First printed Tirukkural to be republished after 168 years

In 1850, Vedagiri Mudaliar published the work with commentaries

Updated - October 03, 2018 07:51 am IST

Published - October 03, 2018 01:11 am IST - CHENNAI

The new edition of the book will be out on October 5, exactly 165 years after the original work was published

The new edition of the book will be out on October 5, exactly 165 years after the original work was published

Kalathur, originally called Ponvilaintha Kalathur, in modern times conjures up images of actor Kamal Haasan’s days as a child artiste in the film Kalathur Kannama . The small town near Chengalpattu, however, has an important place in the spiritual and Tamil literary history.

Legend has it that the farmers of this village harvested golden grains of paddy. It is the birth place of Kootruva Nayanar, one of the 63 saivite saints; Pugazhendhi Pulavar, the author of Nalavenba ; and many Tamil scholars.

In the 19th century, 1850 to be precise, Tamil scholars turned their attention to Kalathur as Vedagiri Mudaliar first printed the Tirukkural with commentaries. The revised version was released in 1853. Though Mahalinga Iyer had printed the book a few years earlier, he was able to publish only 24 chapters.

Vedagiri Mudaliar’s book was never printed again. Now, Sivalayam J. Mohan, who has published many rare books, will bring out the edition on October 5, exactly 165 years after it [1853 edition] was first published. “I decided to release the book on October 5 because it falls on the birthday of Ramalinga Vallalar, who launched a movement to teach Tirukkural and used Mudaliar’s book as a text,” said Mr. Mohan, who has a copy of the 1853 edition.

Work on Naladiyar

Vedagiri Mudaliar, who taught Tamil in Madurai Tamil Sangam, set up a printing press exclusively for the purpose. He had also written commentaries on Naladiar, another ancient Tamil work. He, however, did not survive to see the revised second edition as he died in 1852. His sons Arumuga Mudaliar and Kandasamy Mudaliar published the second edition. “He had absorbed the commentaries of Parimelazhagar, one of the greatest commentators of Tirukkural, while incorporating his own observations and worldly view of the work. Only scholars can understand the commentaries of Parimelazhagar,” said Mr. Mohan, who has already published commentaries on Tirukural by K. Vadivel Chettiar and Krishnampet K. Kuppusamy Mudaliar.

Asked whether there was a market for this voluminous scholarly work today, Mr. Mohan said these books could serve as a tool for research students to adopt a serious approach to studying Tirukkural.

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