Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Puranaanooru – 105

O’ bright faced dancer! Whether it rains,
for raindrops to soak fresh blue lilies
blooming near the pond and swarmed by bees,
or not, water falls down from the peaks
of rising hills dotted with bamboo stalks
to course through horse gram fields;
sweeter than those waters, is Chief Pari;
If you go sing his praise, you’ll receive jewels of Ruby.

சேயிழை பெறுகுவை வாள் நுதல் விறலி!
தடவு வாய்க் கலித்த மா இதழ்க் குவளை
வண்டு படு புது மலர்த் தண் சிதர் கலாவப்
பெய்யினும், பெய்யாது ஆயினும், அருவி
கொள் உழு வியன் புலத்துழை கால் ஆக,
மால்புடை நெடு வரைக் கோடுதோறு இழிதரும்
நீரினும் இனிய சாயல்
பாரி வேள்பால் பாடினை செலினே.

Poet Kapilar advises a dancer who is facing difficulty, to go to Chief Pari’s court and get gifts. Irrespective of whether it rains or not, there’s abundant water in King Pari’s hills. He is even more sweeter than that water. So you go and sing his praise and you will be gifted with red jewels. Abundance of water irrespective of rains is a metaphor for his generosity irrespective of his position. Bees swarming the freshly bloomed flower is a metaphor for supplicants crowding the benefactor.

வாணுதல் விறலி – dancer with bright forehead. This is a recurring description in Sangam poetry. I have used bright faced to make it easier to comprehend. சேயிழை –  red jewels. I used Ruby for red.

Sangam anthology poems are perfect in themselves as stand alone poems. At the same time they are strung together to form an intricate design as a whole. Take the case of Poet Kapilar and Chief Pari. Out of the 2381 Sangam poems available today, Kapilar has written 235 poems. His friend ship with the benevolent hill country chieftain Pari is legendary.

Parambu Malai

Pari ruled the hill country Parambu Nadu (பறம்பு நாடு, called Pranmalai today, near Singampunari Village in Sivagangai District) around 200 AD. He was a well known benefactor and patron for many poets. His prosperity attracted the attention of his contemporaries. Chera, Chola and Pandya kings attacked him at the same time. He fought valiantly but died in battle. Kapilar took charge of his two daughters and tried to get them married. Failing in his efforts, he left them under the custody of priests and starved to death. Poet Avvayar later got Pari’s daughter married to Malayaman Thirumudik Kari.

Puranaanooru poems 105- 120 by Kapilar are about these events. Reading them together is like reading a novella. I plan to translate these poems in order for the next few days.

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