Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the category “Padhinen Keel Kanakku”

Thirukkural – 623

They trouble the trouble itself –
those who aren’t troubled by trouble.

இடும்பைக்கு இடும்பை படுப்பர்-இடும்பைக்கு
இடும்பை படாஅதவர்

Those who are not troubled by the trouble they face , will cause trouble to the trouble itself. Nothing can harm them. Trouble comes to a person to cause grief to him. If he is resolute and doesn’t grieve, then the purpose of trouble is defeated. Hence it will be troubled.

So now you know where the punch dialogues of Balaiah / Vijayakanth originate from 🙂

இடும்பை – distress / trouble

Thirukkural – 443

To revere wise men and make them one’s own,

is the rarest of rare gifts known.

அரியவற்றுள் எல்லாம் அரிதே-பெரியாரைப்
பேணித் தமராக் கொளல்.

When one comes across wise men, one should please them & make them his own. For they are the rarest of rare things to find.

Gifts is not explicitly mentioned in the couplet. It’s only implied.

அரியவற்றுள் எல்லாம் அரிது – rarest of rare
பெரியார் – wise knowledgeable men
பேணுதல் – To respect, take care, revere
தமர் – relative / one’s own
கொளல் – to have / to make

Thirukkural – 106

Forget not, kinship of the faultless; Forsake not,
friendship of those who stood fast by us in distress.

மறவற்க, மாசு அற்றார் கேண்மை! துறவற்க,
துன்பத்துள் துப்பு ஆயார் நட்பு!.

One should never forget the relation ship of those whose mind is faultless. Being with them will help him in this life and after life too. Similarly, one should not give up the friendship of those who stood fast by us as support in times of distress. They are our real friends.

Forget not / Forsake not phrase I have borrowed from Yogi Shuddhananda Bharathi’s translation.

மறவற்க – do not forget
மாசு அற்றார் – blemishless
கேண்மை – relationship / kinship
துறவற்க – துறக்க வேண்டாம் – give up not
துன்பத்துள் – at time of distress
துப்பு – support
ஆயார் – ஆனவர் – who became
நட்பு – friendship

Naaladiyaar – 134

It can’t be stolen from its place; If bestowed, it won’t diminish;
Because of its lofty stature, even an angry ruler can’t seize it;
Legacy worth leaving for one’s progeny is knowledge alone,
Not anything else.

வைப்புழிக் கோட்படா; வாய்த்தீயிற் கேடில்லை;
மிக்க சிறப்பின் அரசர் செறின்வவ்வார்;
எச்சம் எனஒருவன் மக்கட்குச்செய்வன
விச்சைமற் றல்ல பிற;

This Naaladiyaar verse glorifies education and knowledge. It is not a physical object, so cannot be stolen from its place. If a suitable student appears and knowledge is bestowed on him, it won’t diminish. It will only shine more. Because of lofty stature of knowledge, learned men can’t be hurt even by the ruler’s anger. Only inheritance worth leaving as legacy for one’s kids is knowledge. Nothing else matters.

Might be hard to accept in today’s materialistic world, but that’s what the ancients thought. And I think it makes sense.

வைப்பு – kept
உழி – place
கோட் படா – கோள் படாது – cannot be taken
வாய்த்தீயிற் – வாய்த்து + ஈந்தால் – if opportunity (for a good student) occurs + give away
கேடில்லை – கேடு + இல்லை – won’t diminish
மிக்க – high / lofty
சிறப்பின் – (because of) stature
செறின் – செறு உற்றால்- even if angered
வவ்வார் – வவ்வ மாட்டார் – cannot seize
எச்சம் – remainder / what’s left back / legacy
மக்கள் – kids / progeny
செய்வன – to do / leave
விச்சை – வித்தை – knowledge
மற்றல்ல – மற்று + அல்ல – not else
பிற – others / anything

Inna Naarpathu – 31

To sing with an untuned harp is much of a pain;
Auspicious day prediction by untrained astrologer is a pain;
Sound of a tuning-paste-less drum is a pain;
Likewise painful is enmity of the uncouth.

பண் அமையா யாழின்கீழ்ப் பாடல் பெரிது இன்னா;
எண் அறியா மாந்தர் ஒழுக்கு நாள் கூற்று இன்னா;
மண் இல் முழவின் ஒலி இன்னா; ஆங்கு இன்னா,
தன்மை இலாளர் பகை.

When a harp is untuned, to sing with it causes much pain to the singer. When an astrologer in untrained, selection of auspicious day by him causes pain to those who ask  him. The center of a drum is covered with a black paste (made of clay, iron oxide and other ingredients). This paste is important for the sound produced by the drum. Sound produced by a drum without tuning paste will be painful. Similar to these three, enmity of a graceless person is extremely painful. They will not stick to the standards of propriety expected in an adversary.

பண் – tune
அமையா – அமையாத – not set
யாழ் – harp
இன்னா – misery / agony / pain
எண் அறியா மாந்தர் – one who doesn’t know to calculate – untrained astrologer
ஒழுக்கு நாள் – right day / auspicious dau
கூற்று – saying / prediction
மண் – tuning paste (of drums)
முழவு – drum
ஆங்கு – likewise
தன்மை இலாளர் – grace less
பகை – enmity / hostility

Thirukkural – 235

Fame that grows as mortal body weakens, and endures after death,
is hard for anyone other than the masterly.

நத்தம்போல் கேடும், உளதாகும் சாக்காடும்,
வித்தகர்க்கு அல்லால் அரிது.

As one’s days pass by the mortal body weakens. For those who are proficient and skillful, fame grows at the same time as their mortal body weakens. Their fame achieves its zenith on their death and endures after that. Such achievement is not easy for any one other than those who are masters in their field.

Fame and mortal body are implied in the original, not mentioned explicitly.

நத்தம் – நந்து + அம் – growth / increase
கேடு – diminish / weakens
உளதாகும் – உளது ஆகும் – established / endures
சாக்காடு – death
வித்தகர் – adept / skillful / proficient
அரிது – hard / difficult

Thirukkural – 781

What else is harder to make than friendship? If made,
What else is better than it to guard the work we do?

செயற்கு அரிய யா உள, நட்பின்?-அதுபோல்
வினைக்கு அரிய யா உள, காப்பு?

A good friend is the hardest thing to acquire in this world. But once we have acquired a good friend, there is no one better to protect our work from foes. So work hard in getting good friends. They will take care of you.

செயற்கரிய – செய்தலுக்கு + அரிய – hard to make
யா – யாது – what
உள – உள்ளது – there
நட்பின் – than friendship
வினை – task / duty
காப்பு – protection

Thirukkural – 1041

What’s more miserable than poverty, if you ask,
poverty alone is more miserable than poverty.

‘இன்மையின் இன்னாதது யாது?’ எனின், இன்மையின்
இன்மையே இன்னாதது.

There is nothing more miserable than poverty. If you ask what is more miserable, then the answer is only poverty is more miserable than poverty.

Tamil classical poetry follows strict rules of meter. Hence words are joined together to adhere to the rules. To understand the verse, one has to split them and understand it. For example the unsplit versionof the above verse is

இன்மையி னின்னாத தியாதெனி னின்மையின்
இன்மையே யின்னா தது.

As you can see it has four words in the first line and three in the second line, the way you were taught in school. After a lot of thought, I stick to split version of the verse, to make it easy for regular Tamil readers to understand. It is a compromise, it makes the verse lose its cadence; yes, but I don’t want to scare people off immediately.

இன்மையின் – than poverty
இன்னாதது – miserable
இன்மையே – only poverty / poverty alone

Pazhamozhi 400 – 302

O’ lord of the town where blooming flowers jostle in streams!
Those who spend whatever little they have to do good deeds,
and expect to reap much more in return – are like those 
who throw in small spiny loach fish to catch a murrel.

சிறிய பொருள் கொடுத்துச் செய்த வினையால்,
பெரிய பொருள் கருதுவாரே;-விரி பூ
விராஅம் புனல் ஊர!-வேண்டு அயிரை இட்டு,
வராஅஅல் வாங்குபவர்.

Some people spend a little money on charity in this life and expect much in return in their after life. These people are like those who throw in small fish (spiny loach – அயிரை) to catch big fish (வரால் – murrel).

Pazha Mozhi Naanooru ( 400 Old Sayings) is one of the 18 post Sangam anthologies. Each verse explains a proverb. In this verse the poet doesn’t explicitly say this life / after life. It is expanded and explained in the commentary. Hence I haven’t included it in translation.

வினை – deed (good deed)
கருதுதல் – expect
விரி பூ விராஅம் – blooming flowers mingle / jostle
புனல் – stream
அயிரை – spiny loach fish
வரால் – murrel fish

Thirukkural – 1257

She tells her friend:

We know nothing called as shame – when, overcome by passion,
our lover does all that we longed for.

நாண் என ஒன்றோ அறியலம்-காமத்தான்,
பேணியார் பெட்ப செயின்.

This couplet is under the chapter நிறை அழிதல் – Losing reserve.

She was angry with him for going away leaving her alone. She had promised herself that she would make him pay for it when he comes back. But when he comes back she gives into him. Her friend asks her “why didn’t you fight with him as you said you would?”

She replies “When he came back and did all that I longed for (in his absence) due to unbridled passion, I wantonly gave in. I didn’t know that quality called shame when he fulfilled my desires”

நாண் – shame
ஒன்றோ – anything
அறியலம் – அறிய மாட்டோம் – we don’t know
காமத்தான் – due to lust / passion
பேணியார் – one who loves us
பெட்பு – wish
செயின் – செய்தால் – if he does

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