Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Kurunthokai”

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

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

Kurunthokai – 28

Shall I whack them? or clobber them?
I don’t know; shall I intentionally scream
“aaah,Oh”? – at this town that sleeps
unaware of my love sickness,

while I’m tormented by swirls of swaying breeze.

முட்டுவேன்கொல்? தாக்குவேன்கொல்?
ஓரேன், யானும்: ஓர் பெற்றி மேலிட்டு,
‘ஆஅ! ஒல்’ எனக் கூவுவேன்கொல்?-
அலமரல் அசைவளி அலைப்ப, என்
உயவு நோய் அறியாது, துஞ்சும் ஊர்க்கே.

This is another popular poem in Kurunthokai, written by Avvaiyaar. She is pining for him and is unable to sleep at night. The swaying breeze adds to her suffering. The entire town is sleeping peacefully except her. She is irked with the town that doesn’t know her misery. “While I am suffering in love, this town sleeps peacefully. Shall I go and whack them? Or clobber them?. I don’t know. May be I will scream intentionally and wake them up.” The implied meaning is once the townspeople wake up and curse her, then they will start gossiping about her condition and force her lover to come and marry her.

Sangam era Avvaiyaar was most definitely a fiesty young woman, not the old woman we see in Tamil mythical movies.

பெற்றி – reason / intention
அலமரல் – swirling
அசைவளி – அசைவு + அளி – sway + breeze
அலை – tormented / afflicted
உயவு நோய் – love sickness
துஞ்சுதல் – sleep

Kurunthokai – 71

He tells his heart:

If it’s cure I seek, then she’s cure;
if it’s wealth  I seek, then she’s wealth –
this hill chieftain’s young daughter
with beautiful freckled bosom,
strong shoulders and slender waist.

மருந்து எனின் மருந்தே; வைப்பு எனின் வைப்பே-
அரும்பிய சுணங்கின் அம் பகட்டு இள முலை,
பெருந் தோள், நுணுகிய நுசுப்பின்,
கல் கெழு கானவர் நல்குறு மகளே.

She is the daughter of hill chieftain. She is young and freckle bosomed, has strong shoulders and slender waist and he has fallen in love with her. His heart tells him to go away from her to earn wealth. But he argues with his heart saying there is no need for him to go. If he goes away he will fall love sick and the cure for that is this girl. If it is wealth (future savings) he is going in search of, that too is this girl for him. So why should he go away?

The brevity of original poem is difficult to translate. Literal translation of ‘மருந்து எனின் மருந்தே’ is ‘if cure then cure’. The ‘I seek – then she is’ is implied. I had to make it explicit to make the translation easy to read.

வைப்பு – savings (wealth)
அரும்பிய – budding
சுணங்கு – freckle
பகட்டு – atbeautifu
நுணுகிய – narrow
நுசுப்பு – waist
கல் கெழு – rock filled (hills)
கானவர் – ruler of forest
குறு மகள் – young daughter

Kurunthokai – 113

Her friend says:

Near our hamlet is a pond;
not too far from the pond is a rivulet;
other than white stork in search of prey
nothing else comes to the nearby grove;
we go there to collect clay for our tresses;*
naive girl will come there too.

ஊர்க்கும் அணித்தே, பொய்கை; பொய்கைக்குச்
சேய்த்தும் அன்றே, சிறு கான்யாறே:
இரை தேர் வெண் குருகு அல்லது யாவதும்
துன்னல் போகின்றால், பொழிலே; யாம் எம்
கூழைக்கு எருமண் கொணர்கம் சேறும்;
யாண்டும் வருகுவள் பெரும் பேதையே.

* using clay to wash hair was a prevalent practice till recent times.

He is loitering around their house to meet her. She has decided to change the meeting place. So she asks her friend to convey the message to him. Her friend says “There is a pond near our hamlet. Not far from the pond is a small rivulet that flows from the forest. Near that rivulet is a grove where no one comes except white stork in search of prey. We will come to the banks of that rivulet to collect clay to wash our hair. This naive girl will come there too.”

When she says that ‘we come to the rivulet to collect clay’, she implies others will stay only at the banks of the river, no one else will be in that grove. White stork hunting for fish can be expanded as a metaphor for him trying to meet her. ‘Naive girl’ can be expanded to ‘she is love struck and is naive enough to take such risk to meet you’.

அணித்து – அண்மையில் – near
பொய்கை – natural spring / pond
சிறு கான்யாறு – சிறு கான் ஆறு – small forest river (rivulet)
வெண் – வெண்மை – white
குருகு – stork / crane
துன்னல் – close
பொழில் – grove
கூழை – hair / tress
எருமண் – clay
கொணர்கம் – bring (collect)
சேறும் – செல்வோம் – go there
யாண்டு – there
பேதை – naive (girl)


Kurunthokai – 387

The day’s over, jasmine blooms,
fiery sun softens; even if I swim across
this forlorn dusk with night as its end,
what’s the point, my friend?
Night’s expanse is vaster than the sea.

எல்லை கழிய முல்லை மலரக்
கதிர்சினந் தணிந்த கையறு மாலையும்
இரவரம் பாக நீந்தின மாயின்
எவன்கொல் வாழி தோழி
கங்குல் வெள்ளங் கடலினும் பெரிதே.

She’s pining for him but he hasn’t come to meet her. She says “The day is over. Jasmines have bloomed. (Jasmines bloom at night time. Their fragrance adds to her grief.) Fieriness of the sun has softened. But he hasn’t come and I miss him a lot. I am forlorn this evening without him. Even if I some how bear my pain and cross this evening holding myself together, there is no point in it. For, at the end of the evening lies the never ending night. It is even more vaster than the sea. I can’t bear this pain through the night.”

“Night’s expanse is vaster than the sea” is a poor imitation of கங்குல் வெள்ளங் கடலினும் பெரிதே. The cadence in that phrase is unmatchable.

எல்லை – Daytime
முல்லை – jasmine
கதிர் – sun
வரம்பு – boundary
நீந்தினம் – we swim
ஆயின் – if
கையறு – helpless (forlorn)
எவன்கொல் – what is the use
கங்குல் – night
வெள்ளம் – excess

Kurunthokai – 231

She refuses him entry  when her friend pleads his case:

Though he lives in the same town,
he doesn’t come to our street;
even if he comes to our street,
he doesn’t hug me tight;
he avoids and ignores me
like a stranger’s cremation ground –
making my shameless foolish passion go waste
like an arrow shot from a bow into the distance.

ஓர் ஊர் வாழினும் சேரி வாரார்;
சேரி வரினும் ஆர முயங்கார்;
ஏதிலாளர் சுடலை போலக்
காணாக் கழிபமன்னே-நாண் அட்டு,
நல் அறிவு இழந்த காமம்
வில் உமிழ் கணையின் சென்று சேண் படவே.

He has been spending time at the courtesan’s house for long. He wants to come back home, so he sends her friend as an emissary to placate her. She refuses to hear her friend’s pleading. She says “Though he lived so long in the same town, he never came to our street. Even if he came to our street, he never came home and spent time with me, hugging me tight. Even if he saw me, he acted as if he didn’t and avoided me, like avoiding a stranger’s cremation ground.Because of this, my foolish and shameless passion went waste like an aimless arrow shot from a bow. I don’t love him anymore. He isn’t welcome here”

ஏதிலாளர் சுடலை – ‘stranger’s cremation ground’ is a simile for ignoring something as irrelevant to one.

சேரி – street
ஆர – fully
முயங்கார் – முயங்க மாட்டார் – does not embrace
ஏதிலாளர் – stranger
சுடலை – cremation ground
காணா – without seeing
கழிப – leaves
நாண் – modesty
உமிழ் – discharge
கணை – arrow
சேண் – distance

Kurunthokai – 75

Did you see yourself? Or heard from those who saw?
from whom did you hear of my lord’s arrival?
I’d like to know for sure; please tell me!
You’ll receive the golden city of Patali
where elephants with white tusks play in river Son.

நீ கண்டனையோ? கண்டார்க் கேட்டனையோ?-
ஒன்று தெளிய நசையினம்; மொழிமோ!
வெண் கோட்டு யானை சோணை படியும்
பொன் மலி பாடலி பெறீஇயர்!-
யார்வாய்க் கேட்டனை, காதலர் வரவே?

She is desperately waiting for her lover’s arrival. The bard comes to her and says that her lover has come to town. She asks the bard “Did you see yourself o just heard from some one who saw him? If so who? I would like to know for sure, please tell me. If what you say is true, you will receive the wealth of the golden city of Pataliputra where elephants with white tusks play in river Son”

The poem brings out her desperation for good news. It also talks about the wealthy city of Pataliputra built in 3rd century BC as capital of Magadha empire. That might help to date this poem. Of course, Pataliputra was a flourishing city till 9th century AD. Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of three rivers – Ganges, Gandaki and Son.


நசை – desire / wish
மொழி – tell
வெண் கோடு – white tusk
சோணை – river Son
மலி – abound


Kurunthokai – 30

Listen to me my friend! At midnight,
as an almost true false dream
of that expert liar hugging me tight
deceived and woke me up,
I caressed the bed;
Like a lily flower swarmed by bees
I wilt all alone; surely pitiable am I.

கேட்டிசின் வாழி-தோழி!-அல்கல்,
பொய்வலாளன் மெய் உற மரீஇய
வாய்த் தகைப் பொய்க் கனா மருட்ட, ஏற்று எழுந்து,
அமளி தைவந்தனனே; குவளை
வண்டு படு மலரின் சாஅய்த்”
தமியென்; மன்ற அளியென் யானே!

He has gone away to earn wealth. She pines for him and suffers. When her friend asks why she is so, she replies with this poem. “Listen to me my friend! At midnight I had a dream that he, the master liar was hugging me. It was so real that I believed it to be true, woke up and caressed the empty bed thinking it is him. But then I realised I am pitifully all alone. Like a lily flower swarmed by bees, I wilt and fade”

He is called a master liar, because he hasn’t come home as he had promised. After the bees have sucked honey off the flower and flown away, the flower wilts. His thoughts have sucked life out of her and when she wakes up and realises that it was a dream, she suffers similarly.

அல்கல் – night
பொய் வலாளன் – expert liar
மெய் – body
உறுதல் – embrace
வாய்த் தகை – truth like
மருள் – confuse / deceive
அமளி – bed
குவளை – lily flower
படு – to swarm
சாய்தல் – to grow thin / wilt
தமி – alone
மன்ற – surely / certainly
அளி – pitiable / wretched
யான் – I

Kurunthokai – 312

He tells his heart:

Two faced charlatan, our lover is:
one who comes to us at midnight
like fragrant breeze from the forests
of mighty spear wielding Malayan;
The other, who at day break
gets rid of flowers in her tresses
and plaits her hair with fragrant oil,
goes to her kin and becomes a stranger.

இரண்டு அறி கள்வி நம் காதலோளே:
முரண் கொள் துப்பின் செவ் வேல் மலையன்
முள்ளூர்க் கானம் நாற வந்து,
நள்ளென் கங்குல் நம் ஓரன்னள்;
கூந்தல் வேய்ந்த விரவுமலர் உதிர்த்து,
சாந்து உளர் நறுங் கதுப்பு எண்ணெய் நீவி,
அமரா முகத்தள் ஆகித்
தமர் ஓரன்னள், வைகறையானே.

This is a popular poem in Kurunthokai. She leaves his after their nightly rendezvous. He tells his heart, “This girl, our lover, is a two faced charlatan. She comes like fragrant breeze from the forests of Malayaman and brings joy to us. At day break she gets rid of flowers strewn in her tresses, applies oil to her hair and plaits it like goody two shoes and goes to her relatives. Then she becomes a stranger to us”

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