Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Nattrinai”

Nattrinai – 110

Grey haired governesses
carrying golden bowls
of sweet milk mixed with honey
ordered “Eat!” and threatened
to hit her with flowering twigs.
Refusing to eat, she tired them
by running under garden creepers
with her pearl filled golden anklets tinkling,
my playful little girl!
when did she become so mature and wise?
As her husband’s clan fell into poverty,
she doesn’t think of rich food at her dad’s house,
but like finely dispersed sand in running water,
skips a meal and eats, my strong little woman!

பிரசம் கலந்த வெண் சுவைத் தீம்பால்
விரி கதிர்ப் பொற்கலத்து ஒரு கை ஏந்தி,
புடைப்பின் சுற்றும் பூந் தலைச் சிறு கோல்,
”உண்” என்று ஓக்குபு பிழைப்ப, தெண் நீர்
முத்து அரிப் பொற்சிலம்பு ஒலிப்பத் தத்துற்று,
அரி நரைக் கூந்தற் செம் முது செவிலியர்
பரி மெலிந்து ஒழிய, பந்தர் ஓடி,
ஏவல் மறுக்கும் சிறு விளையாட்டி
அறிவும் ஒழுக்கமும் யாண்டு உணர்ந்தனள்கொல்?
கொண்ட கொழுநன் குடி வறன் உற்றென,
கொடுத்த தந்தை கொழுஞ் சோறு உள்ளாள்,
ஒழுகு நீர் நுணங்கு அறல் போல,
பொழுது மறுத்து உண்ணும் சிறு மதுகையளே!

Her governess goes to see her at her in law’s place and finds that they have fallen into poverty. She comes back and tells her mom that her daughter’s household is so poor that they have to skip a meal.

Her mother reminisces about how her daughter was pampered as a young girl. Governesses used to chase her with golden bowls full of milk and honey. She refused to eat and when they threatened to hit her with soft flowering twigs, she used to run under garden creepers with her anklets tinkling. Old governesses were tired by her running around. So playful was she. But now, she has become so mature and wise that she doesn’t think back on her pampered upbringing but has adjusted herself to the new reality of her husband’s place.

Her pampered upbringing is brought out by ‘golden bowls of sweet milk mixed with honey’ and ‘golden anklets filled with pearls’. Finely dispersed sand in running water is a simile for thin gruel, I guess. The previous sentence talks about கொழுஞ் சோறு – thick and rich food, at her father’s house.

If you are a Tamil movie aficionado, you will immediately recall the ‘Idli Upma’ scene from the movie ‘Soorya Vamsam’.

பிரசம் – honey
தீம்பால் – sweet milk
விரிகதிர் – rising sun (shiny)
பொற்கலம் – golden bowl
புடைப்பு – hit
பூந்தலைச் சிறுகோல் – flowering twigs (soft so it won’t hurt the child)
ஓக்குதல் – to raise / throw (threaten)
தெண் நீர் – cool water
முத்து – pearl
பொற்சிலம்பு – golden anklet
அரி நரை – thin grey
கூந்தல் – hair
செவிலியர் – governess
பரி மெலிந்து ஒழிய – tired by running
பந்தர் – (jasmine flower) creeper
ஏவல் – order
யாண்டு – when
கொண்ட – married
கொழுநன் – husband
குடி – clan
வறன் – poverty
கொடுத்த தந்தை – father who gave birth
கொழு – thick
உள்ளாள் – உள்ள (உள்ளுதல்) + மாட்டாள் – does not think
ஒழுகு நீர் – running water
நுணங்கு – fine
அறல் – sand
பொழுது – time
மறுத்து – refuse
மதுகையள் – மதுகை + உடையவள் – Strong girl

Nattrinai – 10

Her friend says :

Even when her perky breasts sag down
and long dark hair draped over
her lustrous body turns white,
never leave her,
Lord of colourful flower adorned town!
Your word is as trusted by her
as the spears of Chief Palayan
– with an army of tuskers – 
was trusted by sweet toddy carrying,
decorated chariot riding
Chola Kings to subdue Kongars*.

*Kongars – Rulers of Kongu Nadu, Western part of present day Tamil Nadu

அண்ணாந்து ஏந்திய வன முலை தளரினும்
பொன் நேர் மேனி மணியின் தாழ்ந்த
நல் நெடுங் கூந்தல் நரையொடு முடிப்பினும்
நீத்தல் ஓம்புமதி பூக் கேழ் ஊர !
இன் கடுங் கள்ளின் இழை அணி நெடுந் தேர்க்
கொற்றச் சோழர் கொங்கர்ப் பணீஇயர்
வெண்கோட்டு யானைப் போஒர் கிழவோன்
பழையன் வேல் வாய்த்தன்ன நின்
பிழையா நல் மொழி தேறிய இவட்கே.

They are eloping at early hours of the day. Her friend has accompanied her to send her off. Friend says to him “She’s abandoning all her relatives and coming with you. You must not leave her even when she grows old, her perky breasts sag and her dark hair turns white. She trusts your word completely, like how the Chola Kings trusted the spears of their allied chieftain (with an army of tuskers) to subdue Kongars*. So keep your promise even when the initial flush of love is gone”

Kongars* may mean Chera Kings who were ruling Kongu Nadu (the area around present day Coimbatore) then. Chola Kings must have used the services of a local Chieftain Palayan to help them in subduing Kongars*

தளர் – sag
மணி – gem / dark color
ஓம்புதல் – to leave
கேழ் – color
இழை – jewel
கொற்றவன் – King
பணித்தல் – subdue
வெண்கோட்டு – white tusk
கிழவோன் – Chief
பிழையா – not false – true – promise
தேறுதல் – believe

Nattrinai – 133

She says to her friend (who pacifies her saying that her lover will come back soon):

My dear friend! your kind words –
that he won’t let me suffer
the town women’s slander
“look at this dusky girl
with braided dark hair,
sporting  beauty spots
along with chains on her waist;
her arms have thinned so much
that her bangles slip out,
her eyes have lost
their cut tender mango shape,
her forehead too has started to pale”
– like a frond of cool water sprinkled
on hot coals by a black smith,
soothe my love sick heart a little.

“தோளே தொடி கொட்பு ஆனா; கண்ணே
வாள் ஈர் வடியின் வடிவு இழந்தனவே;
நுதலும் பசலை பாயின்று-திதலைச்
சில் பொறி அணிந்த பல் காழ் அல்குல்
மணி ஏர் ஐம்பால் மாயோட்கு” என்று,
வெவ் வாய்ப் பெண்டிர் கவ்வை தூற்ற,
நாம் உறு துயரம் செய்யலர் என்னும்-
காமுறு தோழி!-காதல்அம் கிளவி,
இரும்பு செய் கொல்லன் வெவ் உலைத் தெளித்த
தோய் மடற் சில் நீர் போல,
நோய் மலி நெஞ்சிற்கு ஏமம் ஆம் சிறிதே.

He has gone to earn money. He hasn’t come back as promised and she is beginning to suffer. Her arms have thinned out, her eyes have started drooping and pallor spreads in her forehead. Her friend is alarmed and tries to pacify her saying “Don’t worry, he will be back soon. He won’t let the town women gossip about you”. She tells her friend “I am sure he will come back. Yet my heart suffers. Your kind words soothe me and  provide me temporary relief, like cool water sprinkled on hot coals by a black smith”

She doesn’t want to blame him for her predicament. At the same time she needs the reassurance of her friend. Her heart, suffering from love, is in a state of turmoil. Her friend’s kind words provide temporary relief from that pain.

Cut mango shape for eyes is an interesting simile

cut mango

pic courtesy:

https://anubalakitchen.wordpress.com

Nattrinai – 210

What her friend said to him:

O’ man from the prosperous town where those
who carry baskets with seeds to be sowed,
in wide mushy fields that are plowed
after harvesting paddy, return with fish loads;
Praise from the King and riding in his army
are not signs of prosperity, but one’s destiny;
wise men define prosperity as dreading
the pain of loved ones and being
compassionate; that’s what prosperity is.

தோழி கூற்று:

அரிகால் மாறிய அங்கண் அகல்வயல்
மறுகால் உழுத ஈரச் செறுவின்
வித்தொடு சென்ற வட்டி பற்பல
மீனொடு பெயரும் யாணர் ஊர
நெடிய மொழிதலுங் கடிய ஊர்தலும்
செல்வம் அன்றுதன் செய்வினைப் பயனே
சான்றோர் செல்வம் என்பது சேர்ந்தோர்
புன்கண் அஞ்சும் பண்பின்
மென்கண் செல்வஞ் செல்வமென் பதுவே.

Sangam poetry – Ten long poems and Eight anthologies – is rich in metaphors. These poems are dated approximately between 200 BCE to 200 CE. This poem is from the anthology Nattrinai.

In Sangam poetry, hero going to courtesan’s house and being chided on returning back is an oft repeated theme. In this poem, he comes back, she chides him and doesn’t let him in. He asks her friend to take up his case. This poem is her friend advising him. The second part of the poem says “Though you may be a favorite of the King and ride with him, that is not prosperity. Real prosperity is caring for your loved ones and being tender towards them”.

The first part of the poem by itself seems unconnected to the second part. It just reads like a description of his town. 19th century commentary writers treated it as a metaphor for him going to the courtesan. வித்தொடு சென்ற வட்டி பற்பல மீனோடு பெயரும் – Baskets that went with seeds return with fish. “Farmers take baskets of seeds to be sowed in freshly plowed fields and come back with various fish found in canals. Similarly the bard introduces the courtesan to him and gets a reward in return.”

You can read this poem without the metaphorical meaning too. In Tamil Nadu Tenth Standard text book this poem is explained as a sagacious advice given by her friend to him. Why she advices him is left out though.

Nattrinai – 27

Her friend says:
Yesterday, all that you and I did was
to chase bees that swarm the fine pollen of flowers,
in the grove circled by backwaters with banks
of white sand deposited by dashing waves,
nothing else did we do on the sly; even if we did so,
it hasn’t spread for others to know –
then what does mom think? – even after seeing
the round stemmed flowers that have bloomed
like our eyes, in shark infested shallow waters
where herons feeding on prawns croak noisily,
she doesn’t tell us, ‘those small lilies
with tender leaves, why don’t you go pluck them’.

தோழி கூற்று :
நீயும் யானும்,  நெருநல், பூவின்
நுண் தாது உறைக்கும் வண்டினம் ஓப்பி,
ஒழி திரை வரித்த வெண் மணல் அடைகரைக்
கழி சூழ் கானல் ஆடியது அன்றி,
கரந்து நாம் செய்தது ஒன்று இல்லை; உண்டு எனின்,
பரந்து பிறர் அறிந்தன்றும்இலரே-நன்றும்
எவன் குறித்தனள் கொல், அன்னை?-கயந்தோறு
இற ஆர் இனக் குருகு ஒலிப்ப, சுறவம்
கழி சேர் மருங்கின் கணைக் கால் நீடி,
கண் போல் பூத்தமை கண்டு, ‘நுண் பல
சிறு பாசடைய நெய்தல்
குறுமோ, சென்று’ எனக் கூறாதோளே.

This poem is in Neithal thinai , the coastal landscape. He is waiting in the grove near the seashore to meet her. They have met there earlier too. But her friend warns her that it is not good to keep meeting clandestinely. People of the hamlet  might start to gossip. So the friend says to her, “Listen, yesterday we were just chasing bees in the grove and did nothing else. Even if we did something, nobody knew. Do you think your mom knows? Normally when she sees flowers blooming in the shallow waters she’ll ask us to go and pluck them. But today she isn’t asking us to go to those shark infested waters where herons croak noisily. So maybe she knows. Let’s not go to the grove today”

The poem has two beautiful sets of metaphors. First  is the bees swarming the flowers – like how he is following her relentlessly. When the friend says we chased the bees away, she means that you didn’t fall for his words. But the friend isn’t sure. So in the next line she says even if we did, nobody  knew. The second metaphor is Shark – him, lily flowers – her, and the croaking herons – gossiping village people.

Nattrinai – 359

Her friend’s thought :

As a short horned cow grazing in the slopes
shakes a bunch of flame lilies, pollen is strewn,
startling its calf; the man from those hills
gifted a skirt, made of leaves and flowers;
If she wears it, I fear her mother’s query;
If she returns it, I fear his misery;
Can the skirt, made of rare foliage from his hillside,
where the goddess resides
and even wild goats fear to leap, be left to fade away?

சிலம்பின் மேய்ந்த சிறு கோட்டுச் சேதா
அலங்கு குலைக் காந்தள் தீண்டி, தாது உக,
கன்று தாய் மருளும் குன்ற நாடன்
உடுக்கும் தழை தந்தனனே; யாம் அஃது
உடுப்பின், யாய் அஞ்சுதுமே; கொடுப்பின்,
கேளுடைக் கேடு அஞ்சுதுமே; ஆயிடை
வாடலகொல்லோ தாமே-அவன் மலைப்
போருடை வருடையும் பாயா,
சூருடை அடுக்கத்த கொயற்கு அருந் தழையே?

This is another master piece from Kapilar. This poem is written from the point of view of her friend. He has sent a skirt made of leaves and flowers to her through her friend. The friend gives it to her and thinks “If she wears it, I am afraid that her mom will ask how did you get this, who brought this to you. If she returns it I am afraid of seeing his pain. But this skirt is invaluable, made of rare foliage he has gathered with much difficulty. We can’t let it fade away”. Here the skirt is a metaphor for her love. The friend is saying, “don’t let your love fade away, come and ask for her hand in marriage.”

The other metaphor in this poem are the animals –  Cow, calf and wild goat. Her mother, she and him. Now read the poem again. She is still afraid of her mother. He is an impulsive man, roaming around the hills. But her love is so difficult to attain that even the wild goat can’t reach.

The cow metaphor can also be read as  – When the friend gives her the skirt, she stays quiet. The friend thinks like how a cow covered in pollen looks different and startles its calf, she is covered by shyness and hence is not her normal self, thus startling her friend.

Another reading – seeing her clad in a new skirt, her mother is startled; like how a calf is startled seeing its mother covered in pollen from flowers. In this case the metaphor transposes mother/her to calf/cow.

Nattrinai – 8

Cool, luxuriantly lined eyes that tremble with excitement,
waist with a swirling skirt woven from various flowers,
this young girl with sapphire like complexion,
whose daughter is she? Long live her dad!
She troubles me a lot:
In Cheran’s Thondi
grains harvested from vast fields
are heaped, fresh with loam;
Strong stemmed, eye like
blue water lillies bloom in that heap.
May her mom receive the abundance of Cheran’s Thondi.

அல்கு படர் உழந்த அரி மதர் மழைக்கண்,
பல் பூம் பகைத் தழை நுடங்கும் அல்குல்,
திரு மணி புரையும் மேனி மடவோள்
யார் மகள்கொல்? இவள் தந்தை வாழியர்!
துயரம் உறீஇயினள் எம்மே: அகல்வயல்
அரிவனர் அரிந்தும் தருவனர்ப் பெற்றும்
தண் சேறு தாஅய், மதனுடை நோன் தாள்
கண் போல் நெய்தல் போர்வில் பூக்கும்
திண் தேர்ப் பொறையன் தொண்டி-
தன் திறம் பெறுக, இவள் ஈன்ற தாயே!

Poem No. 8 from Nattrinai. As she leaves after making love, he praises her beauty and thanks her parents for giving birth to her. Thondi (near present day Kozhikode in Kerala) was Chera Kingdom’s port city, and abundant with resources. He says it is so rich that blue lilies bloom in the loam of harvested grains. Like that this girl lightens up the place wherever she goes. Strong stemmed, eye like blue lily flowers stand for the supple shouldered long eyed girl.

 

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