How not to utter lies – described by Thiruvalluvar in his couplets Thirukkural

If somebody is interested in Tamil Literature and Thirukkural being universal book, this article is about how he dealt on truth and lies. This article describes the truth on the basis of how not to tell lies. Please read on.


The Tamil Knowing persons know about this couplet where it talks about lie to be qualified as truth in its strict sense by Thiruvalluvar. 'Poymaiyum vaaymai yidatha puraitheerndha Nanmai payakkum enin' which is second couplet in the chapter of truth while he describes about truth in the first couplet of the chapter on truth and immediately he goes to untruth and even qualify the untruth as he knows people might tend to tell lie even though he specify to lead life with truth. The meaning of this couplet says even untruth might attain the value of truth, if it is productive of unmixed good.

Truth and Untruth

Thiruvalluvar keeps his immortal Thirukkural, the worldly hood things in 133 different chapters(Adhikarams he called) and each chapter consists of 10 couplets and so the chapter on truth(Vaimai in Tamil) also consists of 10 couplets but the most clever part played by him as he know the mentality of people that it will go deep into their heart and mind only when it is said in negative and hence when he talks about truth he talks mostly about how not to tell untruth(lie) which is called as Poyyamai in Tamil.

Couplets Transliteration and translation

The first couplet which describes truth is below and in this article the transliteration of couplets in English is given first and followed by two translations verse as some people keep the translation in two lines while some keep only the essence of couplet.

Couplet 291

Vaaumai Enappaduvadhu Yaathenin Yaathondrum
Theemai Ilaatha Cholal

The term 'Truth' refers to those words which do not hurt.

You ask, in lips of men what 'truth' may be;
'Tis speech from every taint of evil free.

Among ten couplets in the chapter truth, below are the couplets talks about not to tell lies in any situation and only talk the truth.

Couplet 292

Poymaiyum Vaaymaiyeedattha Puraiteerntha
Nanmai Payakkum Enin

If anything good can be achieved without flaw,
then even untruth will take on the value of the truth.

Falsehood may take the place of truthful word,
If blessing, free from fault, it can afford.

Couplet 293

Thannenj arivadhu Poyyarka Poyathin
Thanneje Thannaich Chudum

Do not speak a lie which your own mind knows as a lie.
If such a lie is spoken, your own mind will burn in repentance.

Speak not a word which false thy own heart knows
Self-kindled fire within the false one's spirit glows.

Couplet 294

Ullatthar Poyyaa Thozhagin Ulagathaar
Ullaththu Lellam Ulan

If a man does not allow the lie-factor to even enter the mind,
he will stay in the minds of all.

True to his inmost soul who lives,- enshrined
He lives in souls of all mankind.

Couplet 296

PoyyamaiI Anna PugazhillaiI Eyaamai
Elaa Aramun Tharum

There is no state worthier than not speaking untruth.
It will bring on the benefits of a righteous life
even without his knowledge.

No praise like that of words from falsehood free;
This every virtue yields spontaneously.

Couplet 297

Poyyamai Poyyamai Aarrin Arampira
SeyyamaiI Seyyamai Nandru

If one takes to the honest practice of upholding honesty in his life,
then, not taking recourse to
the non-practice of other righteous acts is beneficial.

If all your life be utter truth, the truth alone,
'Tis well, though other virtuous acts be left undone.

Couplet 299

Ellaa Vilakkum Vilakkalla Saandrorkup
Poyya Vilakke Vilakku

All lamps which give light are not lamps.
For the noble, 'non-utterance of untruth' alone is the light.

Every lamp is not a lamp in wise men's sight;
That's the lamp with truth's pure radiance bright

From the above we can see how Thiruvalluvar thought about truth from the reasons of falsehood and hence wanted to follow the way of life by not telling lies that reflects truth and hence he gave in six couplets one should follow how not to utter untruth and he even accepting that the utterance of the 'false (non-real)' if it should be productive of good in the couplet 292 and in the couplet 297, he goes for two negatives (both in words as well as act: Poyyamai (not uttering lie through words), Seyyaamai (not doing bad acts) should also be such that it is on good thoughts and hence the double negative again to do justice to the words. Double negatives makes positive in original thought is kept in very few translation and also in very few couplets only while some other translation keeps only the direct essence and hence they have not written in validating double negatives to positive.


People are still goes with more translations as some keeps the rhythm, some keeps the original trend, some keeps the two lines but every body feels that no translation is meeting the real tempo maintained in the original with couplets(4 words in first line and 3 words in second line) and also the rhythm. To taste the rhythm, people are even learning the language of Tamil.


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