Tribune ( (Sri Lanka) Oct. 23, 1965: Valluvar -2 ON PRINCES and STATECRAFT

By A.N.Kandasamy [ This is the second article in the Series on Valluvar by A.N.Kandasamy. –  Editor, Tribune ]

Let US in this article traverse the second section of Valluvar, the section on Politics and Wealth where he puts forward his theories on statecraft and the art of  government. In this section Valluvar resembles Machiavalli of The Prince and Kautiliya of the Arthashastra. The ethics he advocates for the individual in the first section ( அறம் ) is swept aside to make room for new norms of behaviour for the Prince. What is good enough for the individual is neither enough or good for the ruler of  a country.  Cold realism prompts him to seek new attitudes, practical attitudes that will help to further the interests of the state and the community. For example Valluvar considers non-killing as a supreme virtue in the individual  and says as follows in his chapter on non – killing:

Let no one do that which  would destroy the life of  another, although he should by so doing, lose his very own life. – Kural 327.

But non-killing is a good ideal for the individual it is not so for the guardian of the state. In this too he differs from the pure moralist teachings of the Buddha, Jesus and Mahavira.

A STATE is an instrument of force and derives its power only from its punitive laws, the army and the police. Valluvar fully realises this and advocates the creation of  a powerful army, an efficient secret police and death to criminals. On the last subject Valluvar says as follows:-

A king’s punishment of criminals with death is comparable to the pulling up of the weeds in the green fields. – Kural 550

From this another aspects of Valluvar’s thought too is clearly seen by us. To him there are no eternal truths in a changing , dynamic and evolutionary world. What is  correct in a certain environment  is not so correct in another. In this wee see that he has affinities with modern dialectical materialism too.

LISTED BELOW are a few of the striking political aphorisms of Valluvar. To the pure ideologies they should appear as stinking of hypocrisy, double dealing and  even meanness. but then Valluvar , as Bertrand Russell says  of machiavalli, does not advocate villainy as a principle. However the necessity of questionable methods  from the point of view of pure idealism for success in the field of statecraft is not to be  ruled out. Here Valluvar too is an apostle of commonsense as the great  Kautiliya.

The glorious ones of wrath enkindled.

make no outward show
At once; they bide their time
while hidden fires within
them glow – Kural 487

As the crane stands with folded wing
so wait in waiting hour;
And as the crane snaps its prey
when fortune smiles put
forth your power – Kural 490

Let a king consider as his
eyes these two things , the espionage service and
the universally esteemed book of laws. – Kural 581

The spies should watch all men, to wit those who are in the king’s employment, his relatives and his enemies. – Kural 584

The information brought by one spy should b tested by comparing it with the information brought by another spy before accepting it.  – Kural 589

One spy must not another see;
contrive it so.
And things by three confirmed
as truth you know.  – Kural 691

Knowing the king’s disposition and seeking the right time the Minister should in a pleasing  manner suggest things  such as are desirable and not disagreeable to the

king. – Kural 696

With stronger than thyself
Turn from the strife away
With weaker shun not
Rather court the fray. – Kural 861

He who is alone and helpless while his foes are two, should woo one of them and make him his sweet friend. – Kural 875

Destroy the thorn, while tender point can work no offence;
Matured by time it will pierce the hand that plucks it thence. – Kural 879

Courtesy: Tribune October 23, 1965 (SriLanka)