Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the category “Siddhar Songs”

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.

Sivavakkiyar 159-160

Vedic priests never ate fish, neither then nor now,
isn’t fish inhabited water what they drink and bathe in?
Vedic priests never ate deer meat, neither then nor now,
isn’t sacred thread worn over deer skin*?

Vedic priests never ate goat meat, neither then nor now,
isn’t goat meat offered in your worship though?
Vedic priests never ate cow meat, neither then nor now,
isn’t cow meat the manure in which vegetables grow.**?

மீனிறைச்சி தின்றதில்லை அன்றுமின்றும் வேதியர்
மீனிருக்கும் நீரலோ மூழ்வதுங் குடிப்பதும்
மானிறைச்சி தின்றதில்லை அன்றுமின்றும் வேதியர்
மானுரித்த தோலலோ மார்புநூல் அணிவதும்.    
     
ஆட்டிறைச்சி தின்றதில்லை அன்றுமின்றும் வேதியர்
ஆட்டிறைச்சி அல்லவோ யாகம்நீங்கள் ஆற்றலே
மாட்டிறைச்சி தின்றதில்லை அன்றுமின்றும் வேதியர்
மாட்டிறைச்சி அல்லவோ மரக்கறிக் கிடுவது.

Siddhar Sivavakkiyar, dated to around 10th Century CE was one of the leading rebel poets in Tamil literature. Siddhars were iconoclastic rebels whose thoughts were against the organized Vedic religion. In these two verses he mocks the Vedic priests who abhor meat. He says they abhor meat and flesh, but isn’t it part of their daily lives.

Siddhar songs are written in simple words but no commentary is available. So it is up to individuals to interpret it. The words themselves aren’t difficult and are still in use even now.  But interpretation might vary.

*Krishnajina –  deer skin over which sacred thread is worn.
**My interpretation – Dead cows were buried in the farms in which they were raised. Hence they became manure for vegetables that vegetarians eat.

Sivavakkiyar – 434

A solid stone you choose and break it into parts two;
the stone at entrance, you tread on till it’s worn smooth;
the stone at the sanctum, with flowers and water you shower ;
Tell me, which one of these is fit for the Supreme power.

ஓசையுள்ள கல்லைநீ உடைத்திரண்டாய் செய்துமே
வாசலிற் பதித்தகல்லை மழுங்கவே மிதிக்கின்றீர்
பூசனைக்கு வைத்த கல்லில் பூவும் நீரும் சாத்து கிறீர்
ஈசனுக்குகந்த கல்லெந்தக் கல்லு சொல்லுமே.

Sivavakkiyar, one of the prominent Siddhars (iconoclastic rebels), is known for his fiery denunciation of idol worship. He is said to have lived around 10th Century AD.

In this poem he asks which of these stones is God? There is no difference between these stones as they are from the same rock.One part of it is laid at the entrance and another worshiped as deity. So God is not in these stones, but in your heart. This iconoclasm is the leit motif of his poems.

Siddhar – Sivavakkiyar – 40

When you say a Paraichi or a Panathi – what does it mean?
Is it marked in their flesh, skin and bone?
Conjugal pleasure of a Paraichi or a Panathi, does it differ?
Paraichi and a Panathi differ in your mind alone.

* Paraichi  – Pariah woman, Panathi – Brahmin woman (Paarpanathi)

பறைச்சியாவது ஏதடா பணத்தியாவது ஏதடா
இறைச்சிதோல் எலும்பினும் இலக்கம்இட் டிருக்குதோ
பறைச்சி போகம் வேறதோ பணத்திபோகம் வேறதோ
பறைச்சியும் பணத்தியும் பகுத்துபாரும் உம்முளே.

Sivavakkiyar is ruthless when tackling the issue of caste. Being an iconoclast, he is particularly scathing on the priests and those who talk about upper and lower caste. In this poem he asks is there any marking in bones and flesh of a woman to show whether she is a Paraiah or a Brahmin? Isn’t the pleasure you derive from them same? So look inside you, the difference between a Pariah and a Brahmin is in your mind.

Siddhar – Sivavakkiyar – 521

Worshiping a put up stone as God, showering it with flowers
and intoning mantras under your breath – what’s the use?
Will the put up stone speak when He is within you?
Will a cooking pot know the taste of food?

நட்டகல்லை தெய்வமென்று நாலுபுட்பஞ் சாத்தியே
சுற்றிவந்து மொணமொணென்று சொல்லும் மந்திரமேதடா
நட்டகல்லும் பேசுமோ நாதனுள் இருக்கையில்
சுட்டசட்டி சட்டுவங் கறிச்சுவை அறியுமோ.

Siddhars were the iconoclasts of Tamil society. They were rebels against organised religion. Siva Vakkiyar of 10th Century is a well known Siddhar amongst them all. In this poems he mocks those who worship idols. “God is inside each one of us. What’s the point in worshipping a stone and going round it intoning mantras?” The last line is what stands out in the poem. “Though tasty food is cooked in a cooking pot, it does not know the taste of that food. So are the idols we worship. They are but stones which we have made into God. The God whom you worship is inside us”

Rightly, the Siddhars were considered heretical by the society. However they are an important strand of Tamil society that accommodated differing view points.

Siddhar – Sivavakkiyar -48

Fresh milk can’t go back to udder, nor churned butter to buttermilk;
sound can’t go back to the conch nor can a departed soul to the body;
bloomed flowers and fallen fruits can’t go back to the tree;
The dead are never never never ever born again.

கறந்தபால் முலைப்புகா கடைந்தவெண்ணை மோர்புகா
உடைந்துபோன சங்கினோசை உயிர்களும் உடற்புகா
விரிந்த பூஉதிர்ந்த காயும் மீண்டும் போய் மரம்புகா
இறந்தவர் பிறப்பதில்லை இல்லையில்லை இல்லையே.

Siddhars were the iconoclasts of Tamil Society. They stayed outside the pale of organized religion and were considered rebels. They made fun of all that was considered sacred by the religious. Siddhar poetry is an important strand of Tamil literature. Their poems were written in simple words and easily understood by common men. At the same time it was claimed that their poems had mysterious meanings too. There are not commentaries for their poems. Some of their poems are misogynistic and some are very controversial. This poem was written by Siva Vakkiyar in 10th Century.

He directly attacks the concept of rebirth. Things that have left their birthplace cannot go back. Like milk from the udder of a cow, churned butter from butter milk, sound of a conch, a soul departed from the body, flowers that have bloomed and raw fruits that have fallen. Similarly a dead person is not going to be born again.

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