Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Thirukkural”

Thirukkural -277

Though outwardly (bright red) like the body of crab’s eye seed,
there are people, whose heart is black like its nose.

புறம் குன்றி கண்டனையரேனும், அகம் குன்றி
மூக்கில் கரியார் உடைத்து.

This verse is under the chapter கூடா ஒழுக்கம் – Pretense of Virtue. Thiruvalluvar says, there are people in this world who externally are virtuous like the bright red of crab’s eye seed (குன்றி மணி) body.  But their heart is black like the black nose of the seed. One should be pure externally and internally to be virtuous.

Crabs-Eye-seed

Crab’s eye seed – குன்றி மணி source : https://www.grow-trees.com/blog/social/facebook/crabs-eye-seed/

Bright Red is implied but not explicit in the original verse. I have added it to make the point clear.

புறம் – external
குன்றி – குன்றி மணி – Crab’s eye seed
கண்டு – looks
அனையர் – (people) like that
அகம் – internal / heart
கரியார் – black
உடைத்து – உடையது – (World) has

Thirukkural – 985

Ability of able men is humility; that’s also the tool
of learned men to turn foes to friends.

ஆற்றுவார் ஆற்றல் பணிதல்; அது சான்றோர்
மாற்றாரை மாற்றும் படை.

The real ability of able men is the humility with which they are able to build a team and work together. That humility is also the tool used by wise men to turn their foes into friends.

Friends is not explicit in the original couplet. It literally means ‘convert foes’. I have added the implied meaning to make it easier to read.

ஆற்றல் – prowess / ability
சான்றோர் – learned / wise
மாற்றார் – those who are against us / foes
மாற்றும் – convert / change / turn
படை – கருவி – tool

Thirukkural – 341

Whatever whatever one renounces, from those
from those he suffers no more.

யாதனின் யாதனின் நீங்கியான், நோதல்
அதனின் அதனின் இலன்.

If one renounces something, then that loses its power to make him suffer. Giving up something frees one from its power.

நீங்கி – to remove / give up
நோதல் – suffer

Thirukkural – 623

They trouble the trouble itself –
those who aren’t troubled by trouble.

இடும்பைக்கு இடும்பை படுப்பர்-இடும்பைக்கு
இடும்பை படாஅதவர்

Those who are not troubled by the trouble they face , will cause trouble to the trouble itself. Nothing can harm them. Trouble comes to a person to cause grief to him. If he is resolute and doesn’t grieve, then the purpose of trouble is defeated. Hence it will be troubled.

So now you know where the punch dialogues of Balaiah / Vijayakanth originate from 🙂

இடும்பை – distress / trouble

Thirukkural – 443

To revere wise men and make them one’s own,

is the rarest of rare gifts known.

அரியவற்றுள் எல்லாம் அரிதே-பெரியாரைப்
பேணித் தமராக் கொளல்.

When one comes across wise men, one should please them & make them his own. For they are the rarest of rare things to find.

Gifts is not explicitly mentioned in the couplet. It’s only implied.

அரியவற்றுள் எல்லாம் அரிது – rarest of rare
பெரியார் – wise knowledgeable men
பேணுதல் – To respect, take care, revere
தமர் – relative / one’s own
கொளல் – to have / to make

Thirukkural – 106

Forget not, kinship of the faultless; Forsake not,
friendship of those who stood fast by us in distress.

மறவற்க, மாசு அற்றார் கேண்மை! துறவற்க,
துன்பத்துள் துப்பு ஆயார் நட்பு!.

One should never forget the relation ship of those whose mind is faultless. Being with them will help him in this life and after life too. Similarly, one should not give up the friendship of those who stood fast by us as support in times of distress. They are our real friends.

Forget not / Forsake not phrase I have borrowed from Yogi Shuddhananda Bharathi’s translation.

மறவற்க – do not forget
மாசு அற்றார் – blemishless
கேண்மை – relationship / kinship
துறவற்க – துறக்க வேண்டாம் – give up not
துன்பத்துள் – at time of distress
துப்பு – support
ஆயார் – ஆனவர் – who became
நட்பு – friendship

Thirukkural – 235

Fame that grows as mortal body weakens, and endures after death,
is hard for anyone other than the masterly.

நத்தம்போல் கேடும், உளதாகும் சாக்காடும்,
வித்தகர்க்கு அல்லால் அரிது.

As one’s days pass by the mortal body weakens. For those who are proficient and skillful, fame grows at the same time as their mortal body weakens. Their fame achieves its zenith on their death and endures after that. Such achievement is not easy for any one other than those who are masters in their field.

Fame and mortal body are implied in the original, not mentioned explicitly.

நத்தம் – நந்து + அம் – growth / increase
கேடு – diminish / weakens
உளதாகும் – உளது ஆகும் – established / endures
சாக்காடு – death
வித்தகர் – adept / skillful / proficient
அரிது – hard / difficult

Thirukkural – 781

What else is harder to make than friendship? If made,
What else is better than it to guard the work we do?

செயற்கு அரிய யா உள, நட்பின்?-அதுபோல்
வினைக்கு அரிய யா உள, காப்பு?

A good friend is the hardest thing to acquire in this world. But once we have acquired a good friend, there is no one better to protect our work from foes. So work hard in getting good friends. They will take care of you.

செயற்கரிய – செய்தலுக்கு + அரிய – hard to make
யா – யாது – what
உள – உள்ளது – there
நட்பின் – than friendship
வினை – task / duty
காப்பு – protection

Thirukkural – 1041

What’s more miserable than poverty, if you ask,
poverty alone is more miserable than poverty.

‘இன்மையின் இன்னாதது யாது?’ எனின், இன்மையின்
இன்மையே இன்னாதது.

There is nothing more miserable than poverty. If you ask what is more miserable, then the answer is only poverty is more miserable than poverty.

Tamil classical poetry follows strict rules of meter. Hence words are joined together to adhere to the rules. To understand the verse, one has to split them and understand it. For example the unsplit versionof the above verse is

இன்மையி னின்னாத தியாதெனி னின்மையின்
இன்மையே யின்னா தது.

As you can see it has four words in the first line and three in the second line, the way you were taught in school. After a lot of thought, I stick to split version of the verse, to make it easy for regular Tamil readers to understand. It is a compromise, it makes the verse lose its cadence; yes, but I don’t want to scare people off immediately.

இன்மையின் – than poverty
இன்னாதது – miserable
இன்மையே – only poverty / poverty alone

Thirukkural – 1257

She tells her friend:

We know nothing called as shame – when, overcome by passion,
our lover does all that we longed for.

நாண் என ஒன்றோ அறியலம்-காமத்தான்,
பேணியார் பெட்ப செயின்.

This couplet is under the chapter நிறை அழிதல் – Losing reserve.

She was angry with him for going away leaving her alone. She had promised herself that she would make him pay for it when he comes back. But when he comes back she gives into him. Her friend asks her “why didn’t you fight with him as you said you would?”

She replies “When he came back and did all that I longed for (in his absence) due to unbridled passion, I wantonly gave in. I didn’t know that quality called shame when he fulfilled my desires”

நாண் – shame
ஒன்றோ – anything
அறியலம் – அறிய மாட்டோம் – we don’t know
காமத்தான் – due to lust / passion
பேணியார் – one who loves us
பெட்பு – wish
செயின் – செய்தால் – if he does

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