Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the category “Sangam”

Ainkurunooru – 214

Leaving your big cool eyes teared up
He goes back to his renowned country,
Where hills are dotted with jackfruit trees
And their fleshy aromatic fruit
Falls down a rocky crevice
Tearing apart the honeycomb there.

சாரற் பலவின் கொழுந்துணர் நறும்பழம்
இருங்கல் விடரளை வீழ்ந்தென வெற்பில்
பெருந்தே னிறாஅல் கீறு நாடன்
பேரமர் மழைக்கண் கலிழத்தன்
சீருடை நன்னாட்டுச் செல்லு மன்னாய்.

He is leaving her to go back to his country. He sends the message through her friend. Her friend tells her, within his hearing, “The man from the storied hills is going back to his country, leaving you all teary eyed. In his hills, jackfruit trees grow along the slopes. A fruit from those trees falls in the gap between rocks and breaks the honeycomb there to pieces. He came and met you making you happy. Now by his going away, he breaks your tender heart like a huge jackfruit falling down and tearing apart a tender honeycomb.”

The idea is that by hearing this he will feel remorse and take steps to marry her at the earliest. Jackfruit tearing apart honeycombs is an arresting metaphor. It is of no use to the jackfruit which itself will break into pieces on falling down, while at the same time the honeycomb too goes waste. In South India it is a common practice to pour honey in jackfruit flesh and eat them together. If you take that into account, this metaphor grows even further.

சாரல் – mountains
பலவின் – பலாவின் – of jack fruit tree
கொழுந்துணர் – fleshy / ripe
நறும் பழம் – aromatic fruit
இருங் கல் – big mountain / rocky
இடர் – in between
அளை – hollow / crevice
வெற்பு – hill
பெருந்தேன் இறால் – honey comb
கீறு – tear apart
பேரமர் – big calm
மழைக் கண் – cool eyes
கழில – suffer / teary eyed
சீருடை – சீர் உடைய – renowned
அன்னாய் – my friend

Kurunthokai – 371

My friend! I too do not want bangles to slip out of my arms
Or my skin to become pale, thinking of my lover,
In whose cloudy hills wild rice is harvested with water from falls;
My passion though, is immense.

கை வளை நெகிழ்தலும் மெய் பசப்பு ஊர்தலும்,
மை படு சிலம்பின் ஐவனம் வித்தி
அருவியின் விளைக்கும் நாடனொடு,
மருவேன்-தோழி-அது காமமோ பெரிதே.

Her lover from the hills hasn’t come to ask her hand in marriage as he promised. So she is pining for him and is becoming sickly. Her friend says “Get out of this funk”. She replies to her friend “I too do not want my arms to be so weak that bangles slip out of it. Or pallor to spread across my skin. In my lovers hills people notice clouds encircling the hills and sow wild rice, as they are sure that water from rainfed water falls will help them to harvest rice. Similarly I trusted him and fell inove with him. I still trust him. My anemic state is not because of him too. It is because of the passion in my heart, that is too immense to keep in check”

நெகிழ்தல் – weaken (and slip out)

மெய் – body

பசப்பு – pallor

மை படு சிலம்பு – cloud covered hill slope

ஐவனம் – mountain rice

வித்தி – sow

விளைக்கும் – grow

மருவேன் – மருவ மாட்டேன் – do not want to be

பெரிதே – immense

Kurunthokai – 163

Like herds of small headed white goats
that roam in Poozhi country,
the grove fringed water front
is filled with fish hunting egrets;
At this water front, even at midnight,
-when white screw-pine flower shrubs are swayed by waves-
Your plaintive cry is still heard;
Oh’ Sea! For whom do you pine and suffer?

யார் அணங்குற்றனை-கடலே! பூழியர்
சிறு தலை வெள்ளைத் தோடு பரந்தன்ன
மீன் ஆர் குருகின் கானல்அம் பெருந்துறை.
வெள் வீத் தாழை திரை அலை
நள்ளென் கங்குலும் கேட்கும், நின் குரலே?

She is pining for him. She misses his love and passion, and is awake at midnight. Every one else is asleep. The roar of the sea is her only companion. She asks the sea “Your water front is overrun by white egrets hunting for fish. They look like the white goats found everywhere in Poozhi country. In this water front, where high tide brings the waves to sway white screw pine flower shrubs in shore, you are still awake and I can hear you plaintive cry. I am awake because I miss my lover and suffer on his behalf. On whose account to you suffer, Oh’ Sea?”

Poozhi Country is thought to be present day Kozhikode in Kerala coast. There is another Poozhi country in areas around Tirunelveli, but that is not close to the coast.

அணங்கு – suffer
பூழியர் – Poozhi country
சிறு தலை வெள்ளைத் தோடு – herd of small headed white goats
பரந்து – widespread
மீன் ஆர் குருகு – fish hunting egrets
கானல் – grove
பெருந்துறை – wide water front
வெள் வீத் தாழை – white screw pine flower shrubs
திரை – waves
அலை – அலைக்கின்ற – shake / sway
நள் – mid
கங்குல் – night

Kurunthokai – 325

He kept repeating “I’ll leave, I’ll leave”
Thinking it was his age-old hogwash to leave,
‘Leave my side and go away forever’ I said;
Oh my God! I wonder where my faultless Lord is now?
Like the wide pond inhabited by black legged white Egret,
Valley of my bosom is filled with tears of regret.

‘சேறும் சேறும்’ என்றலின், பண்டைத் தம்
மாயச் செலவாச் செத்து, ‘மருங்கு அற்று
மன்னிக் கழிக’ என்றேனே; அன்னோ!
ஆசு ஆகு எந்தை யாண்டு உளன்கொல்லோ?
கருங் கால் வெண் குருகு மேயும்
பெருங் குளம் ஆயிற்று, என் இடைமுலை நிறைந்தே.

They have had a fight and he has left her. She regrets her actions now and pines for him. She says “He kept repeating that he will leave me. I thought it was nothing but his age-old tactic and said ‘Leave me and go away’. Oh my God, what have I done? I wonder where he is now. It wasn’t his fault. Thinking of him I shed tears that collect in the valley of my bosom like a wide pond where dark legged white egret roams”

சேறும் – Will leave
பண்டை – age old
மாயம் – lie / hogwash
செலவு – leave
செத்து – thinking
மருங்கு – side
அற்று – leave
மன் – permanently / forever
கழிக – go away
ஆசு – fault
எந்தை – my lord
யாண்டு – now
உளன் – (where) is there
கருங் கால் – black legged
வெண் குருகு – white egret
மேயும் – roaming
பெருங் குளம் – wide pond
இடைமுலை – valley between breasts / cleavage

Nattrinai – 34

(When the faith healer says she is afflicted with the spirit of Murugan, her friend who knows the real reason scolds Murugan)

Near the brook where Goddess resides,
His lofty mountain slopes are ablaze
With leafy blossoms of blue lilies
And a sprinkling of red flame lilies;
Divine Maidens sway in trance
To the clamor of waterfalls;
Embracing the chest of the lord of those hills
Is the cause of her malady, Not you, you know;
Yet, because this Kadamba flower wearing faith healer
Looked up and invoked you, you’ve descended on her;
Though you may be a God,
You are surely stupid, Blessed Muruga!

கடவுட் கற்சுனை அடை இறந்து அவிழ்ந்த
பறியாக் குவளை மலரொடு காந்தள்
குருதி ஒண் பூ உரு கெழக் கட்டி,
பெரு வரை அடுக்கம் பொற்பச் சூர்மகள்
அருவி இன் இயத்து ஆடும் நாடன்
மார்பு தர வந்த படர் மலி அரு நோய்
நின் அணங்கு அன்மை அறிந்தும், அண்ணாந்து,
கார் நறுங் கடம்பின் கண்ணி சூடி,
வேலன் வேண்ட, வெறி மனை வந்தோய்!
கடவுள் ஆயினும் ஆக,
மடவை மன்ற, வாழிய முருகே!

Irreverence is the hall mark of Tamils. No one is immune to it, even Murugan, the foremost God of Tamils. Take this 2000 year old poem from Nattrinai for example. She has fallen in love with the man from the hills. Now that she is away from him, she pines for him and is lovesick. Her mother, unaware of this, calls the faith healer to cure her. The healer says she is afflicted with the spirit of Murugan, God of the Hills. Her friend knows the real reason castigates Murugan and hints to her mother about the love affair.

“It is said that near the brook in his hills Goddess resides. Next to that the hill rises loftily. The hill slopes are ablaze with leafy blue lilies interspersed with blood red flame lilies. Divine maidens, who worship the Goddess, sway in trance to the clamor of water falls from the hills. Such is his splendid hill country. Embracing his chest and then being separated from him is the cause for her sickness. You very well know that you are not the reason for her sickness Muruga! Yet, because this Kadamba flower wearing faith healer looked up to the skies and invoked you, you have descended on her and afflicting her. Though you may be a God, you are still stupid, Muruga!”

Through this poem her friend sends message to the man from the hills also. The practice was to promise marriage in front of the Goddess statue and convince the girl. Her friend hints “You promised in front of the goddess. She trusted your word and embraced your chest. Now that you have not kept your word, she is afflicted with this sickness. Though you know the reason, you are yet to formalise your union. You are stupid, Lord of the hills”

கடவுள் – Goddess
கற்சுனை – hilly brook
அடை இறந்து – surrounded by leaves
அவிழ்ந்த – blossomed
பறியாக் குவளை – unplucked / fresh blue lily
காந்தள் – flame lily
குருதி ஒண் பூ – blood red flower
உரு கெழக் கட்டி – beautifully woven garland
பெரு வரை – lofty hills
பொற்ப – shining
சூர்மகளிர் – divine maidens (kind of vestal virgins, in service of Goddess)
படர் மலி  – spreading wide
அரு நோய் – incurable sickness
அணங்கு – affliction
அன்மை – not
அறிந்தும் – (even though) you know
கார் நறுங் கடம்பின் கண்ணி – rainy season’s fragrant Kadamba flower garland
வேலன் – faith healer
வெறி மனை – to afflict
வந்தோய் – you came
மடவை மன்ற – Surely stupid

Ainkurunooru – 229

(Her friend asks her on seeing colour return to her face)

Be blessed, my friend! Did the callous one,
who vanished for days in a row
Leaving us teary eyed, come last night?
Like Gold, gloriously shines your brow.

அம்ம வாழி, தோழி! நாம் அழப்
பல் நாள் பிரிந்த அறனிலாளன்
வந்தனனோ, மற்று இரவில்?
பொன் போல் விறல் கவின் கொள்ளும், நின் நுதலே.

He has been away for long. She pines for him and her colour wanes. Then one day he visits her at night. The joy of seeing him restores her health. She tries to keep it secret. But her friend finds out and asks her “My friend! Did your lover who vanished for many days and left us crying, come to meet you last night? Colour has returned to your forehead and it shines like gold. Though you try to keep it a secret, your ruddiness gives it away”

அறனிலாளன் – அறம் இல்லாதவன் – Uncompassionate / Callous

விறல் – Magnificent / Glorious

கவின் – beauty / shine

நுதல் – forehead / brow

Ainkurunooru – 90

On hearing that his wife is upset with her, the courtesan says :

Did the bee acquire her husband’s wonderful trait?
Or did her husband acquire the bee’s wonderful trait?
She doesn’t know the reality,
His son’s mother, who is irked with me.

மகிழ்நன் மாண்குணம் வண்டு கொண்டனகொல்?
வண்டின் மாண்குணம் மகிழ்நன் கொண்டான்கொல்?
அன்னது ஆகலும் அறியாள்,
எம்மொடு புலக்கும், அவன் புதல்வன் தாயே.

He left his wife and spent time with his courtesan. Now he has moved on to other women. But his wife is still upset with the courtesan and bad mouths her. Hearing this, the courtesan says “Her husband is like a bee that moves from flower to flower. Whether he got that trait from the bee or the bee got the trait from him, I don’t know. His son’s mother (wife) is not aware of the reality and is angry with me. But he has left me too.”

மகிழ்நன் – husband
மாண் குணம் – great quality / trait
அன்னது ஆகல் – such reality
அறியாள் – does not know
புலக்கும் – புலத்தல் கொள்ளும் – angry with / irked with

Thirumurugaattruppadai – 91-102

One face is radiant like the sun
to illuminate this dark world spotlessly;
One face is kind to worshipping devotees,
and bestows boons to them with love;
One face protects the yagnya of priests
who do not swerve from rules laid out in Vedas;
One face analyses things not understood
and enlightens the way ahead like the bright moon;
One face takes sides in a war, enters battlefield
with a ruthless heart and crushes enemies;
One face is all smiles with Valli,
creeper like thin waisted naive daughter of the hill chief.

மா இருள் ஞாலம் மறு இன்றி விளங்க,
பல் கதிர் விரிந்தன்று, ஒரு முகம்; ஒரு முகம்,
ஆர்வலர் ஏத்த, அமர்ந்து இனிது ஒழுகி,
காதலின் உவந்து வரம் கொடுத்தன்றே; ஒரு முகம்
மந்திர விதியின் மரபுளி வழாஅ
அந்தணர் வேள்வி ஓர்க்கும்மே; ஒரு முகம்
எஞ்சிய பொருள்களை ஏமுற நாடி,
திங்கள் போலத் திசை விளக்கும்மே; ஒரு முகம்
செறுநர்த் தேய்த்துச் செல் சமம் முருக்கி,
கறுவுகொள் நெஞ்சமொடு களம் வேட்டன்றே; ஒரு முகம்
குறவர் மட மகள், கொடி போல் நுசுப்பின்
மடவரல், வள்ளியொடு நகை அமர்ந்தன்றே;

This verse is part of Thirumurugaattruppadai, sung by Nakkeerar, dated around 3rd century CE (?). It sings the praise of Lord Murukan and his abodes. These lines are part of the verses about Murukan in Thiruchendur (then known as Thirucheer Alaivai, literally ‘glorious sea front’). Murukan is called Arumugan, one with six faces. These lines explain the six faces / facets of Murukan. I think Thirumurugaattruppadai is the first work that incorporates Murukan into the pantheon of Gods. In earlier Sangam poetry he is the Lord of the hills (குறிஞ்சி நிலத் தலைவன்)

One face is radiant like the sun and illuminates this dark world, without any hidden dangers. One face looks kindly at devotees, listens to their prayers, and grants boon to them with love. One face protects the priests conducting sacrificial offerings (Homa/Yagnya) without swerving from rules laid out in Vedas. One face analyses things unknown to people and shows the path ahead, like the moon. One face takes sides in a war of good against evil, enters the battle field with a ruthless heart and crushes the enemies. One face smiles joyously with Valli, the slim waisted naive daughter of the hill chieftain.

Kurunthokai – 99

He answers her friend who asks him “did you think of her when you were away?”

Did I not think of her? Thinking,
Did I not reminisce? Reminiscing,
Was I not flustered by society’s coventions?
Like the copious flood that wetted branches of the tallest tree
Thinning to a rivulet one scoops out water from, and drying out,
My unbounded passion is slaked once I’m here.

உள்ளினென் அல்லெனோ யானே? உள்ளி,
நினைந்தனென் அல்லெனோ பெரிதே நினைந்து,
மருண்டனென் அல்லெனோ, உலகத்துப் பண்பே?
நீடிய மராஅத்த கோடு தோய் மலிர் நிறை
இறைத்து உணச் சென்று அற்றாங்கு,
அனைப் பெருங் காமம் ஈண்டு கடைக்கொளவே.

He has come back after a long time spent earning wealth. Her friend asks him “Did you think of her when you were away?” He answers her “Was there a moment I did not think of her? No. Thinking of her did I not remember the pleasant times we spent together? I did. Did I not despair of the world’s convention that a man has to go away from his near and dear ones to earn wealth? I did. My unbounded passion was like a copious flood that touches the branches of the tallest tree. Like how the same flood dwindles down to rivulet you can drink from and then ceases to exist, my passion is satiated now that I am one with her again.”

“Flood thinning out into a rivulet and drying out” is a remarkable simile for how passion is satiated once one is with his loved one. When he is away from her, the only thing that keeps him going is his passion towards her. As that is satiated after hecomes home, he is content, and looks back at that burning passion, perplexed.

உள்ளுதல் – thinking
நினைத்தல் – remember
மருளுதல் – bewildered / flustered
உலகத்துப் பண்பு – world’s rules / conventions
நீடிய மரம்  – tall tree
கோடு – branch
தோய் – soak / wet
மலிர்நிறை – huge flood
இறைத்து உ(ண்)ண -scoop out and drink
அற்று – cease to exist / dry out
அனைய – like
பெருங்காமம் – unbounded passion
ஈண்டு – here
கடைக்கொளல் -reaches its end

Ainkurunooru – 238

Even if long horned sturdy ram has deserted it,
short haired ewe still stays back with desire
near the roaring waterfalls in your hills, My lord!
Only when you arrive here,
does her haleness appear too.

வார் கோட்டு வயத் தகர் வாராது மாறினும்,
குரு மயிர்ப் புருவை நசையின் அல்கும்
மாஅல் அருவித் தண் பெருஞ் சிலம்ப!
நீ இவண் வரூஉம்காலை,
மேவரும் மாதோ, இவள் நலனே தெய்யோ!

Her friend tells him how much his lady misses him. She says, “Whenever you come, you find her cheerful and healthy. Do you know that her haleness and cheerfulness makes is presence felt, only when you are here? When you are not here, she weakens and withers away. In your hill country, even after a long horned sturdy goat has deserted it, the female goat still roams around the waterfalls expecting the male to come back. Like that she holds herself together waiting for you. Better marry her soon”

வார் – long
கோடு – horn
வயம் – strong
தகர் – male goat / ram
குரு மயிர் – short hair
புருவை – female goat / ewe
நசை – desire
அல்கும் – stays
மாஅல் அருவி – huge waterfalls
சிலம்ப – சிலம்பு நாட – lord of hill country
இவண் – here
மேவரும் – appear
நலன் – நலம் – healthiness / haleness

 

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