Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Purananooru”

Puranaanooru – 51

If water surges, there’s no bank that can hold it;
if fire surges, there’s no refuge that can save living beings;
if air surges, there’s nothing stronger to stop it;
like them is the renowned fierce Vazhuthi*;
unable to tolerate the saying that
“Tamil country is equally ruled (by all three kings)”,
he raises an army and demands tribute;
kings who pay up can be without worry,
those who don’t are pitiable, for they fall foul of him;
like winged termites that fly out of mounds
built painstakingly by hordes of white ants,
they flutter about to live for just a day.

* – Pandiyan King Kootakarathu thunchiya Maran Vazhuthi

நீர் மிகின், சிறையும் இல்லை; தீ மிகின்,
மன் உயிர் நிழற்றும் நிழலும் இல்லை;
வளி மிகின், வலியும் இல்லை; ஒளி மிக்கு
அவற்று ஓர் அன்ன சினப் போர் வழுதி,
‘தண் தமிழ் பொது’ எனப் பொறாஅன், போர் எதிர்ந்து,
கொண்டி வேண்டுவன் ஆயின், ‘கொள்க’ எனக்
கொடுத்த மன்னர் நடுக்கு அற்றனரே;
அளியரோ அளியர், அவன் அளி இழந்தோரே
நுண் பல சிதலை அரிது முயன்று எடுத்த
செம் புற்று ஈயல் போல,
ஒரு பகல் வாழ்க்கைக்கு உலமருவோரே!

This poem by Ayoor Mudavanar is about the valour of Pandiyan King Kootakarathu thunchiya Maran Vazhuthi (Maran Vazhuthi who died in Kootakaram battle). He was known for waging war against other rulers of Tamil country and subduing them. Thepoet says like the surge of elements (water, fire and air), fierce Vazhuthi also could not be contained. He could not tolerate when people said Tamil country is common for the three kings – Cheras, Cholas and Pandiyas. So he waged war against them and asked them to pay tributes to him and accept him as their overlord. Those who accepted were without worry. Those who didn’t fell foul of him and their condition was pitiable. Like winged termites that buzz out of termite mounds and die within a day, they rose briefly only to die.

The termite mound simile stands out in this poem. A termite mound is built by the hard work of thousands of termites. Similarly a country attains wealth by the hard work of its citizens. But when winged termites fly out of the mound, their life span is hardly a day. So is the life span of any one who opposes Vazhuthi.

The word play in அளியரோ அளியர், அவன் அளி இழந்தோரே is noteworthy. The poet uses the word அளி thrice, each time with a different meaning.
அளியரோ – அளிக்காதவரோ – those who don’t give
அளியர் – poor/wretched
அளி இழந்தோரே – those who lost his grace / fell foul of him

Puranaanooru – 309

To destroy weapons and conquer foes
in mighty battles is easy for anyone;
but, like the mound where cobra resides,
like the arena where deadly bull roams,
powerful enemies are afraid when they learn
he is in his barracks; such is the fame
of my victorious spear wielding lord.

இரும்புமுகம் சிதைய நூறி ஒன்னார்
இருஞ்சமம் கடத்தல் ஏனோர்க்கும் எளிதே;
நல்அரா உறையும் புற்றம் போலவும்
கொல்ஏறு திரிதரு மன்றம் போலவும்
மாற்றருந் துப்பின் மாற்றோர் பாசறை
உளன்என வெரூஉம் ஓர்ஒளி
வலன்உயர் நெடுவேல் என்னைகண் ணதுவே.

This is a poem singing the praise of a renowned warlord. The poet says, “Any one can fight in the battlefield, destroy the weapons of enemies and conquer them. That is what normal warriors do. But my lord’s fame is much more than that. Enemies are afraid when they learn he is in his barracks. Fear creeps into them, like the fear one has on seeing a mound where Cobra resides; like the fear one has on seeing the arena where the deadly bull roams. Such is his renown.”

‘Mound where cobra resides’ is a metaphor for his barracks where he rests. Even without seeing the cobra, people are afraid. Likewise enemies are afraid just on knowing that he is in his barracks. ‘Arena where the deadly bull roams’ is a metaphor for the fear he instlls in his enemies about his prowess.

Now you know where our propensity to ‘punch dialogues’ come from.

இரும்புமுகம் – iron face – spears, swords
நூறி – நூறுதல் – to destroy
ஒன்னார் – enemy
இருஞ்சமம் – இரு+ சமர் – great battle
கடத்தல் – conquer
ஏனோர் – others
நல்அரா – நல்ல பாம்பு – cobra
கொல்ஏறு – கொல் + ஏறு – deadly bull
மன்றம் – arena
மாற்று – destroy
துப்பு – strength
மாற்றோர் – enemies
பாசறை – barracks
வெரு – fear
ஒளி – fame
வலன் – வலம் – victorious
என்னை – என் + அய் – my lord
கண்ணதுவே – with him

Puranaanooru – 123

It’s easy for anyone to gift a chariot
if he drinks early and stays tipsy through the day;
gilded chariots gifted by sober Malayan
of lasting fame are innumerable
than fruitful rain drops over Mullur peaks.

நாட்கள் ளுண்டு நாண்மகிழ் மகிழின்
யார்க்கு மெளிதே தேரீ தல்லே
தொலையா நல்லிசை விளங்கு மலையன்
மகிழா தீத்த விழையணி நெடுந்தேர்
பயன்கெழு முள்ளூர் மீமிசைப்
பட்ட மாரி யுறையினும் பலவே.

This is a poem written by Kapilar, the premier Sangam era poet, in praise of Malayan (Malayaman Thirumudik Kaari) who ruled over Mullur hills. He was a famous patron to many poets. Kapilar says “Many patrons bestow chariots as gifts when they are drunk and intoxicated through out the day. Those are tainted by the intoxicated nature of the patron. But Malayaman gifts gilded chariots when he is sober. This makes those chariots more valuable, as they are given in good sense. These chariots are more in number than the rain drops that fall over Mullur hills of Malayaman”

Exaggeration is a poetic virtue. Kapilar too is not immune to that.

மகிழ் – Happy / tipsy
எளிது – easy
ஈதல் – to gift / bestow
தொலையா – un decaying / lasting
நல்லிசை – good name / fame
மகிழாது ஈத்த – given when not tipsy / sober
இழையணி – bedecked / gilded
பயன்கெழு – useful / fruitful
மீமிசை – over (peaks)
மாரி – rain
உறை – drops

Pura Naanooru – 312

To give birth and nurture is my duty;
to make him wise is his father’s duty;
to forge a spear for him is blacksmith’s duty;
to impart virtue is Ruler’s duty;
to destroy enemies in battle with dazzling sword,
kill war elephants and return is youth’s duty.

ஈன்று புறந்தருதல் என் தலைக் கடனே;
சான்றோன் ஆக்குதல் தந்தைக்குக் கடனே;
வேல் வடித்துக் கொடுத்தல் கொல்லற்குக் கடனே;
நன்னடை நல்கல் வேந்தற்குக் கடனே,
ஒளிறு வாள் அருஞ் சமம் முருக்கி,
களிறு எறிந்து பெயர்தல் காளைக்குக் கடனே.

This is a stirring poem written from the point of view of a woman from a martial clan. She says, “To bring forth a son and nurture him is my duty. To teach him skills and make him knowledgeable is his father’s duty. To provide him with weapons is the blacksmith’s duty. It is the duty of our ruler to point him in the path of virtue. The bull like strong youth’s duty is to engage in war, destroy the enemies, kill their elephants and return back”.

As is clear, these poems drum up martial feelings and ignite the passion for warfare, which was a necessity in those times.

I think that this poem has shades of ‘Protagoras’, Plato’s dialogue about a debate between Protagoras and Socrates. Or may be I am reading too much into a straight forward poem.

ஈன்று – Give birth
புறம் தருதல் – bring to world (nurture)
வடித்தல் – forge
நன்னடை – நல்ல + நடை – right path / good conduct / virtue
நல்குதல் – give / grant / impart
ஒளிறுதல் – to shine brightly
வாள் – sword
அருமை – good / great
சமம் – battle
முருக்குதல் – destroy
களிறு – elephant
எறிதல் – knock down
பெயர்தல் – return
காளை – youth

Pura Naanooru – 358

This worthy world ringed by the sun
will have seven chiefs a day, such is its nature;
If material and spiritual realms are weighed,
material is not even mustard sized
compared to spiritual, so (spiritually) desirous let it go;
Thiru* doesn’t let go those who let it go;
those who don’t let it go, are whom she lets go.

*Thiru – Goddess of Wealth

பருதி சூழ்ந்த இப் பயம் கெழு மா நிலம்
ஒரு பகல் எழுவர் எய்தியற்றே;
வையமும் தவமும் தூக்கின், தவத்துக்கு
ஐயவி அனைத்தும் ஆற்றாது ஆகலின்,
கைவிட்டனரே காதலர்; அதனால்
விட்டோரை விடாஅள், திருவே;
விடாஅதோர் இவள் விடப்பட்டோரே.

“This world is fickle. No one rules it for long, it will have seven people lead it in a day. Such is its nature. If we compare the material world and spiritual world, the material world is not even mustard seed sized when compared to the spiritual world. So those who want to attain spirituality, let go of the material world. Thiru, the gooddess of wealth holds on to those who are not desirous of material world. Those who are desirous of material world, she gives up on them. So don’t hanker behind wealth. It will be elusive. If you take a distant attitude towards it, wealth will come to you by itself”

Wordplay of the last two lines stand out in this poem. I have tried to translate that as close to the original as possible.

பருதி – பரிதி – Sun
பயம் – பயனுடைய – Worthy / useful
கெழு – bright
மா நிலம் – Big land – world
வையம் – (Material) world
தவம் – spiritual
ஐயவி – mustard
காதலர் – desirous one

Puranaanooru – 195

O’ learned wise men, learned wise men!
O’ learned wise men of futile seniority
and wrinkled cheeks with fish bone like grey hairs!
When the mighty one* with sharp battle axe
throws his noose, you’ll feel sorry;
even if you aren’t able to good,
avoid doing bad;
that’s what pleases every one;
also, that’s path of righteousness.

*God of death

பல் சான்றீரே! பல் சான்றீரே!
கயல் முள் அன்ன நரை முதிர் திரை கவுள்,
பயன் இல் மூப்பின், பல் சான்றீரே!
கணிச்சிக் கூர்ம் படைக் கடுந் திறல் ஒருவன்
பிணிக்கும் காலை, இரங்குவிர் மாதோ;
நல்லது செய்தல் ஆற்றீர் ஆயினும்,
அல்லது செய்தல் ஓம்புமின்; அதுதான்
எல்லாரும் உவப்பது; அன்றியும்,
நல் ஆற்றுப் படூஉம் நெறியும்மார் அதுவே.

The poet admonishes the old learned men who advise the ruler. They mislead the ruler on a path of ruin. The poet says to them “O’ learned wise men, of useless old age (with fish bone like grey hair in wrinkled cheeks) and experience! You will feel sorry when the God of death appears with his weapons and throws a noose at you. Even if you aren’t able to do good, at least don’t do bad. That’s what will keep everyone peaceful and happy. Also, that’s the path to righteousness”

கயல் – fish
திரை – wrinkle
கவுள் – cheek
கணிச்சி – battle axe
கூர்ம் படை – sharp weapon
கடுந் திறல் – mighty
பிணி – tie / catch
இரங்கு – sorry
ஆற்றீர் – not able to
ஓம்புமின் – avoid
உவப்பது – pleases
நல் ஆற்று – right way
நெறி – path

Puranaanooru – 252

His hair’s greyed as he bathes
in noisy white waterfalls,
and is matted like thillai* leaves;
He, who plucks leaves from dense creepers,
was once a hunter who held
naive peahen like woman at home
spell bound with a net of words!

*Thillai – milky mangrove tree

கறங்கு வெள் அருவி ஏற்றலின், நிறம் பெயர்ந்து,
தில்லை அன்ன புல்லென் சடையோடு,
அள் இலைத் தாளி கொய்யுமோனே
இல் வழங்கு மட மயில் பிணிக்கும்
சொல் வலை வேட்டுவன் ஆயினன், முன்னே!

The poet meets a warrior turned ascetic in the forests. The poet has known in him worldly life earlier and is surprised by how he has changed. The poet says to his fellow travelers, “This man is now an ascetic staying in forests. His hair is greyed because of bathing in noisy white water falls. His hair is matted like leaves of thillai (Milky mangrove) tree. You can see him pluck leaves from creepers in this woods. In his previous life he was such a persuasive lover that he used to hold his naive woman spellbound with his words. He was like a hunter with a net of words.”

The phrase “சொல்வலை வேட்டுவன்” – Hunter with a net of words makes this poem special. That’s every story teller’s dream – to hold his audience spell bound with words.

Blind_Your_Eye_Flower_02.jpg

Milky Mangrove tree 

Source : By Vengolis – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26616445

கறங்கு – noisy
வெள் – white
தில்லை -Milky Mangrove tree
அன்ன – like
அள் – dense / close
தாளி – creeper
கொய்தல் – pluck
இல் – home
மட – naive
பிணித்தல் – tie down / bound

Puranaanooru – 273

Horse hasn’t returned, horse hasn’t returned;
every one’s horse has returned,
but the horse he rode hasn’t returned,
he who fathered a sparsely maned son in my house;
Like a mighty tree standing guard
at the confluence of two roaring rivers,
was it felled down, the horse he rode to battle?

மா வாராதே; மா வாராதே;
எல்லார் மாவும் வந்தன; எம் இல்,
புல் உளைக் குடுமிப் புதல்வற் தந்த
செல்வன் ஊரும் மா வாராதே
இரு பேர் யாற்ற ஒரு பெருங் கூடல்
விலங்கிடு பெரு மரம் போல,
உலந்தன்றுகொல், அவன் மலைந்த மாவே?

She’s waiting for her husband to return from battlefield. All the warriors have returned with their horses, but he hasn’t. She laments has he been felled at the battlefield, like a tree that stands guard at the confluence of two great rivers. The two armies are equated to great rivers and the battlefield to the confluence of rivers.

An interesting trivia. The poet is Erumai Veliyanaaar, that is Veliyan from Erumai Naadu. The current Mysore region was called Erumai (Buffalo) Naadu in Tamil epigraphs. So it can be assumed that this poem was about a battle / skirmish around Mysore area. The name Mysore derives from Mahisha Asura, which means (Buffalo demon).

மா – horse
இல் – home
புல் – smallness (I’ve used ‘sparse’)
உளை – mane
ஊர் – ride
கூடல் – confluence / together
விலங்கு – guard
உலத்தல் – to die
மலை – to battle

Puranaanooru – 83

I fear mother noticing that my bangles slip out
as I pine for the anklet wearing, dark bearded young man;
I’m shy to embrace his valorous shoulders in public;
May this indecisive town which doesn’t decide
either in favour of mother or myself
but vacillates between us two,
tremble as much as I do.

அடி புனை தொடுகழல், மை அணல் காளைக்கு என்
தொடி கழித்திடுதல் யான் யாய் அஞ்சுவலே;
அடு தோள் முயங்கல் அவை நாணுவலே;
என் போல் பெரு விதுப்புறுக என்றும்
ஒரு பாற் படாஅதாகி,
இரு பாற் பட்ட இம் மையல் ஊரே.

She is pining for him, the dark bearded young man wearing an anklet awarded for bravery. Her arms weaken and her bangles slip out. She is afraid that her mother might notice this and find out about her lover. At the same time she is shy of going public with her love and embracing his shoulders. The townspeople neither understand her fear and shyness and arrange for her marraige to her lover nor understand her mother’s reluctance and put a stop to the affair. They are indecisive and prolonging her agony. So she curses the town to tremble as much as she is trembling now.

The original poem says “the indecisive town which doesn’t decide for one side but vacillates”. I have expanded it as “in favor of mother or myself” to make it easier to comprehend.

Puranaanooru – 184

If mature rice is harvested and consumed,
a ma’s* yield will last many days;
even a hundred sei** (goes waste)
if a single elephant enters it to eat,
as its legs trample more than what it eats;
if a judicious ruler collects as per rule,
his country yields a lot and prospers;
if ruler becomes weak, surrounded
by fawning ignoble kith and kin,
hankers after wealth mercilessly,  
like an elephant overrun field,
neither does he consume,
but his country is ruined too.

*Ma – a measure of land, roughly 1/3 of an acre
** Sei – a measure of land, roughly 1 3/4 of an acre

காய் நெல் அறுத்துக் கவளம் கொளினே,
மா நிறைவு இல்லதும், பல் நாட்கு ஆகும்;
நூறு செறு ஆயினும், தமித்துப் புக்கு உணினே,
வாய் புகுவதனினும் கால் பெரிது கெடுக்கும்;
அறிவுடை வேந்தன் நெறி அறிந்து கொளினே,
கோடி யாத்து, நாடு பெரிது நந்தும்;
மெல்லியன் கிழவன் ஆகி, வைகலும்
வரிசை அறியாக் கல்லென் சுற்றமொடு,
பரிவு தப எடுக்கும் பிண்டம் நச்சின்,
யானை புக்க புலம் போல,
தானும் உண்ணான், உலகமும் கெடுமே.

This poem by Pisiranthaiyaar advises the Pandya king to collect taxes judiciously. If rice is harvested carefully and consumed, yield of a Ma (1 Ma = roughly 1/3 of an acre) will last for many days. But yield of even a 100 Sei (1 Sei = roughly 1 3/4 of an acre) will be wasted if an elephant enters it, because it tramples much more with its legs than what it eats. Similarly, if a ruler collects taxes as per rule, his country will yield a lot to him and it will prosper too. However, if he becomes weak and on the advice of fawning relatives he collects taxes without any mercy on the populace, his country will become like an elephant entered field. He won’t get what he wishes for, but his country too will be ruined.

It is a sage advice to rulers. Collect taxes carefully. If you put too much pressure on the populace, you won’t get what you wish and your country will be ruined. Keep your relatives and yes men off the government.

யானை புக்க புலம் போல,
தானும் உண்ணான், உலகமும் கெடுமே.
I could not match the brevity of these lines. All I could muster was

Like an elephant overrun field,
neither does he consume,
but his country is ruined too.

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