Who was Thiruvalluvar?
- Thiruvalluvar is fondly referred to as Valluvar by Tamils. His ‘Tirukkural’, a collection of 1,330 couplets (‘kurals’ in Tamil), are an essential part of every Tamil household — in the same way as, say, the Bhagavad Gita or the Ramayana are in traditional North Indian Hindu households.
- Thiruvalluvar is revered as an ancient saint, poet, and a philosopher by Tamils, irrespective of their religion. He is an essential anchor for Tamils in tracing their cultural roots; Tamils are taught to learn his couplets word-for-word, and to follow his teachings in their day-to-day living.
What makes Thiruvalluvar, who may have lived in the 5th century BC or earlier, significant today?
- Following the recent excavations at Keeladi near Madurai, the Tamil Nadu state archaeological department has unearthed evidence that pushes back the history of the Sangam Era, or Tamilagam, by at least 300 years — from 300 BC to 600 BC. The findings at Keeladi have given Dravidian historians and politicians another weapon to assert their ancient past.
- The controversy on the alleged saffronisation of Thiruvallauvar has happened in this context.
- Keeladi had triggered heated arguments on social media between the supporters of Hindutva, and those backing the Dravidian view. While samples from Keeladi did not unearth any Hindu idols or goddesses — a fact that gave Dravidian groups a shot in the arm — Hindutva supporters on social media were seen insisting that there was evidence of ‘Hindu’ religion in Keeladi.