Posts Tagged ‘Thirukkural’

Saint Thiruvalluvar was a humble weaver and an enlightened soul who gave us the Thirukkural, one of the finest specimens of Indian spiritual literature. It carries within itself eternal values and wisdom which could guide a lay person as well as a professional in all spheres of life.


Thirukkural captures the three-fold direction of life – Aram, or virtue; Porul, or wealth; and Inbam, or love.

The sage says that the life of a householder is superior to that of someone who opts for renunciation. He goes on to describe the duties and responsibilities to be discharged by a householder in great detail.

While describing the duties of kings, Thiruvalluvar touches upon the art of management and governance in very clear terms. This aspect has already been captured in some detail here.

Thirukkural speaks of matters of the heart with great elan. It gives love as much importance as ethical behaviour and righteous conduct. Feminists can take heart from the fact that it highlights the need for respect of women in unequivocal terms.

Thirukkural is an enduring example of the eternity of values, ethics and a humane approach to problem solving.


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On the occasion of Thiruvalluvar day, celebrated on this day in the state of Tamil Nadu in India, in memory of Saint Thiruvalluvar who is said to have lived in a period between second century BC and 8th century AD.


Thirukkural (திருக்குறள்), also known as the Kural, is a classic Tamil ‘sangam’ (3rd century BC to 4th century AD) literature composition. It has 1,330 couplets or ‘kurals’. It was authored by the renowned poet Thiruvalluvar.

The Thirukkural is one of the most important works in the Tamil language. This is reflected in some of the other names by which the text is given by such as ‘Tamil marai’ (Tamil Vedas); ‘poyyamozhi’ (words that never fail); and ‘Deiva nool’ (divine text).

Just like ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’, ‘Bhagavad-Gita’ and other scriptures, Thirukkural is also replete with words of wisdom. It is simple and contains profound messages.

Thirukkural has 133 chapters, each containing 10 couplets. Broadly speaking, all the 133 chapters can be divided into three sections: Righteousness, Wealth and Love. In the text below, the serial number of each couplet appears on the top, followed by its Tamil text and then by…

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Thirukkural (திருக்குறள்), also known as the Kural, is a classic Tamil ‘sangam’ (3rd century BC to 4th century AD) literature composition. It has 1,330 couplets or ‘kurals’. It was authored by the renowned poet Thiruvalluvar.

The Thirukkural is one of the most important works in the Tamil language. This is reflected in some of the other names by which the text is given by such as ‘Tamil marai’ (Tamil Vedas); ‘poyyamozhi’ (words that never fail); and ‘Deiva nool’ (divine text).

Just like ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’, ‘Bhagavad-Gita’ and other scriptures, Thirukkural is also replete with words of wisdom. It is simple and contains profound messages.

Thirukkural has 133 chapters, each containing 10 couplets. Broadly speaking, all the 133 chapters can be divided into three sections: Righteousness, Wealth and Love. In the text below, the serial number of each couplet appears on the top, followed by its Tamil text and then by its near-literal translation in English.


Practising as well as aspiring managers could draw quite a few lessons from Thirukkural. Here is a modest attempt to capture a few of its facets.


Leadership is more of an attitude and a way of living and behaving. It is about opening one’s heart. It is about inspiring those around one. It is about leading others by example. It is about standing up for others and shielding them from harm.

770Thirukural 770Of what avail is the army of heroic warriors if there be no general to guide them?

388Thirukural 388He is a God among men who shields his subjects.

A good leader is an avid listener. He encourages dissent.

416Thirukural 416Listen to wholesome counsel however meager; for out of it springs great good.

389Thirukural 389The world is under the sway of the monarch who puts up with bold and bitter counsel.

529Thirukural 529Reject none on the score of disagreement. Men who have become estranged will flock to you.


A leader’s life is not easy. Following ‘dharma’ (righteousness) is his/her foremost trait. Being impartial and just is another.

33Thirukural 33Avail yourself of all opportunities. Do not cease from practicing Dharma on all possible occasions to the best of your ability.

111Thirukural 111An equity which knows no partiality is in itself a unique virtue.

432Thirukural 432Niggardliness, empty honor, blind favoritism, are all the faults of a king.

541Thirukural 541Strict enquiry and impartial justice mark the rule of a just monarch.

Intuition plays an important role in the life of a leader. Steve Jobs’ life is a living example of this trait.

429Thirukural 429Men of foresight who guard themselves against coming events know no distress.

Leadership is about human experiences and not about processes.

578Thirukural 578The world belongs to a king who can do his duty and yet be courteous.

Mergers and acquisitions often follow the rule of tying up with a former adversary in business. Google acquired Android, YouTube and Motorola Mobility, so as to extend the reach of its business as also to diversify into related verticals.

679Thirukural 679It is much more urgent to secure the alliance of one’s enemies, than to do good to one’s friends.

Brand Image of an Organization

Thirukkural has chapters which are intended for developing and managing kingdoms. The attributes of an ideal kingdom mentioned in the ancient text are equally applicable to the contemporary corporate world.

Thirukural 738Five are the ornaments of a kingdom – absence of disease, wealth, fertility, happiness and security.

This can be interpreted to mean that a great company is one which has a strong brand image amongst all its stakeholders. Healthy and vibrant employees form the backbone of a company. By generating a surplus for its shareholders, wealth gets created. A culture which enables fertile imagination and innovation ensures its long-term survival and well-being. A result-oriented but relaxed culture results into greater happiness of its employees. Guarding the company’s assets – material as well as intellectual – ensures survival in a highly competitive environment.


Managers need to be resolute, decisive and action-oriented. Loyalty to the management and operating within the company policy paradigm are two of the several qualities they need to have.

668Thirukural 668What you have clearly decided to do, do it without hesitation and delay.

766Thirukural 766Heroism, honor, tried policy and fidelity to the king, these four are an army’s shelter.

Stephen Covey has spoken of the habit of ‘sharpening the saw’. The poet also emphasizes the need to keep upgrading our subject knowledge, so as to do well in our careers.

401Thirukural 401Entering an assembly without sufficient knowledge is like playing at a dice board without its knowledge.

444Thirukural 444To follow in the footsteps of those who are greater than oneself is the crown of one’s strengths.

Planning, and thinking ahead, needs to be given a high priority. Want to beat the competition? Know its strengths and review your plans accordingly.

461Thirukural 461After much deliberation over profit and loss and the final gains, launch on a task.

471Thirukural 471A king must act after measuring the strength of his plan, his own resources, the strength of the enemy and that of the ally.

Restraining anger is important. Anger is also an important weapon in a manager’s arsenal. It can be used to put in place a team member who might be getting too big for his boots. When held back and allowed to simmer within, it can be used very effectively. Patience and forbearance are recommended. We also need to have the knack of getting our timing right!

305Thirukural 305If a man were to guard himself, let him restrain anger. Otherwise anger gets the better of him.

487Thirukural 487The wise will not fly into a passion when assailed; they allow their anger to smoulder within till the right time comes.

158Thirukural 158Conquer with forbearance one who has done you harm and caused you anguish.

484Thirukural 484One can succeed in the attempt to conquer the world if the right time and the right place are chosen.

Management is all about getting things done. A smart manager would know what needs to be done, who is the best person for doing it, and the right time to get it done.

516Thirukural 516The thing to be done, the proper person for it and the appropriate time for doing it, must all be duly weighed.


Here are some guidelines on when to speak, how to speak and what to speak.

711Thirukural 711Men should weigh their words in speaking when addressing an audience.

714Thirukural 714Before brilliant people, be brilliant; before plain people, be as plain as white chalk.

715Thirukural 715The humility to maintain silence before superiors is the best of all good qualities.

Planning and Execution

The poet exhorts us to avoid procrastination.

674Thirukural 674An unfinished deed and an unfinished fight will, like a half-extinguished fire, cause ultimate harm.

675Thirukural 675Do a thing after carefully deliberating on five things – resources, means, the time, the nature of the deed, and the place.


677Thirukural 677The manner in which a thing should be done is to be determined after consulting an expert.

Getting Hired

Whether we are hiring a chartered accountant or an engineer, the cultural fit with the company is of great importance. People who sound the same based on their CVs are all different. Their value systems are determined by the family they belong to and the environment they have grown up in. Their personality traits are not the same.

Would they fit in with their immediate team members? Would they vibe well with the culture of the organization? These are some of the questions to be asked so as to ensure that we make better hiring decisions.

960Thirukural 960Out of modesty springs one’s greatness. Out of humility rises the honor of the family.

951Thirukural 951Probity and a sense of shame are virtues innate only in men of noble lineage.

The poet also exhorts us to make a hiring choice with due diligence.

509Thirukural 509Let men be chosen with deliberate care; when once the choice is made, let no suspicions crawl into your soul.

632Thirukural 632A minister should have five qualities: tenacity of purpose, birth in a respectable family, welfare of people, profound learning and perseverance.

Managing the Self

Like all spiritual texts, Thirukkural also extols the virtues of connecting with one’s inner self.

Being amiable and speaking positively helps.

93Thirukural 93To welcome one with a pleasant look and loving words is righteousness.

Helping others in a self-less manner may result into long-term loyalists getting developed. However, help rendered to an ungrateful person could be a waste of one’s time and efforts.

103Thirukural 103Help done expecting no return, if weighed, will be vaster than the sea.

105Thirukural 105Help rendered is not in terms of the return but its value depends on the receiver.

Forgetting and forgiving helps us to reduce our own stress levels.

108Thirukural 108It is not good to forget the benefit received; but it is good to forget then and there the injury done by another.

Self control is the real treasure. So is walking on the right path.

122Thirukural 122There is no greater wealth than self-control; treasure it as your wealth.
132Thirukural 132Strive hard to walk in the right path. One finds it one’s surest ally.


Loose talk, inane gossip and back-biting happen to be some of the tricks of making enemies and losing friends!

187Thirukural 187Those who alienate friends by back-biting may have forgotten the art of making friends through suavity of speech.
200Thirukural 200Speak profitable words; avoid nonsense.

Gems of General Wisdom


234Thirukural 234The wise are not favored by the gods; but the renowned on earth are adored by them.


250Thirukural 250Oppress not the weak; remember your own fate in stronger hands.


298Thirukural 298Water cleanses the body; truth cleanses the soul.

True knowledge

352Thirukural 352Men of pure vision are led from darkness to light.

Will Power

595Thirukural 595The greatness of a person is proportionate to the strength of his will power.



Laugh over your obstacles; nothing like it to push them further and further.


When it comes to cautioning leaders and managers against amorous advances within the confines of their place of work, Thirukkural is silent. However, it is interesting to note that in the Love section, it does deal with matters of romance, sex and lust. If there are observations from the view-point of the so-called sterner sex, we also find insights from the delicately nurtured amongst us. To that extent, the text may be held to demonstrate a decent level of gender parity. Chivalry is far from being dead!

Each ‘kural’ is complete in itself. It deserves to be meditated upon, one at a time, and imbibed in our day-to-day lives. One wonders at the keen observations of the poet, his sagacity and the effort he has taken to collate and compile this beautiful work, replete with words of wisdom which continue to be as relevant today as they were in the days of yore.


  1. English translations of the ‘kurals’ quoted here are courtesy Mr V R Ramachandra Dikshitar, as per the book ‘Thirukkural of Tiruvalluvar’ brought out by The Adyar Library and Research Centre of The Theosophical Society, Chennai, India; ISBN 81-85141-08-8.
  2. My sincere gratitude to various persons who enabled this multilingual compilation.
  3. An abridged version of this post also appears in my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, ISBN 978-1-4828-8850-8.)

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Is there a scope of improvement in management education? If so, how do we enrich it further?

I confess that management education is not my forte. The only exposure I have had to this exalted field was when I was at the receiving end, so to say – that is, as a MBA student myself! But, over the years, interaction with the younger managers has provided me with valuable clues as to the challenges being faced by the current crop of MBAs. This alone emboldens me to endeavor to propose what I believe could be done to enrich the process further. Of course, I do so with utmost humility at my command!

·         A 360-degree CEO View

Management education opens up one’s mind to various facets of an enterprise. However, it does so through the bifocals of a top honcho’s perspective. Upon entering the industry, a befuddled greenhorn could get a thermal shock. Most of the concepts covered in a typical MBA course appear to be irrelevant at that stage of one’s career. Depending upon an incumbent’s innate strengths and the type of opportunities one gets in one’s career, it could take around 15-20 years for one to reach a level where the first whiff of real business strategy and corporate planning etc comes one’s way.

What we need perhaps is a better emphasis on the dilemmas faced by middle level managers. This can possibly be achieved by structured interactions with management experts in the middle rung of large organizations. Case studies which are designed to showcase the types of challenges faced by middle management could also help.

A 360-degree view is absolutely fine, as long as the gondola takes us not only to a mountain top at 3,500 m in the Swiss Alps, but also delights us with the panoramic views at 1,500 m and 2,500 levels.

·         Business History

The way Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis grew up, adapting to times which ranged from British governance to the license and permit-raj days, followed by the phase of economic reforms in India, is fascinating.

If one group focused on weaving ethical values into its business operations, the other capitalized on the pent-up demand in the market. Even their approach to philanthropy was different – one ploughed back its resources by focusing on the fine arts, fundamental sciences and medical facilities, the other earned the public’s respect by constructing a string of temples and related facilities for the common man.

Dhirubhai Ambani became a darling of the masses and popularized the concept of equity investments amongst the teeming millions of India. Post economic reforms, entrants like Infosys delivered good value to shareholders and employees in the newly emerging knowledge economy of India.

Examples abound from the international business arena as well. One is not talking merely of legends like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs here. Alfred D. Chandler’s ‘The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business’, and Charles Wilson’s ‘History of Unilever’ offer great insights into the field of business history.

While pursuing business history, one comes across entrepreneurial heroes as well as exploitative villains and empire builders as well as corporate raiders. A truly enriching exposure for a wannabe entrepreneur and/or an intra-preneur!

·         Lessons from Scriptures

Whether it is Ramayana, Mahabharat, Thirukkural or Chanakya’s Artha Shastra, there is a rich repertoire of management strategy as well as tactics enshrined in our scriptures. Each one contains gems of wisdom which can be put to effective use by management institutes which are already waking up to utilizing the wealth of wisdom available in literature to drive home some key management concepts.

The story of Lord Rama teaches us about waging a war with very limited resources. It also tells us about succession planning, ideal management practices based on fair and impartial conduct of those in power, humility, besides covering several other concepts.

Mahabharat can teach us about the perils of attachment to one’s near and dear ones in life/career, merit taking precedence over pedigree in promotions, tactical retreats in the face of imminent disaster and the risks of hasty decision making sans careful thought, to name only a few. Bhagavat Gita is full of practical wisdom for those aspiring to become professional managers.

Thirukkural tells us about the duties of a king and so does Chanakya Neeti.

For grooming business leaders who have a strong sense of values embedded in their thought processes, our scriptures are an invaluable resource.

·         Finishing

For those who are aspiring for a global career, the main cultural differences between different continents of the world can improve the value-add of management education. Dining habits, etiquette and manners followed by diverse cultures across the globe can also be incorporated in consultation with institutes of learning in the field of hospitality and tourism management.

Observing and following the organization’s culture when kick-starting one’s career, protocols of behaving with seniors, peers and subordinates and do’s and don’ts of e-manners to be followed while handling e-mails, etc. can also be driven home.

Some of the above could be immensely useful to students who step into management education with socially disadvantaged sections of our society. Covering such areas would tend to make this field more inclusive in nature.

·         A Focus on Follower-ship As Well

‘Leadership’ is a favorite topic in management. We have a rich literature providing invaluable insights into various aspects of leadership. Somehow, the traits of ‘Follower-ship’ have not merited much attention at the hands of management gurus and academics. As a discipline, does management education not need to create good followers as well? After all, a leader without a gang of followers could end up being pretty clueless!

The harsh reality is that an overwhelming majority of MBAs would turn out to be followers. If a leader is expected to have charisma, a follower needs to have common sense. If a leader leads by example, the follower realizes that blind faith could mislead the team. If a leader is supposed to be adept at resolving inter-personal conflicts, a follower is expected to work harmoniously with other team members.

Most business leaders today concur that planning is relatively easy; their real challenge lies in flawless implementation. Now, if a leader lays out a strategic vision backed by meticulous planning, smooth   implementation can only come through a bevy of hard-working followers.

·         Yoga and Meditation

Physical and mental fitness is a sine qua non to do well in one’s career. Institutions training the managers for tomorrow can figure out innovative ways to bring in these elements as well into the management education curriculum.

It appears that we would do well to beef up conceptual knowledge imparted in management courses with skills and values that would make MBAs more competitive and more balanced in their approach to real issues in the industry.

The managers of management education (in India, as also elsewhere) may find some merit in the above propositions.  


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