Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kambaramayanam – 2096

O’ perky bosomed woman!O’ hard to portray beauty!
A tipsy peacock plucks a flame lily
Bud, thinking it is the hood of a snake;
Honeyed jasmines smile at this, look!

ஏந்து இள முலையாளே!
     எழுத அரு எழிலாளே!
காந்தளின் முகை கண்ணின்
     கண்டு, ஒரு களி மஞ்ஞை,
‘பாந்தள் இது’ என உன்னிக்
     கவ்விய படி பாரா,
தேம் தளவுகள் செய்யும்
     சிறு குறுநகை – காணாய்!

After he is exiled by his father, Rama goes to the forest with Sita and Lakshmana. They cross River Ganges and enter the forest. There Rama shows Sita the beauty of forest. A peacock is plucking at Flame lily bud. Jasmine buds are blooming around.

He says, “O’ Sita of perky bosom! It is hard to portray your  beauty! No painter can do justice to thee! Look at the first around us. A peacock looks at a flame lily bud, thinks it is the hood of a snake and plucks it. Looking at its shenanigans, honeyed jasmine buds are smiling at it” 

ஏந்து – upright / perky

இள முலையாள் – tender bosomed woman

எழுத – to paint / portray

அரு – hard

எழில் – beauty

காந்தள் – செங்காந்தள் – Flame Lily

முகை – bud

களி – drunk / tipsy

மஞ்ஞை – peacock

பாந்தள் – snake

உன்னி – think

கவ்வி – pluck

தேம் தளவு  – honeyed jasmine

குறு நகை – short laugh / smile

Sivavakkiyar – 53

Like trapping a tiger using a goat as bait,
Is it fair for you to enthrall me showing riches?
Oh’ lord who killed and skinned the elephant demon*,
Show me the path to freedom and liberate me.

*Lord Shiva killed Gajasura the elephant demon and skinned it.

ஆடுகாட்டி வேங்கையை அகப்படுத்து மாறுபோல்
மாடுகாட்டி என்னைநீ மதிமயக்க லாகுமோ
கோடுகாட்டி யானையைக் கொன்றுரித்த கொற்றவா
வீடுகாட்டி என்னைநீ வெளிப்படுத்த வேணுமே.

In this verse Sivavakkiyar says “People trap leopards using a goat tied to a tree as bait. Similarly you are showing me all these riches and enthralling me in this pointless world. All these riches are just illusory. Oh’ lord you broke the tusks of the elephant (Elephant demon Gajasura) and skinned him. Show me too the path to Moksha (emancipation?) and deliver me from this illusory world”

The alliteration in Tamil adds to the beauty of the verse.

The legend of killing the elephant demon, Gajasura : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gajasurasamhara

800px-Belur4.jpg

Gajasurasamhara, Belur Temple sculpture. Source : Wikipedia

 

ஆடு – goat
வேங்கை – tiger
அகப்படுத்துதல் – trap
மாடு – cow (metaphor for wealth)
மதி மயக்கம் – mesmerize / enthrall
கோடு – tusk
கொன்று உரித்த – kill and skin
கொற்றவன் – Lord / king
வீடு – emancipation / freedom
வெளிப்படுத்தல் – take (me) out /  liberation

Silappathikaaram – 2.3.184-188

As if long stemmed purple lilies and lotus
knew for sure the misery of separation
that awaited the lady and her husband,
bees wailed mournfully shedding tears
and the flowers quivered in sorrow

கருநெடுங் குவளையும் ஆம்பலும் கமலமும்
தையலும் கணவனும் தனித்துறு துயரம்
ஐய மின்றி அறிந்தன போலப்
பண்ணீர் வண்டு பரிந்தினைந் தேங்கிக்
கண்ணீர் கொண்டு காலுற நடுங்கப்

Kovalan and Kannagi have walked all the way from KaveripPoomPattinam to Madurai, planning to restart their lives. They have crossed the Vaigai River and are at the outskirts of Madurai. They are walking around the moat before the city. Gentle breeze sways the lilies and lotus flowers in water. Bees are buzzing around the flowers. Dew drops cover the petals.

Ilango adikal the poet uses this imagery to foretell the fate that awaits them in the city. Something disastrous is going to happen to them and they will be separated forever. (Kovalan will be mistaken for a thief and ordered to be killed by the King). So he says the flowers seemed to know the disastrous fate that awaited the innocent couple. Bees felt sorry for them and sand in mournful tunes. Dew drops were like tears shed by the bees. Knowing the fate that awaited the couple, the flowers swayed in sorrow.

I am not sure of numbering of the lines. This verse occurs in Maduraik Kaandam (2nd Part), Purancheri Irutha Kaadhai (3rd Chapter), lines 184-188. Hence I numbered with that in mind.

கருங்குவளை – purple lily
நெடு – long (stemmed)
ஆம்பல் – water lily
கமலம் – lotus
தையல் – woman / lady
தனித்து – separated
உறு துயரம் – feel misery
ஐயமின்றி – ஐயம் + இன்றி – without doubt
பண் – tune
வண்டு – water bees
பரிந்து – felt sorry
இனை – grief
ஏங்கி – cry
கண்ணீர் – tears

Thirukkural – 1254

Unyielding reserve I had, I thought; My passion though,
breaks out and reveals itself.

நிறையுடையே னென்பேன்மன் யானோயென் காம
மறையிறந்து மன்று படும்.

She says that she was proud of her womanly reserve and was sure she could keep her feelings for him under control. But her passion doesn’t listen to her. Though she tried to keep it hidden, it broke out and revealed itself in public.

நிறை – Reserve
உடையேன் – I had
என்பேன் யான் – I said
காமம் – passion
மறை – hidden place
இறந்து – கடந்து – transgress / breaks
மன்று – assembly / public
படும் – (வெளிப்) படும் – reveals

Naaladiyaar – 61

Let those who respect us, pass by!
Let those who disrespect us too, pass by!
Even a housefly climbs up one’s head;
So, it’s good for wise men to not lash out angrily.

மதித்து இறப்பாரும் இறக்க! மதியார்,
மிதித்து இறப்பாரும் இறக்க! மிதித்து ஏறி,
ஈயும் தலைமேல் இருத்தலால், அஃது அறிவார்
காயும் கதம் இன்மை நன்று

There will be people who respect a wise man. There will be people who disrespect one and step on them. Wise men who know this nature of the world should not get irritated and angry, as even a housefly climbs up one’s head. There is no point getting angry with the fly.

மதித்து – respect
மதியார் – மதிக்க மாட்டாதவர் – disrespect
மிதித்து – who step on
இற(த்தல்) – to pass by
அஃது அறிவார் – those who realize / wise men
காயும் – lash out
கதம் – angry
இன்மை – not

Thirukkural – 620

They see even fate retreat –
those who strive hard resolutely.

ஊழையும் உப்பக்கம் காண்பர்-உலைவு இன்றித்
தாழாது உஞற்றுபவர்.

Those who put in their best efforts steadfastly, can even conquer their fate.

ஊழ் – destiny /fate
உப்பக்கம் – முதுகு – back
உலைவு – tremble / hesitant
உஞற்று – effort

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

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

Thirukkural – 752.

 

Have-nots are ridiculed by one and all;
Wealthy are heaped with praise by all.

இல்லாரை எல்லாரும் எள்ளுவர்; செல்வரை
எல்லாரும் செய்வர், சிறப்பு.

One’s wealth decides how he is looked upon by the world. Those who are wealthy are praised by everyone while those who are not well off are ridiculed by everyone.

எள்ளுதல் – ridicule
சிறப்பு – respect / praise

Thirukkural – 445

As governance depends on ministers acting as his eyes,
A ruler should surround himself with ministers wise.

சூழ்வார்கண் ணாக வொழுகலான் மன்னவன் 
சூழ்வாரைச் சூழ்ந்து கொளல்.

Governance of a country depends on the ministers who act as a Ruler’s eyes. They take information to him and advice him in people’s mood. So a ruler should surround himself with the wisest if ministers.

சூழ் – advice.

சூழ்வார் – advisor / minister.

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