Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Kambaramayanam”

Kambaramayanam – 7409

The King with strong shoulders
Wasn’t ashamed at the thought that
Humans and celestial beings will laugh at him,
So will foes whom he laughed at;
But shriveled with shame at the thought that
Dainty princess of Mithilai, Janaki,
– Of red lips and eyes that mock spears –
Will laugh mockingly at him.

வானகு மண்ணு மெல்லா நகும் நெடு வயிரத் தோளான்
நானகு பகைஞ ரெல்லா நகுவரென் றதற்கு நாணான்
வேனகு நெடுங்கட் செவ்வாய் மெல்லியன் மிதிலை வந்த
சானகி நகுவ ளென்றே நாணத்தாற் சாம்பு கின்றான்.

வான் நகும்; மண்ணும் எல்லாம்
நகும்; ‘ நெடு வயிரத் தோளான்
‘நான் நகு பகைஞர் எல்லாம்
நகுவர் ‘என்று, அதற்கு நாணான்;
‘வேல் நகு நெடுங்கண்
செவ்வாய் மெல்லியல், மிதிலை வந்த
சானகி நகுவள்‘ என்றே
நாணத்தால் சாம்புகின்றான்

Ravana is disarmed in the first battle with Rama. Rama spares him and lets him go asking him to come back to fight the next day. Mighty Ravana walks back, burning with shame. He is not ashamed at the thought that all humans in this world will laugh at him or the celestial beings whom he conquered will laugh at him. He is not even ashamed that the foes whom he defeated in battle and laughed derisively at will now laugh at him. What burns him with shame is the thought that Janaki (Sita), the dainty princess of Mithilai, whose eyes are so sharp that they mock spears and whose lips are red in colour, will laugh at him.

Ravana craves for Sita’s acceptance. So the thought that now she will laugh at him for losing the battle burns him with shame.

வான் – sky / celestial beings
நகும் – laugh
மண் – earth / humans in earth
நெடு வயிரத் தோளான் – long armed with strong shoulders
பகைஞர் – foes
நாண் – shame
வேல் நகு நெடுங்கண் – long eyes that laugh (mock) at spears
செவ் வாய் – red lips
மெல்லியள் – மெல்லிய சாயல் கொண்டவள் – tender / dainty
சாம்பு – வாடுதல் – shrivel

Kambaramayanam – 1430

(When Dasaratha informs his ministers of his decision to make his son Rama the new King)

As the broad-shouldered King told them so,
Their hearts bubbled over with joy; At the same time,
Their hearts cried in agony at his proposed departure;
Like a cow that yearns for both its calves and not let one go.

திரண்ட தோளின னிப்படிச் செப்பலுஞ் சிந்தை
புரண்டு மீதிடப் பொங்கிய வுவகைய ராங்கே
வெருண்டு மன்னவன் பிரிவெனும் விம்முறு நிலையால்,
இரண்டு கன்றினுக் கிரங்குமோ ராவென விருந்தார்.

திரண்ட தோளினன் இப்படிச் செப்பலும், சிந்தை
புரண்டு மீதிடப் பொங்கிய உவகையர், ஆங்கே
வெருண்டு, மன்னவன் பிரிவு எனும் விம்முறு நிலையால்,
இரண்டு கன்றினுக்கு இரங்கும் ஓர் ஆ என இருந்தார்.

After Rama’s marriage, Dasaratha decides that he has had enough of being a King and decides to hand over the crown to his son and renounce the world. So he calls his ministers and informs them of his decision. In this verse, Kamban explains the situation of the ministers. When they hear Rama is going to be the next king, they are joyous and look forward to his rule. At the same time, they feel sad at the proposed departure. Their hearts are torn between this joy and sorrow. They are like a cow that wants to keep both its calves and not let one go.

The simile இரண்டு கன்றினுக்கு இரங்கும் ஓர் ஆ என – like a cow that yearns to keep both its calves (and not let one go) makes this a stand out poem for me.

செப்புதல் – Told
சிந்தை புரண்டு – heart bubbling over
உவகை – joy
வெருண்டு – agony
பிரிவு – separation
விம்முதல் – cry
இரங்கும் – yearn
ஆ – cow

Kambaramayanam – 4279

Dazzling gem like colourful bees swarm and adorn
The beautiful Red Flame Lily that sheds honey and wilts;
It’s like Lady Earth folding her fingers in wonder
At how monsoon has conquered the summer.

நாநிறச் சுரும்பும் வண்டு நவமணி யணியிற் சாரத்
தேனுக மலர்ந்து சாய்ந்த சேயிதழ்க் காந்தட் செம்பூ
வேனிலை வென்ற தம்மா காரென வியந்து நோக்கி
மாநிலக் கிழத்தி கைகள் மறித்தன போன்ற மன்னோ

It is monsoon season and red coloured flame lily flower has bloomed. Flame Lily (Gloriosa Superba) is generally used as a simile for long fingers of a girl. Multiple coloured beetles and bees swarm about it, looking like gem adorned jewellery on a girl’s hands. As they suck the honey from the flower, the petals wilt and the flower folds in. It is like Lady Earth looking at change of season,  wondering  how monsoon has won over summer and folding her fingers.

This verse is part of Kishkinta Kandam , after the slaying of Vali and coronation of Sugriva.

நாநிற – நால் + நிற – multiple coloured
சுரும்பு , வண்டு – bee
நவமணி – nine gems
அணி – adorn
சார – swarm
தேன் – honey
உக – overflow
சேயிதழ் – beautiful petal
காந்தள் – Flame Lily / Gloriosa Superba
செம்பூ – Red Flower
வேனில் – Summer
கார் – monsoon / rainy season
வியந்து – wonder
மாநிலம் – Majestic Earth
கிழத்தி – Woman
மறித்தன – Fold

Kambaramayanam – 1254

Town’s bustle doesn’t seem to abate;
Daybreak too is a long way away;
I can’t stop thinking of him,
there’s no dawn to this night;
My heartache doesn’t ease up
Nor does my life depart;
Eyes too don’t go to sleep,
Is this to be my fate?

பண்ணோ ஒழியா; பகலோ புகுதாது;
எண்ணோ தவிரா; இரவோ விடியாது;
உள் நோ ஒழியா; உயிரோ அகலா;
கண்ணோ துயிலா; இதுவோ கடனே

This verse is by Sita the night before her wedding to Rama. She is desperate for the daybreak to arrive and the wedding to happen. She laments in love sickness “This town doesn’t understand my love sick heart. Every one seems to be up and about joyously. The bustle of the town doesn’t seem to die down. I’m desperate for day break to arrive, but it seems to be a long way away. In the mean while his thoughts consume me and I can’t stop thinking of him. This night seems to be never ending. My heart aches for him but there is no remedy to ease it up. Unable to suffer this sweet pain, I want to die but my life doesn’t let go of me too. Nor do my eyes go to sleep. Is it my fate to suffer like this?”

பண் – noise
ஒழி – end
புகு – arrive
எண் – thoughts
தவிர் – avoid
உள் நோ(வு) – inner pain / heart ache
துயில் – sleep
கடன் – destiny / fate

Kambaramayanam – 5338

O’ Ignorant Moon! O’ Shining Moonlight!
O’ Endless Night! O’ Undiminishing darkness!
All of you torment only me;
will you not question the uncaring Archer?

கல்லா மதியே ! கதிர் வாள் நிலவே !
செல்லா இரவே !சிறுகா இருளே !
எல்லாம் எனையேமுனிவீர்; நினையா
வில்லாளனை,யாதும் விளித்திலிரோ ?

Sita is kidnapped and kept imprisoned in Asoka Vanam by Ravana. She is waiting for Rama to come and rescue her. Years have passed and he hasn’t come. She is wailing about her fate. By the time Hanuman comes to Lanka in search of her, she is at the end of her tether.

She laments “O’ Moon, you ignorant fool. O’ Shining moonlight! O’ Night that never ends! O’ darkness that never reduces! All of you are tormenting me in this night time. I think of Rama and wait for him to come and save me. He seems to have forgotten me. He doesn’t care for me. Will none of you go and torment him, the mighty Archer? So that he is removed of me and will come here to save me”

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

Kambaramayanam – 4307

O’ creeper swaying gently in the monsoon winds,
you enter my soul and taunt me with your blooms;
Like the waist of my radiant faced beloved do you sway;
Tell me, are you trying to weaken my soul away?

மழை வாடையொடு ஆடி, வலிந்து, உயிர்மேல்,
நுழைவாய்; மலர்வாய் நொடியாய் – கொடியே! –
இழை வாள் நுதலாள் இடைபோல் இடையே
குழைவாய்; எனது ஆவி குழைக்குதியோ?

After Sita has been kidnapped by Ravana, Rama and Lakshmana go in search of her in the forest. With the arrival of monsoon, everything Rama sees reminds him of Sita. In this set of verses of he laments nature that reminds him of his beloved. Here he looks at the creeper gently swaying in the monsoon wind and that reminds him of her slender waist.

“O’ Creeper! You sway in the rain bearing monsoon winds and that sight enters my parched soul. You taunt me with fresh blooms in your stalks while I pine for Sita. You sway back and forth like the waist of my Sita, she whose forehead is radiant and adorned with jewels. You swing harmoniously this way and that way. Tell me! By reminding me of her, are you trying to torment and weaken my soul, turning it to a pulp?”

“Weaken away” is a poor translation of குழைக்குதியோ which literally means “turning to mush”. I might change this when I get a better phrase. If you can read Tamil, utter this phrase ”குழைவாய்! எனது ஆவி குழைக்குதியோ” and relish the alliteration of your language.

மழை – rain
வாடை – cool northerly wind
வலிந்து – sway
மலர்வாய் – you bloom
நொடியாய் – Tell me
இழை – jewelled
வாள் நுதல் – radiant forehead
இடையே குழைவாய் – swing / sway back and forth
குழைக்குதியோ – turning to mush

Kambaramayanam – 5278

Ravana pleading his love to Sita in Asoka Vanam

Many todays have passed; many tomorrows have passed;
Yet this is the mercy you offer me;
Will you become one with me
Only after I pass away
Killed by the misery you cause me?
Tell me, O’ Woman whose reddened eyes cause me grief,
Swinging back and forth to your ear rings.

இன்று இறந்தன நாளை இறந்தன
என் திறம் தரும் தன்மை இதால்; எனைக்
கொன்று இறந்தபின் கூடுதியோ? குழை
சென்று இறங்கி மறம் தரு செங்கணாய்!

After Ravana has carried Sita away to Lanka, he has her imprisoned in Asoka Vanam. Hanuman is sent by Rama to find Sita. After reaching Lanka, Hanuman searches around and finally find Sita in Asoka Vanam. While he is there, Ravana comes to plead his love to Sita. That’s where this verse appears.

Ravana tells Sita, “I have waited for many days thinking today will be the day you will accept my love. I have waited for many days thinking hopefully tomorrow will be the day you will accept me. Yet you haven’t accepted my love. This is the mercy you have shown me. Will you unite with me only after you kill me by the pain caused by your refusal? You have been shedding tears thinking of Rama. Hence your eyes are reddened. Frightened on seeing me, those eyes swing back and forth all the way to your ear rings. This is causing me further grief.”

As you can see, Kamban uses sparse words to capture this emotion. I have had to elaborate in my translation to capture all that brevity.

இறந்தன – passed away / die
திறம் – mercy
கூடு – join / unite
குழை – ear ring
மறம் – pain
செங்கணாய் – red eyed woman

Kambaramayanam – 4464

“Those who give up their vices consciously
Will be freed from cycle of rebirth”
Proclaim faultless philosophers and scriptures;
Yet, removing the wiggling worms from toddy,
I drink and find (false) solace in it,
Like those who put out fire by pouring oil in it.

“‘தெளிந்து தீவினையைச் செற்றோர்
         பிறவியின் தீர்வர் “ என்ன,
விளிந்து இலா உணர்வினோரும்,
         வேதமும், விளம்பவேயும்,
நெளிந்து உறை புழுவை நீக்கி
        நறவு உண்டு நிறைகின்றேனால்
அளிந்து அகத்து எரியும் தீயை
       நெய்யினால் அவிக்கின்றாரின்.

Rama agrees to help Sugreevan defeat his brother Vali in return for Sugreevan helping him find Sita. Rama kills Vali and Sugreeva is made King. He forgets his promise to Rama and indulges in revelry. Rama gets angry and sends Lakshmana to enquire. Seeing an angry Lakshmana marching towards the fort, Angadan goes and wakes up Sugreevan. Sugreevan lies senseless. So Angadan asks Hanuman to help out. Hanuman send Tara and other women to stop Lakshmana since he knows Lakshmana won’t fight women. As Tara explains that Sugreevan has sent spies all over in search of Sita, Lakshmanan cools down a bit. Then Hanuman comes and assuages him. Angadan goes again to wake up Sugreevan. Sugreevan wakes up this time and asks why wasn’t he informed earlier of Lakshmana’s arrival. Angadan says “You were drunk senseless when I tried to wake you up”. Sugreevan castigates himself miserably in this verse.

“Wise men have said that those who have thought through worldly matters and decided to give up their vices will be freed from cycle of rebirth. Scriptures too say the same. Yet even after knowing all this, I still gave in to this vice of drinking. See this toddy. Worms wiggle at its surface. Still I removed those worms and drank myself seeking false contentment. My action is like that of one who sees his house on fire and tries to put it out with oil. It will only burn more”

தெளிந்து – who think and decide / consciously
தீவினை – vices
செற்றோர் – those who give up
பிறவியின் தீர்வர் – escape birth cycle
விளிந்து இலா – fault less
வேதம் – Vedas / scriptures
விளம்ப – say
நெளிந்து – wiggling
உறை – reside
புழு – worm
நறவு – toddy
நிறைகின்றேன் – become content
அளிந்து – blazing
அகத்து எரியும் – burns at home
நெய் – oil
அவி – put out

Kambaramayanam – 3841

Her red painted toes
are corals in her lotus like feet;
She resides forever
in the blooming lotus that’s my heart;
Blossoms adorn her glorious dark braids;
O’ dark blue lily, you are like her eyes!
Then why do you torment me
With the poisonous spread that’s your smile.

பஞ்சு பூத்த விரல் பதுமம்
பவளம் பூத்த அடியாள் என்
நெஞ்சு பூத்த தாமரையின்
நிலையம் பூத்தாள், நிறம் பூத்த
மஞ்சு பூத்த மலர் பூத்த
குழலாள் கண்போல் மணிக் குவளாய்!
நஞ்சு பூத்தது ஆம் அன்ன
நகையால் என்னை நலிவாயோ.

Rama and Lakshmana search the forest after Sita has been kidnapped by Ravana. During their search they come to Pampa Lake in Kishkinta. The lake is full of Lotuses. They decide to stay there for the night. The lake and the lotuses remind Rama of Sita. He laments over losing her.

He looks at the blue water lily and says “O’ dark blue water Lily! You are like the eyes of my Sita. She whose red painted toes look like corals grown out of her lotus like soft feet.; she who forever resides in the blooming Lotus of my heart; she whose hair is dark like clouds and is beautifully adorned with flowers.  But her eyes would look at my pleasantly with love. But your smile (bloom) is like spreading poison that torments me by reminding of her. Why do you torment me so?”

Sita is the incarnation of Lakshmi who is depicted seated on a Lotus. So Rama says, she forever resides in the Lotus that is my heart.

The Tamil verse uses the word ‘பூத்த’ with multiple meanings – blooming, spreading, applied, growing. This gives a beautiful cadence when you read it out loud.

பஞ்சு பூத்த விரல் – செம்பஞ்சுக்குழம்பு ஊட்டிய விரல் – red painted toes
பதுமம் – Lotus
பவளம் பூத்த அடி – coral growing feet
என் நெஞ்சு பூத்த தாமரை – blooming lotus that’s my heart
நிலையம் பூத்தாள் – she who resides forever
நிறம் பூத்த – filled with (dark) colour, like clouds
மஞ்சு பூத்த – full of beauty / glorious
மலர் பூத்த குழலாள் – she whose hair is adorned with flowers
மணிக் குவளாய் – gem (dark blue) lily flower
நஞ்சு – posion
நகை – smile
நலிவாயோ – will you torment

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