Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Thirumandhiram”

Thiurumandhiram – 1.2.3

Whole town gathered and lamented noisily,
Discarded the given name and called it a dead body,
Carried it to the cremation ground, burnt it to ashes,
Took a dip in the pond and forgot all about it.

ஊரெலாம் கூடி ஒலிக்க அழுதிட்டுப்
பேரினை நீக்கிப் பிணமென்று பேரிட்டுச்
சூரையங் காட்டிடைக் கொண்டுபோய்ச் சுட்டிட்டு
நீரினில் மூழ்கி நினைப்பொழிந் தார்களே.

This verse by Thirumoolar (dated generally to 8th century CE) talks about impermanence of life. Once a person is dead, the whole town gathers at his house and laments noisily. The moment the person is dead the given name is discarded and it becomes just a body. They carry it to the cremation ground, burn it to ashes. Then everyone takes a dip in the village pond to clean themselves and with that the dead person is forgotten.

சூரையங்காடு – சுடுகாடு – Cremation ground

Thirumandhiram – 8.8.21

Majestic toy-elephant conceals the wood
Majestic toy-elephant vanishes in the wood
Worldly elements conceal the divine
Worldly elements vanish in the divine.

மரத்தை மறைத்தது மாமத யானை
மரத்தில் மறைந்தது மாமத யானை
பரத்தை மறைத்தன பார்முதல் பூதம்
பரத்தில் மறைந்தன பார்முதல் பூதமே .

This is an oft quoted verse from Thirumoolar’s Thirumandhiram, dated to around 5th Century CE. When one sees a toy elephant, one doesn’t see the wood out of which the toy is made. The artisan’s skill makes one believe it is an elephant, not a chunk of wood. When one realises that it is nothing but a chunk of wood, the elephant vanishes from sight. Similarly, when one sees only the worldly elements that make up this world, one doesn’t realise the divine. They think that only the elements are real. But when one realises the divine, the elements vanish in the divine.

பார் முதல் பூதம் – 5 physical elements (air,land,water,sky,fire).

Thirumoolar lived around 5th Century AD (though there’s lot of debate about the chronology). He penned over 3000 verses, collected together as Thirumandhiram. This forms the 10th Thirumurai of the Saivite canon

பார் – World
பரம் – The Divine / Omnipresent

Thirumandhiram – 7.11.1

Heart a grand shrine, mortal body a temple,
mouth a gateway to reach the generous Lord,
to those clear of mind, soul is Shivam*;
fickle five senses are light that clears darkness.

உள்ளம் பெருங்கோயில், ஊன் உடம்பு ஆலயம்,
வள்ளல் பிரானார்க்கு வாய் கோபுர வாசல்,
தெள்ளத் தெளிந்தார்க்குச் சீவன் சிவலிங்கம்
கள்ளப் புலன் ஐந்தும் காளா மணிவிளக்கு.

* Shivam / Shivalingam – Lord Shiva, the Supreme being

This is a famous verse from Saivite saint Thirumoolar’s Thirumandhiram. Thirumoolar lived around 5th Century AD (though there’s lot of debate about the chronology). He penned over 3000 verses, collected together as Thirumandhiram. This forms the 10th Thirumurai of the Saivite canon.

“Physical body is a temple. Heart is the shrine in which Lord resides. Mouth is the gateway through which (by chanting his name) we can reach the generous Lord. To those who are clear of mind and don’t have any doubts, their Soul is Shivam (the supreme being). Our fickle five senses are lights that clear away the darkness in the temple”.

I understand this verse as “Look for the God within you. God resides in your soul. Don’t look for him outside, but chant his name. Once you lose your doubts, you will become one with Him”. I might be completely wrong too, as I am not a student of Saivite Theology.

Two important things to note in this verse.
1. He makes a difference between கோயில் & ஆலயம், which I have translated as ‘shrine’ and ‘temple’. Shrine is the inner sanctum where the God resides. Temple is the building built around it. In Tamil கோயில் – கோ + இல் (Lord’s residence). ஆலயம் – ஆன்மா+லயம் (Soul + union – where soul unites with God).

2.Another important phrase in this verse is கள்ளப் புலன் ஐந்தும்  – Fickle five senses. He doesn’t simply say five senses. Those senses are needed to drive away the darkness in your body (temple). But those are fickle / deceptive and may mislead you. So you have to keep them in control to light the way forward.

Thirumandhiram – 1.11.1

Shallow men say Love and God differ,
none realizes that Love is God;
once they realize Love is God,
they’re at peace with Love as God.

அன்பும் சிவமும் இரண்டென்பர் அறிவிலார்
அன்பே சிவமாவ தாரும் அறிகிலார்
அன்பே சிவமாவ தாரும் அறிந்தபின்
அன்பே சிவமாய் அமர்ந்திருந் தாரே.

This is one of the famous poems of Saivite saint Thirumoolar (5th Century), also considered to be one of the earliest Siddhars (rebel ascetics of Tamil society). It is a straight forward poem, the repetition of words அன்பு & சிவம் (love & God) gives it a cadence in Tamil. I have tried to replicate that in English.

Simpletons say that Love and God are two different entities. They don’t realize that Love itself is God. Once they realize Love is God, they’re at peace with Love as God itself. Love your fellow beings. That is the way to attain oneness with God and be blissful. This is my interpretation based on commentaries I read. There might be nuances I missed too.

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