Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Kundalakesi”

Kundalakesi – 18

What’s to wither will wither; what’s to bloom will bloom;
what’s to be gained will be gained; what’s to be lost will be lost;
those who realise this will neither brood nor rejoice;
the maxim what’s to happen will happen is true.

மறிப மறியும் மலிர்ப மலிரும்
பெறுப பெறும் பெற்று இழப்ப இழக்கும்
அறிவது அறிவார் அழுங்கார் உவவார்
உறுவது உறும்என்று உரைப்பது நன்று.

The above poem is from Kundalakesi, the buddhist epic. It encapsulates the Buddhist philosophy of Karma. All that happens is destined to happen based on one’s Karma in previous birth. The Tamil poem is highly concise and precise. It’s difficult to bring that brevity in the translation. I have tried my best.

“If some thing has to die it will die. All your efforts cannot save it. Similarly if something is to grow, it will grow despite hardships. If one is destined to get something, he will get it. All the world can’t stop it. Similarly if one has to lose what he has he will lose it. Wise men who realise this will not grieve when they lose something nor rejoice when they get something. The worldly saying that what is destined to happen will happen is completely true”

Kundalakesi is one of the five great epics of Tamil literature. Three of these are Jainism based (Seevaka Sinthamani, Silappathikaaram, Valayaapathi) and two are Buddishm based (Manimekalai and Kundalakesi). Kundalakesi is estimated to have been written before 5th Century AD. Only 19 of the 99 verses of Kundalakesi are available today.

மறிதல் – diminish / destroyed
மலிர்தல் – grow
பெறுதல் – get
இழத்தல் – lose
அறிதல் – know
அழுங்குதல் – worry
உவத்தல் – be happy
உறு – to happen

 

Kundalakesi – 6

The fire of lust that grabs one’s thought
and sizzles like a flame in his heart –
trying to douse it by physical union
instead of cold waters of renunciation
is like trying to dam the waters of a flood
with another flood, who can do that?

அனல்என நினைப்பில் பொத்தி
அகம் தலைக் கொண்ட காமக்
கனலினை உவர்ப்பு நீரால்
கடையற அவித்தும் என்னார்
நினைவிலாப் புணர்ச்சி தன்னால்
நீக்குதும் என்று நிற்பார்
புனலினைப் புனலினாலே
யாவர் போகாமை வைப்பார்.

Kundalakesi is a Tamil Buddhist epic, written before 5th Century AD. Only a part of it is available today.

Lust is a fire that gets hold of one’s thought and burns intensely in his heart, consuming him fully. The only way to put it out is by complete renunciation. Instead of that if one thinks that a physical union with their object of desire will cool the ardour of lust he is a fool. That is like trying to dam a flood with another flood. It will only increase.

Kundalakesi – 2

Sick men don’t bother about medicine’s taste;
warmth seekers don’t bother about fire’s smoke.
Wise men won’t consider lapses in my words as lapses,
when I praise the one who overcame all three poisons.

நோய்க்குற்ற மாந்தர் மருந்தின்சுவை நோக்க கில்லார்
தீக்குற்ற காத லுடையார்புகைத் தீமை யோரார்
போய்க்குற்றமூன்று மறுத்தான்புகழ் கூறு வேற்கென்
வாய்க்குற்றசொல்லின் வழுவும்வழு வல்ல வன்றே.

Kundalakesi is one of the five great epics of Tamil literature. Three of these are Jainism based (Seevaka Sinthamani, Silappathikaaram, Valayaapathi) and two are Buddishm based (Manimekalai and Kundalakesi). Kundalakesi is estimated to have been written before 5th Century AD. Only 19 of the 99 verses of Kundalakesi are available today.

It is about Kundalakesi, daughter of a rich merchant in Puhar, who falls in love with a thief Kaalan about to be beheaded. Her father pleads with the King and saves Kaalan from death. After marriage one day she playfully calls him thief. Enraged by this , he plans to kill her and takes her to a mountain peak to push her down. When he tells this to her, she requests him to let her go around him three times as worship before being killed. He agrees. She goes behind him and pushes him down , killing him. Then she repents and becomes a Buddhist monk. She defeats Jain and Hindu scholars in theological debates.

In this poem, the poet says “see the content and forgive any mistakes in my form. Like how sick men don’t bother about the taste of medicine or those who seek warmth don’t bother about smoke from fire, those who want to learn the teachings of Buddha will overlook any mistakes I make”.

“One who overcame all three poisons” refers to Buddha. In Buddhism, three poisons – desire, hatred, ignorance or greed, anger, foolishness (காமம், வெகுளி, மயக்கம்) –  are considered root of all human misery.

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