Thiruvalluvar is a celebrated Tamil poet who wrote the Thirukkural, a well known ethical work in Tamil literature. He is claimed by both the Tamils who practice Hinduism and the Tamils who practice Jainism as their own. Thiruvalluvar has been considered to be a Jain citing internal textual evidence from Thirukural.
Both Thiruvalluvar’s faith and identity are disputed. His disputed identity includes a low-caste Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, crypto-Christian, high-caste Hindu, Brahmin and half-Brahmin.
There are little or no clues available to trace Thiruvalluvar’s background. However, according to one of the legends, Valluvar was the son of a Brahmin father (Bhagavan) and an ‘untouchable’ mother (Adi). Further, it is said that he was abandoned as a child to be picked up by a Vellala (high non-Brahmin, landowning caste) woman who named him ‘Tiru-Valluvar’. Following objections by her neighbors , the Vellala woman too abandoned Valluvar to be picked up this time by a family of Paraiyars (untouchables). It is said that he later moved to Mylapore (part of Chennai, now) where he worked as a weaver. The name Valluvan might have been a common name representing his caste/occupation rather than his proper name. Even today, the people who earn a living by textile weaving trace their ancestry to the caste of Thiruvalluvar. However, the question of whether the author of Thirukkural (Valluvan) is named after his community or vice versa remains unanswered.
The name Thiruvalluvar (ThiruValluvar) consists of Thiru (a polite Tamil word, equivalent to English Mr.) and Valluvar (a polite name for Valluvan, according to Tamil tradition).
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 Tamilnadu.
Thiruvalluvar was taking cold rice in the morning. He said to his wife: “Vasuki, the rice is very hot. Bring a fan to cool it”. Thiruvalluvar’s wife was drawing water from the well when Thiruvalluvar called her. She at once left the rope and ran to him with a fan to cool the rice. She did not say to her husband: “How can the cold rice be hot? Why do you want a fan now?”. She simply obeyed his commands. The vessel that contained water was hanging half-way in the well unsupported, on account of her Pativrata Dharma Shakti. The aspirants noticed this phenomenon and the noble conduct of Vasuki and were simply struck with amazement.
About midday, on another occasion, Valluvar called his wife and said, “Bring a lamp immediately, O Vasuki! I am stitching the cloth. I cannot see the eye of the needle. I cannot pass the thread properly”. Vasuki did not say to her husband: “It is broad daylight now. Why do you want a lamp? You can see the eye of the needle clearly”. But she implicitly obeyed his word. The aspirants were much inspired by the ideal life of sage Thiruvalluvar and the exalted conduct of Vasuki. They did not speak a word to the saint. They took leave of the saint and quietly left the place with profound satisfaction. They were deeply impressed by the practical and exemplary life led by Thiruvalluvar and Vasuki. They learnt the lesson that the life of an ideal householder was in no way inferior to that of an ideal Sannyasin who was treading the path of Nivritti and austerity in the Himalayan caves and that each was great in its own place, time and circumstances.