‘வேற்றுமை தெரிந்த நாற்பாலுள்ளும்,’ – ‘even in a caste system that differentiates (people as four categories),’. When the poet says ‘even’ – it implies that the caste system is making its appearance in Tamil country only then. He doesn’t take for granted that the caste system is prevalent. Based on generally accepted dating of Puranaanooru, it can be guessed that the caste system reared its head in Tamil Nadu around 2000 years ago. Also interesting to note that the poet is ‘Aariyap Padai Kadandha Nedunchezhiyan‘, (Neduncheziyan who defeated the Aryan army).

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