Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

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.

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