Thirukkural Conferences – Journey

With a view to studying the Thirukkural from an unbiased international perspective and to promoting rigorous academic research on this sacred opus majeur, we have decided to organize many national and International Conferences on Thirukkural with the participation of scholars from all over the world. We are happy to invite this great team to work for the Thirukkural Mission with the zeal and zest of a missionary.

With this vision, we started our Mission work from Kanyakumari (Nagarkovil), the Southernmost border of the Indian Peninsula, which is considered to be the birth place of the author of Thirukkural.

With the participation of representatives from more than 20 countries and with around 120 research papers the conference provided the initial impetus to declare Thirukkural as the ethical corpus of Universal appeal on the basis of authentic data and objective research. This conference on the above theme organised in the background of the confluence of the three seas and the gigantic statue of the author of Thirukkural was able to generate tremendous data for the universal appeal of Thirukkural from the study of outstanding scholars both from India and other parts of the globe.

Having established objectively the universal nature of this great Tamil heritage, we decided to study the migration of the ethical codes of Thirukkural to the other parts of the world crossing the frontiers of its native land, Tamilnadu.

It is our strong conviction that this great book of the world started its travel to the eastern and western countries mainly through the Tamil traders, Tamil Buddhist monks as well as through the conquest of the later Cholas in Asia especially in the countries of South and Southeast Asia. But since adequate research has not been done on the external history of the Tamils with active collaboration of scholars of various regions, we are not able to get the required tangible data on this area up to 16th C AD. Consequently, the study of the impact of Thirukkural on Europe and Asia upto 16th C AD remain dormant owing to paucity of data.

After 16th century, Europe has become a potential region in internationalizing Tamil studies, especially the Thirukkural studies. Thirukkural was preserved in its native Tamil land in fragile palm-leaves for around 1800 years. Since palm-leaf could withstand the tropical South Indian climate for a maximum period of 350 years, the text of Thirukkural might have been copied down in new palm-leaves at least about five to six times. It should have been copied down atleast three to four times either by the Buddhist or Jain or by secular scholars or patrons who supported the views of Thirukkural on social inequalities. This scenario changed after the very learned scholar of the Vaishnavite faith Parimelalakar wrote his celebrated commentary to this great book after the 14th C A.D. After this, Thirukkural has been gradually accepted as a sacred text by all major religious groups.

The text of Thirukkural was transferred to paper in the new era of technology and science and published in the present book form for the first time in 1812. But, before this, it was known to the 16th Century Portuguese missionaries who lived in Sri Lanka. In 1712, Bartholomew Zienganbalg introduced it to his German patrons by providing summary of certain portions of Thirukkural. In 1730 Fr. Beschi translated Thirukkural into Latin, one of the classical languages of the world. The French version by Ariel, the English versions starting from Kindersley and culminating in G.U. Pope’s scholarly translation followed by different versions in almost all other European languages made Thirukkural studies an international phenomenon. It was translated into Polish, Russian and subsequently into the Asian languages, the languages of the Middle East and almost all other regional languages of India.

Keeping in mind the tremendous contributions of European scholars in internationalizing Thirukkural studies, we decided to organize the second international Conference in England where outstanding scholars of Tamil studies including G.U. Pope, Thomas Burrow and several others were born and brought up and grown as scholars of Tamilology with international reputation.

The theme of the above second international conference was Thirukkural beyond the frontiers of Tamil India and this international event was hosted at the very beautiful and enchanting campus of the reputed Liverpool Hope University of England. This conference has very good participation from around 20 countries including China, Russia, Poland, Germany France, Italy, US, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. We could study not only the migration of Thirukkural to various countries but also the deep impact exerted by this great work on the literary and cultural heritages of these countries.

The next phase of this study is about the relevance of this text composed in classical Tamil 2000 years back to the modern age of science and technology in which human life is tormented and torn into pieces both by various inner conflicts and different types of struggles – political, social, bureaucratical, internecine wars and other agents of deterioration, disintegration and decay.

Therefore, peace and harmony in a conflicting social order has become a powerful theme of any ethical work of international character. That peace and harmony were the cardinal themes in classical works is obvious from many important texts of yore in a very few languages. Among them Thirukkural can be deemed as the most outstanding contribution to mankind. Its clarion call against social inequality, and its stress on universal love as the cardinal principle of human life, its creation of peace-making and peace loving supermen like the cāṉṟon, place Thirukkural as the most prominent work in the galaxy of peace making literatures. “Blessed are the Peace-makers for they shall be considered as children of God” is one of the beatitudes of the teachings of Christ which is echoed and reechoed in Thirukkural. Peace flows abundantly like the waters of a river in Thirukkural to use one of the Biblical statements in the Hebraic Old Testament. Consequently, Peace and Harmony have become the theme for our two conferences organized in New Delhi, India and in Sydney, Australia.