Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “June, 2017”

Thirikadugam – 95

Blight of hunger that gnaws at wisdom and spoils it,
desire that spoils friendship of wise men,
anger that doesn’t tolerate foe’s harsh words –
these three are forces that erode good karma.

அறிவு அழுங்கத் தின்னும் பசி நோயும், மாந்தர்
செறிவு அழுங்கத் தோன்றும் விழைவும், செறுநரின்
வெவ் உரை நோனா வெகுள்வும்;-இவை மூன்றும்
நல் வினை நீக்கும் படை.

When one is afflicted with hunger, it eats away and spoils his wisdom. Excessive desire for materialistic posessions spoils one’s frienship with wise men. Uncontrolled anger at harsh words of the enemy destroys oneself. These three are forces that erode away any good Karma one has earned. Hunger, desire and anger are to be controlled, else they will lay to waste one’s good Karma.

அழுங்குதல் – spoil
செறிவு – closeness
விழைவு – desire
செறுநர் – enemy / foe
வெம்மை – harsh
உரை – words
நோன் – to endure / bear
வெகுள்வு – வெகுளி- anger
நல்வினை – good karma

Kundalakesi – 18

What’s to wither will wither; what’s to bloom will bloom;
what’s to be gained will be gained; what’s to be lost will be lost;
those who realise this will neither brood nor rejoice;
the maxim what’s to happen will happen is true.

மறிப மறியும் மலிர்ப மலிரும்
பெறுப பெறும் பெற்று இழப்ப இழக்கும்
அறிவது அறிவார் அழுங்கார் உவவார்
உறுவது உறும்என்று உரைப்பது நன்று.

The above poem is from Kundalakesi, the buddhist epic. It encapsulates the Buddhist philosophy of Karma. All that happens is destined to happen based on one’s Karma in previous birth. The Tamil poem is highly concise and precise. It’s difficult to bring that brevity in the translation. I have tried my best.

“If some thing has to die it will die. All your efforts cannot save it. Similarly if something is to grow, it will grow despite hardships. If one is destined to get something, he will get it. All the world can’t stop it. Similarly if one has to lose what he has he will lose it. Wise men who realise this will not grieve when they lose something nor rejoice when they get something. The worldly saying that what is destined to happen will happen is completely true”

Kundalakesi is one of the five great epics of Tamil literature. Three of these are Jainism based (Seevaka Sinthamani, Silappathikaaram, Valayaapathi) and two are Buddishm based (Manimekalai and Kundalakesi). Kundalakesi is estimated to have been written before 5th Century AD. Only 19 of the 99 verses of Kundalakesi are available today.

மறிதல் – diminish / destroyed
மலிர்தல் – grow
பெறுதல் – get
இழத்தல் – lose
அறிதல் – know
அழுங்குதல் – worry
உவத்தல் – be happy
உறு – to happen


Kurunthokai – 244

Her friend says :

It’s not that we didn’t hear you
try to open the door like a strong elephant
at midnight when every one was asleep;
We did hear, my lord!
Like a fine peacock trapped in a net
with its crown crushed and feathers broken,
We were hugged tight by our heartless mother, everytime we shifted .

பல்லோர் துஞ்சும் நள்ளென் யாமத்து,
உரவுக் களிறுபோல் வந்து, இரவுக் கதவு முயறல்
கேளேம் அல்லேம்; கேட்டனெம்-பெரும!-
ஓரி முருங்கப் பீலி சாய
நல் மயில் வலைப் பட்டாங்கு, யாம்
உயங்குதொறும் முயங்கும், அறன் இல் யாயே.

He tried to meet her at night. But the door was locked and she did not open. Next day her friend says to him, “My lord, it is not that we did not hear you try to open our door at midnight when the whole town was asleep. We heard you clearly. However she was sleeping next to her foster mother, who kept hugging her tightly when she as much as moved. Her situation was like a peacock caught in a hunter’s net. That’s why she couldn’t open the door and meet you”. The implied meaning is since it is difficult to meet at night anymore, you better take steps to marry her. Mother is called heartless as she put paid to their nightly rendezvous plans.

துஞ்சுதல் – sleep
நள் – middle
யாமம் – mid night
உரவு – strong
களிறு – elephant
ஓரி – mane (here the crown of a peacock)
உயங்கு – suffer / shudder
முயங்குதல் – embrace
அறன் – fairness (அறன் இல் – unfair / heartless)
யாய் – mother

Naaladiyaar – 112

The noble and ignoble both
never vary from their character! –
Whoever eats it, cane sugar is never bitter;
neem fruit is bitter even if Gods eat it.

தக்காரும் தக்கவ ரல்லாரும் தந்நீர்மை
எக்காலுங் குன்றல் இலராவர் ! – அக்காரம்
யாவரே தின்னினும் கையாதாம் கைக்குமாம்
தேவரே தின்னினும் வேம்பு.

Those who are honorable are always like that and never deviate from their character irrespective of the situation . Same goes with dishonorable people. It’s like sugar and neem. Sugar is never bitter, irrespective of who tastes it. Similarly neem is bitter even if Gods taste it.

தக்கார் – noble
நீர்மை – property / inherent quality
குன்றல் – reduce / diminish
அக்காரம் – cane sugar
கைத்தல் – taste bitter
தேவர் – celestials / God / good people
வேம்பு – neem

Thirukkural – 387

With pleasing words one who’s able to provide and protect,

this world yields to his wishes.

இன் சொலால் ஈத்து, அளிக்க வல்லாற்குத் தன் சொலால்
தான் கண்டனைத்து, இவ் உலகு.

A ruler who speaks pleasantly, provides to the need and protects his citizens from harm will find this world yielding to his wishes. 

Kurunthokai – 249

School of peacocks scream and
white faced monkeys shiver with their young ones
in rain drenched thickly wooded slopes of his hill country.
Looking at those hills – my friend! –
my faded forehead gains colour, you see?

இன மயில் அகவும் மரம் பயில் கானத்து,
நரை முக ஊகம் பார்ப்பொடு பனிப்ப,
படு மழை பொழிந்த சாரல் அவர் நாட்டுக்
குன்றம் நோக்கினென்-தோழி!-
பண்டையற்றோ, கண்டிசின், நுதலே?

He has not come to see her for long. She is afflicted by love sickness in his absence. Pallor spreads on her face. Noticing that her friend asks how will you manage to hold yourself together in his absence? She says, “I’ll look at his hills and that will sustain me through this period of sepration. See how my faded forehead gains colour on seeing his hills.” Peacocks screaming and monkeys shivering indicate that it is the monsoon season and he will be back soon.

இனம் – group
அகவுதல் – scream (sound of a peacock)
பயில் – செறிந்த – thick
கானம் – forest
நரை – white
ஊகம் – monkey
பார்ப்பு- young one
பனித்தல்- shiver
சாரல் – slope
குன்றம் – hill
பண்டை- (as it was) earlier
கண்டிசின் – you see
நுதல் – forehead

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