Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Chapters 1 to 10

Tirukkural: Getting close to the original
In Spirit, Content and Style
The 'choicest' of all translations in English


This Tirukkural translation in English is drawn from a comparative study of 25 different translations. Sixteen of these were either complete or partial translations and the remaining nine were translations that appeared in articles, monographs and books authored by different people on Tirukkural and Tiruvalluvar. The choicest translation that is close to the original - in spirit, content and style - has been chosen for presentation. Preference has been given for brevity, simplicity and clarity. Emphasize was also laid on translations that manage to reflect, as much as possible, every word found in the original.  Sometimes translations of two authors were combined to produce the best reflection of the original. The translator or translators of every couplet have been acknowledged with their initials (eg. PS, SS, SB, VS etc.) in a separate column. The initials have been expanded with the full names of these translators at the end of this page. When no translation was found particularly satisfactory, I chose to render them myself. These have been marked by initial NV. An astrix (*) at the end of a translation indicate that the rendering has been improved upon, either by adding/replacing words or deleting words found to be unnecessary. To know more on the process of this comparison and criteria of selection, click here: ComparingTirukkural translations to unfold the best

Division I. Virtue

001
Praise of God
Translators
Notes
0001
With alpha begins all alphabets;
And the world with the first Bagavan. *
KN, SI
Yes
0002
Of what avail is learning if one worships not
The holy feet of Pure Intelligence? *
VS, GV

0003
Long life on earth is theirs who reach
The glorious feet of Him who walked on flowers
.
PS, VS
Yes
0004
No evil will befall those who reach the feet
Of the One beyond likes and dislikes.
NV

0005
The twin deeds of dark illusion do not affect those
Who delight meaningfully in Lord's praise. *
DZ
Yes
0006
Long life is theirs who tread the path of Him
Who conquered the five senses.
PS
Yes
0007
They alone escape from sorrows who take refuge
In the feet of Him beyond compare. *
VS

0008
None can swim the sea of births, but those united
To the feet of that Being, a sea of virtue. *
DL
Yes
0009
Depraved, senseless and worthless is the head
Unbowed at the feet of Him with eight qualities
.
PS, NV
Yes
0010
The ocean of births can be crossed by none other than
Those who reach the feet of the Lord. *
PS

 
Notes:
1. "Bagavan". Scholars differ in their opinion as to what this word stands for. Most traditional and modern scholars, based on the title of the chapter "In praise of God", render the word to mean "Creator God". However Jaina scholars claim that the word "ஆதி பகவன்" [Ādi bagavan] is a clear reference to the name of the first Jina Thirthankara "ādeenath" or rashabha (Chakravarti, 1951; Subramanyam, 1987). It is interesting to note that Valluvar who has used very few words of Sanskrit origin in his whole work, opted for the twin word "ஆதி பகவன்" here. .Moreover, since the simile "எழுத்தெல்லாம்" is plural, the emphasis "உலகு" should also be taken in plural. The "world" could thus means the "people of the world" (உலகத்தார்க்கு).
3. An alternate 'mystical' translation, but not implied in the original: "The Supreme dwells within the lotus of the heart. Those who reach His Splendid Feet dwell endearingly within unearthly realms" - SS.  Other translators who adopted this interpretation Parithiyār and Kālingar (two of the five known ancient commentators of Tirukkural) include GV, KV and CR.
5. Twin deeds [of dark illusion] are fruits of both good and evil deeds.
6. This cannot be a reference to God, for God is beyond the senses and only mortals will be required to control the five senses. Almost all translators, however, have taken this as a reference to God. Some translators have attempted to get over this difficulty by employing non-committal renderings like this one: "He who has controlled the five senses and is established in the path of righteousness will lead a life of fulfillment" - KV.  It is worth noting that the word 'Jina' literally means "conqueror or victorious", i.e. the conqueror of five senses. This couplet could actually be a reference to a Jaina Tirthankara. Buddha also conquered the five senses, but neither Gautama nor the preceding Buddhas were called Adi Bagavan.
8. The word "அறவாழி" can be taken to mean, either "sea of virtue" or "wheel of the virtue". Similarly, the word "பிற" could either mean "birth" or "other".  Depending on the combination of these meanings chosen, the couplet can also be translated in the following ways: (i) "Only those who reach the feet of the lord, the ocean of virtue, can cross those other oceans." - * NC. The other two oceans could be oceans of Wealth and Pleasure. (ii) "Only by clinging to the feet of the Lord of the wheel of virtue, that one can swim the ocean of this life" * - SG.
9. This couplet could refer to one of the five Parméstins, the Siddhās (liberated souls) of Jainism, because they only are designated with 8 guñas (qualities) (Malaiya, 1998). The other four Arhats, Āchāryās, Upādhyāyās and Sādhus (Ashta Pahuda VI:104) are identified as Jinas with 12, 36, 25 and 27 guñas respectively (Malaiya, 1998). What are the eight qualities or guñas of Siddhās? Ananta jnāna, Ananta darshana, Ananta labdhi, Ananta sukha, Akshaya sthiti, Being vitāraga, Being arupa and Aguruladhutaa. Ancient commentator Parithiyar lists these eight qualities (அனந்த ஞானம், அனந்த வீரியம், கோத்திரமின்மை, அனந்த தரிசனம், அனந்த குணம், அழியா இயல்பு, நாமமின்மை, அவாவின்மை) as qualities of Lord Shiva!

002
Glory of rain
Translators
Notes
0011
Rain is deemed a nectar of life
As its unfailing fall sustains the world. *
SS

0012
Rain is not only a consumable for the consumer
But also begets other consumables.
KK

0013
This vast world, with expanse of seas,
Will still suffer with famine if clouds deceive rain.
NV

0014
If that bounty called rain decrease,
Ploughing by ploughmen would also cease.
NV

0015
Rain holds the power of ruin.
Rain also lifts up those it has ruined.
NC

0016
If clouds stop dropping raindrops,
Even blades of grass will stop rising. *
PS, NV

0017
Even the vast sea will lose its richness,
If clouds cease and fail to bestow.
NV, JN

0018
If the heavens dry up, the very gods
Will lack festival and worship.
PS

0019
Both charity and penance would cease in this vast world,
Should heavens fail to deliver.
NV

0020
If the world cannot exist without water,
Neither can water exist without rain. *
PS, SS
Yes

Notes:
20. The word "
ஒழுக்கு" could be taken to mean either "conduct/virtue" or "flow/discharge/water". Thus, an alternate, but equally valid translation is: "If life cannot be sustained without water, virtue too depends on rain" - DZ. Using the other meaning, the couplet could also be translated as: "Life cannot exist without water, nor can flowing water without rain" – NV. 

003
Greatness of ascetics
Translators
Notes
0021
Scriptures ought to exalt with firmness
The greatness of disciplined ascetics. *
SS
Yes
0022
To recount an ascetic's greatness
Is to count the world's dead. *
PS

0023
The world shines on the greatness of those who,
Knowing both, choose renunciation. *
PS
Yes
0024
The restraint of senses five by the ankush of firmness
Is the seed for the bliss of heaven.
NV
Yes
0025
Even the celestial king Indra will vouch the strength
Of one who rules his senses five. *
KK, PS
Yes
0026
Great people take on difficult tasks;
Small people avoid them.
NC

0027
This world is his who knows for what these five are:
Taste, sight, touch, sound and smell. *
PS

0028
The scriptures of the world proclaim
The potent utterance of the great.
PS

0029
The wrath of those who have scaled the heights of character
Can't be endured even for a moment. *
KK, JN

0030
Ascetics are called men of virtue
For they assume the role of mercy for all that live.
NV


Notes:
21. Compare with couplet 28 for similarity.
23. "Both" here refer to the paths of 'householder' and 'ascetic'.
24. The word "
தோட்டி" here mean a "hook", implying the prod or ankush employed by mahouts to restrain elephants.
25.
S.M. Diaz (2000), citing Manakkudavar's commentary, says it only refers to the insecurity of Indra had whenever a sage effectively controls his five senses and reached the heights of penance, lest he should ultimately endanger his own position - and so Valluvar used him as the witness to the ascetic's prowess.

004
Emphasizing virtue
Translators
Notes
0031
What gain greater than virtue can a living man obtain,
Which yields fame and fortune?
GU, KK

0032
There is no greater gain than virtue.
No surer path to ruin than its neglect.
NC

0033
The right thing to do is to be righteous
At all places and all times. *
KK

0034
A blemishless mind is the basis of all virtue.
Everything else is empty show.
DZ

0035
Envy, greed, wrath and harsh words:
These four avoided is virtue.
PS

0036
Defer not virtue but practice now.
At the dying hour she will be your undying friend. *
DL

0037
Inquiring about virtues' benefits? See that between
The rider and bearer of a palanquin. *
SS, MS
Yes
0038
The good you do without wasting a day
Is the stone that blocks the way to rebirth. *
PS

0039
Virtue alone brings happiness;
All else is naught, and without praise. *
PS

0040
Virtue is that which should be done.
And vice is that which should be shun.
 
GU, KS


Notes:
37. VS's translation would explain this better: "Ask me not, What will it profit a man if he is righteous? Look at the bearer of the palanquin and him that rideth on it."

005
Domestic life
Translators
Notes
0041
A householder is a steadfast friend
To the other three orders in their virtuous paths.
PS
Yes
0042
The householder supports the needs of
Renunciates, ancestors and the poor.
SS

0043
A householder's main duty is to serve these five:
God, guests, kindred, ancestors and himself. *
SS

0044
His life and lineage will never end
who shuns blame and shares his food.
NV, PS

0045
Family life actuated by love and virtue,
Endows it with character and happiness
DZ

0046
What gains are there in other paths
When one leads the virtuous path of householder?
NV

0047
Foremost among those who strive for release,
Are the householders leading a righteous life. *
SS

0048
A virtuous householder endures
More than the penance of the penance doer.  *
DZ, DL

0049
Domestic life is proclaimed virtuous
And it is praiseworthy if free from blame. *
KV
Yes
0050
He who lives his life in this world as he should,
Ranks with the gods in the heaven.
CR


Notes:
41. The three orders possibly refer to these stages: Student, Elders and Renunciates
49. There are two different renderings of this couplet. The word "
அஃதும்" is taken to mean "especially or that too" and also as "the other one also". The other one is obviously a reference to monastic or ascetic life. SS, SB, GU and DL have followed the latter interpretation. PS, KK, KV, JN, VS, KV and SI have translated the couplet the other way. SS has translated as:  "Domestic life is called virtue, but the other one is also good if lived beyond blame". *  

006
Good life partner
Translators
Notes
0051
An ideal wife is a virtuous life partner
Living within her husband's means.
NV, PS

0052
If the wife lacks household excellence,
All other excellence in life comes to nil.
GU, NV

0053
With a good wife, what is lacking?
And when she is lacking, what is good?
PS

0054
What more grandeur does a woman need
Than possessing the strength of chastity?
NV

0055
Even rains fall at the command of the wife
Who upon rising worships not God, but her husband.
SS

0056
A tireless woman guards herself,
Cares for her spouse and upholds family name.
NV

0057
What use is physical restraint to a woman
When her moral restraint is the best?
KK

0058
The woman who gains her husband's love
Gains great glory in the heaven. *
PS, DZ

0059
He whose wife is not praiseworthy
Cannot walk with leonine gait before his critics.
KV, NV
Yes
0060
A good wife is called boon to a house;
Besides that, good children its jewels. *
PS


Notes:
59. An alternate translation: "Where there is no reputation at home, there is no chance for proud leonine gaits outside" - NV. JN provides us an interesting translation: "The mind is without fear and the head is held high" when you are joined by a praiseworthy partner life. 

007
Begetting children
Translators
Notes
0061
Of all blessings we know,
Nothing worth than begetting intelligent children.
SS, PS

0062
No harm will befall in all seven births
If one begets blameless children.
PS

0063
Children are called one's fortune;
And their fortune the result of their own deeds. *
TD

0064
Sweeter than nectar is the porridge messed up
By the tiny hands of one’s children. *
GV

0065
To be touched by children is a delight to the body,
And to hear their speech a joy to the ear.
NV

0066
"The flute is sweet", "The lute is sweet",
Say those who never heard their children lisp.
PS

0067
The good a father can do to his child
Is to make him excel in the midst of the learned. *
KV

0068
The wisdom of one's own children
Brings joy to all life on the earth.
NV

0069
A woman rejoices at the birth of a son,
But even more when he is praised.
PS

0070
The son's duty to his father is to make world ask,
"By what austerities did he merit such a son! *
SS


008
Possession of love
Translators
Notes
0071
Can love be latched and hidden?
A trickling tear will proclaim it loud.
PS
Yes
0072
The unloving belong only to themselves,
But the loving belong to others to their very bones.
SS

0073
They say it is to know the union with love
That the soul takes union with the body.
SS

0074
Love begets desire: and that begets
The priceless excellence called friendship. *
DL

0075
The excellence of worldly happiness, they say,
Is attained by those leading a loving life. *
MS

0076
"Love supports virtue alone", say the fools.
It supports vice as well.
TK
Yes
0077
As the blazing sun dries up a boneless worm,
So does virtue scorch a loveless being.
SS

0078
The life of a loveless soul is a sapless tree
In a barren desert failing to shoot.
SS, NV

0079
Of what avail is body frame - the external,
To those who lack love - the internal?
NV

0080
The throb of life is love. Without it,
Humans are bodies of bones clad with skin. *
JN, PS


Notes:
71. Compare with 125: "The axe of love can break open the door of chastity secured by the bolt of modesty." * - DL, JN.
76. Usual translation is: "The naïve say that love aids virtue, but it safeguards against vice as well. – SI [the same way by SB, PS, VS, KV].  But there is no evidence in the original to support such an interpretation. Kalingar and Manakkudavar interpret the couplet as TK. Interestingly CR, JN and KK take the word "
மறம்" as "valour/soldier". 

009
Hospitality
Translators
Notes
0081
It is to exercise the benevolence of hospitality
That people earn a living and establish homes.
DL, NV
Yes
0082
With a guest outside, it is wrong to eat alone,
Even the nectar of immortality. *
NV, SS

0083
His life won’t suffer from want,
Who always cherishes his flowing guests.
MR, NV

0084
The goddess of fortune will dwell in the house of one
Who plays host with a smile. *
NV, PS

0085
Should his field be sown,
Who first feeds the guests and eats the rest?
SB

0086
Who hosts the passing guests and waits for hosting more
Will be hosted by the gods. *
PS

0087
The gains of hospitality cannot be reckoned.
Their worth depends on the guest.
PS
Yes
0088
"We toiled, stored and lost", lament those
Who never sacrificed for hospitality.
NV
Yes
0089
To have no guests is to want amidst plenty:
Such poverty belongs to fools.
PS

0090
Flower aniccham withers when merely smelt.
An unwelcome look is enough to wither a guest. *
SS
Yes

Notes:
81. Compare with 212. "All the wealth earned by toils is meant to serve those who deserve" * - SB
87. Compare with 105. "Not according to the aid but its receiver is its recompense determined" - PS
88. By way of interpretation, this translation by SS would help: "Those who never sacrifice to care for guests will later lament: We hoarded wealth, estranged ourselves, now none will care for us"
90. Aniccham is a flower known for its fragility. Valluvar uses this flower in four places in Kural. The remaining couplets are in the third book "Love". [see 1111, 1115, 1120]

010
Pleasant speech
Translators
Notes
0091
The speech of the enlightened is sweet words
Soaked in love, free from pretence.
JN, NV

0092
More pleasing than a gracious gift
Are sweet words with a smiling face.
PS

0093
This is virtue: A welcome face, smiling look,
And sweet words from the heart.
NV

0094
Want and sorrow shall never be theirs
Who have a pleasant word for all.
PS

0095
Humility and pleasant speech constitute one's ornaments.
Other things do not count.
DZ

0096
Virtues will wax and vices wane
If one seeks the good and speaks sweet. *
SS

0097
Helpful words yoked with courtesy
Breed justice and strengthen virtue.
PS

0098
Sweet words free of meanness yield joy,
Both here and hereafter.
PS

0099
How can anyone speak harsh words,
Having seen what kind words do?
NV
Yes
0100
To use harsh words, when sweet ones are at hand,
Is to prefer raw fruit to ripe.
PS


Notes:
93. Compare with 786. “A smiling face alone makes no friendship, but the heart should also smile with the face” * - VR
99. Compare with 318 for style. "Why does one hurt others knowing what it is to be hurt?" - PS



Key to the initials of different translators:
CR - C. Rajagopalachari
KS - Kasthuri Sreenivasan
SI - K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar
DL -W.H. Drew and  J. Lazarus
KV - K. Krishnaswamy & Vijaya Ramkumar
SM -S. Maharajan
DZ - S.M. Diaz
MS - M.S. Poornalingam Pillai
SS - Satguru  Subramuniyaswami
EL - F.W. Ellis
NC - Norman Cutler
TD - S. Thandapani Desikar
GU - G.U. Pope
NV - N.V.K. Ashraf
TK - T.K. Chidambaranatha Mudaliar
GV - G. Vanmikanathan
PS - P.S. Sundaram
VC - V.C. Kulandai Swamy
JN - J. Narayanaswamy
SB - Shuddhananda Bharatiar
VR  - V. Ramasamy
KK - K. Kannan
SD - S.D. Rajendran
VS - V.V.S. Aiyar
KN - K.N. Subramanyam
SG - G. Siromoney, S. Govindaraju & M. Chandrasekaran,

References:

Chakravarti, A. 1953. Tirukkural. Deccan Press, Vepery, Madras. Pp 1-22
Diaz, S.M. 2000. [Translator]. Tirukkural. Ramanandha Adigalar Foundation, Coimbatore. Pp 878
Malaiya, Y.K. 1998
. Kural: The Tamil Classic and Jainism. A discussion on soc.culture.tamil. In chronological order from Mar 16 1995 to Feb 3 1998. 
Subramanyam, K.N. 1987. Tiruvalluvar and His Tirukkural. Bharatiya Jnanpith Publication. 225 pages
 

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