Pearls of Wisdom

Avvaiyar’s pearls of wisdom - 9

Moothurai - 9


நஞ்சுடைமை தானறிந்து நாகம் கரந்துறையும்
அஞ்சாப் புறங்கிடக்கும் நீர்ப்பாம்பு - நெஞ்சில்
கரவுடையார் தம்மைக் கரப்பர் கரவார்
கரவிலா நெஞ்சத் தவர். 25

nanjudaimai thAnarindhu nAgam karandhuraiyum
anjap purangidakkum nIrppAmbu – nenjil
karavudaiyAr thammai karappar karavAr
karavilA nenjaththavar 25

The cobra, aware of the poison in its possession, hides itself and lives. The water snake lives openly with no fear. Likewise, people with wickedness in their heart, hide themselves away, whereas people with no cunningness in heart do not hide themselves.

This is a brilliant piece. We can see and understand the character of people from the secretiveness they exhibit. Most of us have something to hide away from others. At many situations we are simply diplomatic and civil while dealing with others.

If we consider people who are civil, we notice that they do not make attempts to hide themselves. At the most, they might just evade the situation and people. But people with vicious minds make attempts to hide themselves with their talks and actions. This is because they do not want others to know their true intentions.

VallalAr (Ramalinga Adigal) synthesises these characters with his verse where he begs for non-relationship with hypocrites – ‘ullondru vaithu puramondru pesuvOr uravu kalavAmai vendum....”

Frankness and candidness have their limits but those with clean hearts will be able to carry themselves easily, because they will have no ulterior motive. Even in the ethics of war, a face-to-face fight is considered proper, rather than hiding and fighting. The killing of Vali by Rama (he hid behind the tree and shot Vali with an arrow) in Ramayana is still debated upon for its propriety because of this ethic.

“madiyil ganamirunthAl, vazhiyil bhyamirukkum”- If we have weight in our waists (money, etc., tied to our belts), then we will have fear on the way. This proverb is indicative of the material possessions one may have and the need to save it from being stolen on the way.

What we possess, we must secure. To secure, we must be secretive. This applies to both mind and materials. The less we possess to guard, easier it becomes to be light and free in behaviour and living.

மன்னனும் மாசறக் கற்றோனும் சீர்தூக்கின்
மன்னனில் கற்றோன் சிறப்புடையன் - மன்னர்க்குத்
தன்தேசம் அல்லால் சிறப்பில்லை கற்றோற்குச்
சென்றஇடம் எல்லாம் சிறப்பு. 26

mannanum mAsara kattrOnum sIrthUkkin
mannanil kattrOn sirappudaiyan – mannarkku
thandEsam allAl sirappillai kattrOrku
chendra idam ellAm sirappu 26
If we compare the king and a well-learned man, the learned man will have better standing. While the king commands respect and fame in his own land, the learned are respected wherever they go.

Here again the poetess goes on to extol the virtue of the learned. The comparison is with the king because it is the king who possesses not only wealth but also power. Given such an importance to the king, the learned scholar will be weighted with the knowledge and learning that he has accrued. We can see this happening even in today’s material world.

America is called the land of opportunities only because it has accommodated the best brains of the world in its fold. Cutting across nationality, race and creed, the learned are recognised and respected. The wealthy and the powerful, on the other hand are feared, admired and often detested for their ways of living.

Knowledge is the true wealth and only the learned man has it.

Krishna’s love for Kuchela is more for his knowledge and intellect rather than for friendly reasons.

Kalidasa’s story is emphatic about learning getting priority over everything else.

Kalidasa is born a shepherd and an idiot. He is chosen to marry the haughty but scholarly princess. The courtiers marry her to the idiot to teach her a lesson for her learned arrogance and her rejections of many suitors. The princess does not know this and she is led to believe that he is a scholar of good stead (she holds a small test for him and it is cleverly overcome by the scheming courtiers).

On the night of the marriage, Kalidasa goes to the bedroom and falls asleep in the comfortable ambience. The princess proceeds to the room coyly and finds him asleep. She sprinkles some rosewater on him and he wakes up with muttering expletives fit for a commoner.

The princess realises the trick but is determined to put things right. She forces Kalidasa to proceed to the temple of Kali and lock himself up in the temple. She instructs Kalidasa not to open the gates of the temple, when Kali returns from her night rounds, till she bestows him with all knowledge of the world!

Kalidasa carries out the instructions in word and spirit. Kali imparts the knowledge of the world on Kalidasa’s tongue (he sticks his tongue out between the gaps of the iron grill-gate), with her trident.

Kalidasa is enlightened. But his first sloka or the poem is not on Kali, who patronised him. It is on Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning...

“mAnikka veenaAm upalalayanthim..” flows out from the great poet.

Gita says that all knowledge culminates in a seasoned, balanced mind.

Such is the significance of what is to be known. Such is the importance of knowledge. And so is the greatness of learning over all other aspects of life.

Let us learn this for a while…


Rajoo Balaji

Revised from earlier version published in ‘Nandini Voice for the Deprived’

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