Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “July, 2019”

Naaladiyaar – 27

Like bubbles that appear in rainwater
And burst again and again is this life
– Wise ones who realise this decide ‘we shall be unflustered’,
Who else is equal to them in this vast world.

படுமழை மொக்குளின் பல்காலும் தோன்றிக்
கெடுமிதோர் யாக்கையென் றெண்ணித் – தடுமாற்றம்
தீர்ப்பேம்யாம் என்றுணரும் திண்ணறி வாளரை
நேர்ப்பார்யார் நீணிலத்தின் மேல்.

This poem is about impermanence of life. Life is nothing but bubbles that appear in rain water and burst again and again. Birth and death repeat in endless cycle. Wise men realise this and do not be overly flustered by the vagaries of life. No one in this whole world is equal to those who realise this impermanence of life.

மொக்கு – bubble

பல்கால் – may times

யாக்கை – life

தடுமாற்றம் – confusion / flustered

தீர்ப்பேம் – we will clear

திண் அறிவாளர் – wise ones

நேர்ப்பார் – equal to

நீணிலம் – vast wide world

Moodhurai – 2

Help rendered to a virtuous person
Remains forever, like words carved on stone –
Help rendered to an ungrateful person though,
Is similar to words written on water.

நல்லா ரொருவர்க்குச் செய்த உபகாரம்
கல்மே லெழுத்துப்போற் காணுமே-அல்லாத
ஈரமிலா நெஞ்சத்தார்க் கீந்த உபகாரம்
நீர்மே லெழுத்திற்கு நேர்.

When we help a good person, they remember it forever. It is permanent like words carved on a hard rock. However help rendered to ungrateful lowly person is forgotten by them immediately. Just like words written on water, they vanish as soon as they are done.

This is a poem by Avvayar in Moodhurai (மூதுரை) , literally meaning “Old advice”. It is a collection of 30 poems, written around 12th Century CE.

நல்லார் – good / virtuous person
உபகாரம் – help
கல் மேல் எழுத்து – words on stone
அல்லாத – vile
ஈரமில்லாத நெஞ்சார் – ஈரமில்லாத நெஞ்சமுடையவர் – cold hearted / ungrateful person
ஈந்த – given / rendered
நீர் மேல் எழுத்து – word on water
நேர் – equal / similar

Kundalakesi – 9

Death of our embryonic stage, death of our childhood,
Death of our adolescence, death of our passionate youth –
Dying repeatedly is the norm; same awaits us at old age too;
As we are dying everyday, why not we cry for ourselves too?

பாளையாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
பாலனாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
காளையாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
காமுறும் இளமை செத்தும்
மீளும்இவ் இயல்பும் இன்னே
மேல்வரு மூப்பும் ஆகி
நாளும் நாள் சாகின்றாமால்
நமக்கு நாம் அழாதது என்னோ!

Kundalakesi is one of the five great epics of Tamil literature. Three of these are Jainism based (Seevaka Sinthamani, Silappathikaaram, Valayaapathi) and two are Buddishm based (Manimekalai and Kundalakesi). Kundalakesi is estimated to have been written before 5th Century AD. Only 19 of the 99 verses of Kundalakesi are available today.

It is about Kundalakesi, daughter of a rich merchant in Puhar, who falls in love with a thief Kaalan about to be beheaded. Her father pleads with the King and saves Kaalan from death. After marriage one day she playfully calls him thief. Enraged by this , he plans to kill her and takes her to a mountain peak to push her down. When he tells this to her, she requests him to let her go around him three times as worship before being killed. He agrees. She goes behind him and pushes him down , killing him. Then she repents and becomes a Buddhist monk. She defeats Jain and Hindu scholars in theological debates.

In this poem, the poet talks about impermanence of life. “We cry for the death of our near and dear ones. But we ourselves are dying every day. Every stage of our life entails death of the previous stage. We are a fetus in our mother’s womb. Once we are born, the fetus dies. Then our childhood dies when we become young adults. Which again dies when we become passion driven youth. That stage too dies. Death repeats itself in our life. That is the norm. What is more, it is death that awaits us in our old age too. As we are dying every day, why do we not cry for ourselves? It is pointless to cry for the death of near and dear ones”

பாளை – embryo / fetus
தன்மை – nature
பாலன் – toddler / child
காளை – young adult
காமுறும் – becoming passionate
இளமை – youth
மீளும் – repeatedly
இயல்பு – nature
இன்னே – இனிமேல் – in future
மூப்பு – old age
சாகின்றாமால் – செத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிறோம், ஆதலால் – as we are dying
என்னோ – why?

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