Matal – Unique Tamil ritual when hero’s love fails! – Part 2

Thiruvalluvar has written whole decade of poems about Matal(1131-1140).


1131. காமம் உழந்து வருந்தினார்க்கு ஏமம்

மடலல்லது ல்லை வலி.

Pangs of passion find no recourse

Except riding *`palmyra horse’.


* Palmyra horse or ‘Matal’ is a torture expressive of

the burning passion of the lover to the beloved.

The lover’s body is laid on a rough pricking palmyra

bed and he is carried along the street with songs of

love pangs. The parents of the lovers first reproach

them and then consent to their marriage.


1132. நோனா உடம்பும் உயிரும் மடலேறும்

நாணினை நீக்கி நிறுத்து.

Pining body and mind lose shame

And take to riding of the palm.


1133. நாணொடு நல்லாண்மை பண்டுடையேன் ன்றுடையேன்

காமுற்றார் ஏறும் மடல்.

Once I was modest and manly

My love has now Matal only.


1134. காமக் கடும்புனல் உய்க்குமே நாணொடு

நல்லாண்மை என்னும் புணை.

Rushing flood of love sweeps away

The raft of shame and firmness, aye!


1135. தொடலைக் குறுந்தொடி தந்தாள் மடலொடு

மாலை உழக்கும் துயர்.

Palm-ride and pangs of eventide

Are gifts of wreath-like bracelet maid.


1136. மடலூர்தல் யாமத்தும் உள்ளுவேன் மன்ற

படல்ஒல்லா பேதைக்கென் கண்.

Matal I ride at midnight for

My eyes sleep not seeing this fair.


1137. கடலன்ன காமம் உழந்தும் மடலேறாப்

பெண்ணின் பெருந்தக்க தில்.

Her sea-like lust seeks not Madal!

Serene is woman’s self control.



1138. நிறையாயர் மன்அளியர் என்னாது காமம்

மறையிறந்து மன்று படும்.

Lust betrays itself in haste

Though women are highly soft and chaste.


1139. அறிகிலார் எல்லாரும் என்றேஎன் காமம்

மறுகின் மறுகும் மருண்டு.

My perplexed love roves public street

Believing that none knows its secret.


1140. யாம்கண்ணின் காண நகுப அறிவில்லார்

யாம்பட்ட தாம்படா ஆறு.

Fools laugh at me before my eyes

For they feel not my pangs and sighs.


Poet: Thriuvaluvar

Translated by Shuddhananda Bharatiar


The popularity of this tradition has influenced the religious works too Thirumangai Alvar has written two Matal poems in Naalaayira Divyaprabantham(2673 and 2674), where woman who love the god threaten to ride metal if god doesn’t reciprocate their love(usally women weren’t allowed to ride a metal, even reiterated by Thirukural ).


Kasiappa Civasariyar(14th century ) in his Kandhapuranam uses this situation of Matal,

“A female companion of Valli questioned the girl about her absence and the striking change in her appearance, but Valli answered evasively. Soon after that, Murugan, again in the shape of a hunter, appeared in front of the two girls, and the companion observed that Valli and the hunter exchanged amorous looks. Therefore, she demanded that the hunter remove himself. He then admitted his love for Valli and he warned the companion that, if she would not help them to meet and enjoy their love, he would resort to the old custom of matal. The companion agreed to Murugan’s request.”

There are many other metal poems written between 15-16th century.



Literary conventions in Akam poetry by Kamil Zvelebil

The Interior Landscape by A.K.Ramanujan

Kurunthokai with U.V. Swaminathan Iyer’s commentary

Thirkural translation by Shuddhananda Bharatiar

Thirumurugan by Kamil Zvelebil

Tamil Kandhapuranam by Kamil Zvelebil



Please post your comments.

Here is the link for my orkut community for this blog

Digg!Top Blogs

Stumble It!



  1. Hi, Im a tamilian who loves Valluvar… i plan on getting a tattoo with his quote ‘yaam petra inbam peruga iv vaiyagam’

    can you please send me a typed version (in tamil) so i can use it as a reference for the design? (i dont trust my own written tamil)

    thank you in advance!!!

  2. Dear Vairam,

    I just stumbled on your blog!!..

    Could only read this article on ‘madal’ eruthal immediately.

    I remember having read about this in vairamuthu’s ” villOdu vA nilAvE”…

    If you could post your views in thamizh your blog would be much attractive.

    Will visit your blog frequently.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.