Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Naaladiyaar – 136

You won’t see even believers reproach
the boatman as last of ‘Varna’s;
With his help one crosses the river, so does
one gain wisdom with the help of the learned.

தோணி இயக்குவான், தொல்லை வருணத்து,
காணின், கடைப்பட்டான் என்று இகழார்; காணாய்!
அவன் துணையா ஆறு போயற்றே, நூல் கற்ற
மகன் துணையா நல்ல கொளல்

Poem 136 from Naaladiyaar. The poet says one’s birth ‘Varna’ is not important. Knowledge and wisdom trumps it. A boatman’s knowledge is important to cross the river. Hence even those who believe in ‘Varna’ system will take his help to cross the river and will not reproach him for being last in the ‘Varna’ hierarchy. Similarly a learned man’s help is needed to cross this river of life. We should learn from the knowledgeable whatever be their birth ‘Varna’

*’Varna’ meaning colour is the name of Caste system in India. There are four ‘Varnas’ which roughly translate to – Priestly class, Warrior class, Trading Class and the Working class. This is a simplistic description.

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