Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Nanmanik Kadigai – 6

From spurges* is aromatic agar born;
In deer’s stomach is rich musk** born;
Inside the sea invaluable pearl is born;
Who knows in which clan virtuous will be born?

கள்ளி வயிற்றின் அகில்பிறக்கும் மான்வயிற்றின்
ஒள்ளரி தாரம் பிறக்கும் பெருங்கடலுள்
பல்விலைய முத்தம் பிறக்கும் அறிவார்யார்
நல்லாள் பிறக்குங் குடி.

*Sap of square spurge (cactus like plant) was considered equivalent of agar wood resin from which attar is manufactured.
**Musk gland is inside a male deer’s body, between its genitals and umbilicus.

This poem is about how worth is based on one’s activities and not where he was born. The poet points out that aromatic substance is born in cactus like plants, rich musk is born inside a male deer’s stomach, invaluable pearls are born inside the huge ocean. So who knows in which clan the virtuous will be born. So do not value a person based on where he is born, value him based on his activities.

‘ஒள் அரிதாரம்’ has been interpreted as ‘bright musk’ in Tamil commentaries. Common meaning of ஒள் – ஒண்மை is bright. But it doesn’t make sense to call musk as bright. I have used ‘rich’ one of the other meanings in Madras University Dictionary.

Wikipedia link for
Spurge – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphorbia
Musk deer – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musk_deer

கள்ளி – Square Spurge
அகில் – Agar / aloes (aromatic resin of agarwood. Here an equivalent sap from spurge plant)
ஒள் – luxurious / rich
அரிதாரம் – musk
பல்விலை – highly valued
முத்தம் – pearl
குடி – clan

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