An Erotic love poem from Silapadigaram

When we talk about Silapadigaram,nearly all of us know a story of women who defies all logic of Husband worship and who burnt the whole city of Madurai. So most probably the whole book should be about how the women should worship their husband is what I thought.But due to my recently developed love with my mother tongue , I thought i should start reading Silapadigaram (Actually I saw English translation of Silapadigaram in my library in UTA….so decided to give a shot at it).The reaction I got after reading first few chapters was,’man if Vairamuthu has written anywhere close to what Silapadigaram poems were, most of the lines would have been ripped off by the censor board and all magazines around Tamilnadu would have cried foul and criticized him for writing such vulgar stuff!’. Some of the poems were beautiful, erotic and very poetic. Some thing that stunned me more was Silapadigaram was written by saint according to tradition,a Jain saint Illango Adigal. If a saint could write erotic poems like this, what about other poets of those days!

All these years, all I could associate with Tamil poems was religion and rules. Thirukural and Thiruvasagam was only know to me. No one ever said about the greatness of the Sangam literature. The poets in sangam and post sangam-pre bakthi period have written some great poems on love. Some of them being visibly erotic. They seem to have no inhibition to sex,love making and have explicitly and some times implicitly described the hero and heroine making love. The Sangam men are some what obsessed with breast of women(in fact till this day that is a true!). Many poems describe the beauty of the breast of the women.Sangam days were before the sankritisation/brahminisation of the south. Hence you can see lot of Dravidian traits in the poem. Sangam days there was a concept of love called Kalavu. Kalavu is one of the topics which should interest all of the guys of present. Kalavu is kind of love where a guy and gal meet fall in love and make love. After making love only they decide to marry. Unlike the traditional (surely not Dravidian tradition!) arranged marriage, Kalavu is concept of love first , love making next and finally marriage.

About the poem below, Kovalan has moved around with Madhavi for quite a while. Madhavi and Kovalan sitting on the shores of the beaches sing for each other . Here Kovalan sings some songs for Madhavi and she plays the harp. Koval is in mood and sings erotic songs. He literally makes suggestion why waste time here ,its boring, lets go have sex(I got this idea,beacuse in the next chapter he gets bored with Madhavi and leaves her!). Kovalan sings lot of songs which are erotic and some times vulgar too.


Your Elders do their fishing in the sea ,

and live by killing blameless creatures there.

You do your fishing in my heart,

and live by causing me to die.

Oh pray ,be careful not to break

your waist,too frail to bear the weight

of young breast growing opulent !

Your father kills the buoyant fish

caught in the ambush of his net.

But you delight to kill all living things

caught by your lovely eyes’ most deadly snare.

Oh pray, be careful not to break

your waist, thinner than thunderbolts,

for it may yield beneath its load

of heavy breasts and strings of pearls!

Your brothers in their swift canoe

go hunting creatures that have done no harm.

But you kill with the arched bow of your brows;

your fame increases with the grief you cause.

Oh pray, protect the slimness of your waist,

that’s growing strong beneath the burden of your breast.

English Translation: Alain Danielou


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1 Comment

  1. We have similar examples from Sankrit poetry as well.

    Bhartrihari in Sringara Satakam:


    To her waist

    This is sheer recklessness! How can she make you
    Go for a walk?
    Can she not see that the weight of her breasts
    Is enough to break you?

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