The Poem Reads Very Familiar, Except It’s About 2000 Years Ago!!

What this lover would wish for you if you ever crossed her path would make a guardian angel of your worst enemy. Her creator, poet Madurai Kanakanar (translated as ‘Accountant from Madurai’ – see, on the side what accountants are capable of!!) reads her mind in his verse, 107th in Krunthogai.

Kurunthogai is part of early Sangam literature placed between the 1st century BC and the 3rd century AD by modern linguistic scholarship. It’s an anthology of 402 poems – short verses ranging from four to eight lines – written by as many as 205 poets, compiled by a poet, Pooriko. Elsewhere it is said to be annotated by Nachinarkiniyar, a Tami zh scholar living during the sixth or the seventh century C.E.

All its poems but the first which glorifies God, are on love, written in a dramatic style with a hero (thalaivan), heroine (thalaivi) and her aiding and abetting friend (thozhi) as the main characters. Love in those days was seen in two neat shades: before marriage (kalaviyal) – yes, you read it right (are you shocked, puritan?) – and love after marriage (karpiyal). Usually the hero goes to faraway lands for trade, separated from his love – just the kind of scene the poets love to jump into.

Now back to our lovelorn kind-hearted(?) heroine and what she wishes:

Firstly, the verse in Tamizh:

குவி இணர்த் தோன்றி ஒண் பூ அன்ன
தொகு செந் நெற்றிக் கணம்கொள் சேவல்!-
நள்ளிருள் யாமத்து இல் எலி பார்க்கும்
பிள்ளை வெருகிற்கு அல்குஇரை ஆகி,
கடு நவைப் படீஇயரோ, நீயே-நெடு நீர்
யாணர் ஊரன் தன்னொடு வதிந்து
ஏம இன் துயில் எடுப்பியோயே!
பொருள் முற்றி வந்த தலைமகனை உடைய கிழத்தி காமம் மிக்க கழிபடர் கிளவியால் கூறியது. – மதுரைக் கண்ணனார்.

Word-by-word meaning:

குவி – இணர்த்- தோன்றி -ஒண்- பூ -அன்ன; piled up – clustered – red malabar lily – bright – flower – similar to; தொகு செந் நெற்றிக் கணம்கொள் சேவல்!; assembled – red-top – dense having – cock; நள்ளிருள் யாமத்து இல் எலி பார்க்கும்; intense darkness – midnight – house-rat – seeing (searching); பிள்ளை வெருகிற்கு அல்குஇரை ஆகி; young one (of) – wild cat – diminishing gradually/slowly – prey(food) – become; கடு- நவைப்- படீஇயரோ, நீயே-நெடு நீர்; pain – punishment/kill – may become – you – wide water(sea); யாணர் ஊரன் தன்னொடு வதிந்து; earning/thriving – agriculturalist/farmer – with him – dwell/stay; ஏம இன் துயில் எடுப்பியோயே!; enjoyment – pleasant – dream – you woke me up!;

Readable translation:

Like the bright Tondri flowers

which are found in heaps and clusters,

Oh rooster, your comb is red and dense.

In hands of the young one of the wild cat

searching for house rats in the midnight,

may you have a slow painful death

since you woke me up from my enjoyable sweet dream,

when I was with him, a farmer, at a place thriving by the wide sea.

By poet: Madurai Kanakanar (Accountant from Madurai)

(Note light rephrasing of PSV’s translation without loss of fidelity is entirely my doing)


The poor rooster cursed for merely being itself, cock-a-doodle-doo’ing!

Now, my friend, would you dare cross her path even in her dreams?

To complete the imagery, here’s a visual on the cock and the flower:



Sources: (author: Palaniappan Vairam Sarathy), and Wiki.


7 thoughts on “The Poem Reads Very Familiar, Except It’s About 2000 Years Ago!!

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