Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kar Naarpathu – 14

My bedecked friend! Imminent return of our lover,
who went in search of wealth, is for sure;
Cool pleasant clouds smile gently
for jasmine shrubs to bloom with shiny teeth.

செல்வம் தரல் வேண்டிச் சென்ற நம் காதலர்
வல்லே வருதல் தெளிந்தாம்;-வயங்கிழாய்!-
முல்லை இலங்கு எயிறு ஈன, நறுந் தண் கார்
மெல்ல இனிய நகும்.

Kar Naarpathu is a collection of 40 poems set during rainy season, written by Madurai Kannan Koothanar. It is generally dated around 5th Century CE.

She is waiting for him to return. Her friend consoles her, showing the change of seasons. “It is monsoon time now. Cool clouds are smiling gently and there is a drizzle. Because of these rains, jasmine shrubs bloom with shiny white buds that are like teeth. It means that our lover is expected to return any time now. Please don’t worry yourself”

‘Clouds smile gently and jasmine shrubs bloom with shiny teeth’ – this is the stand out phrase in this poem for me. The imagery is striking. You can actually smell the first rains, feel the gentle drizzle and see those first jasmine buds.

‘Our lover’ – நம் காதலர் might sound odd for those who are new to Sangam literature. It was the norm for the friend to include herself as part of heroine’s persona. So when she says ‘our lover’ it means ‘your lover’. I decided to keep the original phrase.

தரல் – தருதல் – to get
வல் – quick
தெளி – clear
வயங்கு – shining
இழாய் – இழை உடையாய் – wearing jewels (bedecked)
முல்லை – jasmine
இலங்கு – shining
எயிறு – teeth
ஈன் – give birth to (bloom)
நறு – pleasant
தண் – cool
கார் – clouds
நகும் – smile

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