Yet another attempt has been made to portray the poet-saint Thiruvalluvar in Tamil Nadu by missionaries and VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan.
During the Dravidian rule, particularly when M Karunanidhi was at the helm of affairs, a new picture and idol of Thiruvalluvar was unveiled, which showed him in a white robe without sacred ash on his forehead, the sacred cotton thread (Janeu or Janoi). Yagnopaveetham (sacred thread) has been covered with cloth, chin-mudra (upadesa mudra) has been replaced with ezhuthani (an instrument that used to write on palm leaves) his way of pleating the hair, long earholes because of persistent wearing of ear-rings.
Thiruvalluvar's entire literary work has 1330 verses, and each verse is not beyond two lines (couplet), conveying the importance of the specific life topic. His work is divided into 133 sections of 10 couplets each.
Valluvar teachings are similar to those found in Artha sastra. He is a renowned Tamil poet. His literature Thirukkural has verses on ethics, politics, ahimsa, justice, economics, love, health, education, governess, friendship, and many more topics that guide a human to a dharmic life. In a nutshell, it is a universal gospel even in today's life. Earlier pictures that were in circulation depicted him in saffron attire. He looked like a hermit or sage. Thiruvalluvar is regarded as a cultural and moral icon for Tamils across caste and religious lines.
There were different opinions on his religion. Some say he was a Hindu, Jain, etc. But Dravidian parties say he has no religious identities except his Dravidian roots. The very first couplet of Thirukkural is Kadavul Valthu (Salutations to God). It is evident he was a believer in God and cannot be an atheist. There was an attempt to make a film wherein Thiruvalluvar would be featured as St. Thomas and Rajnikant was to don the lead role. On and off, there were controversies over the legacy of the ancient saint Thiruvalluvar by Dravidian parties.
In 2019, BJP tweeted a picture of Thiruvalluvar, whose white robes had been replaced with saffron, which drew protests from Dravidian and left parties. BJP leader H. Raja said in an earlier interview, "Dravidian parties who don't believe in gods had removed Hindu symbols from depictions of Thiruvalluvar. Thirukkural, the saint's collection of 1,330 couplets (or Kurals/Curals) is similar to Hindu Sasthra. The original Thiruvalluvar had vibhuti (sacred ash) and all Hindu symbols. It was Dravidar Kazhagam and DMK who changed his appearance to suit their political gains. The saint's verses and life were similar to Sanatan Dharma."
Interestingly, in 2017, the RSS national council in Coimbatore called for popularising Tamil saints and icons in the organisation's literature to help Hindutva ideology gain more visibility in Tamil Nadu. The then DMK government, led by Karunanidhi, installed a large Thiruvalluvar statue in Kanyakumari to belittle Swami Vivekananda memorial's popularity, a strong symbol of Sana tana dharma. Historian K. Thirunavukkarasu said that the picture of the Thiruvalluvar, now widely in use, depicting him in a white robe and without any religious marks, was drawn by Venugopala Sharma, who resided in Mylapore. It was first used in a stamp released by the former Union Minister, Dr K. Subbarayan.
Viduthalai Chirutaigal Katchi founder and Lok Sabha MP Chidambaram, Thol Thirumavalavan, attended a book releasing function recently. Thirumavalavan spoke, quoting from Deivanayagam's book. He said he has been researching for several decades, and he concluded that "Thiruvalluvar was a Christian and was baptised, received communion". He said, "Saivam and Vaisnavism were created by Dravidians, Tamilians. Deivanayagam has written an explanatory note to Thirukural at a new angle". In that, he said Thiruvalluvar was Christian. Thirumavalavan said Deivanayagam, in his book, claimed that the Kabaleeswar temple was razed to grounds in 1566 by Portuguese forces to build a church which is now called Santhome church. "I fear if the sana tana forces (Sangh Parivar) know this, they will try to pull it down ".
Thirumavalavan, who was believed to be converted to Christianity, maintains his SC identity to contest reserve constituencies and enjoy other benefits, stoking controversies. He said he would demolish Hindu temples in Sri Rangam, Kancheepuram, to build buddha viharas. Hindu temple towers have obscene figurines. He also said, according to Hindu manusmirithi, and all Hindu women are prostitutes.
Deivanayagam first published a book, "TIRUVALLUVAR CHIRSITHUVARAA? M (Is Thiruvalluvar Christian?) "with a foreword from Archbishop Arulappa. Deivanayagam wrote many books misinterpreting Thirukural in the Christian way, and later in the 100% church funded Christian Tamil Studies of Madras University got his P. Hd. (ARCHDIOCESAN CHRISTIAN STUDIES). His other books are -Viviliam, Thirukkural Saiva Siddhantam Oppaivu- (Tamil) Comparative Study of the Bible, Thirukkural and Saiva Siddhanta)-Ph.D. Thesis by Dr.M.Deivanayagam-University of Madras-1985.
Several attempts have been made to secularise Thiruvalluvar, destroy his original Hindu identity, and depict him as a Non-Hindu. But a deeper analysis of using words in his couplets will reveal his identity. It is a fashion for half-baked people like Thirumavalavan to comment on Hindus, their gods, and their culture, tradition in poor light and in a derogatory manner.