Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “November, 2017”

Puranaanooru – 220

Like a sad mahout shedding tears
On seeing the once clamorous stable
Of the majestic elephant – that he fed and cared for years –
Now desolate and empty after its death,
do I grieve too, looking at the fabled assembly
in this hoary town that is bereft of
golden garland* wearing skilled warrior Killi**.

பெருஞ் சோறு பயந்து, பல் யாண்டு புரந்த
பெருங் களிறு இழந்த பைதல் பாகன்
அது சேர்ந்து அல்கிய அழுங்கல் ஆலை,
வெளில் பாழாகக் கண்டு கலுழ்ந்தாங்கு,
கலங்கினென் அல்லனோ, யானே பொலந் தார்த்
தேர் வண் கிள்ளி போகிய
பேர் இசை மூதூர் மன்றம் கண்டே?

A little bit of background story of this poem. This poem is about the Chola King KopPerum Cholan, who gave up his life when he found his sons warring against him for the throne. This poem was sung by the poet Pothiaar a close confidant of the King. The poet too wanted to starve and die along with his patron, but the King forbade him since the poet’s wife was pregnant at that time. So he sent the poet back to town.

When Pothiaar reaches the capital city Uraiyur and looks at the desolate assembly bereft of its King, he grieves and wrote this poem. A mahout who has lost his elephant that he fed and cared for years grieves a lot when he sees the empty stable where the elephant lived. The emptiness reminds him of what he has lost and makes him sorrowful. The poet says I grieve like that when I see this fabled assembly bereft of its King.

** Killi – common name for Chola Kings
* Golden garland – garland made of yellow coloured flower (ஆத்திப் பூ), the royal flower of Chola Kings

களிறு – elephant
பைதல் – sad
அல்கிய – lived
அழுங்கல் – clamorous
ஆலை – hall (stable)
வெளி – empty
பாழ் – desolate
கலுழ் – cry
பொலந்தார் – பொன் + தார் – golden garland
தேர் வண் – skilled in chariot warfare
போகிய – bereft
பேர் இசை – highly famed
மூதூர் – ancient town

Thirukkural – 592

Possessing a will to achieve is real posession;

material possessions are transient and will depart.

உள்ள முடைமை உடைமை பொருளுடைமை

நில்லாது நீங்கி விடும்.

Thirukkural – 120

Fair trade for a trader is to care
for other’s interest too like his own share.

வாணிகம் செய்வார்க்கு வாணிகம்-பேணிப்
பிறவும் தமபோல் செயின்.

Don’t treat a trade as a zero sum game. Play for a win win situation. Care for the other party as much as your own.

Kurunthokai – 189

He says to his charioteer : 

We’ll go today itself and return by tomorrow;
let the ivory chariot go fast like waterfalls
that cascades from hills,
let crescent like bright wheels
cut off green stalks like a shooting star does;
travel at the speed of wind to reach, by evening,
the young lass wearing few rows of shell bangles
and unite joyfully with her splendid figure.

இன்றே சென்று வருவது நாளைக்
குன்றிழி யருவியின் வெண்டேர் முடுக
இளம்பிறை யன்ன விளங்குசுடர் நேமி
விசும்புவீழ் கொள்ளியிற் பைம்பயிர் துமிப்பக்
காலியற் செலவின் மாலை யெய்திச்
சின்னிரை வால்வளைக் குறுமகள்
பன்மா ணாக மணந்துவக் குவமே.

This poem is about him wanting to rush back to his woman at the earliest. His ruler has ordered him to go outstation on some work. He doesn’t want to waste time and wants to return back to his woman at the earliest. So he tells his charioteer, “We will start now itself and be back by tomorrow. Let the white chariot made of ivory rush like water that cascades down from the hills. Let crescent like wheels cut off the green stalks in fields like a shooting star scorching the ground. Travel at the speed of wind so we can come back by tomorrow evening and reach this renowned young lass, wearing few rows of shell bangles, and unite with her joyfully”.

Wheels are crescent shaped because a part of the wheel sinks in the soft ground and remaining portion looks like crescent. The wheel moves at such a speed that it cuts down the grains like a shooting start scorching the ground.

குன்று – Hill
இழி – flows
வெண்டேர் – வெண்மை + தேர் – white chariot – chariot made of ivory
முடுகுதல் – hasten
இளம் பிறை – crescent
நேமி – wheel
விசும்பு வீழ் கொள்ளி – space + fall + star – shooting star
பைம்பயிர் – பசுமை + பயிர் – green grains
துமித்தல் – cut / scorch
கால் – wind
செலவு – pace
சின்னிரை – சில+நிரை – few rows
வால்வளை – சங்கு + வளை – shell bangles
குறு மகள் – young girl
பன்மாண் – பலவகையான மாண்பு – many + excellent – splendid
ஆகம் – body
மணந்து – marry / unite
உவக்குவம் – enjoy

Kambaramayanam – 1109

Kumkumam* dropped down; tresses unraveled;
bangles jangled; clothes slipped off;
anklets rattled up and down clamorously –
as young men partook pleasures of women.

* Kumkumam – Red powder applied as a dot in the forehead

குங்குமம் உதிர்ந்தன; கோதை சோர்ந்தன;
சங்கினம் முரன்றன; கலையும் சாறின;
பொங்கின சிலம்புகள் பூசல் இட்டன;
மங்கையர் இள நலம் மைந்தர் உண்ணவே.

This poem is in Revelry chapter (உண்டாட்டுப் படலம்) in Kamba Ramayanam written in 12th century. These set of poems detail the drunken revelry of women who accompanied Dasaratha as he went to Mithila for the wedding of his son Rama.

Kamban details the dishevelment that happens when a couple makes love. Red mark on her forehead drops off. Braided hair comes unraveled. Her bangles jangled and anklets rattle. Her clothes slip off.

கோதை – Braided hair / tresses
சங்கினம் – சங்கு + இனம் – shell bangles
கலை – clothes

Pazha Mozhi 400 – 249

Keeping mouth shut in an assembly of scholars
but boasting in an assembly of naive lackeys –
is like one who, afraid of enemy’s valour in battle,
strings a bow inside his house and shoots arrows amidst vessels.

நல்லவை கண்டக்கால் நாச்சுருட்டி நன்றுணராப்
புல்லவையுள் தம்மைப் புகழ்ந்துரைத்தல் – புல்லார்
புடைத்தறுகண் அஞ்சுவான் இல்லுள்வில் லேற்றி
இடைக்கலத்து எய்து விடல்.

Pazha Mozhi Naanooru ( 400 Old Sayings) is one of the 18 post Sangam anthologies. Each verse explains a proverb. In this verse the poet says “Some people keep their mouth shut in an assembly of scholars. But when they are in front of naive lackeys, they boast about themselves. They are like a man who afraid of enemy’s valour, doesn’t go to the battlefield; instead he strings his bow inside his house and shoots arrow amidst vessels in the house.”

The proverb here is இல்லுள் வில்லேற்றி இடைக்கலத்து எய்து விடல் – “String a bow inside house and shoot arrows amidst vessels”

நாச்சுருட்டி – நா + சுருட்டி – tongue + rolled tight – mouth shut
நன்றுணரா – நன்று + உணரா – not knowledgeable / dumb / naive
புல்லவை – புல் + அவை – lowly assembly
புல்லார் – enemy
புடை – battle
தறுகண் -valour / bravery
இல் – இல்லம் -house

Thirukkural – 66

‘Flute is sweet, Harp is sweet’ they say,
who haven’t heard their child babble away.

குழல்இனிது யாழ்இனிது என்பதம் மக்கள் 
மழலைச்சொல் கேளா தவர்.

Aka Naanooru – 278

Large clouds scoop up water from the eastern sea,
swell like massive elephants of ruler’s noisy army,
move to the right accompanied by lightning
that splits the sky – like a flag rising up a pole –
and thunder that roars noisily,
and encircle the peaks at midnight;
so the silvery waterfalls will swell tomorrow,
flow down forcefully, breaking large bamboo stalks,
knocking down chestnut trees, and arrive
at the vast expanse of our town’s river front;
to make our pale eyes redden,
and to get rid of our midnight’s agony
shall we take a dip in those waters
that cascades from his beautiful hills,
he who made our body lose its gem like shine
and caused us incurable grief?

குண கடல் முகந்த கொள்ளை வானம்
பணை கெழு வேந்தர் பல் படைத் தானைத்
தோல் நிரைத்தனைய ஆகி, வலன் ஏர்பு,
கோல் நிமிர் கொடியின் வசி பட மின்னி,
உரும் உரறு அதிர் குரல் தலைஇ, பானாள்,
பெரு மலை மீமிசை முற்றினஆயின்,
வாள் இலங்கு அருவி தாஅய், நாளை,
இரு வெதிர் அம் கழை ஒசியத் தீண்டி
வருவதுமாதோ, வண் பரி உந்தி,
நனி பெரும் பரப்பின் நம் ஊர் முன்துறை;
பனி பொரு மழைக் கண் சிவப்ப, பானாள்
முனி படர் அகல மூழ்குவம்கொல
மணி மருள் மேனி ஆய்நலம் தொலைய,
தணிவு அருந் துயரம் செய்தோன்
அணி கிளர் நெடு வரை ஆடிய நீரே?

Aka Naanooru (Four hundred poems of Akam, the interior landscape) is part of the eight anthologies that make up Sangam literature. The poems are about love and separation. These poems are longer than other anthologies in the Eight Anthologies.

She lives in plains. He lives in the hills. They have fallen in love and he meets her at night. But today he hasn’t turned up. It is the rainy season. She looks are dark clouds moving towards the hills. She says to her friend, “Look at these clouds. They scoop up water from the eastern sea (Bay of Bengal in current terminology) and look like huge elephants in the Kings army. They are moving towards the right side accompanied by lightning and thunder. They will reach the hills and pour down. This will cause the silvery water falls in the hills to swell and the water will rush to our town tomorrow. On its way it will break down green bamboo stalks and Indian chestnut trees. The waters flow from his hills, he who has caused us so much grief and made our body lose it’s shine. Shall we go and take a dip in those fresh waters tomorrow, so that our pale eyes redden and we can get rid of our midnight’s agony?”

She implies even if I can’t get to embrace him, let me immerse myself in the water that has embraced his hills. At least that will reduce my grief.

Thirukkural – 1110

As learning progresses, past ignorance is realised; So is my love
with this bedecked girl,as I get to know her more.

அறிதோ றறியாமை கண்டற்றால் காமம்
செறிதோறுஞ் சேயிழை மாட்டு.

As one learns more and more, he realises his previous ignorance; similarly as I get to know this bedecked girl more and more, I realise what I have missed so far.

Devaneya Paavaanar inteprets it more erotically “As I make love to this bedecked girl, I realise what I have missed so far”. I have gone with Parimel Azhagar’s commentary.

அறிதோறு அறியாமை கண்டற்றால் – As learning progresses, one realises his past ignorance. The brevity of Tamil hasn’t come out well in translation.

Thirukkural – 1261

Noting the days of his absence, fingers are worn out;
losing their shine, eyes too have dimmed.

வாள் அற்றுப் புற்கென்ற, கண்ணும்; அவர் சென்ற
நாள் ஒற்றித் தேய்ந்த, விரல்.

He has gone away a long time. She has kept count of the days of his absence by noting it on the wall. Counting those again and again, her fingers have worn out. Her eyes too have lost their shine and have dimmed.

In the original verse, ‘eyes too have dimmed’ comes first and ‘worn out fingers’ next. The use of உம் (கண்ணும்) means ‘(eyes) too’. In English using ‘too’ first reads oddly. Hence I have transposed the lines in the translation. Also ‘the wall’ isn’t explicit but implied in ‘ஒற்றி’ – touch.

வாள் – brightness / shine
அற்று – losing
புற்கென்ற – புல்லியவாயின – became dim
ஒற்றி – touch (count marks on the wall)


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