Man is a social animal, except for hermits he cannot live in isolation. This truth is reflected in the Kural. Another truth that is evident on a close study is the disparity between the sections of the society. There was an upper class which was affluent and a lower class that lived in want. The Kural emphasizes ‘pakhuthun‘. This is a Tamil term that has a wide application.
Pakhuthun means ‘share and eat‘. It is mentioned in Kural 322, which goes on to say that the supreme virtue that is topmost amongst all forms of virtue is to protect and sustain all forms of life by feeding the hungry, sharing what you have and eat yours only after you had done so. It contains the admonition. Let not your fellow being go hungry.
The Purananuru, an anthology of 400 Tamil verses written by a number of poets both male and female gives a picture of the life of the people, their heroic deeds and the wars they fought all the time. It preceded the Kural by a few decades. Amongst other things the Purananuru mentions the rich landed aristocracy who wined and dined well and the poor people who ate the food given as charity. It is an ignoble feature of ancient Tamil life.
The Kural questions why this is happening. Persons who are noted for a life of virtuous Aram are suffering, they are not reaping what they deserve while others who are not known for their virtuous life are living well in comfort.
In a highly charged Kural couplet a curse is bestowed on the Creator for the disparity mentioned above.
The twentieth century poet Subramania Bharathy follows the Kural and sings ‘If there is no food for one single person, we should destroy the Universe‘
Like the Ten Commandments the Kural directs each and every one of us not to steal other’s property. Chapter 29 speaks about the ills of thieving. Even the thought of coveting another’s property is sinful.
Kurals 287, 288 points at the advantages of living within your means. However meagre your income maybe, you should learn to live within its limits.
Today in the age of conspicuous consumption, hire purchase, rentals, bank loans and credit cards the Kural administers a bitter medicine.
The Kural devotes one complete chapter for the shameful act of begging, Chapter 106 – ‘Iravu‘.
Kural 1067 says that you should beg from a person who has the willingness to give what you seek. Do not go to a person who hides his riches and gives you a negative reply.
What is praiseworthy in the Kural is its glorification of paddy cultivation and the tilling of he soil with the plough for the production of food to feed the masses.
The cultivator is the linchpin and the anchor of society the Kural intones in the couplet 1031.
Today the farmer is denigrated as a person belonging to a lowly profession but
Kural 1031 says that the world circulates and revolves round many a profession and new ones are created as the time advances but what keeps the world going is the sphere of farming and food production.