Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the category “Devotional”

Naachiyar Thirumozhi – 508

Like the sacred offerings
made by priests to the deities
being trampled and smelled
by a fox roaming in the wild,
if any talk arises that my breasts
which rise in pleasure for the noble One
are to be possessed by a human,
I will cease to live, God of love.

வானிடை வாழுமவ் வானவர்க்கு
மறையவர் வேள்வியில் வகுத்தஅவி
கானிடைத் திரிவதோர் நரிபுகுந்து
கடப்பதும் மோப்பதும் செய்வதொப்ப
ஊனிடை யாழிசங் குத்தமர்க்கென்று
உன்னித் தெழுந்தவென் தடமுலைகள்
மானிட வர்க்கென்று பேச்சுப்படில்
வாழகில் லேன்கண்டாய் மன்மதனே.

Andal, who had decided to become one with Lord Vishnu dedicated her life to be with him. However she learned of her father trying to get her married. This poem is Andal throwing the gauntlet. “My body and life are meant for the Lord. If I ever hear you talk about getting me married to a mortal, that my body which is meant for the Lord is to be handled by a human being, I will give up my life. It will be like a wild fox smelling and trampling the sacred offering made to deities.”

The raw passion of this poem is a beauty to behold. She equates herself to the sacred offering made to God.

Naachiyar Thirumozhi – 567

 

Does it smell of camphor? or of Lotus?
His coral red mouth, is it delicious?
Yearning to know the taste and smell
of the tusk breaker’s* mouth, I ask you;
tell me O’ ocean born white Conch.

கருப்பூரம் நாறுமோ கமலப்பூ நாறுமோ
திருப்பவளச் செவ்வாய்தான் தித்தித்தி ருக்கும்மோ
மருப்பொசித்த மாதவன்றன் வாய்ச்சுவையும் நாற்றமும்
விருப்புற்றுக் கேட்கின்றேன் சொல்லாழி வெண்சங்கே.

*When Kamsa sent his Royal elehant to trample Krishna and Balarama, they broke its tusk and threw it off easily.

Panchajanyam is the white conch of Krishna, which he blows to sound the start of war. Andal, a fervent devotee of Krishna, asks the Panchajanyam about how his mouth tastes and smells.

“Does it smell of camphor or lotus (which are offered to him while praying)? Does his mouth taste delicious? I desire to know the taste and smell of his mouth. Since you are lucky enough to be on his mouth, please tell me”

Andal is one of the well known poet saints in Tamil literary canon. She is the only woman among the 12 Alwars (saints) in Sri Vaishnavite tradition. Born in 8th Century AD as the daughter of Vishnu Chittan (Periyalvar) in Sri Villiputhur, she fell in love with Lord Vishnu at an young age and decided to marry him. Her poems in Thiruppavai are sung during the month of Margazhi (Dec-Jan). Naachiyar Thirumozhi consists of 143 poems of intense longing and desire for Lord Vishnu.

Thirumandhiram – 7.11.1

Heart a grand shrine, mortal body a temple,
mouth a gateway to reach the generous Lord,
to those clear of mind, soul is Shivam*;
fickle five senses are light that clears darkness.

உள்ளம் பெருங்கோயில், ஊன் உடம்பு ஆலயம்,
வள்ளல் பிரானார்க்கு வாய் கோபுர வாசல்,
தெள்ளத் தெளிந்தார்க்குச் சீவன் சிவலிங்கம்
கள்ளப் புலன் ஐந்தும் காளா மணிவிளக்கு.

* Shivam / Shivalingam – Lord Shiva, the Supreme being

This is a famous verse from Saivite saint Thirumoolar’s Thirumandhiram. Thirumoolar lived around 5th Century AD (though there’s lot of debate about the chronology). He penned over 3000 verses, collected together as Thirumandhiram. This forms the 10th Thirumurai of the Saivite canon.

“Physical body is a temple. Heart is the shrine in which Lord resides. Mouth is the gateway through which (by chanting his name) we can reach the generous Lord. To those who are clear of mind and don’t have any doubts, their Soul is Shivam (the supreme being). Our fickle five senses are lights that clear away the darkness in the temple”.

I understand this verse as “Look for the God within you. God resides in your soul. Don’t look for him outside, but chant his name. Once you lose your doubts, you will become one with Him”. I might be completely wrong too, as I am not a student of Saivite Theology.

Two important things to note in this verse.
1. He makes a difference between கோயில் & ஆலயம், which I have translated as ‘shrine’ and ‘temple’. Shrine is the inner sanctum where the God resides. Temple is the building built around it. In Tamil கோயில் – கோ + இல் (Lord’s residence). ஆலயம் – ஆன்மா+லயம் (Soul + union – where soul unites with God).

2.Another important phrase in this verse is கள்ளப் புலன் ஐந்தும்  – Fickle five senses. He doesn’t simply say five senses. Those senses are needed to drive away the darkness in your body (temple). But those are fickle / deceptive and may mislead you. So you have to keep them in control to light the way forward.

Thirumandhiram – 1.11.1

Shallow men say Love and God differ,
none realizes that Love is God;
once they realize Love is God,
they’re at peace with Love as God.

அன்பும் சிவமும் இரண்டென்பர் அறிவிலார்
அன்பே சிவமாவ தாரும் அறிகிலார்
அன்பே சிவமாவ தாரும் அறிந்தபின்
அன்பே சிவமாய் அமர்ந்திருந் தாரே.

This is one of the famous poems of Saivite saint Thirumoolar (5th Century), also considered to be one of the earliest Siddhars (rebel ascetics of Tamil society). It is a straight forward poem, the repetition of words அன்பு & சிவம் (love & God) gives it a cadence in Tamil. I have tried to replicate that in English.

Simpletons say that Love and God are two different entities. They don’t realize that Love itself is God. Once they realize Love is God, they’re at peace with Love as God itself. Love your fellow beings. That is the way to attain oneness with God and be blissful. This is my interpretation based on commentaries I read. There might be nuances I missed too.

Thevaram 6.98.1

We aren’t citizens to anyone; we do not fear Death;
We will not suffer in hell; there’s no falsity in us;
We’re blissful;  we do not wallow in sickness; Will not bow down;
Every day’s a pleasure, there’s no agony.

நாமார்க்கும் குடியல்லோம்; நமனை அஞ்சோம்;
நரகத்தில் இடர்ப்படோம்; நடலை இல்லோம்;
ஏமாப்போம்; பிணி அறியோம், பணிவோம் அல்லோம்;
இன்பமே எந்நாளும், துன்பமில்லை.

This is a famous poem of 7th Century Saivite saint Thirunavukkarasar (Appar). He was at the forefront of Saivite revival movement in Tamilnadu. The Pallava King, who was a Jain at that time, was angry with him and sent soldiers to bring him to the Royal court. This poem was Thirunavukkarasar’s famous retort. I have translated only the first two lines. These two lines are quoted often in Tamilnadu by anyone opposing authoritarianism of the State. Two more lines complete the poem.

We are not citizens bound to any king but Shiva. So we don’t fear the god of death. Even if we go to hell we will not suffer. We speak only the truth, so aren’t afraid. We are blissful. We don’t wallow in sickness. We will not bow down in front of your King. Our life is always a joy, there is no agony in it”

I am not well versed in religious scriptures. I go by the commentaries. If there is any mistake, do point out.

Kandhapuranam – 10165

The hill chieftain’s daughter are you;
I’m not lucky to caress you like the pool you bathe in,
paste you don or flowers you put on.
Languishing here, what shall I do?

கோடிவர் நெடுவரைக் குறவர் மாதுநீ
ஆடிய சுனையதாய் அணியும் சாந்தமாய்ச்
சூடிய மலர்களாய்த் தோயப் பெற்றிலேன்
வாடினன் இனிச்செயும் வண்ணம் ஆவதே.

This is from Kandha Puranam (written by Kachchiyappa Sivachariyar in 14th century AD), the story of Tamil God Murugan’s exploits. Murugan goes in disguise as a hunter and falls in love with Valli, a girl from the hills. This poem is Murugan trying to convince Valli to be his lover. “I am not lucky enough to be the things that touch your body – the water you bathe or the sandal paste you apply or the flowers you wear. I languish here unable to embrace you. What else shall I do?”

This is an oft repeated motif in Tamil poetry from Andal Pasurams of 8th century to Tamil movie lyrics of 20th century (உன் சேலை நூலாகவோ நான் உன் கூந்தல் பூவாகவோ). If you can read Tamil, read the Kandhapuranam Tamil poem aloud to savor the cadence of the poem.

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