Timeless Tamil Ideas

September 28, 2019 at 5:54 am Leave a comment

Yaadum Oore – Yaavarum Kelir‘ (All Worlds are mine ; all beings are my kin) – thundered the Indian Prime Minister in Tamil, in the United Nations General Assembly ; paraphrased the words in Hindi, acknowledging the fact that they were written 3000 years ago by a Great Poet Kaniyan Poongundranaar.

The name Kaniyan Poongundranaar is known only to those familiar with Tamil Sangam Literature – a bygone golden era of Tamil history. More famous than his name are his words ‘yaadum Oore yaavarum kelir’ thanks to their periodic use in Tamil film music and  more importantly their simplicity, profundity and economy of expression.

These are powerful words, that at once establish the vision of a borderless planet and the kinship of the ancient Tamil mind with all of humanity.  As the PM reinforced, ‘This sense of belonging beyond borders is unique to India‘. Sanskrit phrases such as vasudhaiva kutumbakam and svadesho bhuvana trayam (Adi Sankara) echo the same spirit that is shared by hearts all across the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent.

The words யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர் form the opening phrases of a verse from the puranAnURu – புறநானூறு, one of the 8 compilations of verses the ‘eTTu thogai’ (a set of 8 compilations) dating back to the Sangam period – with such progressive ideas in currency when much of the world was battling for survival.

Fully translated, this verse reads thus.

All worlds are mine; all beings my kin. The good and bad that happen to us are our own doing and are not caused by anyone. Death is a given. We are beyond likes and dislikes. The renunciate assure us that the spirit reaches its destination much like a raft floating on a flooded river.  We are beyond fascination for the great and even beyond ridicule for the powerless.

This lone verse by kaNiyan Poongundranaar is not to be taken in isolation. The powerful words here are representative of a large volume of ancient Tamil poetry that we can proudly declare as our heritage.

These and several other verses speak of our interconnectedness; of the ancient people’s prayers for peace, the insistence on the value of learning, the spirit of adventure.

See for instance:

unbathu naazhi uduppadu irandu – piravum ellaam orokkumme –  (Puranaanooru)

‘… It is only a morsel of food that is consumed by a human regardless of whether they are a monarch or a poor hunter. Likewise it is only two pieces of cloth that cover their being. There is thus a unity of physical needs – across the human species…..’

utruzhi udaviyum uruporul koduttum katral nandre katral nandre (Puranaanooru)

” It is important to get educated at all costs ….”

tiraikadal odium diraviyam tedu  (Kondrai Venthan – Auvaiyaar 2nd Millennium)

“Travel across the oceans – Seek Wealth ….”

The immortal words of the Sangam era poet Kaniyan Poongundranaar  are ever more relevant in the networked world of today. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister of the World’s largest democracy (a native Gujarati speaker fluent in Hindi)  chose to recite these words in Tamil,  the very language that they were written.

In reciting these words, he shares this wisdom with the world at large and places the achievements of the Indian diaspora in context.  In quoting these Tamil words, he unequivocally gives the world a lesson in Indian history. The reiteration of these words uttered originally by the Sangam Poet 3 millennia ago, words that were passed down in tattered palm leaf manuscripts that were published for the first time on paper in the late 1800s by UV Swaminatha Iyer (during the print media revolution then) is simply a global celebration of this timeless idea  in the age of social media.

In short, the Prime Minister’s words are nothing short of a universal proclamation of the progressive ideals of an ancient civilization.

Here is a video presentation of a group rendition of such timeless Tamil words in the flagship song ‘Yaadum Oore’ rendered as part of the ‘Murasu Symphony’ at the World Tamil Conference, Chicago, July 2019.



Kanniks Kannikeswaran


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