Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Paripadal”

Paripadal 10 – Lines 74-78

Women with shark shaped chains adorning their forehead,
take out the silver bowl from its dark casing
like moon that rises up parting the belly of clouds, pour warm toddy,
hold it in their hands like a snake closing in on the full moon,
and drink it with their red lily lips like celestial women drinking moonlight.

முகில் அகடு கழி மதியின்
உறை கழி வள்ளத்து உறு நறவு வாக்குநர்
அரவு செறி உவவு மதி என அங்கையில் தாங்கி
எறி மகர வலயம் அணி திகழ் நுதலியர்
மதி உண் அர_மகள் என ஆம்பல் வாய் மடுப்ப

Paripadal is one of the latter day Sangam works. It originally contained 70 poems, out of which only 22 are available today. These lines are from poem no. 10 singing the praise of River Vaigai that flows through Madurai. After the rains, fresh floods flow in Vaigai. It is a day of revelry for young men and women. The poem details about the festive spirit on the banks of Vaigai. These lines are rich in similes, I have tried my best to translate them.

Women’s forehead is framed with shark shaped chains (?) (மகர வலயம்). They take out shining white silver bowls from its dark casing. It looks like moon rising up from belly of dark clouds.  They pour warm toddy in those bowls and hold it in their palm. The shining bowl in their hand looks like a snake closing in on the moon. They place the bowl in their red lily like lips and drink it. They look like celestial women drinking moonlight.

holding bowl

Holding bowl in hand, looking like a snake swallowing moon

முகில் – cloud
அகடு – belly
கழி – part / tear
மதி – moon
உறை – cover / casing
வள்ளம் – bowl
நறவு – toddy
வாக்குநர் – one who pours
அரவு – snake
செறி – closing
உவவு மதி – full moon
அங்கை – beautiful hands
எறி மகர வலயம் – chain in the shape of attacking shark
நுதலியர் – women whose forehead

Paripadal – 4 : 25-35

Thy fieriness and radiance are in the Sun;
thy gentleness and grace are in the moon;
thy abundance and bounty are in the rains;
thy patience and generosity are in the earth;
thy fragrance and beauty are in the flowers;
thy slpendour and expanse are in the seas;
thy form and sound are in the skies;
thy arrival and departure are in the breeze;
though these, that, those and others
have grown out of the Supreme you,
they still depend on you.

நின் வெம்மையும் விளக்கமும் ஞாயிற்று உள;
நின் தண்மையும் சாயலும் திங்கள் உள;
நின் சுரத்தலும் வண்மையும் மாரி உள;
நின் புரத்தலும் நோன்மையும் ஞாலத்து உள;
நின் நாற்றமும் ஒண்மையும் பூவை உள;
நின் தோற்றமும் அகலமும் நீரின் உள;
நின் உருவமும் ஒலியும் ஆகாயத்து உள;
நின் வருதலும் ஒடுக்கமும் மருத்தின் உள;
அதனால், இவ்வும், உவ்வும், அவ்வும், பிறவும்,
ஏமம் ஆர்ந்த நிற் பிரிந்து,
மேவல் சான்றன, எல்லாம்.

This poem is in praise of Thirumal from Paripadal in Sangam literature. Paripadal consists of 70 poems in praise of Thirumal, Murukan, Madurai city and the Viagai river. Only 22 of these poems have been found. The above verses are from poem no.4 in praise of Thirumal.

The poet says , ” Your qualities are imbued in everything in this universe – the sun, moon, rains, earth, flowers, seas, skies and the breeze. Hence all these elements have grown out of you, yet they rely on you.” Everything in this world is a manifestation of God. Though they have grown out of him, still they are dependent on him. (I know it is confusing, that’s the best I could explain it.)

Tamil language had a word ‘உது’ that was intermediate between ‘these’ (closeby) and ’those’(far away). The word is now out of use. We find that word in this poem written approximately 2000 years ago. I have used ‘that’ as a compromise.

4th line in the original reads generosity (புரத்தல்) and patience (நோன்மை). I have interchanged them to maintain cadence.

You can find the echo of this poem’s philosophy in many Tamil works , for example 12th century Kambaramayanam to 20th Century Bharathi poems.

தன்னுளே உலகங்கள் எவையும் தந்து அவை
தன்னுளே நின்று தான் அவற்றுள் தங்குவான் (கம்பராமாயணம் – 6374)

பார்க்கின்ற பொருளெல்லாம் தெய்வம் கண்டீர்;
வெயிலளிக்கும் இரவி, மதி, விண்மீன், மேகம்,
மேலுமிங்குப் பலபலவாம் தோற்றங் கொண்டே
இயலுகின்ற ஜடப்பொருள்கள் அனைத்தும் தெய்வம் (பாரதி அறுபத்தியாறு – 18)

Paripadal Thirattu – 10

Will Madurai ever be flawed,
and not splendidly thrive
like fish shaped golden ear rings of Karthigai women –
till the flagged charioteer’s language is alive?

கார்த்திகை காதில் கன மகர குண்டலம்போல்,
சீர்த்து விளங்கித் திருப் பூத்தல் அல்லது,
கோத்தை உண்டாமோ மதுரை-கொடித் தேரான்
வார்த்தை உண்டாகும் அளவு?

This is from Paripadal thirattu, singing the praise of  Madurai. Madurai will thrive and be flawless as long as Tamil language is alive. Karthigai women are the ones who nurtured Murugan. Flagged charioteer stands for Pandiyan Kings with fish symbol in their flags. Pandiyan Kings nurtured Tamil like how the Karthigai women nurtured Murugan. Madurai is the blemish less  jewel of the Pandiyans like the fish shaped ear rings of the  Karthigai women.


World on one side, this on the other
if learned men measure,
whole world will pale, but this does not – such is
the Southerner’s river bank city of mansions.

உலகம் ஒரு நிறையாத் தான் ஓர் நிறையாப்
புலவர் புலக் கோலால் தூக்க, உலகு அனைத்தும்
தான் வாட, வாடாத தன்மைத்தே-தென்னவன்
நான்மாடக் கூடல் நகர்.

Paripadal is a Sangam poetry collection that had 70 poems on Thirumal, Sevvel (Murugan), Vaigai river and Madurai city. Only 22 complete poems are found. Others were lost in time. Some stand alone poems (probably later insertions) are collected as Paripadal Thirattu. This is one of those poems that sing the praise of Madurai City. Madurai is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in India. It was the capital of the Pandian Dynasty, the oldest of Tamil kings. They were generally called Southerners as they ruled south of Tamil Nadu.

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