Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Moodhurai”

Moodhurai – 29

Affectionate kith and kin, finest of wealth,
handsome looks, nobility of clan – all these
Arrive with Goddess of wealth when she arrives,
And depart with her when she departs

மருவினிய சுற்றமும் வான்பொருளும் நல்ல
உருவும் உயர்குலமு மெல்லாம்-திருமடந்தை
ஆம்போ தவளோடு மாகும் அவள்பிரிந்து
போம்போ தவளொடு போம்.

When Goddess of wealth decides to visit one, the best things of the world will be with him. Like affectionate relatives, finest of things, handsome looks and nobility of clan. But when she leaves one, all these things too leave. So do not think these are permanent.

This is a poem by Avvayar in Moodhurai (மூதுரை) , literally meaning “Old advice”. It is a collection of 30 poems, written around 12th Century CE.

மருவு – affectionate
இனிய – loving
சுற்றம் – relatives
வான் – excellent / finest
பொருள் – wealth
உரு – figure
உயர் குலம் – superior clan
திரு மடந்தை – goddess of wealth
ஆம் போது – ஆகும் போது – when she comes
போம் போது – போகும் போது – when leaves

Moodhurai – 2

Help rendered to a virtuous person
Remains forever, like words carved on stone –
Help rendered to an ungrateful person though,
Is similar to words written on water.

நல்லா ரொருவர்க்குச் செய்த உபகாரம்
கல்மே லெழுத்துப்போற் காணுமே-அல்லாத
ஈரமிலா நெஞ்சத்தார்க் கீந்த உபகாரம்
நீர்மே லெழுத்திற்கு நேர்.

When we help a good person, they remember it forever. It is permanent like words carved on a hard rock. However help rendered to ungrateful lowly person is forgotten by them immediately. Just like words written on water, they vanish as soon as they are done.

This is a poem by Avvayar in Moodhurai (மூதுரை) , literally meaning “Old advice”. It is a collection of 30 poems, written around 12th Century CE.

நல்லார் – good / virtuous person
உபகாரம் – help
கல் மேல் எழுத்து – words on stone
அல்லாத – vile
ஈரமில்லாத நெஞ்சார் – ஈரமில்லாத நெஞ்சமுடையவர் – cold hearted / ungrateful person
ஈந்த – given / rendered
நீர் மேல் எழுத்து – word on water
நேர் – equal / similar

Moodhurai – 24

Like a beautiful swan prefering a pleasant lotus pond
Only the learned desire the company of the learned – 
Unlearned goons like their fellow goons;
Crow in cremation ground hankers after the corpse.

நற்றா மரைக்கயத்தில் நல்லன்னஞ்சேர்ந்தாற்போல்
கற்றாரைக் கற்றாரே காமுறுவர்-கற்பிலா 
மூர்க்கரை மூர்க்கர் முகப்பர் முதுகாட்டிற்
காக்கை உகக்கும் பிணம். 

This verse by Avvayar says that only the learned person appreciates another learned person. Ignorant brutes prefer the company of their fellow brutes. The example she gives is – A swan prefers a pleasant lotus pond, while a crow prefers corpses in cremation ground. She doesn’t hold back her punches.

நற்றாமரைக் கயம் – நல்ல தாமரை கயம் –  good lotus pond
நல்லன்னம் – நல்ல அன்னம் – beautiful swam
காமுறுவர் – will desire
கற்பிலா – Unlearned / Unschooled
மூர்க்கர் – ruffian / goon
முகத்தல் – like
முதுகாடு – cremation ground
உகத்தல் – desire

Moodhurai – 12

Thazhai‘s* petals are bigger, yet Magizh‘s** scent is sweeter;
Don’t dismiss any one because they are physically smaller-
The ocean is vast, yet its water isn’t good to even cleanse,
A nearby small spring’s water though is good enough to drink.

*Thazhai – Screw Pine flower / Kewra flower
**Magizh – Bakul (Hindi) / Spanish Cherry / Bullet wood tree flower with small petals

மடல்பெரிது தாழை மகிழினிது கந்தம்
உடல்சிறிய ரென்றிருக்க வேண்டா-கடல்பெரிது
மண்ணீரு மாகா ததனருகே சிற்றூறல்
உண்ணீரு மாகி விடும்.

This is a straight forward poem. Don’t dismiss anyone because they are smaller in stature. To explain this the poet uses two examples. Though the petals of screw pine flower (Thazhai) are bigger , the scent from smaller Bullet wood tree flower (Maghizam poo) are sweeter. Similarly, though the ocean is vast, its water cannot be used even to wash oneself. It will be salty and sticky. But a small spring near the ocean might have water that is good enough to drink.

Moodhurai (literal meaning – Elder’s words) written by Avvayar (the 3rd) is generally dated to around 12th Century AD.

கந்தம் – scent / fragrance
மண்ணீர் – கழுவும் நீர் – water to cleanse
உண்ணீர் – உண்ணும் நீர் – drinking water


Screw Pine Flower / தாழம் பூ

Bakula, Bullet WoodFlower

Bakul / Bullet Wood tree flower / மகிழம் பூ







Moodhurai – 15

Like a venom remover who cures a striped tiger
becoming its fodder then and there –
help offered to petty minded ingrates
is a mud pot hitting a rock.

வேங்கை வரிப்புலிநோய் தீர்த்த விடகாரி
ஆங்கதனுக் காகார மானாற்போல்-பாங்கறியாப்
புல்லறி வாளர்க்குச் செய்த உபகாரங்
கல்லின்மே லிட்ட கலம்.

When a tiger was bit by a snake and poisoned, it fell sick. A physician felt sorry for it and removed the poison. Once the tiger was back on its feet, it ate the venom remover then and there. Such is the help rendered to the ungrateful who are petty minded. It will be like a mud pot thrown on a rock breaking into splinters and hurting the one who threw it. So when you offer help, make sure it is to the deserving.

The second simile – ‘help to ingrates is like a vessel hitting rock’ is a little awkward. Why equate ‘help rendered’ to ‘throwing a pot’? கலம் is like English ‘vessel’, can mean both a bowl and a boat. If we take it as a boat, then the last line will read ‘is a boat hitting a rock’ which too makes the simile convoluted.

Moodhurai (literal meaning – Elder’s words) written by Avvayar (the 3rd) is generally dated to around 12th Century AD.

வேங்கை – cheettah
வரிப் புலி – striped tiger
விட காரி – poison remover
ஆங்கு – there
ஆகாரம் – food
பாங்கறியா – பாங்கு + அறியா – manner less / ingrates
புல்லறிவாளர் – petty minded
கலம் – vessel

Moodhurai – 26

If one compares a Ruler and a flawless Scholar,
the Scholar is regarded higher than the Ruler –
Ruler is not regarded high outside the country he rules,
Scholar is regarded high wherever he goes.

மன்னனு மாசறக் கற்றோனுஞ் சீர்தூக்கின்
மன்னனிற் கற்றோன் சிறப்புடையன்-மன்னற்குத்
தன்தேச மல்லாற் சிறப்பில்லை கற்றோற்குச்
சென்றஇட மெல்லாம் சிறப்பு.

This poem by Avvayar  (the 3rd) categorically states that a scholar / poet is to be valued more than a ruler. One has to appreciate the temerity of the poet to make such statements in a monarchy.

Moodhurai – 17

Those who vanish at the sign of distress,
like birds that abandon a dry pond, aren’t kin;
those who stay back and suffer with us,
like water lilies in that pond, they’re kin.

அற்ற குளத்தின் அறுநீர்ப் பறவைபோல்
உற்றுழித் தீர்வார் உறவல்லர்-அக்குளத்திற்
கொட்டியும் ஆம்பலும் நெய்தலும் போலவே
ஒட்டி யுறுவார் உறவு.

Poet Avvayar (the 12th century one), in Moodhurai (literal meaning – Elder’s words) defines who are our real kith and kin. Those who abandon us at the first sign of distress aren’t our kin. They are like birds that abandon a pond once it dries up. Those who stay with us and share  our suffering, like flowers and weeds in that pond, are our real kin.

There are three types of water lilies mentioned in the verse. கொட்டி, ஆம்பல், நெய்தல் – I could not identify their English names. So used generic ‘water lilies’.

Moodhurai – 14

Seeing a peacock spread its plume and dance,
a turkey thinks itself to be alike, spreads
its ugly feathers and dances – like that
is a verse learned by the unschooled.

கான மயிலாடக் கண்டிருந்த வான்கோழி
தானு மதுவாகப் பாவித்துத்-தானுந்தன்
பொல்லாச் சிறகைவிரித் தாடினாற் போலுமே
கல்லாதான் கற்ற கவி.

This is a poem by Avvayar in Moodhurai (மூதுரை) , literally meaning “Old advice”. It is a collection of 30 poems, written around 12th Century AD.

An unschooled person may memorize a verse by hearing it from scholars. However he will not know its meaning or nuances. If he tries to act learned based on this, it is like a turkey thinking itself to be a beautiful peacock, spreading its ugly feathers and dancing. It is not possible to imitate a scholar. If one tries to, it will look ungainly.

“Spread its plume” is implied in the original. I have made it explicit in translation.

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