Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “December, 2018”

Thiruvempavai – 11

Into the wide pond swarmed by bees, we entered,
parting the water noisily, praised your divine feet,
and lived for generations as your servitors;
O’ fiery red hued Lord, covered in white ash;
O’ consort of narrow waisted, long eyed Goddess;
O’ Lord, we, as part of your sport of enthralling your servitors,
have been redeemed in all ways possible;
Save us from further tangles, my Lord!

மொய்யார் தடம்பொய்கை புக்கு முகேரென்னக்
கையாற் குடைந்து குடைந்துன் கழல்பாடி
ஐயா வழியடியோம் வாழ்ந்தோங்காண் ஆரழல்போற்
செய்யாவெண் ணீறாடீ செல்வா சிறுமருங்குல்
மையார் தடங்கண் மடந்தை மணவாளா
ஐயாநீ ஆட்கொண் டருளும் விளையாட்டின்
உய்வார்கள் உய்யும் வகையெல்லாம் உய்ந்தொழிந்தோம்
எய்யாமற் காப்பாய் எமையேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

The girls enter the temple tank, take a dip and pray to Lord Siva, before going into the temple. “Oh, Siva, you are fiery red in color, like a blazing flame. Your body is completely covered in holy white ash. O’ Lord, you are the consort of the Goddess with narrow waist and long , lined eyes.

We enter your wide temple tank, part the water noisily, take a dip and sing the praise of  your divine feet. We have lived for generations as your servitors. We have been part of the game you play in this universe, enthralling your servitors. And by your grace, we have been redeemed in all ways possible. Save us from further tangles, my Lord. Free us from this cycle of birth and death.”

Thiruvempavai – 10

Far below the nether world, beyond words, is his feet;
Far above all the peaks is his flower adorned crown;
He is not of just one form, has his Lady as part of him;
He’s the source of Vedas; Though Celestials and humans praise him,
Words aren’t enough; He’s a friend, resides in hearts of his disciples;
Oh’ girls from unsullied clans doing service in his temple,
Which is his town, what is his name; Who are his kin, who are not;
What’s the way to sing his praise? Please tell us!

பாதாளம் ஏழினுங்கீழ் சொற்கழிவு பாதமலர்
போதார் புனைமுடியும் எல்லாப் பொருள்முடிவே
பேதை ஒருபால் திருமேனி ஒன்றல்லன்
வேதமுதல் விண்ணோரும் மண்ணும் துதித்தாலும்
ஓத உலவா ஒருதோழன் தொண்டருளன்
கோதில் குலத்தரன்றன் கோயிற் பிணாப்பிள்ளைகாள்
ஏதவன்ஊர் ஏதவன்பேர் ஆருற்றார் ஆரயலார்
ஏதவனைப் பாடும் பரிசேலோர் எம்பாவாய்

The girls have now reached the temple of Lord Siva in Thiruvannamalai. They sing his praise and ask those who serve the temple what is the right way to praise him.

“Lord Siva is of immense form. His blessed feet are far beneath the nether worlds, beyond the reach of words. His flower adorned crown is far above all the peaks of the world. (This can be read as his crown is far above the end of all things. முடி in Tamil means crown as well as end. The word play is hard to bring in English) He is not of the same form through out. He has his Lady (Goddess Shakthi) in one part of his body. He is the source of all Vedas. Though celestials and human sing his glory, words are not enough to praise him. He is a friend, resides in the heart of his disciples. (In some commentaries, this phrase ஒரு தோழந்தொண்டர் உளன் is interpreted as he has innumerable devotees. Again word play with the word உளன் –  has / in heart).

Oh’ girls doing service in his temple. You are from unsullied clans. Please enlighten us. Which is his town? What is his name? Who are his kith and kin? Who are not? What is the right way to sing his praise? Please let us know!”

Thiruppavai – 10

Oh’ Mamma ascending heavens through these vows!
Won’t you give us a word even if you don’t open the doors!
Narayanan, whose crown is adorned with fragrant basil,
The benefactor who bestows boons when we praise him – 
In days of yore, the ever sleeping Kumbakarna
was felled to death because of Him; did that Kumbakarna
lose to you and hand over his long sleep?
Oh’ rarest of gems, blessed with eternal sleep,
Come quickly and open the doors, my friend!

நோற்றுச் சுவர்க்கம் புகுகின்ற அம்மனாய்
மாற்றமும் தாராரோ வாசல் திறவாதார்
நாற்றத் துழாய்முடி நாராயணன் நம்மால்
போற்றப் பறைதரும் புண்ணியனால்
பண்டுஒருநாள் கூற்றத்தின் வாய்வீழ்ந்த
கும்ப கருணனும் தோற்றும் உனக்கே
பெருந்துயில்தான் தந்தானோ ஆற்ற
அனந்தல் உடையாய் அருங்கலமே
தேற்றமாய் வந்து திறவேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

Andal and other girls are still waking up the girl who is asleep. “Yesterday you promised us that we will keep these vows together and ascend to heaven because of this. Oh Mamma. But today you are still asleep. You are not opening your doors. Atleast give us a word saying you will wake up soon. Even that you are not doing.

Our Narayanan wears a fragrant garland made of holy basil in his crown. When we sound our drums and pray to him, he bestows boons on us. Once upon a time, in his avatar as Rama, he felled to death the ever sleeping Kumbakarna. Did that Kumbakarna lose to you instead and give his everlasting sleep? Such eternal sleep you have, you  rarest of gems. Come quickly and open your doors”

Thirukkural – 591


One who is motivated, is said to have it all; Without it,
whatever else one has, does he have it at all?

உடையர் எனப்படுவது ஊக்கம்; அஃது இல்லார்
உடையது உடையரோ, மற்று?

Motivation is the most important possession one can have. One who has it is said to have it all. People might have obtained wealth and position by inheritance or circumstances. But if they lack the spirit, then it is as good as not possessing any.

Thiruppavai – 9

In jeweled upper storey of your house, with lamps lit all around,
amidst fragrant incense smoke,  you are asleep on a soft bed – 
Oh’ my uncle’s daughter, open the latches of your adorned door;
Oh’ my aunt, will you not wake her up? Is your daughter 
Mute? Or is she deaf? Such eternal sleep she has;
Or is she under a spell? Is anyone guarding her bed?
We chant many of his names – Renowned Enchanter, 
Madhvan, Vaikundhan and so on; does she not hear?

தூமணி மாடத்து சுற்றும் விளக்கெரியத்
தூமம் கமழத் துயிலணைமேல் கண்வளரும்
மாமான் மகளே மணிக்கதவம் தாழ்திறவாய்
மாமீர் அவளை எழுப்பீரோ உன்மகள்தான்
ஊமையோ அன்றி செவிடோ அனந்தலோ
ஏமப் பெருந்துயில் மந்திரப் பட்டாளோ
மாமாயன் மாதவன் வைகுந்தன் என்றென்று
நாமன் பலவும் நவின்றேலோர் என்பாவாய்.

Andal is now at her cousin’s house, trying to wake her up. She sings “Oh’ my uncles daughter, you are asleep in the soft bed amidst fragrant incense smoke in the shining upper storey of your house with lamps lit all around. Wake up and unlatch the adorned doors of your house.

Oh’ my aunt, will you at least wake up your daughter. I have been hollering from here. But she doesn’t reply to me. Is your daughter a mute or a deaf? Such stubborn sleep she has. Is any one standing guard over her bed, forcing her to sleep? Or is she under a spell? We are here chanting our Lord’s many names – The enchanter, Madhavan the consort of Lakshmi, Vaikundhan the resident of Vaikundham and so on. Does she not hear us?”

Thiruvempavai – 9

Oh, Ancient being older than the most ancient being;
One who can be more modern than future modernity;
We ,your honored slaves, who have you as our Lord,
Will bow at the feet of your adherents, be their aides;
We will choose only them as our husbands;
We will take their orders to heart and serve them;
If this wish of ours you grant us, my Lord,
There’s nothing else we lack for!

முன்னைப் பழம்பொருட்கும் முன்னைப் பழம்பொருளே
பின்னைப் புதுமைக்கும் பேர்த்துமப் பெற்றியனே
உன்னைப் பிரானாகப் பெற்றஉன் சீரடியோம்
உன்னடியார் தாள்பணிவோம் ஆங்கவர்க்கே பாங்காவோம்
அன்னவரே எம்கணவ ராவார் அவர்உகந்து
சொன்ன பரிசே தொழும்பாய்ப் பணிசெய்வோம்
இன்ன வகையே எமக்கெங்கோன் நல்குதியேல்
என்ன குறையும் இலோமேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

In the first eight poems, the girls were waking up their friends to go to Thiruvannamalai temple early morning and sing the praise of Lord Siva. In this verse they have reached the temple and pray to him, asking him to gran their wish.

“Oh Lord, you were there when this world formed. You are ancient than the most ancient being.  At the same time, you are one who has the ability to transform yourself into being more modern that even future modernity. You are eternal. We are blessed to have you as our Lord. We are your ardent devotees. We will prostrate ourselves at the feet of your servitors. Be their companions as they serve you. We will choose only those who follow you as our husbands. Whatever they wish for, we will take it to our heart and serve them.

To serve those who serve you, that’s all we ask for. If you grant  us this wish my Lord, there is nothing else in this world we lack”

Thiruvempavai – 8

As Rooster starts crowing, other birds too join the chorus song;
As the seven notes glorify him, white conch too booms along;
Peerless Paranjothi, his peerless mercy to all those far and near,
Peerless superior being, we sing his praise, don’t you hear?
May you be blessed! What sort of sleep is this? Open your doors;
Is this the blessing that ocean reclining Lord Vishnu bestows?
Lord Siva – the Eternal Being  at the end of Eons,
who’s one part woman – Sing his praise is what we ask, my friend!

கோழி சிலம்பச் சிலம்புங் குருகெங்கும்
ஏழில் இயம்ப இயம்பும்வெண் சங்கெங்கும்
கேழில் பரஞ்சோதி கேழில் பரங்கருணை
கேழில் விழுப்பொருள்கள் பாடினோம் கேட்டிலையோ
வாழிஈ தென்ன உறக்கமோ வாய்திறவாய்
ஆழியான் அன்புடைமை ஆமாறும் இவ்வாறோ
ஊழி முதல்வனாய் நின்ற ஒருவனை
ஏழைபங் காளனையே பாடேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

“It is dawn now. The rooster has started crowing. Hearing that all other birds too join the chorus and start chirping. Songs sung in seven notes proclaim the praise of our Lord Siva. The booming sound of the white conch accompanies those songs. Siva, in the form of infinite flame, is peerless. His mercy on his devotees is limitless. He is the superior being, matchless among the Gods. We sing his praise, don’t you hear that?

What sort of sleep is this sleep of yours? Even after hearing us you are still asleep. Come and open your door. Lord Vishnu is asleep in the milky ocean. We think he took pity on you and bestowed that sleep to you too. Is it so. Siva is the eternal being, who remains at the end of Eons. He shares a part of his body with the Goddess. Sing his praise is what we ask my friend!”

Thiruppavai – 8

Light appears in Eastern sky, setting it ablaze;
Buffaloes amble to small patches of field to graze;
We held back other girls who were itching to go,
And are here to pick you up, at your door;
Oh’ favourite of Krishna, wakeup! If we praise him,
the Lord who broke open the jaw of horse shaped demon,
the Lord who felled wrestlers sent to kill him,
the Lord of Lords, and go worship him,
he will look at us, have pity and bestow his grace, my friend!

கீழ்வானம் வெள்ளென்று எருமை சிறுவீடு
மேய்வான் பரந்தனகாண் மிக்குள்ள பிள்ளைகளும்
போவான்போ கின்றாரைப் போகாமல்காத்துஉன்னைக்
கூவுவான் வந்துநின்றோம் கோதுகலம் உடைய
பாவாய் எழுந்திராய் பாடிப் பறைகொண்டு
மாவாய் பிளந்தானை மல்லரை மாட்டிய
தேவாதி தேவனைச் சென்றுநாம் சேவித்தால்
ஆவாவென்று ஆராய்ந்து அருளேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

“The sky has lightened in the East. Buffaloes are out to graze. All other girls are up and  ready to go to his temple to worship him. We have held them back, saying let’s all go together, and have come to your doorstep to wake you up. You are the favourite of Krishna, my friend! Wake up now.

When a demon called Kesi took the form of a horse and attacked him, Krishna broke its jaw open. He felled the wrestlers sent to kill him. He is the Lord of the Lords. If we sound our drums, sing his praise and go worship him, he will look at us, have pity on us and bestow his grace on us. So wake up and join us, my friend”


Thiruppavai – 7

‘Keech Keech’ buzz of black drongo birds talking to each other,
don’t you hear that, you impish girl!
Sound of curd being churned with hand whisk
by fragrant haired cowherd women as their necklaces jingle
don’t you hear that, you Regal damsel!
Hearing us sing the praise of Krishna,
avatar of Narayana, will you still lie asleep;
Oh, radiant beauty, open your door, my friend!

கீசுகீசு என்றுஎங்கும் ஆனைச்சாத் தன்*கலந்து
பேசின பேச்சரவம் கேட்டிலையோ பேய்ப்பெண்ணே
காசும் பிறப்பும் கலகலப்பக் கைபேர்த்து
வாச நறும்குழல் ஆய்ச்சியர் மத்தினால்
ஓசை படுத்த தயிரரவம் கேட்டிலையோ
நாயகப் பெண்பிள்ளாய் நாரா யணன்மூர்த்தி
கேசவனைப் பாடவும்நீ கேட்டே கிடத்தியோ
தேச முடையாய் திறவேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

*ஆனைச்சாத்தன் – வலியன் குருவி / கரிக் குருவி – Black Drongo bird 

Her friends haven’t succeeded in waking up the girl. When they ask her to wake up, she replies to them, “How do I know it is dawn? How can I believe you?”.

They say “Listen to the ‘keech keech’ sound of the black drongo birds talking to each other. Don’t you hear that noise, you impish girl?

Fragrant haired cowherd women wake up early in the morning and churn curd with whisk. Their necklaces jingle as their hand churns the curd. Don’t you hear that noise of curd being churned, your royal highness?

We are here at your doorstep, singing the praise of Krishna, an avatar of Narayana. Even after hearing that, how can you still be asleep? Wake up, you radiant girl, and open the door.”

Thiruvempavai – 7

Oh’ Mamma! Is this sleep too a trait of yours?
Our peerless Lord, whom even celestials can’t fathom –
When you heard his temple music,
your mouth intoned Siva Siva;
As he was serenaded as the Southern Lord,
you melted like wax embracing fire;
But now, when we are at your doorstep,
praising him as our lord, our elixir, you’re still asleep;
You lay unmoving like a stubborn idiot;
how powerful is the hold of sleep, my friend!

அன்னே இவையுஞ் சிலவோ பலஅமரர்
உன்னற் கரியான் ஒருவன் இருஞ்சீரான்
சின்னங்கள் கேட்பச் சிவனென்றே வாய்திறப்பாய்
தென்னாஎன் னாமுன்னம் தீசேர் மெழுகொப்பாய்
என்னானை என்னரையன் இன்னமுதென் றெல்லோமுஞ்
சொன்னோங்கேள் வெவ்வேறாய் இன்னந் துயிலுதியோ
வன்னெஞ்சப் பேதையர்போல் வாளா கிடத்தியால்
என்னே துயிலின் பரிசேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

The girls still have not succeeded in waking up their friend. They exclaim “Oh, Mamma. We didn’t know that such a sleep too was a trait of yours. Our Lord Siva is beyond the understanding of even Celestial beings. He stands alone, peerless.

When you heard the music from his temple, your mouth reflexively chanted Siva, Siva. As soon as the servitors started serenading him as the Lord of Southern Country, you melted like wax embracing a fire. But today, when we are at your doorstep singing his praise as Our Lord, Our Elixir, you are still asleep. Like a stubborn idiot you lay unmoving. How powerful is the hold of sleep so powerful, my friend!”

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