They’ve Come Up With ‘Thirukural.AI’ — Here Is How Our Conversation Went – Swarajya

5 minutes, 58 seconds Read

On 20 February 2024, the Tamil edition of the newspaper, The Hindu, reported that a generative AI-bot has been launched at the event ‘KaniTamizh-24’.


World’s Leading High-rise Marketplace

‘KaniTamizh-24’ was a three-day international conference, organised by the Tamil Nadu Government on 8, 9, and 10 February. The report further stated that the AI-bot could provide the user with commentaries for each of the 1330 couplets in the celebrated Tamil literary work, the Thirukkural.

The commentaries were based on, according to the order provided by the news report, those of the late M.Karunanidhi (former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu), Parimelazhakar (the most celebrated of the traditional commentators), Solomon Pappaya (a Tamil professor and famous for presiding over witty debates) and Mu Varadarasan (1912-1974) a respected modern Tamil scholar.

The report further claimed that the bot could also function in a conversational style.

Importance of Thirukkural

Written around 2,000 years ago, the 1,330 couplets of the Thirukkural are divided into 130 chapters in three major divisions which correspond to Dharma, Artha and Kama.

The book exhibits a universality with respect to all the spiritual traditions of the Hindu family of religions. Notably, it contains a strong Vedic undertone, in the most expansive meaning of the term ‘Vedic’.

Since colonial times, the Dravidianist movement has tried to portray Thirukkural as the text of their ideology. The book gets promoted as the civilisational text of Dravidianism and is said to be ‘neutral’ – a universal text not belonging to any one religion but to all humanity.

On its part, the Thirukkural does not allow itself to be straight-jacketed into such twentieth-century notions.

For example, the Thirukkural makes a person’s conduct the basis of him/her becoming immortal and not believing in any text. This is more consistent with the pan-Hindu value system than with the Christian-Islamic worldview.

Apart from mentioning Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Thirukkural also makes Vedic yajna an important metaphor for good deeds.

Nevertheless, the innovative harmonising of this great literary and ethical treasure of Tamils and AI-technology is to be appreciated by every well-meaning Tamil. Irrespective of the agenda, it is a significant step in the right direction.

Given all of this, I decided to use this chat-bot to nurture my knowledge of the Thirukkural and see how the AI resolves my queries.

To begin with, I asked the bot if it can give a Kural related to the Vamana Avatara. The bot responded:

Setting aside the factual error, it’s important to acknowledge how the added commentary about begging attempts to portray Valluvar as critical of the Vamana Avatar.

I straight away asked with the Kural reference: ‘What is the meaning of Kural No. 610?’

It replied:

I persisted. What about the term Valluvar uses, ‘Adialanthan,’ meaning ‘one who measured with his feet’.

Then the AI did the strangest thing.

Thirukkural has ten verses in the beginning as invocation to the Divine. It took the fourth verse of these first ten verses and applied the word ‘Adi’ (meaning Holy Feet) to this verse and said:

Then I decided to ask another question. What about Velvi (Vedic yajna)? AI-bot answered promptly:

This was too much. So I asked what about Kural 87. And it answered:

Now I veered the conversation to some touchy issues.

What about the second part of the famous Thirukkural No. 972?

The first part of this Kural says that all are born equal. This part is trumpeted by Dravidianists as an example of the difference between the ‘Aryan’ ideology of birth-based inequality and Dravidianist egalitarianism. That is the reason I chose to give the second part. Now the AI said:

I decided to give the Kural number directly. And it said:

Next, I asked about the term ‘Piraoppzhukkam’ literally meaning ‘birth-conduct.’

One should remember that the term itself is mentioned in Thirukkural 134. But what AI-bot brought was shocking:

Now, I decided to be merciful with the AI-bot. I just asked it to give the meaning of Kural-134. And it said:

So in conclusion, one needs to say that the team should have put in a better effort. It is quite sad to see that the AI-bot was not even able to make a simple search and provide a correct answer. The designers have done a job that is neither thoroughly professional nor complete in itself.

They should have given more time to AI programming to mind the different connections that exist within the text and with the real Indian philosophical context rather than try to straight-jacket Kural into their narrow domains of Dravidianist ideology.

Link for Thirukural.AI is here.

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

Similar Posts