Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Silappathikaaram – Vanji-k-Kaandam – Kundrak Kuravai

There’s no reason I see , to be miffed
with the fresh waters that have caressed his hills;
But my heart aches my friend, if others frolic
in the fresh waters that have caressed his hills;

There’s no reason I see, to be miffed
with the fresh waters that carry pollen from his hills;
But my heart aches my friend, if others frolic before I do
in the fresh waters that carry pollen from his hills;

There’s no reason I see, to be miffed
with the fresh waters that carry flowers from his hills;
But my heart aches my friend, if others frolic
in the fresh waters that carry flowers from his hills.

எற்றொன்றும் காணேம் புலத்தல் அவர்மலைக்
கற்றீண்டி வந்த புதுப்புனல்
கற்றீண்டி வந்த புதுப்புனல் மற்றையார்
உற்றாடி னோம்தோழி நெஞ்சன்றே ;

என்னொன்றும் காணேம் புலத்தல் அவர்மலைப்
பொன்னாடி வந்த புதுப்புனல்
பொன்னாடி வந்த புதுப்புனல் மற்றையார்
முன்னாடி னோம்தோழி நெஞ்சன்றே;

யாதொன்றுங் காணேம் புலத்தல் அவர்மலைப்
போதாடி வந்த புதுப்புனல்
போதாடி வந்த புதுப்புனல் மற்றையார்
மீதாடி னோம்தோழி நெஞ்சன்றே;

This set of verses are in Vanji-k-Kaandam, the third part of Silappathikaaram. A girl’s lover hasn’t come to see her in a long while. He is from the hills. She goes along with her friend to bathe in the water falls. In the previous verse, she says though he has forsaken me, I have come shamelessly to bathe in the water falls that flows from his hills. In these verses she says she doesn’t have reason to be miffed with the water falls. Her tiff is only with him who has not come to see her.She is possessive about the waters from his hills and thinks they are meant only for her.

“I don’t have any reason to be angry with the fresh waters that come here having caressed his hills. But if other girls frolic in these waters, my heart aches. I don’t have any reason to be angry with the fresh waters that come bearing pollen from his hills. But if other girls frolic in these waters before I do, my heart aches. I don’t have any reason to be angry with the fresh waters that come bearing flowers from his hills. But if other girls frolic in these waters, my heart aches.”

Ilango uses multiple words for ‘any reason’ – எற்றொன்றும் / என்னொன்றும் / யாதொன்றும் in order to maintain the rhyme of each verse. Similarly கற்றீண்டி / உற்றாடி , பொன்னாடி / முன்னாடி , போதாடி / மீதாடி rhymes make it a joy to read out loud in Tamil. I haven’t been able to bring that out in translation.

எற்றொன்றும் – எது ஒன்றும் – any reason
காணேம் – காண மாட்டேன் – I don’t see
புலத்தல் – tiff / be miffed
கற்றீண்டி – கல் + தீண்டி – rock caress
புதுப்புனல் – புது + புனல் – fresh water
மற்றையார் – other (girls)
உற்று – reach
ஆடின் – if  (they) frolic
நோம் – நோகும் – pains
நெஞ்சன்றே – நெஞ்சு+அன்றே – but (my) heart
என்னொன்றும் – எது ஒன்றும் – any reason
பொன் – பொன் தூள் – மகரந்தம் (?) – golden colored powder – (pollen?)
முன் – before
யாதொன்றும் – யாது + ஒன்றும் – any reason
போது – flower
மீது – on

Thirukkural – 483

Is there any work that’s impossible to do  – 
if done at the right time with right tools.

அருவினை யென்ப வுளவோ கருவியாற் 
கால மறிந்து செயின்.

No work is impossible to do if it is done at the right time with the right tools.

அரு வினை – அருமை + வினை – hard / impossible work
என்ப உளவோ – என்று கூறப்படுவது எதுவும் உள்ளதோ – is there anything called
கருவி – (right) tools
காலம் – (right) time
செயின் – செய்தோமென்றால் – if done

Thirukkural – 202

Since evil deeds beget evil, evil deeds
are feared more than a fiery blaze.

தீயவை தீய பயத்தலான், தீயவை
தீயினும் அஞ்சப்படும்.

An evil deed never goes unpunished. It will bring evil to one who did it. So it is to be feared more than a fiery blaze. A fire will burn a person then and there. But even if a person escapes retribution after doing an evil deed, it will follow them and will take its toll. Hence it is feared more than a fire.

பயத்தல் – beget / bring about

Pazhamozhi 400 – 185

Though battling scarcity at home,
One should look respectable to the world;
Though one doesn’t even have a place to lie down,
If dressed well, none asks them if they’re hungry.

அகத்தால் அழிவு பெரிது ஆயக்கண்ணும்,
புறத்தால் பொலிவுறல் வேண்டும்;-எனைத்தும்
படுக்கை இலராயக்கண்ணும், உடுத்தாரை
உண்டி வினவுவார் இல்.

Even though one might be poor and battling scarcity at home, they should present their best to the world and look presentable. Because the world judges people by how they dress. One might not even have a place to lie down. But if he is dressed well, no one will ask him if he is hungry. So, always dress well.

Pazhamozhi 400 – 236

To help a friend overcome adversity,
words, though heartfelt, are not enough;
My lord, roiling waves bring water to your shores!-
A pond does not get filled by dew drops.

இனியாரை உற்ற இடர் தீர் உபாயம்
முனியார் செயினும், மொழியால் முடியா;-
துனியால் திரை உலாம் நூங்கு நீர்ச் சேர்ப்ப!-
பனியால் குளம் நிறைதல் இல்.

Pazha Mozhi Naanooru ( 400 Old Sayings) is one of the 18 post Sangam anthologies. Each verse explains a proverb.

In this verse, the poet says actions speak louder than words. When a friend is facing adversity, one should help him by trying to remove the obstacle. Just offering words of empathy is of no use, even though it might be heart felt. Proverb here is A pond does not get filled by dew drops – பனியால் குளம் நிறைதல் இல்.

He describes the King as one whose shores are lashed by huge agitated waves. It might hint that only large waves (action) bring in water  (relief). Dew drops (consoling words) cannot fill the pond.

இனியார் – friend
உற்ற – faced
இடர் – difficulty / adversity
உபாயம் – plan
முனியார் – முனியாதவர் – without anger / heartfelt
செயினும் – even if done
துனி – angry / roiling
திரை – wave
உலாம் – உலாவும் – roam
நூங்கு – large quantity
நீர் – water
பனி – dew drop

 

Thirukkural -277

Though outwardly (bright red) like the body of crab’s eye seed,
there are people, whose heart is black like its nose.

புறம் குன்றி கண்டனையரேனும், அகம் குன்றி
மூக்கில் கரியார் உடைத்து.

This verse is under the chapter கூடா ஒழுக்கம் – Pretense of Virtue. Thiruvalluvar says, there are people in this world who externally are virtuous like the bright red of crab’s eye seed (குன்றி மணி) body.  But their heart is black like the black nose of the seed. One should be pure externally and internally to be virtuous.

Crabs-Eye-seed

Crab’s eye seed – குன்றி மணி source : https://www.grow-trees.com/blog/social/facebook/crabs-eye-seed/

Bright Red is implied but not explicit in the original verse. I have added it to make the point clear.

புறம் – external
குன்றி – குன்றி மணி – Crab’s eye seed
கண்டு – looks
அனையர் – (people) like that
அகம் – internal / heart
கரியார் – black
உடைத்து – உடையது – (World) has

Naaladiyaar – 89

Arrows and Blaze and Sun with fiery rays –
though they sear and singe, they singe externally;
Lust though, since it singes the mind in searing agony,
is to be feared than all of them.

அம்பும், அழலும், அவிர் கதிர் ஞாயிறும்,
வெம்பிச் சுடினும், புறம் சுடும்; வெம்பிக்
கவற்றி மனத்தைச் சுடுதலால், காமம்
அவற்றினும் அஞ்சப்படும்.

This Naaladiyaar verse is under the chapter of ‘Not coveting other man’s wife’ (பிறர் மனை நயவாமை). Burning arrows, hot fire, Sun’s fiery rays all of them burn severely, but the burn is only external. Lust, however stays within the mind and burns it and causes untold agony. Hence one has to fear lust more than the arrows or fire or the Sun.

Hot arrows is an oft repeated phrase (வெஞ்சரம்) in Tamil poems. I assume it is poetic licence. Or may be they really used flame throwers those days. I’m not sure.

அம்பு – arrow
அழல் – fire / flame / blaze
அவிர் கதிர் – fiery ray
ஞாயிறு – sun
வெம்புதல் – sear / burn
சுடு – burn / singe
புறம் – external
கவற்றி – கவல் ஏற்படுத்தி- cause agony

Thagadur Yathirai –

With what can I identify? With what can I identify?
That this is my son, with what can I idenfity?
His eyes are buried under arrows;
Head, garlanded with many a sword, is destroyed;
Mouth, stuffed with sharp arrrows and oozing flesh,
resembles a quiver full of arrows;
Heart, is punctured with sharp arrows;
Thighs, shot with many an arrow, are discolored;
Hence, this youngster, pinned down
like a fully blossomed flower,
like the fragrant prickly pod of a fever nut
(That this is my son, with what can I idenfity?)

*fever nut / nicker nut, pod of Caesalpinia Bonducella
எற் கண்டறிகோ? எற்கண்டறிகோ?
என் மகன் ஆதல் எற்கண்டறிகோ?
கண்ணே கணை மூழ்கினவே; தலையே
வண்ண மாலை வாள் விடக் குறைந்தன;
வாயே, பொருநுனைப் பகழி மூழ்கலிற் புலால் வழிந்து
ஆவ நாழிகை அம்பு செறித் தற்றே;
நெஞ்சே, வெஞ்சரங் கடந்தன; குறங்கே
நிறங்கரந்து பல்சரம் நிறைந்தன; அதனால்
அவிழ்பூ அப்பணைக் கிடந்த காளை
கவிழ் பூங் கழற்றின்காய் போன்றனனே

This is a poem from Thagadur Yathirai, a poetic work about battle between Cheras and Athiyaman (ruler of Thagadur, present day Dharmapuri). This work is lost and only 48 poems, referred to in other poems, are available. Hence its provenance is not very clear.

At the end of the battle, an old woman comes to the battle field in search of her son. She is shown the body of her son, fully pierced with arrows. She cries out in agony. “How shall I identify that this is my son? With what body part shall I identify that this is my son. I can’t identify by the eyes, that are fully buried under arrows. I can’t identify by the head that is severely destroyed having faced multiple swords like accepting garlands. I can’t identify by the mouth which, like a quiver, is shot full of arrows and flesh oozing out. His heart is punctured by million arrows. Thighs, shot with a lot of arrows have lost blood and discolored. He lies on a bed of arrows, open like a fully bloomed flower. He looks like the prickly pod of a nicker nut, with arrows protruding from all parts of his body. With what body part can I identify that this is my son?”

fever nut

Caesalpinia Bonducella – கழற்றிங்காய் – Source : http://senthuherbals.blogspot.com/2014/08/blog-post.html

 

எற் கண்டறிகோ – எதைக் கண்டு அறிவேனோ – with what shall I identify
கணை – arrow
மூழ்கின – covered / buried
வாள் – sword
குறைந்தன – destroyed
பொருநுனை – sharp tipped
பகழி – arrow
புலால் – flesh
ஆவ நாழிகை – quiver
அம்பு – arrow
செறி – full
வெஞ்சரம் – வெம்மை + சரம் – fiery arrow
குறங்கு – thigh
நிறங் கரந்து – lost color
பல் சரம் – many arrows
அவிழ் பூ – open flower
பணை – peg(ged down) / pinned down
காளை – bull / youngster
கமழ் பூ – fragrant flower
கழற்றிங்காய் – fever nut / nicker nut/ prickly pod of the plant

Thirukkural – 985

Ability of able men is humility; that’s also the tool
of learned men to turn foes to friends.

ஆற்றுவார் ஆற்றல் பணிதல்; அது சான்றோர்
மாற்றாரை மாற்றும் படை.

The real ability of able men is the humility with which they are able to build a team and work together. That humility is also the tool used by wise men to turn their foes into friends.

Friends is not explicit in the original couplet. It literally means ‘convert foes’. I have added the implied meaning to make it easier to read.

ஆற்றல் – prowess / ability
சான்றோர் – learned / wise
மாற்றார் – those who are against us / foes
மாற்றும் – convert / change / turn
படை – கருவி – tool

Ainkurunooru – 238

Even if long horned sturdy ram has deserted it,
short haired ewe still stays back with desire
near the roaring waterfalls in your hills, My lord!
Only when you arrive here,
does her haleness appear too.

வார் கோட்டு வயத் தகர் வாராது மாறினும்,
குரு மயிர்ப் புருவை நசையின் அல்கும்
மாஅல் அருவித் தண் பெருஞ் சிலம்ப!
நீ இவண் வரூஉம்காலை,
மேவரும் மாதோ, இவள் நலனே தெய்யோ!

Her friend tells him how much his lady misses him. She says, “Whenever you come, you find her cheerful and healthy. Do you know that her haleness and cheerfulness makes is presence felt, only when you are here? When you are not here, she weakens and withers away. In your hill country, even after a long horned sturdy goat has deserted it, the female goat still roams around the waterfalls expecting the male to come back. Like that she holds herself together waiting for you. Better marry her soon”

வார் – long
கோடு – horn
வயம் – strong
தகர் – male goat / ram
குரு மயிர் – short hair
புருவை – female goat / ewe
நசை – desire
அல்கும் – stays
மாஅல் அருவி – huge waterfalls
சிலம்ப – சிலம்பு நாட – lord of hill country
இவண் – here
மேவரும் – appear
நலன் – நலம் – healthiness / haleness

 

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