Tirukkural – the virtues of a spouse


Tiruvalluvar – the composer of the Tirukkural

மனைக்தக்க மாண்புடையள் ஆகித்தற் கொண்டான்
வளத்தக்காள் வாழ்க்கைத் துணை. 

Manaikdhakka Maanputaiyal Aakiththar Kontaan
Valaththakkaal Vaazhkkaith Thunai (51)

She is the helpful wife who possesses the fullness of domestic virtues and spends within her husband’s means.

दयादिगुणसम्पन्ना भर्तुरायानुसारत्: ।
करोति जीवनं याऽत्र सैव भार्येति कथ्यते ॥ (५१)

गृहिणी-गुण-गण प्राप्त कर, पुरुष-आय अनुसार ।
जो गृह-व्यय करती वही, सहधर्मिणी सुचार ॥ (५१)

ಮನೆಗೆ ತಕ್ಕ ಮಡದಿಯಾಗಿ, ಪತಿಯ ವರಮಾನದ ಮಿತಿಯರಿತು ಸಂಸಾರವನ್ನು ತೂಗಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು ಹೋಗುವವಳೇ ಬಾಳಿನಾಧಾರವಾಗುವಳು. (೫೧)

ഭർത്താവിൻ ശേഷിയും ജീവലക്ഷ്യവും കരുതുന്നതായ്  സ്വയം സംയമനം പാലിക്കുന്നോളുത്തമ പത്നിയാം  (൫൰൧)

Sie ist die Hilfe des Familienlebens, die seine Tugenden besitzt und vom Einkommen des Mannes lebt.


இல்லதென் இல்லவள் மாண்பானால் உள்ளதென்
இல்லவள் மாணாக் கடை?.  

Illadhen Illaval Maanpaanaal Ulladhen
Illaval Maanaak Katai? (53)

If you have a virtuous spouse, then what does one lack? If the spouse has no virtues, what indeed does one have?

पत्‍नी चेद् गुणसम्पन्ना समृद्धं तस्य जीवनम् ।
वैपरीत्ये समायाते शून्यमेव हि जीवनम् ॥ (५३)

गृहिणी रही सुधर्मिणी, तो क्या रहा अभाव ।
गृहिणी नहीं सुधर्मिणी, किसका नहीं अभाव ॥ (५३)

ಮನೆಯೊಡತಿ ಸದ್ಗುಣವಂತೆಯಾದರೆ ಬಾಳಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಇಲ್ಲವಾದುದಾದರೂ ಏನು? ಅವಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸದ್ಗುಣಗಳಿಲ್ಲವಾದರೆ ಬಾಳಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಇರುವುದಾದರೂ ಏನು? (೫೩)

ഭാര്യ ഗുണവതീയെങ്കിലെല്ലാമൈശ്വര്യപൂർണ്ണമാം  ഗുണം കേട്ടവളാണെങ്കിൽ മേന്മയെല്ലാം നശിച്ചുപോം  (൫൰൩)

Ist die Frau tugendhaft – was fehlt? Ist die Frau nicht tugendhaft – was ist da?


தெய்வம் தொழாஅள் கொழுநன் தொழுதெழுவாள்
பெய்யெனப் பெய்யும் மழை.  

Theyvam Thozhaaal Kozhunan Thozhudhezhuvaal
Peyyenap Peyyum Mazhai (55)

Even the rains will fall at her command who upon rising worships not God, but her family.

पतिमेव हरिं मत्वा प्रातर्या भजते ऽन्वहम् ।
त्वं वर्षेंति तंयाऽऽशप्तो देवोपि किल वर्षति ॥ (५५)

पूजे सती न देव को, पूज जगे निज कंत ।
उसके कहने पर ‘बरस’, बरसे मेघ तुरंत ॥ (५५)

ಬೇರೆ ದೈವಗಳಿಗೆರಗದೆ ತನ್ನ ಪತಿಗೆರಗಿ ಏಳುವವಳು, ಹುಯ್ಯೆಂದರೆ ಮಳೆ ಹುಯ್ಯುವುದು. (೫೫)

പ്രഭാതത്തിലെഴുന്നേറ്റു പതിയേ ദൈവമെന്നപോൽ  ഭക്തിയോടെ നമിക്കുന്നോൾ പെയ്യെന്നാൽ പെയ്യുമേ മഴ  (൫൰൫)

Sie wacht auf und verehrt keinen Gott außer ihren Mann – und auf ihre Worte hin vermag es zu regnen.


Tiruvalluvar first speaks of the virtues of the householder, and the next ten couplets are devoted to the wife. The socio-economic conditions prevalent during the times in which Valluvar lived, were such that domestic matters were managed by the woman of the family (It still continues to a large extent to this day). Each one’s role in the family is defined, much like each one’s role in the society was defined at one point of time. This system worked due to the notion of core competencies – do what you do best, and what comes naturally to you.

Some couplets and their literal translations may come across as sexist, or misogynistic, but I differ on these interpretations.

A society that arguably was, and still is, the only society where women are worshipped and given the status of a deity, could not be misogynistic.

For instance, the kurals above speaks of the wife possessing domestic virtues and spending within means. The word ‘virtue’ has been sometimes translated into chastity, whereas the actual meaning can be interpreted closer to the all-inclusive character of a person. This is required in both spouses, not just the wife or the husband. Tiruvalluvar speaks of their respective duties and obligations, and the division of responsibilities when he mentions spending within means, or managing the household.

Marriage is seen as a partnership, which goes beyond duties and responsibilities, and so the wife is referred to as arddhangini – one who is part of you.

The Tamil equivalent is manaivi – மனைவி—She who brightens the home with prosperity – வந்த மனையை விளங்கச் செய்பவள்.

The thought in Valluvar’s 55th couplet – on the virtuous being able to command rain – can be thought of as faith being able to move mountains – and this is a thought that has been echoed in many philosophies around the world. Avvaiyar, a 13th century poet, also said தொல் உலகில் நல்லார் ஒருவர் உளறேல் அவர் பொருட்டு,எல்லார்க்கும் பெய்யும் மழை (Thol Ulagil Nallaar Oruvar Ularael Avar Poruttu Ellarkum Peiyum Mazhai) – The rain falls on behalf of the virtuous, benefitting everyone in the world. So did the Buddha, who said that “if there be one righteous person, the rain falls for his sake”.

Ands so my way of looking at it is that Theyvam Thozhaaal Kozhunan Thozhudhezhuvaal Peyyenap Peyyum Mazhaiyou do not have to seek God in a place of worship, rather, God is all around you, in the people you love, in the people who care for you and those for whom you care, in your family, your spouse, your children – these are your true treasures and these are true expressions of divinity.