Life lessons from Thirukkural: Understanding the philosophy of life and education in ancient India


  • Thirukural, more than 2000 years old is one of the ancient and vital scriptures in the

‘Classical language’ Tamil.

  • Celebrated universally and translated into many spoken

languages of the world, .

  • Thirukural consists of three major sections: Arathuppal

(Dharma), Porutpal (Wealth) and Inbathupal (Love/desire) which have 38, 70 and 25 chapters

punctuating to 133 chapters in total and each chapter has 10 couplets

Life Skill Concepts in Thirukural

1. Valluvar on Communication

. Valluvar warns against the wayward/ abusive usage of language.

 Since gain or ruin speeches bring; guard against the slips of tongue (Couplet: 642) 

 Deliver your speech, after assuring yourself that no counter speech can defeat your

own. (Couplet: 645) 

 No foe defies the speaker clear flawless, puissant, and free from fear (Couplet: 647) 

2. Listening

It is evident that even little information that is listened to will pay rich dividends in Counselling profession. Valluvar also

says that, the ear which has not been bored by instruction, although it hears, is deaf (Couplet


3. Interpersonal Relationship

The Chapter 79 ‘Friendship’, chapter 80 ‘Testing of Fitness of Friendship’, chapter 81

‘Intimacy’, chapter 82 ‘The Friendship that Injures’ and chapter 83 ‘False Friendship’ talks

extensively about how a relationship should be and shouldn’t be.

4. Problem Solving

Problem solving is a kind of brain process that is complex, composing of visualizing, imagining,

manipulating, analyzing, abstracting, and associating ideas (cited in Life Skills Education &

CCE, 2013).Planning is essential to solve a problem and to solve a problem Valluvar asks to ‘Test the Confidence of Men’ (Chapter 51).

5. Critical thinking

Critical thinking avoids blind acceptance of conclusions or arguments and instead

closely examines all assumptions, evidence, and conclusions In the Chapter 48 ‘Judging of Strength’ Valluvar says ‘putting too

many of peacock’s feathers in wagon, it would break the wagon’s axle’ (Couplet 475).

Chapter 71 ‘Judging by Looks’ helps a person to be critical in the actions

6. Decision making

Decision making is the process of choosing among various courses of action or

alternatives (Baron, 2001). Chapter 47 ‘Deliberation before Action’, chapter 49 ‘Judging the

Right Moment’ and chapter 50 ‘Judging of Place’ explain how the person should make the

right decisions at right time, right place and to the right degree.

7. Creative Thinking

It is imperative that creativity is inevitable in social work profession and flexibility is

another dimension in creativity.

Valluvar asserts ‘though you are acquainted with the theoretical methods of performing an act, understand the ways of

the world and act accordingly’

8. Self- awareness

Chapter 30 ‘Truthfulness’ and Chapter 36 ‘Realization of the Truth’ touches the very

corner stone of self-awareness. Hold not forth as truth what knows to be false; for thy own

conscience will burn them when thou has lied (Couplet 293). A person who is true to his

conscience will be aware of himself/herself.

9. Empathy

World Health Organization (1993) defined empathy as an ability to understand others’


Chapter 25 ‘compassion’ and in chapter 58 ‘considerateness’ implies the value of

empathy. Kindness is a virtue that should be possessed by everyone, as, a person who is

without wealth may acquire it at later time, but a person who is without kindness cannot

acquire it anytime

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