Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thirukkural – 752.

 

Have-nots are ridiculed by one and all;
Wealthy are heaped with praise by all.

இல்லாரை எல்லாரும் எள்ளுவர்; செல்வரை
எல்லாரும் செய்வர், சிறப்பு.

One’s wealth decides how he is looked upon by the world. Those who are wealthy are praised by everyone while those who are not well off are ridiculed by everyone.

எள்ளுதல் – ridicule
சிறப்பு – respect / praise

Thirukkural – 445

As governance depends on ministers acting as his eyes,
A ruler should surround himself with ministers wise.

சூழ்வார்கண் ணாக வொழுகலான் மன்னவன் 
சூழ்வாரைச் சூழ்ந்து கொளல்.

Governance of a country depends on the ministers who act as a Ruler’s eyes. They take information to him and advice him in people’s mood. So a ruler should surround himself with the wisest if ministers.

சூழ் – advice.

சூழ்வார் – advisor / minister.

Kurunthokai – 371

My friend! I too do not want bangles to slip out of my arms
Or my skin to become pale, thinking of my lover,
In whose cloudy hills wild rice is harvested with water from falls;
My passion though, is immense.

கை வளை நெகிழ்தலும் மெய் பசப்பு ஊர்தலும்,
மை படு சிலம்பின் ஐவனம் வித்தி
அருவியின் விளைக்கும் நாடனொடு,
மருவேன்-தோழி-அது காமமோ பெரிதே.

Her lover from the hills hasn’t come to ask her hand in marriage as he promised. So she is pining for him and is becoming sickly. Her friend says “Get out of this funk”. She replies to her friend “I too do not want my arms to be so weak that bangles slip out of it. Or pallor to spread across my skin. In my lovers hills people notice clouds encircling the hills and sow wild rice, as they are sure that water from rainfed water falls will help them to harvest rice. Similarly I trusted him and fell inove with him. I still trust him. My anemic state is not because of him too. It is because of the passion in my heart, that is too immense to keep in check”

நெகிழ்தல் – weaken (and slip out)

மெய் – body

பசப்பு – pallor

மை படு சிலம்பு – cloud covered hill slope

ஐவனம் – mountain rice

வித்தி – sow

விளைக்கும் – grow

மருவேன் – மருவ மாட்டேன் – do not want to be

பெரிதே – immense

Thirukkural – 338

Like a bird flying away discarding its eggshell
Is the relationship between body and soul.

குடம்பை தனித்து ஒழியப் புள் பறந்தற்றே –
உடம்பொடு உயிரிடை நட்பு

This Kural is under the chapter நிலையாமை – Impermanence. Valluvar equates a soul like a bird that discards its shell and flies away. This physical body is nothing but a shell.

For those who can read Tamil – The word குடம்பை can mean either ‘nest’ or ‘shell’. Devaneya Paavaanar explains here why he treats it as shell while some commentators treat it as nest. https://t.co/jgxSH2dS9s

குடம்பை – egg shell
புள் – bird

Nammalvar – 3107

Without realizing who I am,
I thought I was on my own;
But all that I am is you, all that’s mine is yours,
Oh’ Celestial ruler, bowed to by one and all!

யானேயென்னை அறியகிலாதே,
யானேயென்தனதே யென்றிருந்தேன்,
யானேநீயென் னுடைமையும்நீயே,
வானேயேத்து மெம்வானவரேறே.

In this verse, Nammalvar submits himself to Lord Vishnu completely. He says, “Oh’ Lord of the celestials, to whom all gods bow to! When I was born in this world, I didn’t realize my inner true self. I thought that what I am was created by myself. I have lost this arrogance now, as I realize all that I am is you. All that I consider my belongings are nothing but you. So I give myself up completely to you”

யான் – My self
அறியகில்லாதே – அறியாமலே – without knowing / realizing
என் தனதே – I am my own
உடைமை – belongings
வானே ஏத்தும் – woshiped by celestials (I took liberty to translate it as one and all)
வானவர் ஏறு – Ruler of celestials

 

Thirukkural – 629

One who doesn’t delight in times of delight
Isn’t distressed in times of distress.

இன்பத்துள் இன்பம் விழையாதான், துன்பத்துள்
துன்பம் உறுதல் இலன்.

One who doesn’t get overjoyed and take joy to heart in times of joyousness, will not take the sorrow to heart too in times of suffering. He knows that these are but illusionary and he will be balanced at all times. Valluvar repeats the words twice in the first line and second. I have tried to bring the same in translation too, using them as both verb and noun.

While reading this Kural, I was reminded of the famous lines of Rudyard Kipling from the poem ‘If’, are written on the wall of the players’ entrance to the Centre Court at Wimbledon.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;”

இன்பம் – joy / delight
விழையாதான் – one who doesn’t covet
துன்பம் – grief / distress
உறுதல் – feel

Kurunthokai – 163

Like herds of small headed white goats
that roam in Poozhi country,
the grove fringed water front
is filled with fish hunting egrets;
At this water front, even at midnight,
-when white screw-pine flower shrubs are swayed by waves-
Your plaintive cry is still heard;
Oh’ Sea! For whom do you pine and suffer?

யார் அணங்குற்றனை-கடலே! பூழியர்
சிறு தலை வெள்ளைத் தோடு பரந்தன்ன
மீன் ஆர் குருகின் கானல்அம் பெருந்துறை.
வெள் வீத் தாழை திரை அலை
நள்ளென் கங்குலும் கேட்கும், நின் குரலே?

She is pining for him. She misses his love and passion, and is awake at midnight. Every one else is asleep. The roar of the sea is her only companion. She asks the sea “Your water front is overrun by white egrets hunting for fish. They look like the white goats found everywhere in Poozhi country. In this water front, where high tide brings the waves to sway white screw pine flower shrubs in shore, you are still awake and I can hear you plaintive cry. I am awake because I miss my lover and suffer on his behalf. On whose account to you suffer, Oh’ Sea?”

Poozhi Country is thought to be present day Kozhikode in Kerala coast. There is another Poozhi country in areas around Tirunelveli, but that is not close to the coast.

அணங்கு – suffer
பூழியர் – Poozhi country
சிறு தலை வெள்ளைத் தோடு – herd of small headed white goats
பரந்து – widespread
மீன் ஆர் குருகு – fish hunting egrets
கானல் – grove
பெருந்துறை – wide water front
வெள் வீத் தாழை – white screw pine flower shrubs
திரை – waves
அலை – அலைக்கின்ற – shake / sway
நள் – mid
கங்குல் – night

Naaladiyaar – 27

Like bubbles that appear in rainwater
And burst again and again is this life
– Wise ones who realise this decide ‘we shall be unflustered’,
Who else is equal to them in this vast world.

படுமழை மொக்குளின் பல்காலும் தோன்றிக்
கெடுமிதோர் யாக்கையென் றெண்ணித் – தடுமாற்றம்
தீர்ப்பேம்யாம் என்றுணரும் திண்ணறி வாளரை
நேர்ப்பார்யார் நீணிலத்தின் மேல்.

This poem is about impermanence of life. Life is nothing but bubbles that appear in rain water and burst again and again. Birth and death repeat in endless cycle. Wise men realise this and do not be overly flustered by the vagaries of life. No one in this whole world is equal to those who realise this impermanence of life.

மொக்கு – bubble

பல்கால் – may times

யாக்கை – life

தடுமாற்றம் – confusion / flustered

தீர்ப்பேம் – we will clear

திண் அறிவாளர் – wise ones

நேர்ப்பார் – equal to

நீணிலம் – vast wide world

Moodhurai – 2

Help rendered to a virtuous person
Remains forever, like words carved on stone –
Help rendered to an ungrateful person though,
Is similar to words written on water.

நல்லா ரொருவர்க்குச் செய்த உபகாரம்
கல்மே லெழுத்துப்போற் காணுமே-அல்லாத
ஈரமிலா நெஞ்சத்தார்க் கீந்த உபகாரம்
நீர்மே லெழுத்திற்கு நேர்.

When we help a good person, they remember it forever. It is permanent like words carved on a hard rock. However help rendered to ungrateful lowly person is forgotten by them immediately. Just like words written on water, they vanish as soon as they are done.

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.

நல்லார் – good / virtuous person
உபகாரம் – help
கல் மேல் எழுத்து – words on stone
அல்லாத – vile
ஈரமில்லாத நெஞ்சார் – ஈரமில்லாத நெஞ்சமுடையவர் – cold hearted / ungrateful person
ஈந்த – given / rendered
நீர் மேல் எழுத்து – word on water
நேர் – equal / similar

Kundalakesi – 9

Death of our embryonic stage, death of our childhood,
Death of our adolescence, death of our passionate youth –
Dying repeatedly is the norm; same awaits us at old age too;
As we are dying everyday, why not we cry for ourselves too?

பாளையாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
பாலனாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
காளையாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
காமுறும் இளமை செத்தும்
மீளும்இவ் இயல்பும் இன்னே
மேல்வரு மூப்பும் ஆகி
நாளும் நாள் சாகின்றாமால்
நமக்கு நாம் அழாதது என்னோ!

Kundalakesi is one of the five great epics of Tamil literature. Three of these are Jainism based (Seevaka Sinthamani, Silappathikaaram, Valayaapathi) and two are Buddishm based (Manimekalai and Kundalakesi). Kundalakesi is estimated to have been written before 5th Century AD. Only 19 of the 99 verses of Kundalakesi are available today.

It is about Kundalakesi, daughter of a rich merchant in Puhar, who falls in love with a thief Kaalan about to be beheaded. Her father pleads with the King and saves Kaalan from death. After marriage one day she playfully calls him thief. Enraged by this , he plans to kill her and takes her to a mountain peak to push her down. When he tells this to her, she requests him to let her go around him three times as worship before being killed. He agrees. She goes behind him and pushes him down , killing him. Then she repents and becomes a Buddhist monk. She defeats Jain and Hindu scholars in theological debates.

In this poem, the poet talks about impermanence of life. “We cry for the death of our near and dear ones. But we ourselves are dying every day. Every stage of our life entails death of the previous stage. We are a fetus in our mother’s womb. Once we are born, the fetus dies. Then our childhood dies when we become young adults. Which again dies when we become passion driven youth. That stage too dies. Death repeats itself in our life. That is the norm. What is more, it is death that awaits us in our old age too. As we are dying every day, why do we not cry for ourselves? It is pointless to cry for the death of near and dear ones”

பாளை – embryo / fetus
தன்மை – nature
பாலன் – toddler / child
காளை – young adult
காமுறும் – becoming passionate
இளமை – youth
மீளும் – repeatedly
இயல்பு – nature
இன்னே – இனிமேல் – in future
மூப்பு – old age
சாகின்றாமால் – செத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிறோம், ஆதலால் – as we are dying
என்னோ – why?

Post Navigation