Sunday, August 8, 2010

Paradigm of Tamil culture

The Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, has been quietly serving the cause of Tamil research in an exemplary manner for the last couple of decades. Among its publications with an encyclopaedic range are Life-World of the Tamils (Volumes I and II). The essays contributed to the two volumes by S. Panneerselvam, a student of philosophy and an erudite scholar in Tamil, have been brought out as a monograph to highlight the value of “perennial culture,” which is true for all times although it may have originated as the “culture” of a particular group of people.

Panneerselvam has given the pride of place to Tirukkural, which he finds to be “the cultural paradigm of the life-world of the Tamils.” When he sees ‘Dravidian' as ‘Tiruvidam' (a land of shrines), all is said at once about the Tamil culture. The Tamil language has antiquity and richness that are brought out by Tiruvalluvar with the hardness of a diamond. He does not deal with the fourth ‘Purushartha' (aim of life), as he seems to have felt that the right practice/pursuit of the other three — namely ‘dharma' (righteousness), ‘artha' (material welfare), and ‘kama' (love) — would automatically lead to the fourth, ‘moksha' (liberation).

Did the Tamils follow the advice set up in the work? Certainly Tiruvalluvar's couplets helped keep the moral climate at a satisfactory level. At least they have helped people beware, even today, of injustices perpetrated by those in power. One example would do: “They [the ministers] are judged by their actions, and their programmes of action should not be disapproved by the great men and should not bring tears from the suppressed. Is this not applicable to the democratic government of the present century?”

Full review here Hindu

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