A key feature of early Indian homes (probably more on South than North) is a திண்ணை (thiNNai) or patio, somewhat similar to colonial houses in USA. They are typically used to either relax during an afternoon siesta or to conduct conversations either as a group or to conduct trade with road-side sellers who would come with their wares. My fonder memories were playing in the thinnai of my grandfather’s house in Chennai – pretending to be a spaceship or car or simply sitting down after some nice hot idli in the morningwith a pile of comic books with the gentle breeze of the coconut trees providing relief to the Madras heat.
One of the Thamizh dailies also uses the word thiNNai for their Opinion section, where current event topics are discussed at length.
One of my favorite quotes in Sanskrit (yes, I know this is as “Thamizh” site – let’s set aside the language patriotism for the time being) describes the crux of learning method:
आचार्यात् पादम् आदत्ते पादं शिष्यः स्वमेधया ।
पादं सब्रह्मचारिभि: पादं कालक्रमेण च ॥
AchAryAt pAdamOdatte pAdam sishyah swamedayA
sahabrahmachAribhyah pAdam pAdam kAlakrameNa cha
Translation: Learning is one part through a teacher, one part by understanding (or reflection), one part through discussion with classmates, and one part happens over time.
Most teaching mechanisms focus on one one or two parts at best in this equation, and ignore the remaining, leading to low stickiness. Recall the things that you appreciate in what you learned the most – it is quite likely that all four aspects would be present in such cases.
So, what do all these have to do with auvaiyAr? It so happens that she does not want to let us change topic that easily. In a virtual “thiNNai” fashion, the previous post led to an active email thread between myself, Vasu, and Bala that I am presenting here. This also goes to show the value of a “classmate” conversation – never know where it will lead!
Bala: Aathichudi is not just for kids imagine this:
போர்த் தொழில் புரியேல்
She is asking not to create a Military Industrial Complex?
Sathya: Translation in Wikipedia is “don’t encourage war”, which seems reasonable. For kids this can translate to “don’t start fights”.
Bala: Yea I don’t think she meant Military Industrial complex… but I guess its fair to extrapolate what she meant if we use the line for adults.
Sathya: If we are to etymologically look this, she says “don’t do war as a profession”. This can be translated as one should not go to war for the sake of going to war but only as a necessity. This can very well apply to the recent events in history that didn’t end well 🙂
Bala: Just do a post on this one line please. It’s worth it.
Sathya: OK. Let’s keep this in the queue. It might be a bit too monotonous to have multiple posts on the same topic.
Bala (next day): I was sleeping on that line போர்த் தொழில் புரியேல்
I don’t think she would have meant this for kids… kids fight is not called போர் rather some other minor words like சண்டை (sandai – fight) or something and besides kids wont have தொழில் rather kids might have பழக்கம் (pazhakkam – habit)
Just having tea in the morning and it occurred to me. Vasu, your thoughts?
Vasu:To me it is consistent with the image of Auviyar as a “peace maker” :-). Also is it not to her that is attributed – பொறுத்தார் பூமி ஆள்வார் (poruthar bhoomi aaLvAr – the patient shall inherit the earth)?
War as a “job” was/is not anything new as the kings/kshatriya/warrior varNa was meant to wage wars on behalf of the king, both for protection as well as for conquering newer territories. I remember Balakumaran’s novel capturing Raja Raja chozhan’s dilemma in Udayar- his passion to build the temple to be balanced with the capital and resources needed.. in this case, is it justified to conquer/capture the kalingas and the rashtrakootas and get the best available talent ? is it the right thing to do? is war necessary?
So, again, to put it in context, Avuviyar as a diplomat would obviously advocate avoiding waging a war just for the sake of it.
Sathya: Like Vasu said, I believe a social context also needs to be added to some of these even though the words are more transcendental. She was a key peace maker between the warring factions at that time and so some may have a more immediate context.
The concept of pOr as a thozhil is an interesting one. After all, the core of Gita and Mahabharata (and consequently the idea of Dharma) revolves around this notion. Is it right to be in a profession of killing others – be it animals or humans? Wouldn’t that be the biggest sin?
That’s where the notion of Dharma comes into picture. It’s somewhat like “eat to live” vs. “live to eat”. One is survival and sustenance while the other is gluttony. I believe auvaiyAr refers to the second part – you should not make waging war as your profession (as the dilemma Vasu mentioned). In Vasu’s example, waging war to bring talent to build temples would, I would imagine, not be considered Dharma.
Found this interesting note that might answer Bala’s original question (is this child friendly?). I have bolded the relevant sentence.
மூன்றாவது அவ்வையார், ஆத்திசூடி, கொன்றைவேந்தன், மூதுரை, நல்வழி போன்ற நீதி நூல்களைப் பாடியவர். சங்ககால அவ்வையார் அரசர்களோடு பழகி வாழ்ந்தவர். இரண்டாம் அவ்வையார் பக்தர்களோடு வாழ்ந்தவர். மூன்றாம் அவ்வையார் குழந்தைகளோடு வாழ்ந்தவர். குழந்தைகளுக்காக நீதி நூல்களை எழுதியவர். சிறுவயதில் மனப்பாடம் செய்து கொண்டு, வயதான பின்பு பொருளைத் தெளிவாக உணரும் நிலையில் அமைந்தவை இவர் பாடல்கள்.
To add on to that, it’s like any good children’s story. You read it for fun initially and then enjoy the puns and other jokes when you read at a later age. Tintin and Asterix fall in this category too.
Bala: Very true. Read it for exams but enjoy the meaning later in life..
Vasu:சிறுவயதில் மனப்பாடம் செய்து கொண்டு, வயதான பின்பு பொருளைத் தெளிவாக உணரும் நிலையில் அமைந்தவை இவர் பாடல்கள்.
This is fascinating and correlates very well with what I heard from my uncle when i challenged him about the rote method of learning the scriptures at a young age. Only correction i would make is more than “age”, it is about maturity..Markandeya, Prahlada, Dhruva, are good examples of “pinjule pazutha pazhams :-))”.
My uncle then quoted the scripture ( when you quote scriptures to defend the scriptures, iwould that be rational? but hey! what do we know) that has an in-built logic in it — Think of it like grades/classes — in class 1, you learn the fundamentals by rote, without undertstanding or fully appreciating the meanings ( smruthi), thru hearing ( shruthi); In class 2 or later, you tend to understand a bit more, analyse things in depth and develop a sense of discretion ( viveka); you then have the discipline to follow thru (adhyayana/abhyasa); then you reflect/meditate upon it ( dhyana); finally it dawns upon you ( here’s here the three major philosophies differ, is it because of ones efforts that the realisation happens)..
Anyways, enjoyed the discussion..
Bala: EXACTLY what I was regarding my son’s school system here. Here they give a math equation and ask the same problem from ALL the perspective but I want to focus on the fundamental and basic math strong first even if its by memorization.
We first have to keep the basics in mind first… as when we grow we will (hopefully) realize the meaning of them and then apply in our life.
Anyway good discussion.
See Sathya just this one line is worth a post after all 🙂
Sathya: Haha I agree. Will compile our conversation and put it in.
I agree the need for understanding the basics, but I wonder if sometimes it might be too early.
I have been trying to observe how … is picking up her language skills or how … is figuring out reading and interestingly, it starts by rote. He can read a Daniel tiger book end to end even though he does not know how to spell some of the words because he has heard me read the story to him so many times. He later figures out the words from that rote memory. Similarly … would repeat what … says even though she has no idea what it means initially but then slowly but surely uses them in the right context.
I feel there is value in doing rote initially even if the meaning is not clear. Like Vasu said, I am learning to appreciate things I learned by rote earlier now as I strive to understand the meaning. If I didn’t learn by rote earlier I probably would not have gone to find those things that I now find interesting.
This goes to what I said earlier when we met. We have a lot of empirical data gathered over thousands of years. We may not have proof of all right away but that does not mean they are wrong. Also if we wait till we get proof before trying to know them first, we may miss a lot of interesting things. We have to trust what our ancestors filtered over time as being important.