Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Purananooru”

Puranaanooru – 227

Much stupid are you, heartless Death!
Just because there was no food, you ate the seed;
Now you’ll realize, how true my words are;
Warriors with shiny swords, elephants, horses –
all he massacred in the battlefield daily
in a river of blood to feed your crippling hunger;
such a mighty warrior similar to you
was golden armored Valavan,
with bees buzzing about his garland;
You took his life away;
Who’ll feed your hunger henceforth?

நனி பேதையே, நயன் இல் கூற்றம்!
விரகு இன்மையின் வித்து அட்டு உண்டனை;
இன்னும் காண்குவை, நன் வாய் ஆகுதல்;
ஒளிறு வாள் மறவரும், களிறும், மாவும்,
குருதி அம் குரூஉப் புனல் பொரு களத்து ஒழிய,
நாளும் ஆனான் கடந்து அட்டு, என்றும் நின்
வாடு பசி அருத்திய வசை தீர் ஆற்றல்
நின் ஓர் அன்ன பொன் இயல் பெரும் பூண்
வளவன் என்னும் வண்டு மூசு கண்ணி
இனையோற் கொண்டனைஆயின்,
இனி யார், மற்று நின் பசி தீர்ப்போரே?

This is a poem sung by Aaduthurai Maasaathanaar on hearing the death of Chola King Kulamuttrathu Thunjia Killi Valavan. He chides death for being stupid and taking away his life. “Just because there was no food, you ate the seed for next harvest. What will you do now. You will realise the truth of my words now. He killed warriors, elephants and horses in the battlefield, turning it into a river of blood to feed your hunger. Such a mighty warrior he was, skilled at taking life just like you. That golden armour wearing Killi valavan, with bees buzzing about the flowers he wears, have you killed. Now who will satiate your hunger henceforth”

நனி பேதை – much stupid
நயன் இல் கூற்றம் – heartless death
விரகு – food
இன்மை -absence
வித்து – seed
அட்டு – let
உண்டனை – you ate
நன் வாய் ஆகுதல் – words come true
ஒளிறு வாள் – shining sword
மறவர் – warrior
களிறு – elephant
மா – horse
குருதி – blood
புனல் – river
பொரு களத்து – battlefield
நாளும் – daily
வாடு பசி – crippling hunger
அருத்திய – satiated / fed
வசை தீர் ஆற்றல் – faultless power / mighty
நின் ஓர் அன்ன – one like you
பொன் இயல் பெரும் பூண் – broad golden armour
வண்டு மூசு கண்ணி – flowers (worn by kings in battle) buzzing with bees
வளவன் – Chola King Valavan
இனையோற் – Such a man
கொண்டனை – you took

Puranaanooru – 74

Even if a baby is stillborn or born unformed
it’d still be considered part of the Royal clan
and be inflicted with battle wound (before burying);
Will such a clan give birth to one who’s so weak
as to beg spiteful foes for water to quench his hunger;
foes who demean him by keeping him chained like a dog?

குழவி இறப்பினும், ஊன்தடி பிறப்பினும்,
‘ஆள் அன்று’ என்று வாளின் தப்பார்;
தொடர்ப் படு ஞமலியின் இடர்ப்படுத்து இரீஇய
கேள் அல் கேளிர் வேளாண் சிறு பதம்,
மதுகை இன்றி, வயிற்றுத் தீத் தணிய,
தாம் இரந்து உண்ணும் அளவை
ஈன்மரோ, இவ் உலகத்தானே?

This poem is attributed to Chera King Kanaikkal Irumporai. He loses the battle of ThirupPorpPuram to Chola King Chenkanaan and is taken prisoner. He is kept chained in prison and has to request his captors for water. He decides to give up his life instead of living in such abject condition. He says “In Royal clans, even a stillborn baby or one born unformed will be inflicted with battle wound before being buried. Will such a clan give birth to one who is reduced to beg for food and water from spiteful foes who instead of killing him honorably in the battlefield, keep him chained like a dog and demean him? I’d rather give up my life than live so abjectly.”

Dying in battle was the biggest honor for men from martial clans. So even a stillborn baby was inflicted with a battle wound before being buried.

குழவி – baby
ஊன்தடி – unformed flesh
வாளின் தப்பார் – won’t escape the sword (be inflicted with battle wound)
தொடர் – linked (chained)
ஞமலி – dog
இடர்ப்படுத்து – distress (demean)
கேள் அல் – unfriendly (spiteful)
கேளிர் – friends(used sarcastically here, hence I used foes)
வேளாண் – charity / benificence
மதுகை இன்றி – without strength (weak)
இரந்து – beg
ஈன் – give birth

Puranaanooru – 278

The old woman’s stomach is shriveled like lotus leaves;
veins stand out in her weak and withered shoulders;
on hearing many a person say that her son fled
after losing to the enemy, she angrily declared
“if he retreated from the battle field,
I’ll chop off my breasts that fed him”;
with a sword she went and searched the bloody field
from which bodies were yet to be removed;
on seeing her son’s dismembered body,
she felt happier than the day she birthed him.

நரம்பெழுந் துலறிய நிரம்பா மென்றோள்
முளரி மருங்கின் முதியோள் சிறுவன்
படையழிந்து மாறின னென்றுபலர் கூற
மாண்டமர்க் குடைந்தன னாயி னுண்டவென்
முலையறுத் திடுவென் யானெனச் சினைஇக்
கொண்ட வாளொடு படுபிணம் பெயராச்
செங்களந் துழவுவோள் சிதைந்துவே றாகிய
படுமகன் கிடக்கை காணூஉ
ஈன்ற ஞான்றினும் பெரிதுவந் தனளே.

Pura Naanooru is an anthology of 400 poems about external world – wars, kings and warriors. This is one of the popular poems which is used by politicians of all hues to whip up the glorious bravery of Tamils of yesteryears. The old woman has sent her son to battle field. She is reed thin, veins stand out in her shoulders, her stomach is shrivelled like dry lotus leaves. People bringing news from battle field say that her son ran away from the battle field after losing to the enemy. She is incensed on this blot to her clan. She declares angrily, “if it is true that he retreated from the battle field, I will chop of my breasts that fed him. He is no more my son”. She takes a sword in her hand and enters the battlefield to find whether it is true that her son ran away. The bodies are yet to be removed from the battlefield, which is still red with the blood spilt that day. She searches among those bodies. Finally she finds her son’s dismembered body amidst the battlefield. She feels joyful that her son held up her clan prestige and died bravely in the battle field instead of running away. The joy she felt (that he had upheld clan pride) was much more than the joy she felt when she gave birth to him.

“படையழிந்து மாறினன்” – U Ve Saa interprets this as “he retreated after losing”. Avvai Duraisamy Pillai in his commentary interprets it as “he was injured in the back while retreating and killed”. I have followed U Ve Saa’s interpretation as I think it makes more sense. George L Hart too follows U Ve Saa.

The original poem flows in one single sentence. It was difficult to maintain that structure without making the poem clunky. So I have split it into sentences.

நரம்பு – blood vessels / veins
உலறிய – dry
நிரம்பா – not full / withered
மென் தோள் – soft shoulders
முளரி – lotus
மருங்கு – waist
படை அழிந்து மாறினன் – lost to enemy and fled
மாண்டமர் – மாண் + அமர் – great battle
படுபிணம் – dead bodies
செங்களம் – (blood) red field
சிதைந்து வேறாகிய – destroyed and cut into pieces
படுமகன் – dead son
ஈன்ற – birthed
ஞான்று – day
உவத்தல் – happy

Puranaanooru – 185

Wagon of governance that drives the world
with wheel and axle joined together,
will have a smooth path without obstacles
if wagoner is skillful; if he’s inept in driving,
it will get mired in slush of enmity daily,
bringing more and more misery.

கால்பார் கோத்து ஞாலத் தியக்கும்
காவற் சாகா டுகைப்போன் மாணின்
ஊறின் றாகி யாறினிது படுமே
உய்த்த றேற்றா னாயின் வைகலும்
பகைக்கூ ழள்ளற் பட்டு
மிகப்பஃறீநோய் தலைத்தலைத் தருமே.

This poem written by King Thondaiman Ilanthirayan, advises a ruler on how to rule his country with movement of wagons as a metaphor. Movement in the world happens when wheel and axle are joined together. It is similar to how a ruler rules his country. If the ruler who directs his country’s progress is skillful, the path ahead will be smooth with no obstacles. But if he is weak and indecisive in driving the country forward, its progress will get mired in the slush of enmity often and will create much misery to his subjects.

The first part of the poem was tough to translate. Some commentaries explained it as “Like how wheel and axle joined together drive a vehicle, does movement in the world occur. So the king who drives the wagon of governance..” But the source poem doesn’t have the word ‘போல்’ – ‘like’ for it to be treated as a simile. Other commentaries treat it as a metaphor “Wagon of governance that’s driven in the world with wheel and axle together..”. I have followed this. However what do wheel and axle stand for in the metaphor is not clear. Or may be ‘Wagon of governance’ and movement of vehicles is equated in the metaphor with ‘wheel and axle’ treated as they are.

Such ambiguity is what makes it a pleasure to read and interpet the classics.

கால் – Wheel
பார் – Axle
கோத்து – joined
ஞாலம் – world
இயக்கும் – operate
காவல் – guard / governance
சாகாடு – Wagon
உகைப்போன் – driver / wagoner
மாண் – skillful / great
ஊறு – obstacle
இன்றி – without
இனிது – smooth
உய்த்தல் – to drive
தேற்றுதல் – making clear / decisive
வைகல் – daily
பகை – enmity
கூழ் – slush
அள்ளல் – mire
மிகப்பஃறீநோய் – மிக + பல + தீ + நோய் – lots of misery
தலைத்தலை – more and more

Puranaanooru – 220

Like a sad mahout who lost the majestic elephant
that he fed and cared for years,
shedding tears on seeing the clamorous stable
where it lived now desolate and empty,
do I grieve too, looking at the fabled assembly
in this hoary town that is bereft of
golden garland* wearing skilled warrior Killi**.

பெருஞ் சோறு பயந்து, பல் யாண்டு புரந்த
பெருங் களிறு இழந்த பைதல் பாகன்
அது சேர்ந்து அல்கிய அழுங்கல் ஆலை,
வெளில் பாழாகக் கண்டு கலுழ்ந்தாங்கு,
கலங்கினென் அல்லனோ, யானே பொலந் தார்த்
தேர் வண் கிள்ளி போகிய
பேர் இசை மூதூர் மன்றம் கண்டே?

A little bit of background story of this poem. This poem is about the Chola King KopPerum Cholan, who gave up his life when he found his sons warring against him for the throne. This poem was sung by the poet Pothiaar a close confidant of the King. The poet too wanted to starve and die along with his patron, but the King forbade him since the poet’s wife was pregnant at that time. So he sent the poet back to town.

When Pothiaar reaches the capital city Uraiyur and looks at the desolate assembly bereft of its King, he grieves and wrote this poem. A mahout who has lost his elephant that he fed and cared for years grieves a lot when he sees the empty stable where the elephant lived. The emptiness reminds him of what he has lost and makes him sorrowful. The poet says I grieve like that when I see this fabled assembly bereft of its King.

** Killi – common name for Chola Kings
* Golden garland – garland made of yellow coloured flower (ஆத்திப் பூ), the royal flower of Chola Kings

களிறு – elephant
பைதல் – sad
அல்கிய – lived
அழுங்கல் – clamorous
ஆலை – hall (stable)
வெளி – empty
பாழ் – desolate
கலுழ் – cry
பொலந்தார் – பொன் + தார் – golden garland
தேர் வண் – skilled in chariot warfare
போகிய – bereft
பேர் இசை – highly famed
மூதூர் – ancient town

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

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