Tuesday, July 13, 2010

News Todaty, January 4,2010

Poetic English Translation of Thirukkural-2

     The dynamics of Thirukkural has been richly complemented by various scholars from all parts of the world. Dr Albert Schwaitzer says: ‘There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of Maxims in which we find so much of wisdom.’ Mahatma Gandhi calls it: ‘A textbook of indispensable authority on moral life. The maxims of Valluvar have touched my soul. There is none who has given such a treasure of wisdom like him.’ Mahatma Gandhi has said that he came to know about Thirukkural from Leo Tolstoy. Leo Tolstoy has openly admitted that he has taken the concept of non-violence from a German translation of the Kural. Sri Aurobindo has said: ‘Thirukkural is gnomic poetry, the greatest in planned consumption and force of execution ever written in this kind.’ Rajaji says: ‘It is a Gospel of Love and a Code of Soul-Luminous life. The whole of human aspiration is epitomized in this immortal book, a book for all ages.’ K M Munshi, the founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and a great man of letters, has said: ‘Thirukkural is a treatise par excellance on the art of living.’
Photo caption: Dr Abdul Kalam receiving a copy of Dr M Rajaram’s book of Thirukkural English translation at a function at New Delhi on 13-May-2009. Dr Rajaram is on the right of Dr Abdul Kalam.
Thiruvalluvar is a national poet of the Tamils and he is the greatest pride and possession of the Tamil people. According to Thiruvachakamani K M Balasubramaniam, Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural and Manickavachagar’s Thiruvachakam are supposed to be the body and soul respectively of the Blessed Mother Tamil. Thirukkural builds up the character and conduct of human beings. Thiruvachakam feeds their souls on its felicitous food of Divine Ambrosia and prepares them for their Eternal Beatitude.

     Thirukkural develops the intellect and brain and makes men live a life of honor, dignity and honesty. By adopting Thirukkural as a manual of daily living, any one can have his mind and body in the best of form. It is not therefore surprising that the great scholar Ariel paid this tribute to Thirukkural: ‘The Kural is the masterpiece of Tamil Literature, one of the highest and purest expressions of human thought. That which above all is wonderful in Kural is the fact that its author addresses himself without regard to castes, peoples or beliefs, to the whole community of mankind, the fact that he formulates sovereign morality and, absolute reason, that he proclaims in their very essence, in their eternal abstractedness, Virtue and Truth, that he presents as it were in one group, the highest laws of domestic & social life’

    In my view, Dr M. Rajaram’s work of English translation of Thirukkural is a truly a work of art by itself. A bad work of translation only transmits information. Judicial fidelity and transfixing freedom are the qualities characterizing Dr Rajaram’s work of translation. A sublime work of translation like that of Dr Rajaram succeeds in performing a divine transmitting function. He succeeds in transmitting the unfathomable, the mysterious and the ‘poetic’ everlasting ancient wisdom of Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural.

110. குறிப்பறிதல்.
1091 Hero speaks to herself:

இருநோக்கு இவளுண்கண் உள்ளது ஒருநோக்கு
நோய்நோக்குஒன்று அந்நோய் மருந்து.
Her painted eyes possess twofold looks
One harms while the other treats.
Her painted eyes have two different looks; one
Injures the other heals.

     Dr Rajaram’s English verse translation of 1330 verses of Thirukkural is marked by great fidelity to the letter and spirit of the original. It can easily be proved that Thiruvalluvar and Shakespeare are intellectual companions of equal merit and mettle. This is the view of Thiruvachakamani K.M Balasubramaniam. Thiruvachakamani also translated Thirukkural into English verse. Let me give a few instances to illustrate this point of literati parity between Thiruvalluvar and Shakespeare.
The same verse 10௦91 has been translated by Thiruvachakamani K.M Balasubramaniam as follows:
‘One look doth cause the pain for which the other’s a balm so nice’. We can see the parallel from Shakespeare for this verse 1099. To quote the words of Shakespeare:
‘What an eye, she has! Me thinks it seems a parley of provocation’.
Dr Rajaram has translated verse No: 1099 of Thirukkural as follows:
In Verse 1099 of Thirukkural, Valluvar speaks of a maid’s two eyes one of which he says causes pain to the onlooker, namely the pain of love. This verse No: 1099 of Thirukkural has been translated by Dr Rajaram as follows:

Confidante speaks to herself:
1099. ஏதிலார் போலப் பொதுநோக்கு நோக்குதல்
காதலர் கண்ணே உள.
Looking at each other as strangers
Belongs only to lovers.
They look each other as strangers, but really they are
Lovers. Such practice is found only among lovers.

      Thiruvachakamani K M Balasubramaniam has translated the same verse 1099 above as follows:
‘When one’s own eyes would meet her eyesCommunicative way,The words of mouth will not at all haveaught of use or say!’Shakespeare sings (the message of verse 1099 above) as:
‘Sometimes from her eyes I did receive fair speechless messages’.
Is not this brevity the real soul of wit?

    The most beautiful summary of Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural was made by Va Subbiah Pillai, one of the stalwarts of Thirunelveli Saiva Siddhanta Kazhagam. I am presenting below his poetic summary:The great Tamil Scholar and savant Mahamahopadhyaya U.V Swaminatha Iyer (1855-1941) in his ‘Thiruvalluvarum Thirukkuralum’ summed up the glory and grandeur of Thirukkural as follows:

     As a literary genre, translation has a mode of its own. Therefore the task of the translator is quite distinct and different from that of the poet. The main task of the translator consists in finding out that intended effect (Intention) upon the language to which he is translating, which produces in it THE ECHO OF THE ORIGINAL. This is the cardinal feature of any soulful translation which basically differentiates it from the poet’s work. Having read Dr Rajaram’s work of translation, I can say with certainty that his English verses succeed in broadcasting the ECHO OF THE ORIGINAL THIRUKKURAL. Here the immortal words of Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), a German-Jewish man of letters, are very relevant and wholly applicable to the work of Dr Rajaram: ‘Unlike a work of literature, translation does not find itself in the centre of the language forest but on the outside facing the wooded ridge; it calls into it without entering, aiming at that single spot where THE ECHO is able to give in its own language, the reverberation of the work in the alien one. And this very language, whose divination and description is the only perfection a philosopher can hope for, is concealed in a concentrated fashion in great translations’.
    In my view, a good work of translation ultimately serves the purpose of expressing the central reciprocal relationship between languages. It cannot possibly reveal or establish this hidden relationship itself; but it can represent it by realizing it in embryonic or intensive form. There is no doubt whatsoever that there exists a central kinship of languages, marked by a distinctive convergence. Languages are not strangers to one another, but are, a priori and apart from all historical relationships, interrelated in what they want to express. Dr Rajaram’s work achieves this effect of showing that English and ancient Tamil are not aliens of each other; indeed they have a substantive and substantial fraternal relationship.
     In this context, I cannot help quoting the beautiful words of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the Great Russian poet: ‘Mankind is essentially a single organism, a single body, a single soul. But can we imagine a body surviving if it were hacked into little pieces (even if in these little pieces artificial dams were to be constructed, for normal blood circulation)? Would any body withstand such bestial torture? Yet mankind endures, somehow; even hacked to pieces it somehow exists, and its separate little pieces pulsate, breathe, hope and strive to coalesce. Clearly humans is a special kind of organism, a special kind of body and soul, possessing supernatural powers of survival. The translation of various literatures from one language to another language is a mysteriously powerful mutual transfusion of blood between the sliced-up pieces of the single body of mankind. Were this not so, mankind would not survive.’ Dr M Rajaram has rightly dedicated this book to World Peace. I have no doubt whatsoever that Dr M Rajaram’s English translation of Thirukkural will promote the larger cause of international peace and goodwill in this decadent age raven by all kinds of malice, prejudice and hatred — in short proving Yevgeny Yevtushenko absolutely right.

”செய்யொத்த பயிர்போலச் செந்தமிழும்
செழும்பொருளும் சேர்ந்த செல்வம்
கையொத்த மனவிருளை மாற்றியொளிர்
மணிவிளக்கு; மாந்தரெல்லால்
வையத்தில் வாழ்வாங்கு வாழ்ந்தமர
வாழ்வெய்த வழிந டத்தும்
கையொத்த நற்றுணைவன்; வள்ளுவனார்
திருக்குறளெங் கண்க ளன்றே"

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News Today,January 2-2010

Poetic English Translation of Thirukkural-1

Recently I made one of my periodical visits to my favorite. Higginbotham’s book shop on Anna Salai, Chennai. I chanced to lay my hands on an extraordinary book titled THIRUKKURAL Pearls of inspiration by Dr M.Rajaram IAS, belonging to Tamilnadu cadre. He has translated all the 1330 verses of Thirukkural into English. Published by Rupa and Co. in New Delhi, it has a foreword by Dr A.P.J.Abdul Kalam former President of India. In my view this is an outstanding work of translation of an ancient and difficult literary treatise, an ethical, moral and spiritual work like Thirukkural. Dr Abdul Kalam has paid very well deserved tribute to Dr M.Rajaram who is an exceptional IAS officer.

Dr M.Rajaram hails from Pudur near Vilathikulam in Thoothukudi district of Tamilnadu, quite near to Ettayapuram which is the birth place of Mahakavi Bharathiar. He has taken a post Graduate Degree in English Literature and Education. Besides he is also a Law Graduate with a BL Degree. In addition, he holds a Doctorate Degree. He served in the Education Department with rare distinction for nearly two decades in various important and responsible capacities. He is a great research scholar in the field of education and his research papers have received much acclaim at the National level. His earlier books on education titled ‘Changing Faces of School Inspection, Towards Quality in Educational Administration and Who Will Bell the Cat’ have been greatly appreciated by educationists and educational administrators of National and International fame.

I know a few important people in the field of education who have interacted closely with Dr M.Rajaram. I understand Dr M.Rajaram has the most balanced and appropriate views on true education. I believe his educational philosophy can be summed up in these words. ‘Don’t fall into the vulgar idea that mind is a warehouse, and education is but a process stuffing it full of goods. The aim of education should be to convert the mind into a living fountain and not a reservoir.’ I know that Dr M.Rajaram studied in St. John’s College in Thirunelveli at a time when I was the District Collector and Magistrate of the unbifurcated larger Thirunelveli District in 1976-78. The beautiful words of Rev.E.H Chapin (1814-1880) are wholly applicable to Dr M.Rajaram: “Do not ask if a man has been through college; ask if a college has been through him - if he is a walking University”.

Amidst his never ending and busy official preoccupations, Dr M.Rajaram has found it possible to produce this beautiful work of translation of Thirukkural from Tamil to English. One of the least recognized glories of British Raj in India relates to the fact that many outstanding Civil Servants and ICS officers of that time, notwithstanding the heavy pressure of work, found it possible to engage themselves in literary pursuits or to combine with their official duties scholarly research in Indian History, Philology, Religions, Ethnology, Numismatics, Archaeology, Ornithology, Economics, etc. Some of them specialized on particular subjects; others had a larger field of interests, such as Sir William Hunter KCSI, CIE (1840-1900), whose writings were distinguished by their variety and literary grace.

This great tradition of scholar-civil servants was given a death below after our independence, by our political parties. Dr M.Rajaram legitimately belongs to this scholar-civil servant tradition.

Thirukkural (Tamil: திருக்குறள்)” also known as the Kural) is a classic of couplets or kurals (1330 rhyming Tamil verses) or aphorisms celebrated not only by Tamil people but also by all mankind. It was authored by the ancient Tamil Saint Thiruvalluvar, and is considered to be one of the first literary works to focus on ethics, in Sharamana literature of India. However it begins with a salutation to Adi Bhagawan. Thirukkural expounds various aspects of life and is one of the most important works in Tamil. This is reflected in some of the other names by which the text is known: Tamil-marai (Tamil Veda), poyyamozhi (expositions that do not false) and theyva nool or dheiva nool (divine text). It had been placed anywhere from the second century BC to the eighth century AD, but fixed to BC 32 by a consortium of Literate. The book is considered to be a posterior to Arthashastra by some historians. It preceded Manimekalai and Silapathikaram since both the latter acknowledged Kural text. Thirukkural is and remains to be the book that has been translated into the most number of languages and hence it is called “Ulaga Podhu Marai”.

Thirukural (or the Kural) is a collection of 1330 Tamil couplets organized into 133 chapters. Each chapter has a specific subject ranging from “ploughing a piece of land” to “ruling a country”. The Tamil word Kural means Venpa verse with two lines. Thirukkural comes under one of the four categories of Venpas (Tamil verses) called Kural Venpa. The 1330 couplets are divided into 3 sections and 133 chapters. Each chapter contains 10 couplets. A couplet consists of seven cirs, with four cirs in the first line ant three in the second. A cir is a single word or a combination of more than one Tamil Words. For example,Thirukkural is a cir formed by combining the two words Thiru and Kural, i.e. Thiru + Kural = Thirukkural .
Thirukkural has been translated into all the major languages of the World. In English Rev. G.U Pope’s translation is very widely known. There are many others who have translated Thirukkural completely or some parts of it. Amongst them are Kindersley, F.W.Ellis, W.H.Drew, C.E.Gover, E.G.Robinson, Rev.G.Lazarus, T.M.Scott and H.A. Popley. Thirukkural has been translated into LATIN by Fr.Bechie and Dr. Grawl. A.F.Gammers and Friendrich Ruckert have translated it into GERMAN. Prominent among the translators in FRENCH are E.Ariel, P.G. Dumast and Louis Jacolliot.

Yeoman services have been done in this respect in Tamilnadu by illustrious people like Sri.V.V.S.Iyer, Rajaji, K.M.Balasubramaniam, K.Srinivasan, Ki.Va Jagannathan and many others. This work of English translation of Thirukkural by Dr. Rajaram belongs to this genre. Translations of Thirukkural have also come out in other languages like Hindi,Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Oriya.

800 years ago commentaries were written on Thirukkural by 10 wise and learned scholars like Dharumar, Manakkudavar, Dhamathar, Nacchar, Thirumalair, Mallar, Paaripperumal , Kalingar, Parithiar and Parimelazhagar. There is no doubt that Parimelazhagar’s commentary had been popular than those of the 9 others who preceded him. During the 19th 20th Centuries more than a hundred came forward to bring out commentaries and research works on Thirukkural.

In his introduction, Dr Rajaram has rightly observed: ‘Thirukkural as a book that deals with the art of living is gaining increasing acceptance. It transcends national boundaries, historical, social limitations and language barriers. It makes great sense and relevance even today and for all times. Among the ethical works in Indian languages, Thirukkural stands supreme. Thirukkural was written 2000 years ago. It was more truly presented in a language that was in vogue at the time.Thiruvalluvar, who brought out ‘Thirukkural’, the book for all ages, was an eminent and exceptional scholar endowed with divine quality. He was a not only a sage with a human heart but also a psychologist with a deep insight into the complexities of human nature and a philosopher with a urge to reform’.

No wonder Maha-kavi Bharatiyar has rightly observed for all time: ‘Tamilnadu gave unto the world Valluvar and thereby won great renown’. In my view the following verse is totally applicable to Thirukkural of Thiruvalluar:
“One page of Thiruvalluvar can
Teach us more of man
Than all the sages can”.

Thirukkural is divided into three sections. They are (in the order)

அறத்துப்பால் (VIRTUE)
பொருட்பால் (WEALTH)
இன்பத்துப்பால் (LOVE)

I am presenting blow one sample page relating to the GLORY OF GOD from Dr. Raja ram’s book under review.

For the benefit of our discerning readers I am also presenting blow a magnificent summary in Tamil of Thirukkural by a great Tamil scholar, Madurai Ki. Palaniappan. In my view, this master frame work prepared by Madurai Ki. Palaniappan will serve as a permanent guide to all scholars of Tamil literature in the future:

Literature has been defined as good writing which has a truth to tell about people and their world, and tells the truth in a way which compels a sensitive reader to re-live the writer’s experience with his own mind and emotion. It grows out of experience and response, and conveys both. It does so through native talent, and acquired skills, working with content, form and style to create a tone. It has no borders or boundaries. Language, religion, country, theme, manner or even time, cannot confine it. It is ageless, timeless, measureless and universal. Literature has form and feature, expression and suggestion, smiles and laughter, tears and lamentations, anger and pleasure, love and hate, hopes as well as disappointments. It may be simple or complex, easy or difficult. It may explain or perplex, hide or reveal. It may spring from innocence, or from experience. It has an endless variety of moods and modes. Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural is a great work of world literature in this sense.

Dr Rajaram is a distinguished man of letters and literature. This beautiful work of English translation of Thirukkural by Dr Rajaram is marked by a rare literary flavour and poetic sensibility. His translation gives a cubic content to the famous observation of the great American poet Robert Frost who wrote that ‘great poetry is nothing but a beautiful marriage of sound and sense’. Dr Rajaram has achieved this sublime effect in his following lines of English translation of some of the verses of Thirukkural:

“Smile, charity, pleasant words and civility
These four are marks of true nobility.

Dig deeper the sand-well, more water flows,
Read deeper, more wisdom grows”.

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