A customs officer and the true import of Kural

Scholar’s notes on Tirukural being re-published after nearly nine decades

Published - October 02, 2017 07:26 am IST - CHENNAI

Tirukkural

Tirukkural

For modern-day Chennaiites, Krishnampet is the destination in life’s last journey. But in the beginning of the 19th century, it was a hub for literary pursuits and many Tamil scholars had made the place their home. Among them was Ki. Kuppusamy Mudaliar who wrote explanatory notes on Tirukural and the commentary by Parimelazhagar. Nine decades after its release, the two volumes of Kuppusamy Mudaliar is being brought out by Sivalayam founder J. Mohan.

“What set apart Kuppusamy Mudaliar from other scholars is that he is able to delve deep into the mind of both Tiruvalluvar and Parimelazhagar. You can see continuity from the first couplet to the last couplet,” said Mr. Mohan, who studied software engineering in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Madras) and specialised in micro-processor-controlled medical equipment.

Kuppusamy Mudaliar, who worked as an officer of the customs department during the British regime, later joined the P.Orr and Sons, a company dealing with clocks and watches.

“A self-taught man, he gained proficiency in Tamil and taught Tirukural regularly in Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple for 50 years. He had many Britishers among his students,” said Mr. Mohan, who lived in Krishnampet and obtained the copies of the book from Mudaliar’s sons. The first volume containing Arathupal (couplets on virtue) with a detailed note was published in 1924, and two years later, Mudaliar published Porutpal (couplets on wealth) and Kamathupal (couplets on love). The first volume has a portrait of Tiruvalluvar.

Besides rendering into modern Tamil both the couplets and Parimelazhagar’s commentary, Mudaliar had quoted appropriately from various literary works that would further explain the meaning of the couplets. There are references to Thirumanthiram , Kambaramayanam , Seevakasinthamani , Silapathikaram and other classic literary works.

One important inclusion in the new edition is the portrait of Parimelazhagar.

“He is the greatest of all the scholars who had written commentary for Tirukural. Though a Vaishnavite and the son of a priest of the Ulagalanthaperumal temple in Kancheepuram, he had great knowledge of Saivite literature and was proficient in Sanskrit. This knowledge comes in handy while differing with other commentators and explaining the Sanskrit books Tiruvalluvar had followed,” said Mr. Mohan, who has been republishing Tamil works that remain uncared for.

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