In his autobiography, Gandhi wrote “A Gujarati didactic stanza likewise gripped my mind and heart. Its precept ‘return good for evil’ became my guiding principle. It became such a passion with me that I began numerous experiments in it.”
For a bowl of water give a goodly meal:
For a kindly greeting bow thou down with zeal:
For a simple penny pay thou back with gold:
If thy life be rescued, life do not withhold.
Thus the words and actions of the wise regard;
Every little service tenfold they reward.
But the truly noble know all men as one,
And return with gladness good for evil done.
The resemblance of this Gujarati poem to the chapters in Thirukkural on “செய்நன்றியறிதல்” (Gratitude) and “இன்னாசெய்யாமை” (refraining from harmful deeds) is striking.
Particularly these kurals :
The way to punish those who harmed us
is to shame them by doing them good.
Those who know the true value of a favour, will see
for the quantum of favour, a tree, where there was a grain.
No wonder, Gandhi later said : “I wanted to learn Tamil, only to enable me to study Valluvar’s Thirukkural through his mother tongue itself…. It is a treasure of wisdom…”
As I had written in this note, I have been doing my own version of Thirukkural translation on a public Facebook page. If you are interested in knowing more about Thirukkural, you can follow this page, or choose to read any of the numerous translations, already available.