20 proverbs on age, experience & knowledge

by | December 23, 2011

The founder of the Indian Proverbs Project shares some proverbs he has collected over the years.

Madanmohan Rao


Proverbs are witty sayings which have captured society’s learnings about the ups and downs of life over thousands of years. Here are 20 proverbs translated into English from six Indian languages, which delightfully capture the importance of elders’ knowledge and experience, as well as some of the challenges they go through:


  1. “An old patient is better than a new doctor.” – Kannada proverb
  2. “Elders’ advice is like gooseberries; at first sour then sweet.” – Malayalam proverb
  3. “Life is like a lamp flame; it needs a little oil now and then.” – Kashmiri proverb
  4. “Experience is as important for knowledge as education.” – Tamil proverb
  5. “Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow is only a vision. But today, well-lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope.” – Sanskrit proverb
  6. “The mother of a divided family has no funeral.” – Bengali proverb
  7. “Knowledge is higher than power.” – Hindi proverb
  8. “He who knows others is learned, he who knows himself is wise.” – Hindi proverb
  9. “Be like a bee, taking only the nectar from your experiences.” – Tamil proverb
  10. “We die and are reborn as we change our clothes.” – Hindi proverb
  11. “What you know is as big as the size of your palm, what you do not know is as big as the size of the universe.” – Tamil proverb
  12. “A friend is never known till the hour of need.” – Hindi proverb
  13. “There are no nuts when one has teeth and there are no teeth when there are nuts.” – Kannada proverb
  14. “Education in your childhood is like the letters in a sculpture.” – Tamil proverb
  15. “What you give away is yours and what you hide will go to others.” – Kannada proverb
  16. “You can buy everything, except a father and a mother.” – Tamil proverb
  17. “He who does not fall does not rise.” – Hindi proverb
  18. “Only the cure you believe in cures.” – Tamil proverb
  19. “He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity and enjoying life’s pleasures is like a blacksmith’s bellows; he breathes, but does not live.” – Sanskrit proverb
  20. “The small courtesies sweeten life.” – Hindi proverb


** If you have proverbs that you would like to share in Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil or any other language spoken in Singapore, please do e-mail me at madan@techsparks.com – these proverbs will be included in the forthcoming book, “Proverbs of Singapore”. Seniors in Singapore are a treasure-trove of traditional literary wit and wisdom, and we all have a lot to learn from them in preserving and promoting our cultural heritage.


Madanmohan Rao is the founder of the Indian Proverbs Project (http://IndianProverbs.in) and co-founder of the Singapore Proverbs Project (http://twitter.com/SGproverbs).


(** Photo provided by Madanmohan Rao)



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