Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “April, 2016”

Naaladiyaar – 359

‘Will become rich today; now itself; a bit
later maybe’ dreaming so, merrily
absorbed in fantasy, losing their spirit,
withered like a lotus leaf, have many.

‘இன்று ஆதும்; இந் நிலையே ஆதும்; இனிச் சிறிது
நின்று ஆதும்’ என்று நினைத்திருந்து, ஒன்றி
உரையின் மகிழ்ந்து, தம் உள்ளம் வேறு ஆகி,
மரை இலையின் மாய்ந்தார், பலர்.

A lotus leaf doesn’t go anywhere but withers away at the same place where it grew. Similarly those who are caught in their day dreams without putting any effort will waste their life away.

Porunar Aattruppadai – lines 103-122

Soft grass fed sheep’s juicy thigh meat
cooked to tenderness, he compelled us to eat.
Grilled on long sticks were large pieces of meat,
that we rolled inside our mouth to lessen the heat.
When we said we were tired of these meats,
we were seated and plied with snacks of varied shapes.
Small harps accompanied drums with black centers,
and radiant faced dancers danced to its beats,
thus pleasantly did our days pass.
One day we requested “give us rice too”.
Jasmine bud like unbroken grains devoid of husk,
cooked to even sized rice that stood up like fingers,
along with well fried meat sliding down our throat
we relished, spent our time joyously with him.
Our teeth worn out by chewing meat day and night
like the farmer’s plow plowing the field,
stuffed to our nostrils, sick of the meat, one day
we gingerly told him , “O ruler who has mastered
the art of making enemies pay, let us go to our kin”

துராஅய் துற்றிய துருவை அம் புழுக்கின்
பராஅரை வேவை ‘பருகு’ எனத் தண்டி,
காழின் சுட்ட கோழ் ஊன் கொழுங் குறை
ஊழின் ஊழின் வாய் வெய்து ஒற்றி,
அவைஅவை முனிகுவம் எனினே, சுவைய
வேறு பல் உருவின் விரகு தந்து இரீஇ,
மண் அமை முழவின் பண் அமை சீறியாழ்
ஒண் நுதல் விறலியர் பாணி தூங்க,
மகிழ்ப் பதம் பல் நாள் கழிப்பி, ஒரு நாள்,
‘அவிழ்ப் பதம் கொள்க’ என்று இரப்ப, முகிழ்த் தகை
முரவை போகிய முரியா அரிசி
விரல் என நிமிர்ந்த நிரல் அமை புழுக்கல்,
பரல் வறைக் கருனை, காடியின் மிதப்ப
அயின்ற காலை, பயின்று இனிது இருந்து,
கொல்லை உழு கொழு ஏய்ப்ப, பல்லே
எல்லையும் இரவும் ஊன் தின்று மழுங்கி,
உயிர்ப்பிடம் பெறாஅது, ஊண் முனிந்து, ஒரு நாள்,
‘செயிர்த்து எழு தெவ்வர் திறை துறை போகிய
செல்வ! சேறும், எம் தொல் பதிப் பெயர்ந்து’ என,
மெல்லெனக் கிளந்தனம் ஆக,

Porunar Aaatruppadai (248 lines long) is one of the Ten Long Poems in Sangam Literature. It is about the glory and prosperousness of Karikala Chola’s rule. Karikalan was the most accomplished of the early Chola Kings. This poem is estimated to have been written around 2nd Century AD. The poem is written as a bard returning from the court of Karikalan telling his fellow bard of Karikalan’s hospitality.

These lines 103-122 detail the food offered by Karikalan. They give us a peek into the culinary habits of Tamils 2000 years ago.

Silappathikaaram – ManaiAram Padutha Kaathai 73-80

O’ blemishless Gold! O’ pristine Pearl!
O’ faultless Incense! O’ sugar! O’ honey!
Hard to acquire woman! elixir of life!
Noble merchant’s dazzling daughter!
– Ruby not born in the mountain?
– Nectar not born in the ocean?
– Melody not born in the harp?
How shall I extol thee, long dark tressed woman!

மாசு அறு பொன்னே! வலம்புரி முத்தே!
காசு அறு விரையே! கரும்பே! தேனே!
அரும் பெறல் பாவாய்! ஆர் உயிர் மருந்தே!
பெருங்குடி வாணிகன் பெரு மட மகளே!
மலையிடைப் பிறவா மணியே என்கோ?
அலையிடைப் பிறவா அமிழ்தே என்கோ?
யாழிடைப் பிறவா இசையே என்கோ?
தாழ் இருங் கூந்தல் தையால்! நின்னை

This is one of the more popular poems of the epic Silappathikaaram. Even the Tamils who haven’t read Silappathikaram would have heard the first two lines.

This is Kovalan praising his wife Kannaki on their first night. Five things he calls her are equated to five senses. Gold (sight), Pearl (touch), Incense (smell), Sugar cane (taste), Honey dripping voice (hearing). More romantic of the commentary writers expand it as “He calls her blemishless gold. She smiles a little, opening her mouth. Her teeth are like pearls. As he comes near her she smells divine. He kisses her and tastes her sweetness. She sheds her inhibition and starts talking. Her voice is like honey”

Kovalan and Kannaki are from the merchant caste. Her father MaaSaathuvan was the leading merchant of Pukar (Poompuhar) town. Kovalan praises her family and then goes on to extol her virtues. “You are like a rare ruby, but you weren’t born in the mountains. You are like the hard to get nectar, but you weren’t born in the ocean (remember the nectar Devas and Asuras found by churning the ocean). You are like melodious music, but you were not born in the harp”

In the first line the literal translation for pearl is வலம்புரி முத்தே – pearl found in the right hand conch. The right hand conch (சங்கு) is rare to find and the pearl formed in it is of better quality. I have used ‘pristine’ instead of unwieldy ‘right hand conch’. In the second line the word விரை (virai) is given in Tamil dictionary as an aromatic substance made of five ingredients. I have used ‘incense’ for easy reading. In the last four lines I have slightly altered the structure for better readability in English.

Kalingathup Parani – 39

O women who carry twin
lotus buds on the downy
stalk that rises from your navel,
open those dazzling doors!

உந்திச் சுழியின் முளைத்தெழுந்த
உரோமப் பசுந்தாள் ஒன்றில் இரண்டு
அந்திக் கமலங் கொடுவருவீர்
அம்பொற் கபாடம் திறமினோ.

Poet Jayamkondar sings to women to open their doors to hear the exploits of their hero Karunakara Thondaiman in Kalinga (modern day Odisha) war. 54 poems in Kalingathup Parani are erotica. The poems about war and its aftermath are rich in gory detail.

In this poem the poet equates women’s bosom as அந்திக் கமலம் – literally evening lotus. Lotus blooms at night. So in the evening it is a bud about to bloom. The doors are called அம்பொற் கபாடம் – that golden door. For easy readability I have translated it as  dazzling doors.

Puranaanooru – 245

Vast though my grief is, isn’t it still limited,
if it lacks strength to take my life away?
In this arid land overrun with cacti,
on firewood placed in a clearance,
laid on her flaming funeral bed,
died before me, my woman;
but I still live; what’s the point of this!

யாங்குப் பெரிதுஆயினும், நோய் அளவு எனைத்தே,
உயிர் செகுக்கல்லா மதுகைத்து அன்மையின்?
கள்ளி போகிய களரி மருங்கின்
வெள்ளிடைப் பொத்திய விளை விறகு ஈமத்து,
ஒள் அழல் பள்ளிப் பாயல் சேர்த்தி,
ஞாங்கர் மாய்ந்தனள், மடந்தை;
இன்னும் வாழ்வல்; என் இதன் பண்பே!

Poem written by Chera King Kotambalathu Thunjiya MaakkOthai – literally the Chera King MaakOthai who died in Kotambalam (modern day Ambalapuzha). When his wife dies, he wants to die along with her in the funeral pyre. He was stopped by his courtiers saying that it doesn’t behoove a king to die for his love. This poem was written by him in that grief struck situation.

Kandhapuranam – 10165

The hill chieftain’s daughter are you;
I’m not lucky to caress you like the pool you bathe in,
paste you don or flowers you put on.
Languishing here, what shall I do?

கோடிவர் நெடுவரைக் குறவர் மாதுநீ
ஆடிய சுனையதாய் அணியும் சாந்தமாய்ச்
சூடிய மலர்களாய்த் தோயப் பெற்றிலேன்
வாடினன் இனிச்செயும் வண்ணம் ஆவதே.

This is from Kandha Puranam (written by Kachchiyappa Sivachariyar in 14th century AD), the story of Tamil God Murugan’s exploits. Murugan goes in disguise as a hunter and falls in love with Valli, a girl from the hills. This poem is Murugan trying to convince Valli to be his lover. “I am not lucky enough to be the things that touch your body – the water you bathe or the sandal paste you apply or the flowers you wear. I languish here unable to embrace you. What else shall I do?”

This is an oft repeated motif in Tamil poetry from Andal Pasurams of 8th century to Tamil movie lyrics of 20th century (உன் சேலை நூலாகவோ நான் உன் கூந்தல் பூவாகவோ). If you can read Tamil, read the Kandhapuranam Tamil poem aloud to savor the cadence of the poem.

Naaladiyaar – 25

Even after seeing kith and kin lament
while carrying the dead to their pyre, if one marries, exults
that joy is ‘here, here, here’ – there’s none says
‘dum dum dum’ of the funeral drum.

கணம் கொண்டு சுற்றத்தார் கல்லென்று அலற,
பிணம் கொண்டு காட்டு உய்ப்பார்க் கண்டும், மணம் கொண்டு, ஈண்டு,
‘உண்டு, உண்டு, உண்டு’ என்னும் உணர்வினான்-சாற்றுமே,
‘டொண் டொண் டொண்’ என்னும் பறை.

This poem talks about the impermanence of life. Naaladiyaar is an anthology of poems written by Jain monks in Pandyan Kingdom. So it reflects their ascetic world view.


Perumpaanaattrup Padai 275-282

Unpounded rice cooked to a mushy porridge
and spread in a wide wicker basket to cool down,
finely ground sprouted rice – like white ants
in nests where snakes reside – mixed with this
and fermented for two days and two nights
in a strong mouthed jar till it matures,
this warm aromatic wine that ripples on touch,
along with fresh fried fish, you’ll get when hungry.

அவையா அரிசி அம் களித் துழவை
மலர் வாய்ப் பிழாவில் புலர ஆற்றி,
பாம்பு உறை புற்றின் குரும்பி ஏய்க்கும்
பூம் புற நல் அடை அளைஇ, தேம் பட
எல்லையும் இரவும் இரு முறை கழிப்பி,
வல் வாய்ச் சாடியின் வழைச்சு அற விளைந்த,
வெந் நீர், அரியல் விரல் அலை, நறும் பிழி,
தண் மீன் சூட்டொடு, தளர்தலும் பெறுகுவிர்.

Sangam Poetry consists of Pathup Paattu (10 long poems) and Ettuth Thokai (8 anthologies). Perumpaanaatrup Padai (500 lines) is one of the 10 long poems, written praising Ilanthirayan, ruler of Thondai Mandalam (North Tamilnadu today) with Kancheepuram as capital. The poet asks a bard to go to Ilanthirayan’s court and get gifts. He details the prosperous landscapes under Ilanthirayan’s rule. These lines detail what kind of food the bard can expect from fisher folk in coastal area.

I was surprised to read termites as simile for sprouted rice. However when I googled for pictures, they did look similar.

From Japanese Sake to Philipine’s Tapuy all rice wines are brewed the same way. Mushy rice is mixed with a fermenting agent -Koji for Sake, Bubod for Tapuy, Jiu Qu for Chinese rice wine- and let to settle for a couple of days and then filtered. Tamils too have used the same technique with powdered sprouted rice as fermenting agent. For side dish you got fresh fried fish. Some things never change in 2000 years.

P.S. This page is getting lot of hits from people searching for old Tamil word for termites. In this poem புற்று – ant hill, குரும்பி – comb of termites are used. While researching for this poem I found சிதல் – termites; புற்றாஞ்சோறு – cluster of termites. Hope this helps.

Puranaanooru – 292

O petty people, quit being angry
that he stood up grasping his flawless sword
and pushed away Ruler’s sweet, chilled wine
you stirred and served as per rank!
In battle field too he will do the same,
will not say “let my turn come”; will rush
to meet the mighty forces of the enemy
and force them away, such a man is he.

வேந்தற் கேந்திய தீந்தண் ணறவம்
யாந்தனக் குறுமுறை வளாவ விலக்கி
வாய்வாள் பற்றி நின்றனெ னென்று
சினவ லோம்புமின் சிறுபுல் லாளர்
ஈண்டே போல வேண்டுவ னாயின்
என்முறை வருக வென்னான் கம்மென
எழுதரு பெரும்படை விலக்கி
ஆண்டு நிற்கு மாண்டகை யன்னே.

Purananooru 292. The tradition before battle was for the King to drink clear toddy and pass it on to this soldiers. Since the soldiers needed more kick out of the booze, it was stirred up and served to them. The hero of this poem refuses the toddy offered because he thinks it has come to him late. So he pushes away the toddy, stands up with his sword,  ready to go to the battlefield. Those who served him are angry because he didn’t wait for his turn and is breaking tradition. Poet says to them, “Stop being petty. He is not one to follow tradition. You are angry that he stood up with his sword and pushed away the toddy you offered. In the battle field too he will do the same. He will not wait for his turn to go and fight. He will rush to meet the enemy forces with his sword and force them to retreat, such is his valor”.

Kambaramayanam – 284

One who swallowed the whole world during deluge,
who is beyond the meaning of scriptures, dark
pigmented like a forming cloud, a lustrous flame,
did fortunate Kosala birth, for the world to prosper.

ஒரு பகல் உலகு எலாம் உதரத்து உள் பொதிந்து
அரு மறைக்கு உணர்வு அரும் அவனை, அஞ்சனக்
கரு முகில் கொழுந்து எழில் காட்டும் சோதியைத்,
திரு உறப், பயந்தனள் திறம் கொள் கோசலை.

This poem is about Kosala giving birth to Rama. In Vaishnavite mythology, during the deluge Baby Krishna swallowed the whole world and protected it in his stomach. Kosala gave birth to that God for the world to prosper. Hence she is fortunate.

Kamban’s word play is in those words திரு உற. It means ‘attain prosperity’. திரு (thiru) also means Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. Sita is the incarnate of Lakshmi whom Rama is going to marry in this avatar. So திரு உற also means Rama is born in this world to ‘attain Sita’.

Post Navigation