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AuthorVarious Jain poets
Working titleNaladiyar
LanguageOld Tamil
SubjectSecular ethics
PublishedPalm-leaf manuscript of the Tamil Sangam era (dated variously between 300 BCE and 7th century CE)
Topics in Sangam literature
Sangam literature
Akattiyam Tholkāppiyam
Eighteen Greater Texts
Eight Anthologies
Aiṅkurunūṟu Akanāṉūṟu
Puṟanāṉūṟu Kalittokai
Kuṟuntokai Natṟiṇai
Paripāṭal Patiṟṟuppattu
Ten Idylls
Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai Kuṟiñcippāṭṭu
Malaipaṭukaṭām Maturaikkāñci
Mullaippāṭṭu Neṭunalvāṭai
Paṭṭiṉappālai Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai
Poruṇarāṟṟuppaṭai Ciṟupāṇāṟṟuppaṭai
Related topics
Sangam Sangam landscape
Tamil history from Sangam literature Ancient Tamil music
Eighteen Lesser Texts
Nālaṭiyār Nāṉmaṇikkaṭikai
Iṉṉā Nāṟpatu Iṉiyavai Nāṟpatu
Kār Nāṟpatu Kaḷavaḻi Nāṟpatu
Aintiṇai Aimpatu Tiṉaimoḻi Aimpatu
Aintinai Eḻupatu Tiṉaimalai Nūṟṟu Aimpatu
Tirukkuṛaḷ Tirikaṭukam
Ācārakkōvai Paḻamoḻi Nāṉūṟu
Ciṟupañcamūlam Mutumoḻikkānci
Elāti Kainnilai

The Nālaṭiyār (Tamil: நாலடியார்) is a Tamil poetic work of didactic nature belonging to the Eighteen Lesser Texts (Patiṉeṇkīḻkaṇakku) anthology of Tamil literature. This belongs to the post Sangam period corresponding to between 100 and 500 CE. Nālaṭiyār contains 400 poems, each containing four lines. Every poem deals with morals and ethics, extolling righteous behaviour.


The term Naladiyar is derived from the Tamil terms Nalu, a colloquial form of Naangu meaning “four”, adi meaning metrical feet or poetic metre, and aar referring to a honorific suffix. Thus Naladiyar refers to the work that contains four-lined verse. The work is also termed Naaladi Naanooru, meaning "four hundred quatrains," since it has 400 verses in total.

Didactic nature[edit]

Nālaṭiyār was composed by Jain monks.[1] It is divided into three sections, the first section focusing on the importance of virtuous life, second section on the governance and management of wealth, and the third smaller section on the pleasures.

Nālaṭiyār is unique in the employment of similes, which help to teach the moral codes using simple examples from daily life. For example, one of the poems states that just like a calf placed in front of a vast herd of cows seeks out its mother unerringly and attaches itself, the deeds of the past home in on the doer and exact their price unfailingly.

Commentaries and translations[edit]

Naladiyar remains the highly praised ancient didactic text in Tamil next only to the Tirukkural. Several commentaries have appeared on the text, which includes three ancient commentaries. The three ancient commentaries were those by Padumanar, Dharumar (who has also written commentary on the Tirukkural), and an anonymous poet.[2]

The Nalidiyar was translated into English by G. U. Pope and F. J. Leeper.


The Naladiyar is next only to the Tirukkural in fame among the Tamil literary works. Along with the Tirukkural, it is one of the first books published in Tamil, when it came to print from palm leaf manuscripts for the first time in 1812.[3] There is an old Tamil proverb praising the Nālaṭiyār that says "Nālaṭiyār and the Tirukkural are very good in expressing human thoughts just as the twigs of the banyan and the neem trees are good in maintaining the teeth."

ஆலும் வேலும் பல்லுக்குறுதி; நாலும் இரண்டும் சொல்லுக்குறுதி.
(Aalum vaelum pallukkuruthi; naalum irandum sollukkuruthi)
Literal translation: "Banyan and neem maintain oral health; Four and Two maintain moral health."
(Here "Four" and "Two" refer to the quatrains and couplets of Nālaṭiyār and Tirukkuṛaḷ, respectively.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sheldon Pollock 2003, p. 293.
  2. ^ Aravindan, M. V. (2018). உரையாசிரியர்கள் [Uraiaasiriyargal] (in Tamil) (8 ed.). Chennai: Manivasagar Padhippagam. p. 332.
  3. ^ Kovaimani and Nagarajan, 2013, p. 184.