Avvaiyyar was a notable female poet of the Ninth century. She is popular for her amazing poetry whichcontains moral instructions. She was also a respectable and noble saint of that time. Her real name is unknown. But her poems are still has the importance and popularity in Tamil Nadu. Most of the children learn her poetry during their education in Tamil language. Avvaiya means respectable old lady or Grandmother.
Avvaiyar lived during the time of Kambar and Ottakoothar. Tamil people describe her as an intelligent old lady. She wrote many poems that has moral value and importance till now. Even many of her poems are included in the school text books of Tamil Nadu. May be children don’t understand every meaning of the poem but later in their life they understand how these poems can help them in their life. The text books also included a list of what to do and what not to do in life. These morals are arranged in simple and short sentences that are useful for daily life. On that time, poetry had a special purpose of spreading moral instructions among the ordinary people of villages.
The life of the famous poet was not at all pleasant. Avvaiyar was born in a Tamil Brahmin family. Her father Bhagavan was Brahmin and her mother Adi was the member of untouchables or Dalit. When Avvaiyar was born, that time her father was on a spiritual journey. Her parents decided to left the child behind and continue their journey. A poet was passing from that place and he noticed the lone child. He took her with him.
Avvaiyar was interested and showed deep passion towards poetry from the early age. She started writing poetry at the age of four. Even she was able to complete a difficult stanza in that early age. On those days, many highly educated notable person failed to write such stanzas. She has few collections of poems. But those poems are easily understandable and people love to remind her poems.
From the childhood, Avvaiyar was fond of Lord Ganesha. She always does her prayer for the blessings of poetry, music and drama. When she grew up she accomplished her education and became highly talented in the field of poetry. Her inner qualities increased and complement her intelligence. But according to Tamil people, she received many marriage proposals and continuously pressurized for marriage. That time she asked Lord Ganesha to change her and abolish her beauty. God heard her prayer and changed her into an old woman. She was extremely thankful to the God for his generosity and greeted him with a song, which was equal to the Vedas.
After this change, she began her journey as a traveller and observed the life of common man. She used her knowledge, inspiration and social ethics into her poetry. She had lots of love towards the common man and she admired their simple life. She didn’t like the approach of rich people. These all were included in her poems. Her poems tell us about the common people and their life. She also included few morals, dos and don’ts’, simple ways to live a happy life etc.
It is believed that Avvaiyar did not die normally. She went to the Kailash, the house of Lord Ganesha.
Another believes said that, Avvaiyar was the court poet of Chola monarch and she was the contemporary of Kamber and Ottakkuttar. She gave happiness in the life of children by her writing. She wrote Atticcuti and Konraiventhan for children. The Atticcuti contains single line quotations on moral instructions. These 109 lines are simply expressed the instructions. It teaches good habit and discipline. Such as, “don’t forget gratitude”, “Never degrade learning”, “intend to do right deeds”. These are very popular among Tamil children. They enjoyed her writing. She wrote Mooturai and Nalvali for older children. These are philosophical moral instructions which have importance till date.
Most of the information about the poet is unknown. In fact, the information about her life is not reliable enough. She has only these untitled small stanzas of poems and some moral instructions. Her real name was still unknown. The given name Avvaiyar is also common. There was another Tamil female poet who has this name. The only clues of information are her poetry. One can understand the poet by studying her writing. She was sincere and closely attached with the pure natural world. She travelled a lot during her life time. She was proud about her work and sometimes she lost her temperament.
Everyone in Tamil Nadu is aware of her wring and poetry. Children learned alphabet through her poetry. Then they move to the stanzas. These poetries are unforgettable. Many Tamil adults still can remember few stanzas of her writing. People don’t remember these stanzas for they had learned these in their childhood with full concentration, but they remember these because of its easily understandable nature and its values in life.
Avvaiyar’s poems are not devotional. These poems are simple, strong and perfect for everyday life. These poems are all about hardship of life, physical desires and parameters of choosing a real friend. They deal with the common people who are needy, honest. She never tolerates the arrogance of rich people.
The American publication Red Hen Press published a selection of Avvaiyar’s poems in 2009. It was named ‘Give, Eat and Live: Poems by Avvaiyar’. The poems were collected, edited and translated by Thomas Pruiksma. He discovered Avvaiyar’s poems while he was on Fulbright Scholarship at The American College in Madurai in Tamil Nadu. It is very upsetting that ‘Give, Eat and Live: poems of Avvaiyar’ is the only translation that are available in English. Avvaiyar was a poet of World standard beside ‘Tao Te Ching’ and the’ Dhammapada’. This collection is very thin collection and its does not contain the total work of Avvaiyar. If you deduct the opposite pages of Tamil pages, then there are only twenty pages of poetry are available.