Thiruvalluvar (Tamil: திருவள்ளுவர்) is a celebrated Tamil poet who wrote the Thirukkural, an ethical work in Tamil literature. He is claimed by both the Tamils who practice Hinduism and the Tamils who practice Jainism as their own. Nevertheless, some consider him as a Jain showing internal textual evidence from Thirukural.
Both Thiruvalluvar's faith and identity are disputed. His disputed identity includes a low-caste Hindu(Paraiyar), Jain, Buddhist, high-caste Hindu, Brahmin and half-Brahmin.
Most of the Researchers and great Tamil Scholars like George Uglow Pope or G.U. Pope who had spent many years in Tamil Nadu and translated many Tamil texts into English, which includes Thirukkural, Karl Graul (1814–1864) had already by 1855 characterized the Tirukkural as 'a work of Buddhist hue'. In this connection it was then of particular interest that Thiruvalluvar, It should be noted that Graul could have been subsuming the Jains also under the name of the Buddhists (Graul 1865: xi note). The name Valluvan was/is a common name representing his caste/occupation rather than his proper name. The Priests are called valluvan.
There are a few legends abound about the birthplace of Thiruvalluvar. One legend associates him to Madurai, the ancient capital of the Pandya rulers who vigorously promoted Tamil literature. According to another he was born and lived in Mylapore, a part of present day Chennai city and travelled to Madurai to submit his work, the Thirukural, for approval of the king (Pandian) and his college of poets.
There are, also, traditional stories citing the Tamil Sangam of Madurai (the assembly/conference of eminent scholars and researchers conducted on a regular basis) as the authority through which Thirukkural was introduced to the world. Thiruvalluvar might have spent most part of his life in Madurai because it was under Pandia rulers that many Tamil poets flourished. There are also recent claim by Kanyakumari Historical and Cultural Research Centre (KHCRC) that Valluvar was a king who ruled Valluvanadu in the hilly tracts of Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu.
Thirukkural is one of most revered works in the Tamil. It consists of 133 athikarams or chapters. Each athikaram consists of 10 kurals (rhyming Tamil couplets) thus making 1330 kurals in total. Each couplet consists of four seers in the first line and three seers in the second. A seer is a single or a combination of more than one Tamil word. The first Kural is Agara Muthala Ezhuthellam Aathi; Bagavan Muthatrey Ulagu.
Thirukkural is divided into three sections. Section one deals with Aram doing things, with conscience and honor, for the good of the less fortunate, the second discusses Porul realities or facts of life, and the third dwells on Inbam the pleasures that a man and a woman experience in the course of their relationship. There are 38 chapters in the first section, 70 chapters in the second and 25 chapters in the third section.
There is a huge (133 feet tall) statue of Thiruvalluvar showing his first three fingers. The statue is carved out of rock and erected at the southern tip of India (Kanyakumari) where the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean confluence. The 133 ft denotes Thirukkural's 133 athikarams and the show of three fingers, to denote the three themes Aram, Porul, and Inbam.