Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thirukkural 584

Officers, kith and kin, opposition –
To watch them all carefully is a spy’s vocation.

வினைசெய்வார் தஞ்சுற்றம் வேண்டாதா ரென்றாங்
கனைவரையு மாராய்வ தொற்று.

வினைசெய்வார், தம் சுற்றம், வேண்டாதார், என்று ஆங்கு
அனைவரையும் ஆராய்வது-ஒற்று.

A good spy is one who watches closely everyone including officers of the ruler, his close relatives and his enemies.

வினை செய்வார் – one who does work
தன் சுற்றம் – one’s relatives
வேண்டாதார் – those who oppose
ஆராய்வது – study closely / watch closely
ஒற்று – spying

Kapilar Agaval – Lines 25-33

Wealth is like a swiftly flowing swollen river;
Youth is like the eroding bank of that river;
Lifetime is like a tree perched on that river bank;
So, do your duty; and do that duty well;
And what you do well, do it today;
And what you have to do today, do now itself;
If you put it off saying I will do it tomorrow,
You never know if it’s your turn or Death’s turn tomorrow.

பெருக்காறொத்ததுசெல்வம்
            பெருக்காற்றிடிகரை
யொத்ததிளமை
            இடிகரைவாழ்மரமொத்ததுவாழ்நாள்
ஆதலால்
            ஒன்றேசெய்யவும்வேண்டும்
அவ்வொன்றும்
            நன்றேசெய்யவும்வேண்டும்
அந்நன்றும்
             இன்றேசெய்யவும்வேண்டும்
அவ்வின்றும்
            இன்னேசெய்யவும்வேண்டும்
அவ்வின்னும்
            நாளைநாளைஎன்பீராகில்
நாளைநம்முடைமுறைநாள்
            ஆவதுமறியீர் நமனுடைமுறைநாள்
            ஆவதுமறியீர்

These lines are from 15th century long poem கபிலர் அகவல். It is a 142 line long moral aphoristic poem.

Wealth doesn’t stay for long. It swiftly flows through like a river. One’s youth is like the river bank of that river, which is eroded quickly. And one’s lifetime is like a tree growing in that river bank. Once the river bank is completely eroded, the tree loses its roots and falls down. Likewise one’s life span also vanishes quickly.

As life is so fickle, you should not put off doing your duty. And you have to do it to the best of your ability. Do it today and do it now. If you put it off saying you will do it tomorrow, one never knows if tomorrow might be your turn or God of death’s turn

பெருக்காறு – பெருக்கு + ஆறு – swollen river
ஒத்தது – like
இடிகரை – eroding river bank
ஒன்றே – one thing (duty)
நன்று – well
இன்று – today
இன்னே – now itself
என்பீர் ஆகில் – if you say so
முறை நாள் – (your) turn நமன் – எமன் – God of Death

Thirukkural 36

Don’t think ‘Will do later’ but do virtuous deeds now itself,
For it will be an undying support when one dies.

அன்றறிவா மென்னா தறம்செய்க மற்றது
பொன்றுங்காற் பொன்றாத் துணை.

Don’t put off doing good deeds for a latter day. Do good deeds now itself when you are young. The virtue will be undying even when you die and will help you in after life.

அன்று – that day / later day
அறிவாம் – will decide (to do)
என்னாது – without
அறம் – virtue
மற்று அது – because that
பொன்று – death
பொன்றா – without dying
துணை – aid / support

Kambaramayanam – 4279

Dazzling gem like colourful bees swarm and adorn
The beautiful Red Flame Lily that sheds honey and wilts;
It’s like Lady Earth folding her fingers in wonder
At how monsoon has conquered the summer.

நாநிறச் சுரும்பும் வண்டு நவமணி யணியிற் சாரத்
தேனுக மலர்ந்து சாய்ந்த சேயிதழ்க் காந்தட் செம்பூ
வேனிலை வென்ற தம்மா காரென வியந்து நோக்கி
மாநிலக் கிழத்தி கைகள் மறித்தன போன்ற மன்னோ

It is monsoon season and red coloured flame lily flower has bloomed. Flame Lily (Gloriosa Superba) is generally used as a simile for long fingers of a girl. Multiple coloured beetles and bees swarm about it, looking like gem adorned jewellery on a girl’s hands. As they suck the honey from the flower, the petals wilt and the flower folds in. It is like Lady Earth looking at change of season,  wondering  how monsoon has won over summer and folding her fingers.

This verse is part of Kishkinta Kandam , after the slaying of Vali and coronation of Sugriva.

நாநிற – நால் + நிற – multiple coloured
சுரும்பு , வண்டு – bee
நவமணி – nine gems
அணி – adorn
சார – swarm
தேன் – honey
உக – overflow
சேயிதழ் – beautiful petal
காந்தள் – Flame Lily / Gloriosa Superba
செம்பூ – Red Flower
வேனில் – Summer
கார் – monsoon / rainy season
வியந்து – wonder
மாநிலம் – Majestic Earth
கிழத்தி – Woman
மறித்தன – Fold

Thirukkural – 1252

This passion is merciless; without any respite
It controls my heart even at midnight.

காம மெனவொன்று கண்ணின்றென் னெஞ்சத்தை
யாமத்து மாளுந் தொழில்.

She decries her passion. She says that it lacks compassion for her. It gives her no respite, and dominates her heart even at midnight hour.

காமம் – passion
கண் – கண்ணோட்டம் – compassion
இன்று – not
யாமம் – midnight
ஆளும் – rule
தொழில் – job

Thiruvasagam – 8.33.6

You know what everyone needs,
You bestow everything to those who seek;
Brahma and Vishnu who sought to behold thy form
Found it hard to do so, but
On your own you enthralled me,
And showered your grace on me,
Whatever you gave is what I sought too;
Beyond that if there’s a gift I seek,
It’s only the gift of thy love.

வேண்டத் தக்க தறிவோய்நீ வேண்ட முழுதும் தருவோய்நீ
வேண்டும் அயன்மாற் கரியோய்நீ வேண்டி என்னைப் பணிகொண்டாய்
வேண்டி நீயா தருள்செய்தாய் யானும் அதுவே வேண்டினல்லால்
வேண்டும் பரிசொன் றுண்டென்னில் அதுவும் உன்றன் விருப்பன்றே.

In this Thiruvasagam poem, Manikkavasagar praises Lord Shiva as an omniscient being. He says “You are aware of what every being in this world needs. To those who pray to you, you give them all that the seek. Brahma and Vishnu tried to find the head and toe of your form to prove which one of them is superior. But they couldn’t behold your full form. Such a God like you took pity on me and took over my being fully. On your own you showered your grace on me. Whatever you gave is what I asked for. If at all there’s any other gift that I seek on my own, it is only your love My lord”

The wordplay with வேண்ட – seek, wish, desire, pray – that repeats in the verse makes it beautiful. It is hard to bring that word play in translation. வேண்டத் தக்கது – what is suitable, what one needs. It is not what one wants. As the Supreme God, you know what I need even if it may be something I do not want. Brahma & Vishnu wanted to prove their superiority, so you made it difficult for them to get the measure of you. But I’m a simple devotee who has given myself up to you. So, on your own, you took over my being and showered your grace on me. I don’t seek anything other than what you give me as you know better what I need.

அறி – know
மால் – Vishnu
அயன் – Brahma
அரிது – Difficult
பணி கொண்டாய் – captivated, enthralled
அருள் – grace
அல்லால் – other than
விருப்பு – affection / love

Naaladiyaar – 218

Even if they are as close to us as a dog’s toes,
What use is the friendship of those
who don’t help us even to the size of a fly’s toe?
Even if they’re far away from us,
We should nurture the friendship of those
Who are like the canal that helps a field flourish.

நாய்க் கால் சிறு விரல்போல் நன்கு அணியர் ஆயினும்,
ஈக் கால் துணையும் உதவாதார் நட்பு என்னாம்?
சேய்த்தானும் சென்று கொளல்வேண்டும், செய் விளைக்கும்
வாய்க்கால் அனையார் தொடர்பு

This verse is under the chapter ‘Choosing Friends’ – நட்பாராய்தல். The poet says “Some people may be physically close to us, like a dog’s ties that are closely placed. However they won’t help us a bit, even to the size of a house fly’s toe. What use is such a friendship? We should nurture the friendship of those who are like a canal that helps paddy field flourish with its water. Even if they are distant from us, we should take the effort to meet them and nurture their friendship.

அணி – close
துணை – measure / size
சேய் – distant
செய் – field
விளை – produce / flourish
வாய்க்கால் – canal
அனை – like

Thirukkural – 1314

“I love you more than anyone else” I said
“More than whom, more than whom” she sulked.

யாரினுங் காதல மென்றேனா வூடினாள்
யாரினும் யாரினு மென்று.

I told her that my love for her is bigger than any man could have for a woman. But she misunderstood as I was comparing my love for her with my other lovers. So she pouted and picked up a fight with me asking “more than whom do you love me”.

யாரினும் – more than anyone
ஊடினாள் – she had a tiff / sulked

Thirukkural 819

Friendship of those whose words and deeds differ
Is an agony even in one’s dream.

கனவினு மின்னாது மன்னோ வினைவேறு
சொல்வேறு பட்டார் தொடர்பு.

Friendship of people who say something and do something else is an agony,not only when one is awake but even when asleep.

Thirukkural – 950

Patient, Doctor, Medicine and Caretaker –
Constitute four components of the cure.

உற்றவன் தீர்ப்பான் மருந்துஉழைச் செல்வானென்று
அப்பானாற் கூற்றே மருந்து.

Thiruvalluvar talks of holistic approach to medicine. Cure for a disease is based on the type of patient, the treating doctor, medicine and one who gives medicine (nurse / caretaker). These four components constitute a cure.

உற்றான் – One who suffers
தீர்ப்பான் – one who cures
மருந்து – medicine
உழைச் செல்வான் – one who gives medicine / nurse / care taker
அப்பால் – these
நாற் கூற்று – four components

Post Navigation