This section is from the book "Some Contributions Of South India To Indian Culture", by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Also available from Amazon: Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture.
Among the number of works and collections that have come down to us from this remote period, most of which have a character of their own, the Kural of Tiruvajluvar stands easily preeminent as a peculiarly Tamil classic. The word "Kural" means no more than short literally, because the whole work is composed of stanzas in the aphoristic couplets of 4 and 3 feet respectively; hence the name Kural. It is actually composed of 1330 of these stanzas divided into 133 chapters. These are again thrown into three larger groups which give another name for the work muppal (trvarga, three kinds). This division into three consists of three out of four divisions which go by the name "objects of life: (purushartha). This is supposed to be a peculiarity of that work. It is a peculiarity no doubt, but not so characteristic of Tamil as there is a corresponding division known to the Sanskritists who speak of the trvarga which is the exact equivalent of muppal. It can be described as a didactic work the purpose of which is to enforce the teachings of ethics common to all religions then obtaining in India, so that whatever might be the actual persuasion adopted by the individual he would still find a guide for conduct in life in this work. Being thus eclectic in character, Buddhists, Jains and Brahmans claimed the work as relating to their particular form of religion, while there are not people wanting who would see in the work an anti-Brahmanical character, recognising it at the same time as relating to the religion of the Hindus.
The four objects of life are, as is well-known, Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (Love) and Moksha (Salvation). The work of course gives Tamil names for these respectively Aram, Porul, Inbam and Vidu, which are the exact Tamil equivalants of the corresponding Sanskrit terms. The author omits any elaborate treatment of the last for the very logical reason that that is not a subject which lends itself to didactic treatment, being unearthly in its character. If the first three objects of life are attained by adopting a moral life, the other follows inevitably in consequence. Hence the omission of the fourth in this. The book devotes 34 chapters of the 133 to righteousness taking into it all the four stages of disciple, householder, a retired life and that of the hermit, the four well-known Brahmanical divisions of life.
Of these the life of the house-holder comes in for elaborate treatment naturally in 20 chapters. Then follows forest life treated in 10 and lastly comes the life of renunciation dealt with in 3 chapters; one chapter is devoted to the study of fate. Following this comes the part relating to life in society which presupposes some kind of Government. In this section particularly, the indebtedness to the Arthasastra of Chanakya stands out clear. Almost the same division of treatment happens to be followed as in Kaman-daka's Niti Sastra if not the Artha Sastra itself.
The section on King is treated in 25 chapters, ministers in 10, the country, fortifications and royal wealth each in one chapter, army in two, alliance in 5, enmity in 6 and other miscellaneous matters relating to the conduct of the king, the conduct of subjects, the conduct of agriculture, etc., in 19 chapters making a total of 70 chapters for this section out of the 133. Cominglto the section on love the division follows the characteristic flora, the feelings evoked and the actions resulting therefrom. These are all treated in the remaining 25 chapters. That the author of the Kural knew the Artha Sastra is very clearly in evidence. One Kural, as pointed out by the commentator Parimel Alahar, is not capable of interpretation properly and has actually been misread for want of knowledge of the Arthas'astra text.
Therefore then it must he posterior to the Artha Sastra. It is quoted with acknowledgment in the Manimekhalai, and, without the explicit reference, in a few places in the Silappadhika-ram, thus referring it to a period before the two. There is a collection of poems in appreciation of this work ascribed to the members of the "Third Tamil Sangam," including in it one stanza each by " the voice in the air," Sarasvati, Siva and the contemporary Pandya Uggrap-Peru-Valudi, the other 49 by the forty-nine members of the famous Academy. The fact that one of the members Sattanar actually quotes from it implies that the work had already attained to a certain amount of vogue among the learned.