Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thiruvasagam – 8.33.6

You know what everyone needs,
You bestow everything to those who seek;
Brahma and Vishnu who sought to behold thy form
Found it hard to do so, but
On your own you enthralled me,
And showered your grace on me,
Whatever you gave is what I sought too;
Beyond that if there’s a gift I seek,
It’s only the gift of thy love.

வேண்டத் தக்க தறிவோய்நீ வேண்ட முழுதும் தருவோய்நீ
வேண்டும் அயன்மாற் கரியோய்நீ வேண்டி என்னைப் பணிகொண்டாய்
வேண்டி நீயா தருள்செய்தாய் யானும் அதுவே வேண்டினல்லால்
வேண்டும் பரிசொன் றுண்டென்னில் அதுவும் உன்றன் விருப்பன்றே.

In this Thiruvasagam poem, Manikkavasagar praises Lord Shiva as an omniscient being. He says “You are aware of what every being in this world needs. To those who pray to you, you give them all that the seek. Brahma and Vishnu tried to find the head and toe of your form to prove which one of them is superior. But they couldn’t behold your full form. Such a God like you took pity on me and took over my being fully. On your own you showered your grace on me. Whatever you gave is what I asked for. If at all there’s any other gift that I seek on my own, it is only your love My lord”

The wordplay with வேண்ட – seek, wish, desire, pray – that repeats in the verse makes it beautiful. It is hard to bring that word play in translation. வேண்டத் தக்கது – what is suitable, what one needs. It is not what one wants. As the Supreme God, you know what I need even if it may be something I do not want. Brahma & Vishnu wanted to prove their superiority, so you made it difficult for them to get the measure of you. But I’m a simple devotee who has given myself up to you. So, on your own, you took over my being and showered your grace on me. I don’t seek anything other than what you give me as you know better what I need.

அறி – know
மால் – Vishnu
அயன் – Brahma
அரிது – Difficult
பணி கொண்டாய் – captivated, enthralled
அருள் – grace
அல்லால் – other than
விருப்பு – affection / love

Naaladiyaar – 218

Even if they are as close to us as a dog’s toes,
What use is the friendship of those
who don’t help us even to the size of a fly’s toe?
Even if they’re far away from us,
We should nurture the friendship of those
Who are like the canal that helps a field flourish.

நாய்க் கால் சிறு விரல்போல் நன்கு அணியர் ஆயினும்,
ஈக் கால் துணையும் உதவாதார் நட்பு என்னாம்?
சேய்த்தானும் சென்று கொளல்வேண்டும், செய் விளைக்கும்
வாய்க்கால் அனையார் தொடர்பு

This verse is under the chapter ‘Choosing Friends’ – நட்பாராய்தல். The poet says “Some people may be physically close to us, like a dog’s ties that are closely placed. However they won’t help us a bit, even to the size of a house fly’s toe. What use is such a friendship? We should nurture the friendship of those who are like a canal that helps paddy field flourish with its water. Even if they are distant from us, we should take the effort to meet them and nurture their friendship.

அணி – close
துணை – measure / size
சேய் – distant
செய் – field
விளை – produce / flourish
வாய்க்கால் – canal
அனை – like

Thirukkural – 1314

“I love you more than anyone else” I said
“More than whom, more than whom” she sulked.

யாரினுங் காதல மென்றேனா வூடினாள்
யாரினும் யாரினு மென்று.

I told her that my love for her is bigger than any man could have for a woman. But she misunderstood as I was comparing my love for her with my other lovers. So she pouted and picked up a fight with me asking “more than whom do you love me”.

யாரினும் – more than anyone
ஊடினாள் – she had a tiff / sulked

Thirukkural 819

Friendship of those whose words and deeds differ
Is an agony even in one’s dream.

கனவினு மின்னாது மன்னோ வினைவேறு
சொல்வேறு பட்டார் தொடர்பு.

Friendship of people who say something and do something else is an agony,not only when one is awake but even when asleep.

Thirukkural – 950

Patient, Doctor, Medicine and Caretaker –
Constitute four components of the cure.

உற்றவன் தீர்ப்பான் மருந்துஉழைச் செல்வானென்று
அப்பானாற் கூற்றே மருந்து.

Thiruvalluvar talks of holistic approach to medicine. Cure for a disease is based on the type of patient, the treating doctor, medicine and one who gives medicine (nurse / caretaker). These four components constitute a cure.

உற்றான் – One who suffers
தீர்ப்பான் – one who cures
மருந்து – medicine
உழைச் செல்வான் – one who gives medicine / nurse / care taker
அப்பால் – these
நாற் கூற்று – four components

Thirukkural – 627

Realising that human body is a target for suffering,
Wise ones will not be distressed by distress.

இலக்கம், உடம்பு இடும்பைக்கு’ என்று, கலக்கத்தைக்
கையாறாக் கொள்ளாதாம், மேல்.

Wise people realise that the human body is a target for grief and suffering. Hence they will not be distressed when suffering affects them.

இலக்கம் – target
இடும்பை – suffering
கலக்கம் – distress
கையாறு – affliction / distress
கொள்ளாது – will not
மேல் –  high people / Wise ones

Thirukkural 546

Spear isn’t what gives victory; it is Ruler’s sceptre,
That too only if it’s upright.

வேல் அன்று, வென்றி தருவது; மன்னவன்
கோல்; அதூஉம், கோடாது எனின்

A Ruler’s victory is not dependent on the strength of his arms but the fairness of his justice.

வேல் – spear

வென்றி – வெற்றி – victory

கோல் – செங்கோல் – sceptre

கோடு – bent / கோடாது – unbent / upright

Thirukkural 496

Majestic chariot with strong wheels cannot traverse the sea;
Likewise, seafaring boat too will not travel in land.

கடல் ஓடா, கால் வல் நெடுந் தேர்; கடல் ஓடும்
நாவாயும் ஓடா, நிலத்து.

This couplet is under the chapter ‘Knowing the (right) place’ – இடனறிதல். Though a chariot might have string wheels it cannot travel in sea. It will sink. Similarly a boat that travels in sea cannot travel in land. It will run aground. Each is meant to be used in its place. Out of its place, it will become a liability.

Thirukkural – 661

Strength needed for a job is one’s mental strength;
All else is secondary to that.

வினைத் திட்பம் என்பது ஒருவன் மனத் திட்பம்;
மற்றைய எல்லாம் பிற.

Manpower, equipment and all other strengths needed to do a job are secondary to one’s mental strength in completing it.


வினை – job / work
திட்பம் – strength

Thirukkural – 1217

The cruel one doesn’t bestow his affection in reality,
Then why in my dreams does he torment me?

நனவினா னல்காக் கொடியார் கனவினான்
என்னெம்மைப் பீழிப் பது.

He has been away for a while and she is pining for him. When she is awake his absence makes her sick. When she sleeps, he appears in her dreams and torments her further. This is her lament.

நனவு – reality
நல்குதல் – to bestow
கொடியர் – cruel one
கனவு – dream
பீழித்தல் – to torment

Post Navigation