Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “June, 2016”

Kurunthokai – 8

What the courtesan said:

The man from the town where fishes in canals
grab sweet ripened mangoes that fall off trees,
talks much when he’s in my house,
but in his house,
like an image in a mirror repeating
the actions of one in front of it,
acts as per the wish of his son’s mother.

பரத்தை கூற்று:

கழனி மாஅத்து விளைந்து உகு தீம் பழம்
பழன வாளை கதூஉம் ஊரன்
எம் இல் பெருமொழி கூறி, தம் இல்,
கையும் காலும் தூக்கத் தூக்கும்
ஆடிப் பாவை போல,
மேவன செய்யும், தன் புதல்வன் தாய்க்கே.

Courtesans (பரத்தை) appear often in Sangam poetry. Most of the agrarian landscape (மருதம் திணை) poems are about the interactions between him, her and the courtesan.

In this poem the courtesan mocks him for making tall promises when with her, but losing his voice in front of his wife. He becomes a mirror image of his wife and does what she wants him to do. The first part of the poem about his town seems superfluous at first. What’s the need to bring in mango trees and fish? What she implies is “In his town they are lazy and don’t pluck the fruit, letting it fall into canals. Similarly he is lazy and waits for things to happen on their own”. Also saying son’s mother is a derisive way of calling the wife an old hag.

Kalingathup Parani – 477

Look, look at these men whose faces glow
as vultures and eagles prey on their body,
like patrons whose smiling faces are aglow
when thronged for food by guests and needy.

விருந்தினரும் வறியவரும் நெருங்கி யுண்ண
மேன்மேலும் முகமலரும் மேலோர் போலப்
பருந்தினமும் கழுகினமும் தாமே யுண்ணப்
பதுமமுகம் மலர்ந்தாரைப் பார்மின் பார்மின்.

Kalingathup Parani is a poem written in 12th century about the exploits of Chola general Karunakara Thondaiman in the Battle of Kalinga (present day Orissa). First part of the long poem has the poet calling women to open their doors and let their victorious lovers into their homes. Next is about the reasons for the battle and battle itself. Final part is about ghouls feasting on dead warriors in the battle field. This part is full of gory and vivid imagery.

Dead bodies of soldiers are strewn across the battlefield. Vultures and eagles are having a veritable feast preying on the bodies. As they crowd and prey on the entrails, it is like a patron feeling happy as he is thronged by guests and the needy for food.

Inna Narpathu – 33

Acting on a drunkard’s word causes grief;
Walking in a thorny forest causes much grief;
Killing flood borne cattle causes grief;
Similarly grievous, is friendship of the devious.

கள் உண்பான் கூறும் கருமப் பொருள் இன்னா;
முள்ளுடைக் காட்டில் நடத்தல் நனி இன்னா;
வெள்ளம் படு மாக் கொலை இன்னா; ஆங்கு இன்னா,
கள்ள மனத்தார் தொடர்பு.

Inna Narpathu (இன்னா நாற்பது) – is a collection of 40 poems about what causes grief (இன்னா) and what should be avoided. This is a ‘post Sangam’ or  ‘didactic period’ work, generally dated between 100-500 CE. These poems were written by Kapilar, different from Kapilar of Sangam era. These poems are simple and talk directly.

Killing cattle is allowed when needed. But killing cattle that is carried away by floods and struggling to climb up the banks is an offense that causes much grief.

Puranaanooru – 193

Like a deer chased by a hunter across a swamp
-that’s like a prey’s inverted skin-
it’s possible for one to run and escape,
but is hampered by life bound to kith and kin.

அதளெறிந் தன்ன நெடுவெண் களரின்
ஒருவ னாட்டும் புல்வாய் போல
ஓடி யுய்தலுங் கூடுமன்
ஒக்கல் வாழ்க்கை தட்குமா காலே.

This poem is talks about how one’s bonds to family life holds him back from reaching salvation. The simile used is vivid. A hunter is chasing a deer across a swamp. The swamp is mushy and spongy, like a hunted prey’s inverted skin. This makes it harder for the hunter to chase and it is easy for the deer to run and escape. Similarly one can attain salvation running like a deer, but his life bound to kith and kin trips him.

Naaladiyaar – 370

Fresh floods and a jeweled courtesan’s love,
both aren’t much different when compared;
fresh floods abate as showers dwindle;
their love abates as your wealth dwindles.

புதுப் புனலும், பூங்குழையார் நட்பும், இரண்டும்,
விதுப்பு அற நாடின், வேறு அல்ல;-புதுப் புனலும்
மாரி அறவே அறுமே; அவர் அன்பும்
வாரி அறவே அறும்.

விதுப்பு அற நாடின் – examine without rush (compared) பூங்குழையார் – woman (courtesan) wearing ear rings. வாரி – wealth.

 

Kambaramayanam – 1082

Like seeds of love sown in
a tough furrow
lifting their heads up
after a downpour,
hair follicles on his skin
stood up
as she pouted and kicked him
with soft feet.

விதைத்த மென் காதலின்
வித்து வெஞ் சிறை
இதைப் புனல் நனைத்திட
முளைத்தவே எனப்
பதைத்தனள் ஒருத்தன்மேல்
ஒருத்தி பஞ்சு அடி
உதைத்தலும் பொடித்தன
உரோம ராசியே.

This is from Kambaramayanam. It details the revelry of men and women who accompany Dasaratha to Mithila for Rama’s wedding. These poems celebrate wine and women. He comes to her bed. She pouts in mock anger and kicks him. The feel of her soft foot gives him goosebumps. It was like the seeds on a hard ground sprouting up immediately after rains. Here you can elaborate goosebumps to seeds sprouting, hard landscape as his body and the pleasure of her kick (the first touch) as pouring rain. Rest is up to you to imagine.

Kurunthokai – 119

Like an alluringly striped snakelet
of a small white snake
that torments a wild elephant –
this lass, with rice grain like bright teeth
and bangle laden arms – torments me.

சிறு வெள் அரவின் அவ் வரிக் குருளை
கான யானை அணங்கியா அங்கு-
இளையள், முளை வாள் எயிற்றள்,
வளையுடைக் கையள்-எம் அணங்கியோளே.

She leaves him after a night of passion. He says though she looks delicate, her love causes him much pain. It is like a snakelet (young snake) troubling a mighty wild elephant. Like how the poison of the small snake troubles the mighty elephant, lust for her troubles him who was previously untamed. He sees her first (young girl), she comes near him and smiles (sparkling teeth), and then she embraces him (bangled arms).

venom

Monocled cobra. Pic : venomstreet.com

Stripes on a snakelet are enticingly beautiful. Snake hood has been used as metaphor for mound of Venus in many Tamil poems. Now if you read the poem again, it becomes more explicit.

அ வரி – beautiful stripe. சிறு வெள் அரவு – small white snake (U Ve Saminatha Iyer in his commentary says it is கோதுமை நாகம் – monocled cobra). அணங்கு – affliction, sufferinng, lust.

Puranaanooru – 87

Rivals entering battlefield, beware!
There’s a warrior amidst us too;
He’s like a chariot wheel crafted for a month
by an artisan who makes eight chariots a day.

களம் புகல் ஓம்புமின், தெவ்விர்! போர் எதிர்ந்து,
எம்முளும் உளன் ஒரு பொருநன்; வைகல்
எண் தேர் செய்யும் தச்சன்
திங்கள் வலித்த கால் அன்னோனே.

Praising the valor of their patrons is a repeated occurence in Sangam poetry. In this poem, Avvayar praises the valor of her patron Adhiyaman Neduman Anji in a poem addressed to his enemies. She says “Don’t think too much of yourself. Beware of Adhiyaman. He is a strong and swift warrior”. The simile she uses is what elevates this poem. How good is Adhiyaman? He is as good as a finely crafted chariot wheel (strong and swift), carved for a month by a skilled carpenter who normally makes eight chariots a day. That good he is.

“வைகல் எண் தேர் செய்யும் தச்சன் திங்கள் வலித்த கால் ” – chariot wheel crafted for a month by a carpenter who makes eight chariots a day. I used the word ‘artisan’ instead of ‘carpenter’ to bring out the ‘skilled carpenter’ implied in the poem.

Kurunthokai – 20

அருளும் அன்பும் நீக்கி, துணை துறந்து,
பொருள்வயிற் பிரிவோர் உரவோர் ஆயின்,
உரவோர் உரவோர் ஆக!
மடவம் ஆக, மடந்தை, நாமே!

If those who leave their spouse,
forsaking love and affection
in search of wealth, are wise,
let him be wise!
We’ll be idiots, my friend!

Her husband has left her in search of wealth. She cribs to her friend “how can he leave me and go? May be he is strong enough to withstand the pain of love. If this is the wise thing to do, let him be wise. I, a simple minded girl cannot bear to be away from him. If this sounds idiotic, let me be an idiot”

Thirukkural – 1247

Dear heart, renounce either passion or modesty;
I cannot bear them both.

காமம் விடுவொன்றோ நாண்விடு நன்னெஞ்சே
யானோ பொறேனிவ் விரண்டு.

Post Navigation