Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “April, 2018”

Kambaramayanam – 10171-10173

Whole world hails my chastity;
Even Brahma can’t derail my conviction;
Yet, if the omniscient Lord doesn’t believe me,
Is there any other God who can convince him otherwise?

Lotus seated Lord, One who herds the bull,
Lord of justice with a conch in his hand-
this trinity sees everything like gooseberry on a palm,
yet, are they capable of fathoming women’s mind?

“So, for whom else should I 
prove my blemish less chastity?
It’s better to give up my life; It’s your command my lord, 
I deserve it; that’s my fate too” said she.

பார்க்கு எலாம் பத்தினி; பதுமத்தானுக்கும் 
பேர்க்கல் ஆம் சிந்தையள் அல்லள், பேதையேன்; 
ஆர்க்கு எலாம் கண்ணவன், ”அன்று” என்றால், அது 
தீர்க்கல் ஆம் தகையது தெய்வம் தேறுமோ?

பங்கயத்து ஒருவனும், விடையின் பாகனும்,
சங்குகைத் தாங்கிய தரும மூர்த்தியும்
அங்கையின் நெல்லிபோல் அனைத்தும் நோக்கினும்,
மங்கையர் மனநிலை உணர வல்லரோ?

ஆதலின் புறத்து இனி யாருக்காக என்
கோது அறுதவத்தினைக் கூறிக் காட்டுகேன்?
சாதலின் சிறந்தது ஒன்று இல்லை; தக்கதே
வேத! நின்பணி; அதுவிதியும் ‘என்றனள்.

This set of three verses are Sita bemoaning her fate when Rama accuses her of not following the Dharma and giving up her life when kidnapped by Ravana. The war is over, Ravana has bee slain; Hanuman and Vibishana go to Ashoka Vanam to bring Sita to see Rama. She is overwhelmed by joy and comes to see Rama. At this point Rama accuses her and doubts her chastity. All her joy becomes a mirage and she is grief stricken.

She says, “The whole world hails my chastity. Even the God of Creation, Brahma (who is seated on a lotus) won’t be able to change my conviction to stick to the righteous path. But what’s the use? You, who can see everything in this world say ‘No’, is there any other God I can turn to to convince you otherwise?

The Lotus seated Lord (Brahma, the creator), Lord who herds the bull (Shiva, the destroyer), Lord of Justice (Vishnu) who carries a conch in his hand – these three are all seeing. They see everything crystal clear like a gooseberry held in a palm. Yet can they understand what is inside a women’s heart?

To whom else should I prove my chastity? What is the use? It is better for me to give up my life as per your command, my Lord; I am fated to do so, and I deserve it too”. After this she walks into the fire and the power of her chastity burns the Lord of Fire himself and he comes out and proclaims her as pure.

பதுமத்தான் – பத்மத்தில் (தாமரையில் ) அமர்ந்தவன் – Brahma
பங்கயம் – பங்கஜம் – Lotus விடை – Bull
அங்கையின் நெல்லி – gooseberry on a palm (crystal clear)
கோது – fault

Thirukkural – 1048

Will it come today too, like it did yesterday,
poverty that sucked my life away!

இன்றும் வருவது கொல்லோ-நெருநலும்
கொன்றது போலும் நிரப்பு!

For கொன்றது – I have used ‘sucked my life away ‘ instead of literal meaning ‘killed’

கொல் – An affix implying doubt ( Will it)
நெருநல் – Yesterday
நிரப்பு – Poverty

Siddhar – SivaVakkiyar – 80

When a clay vessel falls , they still save the shards;
When a bronze vessel falls, they save it for future;
When this mortal vessel falls, they discard it saying it smells;
In such a worthless body that measures just eight hand spans, 
what an illusion of life you created, my Lord!

மண்கலம் கவிழ்ந்த போது வைத்து வைத்து அடுக்குவார்
வெண்கலம் கவிழ்ந்த போது வேணும் என்று பேணுவார்
நண்கலம் கவிழ்ந்த போது நாறும் என்று போடுவார்
எண்கலந்து நின்ற மாயம்என்ன மாயம் ஈசனே.

In this poem Siva Vakkiyar talks about the impermanence of human body. When a clay vessel falls and breaks, people still save the shards saying it might be useful some day. When a bronze vessel falls and is dented, they save it carefully for the future. But when this human body falls and dies, they immediately discard it saying it smells. In such a worthless body that measures just eight hand spans, what an illusion of life you created, My lord.

In the fourth line he uses just ‘எண் – eight’ to mean this body that measures eight spans. Each human body measures eight hand spans of its own hand. In Tamil this word எண் சாண் – eight hand spans is understood easily. But in English translation I had to make it a separate sentence to explain.

மண்கலம் – mud vessel
வெண்கலம் – bronze
நண்கலம் – நன் கலம் – good vessel / human body (This is no dictionary meaning. I’m extrapolating)
எண் – eight (for eight hand spans)

Silappathikaaram – Oor Soozh Vari: 53-58

Are there wise men here? Are there wise men here?
Are there wise men here? Are there wise men here
who nurture and care for others’ child?
Is there a God? Is there a God?
In this *town whose King unjustly killed (my husband)
Is there a God? Is there a God?

*Madurai

சான்றோரும் உண்டுகொல்? சான்றோரும் உண்டுகொல்?
ஈன்ற குழவி எடுத்து வளர்க்குறூஉம்
சான்றோரும் உண்டுகொல்? சான்றோரும் உண்டுகொல்?
தெய்வமும் உண்டுகொல்? தெய்வமும் உண்டுகொல்?
வை வாளின் தப்பிய மன்னவன் கூடலில்
தெய்வமும் உண்டுகொல்? தெய்வமும் உண்டுகொல்?’

This is the searing accusation of Kannaki on seeing her husband Kovalan’s body. Kovalan was wrongly accused of stealing the Queen’s anklet and was ordered to be killed by the Pandiya King without an enquiry. Kannaki learns of this and comes and laments over her husband’s dead body and curses the town. She asks “What sort of town is this? Are there wise men here who take care of even others’ children? In this high storeyed town (Madurai), whose King unjustly ordered my husband to be killed is there a God?”

After this she goes to the King’s court and proves with her other anklet that her husband was innocent. When the King learns that he has made a mistake, he dies instantly. Kannaki’s anger does not abate yet. She curses Madurai to be burnt down and Madurai burns.

சான்றோர் – Wise men
ஈன்ற குழவி – Birthed Child – Child born to others
கை வாளின் தப்பிய – cut with sword
கூடல் – நான்மாடக் கூடல் – Town with four towers – Madurai

Thirukkural – 740

Even if it has all the resources, it is of no use
for a country without a suitable ruler.

ஆங்கு அமைவு எய்தியக்கண்ணும் பயம் இன்றே-
வேந்து அமைவு இல்லாத நாடு.

This Kural is the last in the chapter titled “Country”. The previous couplets talk about resources needed for a country. In this Kural he says “Even if a country has all the above, it is of no use if it doesn’t have a suitable ruler”

Thirukkural – 553

A ruler who doesn’t check and redress injustice everyday,
will lose his realm day by day.

நாள்தொறும் நாடி, முறைசெய்யா மன்னவன்
நாள்தொறும் நாடு கெடும்.

நாடி – search / check
முறை செய்யா – doesn’t do justice
கெடும் – lose

Puranaanooru – 74

Even if a baby is stillborn or born unformed
it’d still be considered part of the Royal clan
and be inflicted with battle wound (before burying);
Will such a clan give birth to one who’s so weak
as to beg spiteful foes for water to quench his hunger;
foes who demean him by keeping him chained like a dog?

குழவி இறப்பினும், ஊன்தடி பிறப்பினும்,
‘ஆள் அன்று’ என்று வாளின் தப்பார்;
தொடர்ப் படு ஞமலியின் இடர்ப்படுத்து இரீஇய
கேள் அல் கேளிர் வேளாண் சிறு பதம்,
மதுகை இன்றி, வயிற்றுத் தீத் தணிய,
தாம் இரந்து உண்ணும் அளவை
ஈன்மரோ, இவ் உலகத்தானே?

This poem is attributed to Chera King Kanaikkal Irumporai. He loses the battle of ThirupPorpPuram to Chola King Chenkanaan and is taken prisoner. He is kept chained in prison and has to request his captors for water. He decides to give up his life instead of living in such abject condition. He says “In Royal clans, even a stillborn baby or one born unformed will be inflicted with battle wound before being buried. Will such a clan give birth to one who is reduced to beg for food and water from spiteful foes who instead of killing him honorably in the battlefield, keep him chained like a dog and demean him? I’d rather give up my life than live so abjectly.”

Dying in battle was the biggest honor for men from martial clans. So even a stillborn baby was inflicted with a battle wound before being buried.

குழவி – baby
ஊன்தடி – unformed flesh
வாளின் தப்பார் – won’t escape the sword (be inflicted with battle wound)
தொடர் – linked (chained)
ஞமலி – dog
இடர்ப்படுத்து – distress (demean)
கேள் அல் – unfriendly (spiteful)
கேளிர் – friends(used sarcastically here, hence I used foes)
வேளாண் – charity / benificence
மதுகை இன்றி – without strength (weak)
இரந்து – beg
ஈன் – give birth

Naaladiyaar – 222

 

Though fresh flood breaks canal banks again and again,
those who depend on water for livelihood don’t curse it,
but build the banks again and again;
One whom we’ve chosen as a good friend, we bear with,
though they exasperate us again and again.

செறுத்தோறு உடைப்பினும், செம் புனலோடு ஊடார்,
மறுத்தும் சிறைசெய்வர், நீர் நசைஇ வாழ்நர்;-
வெறுப்ப வெறுப்பச் செயினும், பொறுப்பரே,
தாம் வேண்டிக் கொண்டார் தொடர்பு.

செறு – மடை – canal(?). Not sure of the English word
தோறும் – again
புனல் – flood
ஊடார் – ஊடல் கொள்ள மாட்டார் – won’t get angry
மறுத்தும் – again
சிறை செய்வார் – build again
நசை – desire
வெறுப்பு – hate (I’ve used exasperate as it is meant for friends)

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