Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Purananooru”

Puranaanooru – 292

O petty people, quit being angry
that he stood up grasping his flawless sword
and pushed away Ruler’s sweet, chilled wine
you stirred and served as per rank!
In battle field too he will do the same,
will not say “let my turn come”; will rush
to meet the mighty forces of the enemy
and force them away, such a man is he.

வேந்தற் கேந்திய தீந்தண் ணறவம்
யாந்தனக் குறுமுறை வளாவ விலக்கி
வாய்வாள் பற்றி நின்றனெ னென்று
சினவ லோம்புமின் சிறுபுல் லாளர்
ஈண்டே போல வேண்டுவ னாயின்
என்முறை வருக வென்னான் கம்மென
எழுதரு பெரும்படை விலக்கி
ஆண்டு நிற்கு மாண்டகை யன்னே.

Purananooru 292. The tradition before battle was for the King to drink clear toddy and pass it on to this soldiers. Since the soldiers needed more kick out of the booze, it was stirred up and served to them. The hero of this poem refuses the toddy offered because he thinks it has come to him late. So he pushes away the toddy, stands up with his sword,  ready to go to the battlefield. Those who served him are angry because he didn’t wait for his turn and is breaking tradition. Poet says to them, “Stop being petty. He is not one to follow tradition. You are angry that he stood up with his sword and pushed away the toddy you offered. In the battle field too he will do the same. He will not wait for his turn to go and fight. He will rush to meet the enemy forces with his sword and force them to retreat, such is his valor”.

Puranaanooru – 226

If it had come with covert hatred or overt fury,
or dared to touch him, it wouldn’t have survived;
it must have come as a supplicant bard
and pleaded, the Death that took away
golden garlanded Valavan, the mighty chariot rider
whose army won fierce battles.

செற்றன்று ஆயினும், செயிர்த்தன்று ஆயினும்,
உற்றன்று ஆயினும், உய்வு இன்று மாதோ;
பாடுநர் போலக் கைதொழுது ஏத்தி,
இரந்தன்றாகல் வேண்டும் பொலந் தார்
மண்டு அமர் கடக்கும் தானைத்
திண் தேர் வளவற் கொண்ட கூற்றே.

Poem by Maarokkatthu Nappasalaiyar. She learns of the death of Chola King Kulamuttrathu Thunjiya Killi Valavan (literally Killi Valavan who passed away at Kulamuttram). She is overcome with sorrow. She says how did death conquer the mighty strong king? If death had come directly to fight it would have lost to him. Death must have come as a supplicant and pleaded for his life and the King must have magnanimously given it away.

Golden garland refers to garland made of Yellow Orchid tree flower (ஆத்திப் பூ), the Clan flower of Chola Kings.

Puranaanooru – 256

Oh master potter! master potter!
Like a small white lizard stuck
to the wagon’s axle hub spoke,
I traveled many an arid land with him;
show me some mercy.
To bury him in this ground,
shape a flared burial urn
that’s wide enough for me too,
this vast ancient town’s master potter.

கலஞ்செய் கோவே கலஞ்செய் கோவே
அச்சுடைச் சாகாட் டாரம் பொருந்திய
சிறுவெண் பல்லி போலத் தன்னொடு
சுரம்பல வந்த வெமக்கு மருளி
வியன்மல ரகன்பொழி லீமத் தாழி
அகலி தாக வனைமோ
நனந்தலை மூதூர்க் கலஞ்செய் கோவே.

Poem no. 256 of Puranaanooru. Poet’s name is unknown. A dead warrior’s wife asks the town potter to make a burial urn that has space enough for her to be buried along with him. The ‘for me too’ is implied and not explicitly stated in the Tamil original. The simile used in this poem is arresting. A white lizard that is stuck to the wheel spoke will travel wherever the wagon wheel goes. Like that she traveled her entire life with her husband. Now he has left her and died. She doesn’t want to live without him, so she wants to buried along with him.

Puranaanooru – 189

For one who rules this ocean bound world
unrivaled under his royal standard,
and the illiterate, who tracks wild game
day and night without a moment’s sleep,
serving size is one, clothes are but two;
everything else is equal too;
purpose of wealth is to share;
if savored alone, much is lost.

தெண் கடல் வளாகம் பொதுமை இன்றி
வெண் குடை நிழற்றிய ஒருமையோர்க்கும்,
நடு நாள் யாமத்தும் பகலும் துஞ்சான்
கடு மாப் பார்க்கும் கல்லா ஒருவற்கும்,
உண்பது நாழி; உடுப்பவை இரண்டே;
பிறவும் எல்லாம் ஓர் ஒக்குமே;
செல்வத்துப் பயனே ஈதல்;
துய்ப்பேம் எனினே, தப்புந பலவே.

This poem is written by Nakkeeeranar, son of Madurai Kanakkayanaar (மதுரை கணக்காயணார் மகன் நக்கீரனார்). White Parasol (umbrella) was one of the royal attributes of an emperor. I have taken the liberty to change it to Royal standard as it is easier to understand in English.

Whether one is an emperor of this world or an illiterate hunter, they are awake at all times in search of wealth. Their needs too are same – they can eat only one portion of food and wear only two pieces of clothes. All their activities (eating, sleeping, procreation) in life are similar too.

So when one has more than what he needs, he has to share it with the world. That is the purpose of wealth. Instead if one hoards wealth and savors it alone, he loses his good karma and the joy of being just.

 

Puranaanooru – 121

Hearing of a patron’s place, from all four
directions will come, the needy horde;
doling out generously is easier,
but to rank them is difficult; Mighty ruler!
since you know that best,
avoid ‘all are equal’ view, among poets!

ஒரு திசை ஒருவனை உள்ளி, நால் திசைப்
பலரும் வருவர், பரிசில் மாக்கள்;
வரிசை அறிதலோ அரிதே; பெரிதும்
ஈதல் எளிதே; மா வண் தோன்றல்!
அது நற்கு அறிந்தனைஆயின்,
பொது நோக்கு ஒழிமதி, புலவர் மாட்டே!

Another poem from Kapilar. He goes to the court of Malayaman Thirumudik Kari, a small ruler. Kari treats Kapilar as yet another poet who has come to court in search of gifts. Kapilar is offended. So he tells Kari, it is easy for one to be philanthropic and dole out gifts. But it is difficult to rank people who crowd the benefactor. So don’t treat all poets as same, some are superior to others.

You can call this elitism in Sangam era 🙂

Puranaanooru – 248

Pitiable are small white water lilies!
When I was young, they adorned me;
now that my prosperous husband is dead,
their seeds have become food
I eat in this wretched daybreak.

அளியதாமே, சிறு வெள் ஆம்பல்!
இளையமாகத் தழை ஆயினவே;
இனியே, பெரு வளக் கொழுநன் மாய்ந்தென, பொழுது மறுத்து,
இன்னா வைகல் உண்ணும்
அல்லிப் படூஉம் புல் ஆயினவே.

This is a poem about the sadness of a widow. It was the practice in that era for a widow to eschew foods that incite passion and eat bland food. The lily flower seeds were cooked like grain and eaten. Also she has to eat early in the morning. So she feels wretched for herself, but transfers that to the lily flower. The lily flower which adorned her when she was young is now used as her food. Poor lily flowers. They were her companions when she was happy and now when she is sad too. She transfers her self pity to the lilies.

PuraNaanooru – 356

Spreading jungle overrun with cactus,
owls screeching in daytime, uneven toothed ghouls
lit up by flame from burning pyres-
frightening is this hazy cremation ground.
Tears of passionate loved ones
quenches the embers of burnt bones.
This last resting place of mankind
has seen the end of every one,
but has found none who has seen its end.

களரி பரந்து, கள்ளி போகி,
பகலும் கூஉம் கூகையொடு, பிறழ்பல்,
ஈம விளக்கின், பேஎய் மகளிரொடு
அஞ்சு வந்தன்று, இம் மஞ்சு படு முதுகாடு;
நெஞ்சு அமர் காதலர் அழுத கண்ணீர்
என்பு படு சுடலை வெண் நீறு அவிப்ப,
எல்லார் புறனும் தான் கண்டு, உலகத்து
மன்பதைக்கு எல்லாம் தானாய்,
தன் புறம் காண்போர்க் காண்பு அறியாதே.

It is a scary place overrun with cactus, inhabited by screeching owls, uneven toothed ghouls that are lit up by flames from burning pyres. The burning embers have been quenched by tears from countless loved ones who have cremated their kith and kin. Cremation ground, the final resting place of mankind, has seen the end of everyone in this world. But there is no one who has seen the end of cremation ground (death). Death is the only constant in this world.

களரி – forest / arid land
கள்ளி – cactus
கூகை – owl
பிறழ் பல் பேய் மகளிர் – uneven toothed ghouls
ஈம விளக்கு – light from funeral pyres
மஞ்சு படு – smoke filled / hazy
முதுகாடு- ancient cremation ground
காதலர் – loved ones
என்பு படு – bones laid
சுடலை – death bed
வெண்ணீறு – white ash / embers
மன்பதை – humanity
எல்லாம் தானாய் –  end for everyone

Pura Naanooru – 183

Helping (the teacher) in distress, giving many a gift,
it’s good to learn from him, regardless of his poverty;
even among children born in her womb,
a mother favors the learned;
even among members of a clan,
a ruler doesn’t call for the eldest
but follows one who is learned;
even in a caste system that differentiates,
if a lower caste person is learned,
upper caste person will bow before him.

உற்றுழி உதவியும், உறு பொருள் கொடுத்தும்,
பிற்றை நிலை முனியாது, கற்றல் நன்றே;
பிறப்பு ஓரன்ன உடன்வயிற்றுள்ளும்,
சிறப்பின் பாலால், தாயும் மனம் திரியும்;
ஒரு குடிப் பிறந்த பல்லோருள்ளும்,
‘மூத்தோன் வருக’ என்னாது, அவருள்
அறிவுடையோன் ஆறு அரசும் செல்லும்;
வேற்றுமை தெரிந்த நாற்பாலுள்ளும்,
கீழ்ப்பால் ஒருவன் கற்பின்,
மேற்பால் ஒருவனும் அவன்கண் படுமே.

This Puranaanooru poem talks about the importance of education. One should help a teacher in distress, give him various gifts and learn from him, irrespective of his poverty. Why? Because an educated man is valued more by a mother, a ruler, and the society in general. Education adds value to life. The upper caste person will bow to the lower caste person who is learned.

It is interesting to note the last three lines, especially ‘வேற்றுமை தெரிந்த நாற்பாலுள்ளும்,’ – ‘even in a caste system that differentiates (people as four categories),’. When the poet says ‘even’ – it implies that the caste system is making its appearance in Tamil country only then. He doesn’t take for granted that the caste system is prevalent. Based on generally accepted dating of Puranaanooru, it can be guessed that the caste system reared its head in Tamil Nadu around 2000 years ago. Also interesting to note that the poet is ‘Aariyap Padai Kadandha Nedunchezhiyan‘, (Neduncheziyan who defeated the Aryan army).

Puranaanooru – 349

Wiping sweat off his brow with a spear,
the ruler speaks harshly; without fear
her dad too uses strong words, will not bow.
This is their stance; this girl with dusky glow,
sharp teeth and red streaked eyes,
is like the chisel’s spark that burns a log down,
for her native town.

நுதிவேல் கொண்டு நுதல்வியர் துடையாக்
கடிய கூறும் வேந்தே தந்தையும்
நெடிய வல்லது பணிந்துமொழி யலனே
இஃதிவர் படிவ மாயின் வையெயிற்
றரிமதர் மழைக்க ணம்மா வரிவை
மரம்படு சிறுதீப் போல
அணங்கா யினடான் பிறந்த வூர்க்கே

A famous clan leader in the town of Sikkal (called the same today too) near Thanjavur, had a beautiful daughter. The King wanted to marry her. Her father thought that the King wasn’t worthy of his daughter. So the King marched to her town and threatened to raze it to the ground. Her father refuses to be cowed down. The bard knows that the small town cannot withstand the might of the ruler. Hence he says, like a spark that jumps from the chisel when a log is shaped and burns down the log from where it was born, this girl will be the end of this town.

The simile – chisel’s spark that burns the log from where it was born – is the highlight of this poem. Also the character sketches in few words – wiping sweat  with a spear – make this a memorable poem.

 

 

 

 

Purananooru – 300

“Give me a shield, a shield” you shout; with the shield,
hiding behind a rock might save you in the battle field;
Brother of the man you killed yesterday,
his eyes rolling like crab’s eye seeds in a vessel,
is searching for you, like a man searches the house
for a jug to partake town’s hot toddy.

‘தோல் தா; தோல் தா’ என்றி; தோலொடு
துறுகல் மறையினும் உய்குவை போலாய்;
நெருநல் எல்லை நீ எறிந்தோன் தம்பி,
அகல் பெய் குன்றியின் சுழலும் கண்ணன்,
பேர் ஊர் அட்ட கள்ளிற்கு
ஓர் இல் கோயில் தேருமால் நின்னே.

Purananooru – 300. A battlefield scene. A soldier provokes his fellow soldier (in order to motivate him) saying “a shield won’t save you, go and hide behind a rock. Brother of the man whom you killed yesterday is searching for you. His eyes roll in anger like crab’s eye seeds roll around in a vessel. He searches for you like a drunkard searches for a jug to go and drink toddy”. Nothing can stop a drunkard in search of a drink. Like that this man won’t stop till he finds you.

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