Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thanippaadal – Avvaiyar

Weaver bird’s nest, lac’s resin, termite’s mound
or a beehive is hard for anyone else to do –
So do not brag I am the most skillful around,
everyone is good at something too.

வான்குருவி யின்கூடு வல்லரக்கு தொல்கரையான்
தேன்சிலம்பி யாவருக்கும் செய்யரிதால் -யான்பெரிதும்
வல்லோமே என்று வலிமைசொல வேண்டாங்காண்
எல்லார்க்கும் ஒவ்வொன் றெளிது!

This is a popular poem by poet Avvaiyar (the third Avvaiyar of 11th Century possibly). This is part of a collection of independent poems (தனிப் பாடல்), not part of any anthology. The legend is that she sang this when challenged that no one can write an epic like Kamban. Most probably an apocryphal story.

She says Don’t brag that you are the best of all. No one can create a Weaver bird’s nest (தூக்கணாங்குருவிக் கூடு) or a lac insect’s resin (அரக்கு)  or a termite mound or a beehive. Every one is good at something, so don’t brag.

I learned about lac insects and their resin while trying to understand this poem. You can read about them here. Ancients can always teach us a lesson or two.

I am sure that this poem is derived from poem no. 26 of Sirupanchamoolam, written by Kari Aasaan before 8th century. That poem has similar structure and compares silk worm’s thread and tent worm’s nest in addition to Weaver bird’s nest, lac insect’s resin and a beehive.

வான் குரீஇக் கூடு, அரக்கு, வால் உலண்டு நூல், புழுக்கோல்,
தேன் புரிந்தது, யார்க்கும் செயல் ஆகா;-தாம் புரீஇ,
வல்லவர் வாய்ப்பன என்னார்; ஒரோ ஒருவர்க்கு
ஒல்காது, ஓரொன்று படும்.

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