History of Nalatiyar
The composition of the poems is narrated by a popular tale which states that eight thousand Jain ascetics lived in the mountain regions of the Tamil nation. Affected by the famine, the Jain monks migrated to the capital of the Pandya rulers, Madurai, where they were welcomed and supported by the Pandya king. Eventually the got engaged with Tamil research. After a few years, the effects of famine in their homeland had reduced and they expressed their wish to return to the Pandya ruler. But as the Pandya king denied giving his consent, on a certain night, the monks left Madurai without informing the king. But before their departure, all the eight thousand Jain ascetics composed one poem each in Venpa meter and kept it in their dwellings. When the king was informed of the Jain ascetics' departure on the following morning, he was disheartened and commanded that the poems written on palm leaves be thrown into the river. Only four hundred of the eight thousand palm leaves sailed against the river current. The king accumulated only those four hundred leaves and edited those with the title Nalatiyar.
The Tamil poetic work was edited later on the pattern of Tirukkuralby Patumanar. Consequently, Nalatiyar comprises of 3 segments as well, namely, Love, Wealth and Virtue; each segment contains various chapters. An English missionary named G.U. Pope translated the entire poetic work into English.
The value of the Nalatiyar lies in giving portraits with a literary essence even on obscure subjects such as the uncertainty of life. The literary work depicts the impermanence of youth, position and wealth. It also focuses on the duty of an individual in ordinary life.