Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Silappathikaaram – Kanal Vari – 17

Your elders live by entering the ocean and killing life;
you too live by entering a human body and killing my life;
heavy are your breasts, pushing against their confines;
let them rest against me, lest you lose your slender waist.

கடல் புக்கு, உயிர் கொன்று, வாழ்வர் நின் ஐயர்;
உடல் புக்கு, உயிர் கொன்று, வாழ்வைமன் நீயும்;
மிடல் புக்கு அடங்காத வெம் முலையோ பாரம்;
இடர் புக்கு இடுகும் இடை இழவல் கண்டாய்!

This poem is from SilapPathikaram, the earliest and greatest epic in Tamil literature. The epic is dated to 2nd Century CE.  It describes the Tamil society of that era in detail.

This poem is sung by the protagonist, Kovalan when he visits the beach with the courtesan Madhavi. He sings of an imaginary fisherwoman. Madhavi is piqued and in return she sings about River Kaveri as a woman pining for her lord. This creates a rift between Kovalan and Madhavi and leads to their separation.

“You are from the fishing community. Your father and your brothers enter the ocean to kill fish and live by that. Similarly you have entered a human form and kill my life and live by that. Your breasts are heavy and struggle to be contained in their confines. So don’t lose your slender waist unable to carry the burden of your breasts. Rest them against me”

Rest them against me is implied and not explicit in the original. I have included it in the translation for better comprehension.

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2 thoughts on “Silappathikaaram – Kanal Vari – 17

  1. Malini on said:

    What does ‘ izhaval kandai’ mean?


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