Pearls of Wisdom

Avvaiyar's Pearls of Wisdom - 10

Moothurai - 10


கல்லாத மாந்தர்க்குக் கற்றுணர்ந்தார் சொல்கூற்றம்
அல்லாத மாந்தர்க்(கு) அறம்கூற்றம் - மெல்லிய
வாழைக்குத் தான்ஈன்ற காய்கூற்றம் கூற்றமே
இல்லிற்(கு) இசைந்து ஒழுகாப் பெண். 27

kallAdha mAndarkku kattruNarnthAr solkUttram
allAtha mAndarkku aramkUttram – melliya
vAzhaikku thAnIndra kAykUttram kUttramE
illirku isainthu ozhugAppeN 27

For those without learning, the words of the learned are like the death knell, for the unrighteous, righteousness (dharma) is death and for the slender plantain tree, its own yield of plantains brings its end. Likewise, a woman whose behaviour is not in line with married life will cause the downfall of her husband.

This poem is identified by commentators as one describing the various downfalls that man faces in life. Each of the statement is unique and needs a thought.

For those uninitiated in learning, knowledge eludes them. For lack of knowledge, their conduct also falters. This brings about their downfall.

A more direct interpretation could be that for fools (without learning), the words of the learned would cause troubles and will be the reason for their destruction. (The curse of the learned will bring doom - This could be a crude and common interpretation).

So, what do we understand?

1.      Learning/literacy/knowledge is essential.

2.      Respect and humility towards learned should be cultivated; else they can bring our downfall.

The plantain/banana tree is slender and not as strong as some other trees. When the yield of the plantain/banana bunch matures into raw state and then ripens, the weight of the bunch will pull the tree down. The tree virtually finishes its life and purpose.

This brilliant piece is to be compared with the life of any householder. One’s greatest weakness lies with one’s children. A normal grihastA (householder) devotes his life in the upbringing of his offsprings. In the process, he sacrifices himself for the sake of his children.

On the one hand, credit or discredit for their children’s conduct in society affects them only. The greatest reward they may get is the children’s worthy achievements in society.

This is brilliantly brought about by the Tirukkural couplet,

“magan thanthaikkAtrum udhavi…..” – The help a son extends to his father is that when people praise him by saying what penance the father had performed to beget a son like him. On the other hand, if the children turn out to be bad apples, the parents face the ignominy and this would destroy them psychologically.

The next idea is straightforward in that, for the unrighteous, righteousness will cause the downfall. The good will overcome the evil… The wicked are eventually punished… This has been an oft-repeated theme starting from our legends, epics and modern-day movies also.

We may take the corollary for interpretation.

Dharmo rakshathu rakshita: If one fosters righteousness (dharma), the dharma will safeguard him in turn.

Kar balA, tO hO balA – This is a saying in Hindi meaning “do good, so good shall be done (to you)”

“vinai vithaithavan vinai aruppAn…” – We are all aware of this Tamil proverb implying one reaps the crop of what he sows.

The equation: Do good, beget good; Do bad, beget bad.

Now for the undisciplined woman who does not fit in the family…

The poetess ends the poem with this dictum that a woman with a behaviour not conforming to that of a household shall bring the downfall of the husband.

We had an earlier discussion on how woman-wife-mother can make or break the family. This verse portends the same meaning and effect. But this verse definitely assumes the qualities and behaviour of a woman-wife as depicted in our scriptures. In the present-day context of a woman-wife’s role in the family, many of the dictums of our scriptures need to be looked at in a different light. We shall discuss this at some other point of time.

We can, of course, agree that if a woman goes astray, not only the husband, but also the family will be ruined. This apart, the woman herself will be ruined.

A story from PancatantrA illustrates this.

An old farmer’s wife was always thinking of other men for company.

One day she met a crook who enticed her.

She tells him, “My husband is rich but he is so old that he cannot even walk. We can steal his money and elope. We shall be happy ever after”.

The next morning the woman stole all his money and hastened to meet her newfound lover. They crossed some distance and came to a river.

The crook thought, “This woman is on the last phase of her youth. Moreover, she may desert me also as she deserted her husband and if I get caught there shall be punishment for eloping and stealing also. So, I shall trick her into giving all the money and desert her”.

He told the woman, “Look, let me get our belongings across the river and then I shall swim back to take you”. The woman agreed and handed over all her belongings.

The crook, to keep away the woman from following him, told her, “Now, lovely woman! Hand over your clothes also so that you can comfortably wade in the water and cross the river”.

The woman, blinded by lust for the crook, took off her clothes and handed them also. The crooked fellow crossed the river and hurried away without even looking back. The woman waited on the bank with her hands across her body bearing the cross of her deeds.

Let us pause here for a while……


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

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