Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kambaramayanam – 10082

Mandodari’s lament on seeing Ravana’s arrow riddled body :

Your famed physique lifted the white flower wearing God’s mountain,
did Rama’s arrows pierce every inch of it, searching for your life?
Thinking your love -that held flower tressed Janaki in heart’s confines-
might still remain, did his arrows enter your body and probe?

வெள் எருக்கஞ் சடைமுடியான் வெற்பு எடுத்த திருமேனி, மேலும் கீழும்
எள் இருக்கும் இடனின்றி, உயிர் இருக்கும்  இடன்நாடி, இழைத்தவாறோ?
“கள் இருக்கும் மலர்க்கூந்தல் சானகியை  மனம் சிறையில் கரந்த காதல்
உள்ளிருக்கும் ‘‘ எனக் கருதி, உடல் புகுந்து, தடவியதோ ஒருவன் வாளி?

After Ravana is felled by Rama, Ravana’s wife Mandodari rushes to the battlefield and laments on seeing her dead husband. His entire body is riddled with Rama’s arrows. Valmiki’s Ramayana describes that his body had so many arrows that it looked like porcupine’s spine.

In Kamban’s Ramayanam, Mandodari weeps saying “you were so strong to lift the mountain abode of Lord Shiva , who wears white crown flowers (எருக்கம் பூ) in his tresses. Did Rama’s arrows pierce every inch of that famed body in search of your life?”

The next sentence is what makes Kamban a poet nonpareil. Mandodari wails, “Did Rama’s arrows probe your entire body to find out whether your love for Sita still remains in your heart? ” She, as Ravana’s wife, had to bear with patience his love for the other woman, Sita. She is aware that Ravana’s love for Sita was so strong that it might still be alive even after his life has left him. When she says that Rama’s arrows searched his opponent’s heart to make sure that love for Rama’s wife doesn’t remain, Rama steps down from God to a mere mortal.

There are two descriptions which I have been unable to translate. Rama’s arrows have entered Ravana’s body without leaving space for even a grain of sesame (எள்). This is not to just show how many arrows Rama had shot. Sesame seeds are part of funeral rituals for Hindus. Rama has shot so many arrows that even a sesame seed cannot stay in Ravana’s body. I settled for a prosaic “every inch”

“flower tressed Janaki” is a pale imitation of “கள்ளிருக்கும் மலர்க்கூந்தல் சானகி”. I couldn’t fit in the honey / intoxicating (கள்ளிருக்கும்) in my translation.  Kamban indulges in word play in this description. Were the flowers in Janaki’s braids intoxicating or the flower braided Janaki was intoxicating and caused the downfall of Ravana?

Single Post Navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: