Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Silappathikaaram – Aichiar Kuravai – KoLu

One who jumps in unafraid of the furious black bull,
him does this fragrant flower tressed girl covet;
To him who tames the crimson foreheaded bull,
do arms of this golden bangled girl belong;
To him who rides the strong young bull,
does this jasmine tressed girl belong;
To him who tames the spotted white bull,
do arms of this slender girl belong;
To him who tames the freckled white bull,
does soft bosom of this slim girl belong;
To him who tames the triumphant young bull,
does this yellow flowered tressed girl belong;
To him who tames the pristine white bull,
does this dark and dusky beauty belong.

காரி கதன் அஞ்சான் பாய்ந்தானைக் காமுறும், இவ்
வேரி மலர்க் கோதையாள்; சுட்டு,
நெற்றிச் செகிலை அடர்த்தாற்கு உரிய, இப்
பொன் தொடி மாதராள் தோள்.
மல்லல் மழ விடை ஊர்ந்தாற்கு உரியள், இம்
முல்லை அம் பூங் குழல்-தான்.
நுண் பொறி வெள்ளை அடர்த்தாற்கே ஆகும், இப்
பெண் கொடி மாதர்-தன் தோள்.     
பொன் பொறி வெள்ளை அடர்த்தாற்கே ஆகும்: இந்
நன் கொடி மென்முலை-தான்.
வென்றி மழ விடை ஊர்ந்தாற்கு உரியவள், இக்
கொன்றை அம் பூங் குழலாள்.
தூ நிற வெள்ளை அடர்த்தாற்கு உரியள், இப்
பூவைப் புது மலராள்.

Bull taming (or) Jalli Kattu is one of the centuries old tradition of Tamils who lived in pastoral tracts. It was called Eru thaluvudhal, literally hugging the bull, in Sangam era. Taming a bull was a mark of bravery and women were enamored with successful bull tamers. It was a dangerous sport for the participants as being gored by the bull was regular occurrence. Unlike Spanish bull fights where the bulls are killed, here the emphasis is only on controlling the bulls.

These lines are just one of the literary evidences that talk about Eru thaluvudhal 2000 years ago. There are 7 long poems in Kaliththokai, which is earlier than Silappathikaaram, listing in detail the ritualistic bull taming.

This poem is in the Aichiar Kuravai section of the 2nd Century epic Silappathikaaram. The protagonists of the epic, Kovalan and Kannaki leave their native town of Kaveri Poom pattinam in Chola country and come to Madurai, the capital of Pandya country. Kovalan leaves Kannaki with the pastoral people in the outskirts of Madurai and goes to the city to sell Kannaki’s anklet and make money. He is wrongly accused of stealing the Queen’s anklet and is killed.

The pastoral women see bad omens in their settlement. The elder among them, Madhari, says let us sing and dance the Kuravai, which was originally sung by Nappinnai along with Lord Krishna in his youth. Seven young women hold hands together and dance around singing the praise of Krishna.

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