Auvaiyar is a prominent female poet of Tamil literature. She found great happiness in the life of children. Her works, Aathichudi and Konrai Venthan, written for children, are even now read and enjoyed by them. These works, even after a millennium, are often among the very first literature that children are exposed to in Tamil schools.
Auvaiyar also interacted with Lord Muruga, Skanda on the beauty of the Tamil language. Avvai Vizha, the day for this grand old lady Auvaiyar, is celebrated every year in the month of Panguni (mid-March to mid-April) on Sadhayam star day.
In the method of teaching the children, she composed very short single line verse, in the exact sequence of the alphabets. Each verse of the poem was not only alphabetically sequential but also had a simple life message that the children could learn as their first lessons and inculcate their import in their lives.
This idea of inculcating value as the first lessons to young child was intriguing to Dr. G.U. Pope a British educationist and Christian missionary who settled in India. He was in India in 1840’s in Tirunalveli, Madras and Bangalore. In his quote he says, “It is Peculiar that Indians teach Philosophy to their Children”.
Probably he misread inculcating good values to the young children as philosophy. For then back in England moral values and philosophy was start only in Theological Institutions.
Let us here see the alphabetical sequence of a simple beautiful value laden Aathichudi.
One of her most popular verse on what we know, what we learnt is: Katrathu kaiman alavu; kallaathathu ulagalavu (Tamil: கற்றது கைமண் அளவு, கல்லாதது உலகளவு).
The popularity of this poignant quote of Avvaiyar is not only limited to the Tamil land but have spread far, in the west to USA and in the east to Singapore.
Nasa quotes Auvaiyar
NASA on “Cosmic Questions Exhibited” Avvaiyar’s quote:
“What we have learned is like a handful of earth,
What we have yet to learn is like the whole world”
In Singapore Parliamentary debates on 17th October 2011, Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang) Member of Singapore Parliament, quotes,
“There is an old Tamil proverb by a wise old lady named Avvaiyar that goes like this (in Tamil): Katrathu kaiman alavu; kallaathathu ulagalavu. Now, that translates into saying that
The sum of your knowledge can be captured in the palm of a hand,
whereas the things you do not know is the size of the world”.
Let us celebrate the first granny of the world who gave nursery rhymes with life messages in each one of the verse.
Shri D.K.Hari is an educationist, who is also the founder of Bharath Gyan, a civilizational study initiative to compile and present the knowledge of India, its traditions, culture and global ties – in short, its ethos through the ages. He also serves on the board of various socially committed organizations at Chennai.