Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Siddhar – Pattinaththaar – 17

Life’s false, death is real; so don’t wish
anyone harm, my heart! – while we think
our paunch is ours, dogs,foxes, ghouls and vultures
wait thinking it’s theirs.

இருப்பதுபொய் போவதுமெய் என்றெண்ணி நெஞ்சே
ஒருத்தருக்கும் தீங்கினை உன்னாதே – பருத்ததொந்தி
நம்மதென்று நாமிருப்ப நாய்நரிகள் பேய்கழுகு
தம்மதென்று தாமிருக்கும் தான் !

“Life in this world is false, death is the only constant. Keep this in mind my hear and do not think of harming others. Because we think our paunch is ours. But the dogs, foxes, ghouls and vultures in the graveyard wait for us thinking that it is to be food for them after we die.”

Pattinathaar was one of the prominent Siddhars (ascetic rebels) in Tamil nadu. There have been atleast 3 people named Pattinathaar, living in 10th, 14th and 17th centuries. This poem is thought to have been written by the second one, from 14th Century. I have not been able to conclusively decide which one of the three wrote the above poem. All their poems are clubbed together as Pattinathaar Paadal in texts. The leitmotif of all their poems is despairing of human life and praying to become one with God. The poems range from self flagellations to pleading to Lord Shiva. A set of soulful poems sung by Pattinathaar the first while cremating his mother is still recited by some communities during cremation.

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