Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kurunthokai – 117

She misses him and her arms wane and bangles fall loose. Her friend tells her:

Your man is from the shores
Where a distressed wet crab fears
The watchful eyes of glistening lily like stork
And rushes to hide in its nest in shrub roots
Like a bull cutting loose of the cowherd’s rope;
If he doesn’t come here, it is fine!
Traders here have even smaller bangles.

மாரி ஆம்பல் அன்ன கொக்கின்
பார்வல் அஞ்சிய பருவரல் ஈர் ஞெண்டு
கண்டல் வேர் அளைச் செலீஇயர், அண்டர்
கயிறு அரி எருத்தின், கதழும் துறைவன்
வாராது அமையினும் அமைக!
சிறியவும் உள ஈண்டு, விலைஞர் கைவளையே.

He meets her on the sly for days but is not proceeding to the next step, asking her parents to wed her. Also he hasn’t come to meet her in a while. All this is making her whither and the bangles in her arm fall loose. So her friend tells her :

Your lover’s from the sea shore where white storks glistening with water droplets like lily flowers in rain look to hunt crabs. Fearing their eyes, the fearful wet crabs rush to hide in their nests in shrub roots. They rush like the bull that cuts loose from cowherd’s rope and running away. Like that you are afraid of the town’s gossip and are pining for him in your house. Don’t worry about the town’s gossip. If he doesn’t come it is fine. Even if your bangles drop loose because you are waning, traders here have smaller bangles that will stay in your arm.

மாரி – Rain
ஆம்பல் – Lily
கொக்கு – Stork
பருவரல் – fearful
ஞெண்டு – நண்டு – crab
கண்டல் – screw pine shrub
வேர் – root
அளை – hole in the ground, nest
அண்டர் – cow herd
கயிறு – rope
அரி – cut
எருது – bull
கதழ் – run fast
துறைவன் – man from the shore
ஈண்டு – here
விலைஞர் – trader
கைவளை – bangle

Puranaanooru – 187

Whether a settlement or a forest,
Whether shallow land or raised ground,
Wherever your men are good,
Blessed land, you are good too.

நாடா கொன்றோ காடா கொன்றோ
அவலா கொன்றோ மிசையா கொன்றோ
எவ்வழி நல்லவ ராடவர்
அவ்வழி நல்லை வாழிய நிலனே.

This poem by Avvayar, written around 2000 years ago, says that a land doesn’t have any innate characteristic of its own. It is as good as its citizens are. She says to the land – You are a settlement (inhabited) at some places, a forest (deserted) at others; depressed at some places, raised at others. You don’t have any defining characteristic. You are as good as the citizens who occupy you are.

நாடு – country / settlement
ஆக –
ஒன்றோ – (used as a conjunction)
காடு – forest
அவல் – shallow
மிசை – raised
ஆடவர் – men
நல்லை – good

Moodhurai – 29

Affectionate kith and kin, finest of wealth,
handsome looks, nobility of clan – all these
Arrive with Goddess of wealth when she arrives,
And depart with her when she departs
.

மருவினிய சுற்றமும் வான்பொருளும் நல்ல
உருவும் உயர்குலமு மெல்லாம்-திருமடந்தை
ஆம்போ தவளோடு மாகும் அவள்பிரிந்து
போம்போ தவளொடு போம்.

When Goddess of wealth decides to visit one, the best things of the world will be with him. Like affectionate relatives, finest of things, handsome looks and nobility of clan. But when she leaves one, all these things too leave. So do not think these are permanent.

This is a poem by Avvayar in Moodhurai (மூதுரை) , literally meaning “Old advice”. It is a collection of 30 poems, written around 12th Century CE.

மருவு – affectionate
இனிய – loving
சுற்றம் – relatives
வான் – excellent / finest
பொருள் – wealth
உரு – figure
உயர் குலம் – superior clan
திரு மடந்தை – goddess of wealth
ஆம் போது – ஆகும் போது – when she comes
போம் போது – போகும் போது – when leaves

Thirukkural – 400

Learning is the superior wealth that doesn’t decay;
Other forms of wealth are not equal to it.

கேடில் விழுச்செல்வங் கல்வி யொருவற்கு
மாடல்ல மற்றை யவை.

Education is one superior wealth for a person, as it doesn’t decay. All other forms of wealth will decay over time or can be taken away. Hence nothing is equal to learning.

கேடு – decay
இல் – இல்லாத – not
விழு – superior / excellent
செல்வம் – wealth
ஒருவற்கு – to a person
மாடு – wealth
அல்ல – not (equal)
மற்றையவை – others

Naaladiyaar – 64

When unqualified people malign them,
Wise men don’t get hot under the collar;
Lowly people though take it to heart,
repeat it all over town, get furious,
and slam themselves into a pillar in anger.

நேர்த்து நிகரல்லார் நீரல்ல சொல்லியக்கால்
வேர்த்து வெகுளார் விழுமியோர் – ஓர்த்தனை
உள்ளத்தான் உள்ளி உரைத்துராய் ஊர்கேட்பத்
துள்ளித்தூண் முட்டுமாம் கீழ்.

When some one who in unqualified thinks of himself as an equal and maligns, wise men don’t get angry and hot under the collar. They just ignore the words. But lowly people keep thinking of the slur uttered against them. They take the words to heart, keep repeating it all over the town, build up their anger and in their rage slam themselves into a nearby pillar. There is no point in taking the slurs uttered by unequal people to heart. To keep thinking of it only harms the person who was slurred against. It is wise to just ignore and move on.

Thirukkural – 339

Like falling asleep, is Death;
Like waking up from sleep, is Birth.

உறங்கு வதுபோலுஞ் சாக்காடு உறங்கி 
விழிப்பது போலும் பிறப்பு

Birth and death happen regularly in this world. They are inevitable. They are just like falling asleep and waking up. So don’t think that one will be here for ever.

உறங்குவது – To sleep
சாக்காடு – Death
விழிப்பது – To wake up
பிறப்பு – Birth

Thirukkural – 333

Of impermanent nature, is wealth; when one acquires it,
Do good that is permanent, right away.

அற்கா இயல்பிற்றுச் செல்வம்; அது பெற்றால்,
அற்குப ஆங்கே செயல்
.

Wealth is fickle by nature and will not stay with one person for long. So whenever one acquired it, they should immediately do good deeds that are permanent.

அல்குதல் – to stay / permanent
இயல்பு – nature
ஆங்கே – then itself / right away
செயல் – do

Thirukkural – 74

From love springs forth interest in fellow humans;
That effortlessly begets the gift of friendship of all.

அன்பு ஈனும் ஆர்வம் உடைமை; அது ஈனும்,
‘நண்பு’ என்னும் நாடாச் சிறப்பு.

When one’s heart is filled with love, one takes keen interest in others and empathises with them. This interest shown begets the friendship of all , without one consciously working towards it.

சிறப்பு can mean honour / esteem / special / gift. I have interpreted as gift, based on Devaneya Paavanar ‘s commentary.

அன்பு – love

ஈனும் – gives birth to

ஆர்வம் – interest

நாடா – unsought / effortless

சிறப்பு – gift

Kambaramayanam – 5338

O’ Ignorant Moon! O’ Shining Moonlight!
O’ Endless Night! O’ Undiminishing darkness!
All of you torment only me;
will you not question the uncaring Archer?


கல்லா மதியே ! கதிர் வாள் நிலவே !
செல்லா இரவே !சிறுகா இருளே !
எல்லாம் எனையேமுனிவீர்; நினையா
வில்லாளனை,யாதும் விளித்திலிரோ ?

Sita is kidnapped and kept imprisoned in Asoka Vanam by Ravana. She is waiting for Rama to come and rescue her. Years have passed and he hasn’t come. She is wailing about her fate. By the time Hanuman comes to Lanka in search of her, she is at the end of her tether.

She laments “O’ Moon, you ignorant fool. O’ Shining moonlight! O’ Night that never ends! O’ darkness that never reduces! All of you are tormenting me in this night time. I think of Rama and wait for him to come and save me. He seems to have forgotten me. He doesn’t care for me. Will none of you go and torment him, the mighty Archer? So that he is removed of me and will come here to save me”

Kurunthokai – 61

Like kids who derive joy from pulling
a toy horse chariot made by the carpenter
even if they cannot derive joy of riding it,
We derive joy by imagining the intimacy of our lord
from the town of blossoms and majestic chariots
even if we cannot derive joy by embracing him; Hence bangles stay.

தச்சன் செய்த சிறுமா வையம்
ஊர்ந்தின் புறாஅ ராயினுங் கையின்
ஈர்த்தின் புறூஉ மிளையோர்
உற்றின் புேறெ மாயினு நற்றேர்ப்
பொய்கை யூரன் கேண்மை
செய்தின் புற்றனெஞ் செறிந்தன வளையே.

He has been to his courtesan’s place and hasn’t come home to his wife in a while. Before going home he sends his bard to placate her. Her friend stops the bard at the door and tells him “Kids playing with carpenter made toy horse chariots cannot derive joy by riding it. It is just a toy. Still they derive joy from pulling it around. Similarly even if she cannot be with him physically and derive pleasure in his presence, she still derives pleasure by imagining the intimacy she shared with him. She doesn’t miss him. So, her arms haven’t thinned down and the bangles stay on them instead of falling out”

When women miss their lover, their arms thin down and bangles become loose and fall off. This is a common motif in Sangam poetry.

தச்சன் – carpenter
சிறு மா – small horse
வையம் – chariot
ஊர்ந்து – ride
இன்புற்று – derive pleasure
கையின் ஈர்த்து – pull by hand
இளையோர் – kids
உற்று – touch / embrace
இன்புறேம் – இன்பம் உறேம் – i don’t derive pleasure
நற்றேர் – நல் + தேர் – good chariot
பொய்கை – pond
ஊரன் – man from the town
கேண்மை – intimacy
செய்து – make (in my mind) – imagine
இன்புற்றனன் – I derive pleasure
செறிந்தன – close fitting / stay
வளை – bangles

Post Navigation