Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kambaramayanam – 1053

Celestials from skies and nymphs from magical realms
cannot match the form of these mortal women;
when these women, whose eyes outdoes the doe’s,
partook toddy in their mouth,
it was like honey flowing into a honeyed flower.

 மீனுடைய விசும்பினார். விஞ்சை நாட்டவர்
ஊனுடை உடம்பினார் உருவம் ஒப்பு இலார்மா
மானுடை நோக்கினார் வாயின் மாந்தினார்-
தேனுடைய மலரிடைத் தேன் பெய்தென்னவே.

Kamban praises the women of Kosala accompanying Dasaratha as they go to Rama’s wedding. This chapter of revelry (உண்டாட்டுப் படலம்) has verses about women drinking toddy and losing their reserve.

In this verse, he says even the celestials or nymphs or no match to the shape and form of these mortal women. These doe eyed women’s mouths are already sweet like honey. Pouring toddy into their mouth was like honey flowing into an already honeyed flower.

மீன் – விண்மீன் – stars
விசும்பு – space
விஞ்சை – magical
ஊன் – flesh / mortal
மாந்துதல் – drink

Ainkurunooru – 287

In your country, parrot in millet field fears
the short legged goat that grazes in tall hills!
You are adept in trickery;
you are inept too, as you act unfairly.

நெடுவரை மிசையது குறுங்கால் வருடை
தினைபாய் கிள்ளை வெரூஉ நாட
வல்லை மன்ற பொய்த்தல்
வல்லாய் மன்றநீ யல்லது செயலே.

He has promised to come and ask her dad for her hand. But hasn’t turned up as promised. Her friend chides him saying “You are an expert in deceiving us. You lied to us that you will come home and ask her father for her hand. But because you don’t do the right thing, you are “. The first two lines are interesting. The goats aren’t bothered about the parrots and go about their grazing. But the parrot is afraid of the goat unnecessarily. Her friend implies that he is afraid of her relatives unnecessarily and that’s why he has not turned up as promised.

நெடு வரை – tall hills
குறுங்கால் – short legged
வருடை – (mountain) goat
தினை – millet
கிள்ளை – parrot
வெரூ – fear
வல்லை – able / adept
பொய்த்தல் – lie / trickery
வல்லாய் – not able /inept

Thirukkural – 1266

My husband will come back one day; when he does,
I’ll relish him 
and get rid of this miserable sickness.

வருகமன் கொண்கன் ஒருநாள் பருகுவன்
பைதல்நோய் எல்லாம் கெட.

Her husband has been away for long and she is wasting away, pining for him. She says to herself, “One day or the other he will come back. And when he does, I’ll relish and savor his intimacy completely and get rid of this love sickness afflicting me”

கொண்கன் – Husband
பருகுவன் – will consume / relish
பைதல் – sorrowful / miserable

Kambaramayanam – 2873

“To declare their lust in words of their own,
is not done by women from clans of renown;
but what shall I do, I long for you miserably, 
I’ve no one for me, save me from grief caused by Kama*”, said she.

‘தாம் உறு காமத் தன்மை தாங்களே 
     உரைப்பது என்பது 
ஆம் எனல் ஆவது அன்றால், அருங் குல   
    மகளிர்க்கு அம்மா! 
ஏமுறும் உயிர்க்கு நோவேன்; என் செய்கேன்?   
    யாரும் இல்லேன்;
காமன் என்று ஒருவன் செய்யும் வன்மையைக்
    காத்தி’ என்றாள்.

Surpanakai sees Rama in the forest and falls in love with him. She thinks he might not like the Asura form and changes herself to a human beauty and appears in front of Rama and professes her love for him.

Kurunthokai – 280

My friend! May you live long, my friend!
this broad shouldered young lass with braided hair
has my heart on leash all the time;
if I can relish her petite body for a day,
I won’t ask to live for even half a day more.

கேளிர்! வாழியோ, கேளிர்! நாளும் என்
நெஞ்சு பிணிக் கொண்ட அம் சில் ஓதிப்
பெருந் தோட் குறுமகள் சிறு மெல் ஆகம்
ஒரு நாள் புணரப் புணரின்,
அரை நாள் வாழ்க்கையும் வேண்டலன் யானே.

His friend is asking him to forget her. He says “It is not possible for me to forget her. That young girl has my heart under her leash. If I can make love and relish her petite body for a day, I will gladly give up my life; will not want to live even half a day more”

கேளிர் – kin / friend
பிணி – bound
அம் சில் ஓதி- beautiful few braids
பெருந் தோள் – big shoulder
குறுமகள் – young lass
சிறு மெல் ஆகம் – small tender body / petite
புணர – make love / relish
புணரின் – if possible

Puranaanooru – 220

Like a sad mahout who lost the majestic elephant
that he fed and cared for years,
shedding tears on seeing the clamorous stable
where it lived now desolate and empty,
do I grieve too, looking at the fabled assembly
in this hoary town that is bereft of
golden garland* wearing skilled warrior Killi**.

பெருஞ் சோறு பயந்து, பல் யாண்டு புரந்த
பெருங் களிறு இழந்த பைதல் பாகன்
அது சேர்ந்து அல்கிய அழுங்கல் ஆலை,
வெளில் பாழாகக் கண்டு கலுழ்ந்தாங்கு,
கலங்கினென் அல்லனோ, யானே பொலந் தார்த்
தேர் வண் கிள்ளி போகிய
பேர் இசை மூதூர் மன்றம் கண்டே?

A little bit of background story of this poem. This poem is about the Chola King KopPerum Cholan, who gave up his life when he found his sons warring against him for the throne. This poem was sung by the poet Pothiaar a close confidant of the King. The poet too wanted to starve and die along with his patron, but the King forbade him since the poet’s wife was pregnant at that time. So he sent the poet back to town.

When Pothiaar reaches the capital city Uraiyur and looks at the desolate assembly bereft of its King, he grieves and wrote this poem. A mahout who has lost his elephant that he fed and cared for years grieves a lot when he sees the empty stable where the elephant lived. The emptiness reminds him of what he has lost and makes him sorrowful. The poet says I grieve like that when I see this fabled assembly bereft of its King.

** Killi – common name for Chola Kings
* Golden garland – garland made of yellow coloured flower (ஆத்திப் பூ), the royal flower of Chola Kings

களிறு – elephant
பைதல் – sad
அல்கிய – lived
அழுங்கல் – clamorous
ஆலை – hall (stable)
வெளி – empty
பாழ் – desolate
கலுழ் – cry
பொலந்தார் – பொன் + தார் – golden garland
தேர் வண் – skilled in chariot warfare
போகிய – bereft
பேர் இசை – highly famed
மூதூர் – ancient town

Thirukkural – 592

Possessing a will to achieve is real posession;

material possessions are transient and will depart.

உள்ள முடைமை உடைமை பொருளுடைமை

நில்லாது நீங்கி விடும்.

Thirukkural – 120

Fair trade for a trader is to care
for other’s interest too like his own share.

வாணிகம் செய்வார்க்கு வாணிகம்-பேணிப்
பிறவும் தமபோல் செயின்.

Don’t treat a trade as a zero sum game. Play for a win win situation. Care for the other party as much as your own.

Kurunthokai – 189

He says to his charioteer : 

We’ll go today itself and return by tomorrow;
let the ivory chariot go fast like waterfalls
that cascades from hills,
let crescent like bright wheels
cut off green stalks like a shooting star does;
travel at the speed of wind to reach, by evening,
the young lass wearing few rows of shell bangles
and unite joyfully with her splendid figure.

இன்றே சென்று வருவது நாளைக்
குன்றிழி யருவியின் வெண்டேர் முடுக
இளம்பிறை யன்ன விளங்குசுடர் நேமி
விசும்புவீழ் கொள்ளியிற் பைம்பயிர் துமிப்பக்
காலியற் செலவின் மாலை யெய்திச்
சின்னிரை வால்வளைக் குறுமகள்
பன்மா ணாக மணந்துவக் குவமே.

This poem is about him wanting to rush back to his woman at the earliest. His ruler has ordered him to go outstation on some work. He doesn’t want to waste time and wants to return back to his woman at the earliest. So he tells his charioteer, “We will start now itself and be back by tomorrow. Let the white chariot made of ivory rush like water that cascades down from the hills. Let crescent like wheels cut off the green stalks in fields like a shooting star scorching the ground. Travel at the speed of wind so we can come back by tomorrow evening and reach this renowned young lass, wearing few rows of shell bangles, and unite with her joyfully”.

Wheels are crescent shaped because a part of the wheel sinks in the soft ground and remaining portion looks like crescent. The wheel moves at such a speed that it cuts down the grains like a shooting start scorching the ground.

குன்று – Hill
இழி – flows
வெண்டேர் – வெண்மை + தேர் – white chariot – chariot made of ivory
முடுகுதல் – hasten
இளம் பிறை – crescent
நேமி – wheel
விசும்பு வீழ் கொள்ளி – space + fall + star – shooting star
பைம்பயிர் – பசுமை + பயிர் – green grains
துமித்தல் – cut / scorch
கால் – wind
செலவு – pace
சின்னிரை – சில+நிரை – few rows
வால்வளை – சங்கு + வளை – shell bangles
குறு மகள் – young girl
பன்மாண் – பலவகையான மாண்பு – many + excellent – splendid
ஆகம் – body
மணந்து – marry / unite
உவக்குவம் – enjoy

Kambaramayanam – 1109

Kumkumam* dropped down; tresses unraveled;
bangles jangled; clothes slipped off;
anklets rattled up and down clamorously –
as young men partook pleasures of women.

* Kumkumam – Red powder applied as a dot in the forehead

குங்குமம் உதிர்ந்தன; கோதை சோர்ந்தன;
சங்கினம் முரன்றன; கலையும் சாறின;
பொங்கின சிலம்புகள் பூசல் இட்டன;
மங்கையர் இள நலம் மைந்தர் உண்ணவே.

This poem is in Revelry chapter (உண்டாட்டுப் படலம்) in Kamba Ramayanam written in 12th century. These set of poems detail the drunken revelry of women who accompanied Dasaratha as he went to Mithila for the wedding of his son Rama.

Kamban details the dishevelment that happens when a couple makes love. Red mark on her forehead drops off. Braided hair comes unraveled. Her bangles jangled and anklets rattle. Her clothes slip off.

கோதை – Braided hair / tresses
சங்கினம் – சங்கு + இனம் – shell bangles
கலை – clothes

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