Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Muththollayiram – 37

My heart, reserve and virtue, all of them
the Ruler of river country* has seized;
My friend with flared waist like a snake’s hood!
isn’t just one-sixth of produce owed to the King?

* Ruler of River Country – Cholas in whose country River Cauvery flowed.

என்னெஞ்சு நாணு நலனும் இவையெல்லாம்
மன்னன் புனனாடன் வௌவினான் – என்னே
அரவகல் அல்குலாய் ஆறில் ஒன் றன்றோ
புரவலர் கொள்ளும் பொருள்.

Muththollayiram (Three times Nine Hundred) is an anthology of poems sung in praise of the Three Royal dynasties of Tamil Country – the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas. Only 108 of the poems are available now. It is generally dated to around 5th Century CE.

In this poem, a girl pines for the Chola King. She says to her friend, I am so much in love with him that he has seized my heart, reserve and virtue. He owns me completely now. This is unfair. Isn’t just one sixth of the produce owed to the King. How can he seize them all?

The third line is simple in Tamil அரவு அகல் அல்குலாய் – snake hood flared waisted girl. English readers will find it odd though. The curve of the snake hood is equated the curves of the girl. அல்குல் means either ‘mound of venus’ or ‘waist’ based on context. It is one of the most contested words in Tamil. Tamil readers can read this post http://madhavipanthal.blogspot.in/2011/10/alkul.html to know more about the word அல்குல்.

Once we move beyond waist / mound of venus, we also realise that the tax rated 1500 years ago was just sixteen percent.

River Cauvery flows through the Chola Kingdom, so the Chola Kings are mentioned by the river. (Tamil readers, remember Ponniyin Selvan? Ponni is another name for Cauvery).

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One thought on “Muththollayiram – 37

  1. புற்றரவல்குல் புனமயிலே என்ற திருப்பாவை சொற்றொடரை இங்கு மேற்கோள் காட்டினால் தகும் என்று நம்புகிறேன்.

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