Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kambaramayanam – 1595

Who can describe the King’s torment
as he collapsed to the ground wallowing in agony?
Singed by intense grief, he breathed feverishly,
like a flame under a blacksmith’s blowpipe.

பூதலம் உற்று அதனில் புரண்ட மன்னன்
மா துயரத்தினை யாவர் சொல்ல வல்லார்?
வேதனை முற்றிட வெந்து வெந்து கொல்லன்
ஊது உலையில் கனல் என்ன வெய்து உயிர்த்தான்.

Kaikeyi has asked King Dasaratha to redeem the two boons he had promised her earlier. Unsuspectingly he agrees. She asks 1) the heir apparent Rama to be exiled to forest and 2) her son Bharatha to be made King. Dasaratha whose life was looking so good till that moment, is felled by her demands.

In this poem Kamban describes how Dasaratha wallowed in agony. Hearing Kaikeyi’s demands he collapsed to the ground and lay thrashing about. His heart could not withstand the grief. The simile Kamban uses is vivid. Dasaratha breathes feverishly. It is like air out of blacksmith’s blowpipe. The flame in his heart doesn’t burn continuously and finish him. As a wave of pain peaks and subsides, he expects this to be a nightmare he can wake out of. Then he realizes it is not so and the next wave starts. Just like the flame in a blacksmith’s foundry burning furiously when the blacksmith blows the blowpipe and cooling down when he stops. “கொல்லன் ஊது உலையில் கனல் என ” – like a flame under a blacksmith’s blowpipe.

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