Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the category “Padhinen Keel Kanakku”

Pazha Mozhi 400 – 42

Even Thirumal* who saved cows in distress
is called just a cow herd by this world;
irrespective of whether Gods or humans,
tongue that speaks ill is never at a loss.

*Thirumal – Tamil for Lord Vishnu

ஆவிற் கரும்பனி தாங்கிய மாலையும்
கோவிற்குக் கோவல னென்றுலகம் கூறுமால்
தேவர்க்கு மக்கட் கெனல்வேண்டா தீங்குரைக்கும்
நாவிற்கு நல்குர(வு) இல்

When Indra sent rain and thunder to destroy Brindavan, Lord Krishna (avatar of Vishnu) lifted the hills and saved men and cattle from their distress. Even though standing up to Indra was a praiseworthy feat, still the world calls him but a cow herd. So this world doesn’t differentiate between Gods or humans when it disparagaes them. The tongue is never at a loss to criticize / say bad things about people.

The proverb here is “Tongue that speaks ill is never at a loss” (தீங்குரைக்கும் நாவிற்கு நல்குர(வு) இல்)

Pazhamozhi 400 (Proverbs 400) is one of the 18 post Sangam anthologies. It was written / compiled by முன்றுறை அரையனார் (Mundrurai Arayanar, Chief of Mundrurai) and is generally dated to around 5th Century AD.

ஆ – cow
அரும் – great
பனி – distress
மால் – திருமால் – Thirumal (Tamil for Vishnu)
கோ – cow
கோவலன் – cow herd
தீங்கு உரைக்கும் – speaking ill
நா – tongue
நல்குரவு – poverty / shortage

Naaladiyaar – 4

“What’s ours, ours won’t be forever ours” realize this;
noble, noble deeds you wanted to do, do them immediately; –
down and down dwindles one’s life time; wrathfully
comes here, comes here the god of death!

‘நின்றன நின்றன நில்லா’ என உணர்ந்து,
ஒன்றின ஒன்றின வல்லே, செயின், செய்க-
சென்றன சென்றன, வாழ்நாள்; செறுத்து, உடன்
வந்தது வந்தது, கூற்று!

This Naaladiyaar poem talks about the impermanence of wealth. All the wealth that we think is ours won’t remain forever ours. So use your wealth to do all good deeds you wanted to do and do them immediately. Don’t wait. Because one’s life time is dwindling rapidly and God of death is approaching one day by day.

The Tamil poem uses simple words repeated twice to achieve an inherent rhythm. I can’t bring that flow in the translation. Yet I have used repetitive words to give a sense of the original poem.

ஒன்றின – suitable / good / noble
வல் – quick
செறு – angry
கூற்று – death

Thirukkural – 560

Cow udders will dry up, all six professions will discard their skills – 
if the protector fails to protect.

ஆ பயன் குன்றும்; அறுதொழிலோர் நூல் மறப்பர்;-
காவலன் காவான் எனின்.

If the King fails in ruling his country justly, his country’s wealth will dry up and people engaged  in professions will discard their skills leading the country to ruin.

Cows will weaken if agriculture fails and their udders will dry up. Six professions are farming, weaving, drawing/painting, education/knowledge, trading and manufacturing. Devaneya Paavaanar comes to this conclusion based on Sendhan Thivakaram, an eighth century thesaurus.

ஆ – cow
பயன் – output
குன்றும் – reduce
அறுதொழிலோர் – six professionals
காவான் – does not protect

Naaladiyaar – 335

Though there’s no real reason, if he doesn’t rage
as if there’s a reason, and in his rage,
rant and rave at those beyond his reach,
a dimwit’s tongue will really itch.

பெறுவது ஒன்று இன்றியும், பெற்றானே போலக்
கறுவுகொண்டு, ஏலாதார்மாட்டும், கறுவினால்
கோத்து இன்னா கூறி உரையாக்கால், பேதைக்கு
நாத் தின்னும், நல்ல சுனைத்து

The reason for one to outrage might not exist in reality. Yet a dumb person will act as if there’s a reason to outrage against those who are beyond his reach, justify his rage to himself and utter harsh words against them. If he does not do so, his tongue will itch (he cannot rein his tongue in).

A dumb person cannot hold his words. He will curse and rave at those who are beyond reach even though there is no obvious reason. Beyond his reach implies that his harsh words will have no effect on them, yet he will rant and rave.

பெறுவது – பெறும் காரணம் – reason to get (angry)
கறுவு – anger
ஏலாதார் – (one whom we) cannot reach
கோத்து – justify
இன்னா – harsh
உரையாக்கால் – உரையாமல் போனால் – if he does not tell
சுனை – itch

Thirukkural – 784

To befriend isn’t to just laugh merrily; it’s to censure
in advance when one strays from virtue.

நகுதற்பொருட்டு அன்று, நட்டல்; மிகுதிக்கண்
மேற்சென்று இடித்தற்பொருட்டு.

Friendship isn’t meant only for laughing heartily and being pleasant. It is meant to warn in advance and admonish a person when he strays from the righteous path.

நகுதல் – to laugh
நட்டல் – நட்பு கொள்ளுதல் – to befriend
மிகுதி – excess (crossing the line of propriety)
மேற்சென்று – before something happens
இடித்தல் – இடித்து உரைத்தல் – admonish / censure

Thirukkural – 1151

Her friend to him:

If you aren’t leaving, tell me; your promise of speedy return,
tell that to those who’ll be alive then.

செல்லாமை உண்டேல், எனக்கு உரை; மற்று நின்
வல்வரவு, வாழ்வார்க்கு உரை

After marriage, he plans to go in search of wealth. He can’t tell her that he is leaving. So he tells her friend to pass on the message that he will return quickly. Her friend refuses saying “If you have decided not to leave, tell that to me. I will go and tell her. But if you have decided to leave and want to tell her that you will return quickly, I can’t pass that message to her. Tell that to those who will be alive when you come back. She won’t be alive She will wither away in your absence.”

Thiruvalluvar packs so much into those seven words that it is impossible to bring out all the nuances in translation.

வல் – quickness / speed

Thirukkural – 336

“Yesterday, one was alive; today he is not”
such is the reputation of this world.

‘நெருநல் உளன், ஒருவன்; இன்று இல்லை!’ என்னும்
பெருமை உடைத்து, இவ் உலகு.

This Kural verse talks about the impermanence of life. One who was alive yesterday is no more today. This world is well known for such fickleness.

நெருநல் – Yesterday
பெருமை – reputation

Aasaara k Kovai – 76

Don’t talk fast; don’t talk often;
don’t embellish with lies; don’t be verbose – but
cover the subject with clarity, use few words
and speak at the right moment.

விரைந்து உரையார்; மேன்மேல் உரையார்; பொய் ஆய
பரந்து உரையார்; பாரித்து உரையார்;-ஒருங்கு எனைத்தும்
சில் எழுத்தினானே, பொருள் அடங்க, காலத்தால்
சொல்லுப செவ்வி அறிந்து!

One must not talk fast; should not repeat his sentences; should not exaggerate and lie; and must not use too many words. On the other hand, cover the subject completely and with clarity, use only few words to explain oneself and wait for the right time to put forward his thoughts.

Aasaarak Kovai is a collection of 100 verses of moral aphorisms. These are thought to be written based on Sanskrit smritis.

விரைந்து – fast
மேன்மேல் – over and above (often)
பரந்து – expanded (embellish)
பாரித்து – spread (verbose)
ஒருங்கு – entirety
செவ்வி – time / moment

Thirukkural – 1161

I conceal this malady; but it gushes forth,
like spring water to those who draw it up.

மறைப்பேன்மன் யான், இஃதோ, நோயை-இறைப்பவர்க்கு
ஊற்றுநீர் போல மிகும். 

Her friend tells her that revealing her love sickness is not good for her reputation. She  replies, “I do conceal this ailment of passion. But it gushes up like spring water gushing up to those who draw. Spring water never dries up, how much ever one draws. Similarly I can’t hide my love sickness how much ever I try”

Thirukkural – 942

No medicine a body needs – if one eats
after digestion of previous meal.

மருந்து என வேண்டாவாம், யாக்கைக்கு- அருந்தியது,
அற்றது போற்றி உணின்.

If you eat only after sure signs of digestion of previous meal, then there is no need of medicine to take care of one’s body.

யாக்கை – body
அருந்துதல் – to eat
அறுத்தல் – to digest
போற்றுதல் – consider
உண் – eat

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