Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thiruppavai – 4

Oh’ God of the ocean and rains! Don’t hide any of your powers;
Enter the ocean, scoop up water and noisily ascend the skies;
Darken like the Lord of the Deluge, the Supreme Being;
Shine like the Chakra and roar like the conch
In the arms of the mighty shouldered Padhmanaban;
Like the rain of arrows shot from his bow,
pour down without delay for this earth to thrive;
So we too can bathe joyously in this month of Margazhi.

ஆழி மழைக்கண்ணா ஒன்றுநீ கைகரவேல்
ஆழிஉள் புக்கு முகந்துகொடு ஆர்த்துஏறி
ஊழி முதல்வன் உருவம்போல் மெய்கறுத்துப்
பாழிய்அம் தோளுடைப் பற்பனாபன் கையில்
ஆழி போல்மின்னி வலம்புரி போல் நின்று
அதிர்ந்து தாழாதே சார்ங்க முதைத்த சரமழைபோல்
வாழ உலகினில் பெய்திடாய் நாங்களும்
மார்கழி நீராட மகிழ்ந்தேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

Andal now tells Varuna, the God of Rains to pour down and let the world flourish. “God of the rains, don’t hide any of your powers from us. Bestow all you can on us. Enter the ocean, scoop up the water and ascend the skies noisily. Once you have taken water to the skies, become dark in colour just like the body of our Lord Vishnu, the Lord of the Deluge (Pralaya). His shoulders are majestic and beautiful. Shine like the Chakra in his right hand (lightning) and roar like the conch in his left hand (thunder) and pour down in copious quantities like the rain of arrows shot from his bow. Your rains will help this world to thrive and flourish. Do so without delay. As the rains pour down, we too will bathe joyously in this month of Margazhi”

Thiruvempavai – 4

“O’ Shiny pearl like white toothed girl! Hasn’t it dawned yet?”

“Have all my friends, who prattle sweetly like parrots, come?”

“We can do a headcount and tell you;
But don’t sleep till then and waste time;
We’d rather sing the praise of our lord –
the nectar of celestials, the essence of Vedas, pleasant to eyes –
with melting heart and dissolve in bliss; You come out and count;
if numbers fall short go back to sleep, my friend”

ஒள்நித் திலநகையாய் இன்னம் புலர்ந்தின்றோ
வண்ணக் கிளிமொழியார் எல்லாரும் வந்தாரோ
எண்ணிக்கொ டுள்ளவா சொல்லுகோம் அவ்வளவும்
கண்ணைத் துயின்றவமே காலத்தைப் போக்காதே
விண்ணுக் கொருமருந்தை வேத விழுப்பொருளைக்
கண்ணுக் கினியானைப் பாடிக் கசிந்துள்ளம்
உள்நெக்கு நின்றுருக யாம்மாட்டோம் நீயேவந்து
எண்ணிக் குறையில் துயிலேலோர் எம்பாவாய்

The girls knock at the door of their friend who is still asleep and wake her up. They say, “Come on girl, you with shiny pearl like white teeth. The sun is almost out. Hasn’t it dawned yet for you. Come let’s go and pray to our Lord” The girl wants to grasp the last few moments of sleep. So she asks from her bed itself, “Have all our friends come? Or are there still people like me who are asleep? Wake them up and then call me?” Her friends know her tricks. So they say “We can count and tell you. But don’t waste time till then and be asleep. We will rather sing the praise of our lord. He is the nectar of the celestial beings. He is the essence of Vedas. He is pleasing to the eye. We will rather praise him with melting heart and surrender to the bliss than doing a headcount for you. If you want, you come out and count. It you find the numbers short, you can go back to your sleep. For now, wake up”

Thiruppavai – 3

The Great one measured the whole universe in his stride;
As we chant his name and bathe in this month of vow –
The country will be bereft of evil; it will rain thrice a month;
Fish leap up in paddy fields amidst growing stalks of paddy;
Dotted bees fall asleep inside lily flower buds;
Benevolent cows that fill our pots with milk
as their bounteous udders are milched
will ensure lasting wealth for us, my friend!

ஓங்கி உலகளந்த உத்தமன் பேர்பாடி
நாங்கள்நம் பாவைக்குச் சாற்றிநீ ராடினால்
தீங்கின்றி நாடெல்லாம் திங்கள்மும் மாரிபெய்து
ஓங்கு பெறும்செந் நெல்ஊடு கயலுகளப்
பூங்குவளைப் போதில் பொறிவண்டு கண்படுப்பத்
தேங்காதே புக்கிருந்து சீர்த்த முலைபற்றி
வாங்க குடம் நிறைக்கும் வள்ளல் பெரும்பசுக்கள்
நீங்காத செல்வம் நிறைந்தேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

The girls pep themselves up by counting the benefits of chanting Narnayanan’s name. “He grew up in size to measure all three worlds in just two strides. Chanting his name and bathing early during this month of vow will bring us numerous benefits. The cobereft of untry will be free of evil. It will rain thrice a month country wide and be beneficial for farming. Paddy fields will be filled with water so much that tiny fish will leap up amidst growing stalks. Lily flowers will bloom in these fields and dotted bees will fall asleep inside these flowers. Because of rains, meadows will be green and our cows will be well fed. The bounteous udders of cows are full of milk and they fill our pots till it overflows, thus ensuring lasting wealth for us. These are the benefits of chanting our Lord’s name, my friend!”

Thiruvempavai – 3

“Oh’ pearly white toothed girl! You said you’ll wake up early
to sweetly chant “My lord, my sweetheart, my elixir”;
wake up  and open your door now!”

“O’ good mannered girls! You observe ten practices*!
You’re senior devotees of Eesan; Will you not bear
with slip ups of new devotees and guide us?”

“Don’t we know how much you love him?
Will good-natured people not sing the praise of our Sivan?”
That’s all we want, our friend.”

முத்து அன்ன வெள் நகையாய்! முன் வந்து, எதிர் எழுந்து, “என்
அத்தன், ஆனந்தன், அமுதன்” என்று அள்ளூறித்
தித்திக்கப் பேசுவாய், வந்து உன் கடை திறவாய்’.
`பத்து உடையீர்! ஈசன் பழ அடியீர்! பாங்கு உடையீர்!
புத்து அடியோம் புன்மை தீர்த்து ஆட்கொண்டால், பொல்லாதோ?’
`எத்தோ நின் அன்புடைமை? எல்லோம் அறியோமோ?’
`சித்தம் அழகியார் பாடாரோ, நம் சிவனை?’
`இத்தனையும் வேண்டும் எமக்கு’ ஏல் ஓர் எம்பாவாய்!

The girls come and wake up their friend. They say “Yesterday you promised us you will wake up before us, and be sweetly chanting “My lord, my sweetheart, my elixir”. But now you are still asleep. Come, open your door and join us”. She replies “O’ girls. You are all good mannered.You observe the ten practices of Shaivism. You are senior devotees of my lord. Will you not be a little more patient with new devotees like me and guide me in the right practices”. They reply back “Don’t worry. We were just teasing you. Don’t we know how much you are in love with our lord? Those of good heart will sing the praise of our Sivan. We want you too to join us. That’s all we want from you, our friend.”

*Ten external practices of Shaivism – (புறத்திலக்கணம் பத்து)
Wearing Vibhuti
Worship elders
Sing hymns of Siva
Utter Siva’s monikers
Do Siva Poojai
Do altruistic deeds
Listen to myths of Siva
Worship in Sivan Temples
Eat only at the house of Sivan devotees
Help devotees of Siva

Some commenters say பற்று – ‘adherence’ morphed to பத்து. In that case, the translation would be “You have great love for him” instead of “You follow the ten practices”

Thiruppavai – 2

Oh’ all those who live in this earth!
Hear the vows we undertake in this period of abstinence;
Singing the praise of our Lord
– asleep on the five headed snake in the milky ocean –
We will not partake milk and ghee; will bathe before day break;
Will not line our eyes or adorn our hair with flowers;
Will not do what’s not to be done; avoid offensive words;
Will give offerings and alms as much as we can
And rejoice at our path to salvation, my friend.

வையத்து வாழ்வீர்காள் நாமும்நம் பாவைக்குச்
செய்யும் கிரிசைகள் கேளீரோ பாற்கடலுள்
பையத் துயின்ற பரம னடிபாடி
நெய்யுண்ணோம் பாலுண்ணோம் நாட்காலே நீராடி
மையிட்டு எழுதோம் மலரிட்டு நாம்முடியோம்
செய்யா தனசெய்யோம் தீக்குறளைச் சென்றோதோம்
ஐயமும் பிச்சையும் ஆந்தனையும் கைகாட்டி
உய்யுமாற் எண்ணி உகந்தேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

The girls are pepping themselves up telling about things they will do in this month of Margazhi when they undertake their vow. They will start their day singing the praise of the Supreme Lord, who reclines on the five headed snake Adi Seshan in the milky ocean. The girls will avoid drinking  milk and using ghee in their food. They will bathe before daybreak. They will not line their eyes. Nor will they adorn their hair with flowers. They will do only righteous things, avoid doing things that are forbidden. They will avoid offensive words. They will give offerings to their Gurus and alms to those who ask for it , as much as they can. Doing all these is their path to salvation, when they can discard this worldly life and become one with Him. They rejoice at this.

I wasn’t clear on the difference between ஐயம் & பிச்சை. I thought they both meant alms. But why does Andal use them both? Went with PBA commentary that ஐயம் – Offerings to Gurus ; பிச்சை – Alms to those who ask.

பாவை – நோன்பு – விரதம் – Period of abstinence
கிரிசை – acts / vows
பையத் துயின்ற – asleep on snake hood (Lord Vishnu is depicted as asleep on five headed snake Adi Seshan in the milky ocean)
தீக் குறள் – offensive words
ஐயம் – Offerings to Gurus
பிச்சை – Alms to those who ask
ஆந்தனை – ஆகுமளவு – as much as we can
உய்யுமாறு – உய்யும் ஆறு – salvation path
உகந்து – rejoice

Thiruvempavai – 2

“Day and night when we chatted,
your love is to Paranjothi*, you said;
Is this flower strewn bed
the object of your love now, Oh’ bejeweled beauty?”

“Oh’ bejeweled girls! Chee Chee!
Are these words your idea of a joke?
Is this the time and place to mock me?”

“Lord Siva, of luminous form, resident of Thillai Chittrambalam,
whose lotus feet shies away from worship of celestials,
is here to grace us; We, his devotees,
are we strangers to each other, My friend?”

*Paranjothi – Ethereal Flame, a name of Lord Shiva. In Thiruvannamalai, where these verses were sung, Shiva is worshipped in the form of a flame.

பாசம் பரஞ்சோதிக்கு என்பாய், இராப் பகல் நாம்
பேசும்போது; எப்போது இப் போது ஆர் அமளிக்கே
நேசமும் வைத்தனையோ? நேரிழையாய்!’ `நேரிழையீர்!
சீ! சீ! இவையும் சிலவோ? விளையாடி
ஏசும் இடம் ஈதோ? விண்ணோர்கள் ஏத்துதற்குக்
கூசும் மலர்ப் பாதம் தந்தருள வந்தருளும்
தேசன், சிவலோகன், தில்லைச் சிற்றம்பலத்துள்
ஈசனார்க்கு அன்பு ஆர்? யாம் ஆர்?’ ஏல் ஓர் எம்பாவாய்!

This verse is written as a dialogue between the girl and her friends who have come to wake her up. The friends mock her and say, “Whenever we chatted, you said your love is sworn to our Lord Siva, Paranjothi (the ethereal flame). But now you are still asleep. Is this flower strewn bed your object of love now, you bejeweled beauty?” She replies “Oh bejeweled girls, stop this nonsense. Are these some of the words you use to mock me. Do you think this is the right time and place to laugh at me?” They reply back “We all are the devotees of Lord Shiva, he who shines like a bright light, he who is the resident of Thillai Chittrambalam (current day Chidambaram). Celestial beings who ask him for favors fall at his feet. But he shies away from them. His lotus feet is here to grace us, the devotees who ask for nothing but his love. We all are his devotees. Are we strangers to each other? So don’t take our words to heart, my friend”

போது – flower
ஆர் – strewn
அமளி – bed
நேரிழை – fine jewels wearing girl
விண்ணோர்கள் ஏத்துதற்குக் கூசும் – Celestials + pray + shies – Celestial being pray to Supreme God only when they need something. So he shies away from them. 

Thiruppavai – 1

மார்கழித் திங்கள் மதிநிறைந்த நன்னாளால்
நீராடப் போதுவீர் போதுமினோ நேரிழையீர்
சீர்மல்கும் ஆய்ப்பாடிச் செல்வச் சிறுமீர்காள்
கூர்வேல் கொடுந்தொழிலன் நந்தகோ பன்குமரன்
ஏரார்ந்த கண்ணி யசோதை இளம்சிங்கம்
கார்மேனி செங்கண் கதிர்மதியம் போல்முகத்தான்
நாரா யணனே நமக்கே பறை தருவான்
பாரோர் புகழப் படிந்தேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

On this glorious full moon day in the month of Margazhi,
O’ bejeweled girls willing to bathe in the river, come along;
O’ sweet little girls from flourishing hamlets of cowherds;
The son of sharp spear wielding fierce Nandagopan,
The lion cub of beautiful eyed Yasodai,
Our dark hued, lotus eyed, radiant moon faced
Lord Narayanan himself will protect us;
Come, let’s go and bathe; Let the world praise us, my friend.

Paavai Nonbu (vows of Women) was a traditional practice of Tamils from Sangam period (200 BCE – 200 CE) onwards. It involved young maidens going to bathe in rivers or ponds in early morning during the month of Thai and worshipping the Gods. In Vaishnavite tradition it is celebrated in the month of Margazhi (mid December to mid January). In this month, thirty verses of Aandaal’s Thiruppavai are sung one each day.

The first five stanzas provide an introduction to the main theme, its principle and purpose. In the next ten stanzas she describes the importance of community participation. The last nine stanzas are on the glories of the Lord.(from wikipedia)

This is the first verse. Here she calls her friends to wake up from their sleep and join her to go and bathe in the river. She says “There is glorious moonlight in this auspicious month of Margazhi. O’ girls wearing exquisite jewels, if you are willing to join me in bathing in the river, come along. O’ sweet little girls from the prosperous hamlets of cowherds, listen. Our lord – the son of spear wielding fierce Nandhagopan; the playful lion cub of beautiful eyed Yasodai; his body is as dark as the rain clouds, his eyes are as red as lotus flowers, his face is as radiant as the full moon – he himself will protect us, because we have surrendered to him. Come let’s go and immerse ourselves in the river. Let the world praise our dedication”

திங்கள் -month
மதி நிறைந்த – full moon
நன்னாள்-good day
நீராட -to bathe
போதுவீர் – those willing to go
போதுமின் – let’s go
நேர் இழையீர் – bejweled girls
சீர் மல்கும் – wealth flourishing
ஆய்ப்பாடி – ஆயர் பாடி – cowherds hamlet
செல்வச் சிறுமீர்காள் – sweet little girls
கூர் வேலன் – sharp spear wielding
கொடுந்தொழிலன் – fierce warrior
நந்தகோபன் குமரன் – son of Nandhagopan
ஏர் ஆர்ந்த கண்ணி – beautiful eyed
இளம் சிங்கம் – young lion (cub)
கார்மேனி – dark cloud like skin
செஙகண் – Red lotus like eye
கதிர் மதியம் – bright like moon
பறை தருவான் – will sound drums for us (will protect us)
பாரோர் – people of the world
படிந்து – immerse (bathe)

Thiruvempavai – 1

Oh’ girl with long bright eyes!
Even after hearing us sing the praise
of the infinite Flame with neither beginning nor end,
You’re still asleep! Are your ears hard of hearing?
On hearing us sing the praise of Mahadevan’s
anklet clad feet at the entrance of her street,
a friend of ours sobbed, forgot herself,
rolled and fell down senseless
from her flower strewn bed; Oh’ my, Oh’ my,
such was her devotion, my friend!

ஆதியும் அந்தமும் இல்லா அரும்பெருஞ்
சோதியை யாம்பாடக் கேட்டேயும் வாள்தடங்கண்
மாதே வளருதியோ வன்செவியோ நின்செவிதான்
மாதேவன் வார்கழல்கள் வாழ்த்திய வாழ்த்தொலிபோய்
வீதிவாய்க் கேட்டலுமே விம்மிவிம்மி மெய்ம்மறந்து
போதார் அமளியின்மே னின்றும் புரண்டிங்ஙன்
ஏதேனும் ஆகாள் கிடந்தாள்என் னேஎன்னே
ஈதேஎந் தோழி பரிசேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

Thiruvempavai is a set of 20 verses sung by Manickavasagar on Lord Shiva residing in Thiruvannamalai. These are part of Thiruvasagam, the 8th Thirumurai in Saivite canon. In these 20 verses the girls celebrating Paavai Nonbu (vows of women) call their friends to join them in bathing in the river and sing the praise of Lord Shiva.

In this verse the girls chide their friend who is still asleep. “Oh, girl with long, bright eyes! Even after hearing us sing the praise of our lord, who is like an immense flame with no beginning and no end, you are still asleep. Your ears must be hard of hearing. There was another friend of ours, in whose street we entered singing the praise of our Lord’s anklet clad feet. On hearing his praise, she lost herself completely to him. She sobbed, entered a trance like state, rolled and fell down from her flower strewn bed and lay senseless on the floor. Such was her devotion to our lord, my friend. (And here you are still asleep. Wake up and join us in praising him)”

ஆதியும் அந்தமும் இல்லா – with no beginning and no end
அரும்பெரும்சோதி – rare immense flame (infinite)
வாள் தடங் கண் – bright , long eyes
வளருதியோ – are you asleep
வன் செவி – useless ears
நின் செவி – your ears
வார் கழல்கள் – anklet feet
விம்மி விம்மி – sobbbed and sobbed
மெய்மறந்து – forgot her self
போதார் அமளி – போது ஆர் அமளி – flower strewn bed
ஏதேனும் ஆகாள் – unable to do anything (senseless)
பரிசு – character (devotion)

Thirukkural – 337


Whether they’ll be alive the next moment they don’t know,
Yet they fret over a million things and more.

ஒருபொழுதும் வாழ்வ தறியார் கருதுப
கோடியு மல்ல பல.

People don’t know whether they will be alive for the next moment. Yet they think and worry over a million things and more.

The Tamil verse says கோடி – crore (10 million), I’ve use million for better reading in English.

பொழுது – day. So Parimel Azhagar interprets it as ‘end of the day’. Devaneya Paavaanar interprets it as ‘நொடிப் பொழுது’ – a moment. I have gone with his interpretation.

Ainthinai 50 – 42

Oh’ crooked legged crab! We request thee;
Let us feast our eyes on the chariot tracks of our lover,
who’s from the shore where waves crash ceaselessly;
Please don’t walk over them and erase!

கொடுந் தாள் அலவ! குறை யாம் இரப்பேம்;
ஒடுங்கா ஒலி கடற் சேர்ப்பன் நெடுந் தேர்
கடந்த வழியை எம் கண் ஆரக் காண,
நடந்து சிதையாதி, நீ!

He hasn’t come to meet her. She’s waiting for him in the sea shore. She laments to the crab, saying “Let me at least look at the wheel marks created by his chariot when he was here. I request you to please not walk over the marks and erase. If I can’t see him, I will see the wheel marks and assuage myself that he will come back.”

கொடும் தாள் -bent leg / crooked leg
அலவம் – crab
குறை – request
இரப்பேம் – I plead
ஒடுங்கா ஒலி – ceaseless noise (of the waves)
கடல் சேர்ப்பன் – man from the shore
நெடுந்தேர் – majestic chariot
ஆரக் காண – to see fully / behold
சிதையாதி – சிதைக்காதே – don’t destroy / erase

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