Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Elaadhi – 74

Beauty of waist, shoulders or wealth,
of gait, coyness or shapely neck,
these are not real beauty; Beauty
of words and numbers is real beauty.

இடை வனப்பும், தோள் வனப்பும், ஈடின் வனப்பும்,
நடை வனப்பும், நாணின் வனப்பும், புடை சால்
கழுத்தின் வனப்பும், வனப்பு அல்ல; எண்ணோடு
எழுத்தின் வனப்பே வனப்பு.

This poem in Elaadhi (ஏலாதி) one of the books in the 18 post Sangam poetic works (பதிணென் கீழ்க் கணக்கு). Written by KaNimEdhaiyaar (கணிமேதையார்), it is considered to be one of the latter day works, dated around 5th Century CE.

In this poem the poet says the external beauty or aspects of a person is not real beauty. One’s learning is the real beauty. The poet introduces two qualities – wealth and shyness- along with physical appearance. I have no idea of the reason behind it. Literal meaning of ‘எண்ணோடு எழுத்து’ is ‘Number (logic) with words’. The commentary for the poem interprets ‘numbers with words’ as ‘literature as per rules’. I have gone with the literal meaning. Also the original poem has the word ‘Beauty,(வனப்பு) attached to every external aspect. As it will be unwieldy to read in English, I have used ‘Beauty’ as a common descriptor for all aspects.

Similar thoughts are echoed in poem number 36 of Sirupanchamoolam, another one of the 18 post Sangam poetic works.

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