Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Purananooru”

Pura Naanooru – 358

This worthy world ringed by the sun
will have seven chiefs a day, such is its nature;
If material and spiritual realms are weighed,
material is not even mustard sized
compared to spiritual, so (spiritually) desirous let it go;
Thiru* doesn’t let go those who let it go;
those who don’t let it go, are whom she lets go.

*Thiru – Goddess of Wealth

பருதி சூழ்ந்த இப் பயம் கெழு மா நிலம்
ஒரு பகல் எழுவர் எய்தியற்றே;
வையமும் தவமும் தூக்கின், தவத்துக்கு
ஐயவி அனைத்தும் ஆற்றாது ஆகலின்,
கைவிட்டனரே காதலர்; அதனால்
விட்டோரை விடாஅள், திருவே;
விடாஅதோர் இவள் விடப்பட்டோரே.

“This world is fickle. No one rules it for long, it will have seven people lead it in a day. Such is its nature. If we compare the material world and spiritual world, the material world is not even mustard seed sized when compared to the spiritual world. So those who want to attain spirituality, let go of the material world. Thiru, the gooddess of wealth holds on to those who are not desirous of material world. Those who are desirous of material world, she gives up on them. So don’t hanker behind wealth. It will be elusive. If you take a distant attitude towards it, wealth will come to you by itself”

Wordplay of the last two lines stand out in this poem. I have tried to translate that as close to the original as possible.

பருதி – பரிதி – Sun
பயம் – பயனுடைய – Worthy / useful
கெழு – bright
மா நிலம் – Big land – world
வையம் – (Material) world
தவம் – spiritual
ஐயவி – mustard
காதலர் – desirous one

Puranaanooru – 195

O’ learned wise men, learned wise men!
O’ learned wise men of futile seniority
and wrinkled cheeks with fish bone like grey hairs!
When the mighty one* with sharp battle axe
throws his noose, you’ll feel sorry;
even if you aren’t able to good,
avoid doing bad;
that’s what pleases every one;
also, that’s path of righteousness.

*God of death

பல் சான்றீரே! பல் சான்றீரே!
கயல் முள் அன்ன நரை முதிர் திரை கவுள்,
பயன் இல் மூப்பின், பல் சான்றீரே!
கணிச்சிக் கூர்ம் படைக் கடுந் திறல் ஒருவன்
பிணிக்கும் காலை, இரங்குவிர் மாதோ;
நல்லது செய்தல் ஆற்றீர் ஆயினும்,
அல்லது செய்தல் ஓம்புமின்; அதுதான்
எல்லாரும் உவப்பது; அன்றியும்,
நல் ஆற்றுப் படூஉம் நெறியும்மார் அதுவே.

The poet admonishes the old learned men who advise the ruler. They mislead the ruler on a path of ruin. The poet says to them “O’ learned wise men, of useless old age (with fish bone like grey hair in wrinkled cheeks) and experience! You will feel sorry when the God of death appears with his weapons and throws a noose at you. Even if you aren’t able to do good, at least don’t do bad. That’s what will keep everyone peaceful and happy. Also, that’s the path to righteousness”

கயல் – fish
திரை – wrinkle
கவுள் – cheek
கணிச்சி – battle axe
கூர்ம் படை – sharp weapon
கடுந் திறல் – mighty
பிணி – tie / catch
இரங்கு – sorry
ஆற்றீர் – not able to
ஓம்புமின் – avoid
உவப்பது – pleases
நல் ஆற்று – right way
நெறி – path

Puranaanooru – 252

His hair’s greyed as he bathes
in noisy white waterfalls,
and is matted like thillai* leaves;
He, who plucks leaves from dense creepers,
was once a hunter who held
naive peahen like woman at home
spell bound with a net of words!

*Thillai – milky mangrove tree

கறங்கு வெள் அருவி ஏற்றலின், நிறம் பெயர்ந்து,
தில்லை அன்ன புல்லென் சடையோடு,
அள் இலைத் தாளி கொய்யுமோனே
இல் வழங்கு மட மயில் பிணிக்கும்
சொல் வலை வேட்டுவன் ஆயினன், முன்னே!

The poet meets a warrior turned ascetic in the forests. The poet has known in him worldly life earlier and is surprised by how he has changed. The poet says to his fellow travelers, “This man is now an ascetic staying in forests. His hair is greyed because of bathing in noisy white water falls. His hair is matted like leaves of thillai (Milky mangrove) tree. You can see him pluck leaves from creepers in this woods. In his previous life he was such a persuasive lover that he used to hold his naive woman spellbound with his words. He was like a hunter with a net of words.”

The phrase “சொல்வலை வேட்டுவன்” – Hunter with a net of words makes this poem special. That’s every story teller’s dream – to hold his audience spell bound with words.


Milky Mangrove tree 

Source : By Vengolis – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26616445

கறங்கு – noisy
வெள் – white
தில்லை -Milky Mangrove tree
அன்ன – like
அள் – dense / close
தாளி – creeper
கொய்தல் – pluck
இல் – home
மட – naive
பிணித்தல் – tie down / bound

Puranaanooru – 273

Horse hasn’t returned, horse hasn’t returned;
every one’s horse has returned,
but the horse he rode hasn’t returned,
he who fathered a sparsely maned son in my house;
Like a mighty tree standing guard
at the confluence of two roaring rivers,
was it felled down, the horse he rode to battle?

மா வாராதே; மா வாராதே;
எல்லார் மாவும் வந்தன; எம் இல்,
புல் உளைக் குடுமிப் புதல்வற் தந்த
செல்வன் ஊரும் மா வாராதே
இரு பேர் யாற்ற ஒரு பெருங் கூடல்
விலங்கிடு பெரு மரம் போல,
உலந்தன்றுகொல், அவன் மலைந்த மாவே?

She’s waiting for her husband to return from battlefield. All the warriors have returned with their horses, but he hasn’t. She laments has he been felled at the battlefield, like a tree that stands guard at the confluence of two great rivers. The two armies are equated to great rivers and the battlefield to the confluence of rivers.

An interesting trivia. The poet is Erumai Veliyanaaar, that is Veliyan from Erumai Naadu. The current Mysore region was called Erumai (Buffalo) Naadu in Tamil epigraphs. So it can be assumed that this poem was about a battle / skirmish around Mysore area. The name Mysore derives from Mahisha Asura, which means (Buffalo demon).

மா – horse
இல் – home
புல் – smallness (I’ve used ‘sparse’)
உளை – mane
ஊர் – ride
கூடல் – confluence / together
விலங்கு – guard
உலத்தல் – to die
மலை – to battle

Puranaanooru – 83

I fear mother noticing that my bangles slip out
as I pine for the anklet wearing, dark bearded young man;
I’m shy to embrace his valorous shoulders in public;
May this indecisive town which doesn’t decide
either in favour of mother or myself
but vacillates between us two,
tremble as much as I do.

அடி புனை தொடுகழல், மை அணல் காளைக்கு என்
தொடி கழித்திடுதல் யான் யாய் அஞ்சுவலே;
அடு தோள் முயங்கல் அவை நாணுவலே;
என் போல் பெரு விதுப்புறுக என்றும்
ஒரு பாற் படாஅதாகி,
இரு பாற் பட்ட இம் மையல் ஊரே.

She is pining for him, the dark bearded young man wearing an anklet awarded for bravery. Her arms weaken and her bangles slip out. She is afraid that her mother might notice this and find out about her lover. At the same time she is shy of going public with her love and embracing his shoulders. The townspeople neither understand her fear and shyness and arrange for her marraige to her lover nor understand her mother’s reluctance and put a stop to the affair. They are indecisive and prolonging her agony. So she curses the town to tremble as much as she is trembling now.

The original poem says “the indecisive town which doesn’t decide for one side but vacillates”. I have expanded it as “in favor of mother or myself” to make it easier to comprehend.

Puranaanooru – 184

If mature rice is harvested and consumed,
a ma’s* yield will last many days;
even a hundred sei** (goes waste)
if a single elephant enters it to eat,
as its legs trample more than what it eats;
if a judicious ruler collects as per rule,
his country yields a lot and prospers;
if ruler becomes weak, surrounded
by fawning ignoble kith and kin,
hankers after wealth mercilessly,  
like an elephant overrun field,
neither does he consume,
but his country is ruined too.

*Ma – a measure of land, roughly 1/3 of an acre
** Sei – a measure of land, roughly 1 3/4 of an acre

காய் நெல் அறுத்துக் கவளம் கொளினே,
மா நிறைவு இல்லதும், பல் நாட்கு ஆகும்;
நூறு செறு ஆயினும், தமித்துப் புக்கு உணினே,
வாய் புகுவதனினும் கால் பெரிது கெடுக்கும்;
அறிவுடை வேந்தன் நெறி அறிந்து கொளினே,
கோடி யாத்து, நாடு பெரிது நந்தும்;
மெல்லியன் கிழவன் ஆகி, வைகலும்
வரிசை அறியாக் கல்லென் சுற்றமொடு,
பரிவு தப எடுக்கும் பிண்டம் நச்சின்,
யானை புக்க புலம் போல,
தானும் உண்ணான், உலகமும் கெடுமே.

This poem by Pisiranthaiyaar advises the Pandya king to collect taxes judiciously. If rice is harvested carefully and consumed, yield of a Ma (1 Ma = roughly 1/3 of an acre) will last for many days. But yield of even a 100 Sei (1 Sei = roughly 1 3/4 of an acre) will be wasted if an elephant enters it, because it tramples much more with its legs than what it eats. Similarly, if a ruler collects taxes as per rule, his country will yield a lot to him and it will prosper too. However, if he becomes weak and on the advice of fawning relatives he collects taxes without any mercy on the populace, his country will become like an elephant entered field. He won’t get what he wishes for, but his country too will be ruined.

It is a sage advice to rulers. Collect taxes carefully. If you put too much pressure on the populace, you won’t get what you wish and your country will be ruined. Keep your relatives and yes men off the government.

யானை புக்க புலம் போல,
தானும் உண்ணான், உலகமும் கெடுமே.
I could not match the brevity of these lines. All I could muster was

Like an elephant overrun field,
neither does he consume,
but his country is ruined too.

Puranaanooru – 196

To grant if it is possible
or to refuse if not possible,
is the practice of gallant men;
To promise when not possible
or to refuse when possible,
these two cause supplicant’s grief
and also lead to patron’s shame;
Your action is like that;
I’ve seen what my ancestors did not;
May your sons be free of illness;
I too, without cursing the heat or idling in rain,
will be on my way to my impoverished home,
a hole in a rock guarding us from the wind,
thinking of my chaste young wife who awaits me
with not a jewel on her but modesty;
May you have a good day.

ஒல்லுவது ஒல்லும் என்றலும், யாவர்க்கும்
ஒல்லாது இல் என மறுத்தலும், இரண்டும்,
ஆள்வினை மருங்கின் கேண்மைப் பாலே;
ஒல்லாது ஒல்லும் என்றலும், ஒல்லுவது
இல் என மறுத்தலும், இரண்டும், வல்லே
இரப்போர் வாட்டல் அன்றியும், புரப்போர்
புகழ் குறைபடூஉம் வாயில்அத்தை;
அனைத்து ஆகியர், இனி; இதுவே எனைத்தும்
சேய்த்துக் காணாது கண்டனம்; அதனால்,
நோய் இலராக நின் புதல்வர்; யானும்,
வெயில் என முனியேன், பனி என மடியேன்,
கல் குயின்றன்ன என் நல்கூர் வளி மறை,
நாண் அலது இல்லாக் கற்பின் வாள் நுதல்
மெல் இயல் குறு மகள் உள்ளிச்
செல்வல் அத்தை; சிறக்க, நின் நாளே!

Poet Aavoor Moovan Kilar has come to the Pandya King’s (Ilavanthikai Palli Thunjiya Nanmaran) to sing his praise and get gifts. The King neither gives a gift nor refuses, but keeps on dragging his feet. The poet is upset and wrote this poem. “Either to give or say it’s not possible to give is what gallant men do. To promise when it’s not possible and to refuse when it is possible cause grief to the supplicant and also bring shame on the benefactor. What you are doing is similar to that. Your ancestors were generous men who gave gifts to my ancestors. But I have seen what my ancestors haven’t seen. I will be on my way to my impoverished home where my wife awaits me. I won’t wait anymore here in your court even if the sun is scorching or it is raining. My home is nothing but a hole in a rock. My wife has no jewels but her innate modesty. But don’t think I am cursing you. My your sons be free of illness. May your day be good”

Even when one is upset by actions of the other, it is still a practice in Tamilnadu to say “May you be well” (நல்லா இரு) instead of cursing. This habit seems to be a left over from the Sangam era. A poets curse was thought to be potent. So he did not curse the King but just spoke about his own poverty and helplessness. At the same time, he doesn’t want to give up his self respect. Hence he says he won’t wait any more in the court but be on his way to his home. Some commentators interpret ‘poverty stricken hole in a rock home, that just protects from the wind’ as ‘our home which just protects us from the wind, where poverty hangs like a millstone’.

This poem from 2000 years ago says that things haven’t changed much. Tamil poets are impoverished yet imperious.

Puranaanooru – 191

If you ask why I haven’t greyed
though I’m advanced in age,
my wife’s noble, children clever;
my attendants act as per my wish;
my ruler is a just protector;
above all, in my town live
many a learned and humble scholar.

யாண்டுபல வாக நரையில வாகுதல்
யாங்கா கியரென வினவுதி ராயின்
மாண்டவென் மனைவியொடு மக்களு நிரம்பினர்
யாண்கண் டனையரென் னிளையரும் வேந்தனும்
அல்லவை செய்யான் காக்கு மதன்றலை
ஆன்றவிந் தடங்கிய கொள்கைச்
சான்றோர் பலர்யான் வாழு மூரே.

This poem is by Pisiranadhaiyaar, a poet in Pandya country. His friendship with Chola King KopPerun Cholan was legendary, though they had never met each other. When KopPerun Cholan decides to starve to death after a tussle with his sons for the throne, he sends news to Pisiranadhaiyaar to come and see him. But before Pisiranadhaiyaar comes, he passes away.

When Pisiranadhaiyaar is asked why he hasn’t greyed though he is old, this is his answer. “My wife is a dignified soul, my children are clever. My attendants are in line with my thinking. My ruler is just and protects us safely. Above all this I am surrounded by learned and humble scholars in my town. So I have nothing to worry about, hence I haven’t greyed”.

No wonder most of us bald and grey early these days.

Puranaanooru – 85

Since this isn’t my man’s town,
since this isn’t my man’s country,
“He won, he won”, say some;
“He didn’t” say some others;
Great, these townsmen talk both ways;
I ran with my anklets tinkling,
stood near the wide palm beside my house,
and saw for myself his victory.

என்னைக்கு ஊர் இஃது அன்மையானும்,
என்னைக்கு நாடு இஃது அன்மையானும்,
‘ஆடு ஆடு’ என்ப, ஒரு சாரோரே;
‘ஆடு அன்று’ என்ப, ஒரு சாரோரே;
நல்ல, பல்லோர் இரு நன் மொழியே;
அம் சிலம்பு ஒலிப்ப ஓடி, எம் இல்,
முழாஅரைப் போந்தை பொருந்தி நின்று,
யான் கண்டனன், அவன் ஆடு ஆகுதலே.

Chola King PeruNarKilli (பெருநற்கிள்ளி) is a stranger to poetess Nakkannayaar’s (நக்கண்ணையார்) country. He is participating in a wrestling match in her town. Since he is a stranger, there are some who support him and some who don’t. She is confused and runs to see what is happening. She is glad to see for herself that he has won.

This is a beautiful slice of life poem, written roughly 2000 years ago. Poems 83-85 are by Nakkannayaar writing about her passion towards PeruNarKilli.

Puranaanooru – 259

Oh warrior with shining sword and anklets,
who walks alongside cows that leap and prance
like a tribal woman possessed by spirits,
long live your valor; wait, don’t rush forward;
beware  of skilled archers who stay back
hiding in the leafy forest, as the herd
of bulls and cows they stole move ahead.  

ஏறுடைப் பெரு நிரை பெயர்தர, பெயராது,
இலை புதை பெருங் காட்டுத் தலை கரந்து இருந்த
வல் வில் மறவர் ஒடுக்கம் காணாய்;
செல்லல், செல்லல்; சிறக்க, நின் உள்ளம்,
முருகு மெய்ப் பட்ட புலைத்தி போலத்
தாவுபு தெறிக்கும் ஆன்மேல்
புடை இலங்கு ஒள் வாள் புனை கழலோயே!

Raiding the opponents livestock and recovering such stolen livestock is a common theme in Puranaanooru poems. In this poem, the warrior wants to chase the herd that is being stolen by the enemy clan. The poet advises him to not to rush forward. “Those who stole the cows will be hiding in the foliage in the forest to attack the recovery party. So be watchful, finish off your enemies before going forward. I am not holding you back because I doubt your valor. Long live your valor.”

Don’t rush headlong into battle. Be aware of hidden snipers who will attack you on the way. Clear the ground before moving forward.

I have altered the structure of the poem (transposing the first 3 line with the last 4 lines) for easy readability.

கழல் – Anklets (whic were given as token of honor to warriors of the clan)
புலைத்தி – generally translated as low caste woman, which seems to be a later day meaning. I have taken it as tribal woman, which I understand was the meaning in Sangam era.
உள்ளம் – I have used ‘valor’, though U Ve Saa inteprets it as enthusiasm / zeal.

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