The literary work on Tamil ethical poetics is prescribed as text for various schools in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. The poems of Elathi are outstanding in the application of similes that assist to edify the moral codes with the use of simple instances from every day life.
Composition of Elathi
Elathi (Elati) is a compilation of ethical Tamil verses which were written by the poet Kani Methaviyar. This post Sangam work is one of the 18 minor literary works in Tamil which are comprised in the Patinenkilkkanakku collection. The venpa in its variation forms constitutes as the metre of the Tamil poetic work. Elathi utilises the similarities of the conventional herbal medicine known as elathi that makes use of the roots of the six herbs, namely Elam, Ilavankap Pattai, Naagakesaram, Milagu, Thippili and Sukku. Elam refers to the spice Cardamom; Ilavankap Pattai is the herb Cinnamon; Naagakesaram is created from the stamens of the Ceylon ironwood; Milagu refers to Black Pepper; Thippili is Long Pepper and in Tamil Sukku means dried Ginger.
These herbal plants are used to cure certain problems and difficulties related to health. The well known Tamil poet Kani Methaviyar mentions these herbs as metaphors to portray six different maxims which depict the correct and proper behaviour and various moral codes that any individual should follow. The poetic work of Elathi emphasises on the importance of learning and the responsibility of a citizen in the society. One of the poems in the anthology describes six things, namely, integrity, courage fame, education, wealth and philanthropy which add magnificence and beauty to those who abide by scriptures.
The work of Elathi mentions, in simple and concise manner, the several moral and ethical codes that are essential for daily life of any person, as well as for the society.