Help for the Handicapped in Tamil Literature (Post No.2923)


Article written by London swaminathan


Date: 27 June 2016


Post No. 2923


Time uploaded in London :– 17-23


( Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks)





(for old articles go to OR




We read lot about the help rendered by Florence Nightingale during Crimean War. We also think that the concept of sending terminally ill patients to hospices is a western concept. Lot of help is given to handicapped, differentially talented, orphaned children, war widows by many charities and governments. All these things look like new developments in the world. But the fact of the matter is in our Puranic stories, Tamil and Sanskrit literature.


I am going to give some Tamil verses from the Tamil epic and later ethical poems.


Manimekalai is one of the five Tamil epics, where the heroine Manimekalai says,

Come on, all those who cant see, hear or walk

Sick and those who have no support


In another place she says

Those who give food is giving life.


Later books Sirupanchamulam and Ealthi are crystal clear in their call for the help of the disabled:-

Wounded, terminally ill, orphaned, blind, lame—

Those who sympathize and render help for the above will live happy for ever. (Sirupanchamulam)


The words terminally ill are important. The concept of hospice was there even during 8th century. In facts Jains conducted hospitals for animals and birds from the very beginning.


Helping the wounded was also important in those days. During the 18 day Mahabharata war every day after sunset the wounded were visited by both the sides in the war. They were given all sorts of help.


Another verse says, “bankrupt, poor, blind, elderly, frail must be helped and those who help will get four fold army and live like kings.

For fold army consists of Elephants, horses, infantry and chariots.

Here the poet has included the elderly community as well. In western countries the elderly people get help such as old age pension, free bus pass etc only now. But Tamils included them in the needy people group 1500 years ago.


old age help

The last verse is from the book Elathi:-

Orphaned children, those who lost their husbands dumb, and those who lost all their harvest, dumb and deaf, blind must be helped. Those who help such people will attain Heaven.


It is very interesting to read the list of people who received help in those days. Shravankuma of Hindu mythology carried his parents in the hanging baskets all through his life. Our children must be taught about those extraordinary people before they were taught about Florence Nightingale and Helen Keller.


There is a beautiful sloka/couplet in Sanskrit about the benefits of Anna dana, i.e. food offering to the scholars and the poor:-


“If the food offered to a learned Brahmin stays in his stomach and gets digested through Vedic recitation, his seven gotras/clans and 101 kulas (families) will go to heaven”.

Kukshau tishtati yasyaannam vedaabyaasena jiiryati

Uddaret sapta gotraani kulameka uttaram satam.


Another couplet says helping a poor, refurbishing a dilapidated temple and cremating a dead body of an orphan is equal to performing an Asvameda Yagam.


Books quoted from Tamil literature: Manimekalai, Elathi, Sirupancha Mulam.

From Sanskrit literature: Hindu Puranas, Story of Shravan kumar.



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