Composition of Acarakkovai
Acarakkovai or Acharakkovai is a compilation series of ethical Tamil poems that was composed by the revered Tamil Shaiva poet Kayatturp Peruvayil Mulliyar. This post Sangam work is one of the 18 minor literary works in Tamil which are comprised in the Patinenkilkkanakku anthology series. Acarakkovai literally means the Garland of Right Conduct of the poet Kayatturp Peruvayil Mulliyar. The literary work contains evidence of being influenced by Sanskrit literary works and thus it is considered by scholars that Acarakkovai was composed in a later period, compared to other poems in the Pathinenkilkanakku collection.
The literary work of Acarakkovai or Acharakkovai contains several didactic and ethical messages which were the major characteristics of that period. The verses of the work are outstanding in the application of similes that assist to instruct about the moral codes with the implementation of simple examples from every day life. The various instructions are constructed with personal rituals and the accurate methods that every individual needs to follow. Acarakkovai contains one hundred verses and the venpa in its variation forms constitutes as its metre. The Tamil poetic work is mainly an assortment of moral sermons and advices, ritualistic traditions and performances which are regarded as appropriate and acceptable.
Eight verses follow the Patrodai venpa that is the venpa metre which contains lines of five; fifty two poems follow the Innisai Chithial venpa metre which contains three lines in each verse; thirty three poems are composed in the Innisai venpa, containing lines of four; one verses follows Kural venpa with 2 lines in a poem; one poem is written in the Cavalai venpa metre that contains four lines in each poem and the remaining five verses are composed in the Nerisai venpa that is the venpa metre which contains lines of four.
Content of Acarakkovai
The poems in Acarakkovai provide several lessons on the ethics and morals that any individual needs to follow. The character elements of a person is given adequate importance which can be improved by acquiring namely blessings of parents, respecting the five elements namely the Sun, the moon, brahmins, cows, the king and teachers and the significance of speech is also emphasized. Rules for proper eating are also mentioned, which includes eating after feeding elderly, cows, birds and children and direction of eating. Other moral teachings mentioned in the work are inviting and prostrating before elders, carry umbrella for elders, not to address elders by name, not to behave arrogantly by words or body language with elders, speaking by covering mouth, being attentive, using a proper and decent tone with elders and juniors, never deride offered food, not to self praise about rituals performed and never abuse one's spouse or wife. Other ethical rules mentioned includes feeding everyone during marriages, festivals and parental rituals, greeting everyone with gusto, not to walk between deities and brahmins or between persons and lamps etc. The way of dressing, speaking and scolding provides information about the nature of an individual. Further more, the importance of being modest is also emphasized in the poetic work.
Other than morals and ethic, twenty nine verses in the poems of Acarakkovai or Acharakkovai also describe the various taboos that existed in society during that period. Verses five to eight mention about Eccil or pollution which originates from urination, excretion, saliva, sexual contact, looking at an untouchable etc. But it does not mention about the pollutions that arise from birth and death.
Rules regarding bathing are also explained, such as during bathing in a public lake or pool, a person must not swim hastily, spit into water, see his reflection in water, scratch ground, nor wear others' clothes or soiled slippers and to wear two garments while coming out of bath. Other points mentioned are- not to sleep opposite to door step nor facing north or midway point, use of both hands while providing drinks to elders, extinguish fire with water during the day, bow towards a person who sneezes, not to excrete facing south during the day or north during night and not pass motions imagining one is facing all ten directions.
The book of Acarakkovai or Acharakkovai is pregnant with instructions and teachings in etiquette and taboos that are classificatory of any literary work that edify morals and ethics.