Nilgiris connection to Tiru Kural

(Not many know that the great Tamil Sage-Philosopher  Tiru Valluvar   was widely read,  appreciated and emulated by many of the servants of the East India Company. One such was Nathaniel Edward Kindersley, the father of Nathaniel William Kindersley, one of the two Assistant Surveyors who visited the Nilgiris in 1818 at the orders of John Sullivan. Kindersely junior’s wife is buried in St. Stephens)

Senior Kindersley, when he was the district Collector of the Madras Presidency, who made a  study of Tiru Kural in his book with a long title published in 1794,  “Specimens of Hindoo Literature: Consisting of Translations from the Tamoul Language, of some Hindoo Works of Morality and Imagination, with Explanatory  Notes: to which are prefixed introductory remarks on the mythology, literature &C of the Hindoos”.

Kindersley Sr gives an interesting anecdote about Valluvar’s origin and greatness. “The author of this work ( Tiru Valluvar) was a priest of the lowest order of the Hindoos ; and this cast have a tradition, that the writer having ventured to appear with his moral performance (though at a very respectable distance) before the sacred bench of Bramins at Madura, it   happened, while they were perusing it with admiration, that the bench on which they sat, miraculously extended itself so as to admit another member, which the Bramins interpreting as a divine indication of the priest’s competency to fill the vacant seat, liberally overlooked his exceptionable cast, and placed him on it.”

Though Kindersley Sr confessed that his work ‘labours under the disadvantage of being a poem rendered into prose; and from that prose into English’ his transliteration of, ‘Teroo-Vaulaver Kuddul or The Ocean of Wisdom’ renders the Kural into English faithfully.  

On the worship of the Supreme Being: ‘The praise or censure of this world, shall not affect those who worship, and sincerely seek the glory of the true God’.

Of rain: ‘So indispensible is rain that, were it utterly to fail, the very worship of the gods must cease: charity herself would then be deprived of her resources’.

On charity: ‘Nothing on earth is so excellent as that real charity, which tends to secure reputation in this world, and bliss hereafter’.

On domestic life: ‘Such a man, who in the season of accumulating wealth, cautiously avoids acquiring it by unrighteous means, may rely upon it, that his family shall reap the fruits of his benevolence, and flourish on earth to late posterity’.

On duties of wives: ‘She is the true helpmate, who possessing an amiable temper and prudent disposition, proportions her husband’s expenses to his income’.

On parents and children: ‘First, let it be remembered, that the blessing of good children can only reasonably be expected by those who properly discharge their duty as men; particularly towards the gods, the Bramins, the royal authority, and to those who are fathers in years and wisdom’.

On hospitality: ‘Domestic happiness and justly-acquired wealth, are the rewards of disinterested hospitality; in the exercise of which virtue, one caution is necessary; namely, not to allow its operation materially to affect the capital of the fund which supplies it.

On gratitude: ‘Never forget, never desert him whose friendship has extended itself to you in the days of calamity. Remember it, if possible, through all your seven stages of human existence.

On justice: ‘It is incumbent on us impartially to consider what we severally owe to our enemies, our acquaintance, and our near friends; and strictly to render justice to each’.

 Nilgiri Documentation Centre

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