Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thirukkural – 628

He who doesn’t seek pleasure but knows distress is normal,
Will not be afflicted with grief.

இன்பம் விழையான், ‘இடும்பை இயல்பு’ என்பான்,
துன்பம் உறுதல் இலன்.

A man who does not seek pleasure in life knows sorrow is natural human condition. Since he know this, he will not be bogged down by grief.

விழை – desire, விழையான் – he who does not desire
இடும்பை – distress / sorrow
இயல்பு – natural / normal
உறுதல் – feel

Thirukkural – 1128

As my lover resides in my heart, I dread
eating hot food, lest it singe him.

நெஞ்சத்தார் காத லவராக வெய்துண்ட
லஞ்சுதும் வேபாக் கறிந்து.

Her friend asks her why she isn’t eating properly. She says my lover resides in my heart, so I avoid hot food as it might burn him.

What to say, Love is stupid.

வெய்து – hot

உண்டல் – to eat

அஞ்சுதும் – I fear / dread

வேபாக்கு – burn / singe

அறிந்து – I know

Kar Naarpathu – 24

Hilly forest smells of musth elephant now;
Dark clouds are raining at night time too;
Long dark haired girl won’t bear it anymore;
Leave all work aside and go to her, my heart!


எல்லா வினையும் கிடப்ப, எழு, நெஞ்சே!
கல் ஓங்கு கானம் களிற்றின் மதம் நாறும்;
பல் இருங் கூந்தல் பணி நோனாள்; கார் வானம்
எல்லியும் தோன்றும், பெயல்.

He has gone away in search of wealth, promising her that he will be back by winter season. It is winter now. He tells his heart “Elephants are in musth period and the hilly forest smells of their temporal secretion. Dark clouds are raining even at night time now. All these signs mean winter is here. My dark haired lover who held on to my words of assurance won’t be able to bear the separation anymore. So, my heart, leave aside whatever work you are doing, and go to her”

கல் ஓங்கு – rising hill

கானம் – forest

களிறு – elephant

மதம் – musth secretion

நாறும் – smells

பல் இருங் கூந்தல் – long black haired

பணி – word (promise)

நோனாள் – won’t suffer / bear (anymore)

கார் வானம் – dark rain clouds

எல்லி – night

பெயல் – rain

Thirumurugaattrup Padai – Thanip Paadal


I put my trust in no one but you,
I’d never follow someone else in future too;
O’ twelve armed handsome God!O’Spear wielding Lord!
O’ Resident of Tiruchendur!
You clear grievous obstacles faced by celestials too!


உன்னை யொழிய வொருவரையு நம்புகிலேன்
பின்னை யொருவரையான் பின் செல்லேன் – பன்னிருகைக்
கோலப்பா வானோர் கொடியவினை தீர்த்தருளும்
வேலப்பா செந்திவாழ் வே.

This is a latter day addition to Thirumurugaattrup Padai, a Sangam era work that praises Murugan, the Supreme Tamil God. The poet says “I trust only you Muruga. I won’t go behind any other God, not now, not in the future. You are a twelve armed handsome God. Even the celestials beseech you when they face obstacles and you save them with your spear. O’ Resident of Tiruchendur, You are my saviour”

செந்தி – திருச்செந்தூர் – Tiruchendur , an important Murugan Temple

Thirukkural – 1227

Budding at dawn and blossoming through the day,
By evening fully blooms this malady.

காலை யரும்பிப் பகலெல்லாம் போதாகி
மாலை மலருமிந் நோய்.

When her friend asks her why she is sick, she says “As I got up in the morning I started missing him. This love sickness was just a bud then. But through out the day it started gnawing my heart, blossoming like a flower from the bud. By the time evening arrived it is in full bloom and I’m completely consumed by this love sickness”

அரும்பு – bud

போது – blossom / floret

மலரும் – bloom

இந் நோய் – this sickness / malady


Thirukkural – 485

Thirukkural 485

They wait for the right time, unruffled,
Those who plan to conquer the world.

காலங் கருதி இருப்பர் கலங்காது
ஞாலங் கருது பவர்.

Those who plan to conquer the world will wait for the opportune time. They are confident of their strength,so are unruffled by waiting.

காலம் – time (right time)
கருதி – think / calculate / plan
இருப்பர் – wait
கலங்காது – undisturbed
ஞாலம் – world

If you are a Tamil, note the use of word ங், how it gives a rhythm to the couplet.

Thiurumandhiram – 1.2.3

Whole town gathered and lamented noisily,
Discarded the given name and called it a dead body,
Carried it to the cremation ground, burnt it to ashes,
Took a dip in the pond and forgot all about it.

ஊரெலாம் கூடி ஒலிக்க அழுதிட்டுப்
பேரினை நீக்கிப் பிணமென்று பேரிட்டுச்
சூரையங் காட்டிடைக் கொண்டுபோய்ச் சுட்டிட்டு
நீரினில் மூழ்கி நினைப்பொழிந் தார்களே.

This verse by Thirumoolar (dated generally to 8th century CE) talks about impermanence of life. Once a person is dead, the whole town gathers at his house and laments noisily. The moment the person is dead the given name is discarded and it becomes just a body. They carry it to the cremation ground, burn it to ashes. Then everyone takes a dip in the village pond to clean themselves and with that the dead person is forgotten.

சூரையங்காடு – சுடுகாடு – Cremation ground

Puranaanooru – 82

His pregnant wife needs his assistance;
Village festival too has begun;
Sunlight is fast fading in rainy season;
With all this in mind, sharp needle in the hands
of the lowly cot upholsterer moves swiftly;
Swifter than that moves the golden flower wearing mighty warrior
to fight the enemy who comes to conquer his town.

சாறுதலைக் கொண்டெனப் பெண்ணீற் றுற்றெனப்
பட்ட மாரி ஞான்ற ஞாயிற்றுக்
கட்டி னிணக்கு மிழிசினன் கையது
போழ்தூண் டூசியின் விரைந்தன்று மாதோ
ஊர்கொள வந்த பொருநனொ
டார்புனை தெரிய னெடுந்தகை போரே.

This verse is about the Chola King Porvaikko PeruNarKilli. A local chieftain Aamoor Mallan comes to attack the Chola king’s town. The poet says Killi did not delay going to face his enemy but moved swiftly as if he wanted to finish the job before the sun set. The simile he uses is of the lowly leather worker upholstering a cot. The worker’s wife is pregnant and he needs to be near her to help her. The village festival has begun and he wants to take part in it too. But the job at hand is holding him back. The sun is fading away quickly in the rainy season. If the sun sets, he can’t work further. With all this weighing in his mind, the needle in his hand moves in and out of the leather swiftly as if it has a mind of its own. Even swifter than that moves the Golden yellow flower (the clan flower of Chola Kings) wearing mighty Lord when the enemy is at the gates to conquer his town. He wants to finish him off in a day.

Each of the three Tamil Kings (Chera / Chola / Pandya) had their own clan flowers which they wore as a garland in the battlefield.

சாறு – festival
பெண் – woman (wife)
ஈற்று – pregnant
உற்று – suffering
மாரி – rain
ஞான்று – time of day (Sun set)
ஞாயிறு – sun
கட்டில் – cot
இணக்கு – bind together
இழிசினன் – lowly person (leather worker?)
போழ் – pass through
விரைந்து – swiftly
அன்று – different / more
பொருநன் – enemy combatant
ஆர் – Bauhinia racemosa flower / son patta flower / golden flower
புனை – wearing
நெடுந்தகை – mighty

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

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