Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “November, 2019”

Thirukkural – 1120

Even pimpernels and soft feathers of a swan
Are thorny caltrops to this girl’s feet.

அனிச்சமு மன்னத்தின் றூவியும் மாத
ரடிக்கு நெருஞ்சிப் பழம்.

My girl’s feet are soft and tender. Even soft petals of a pimpernel flower or fine feathers of a swan are thorns to her feet.

அனிச்சம் – Pimpernel flower
அன்னம் – swan
தூவி – feather
அடி – feet
நெருஞ்சி – caltrop (thorn)

Nalvazhi 34

Even if one is illiterate, as long as he is wealthy,
Every one will welcome and attend to him;
A pauper is not wanted even by his wife,
Nor by the mother who birthed him;
His words go unheard.

கல்லானே யானாலுங் கைப்பொருளொன் றுண்டாயின்
எல்லாருஞ் சென்றங்கு எதிர்கொள்வர்-இல்லானை
இல்லாளும் வேண்டாள்மற்று ஈன்றெடுத்த தாய்வேணடாள்
செல்லாது அவன்வாயிற் சொல்.

This poem by Avvaiyar (the 3rd, of 12th Century AD) talks about how the world respects the wealthy and discards the pauper. A wealthy man even if he is illiterate, is feted upon by everyone. On the other hand one who doesn’t have money us not wanted even by his wife. Even the mother who birthed him doesn’t want him. Nobody listens to his words and he is treated as useless.

All the words in this poem are still in use in Tamil. இல்லானை இல்லாளும் வேண்டாள் – Even his wife doesn’t want a pauper is a commonly used phrase in Tamil discourse. The wordplay in Tamil doesn’t translate into English.

கல்லான் – illiterate
கைப்பொருள் – wealth (at hand)
இல்லான் – one who doesn’t have / pauper
இல்லாள் – wife
ஈன்று எடுத்த – one who gave birth
செல்லாது – of no use

Thirukkural 1238


As I eased my embracing arms away from her,
The bangled girl’s forehead lost colour.

முயங்கிய கைகளை யூக்கப் பசந்தது
பைந்தொடிப் பேதை நுதல்.

He is reminiscing about his girl. Once when they were hugging tight, he eased his arms a bit so as not to crush her. Thinking he is about to leave, she is distressed and her forehead loses colour.

Thirukkural 667


Do not ridicule looking at one’s appearance – this world has people
Who are like the linchpin of a lofty chariot.

உருவு கண்டு எள்ளாமை வேண்டும்-உருள் பெருந் தேர்க்கு
அச்சு ஆணி அன்னார் உடைத்து.

We should not mock a person looking on their appearance. There are people in this world who play important roles but look very ordinary. Linchpin of a majestic chariot looks very small. But it is key to the movement of the chariot. So don’t ridicule any one for their appearance.

உருவு – form / appearance

எள்ளாமை – not ridicule

அச்சாணி – linchpin

அன்னார் – similar people

உடைத்து – (world) has

Pazhamozhi 400 – 312

Those who did not do considerable good deeds earlier,
Can they expect to attain considerable wealth later?
If they compare with others’ wealth and try, will it happen?
No returns for those who didn’t invest.

முன் பெரிய நல்வினை முட்டு இன்றிச் செய்யாதார்,
பின் பெரிய செல்வம் பெறல் ஆமோ? வைப்போடு
இகலிப் பொருள் செய்ய எண்ணியக்கால், என் ஆம்?-
முதல் இலார்க்கு ஊதியம் இல்.

Good deeds we did in previous birth will ensure better life in this birth. Those who did not do any good deeds in previous birth, can they expect good things in this birth? Even if they compare themselves with others’ wealth and try to earn, will anything change? There’s no return for those who haven’t invested (by doing good deeds).

This is from பழமொழி நானூறு (Four hundred Proverbs). Since most of its content is similar to Naaladiyaar, this is supposed to have been written after that, possibly around 4th Century AD. These four hundred proverbs were collated and written in verse by Poet Mundrurai Arayanar (முன்றுரை அரையனார்). From the foreword verse of this anthology it is inferred that he was a follower of Jainism. Rebirth and Karma are cornerstones of Jain world view.

முன் – earlier (previous birth)

நல்வினை – good deeds

முட்டு இன்றி – without limits / considerable

பின் – later (this birth)

வைப்பு – savings (of others)

இகல் – compare

என் ஆம்? – என்ன ஆகும் – what will happen

முதல் – investment / capital

ஊதியம் – salary / return

Naaladiyaar – 152

Whether it is achievable or not,
Wise men aim to do admirable deeds;
Is a spear that missed a lion lesser
to an arrow that pierced a fox’s heart?

இசையும் எனினும், இசையாதுஎனினும்,
வசை தீர எண்ணுவர், சான்றோர்;-விசையின்
நரிமா உளம் கிழித்த அம்பினின் தீதோ,
அரிமாப் பிழைப்ப எய்த கோல்?

Learned people aim to do deeds that are admirable and difficult to do. They are not worried about whether it is achievable or not. They put in their best efforts and aim high. A spear that missed killing a lion is no way lesser to an arrow that struck a fox’s heart. Aim high, even if there is a possibility of failure.

This verse is similar to Thirukkural – 772

கான முயலெய்த வம்பினில் யானை
பிழைத்தவே லேந்த லினிது.

இசை – possible (to achieve) / achievable
வசை தீர – blameless / exemplary
எண்ணுதல் – intend / aim
நரி மா – fox (animal)
உளம் – Heart
அரிமா – Lion
பிழைப்ப – let it survive / missed (killing)
கோல் – spear


Thirukkural – 819


Friendship of those whose words and deeds differ
Is an agony even in one’s dream.

கனவினு மின்னாது மன்னோ வினைவேறு
சொல்வேறு பட்டார் தொடர்பு.

Friendship of people who say something and do something else is an agony, not only when one is awake but even when one is asleep.

கனவு – dream
இன்னா – grief / misery
தொடர்பு – connection / friendship

#Tamil #Thirukkural #Poetry #translation​

Naaladiyaar – 28

Those who are blessed with a healthy body,
Must put their body to good use –
Like a cloud circling mountain peaks,
This body will appear and vanish in a blink.

யாக்கையை யாப்புடைத்தாப் பெற்றவர், தாம் பெற்ற
யாக்கையால் ஆய பயன் கொள்க-யாக்கை
மலை ஆடும் மஞ்சுபோல் தோன்றி, மற்று ஆங்கே
நிலையாது நீத்துவிடும்!

This Naaladiyaar verse talks about the impermanence of life. A healthy body is a rare gift. Those who have got that, should use their life to do good deeds to the maximum of their potential. They should not think that they will be healthy and live for ever. The body is like a cloud circling a mountain peak. It might look massive and permanent but we all know it will vanish without a trace. So one must make good us of the healthy life they are bestowed with.

யாக்கை – body
யாப்பு – firm / healthy
ஆய பயன் – maximum use
மஞ்சு – cloud

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