Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kurunthokai – 40

My mom and yours, what are they to each other?
My dad and yours, how are they related?
You and me, how do we know each other?
Yet, like rain fall on red earth,
our hearts in love merged into one.
யாயும் ஞாயும் யார் ஆகியரோ?
எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம் முறைக் கேளிர்?
யானும் நீயும் எவ் வழி அறிதும்?
செம் புலப் பெயல் நீர் போல
அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாம் கலந்தனவே.

This is probably the most popular and most translated Sangam poem ever. Beauty of the poem lies in its simplicity and its unmatchable simile. They are from different clans / towns. Somehow they have met each other and fallen in love. He is leaving now after making love. She is afraid that he might not come back again. He drives away her fear with this poem.

“Our mothers aren’t related. Neither is my father related to your father. You and I didn’t know each other before meeting. Yet, we have met each other and fallen in love. Our hearts have now mingled together like rain water in red earth.” He says that despite not being related in anyway, we were destined to meet and fall in love. So there won’t be any separation between us.

The simile rain water on red earth (translated as Red earth and pouring rain by AK Ramanujan) makes this poem stand out. The rain water mixes with red earth and attains its color and characteristic. It cannot be separated back to rain water again. So have our hearts mingled together. Rain water and red earth aren’t related to each other. But their coming together makes the land fertile. Red earth is dry and waiting for the monsoon. Once the rain water falls on earth they become one and bring prosperity  to the land.

AK Ramanujan’s translation is most popular and was even put up as a poster in London Tube as part of Poems on the Underground. AKR as his wont, takes creative liberties with the structure of the poem. I prefer George L Hart’s translation which stays closer to the text. So why do I even translate the most translated Tamil poem. Because.

This poem has been used a lot in Tamil movies, most famously in Maniratnam’s Iruvar. This is my favorite

யாய் – my mother
ஞாய் – your mother
எந்தை – my father
நுந்தை – your father
கேளிர் – relative
செம்புலம் – red earth
பெயல் நீர் – rain fall

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2 thoughts on “Kurunthokai – 40

  1. V S BALU on said:

    Very & subtle. I like it.


  2. Pingback: love has space and time – holding space

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