Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

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Thirukkural – 628

He who doesn’t seek pleasure but knows distress is normal,
Will not be afflicted with grief.

இன்பம் விழையான், ‘இடும்பை இயல்பு’ என்பான்,
துன்பம் உறுதல் இலன்.

A man who does not seek pleasure in life knows sorrow is natural human condition. Since he know this, he will not be bogged down by grief.

விழை – desire, விழையான் – he who does not desire
இடும்பை – distress / sorrow
இயல்பு – natural / normal
உறுதல் – feel

Kar Naarpathu – 24

Hilly forest smells of musth elephant now;
Dark clouds are raining at night time too;
Long dark haired girl won’t bear it anymore;
Leave all work aside and go to her, my heart!


எல்லா வினையும் கிடப்ப, எழு, நெஞ்சே!
கல் ஓங்கு கானம் களிற்றின் மதம் நாறும்;
பல் இருங் கூந்தல் பணி நோனாள்; கார் வானம்
எல்லியும் தோன்றும், பெயல்.

He has gone away in search of wealth, promising her that he will be back by winter season. It is winter now. He tells his heart “Elephants are in musth period and the hilly forest smells of their temporal secretion. Dark clouds are raining even at night time now. All these signs mean winter is here. My dark haired lover who held on to my words of assurance won’t be able to bear the separation anymore. So, my heart, leave aside whatever work you are doing, and go to her”

கல் ஓங்கு – rising hill

கானம் – forest

களிறு – elephant

மதம் – musth secretion

நாறும் – smells

பல் இருங் கூந்தல் – long black haired

பணி – word (promise)

நோனாள் – won’t suffer / bear (anymore)

கார் வானம் – dark rain clouds

எல்லி – night

பெயல் – rain

Thirumurugaattrup Padai – Thanip Paadal


I put my trust in no one but you,
I’d never follow someone else in future too;
O’ twelve armed handsome God!O’Spear wielding Lord!
O’ Resident of Tiruchendur!
You clear grievous obstacles faced by celestials too!


உன்னை யொழிய வொருவரையு நம்புகிலேன்
பின்னை யொருவரையான் பின் செல்லேன் – பன்னிருகைக்
கோலப்பா வானோர் கொடியவினை தீர்த்தருளும்
வேலப்பா செந்திவாழ் வே.

This is a latter day addition to Thirumurugaattrup Padai, a Sangam era work that praises Murugan, the Supreme Tamil God. The poet says “I trust only you Muruga. I won’t go behind any other God, not now, not in the future. You are a twelve armed handsome God. Even the celestials beseech you when they face obstacles and you save them with your spear. O’ Resident of Tiruchendur, You are my saviour”

செந்தி – திருச்செந்தூர் – Tiruchendur , an important Murugan Temple

Thirukkural – 1227

Budding at dawn and blossoming through the day,
By evening fully blooms this malady.

காலை யரும்பிப் பகலெல்லாம் போதாகி
மாலை மலருமிந் நோய்.

When her friend asks her why she is sick, she says “As I got up in the morning I started missing him. This love sickness was just a bud then. But through out the day it started gnawing my heart, blossoming like a flower from the bud. By the time evening arrived it is in full bloom and I’m completely consumed by this love sickness”

அரும்பு – bud

போது – blossom / floret

மலரும் – bloom

இந் நோய் – this sickness / malady


Thirukkural – 485

Thirukkural 485

They wait for the right time, unruffled,
Those who plan to conquer the world.

காலங் கருதி இருப்பர் கலங்காது
ஞாலங் கருது பவர்.

Those who plan to conquer the world will wait for the opportune time. They are confident of their strength,so are unruffled by waiting.

காலம் – time (right time)
கருதி – think / calculate / plan
இருப்பர் – wait
கலங்காது – undisturbed
ஞாலம் – world

If you are a Tamil, note the use of word ங், how it gives a rhythm to the couplet.

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 – 828

Thirukkural – 828.

In folded hands of foes, lie concealed arms too;
Likewise, in their tears too.

தொழுத கையுள்ளும் படை ஒடுங்கும்; ஒன்னார்
அழுத கண்ணீரும், அனைத்து.

When an enemy comes with folded hands , be careful. He might conceal weapons in his hands. Similarly be careful of their tears too. Behind it will lie danger.

தொழுத – folded hands
படை – weapons / arms
ஒடுங்கும் – hidden
ஒன்னார் – enemy
அனைத்து – similarly

A profile in The Hindu Business Line

Shriya Mohan of The Hindu Business Line interviewed me and wrote a profile, as part of their poetry special edition. Here it is. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/cover/tamizh-on-my-timeline/article26542548.ece

Thiruppavai – 28

We are from simple herders clan who follow milch cows
to their grazing lands and eat while they graze;
We are blessed that you were born into our clan,
O’ faultless Govinda! Our bond with you
Cannot be broken, even if we try to;
We, naive young girls, called you by name
and indulged in banter, because of our love;
Don’t be angry with us O’ God, grant us our wish!

கறவைகள் பின்சென்று கானம்சேர்ந்து உண்போம்
அறிவுஒன்றும் இல்லாத ஆய்க்குலத்து உந்தன்னைப்
பிறவி பெறுந்தனைப் புண்ணியம் யாம்உடையோம்
குறைஒன்றும் இல்லாத கோவிந்தா உந்தன்னோடு
உறவேல் நமக்குஇங்கு ஒழிக்க ஒழியாது
அறியாத பிள்ளைகளோம் அன்பினால் உந்தன்னை
சிறுபேர் அழைத்தனமும் சீறி அருளாதே
இறைவாநீ தாராய் பறையேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

On 27th day of Margazhi, their vows are over and the girls relish a feast. This is the 28th day’s verse. The girls tell Krishna that the simple minded herder clan is blessed that he was born into their clan. Their bond with him is forever. It cannot be broken even if either of them want to.

Then they apologize for calling him by name even though they know that he is a God. They say we called you by your mortal name and indulged in banter only because of our love. So don’t get angry with us. Please grant us our wish (of being one with you).

கறவை – milch cow
கானம் – forest / grazing land
அறிவு ஒன்றும் இல்லாத – guileless / simple
ஆய்க்குலம் – ஆயர் குலம் – herder clan
ஒழிக்க ஒழியாது –  (even if we try to) break, cannot be broken
அறியாத பிள்ளைகள் – naive girls
சிறுபேர் – mortal name
அழைத்தனமும் – called you (and bantered)
சீறி அருளாதே – don’t get angry
பறை – drum (metaphor for wish)

Thagadur Yathirai –

With what can I identify? With what can I identify?
That this is my son, with what can I idenfity?
His eyes are buried under arrows;
Head, garlanded with many a sword, is destroyed;
Mouth, stuffed with sharp arrrows and oozing flesh,
resembles a quiver full of arrows;
Heart, is punctured with sharp arrows;
Thighs, shot with many an arrow, are discolored;
Hence, this youngster, pinned down
like a fully blossomed flower,
like the fragrant prickly pod of a fever nut
(That this is my son, with what can I idenfity?)

*fever nut / nicker nut, pod of Caesalpinia Bonducella
எற் கண்டறிகோ? எற்கண்டறிகோ?
என் மகன் ஆதல் எற்கண்டறிகோ?
கண்ணே கணை மூழ்கினவே; தலையே
வண்ண மாலை வாள் விடக் குறைந்தன;
வாயே, பொருநுனைப் பகழி மூழ்கலிற் புலால் வழிந்து
ஆவ நாழிகை அம்பு செறித் தற்றே;
நெஞ்சே, வெஞ்சரங் கடந்தன; குறங்கே
நிறங்கரந்து பல்சரம் நிறைந்தன; அதனால்
அவிழ்பூ அப்பணைக் கிடந்த காளை
கவிழ் பூங் கழற்றின்காய் போன்றனனே

This is a poem from Thagadur Yathirai, a poetic work about battle between Cheras and Athiyaman (ruler of Thagadur, present day Dharmapuri). This work is lost and only 48 poems, referred to in other poems, are available. Hence its provenance is not very clear.

At the end of the battle, an old woman comes to the battle field in search of her son. She is shown the body of her son, fully pierced with arrows. She cries out in agony. “How shall I identify that this is my son? With what body part shall I identify that this is my son. I can’t identify by the eyes, that are fully buried under arrows. I can’t identify by the head that is severely destroyed having faced multiple swords like accepting garlands. I can’t identify by the mouth which, like a quiver, is shot full of arrows and flesh oozing out. His heart is punctured by million arrows. Thighs, shot with a lot of arrows have lost blood and discolored. He lies on a bed of arrows, open like a fully bloomed flower. He looks like the prickly pod of a nicker nut, with arrows protruding from all parts of his body. With what body part can I identify that this is my son?”

fever nut

Caesalpinia Bonducella – கழற்றிங்காய் – Source : http://senthuherbals.blogspot.com/2014/08/blog-post.html

 

எற் கண்டறிகோ – எதைக் கண்டு அறிவேனோ – with what shall I identify
கணை – arrow
மூழ்கின – covered / buried
வாள் – sword
குறைந்தன – destroyed
பொருநுனை – sharp tipped
பகழி – arrow
புலால் – flesh
ஆவ நாழிகை – quiver
அம்பு – arrow
செறி – full
வெஞ்சரம் – வெம்மை + சரம் – fiery arrow
குறங்கு – thigh
நிறங் கரந்து – lost color
பல் சரம் – many arrows
அவிழ் பூ – open flower
பணை – peg(ged down) / pinned down
காளை – bull / youngster
கமழ் பூ – fragrant flower
கழற்றிங்காய் – fever nut / nicker nut/ prickly pod of the plant

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