Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Thirukkural”

Thirukkural 546

Spear isn’t what gives victory; it is Ruler’s sceptre,
That too only if it’s upright.

வேல் அன்று, வென்றி தருவது; மன்னவன்
கோல்; அதூஉம், கோடாது எனின்

A Ruler’s victory is not dependent on the strength of his arms but the fairness of his justice.

வேல் – spear

வென்றி – வெற்றி – victory

கோல் – செங்கோல் – sceptre

கோடு – bent / கோடாது – unbent / upright

Thirukkural 496

Majestic chariot with strong wheels cannot traverse the sea;
Likewise, seafaring boat too will not travel in land.

கடல் ஓடா, கால் வல் நெடுந் தேர்; கடல் ஓடும்
நாவாயும் ஓடா, நிலத்து.

This couplet is under the chapter ‘Knowing the (right) place’ – இடனறிதல். Though a chariot might have string wheels it cannot travel in sea. It will sink. Similarly a boat that travels in sea cannot travel in land. It will run aground. Each is meant to be used in its place. Out of its place, it will become a liability.

Thirukkural – 661

Strength needed for a job is one’s mental strength;
All else is secondary to that.

வினைத் திட்பம் என்பது ஒருவன் மனத் திட்பம்;
மற்றைய எல்லாம் பிற.

Manpower, equipment and all other strengths needed to do a job are secondary to one’s mental strength in completing it.


வினை – job / work
திட்பம் – strength

Thirukkural – 1217

The cruel one doesn’t bestow his affection in reality,
Then why in my dreams does he torment me?

நனவினா னல்காக் கொடியார் கனவினான்
என்னெம்மைப் பீழிப் பது.

He has been away for a while and she is pining for him. When she is awake his absence makes her sick. When she sleeps, he appears in her dreams and torments her further. This is her lament.

நனவு – reality
நல்குதல் – to bestow
கொடியர் – cruel one
கனவு – dream
பீழித்தல் – to torment

Thirukkural – 1036

If hands of those who till their lands turn inactive,
Even those who renounced worldly pleasure, suffer.

உழவினார் கைம்மடங்கி னில்லை விழைவதூஉம்
விட்டேமென் பார்க்கும் நிலை.

If farmers stop tilling their lands and rest their hands idly, it will disturb everyone. Even monks who claim to have renounced worldly pleasures will find it difficult to carryout their duties in the absence of food.

உழவினார் – those who plough the land

கைம் மடங்கி – hands turn inactive

விழைவது – yearning / pleasure

விட்டேம் – gave up

என்பார்க்கும் – who say

நிலை இல்லை – can’t do their duty

Thirukkural – 1238

As I relaxed my embracing arms a bit,
Golden bangled lass’s forehead grew pale.

முயங்கிய கைகளை யூக்கப் பசந்தது
பைந்தொடிப் பேதை நுதல்.

He was hugging her tight, and thought it might hurt her. So he relaxed his arms. When his embrace loosened a bit, she thought he is going to take leave of her. That thought pained her immensely, and her forehead grew pale.

முயக்கம் – embrace / hug
ஊக்குதல் – loosen
பசந்தது – grew pale
பைந் தொடி – golden bangle (wearing girl)
நுதல் – forehead

Thirukkural – 628

He who doesn’t seek pleasure but knows distress is normal,
Will not be afflicted with grief.

இன்பம் விழையான், ‘இடும்பை இயல்பு’ என்பான்,
துன்பம் உறுதல் இலன்.

A man who does not seek pleasure in life knows sorrow is natural human condition. Since he know this, he will not be bogged down by grief.

விழை – desire, விழையான் – he who does not desire
இடும்பை – distress / sorrow
இயல்பு – natural / normal
உறுதல் – feel

Thirukkural – 1128

As my lover resides in my heart, I dread
eating hot food, lest it singe him.

நெஞ்சத்தார் காத லவராக வெய்துண்ட
லஞ்சுதும் வேபாக் கறிந்து.

Her friend asks her why she isn’t eating properly. She says my lover resides in my heart, so I avoid hot food as it might burn him.

What to say, Love is stupid.

வெய்து – hot

உண்டல் – to eat

அஞ்சுதும் – I fear / dread

வேபாக்கு – burn / singe

அறிந்து – I know

Thirukkural – 1227

Budding at dawn and blossoming through the day,
By evening fully blooms this malady.

காலை யரும்பிப் பகலெல்லாம் போதாகி
மாலை மலருமிந் நோய்.

When her friend asks her why she is sick, she says “As I got up in the morning I started missing him. This love sickness was just a bud then. But through out the day it started gnawing my heart, blossoming like a flower from the bud. By the time evening arrived it is in full bloom and I’m completely consumed by this love sickness”

அரும்பு – bud

போது – blossom / floret

மலரும் – bloom

இந் நோய் – this sickness / malady


Thirukkural – 485

Thirukkural 485

They wait for the right time, unruffled,
Those who plan to conquer the world.

காலங் கருதி இருப்பர் கலங்காது
ஞாலங் கருது பவர்.

Those who plan to conquer the world will wait for the opportune time. They are confident of their strength,so are unruffled by waiting.

காலம் – time (right time)
கருதி – think / calculate / plan
இருப்பர் – wait
கலங்காது – undisturbed
ஞாலம் – world

If you are a Tamil, note the use of word ங், how it gives a rhythm to the couplet.

Post Navigation