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Sangam Women Poets

Avvaiyar statue at Marina, Chennai

Translated by K S Subramanian


Kurunthokai 67.
Thinai: Paalai

O friend dear!
The parrot holds in its curved beak
the lovely Neem fruit
recalling a gold medallion
delicately held between large nails
to be strung in a new string
along with charming trinkets.
My lover is drudging along
this arid landscape.
Eyeing this sensitive picture
would he care to think of me
(and his promised return by early summer
when Neem buds start sprouting?).

(The girl sharing her agony with her friend).


Kurunthokai: 140
Thinai: Paalai

The male garden lizard
with saw-like scaly back,
the lone guide in arid desert.
My lover strides resolute
his focus unswerving.

Here am I
full of his thoughts,
sapped of energy,
drowned in despair.

How these townfolk
have discerned
my endurance stoic?

(The girl lamenting her lot of separation).


Kurunthokai 203
Thinai: Marudam.

My Lord ….
Not belonging to the yonder hill land,
not from a distant place
shrouded by lush trees.
He’s within my eye range,
near enough to reach with ease.
But, keeps a distance from me
in ‘holier than thou’ disdain.
In courtship days I was close and dear.
Not now.
Should I still be bemoaning?

 (The girl to her friend entering her house.)


 Kurunthokai: 325
Thinai: Neidal

 ‘I’ll go, I’ll go’ said he,
took it as his usual prank.
Alas! I told him
‘Go you may
Leave me alone.’

Where at all is he,
my dear comrade?

My breast cavity
a pool of tears
black-legged white stork*
waits on prowl.

 (* black-nippled white breasts)

(The girl sharing her grief of separation with her friend.)


Kurunthokai: 126
Thinai: Mullai

Here is the rainy season
cool and salubrious,
throws a mocking smile
showing its pearly teeth of jasmine buds
from rain-soaked bushes.
What does it say, my friend dear?
Busy in search of wealth,
my man has lost concern
about our wasting youth.
Away is he.
When he’ll return
anyone’s guess!

(The girl lamenting to the friend).


Puranaanooru: 112
Thinai :Podhuviyal,  Thurai :Kaiyarunilai

That yonder month
night bathed in moon shower
our father was around
our hills all ours.

This month
night still lathered by moonlight,
at the beat of victory drums
our hills seized by a king,
our father no more with us.

(The profound but understated pathos of King Paari’s daughters on losing their father and their mountain land.)


Puranaanooru: 11
Thinai: Paadaann Thinai,  Thurai: Parisil Kadai Nilai.

Forearms with fine hair
ornaments pure and pretty,
damsels fashion tiny houses
made of alluvial soil
for the Paavai deity,
decorate it with flowers
collected from bent branches;
revel in the cool Porunai waters;
this Vanji town bathed in glory
its fame scaling heavenly heights.
So is the king wreathed in victory
and lauded in poems.
Smashing the foes’ fortresses awesome,
driving them in defeat ignominious
chalks he victory esteemed;
the balladeer singing his prowess
gifted with ornaments pretty
of gold of many a measure;
The man singing in rhythmic unison,
blessed he was with a necklace
of glittering lotus of gold
strung in a chain of silver.
(And for me?)

(The poet Ilaveyini sings of King Perunkadunko.)


Akanaanooru: 154
Thinai: Mullai

Mullai land drenched in loud rain.
From the waters in pits
croak hordes of wide-mouthed toads
like a blend of instruments myriad;
long – stemmed flowers of Pidavan bushes
carpet the red soil lending it allure;
like the raised hoods of angry snakes
cool Kaanthal buds unfold
spreading aroma around;
a buck with twisted horns
savours water in the brook
revelling with its dear mate.
The woods with winding path
a picture of allure.

O! Charioteer!
Tarry not in this salubrious path;
let the jingle bells in the garland
resonate to the speed
of the horse of trimmed mane
and chariot trundle fast.
Let me reach soonest
my charming beloved
the abode of womanly distinction
with attachment deep unto me.

(The man returning home urging the charioteer to speed up.)


Kurunthokai: 391
Thinai: Mullai

No ploughing chores
lazing bulls sulk;
deer miserable in swelter;
thunderclaps in rainless land
snakes lower hoods in dread;
dark clouds loom low
bringing cheer to eager land;
comes the evening
and gloom to separated lovers.
Perched on tree branches
washed by welcome rains,
eyeing little pools of water,
lonely peahens give out doleful cry.
Naive indeed!

(The girl sharing her pangs of loneliness with the friend.)


Feature–Tamil Writing

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    Sangam Women Poets
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