Kaniyan Poongunranar, also Poongundranar or Pungundranar (Tamil: கணியன் பூங்குன்றனார், Kaṉiyan Pūngunṟanār ?), literally Poongunranar was an influential Tamil philosopher from the Sangam age. His name Kaniyan implies that he was an astronomer as it is a Tamil word referring Mathematics. He was born and brought up in Mahibalanpatti, a village panchayat in the Thiruppatur taluk of Sivaganga district in the Tamil Nadu state of India. He composed two poems in Puṟanāṉūṟu and Natrinai respectively.His famous Tamil quote "Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir" is at present depicted in the United Nations Organisation.
யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்
தீதும் நன்றும் பிறர்தர வாரா
நோதலும் தணிதலும் அவற்றோ ரன்ன
சாதலும் புதுவது அன்றே, வாழ்தல்
இனிதென மகிழ்ந்தன்றும் இலமே முனிவின்
இன்னா தென்றலும் இலமே, மின்னொடு
வானம் தண்துளி தலைஇ யானாது
கல் பொருது மிரங்கு மல்லல் பேரியாற்று
நீர்வழிப் படூஉம் புணைபோல் ஆருயிர்
முறை வழிப் படூஉம் என்பது திறவோர்
காட்சியில் தெளிந்தனம் ஆகலின், மாட்சியின்
பெரியோரை வியத்தலும் இலமே,
சிறியோரை இகழ்தல் அதனினும் இலமே. (புறம்: 192)
To us all towns are one, all men our kin,
Life's good comes not from others' gifts, nor ill,
Man's pains and pain's relief are from within,
Death's no new thing, nor do our bosoms thrill
When joyous life seems like a luscious draught.
When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem
This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft
Borne down the waters of some mountain stream
That o'er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain
Tho' storms with lightning's flash from darkened skies.
Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !
We marvel not at the greatness of the great;
Still less despise we men of low estate.
Kaniyan Poongundran, Purananuru - 192
(Translated by G.U.Pope, 1906)
He rejected division of mankind into various categories and emphasised the universality of all men. The Tamil bards and intellectualists of the time of Kaniyan Pungunranar and those preceding his age considered that all men, whatever their rank or station in life, were alike.
Although the opening line sounds like a herald of "universalism" and the oneness of human beings everywhere, a reading of the subsequent lines of this poem from Purananuru reveals a totally different context and meaning of the opening line. The rest of the poem pictures the illusory and transient nature of life with its pains and pleasures, moving along pre-ordained track according to natural order , rather like a fragile raft going down a mountain stream in stormy weather. The poem concludes with the statement " as we have heard great minds explaining this universal truth to us , we are neither overawed by the greatness of mighty people nor repulsed by people of lower state in life" . Very fine poetry of material and stoic philosophy , reminding one , perhaps , of Grey's elegy- but not of "cosmopolitanism" as many might like to believe.
Pungunranar states that the wooden log is carried by the water in its direction and similarly postulates that everything in life will also follow Natural law. This he calls 'Way of Order'(Tamil: முறை வழி, muṟai vazhi ?).
Principles of the Way of Order
Throughout his poem he lays down the principles of his version of natural law. The first part of the poem deals with the basic principles of the 'Way of Order'(Tamil: முறை வழி, muṟai vazhi ?) which is his term for natural law.
- Every human of every town is of the same value because they are கேளிர் (related). Hence, all people should be bound by one, same moral and legal code.
- நன்று (good) and தீது (evil) do not come from others. Hence, humans are liable for both the pleasure and suffering they feel.
- Death is a natural part of the cycle of life, it is not new. Hence, this life must be made use of to its full potential.
- Yet, life should neither be full of pleasure (மகிழ்ச்சி), nor full of storms (புயல்) [of suffering]. Hence, life should be full of plenitude.
Allegory of the raft
He further goes onto explain these principles with an example of a raft.
- He compares birth to lightning, suggesting it can happen spontaneously anywhere.
- He gives an example of a raft which is allegorical to human life going downstream a steep hill, having a perilous journey through boulders and faces its climax just as in திறவோர் காட்சியில் (lit. Wisemen's vision means fate) which is death.
- He concludes that since everyone's life is like the raft's journey, it is irrational to magnify the பெரியோ[ர்] (accomplished people) and even worse to diminish சிறியோ[ர்](less accomplished people), because everyone goes through similar tribulations whatever their social estate might be.
He was extremely influential in the revivalist Self-respect movement. The first sentence of his poem has been adopted as the motto of the World Tamil Confederation to represent Tamil people.