One of the books my Guru suggests we should all read is the Kural by Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar. No he’s not a Tamilian and he cannot read Tamil, but there are English translations (C. Rajagopalachari), so nothing to worry. We’ve discussed this book before a few times. It is a series of couplets, ~1300 of them, with amazing practical takeaways for daily life.
A question that comes to some readers is, why is everything written from a man’s perspective? And why does it sound derogatory to women? Like the ‘Life Partner’ chapter is all about duties of a woman – so men go scot-free?. And the children bit talks only about sons, not daughters. Where is the feminism and equality angle?
How should we understand this? My Guru says whatever lessons are applicable to a man should also be taken to be applicable to women, wherever relevant, using common sense. Also:
- The book was written 100s of years ago. So certain aspects may need to be re-read in that context.
- We can combine the lessons from his Amazing Simple Gita – marry it with his purports. When it says a woman must be completely devoted to her husband, we absolutely take it to read the other way as well.
- Like the Vashishta – Arundhati stars in our galaxy – where they both go around each other, unlike the Sun in our solar system, where the Sun is relatively stationary and other planets orbit around it. Wedded couples too are supposed to be going around each other, not just one being stationary at a time.
- There are negative criticisms too in the Kural. But all of those too, are directed towards men only. Like a person who is speaking harshly is referred to as a man not a woman – so in that sense, both good and bad have been treated equally.
There are some absolute gems in the book – totally not worth missing out on, and certainly not because of this gender issue!