The ethical treatise that my friend was referring to was ஆத்திச்சூடி, which is pronounced as 'AA-thi-chOO-di.' It means, "A garland of 'aththi' flowers," probably alluding to the Saivite God of Creation -- Lord Shiva, who use to be caparisoned with this floral garland. Anyway, while we debated and arrived at a consensus on what it means, my brilliant and intelligent friend countered me as to how that maxim contradicts another one in a different place. All of this made me think. After a long time, I felt so good at the level of an intellectual debate we had on a seemingly fleeting and trivial issue. Scholarly Tamil, especially those works that date back to several centuries, always need some probing to understand. Most of those words are seldom used in the contemporary Tamil dialects. Therefore, I decided to start learning at least one maxim a day to understand and share the same with my friends, thereby critically expounding some of these great puranic works of Classical Tamil. I am a mere Tamil aficionado and do not have any scholarly exposure to Tamil. I may be consulting informally with my parents, books, or friends, if I have problems in deciphering the meanings for these maxims. Therefore, should you observe any errors in either my translations or ruminations, kindly do let me know and I will make suitable modifications. Please do jot down your own thoughts and critiques so that it will truly be a learning experience for me.
ஆத்திச்சூடி (AA-thi-chOO-di) comprises 108 single-line maxims. It was composed by the great old Tamil Poetess Auvaiyaar, who belonged to the last Sangam era. Her devotion to Lord Vinayaka (Elephant God) and Lord Muruga (Tamil God) is well known. Her many other works appear in the great epic of Tamils' bravery, namely புறநானூறு ('puruh-nAAn-OOru'), roughly translated as the "Four Hundred Great Anthologies of Tamils' Bravery." Through ஆத்திச்சூடி (AA-thi-chOO-di) maxims (which were part of her 'Ethical Books' collection) she wanted to captivate and inculcate moral and ethical thoughts in the younger minds. 'Catching them young' was her mantra. These maxims are still being taught for the kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade kids in India. However, my audience for this blog is not kids; rather it is their parents. Therefore, I want to present content in a way that would be more appealing to parents so that they can present it in a way pleasing to their kids. I will present one maxim a day for the next 108 days. I want to make it simple and lucid. Therefore, I will blog each entry with four portions.
- Original maxim in Tamil (transliteration in parenthesis).
- Translation of the Tamil maxim in my own English.
- Rumination or discussion on the maxim itself.
- A relevant or random quote for the day.
Many of my friends are baby-boomers; a few of them are in the family way. On the eve of Tamils' Thanksgiving Feast Day of Pongal, I wish to dedicate this small effort of mine to all my beloved friends and their cute, lovable kids. As a philologist, I specially commend my friend Velraja for inspiring me to take up this work for my own learning, understanding, and sharing. Very many thanks to my dearest buddy Srikanth in Madras, who satiates my Tamil thirst by gifting me some of the rare Tamil books out there in the market. Certainly this exercise is going to be a valuable, healthy 10-minute diversion for me during the next few days.
Wish you all a Happy Pongal. Pongal O Pongal.
Rex S. Arul
Smyrna, Georgia, USA
January 13, 2005.