Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Puranaanooru – 94

Like an elephant that reclines at the river front
for town children to wash its white tusk,
O Noble one, you are pleasant to us;
but like a tusker that is uncontrollable when in musth,
O Noble one, you are misery incarnate to your enemies!

ஊர்க்குறு மாக்கள் வெண்கோடு கழாஅலின்
நீர்த்துறை படியும் பெருங்களிறு போல
இனியை பெரும வெமக்கே மற்றதன்
துன்னருங் கடாஅம் போல
இன்னாய் பெருமநின் னொன்னா தோர்க்கே.

Poet Avvayar wrote this poem in praise of Adhiyaman, the chief of Thagadoor (present day Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu). She says that to those who are under his patronage, he is pleasant. But to his opponents, he is a tormentor. She uses the simile of an elephant that is pleasant to kids playing with it, but becomes uncontrollable when it is musth (மதம் பிடித்த யானை).

In the original poem, she uses two words for the elephant – களிறு when pleasant and கடாஅம் when in musth. I have tried to replicate that with the use of ‘elephant’ and ‘tusker’ in the translation. Also musth is not explicity mentioned in the original. துன் அரும் – un approachable. When an elephant is in musth, it is aggressive and no one can go near it. I have made it explicit in the translation.

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