“ARIVU” is a Tamil word used in the Kural with a special meaning. This language is distinguished for the large number of synonyms and antonyms for almost every word in the lexicon. But Arivu has only a few words to show its sense and usage. Arivu means both knowledge and wisdom.
Kural 430 says that those with Arivu (knowledge and wisdom) have everything in this world. Those without Arivu are mere nitwits who may have everything and the advantages it may give but they have a major disadvantage, the lack of knowledge and wisdom. Another Kural couplet says only those with Arivu have two eyes in their face others without Arivu have only two sores in their face.
Arivu or knowledge wisdom is mostly acquired by education. The author of the Kural devotes ten couplets in praise of education in chapter 40.
Kural 396 of this chapter says the Arivu is accumulated by way of education. As you dig a well in the ground which is identified with water resource down below you tap the water and bring it to the surface. As you educate yourself you bring forth Arivu which sustains you.
During the time in which the Kural was made by a learned author whose name and identity are unknown up to date, works of literature were written on palm leaves with an iron nail like pointed instrument. Few copies were made because the task of ‘writing’ on the palm leaf was not an easy one. Many a piece of Tamil masterpiece is no more due to the decay of the palm leaf manuscripts during the passage of time.
Educators were few in number. Students were equally small in number. Teachers chose their disciples with care. In other words education was not widespread. There was no paper, no printing and no books of the kind known today. Until the invention of the printing press by the German Johannes Gutenberg this state of affairs was common in the whole world.
The Kural speaks about the power of memory. The Kural itself is written in the words that can be committed to memory easily. The guru taught his students from his own memory and the rare manuscripts he had in his possession. The students do not take notes, they memorize the words of the guru and profit by them. The Kural speaks about ‘the food for the ear‘ which takes precedence over ‘the food for the stomach‘.
The Kural expects the ruler to be a man of education.
Kural 383 enumerates the three essential attributes of an ideal ruler. He should be smart and ever wakeful, educated in all its facets and have bravery to match.
Compare this what the Greek thinker Plato expects of a ruler. Every nation worth its name expects its head of state to be wakeful, educated not merely in books but in nimble statecraft, national policy making, strategic planning, physical and mental alertness. Plato says that an ideal country should be ruled by poet philosophers.
Made two millennia ago the message of the Kural is valid for all time.
Kural 391 speaks loud in this manner. ‘Study and improve yourself, delving deeply, learning thoroughly and conduct your life according to what ethical knowledge – wisdom you have acquired by this process.