Sexual union is meaningless without love – Narrinai 174


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174. பாலை

‘கற்றை ஈந்தின் முற்றுக் குலை அன்ன

ஆள் இல் அத்தத் தாள் அம் போந்தைக்

கோளுடை நெடுஞ் சினை ஆண் குரல் விளிப்பின்,

புலி எதிர் வழங்கும் வளி வழங்கு ஆர் இடைச்

சென்ற காதலர் வந்து, இனிது முயங்கி,

பிரியாது ஒரு வழி உறையினும், பெரிது அழிந்து

உயங்கினை, மடந்தை!’ என்றி-தோழி!-

அற்றும் ஆகும், அஃது அறியாதோர்க்கே;

வீழாக் கொள்கை வீழ்ந்த கொண்டி

மல்லல் மார்பு மடுத்தனன்

புல்லு மற்று எவனோ அன்பு இலங்கடையே?

Narrinai 174

“From the long fronds

of a deserted talipot tree

with clusters thick and hard

like an old date- palm’s,

a male bird calls to its mate,

and the listening tiger

roars in echo

on those difficult roads

where hot winds blow –

but then your lover who went there

has returned,

has hugged you sweetly ever since

and you’ve lain together


in one place,

and yet

why do you look like a ruin,

why do you grieve, my girl?”

So you ask friend.

It could look like that to someone

who doesn’t know.

What’s the use

of longing faithfully

for his chest

that’s now like the cold beaches

of Tonti city

famous in mouth of many?

When love is gone,

what’s copulation worth?

Poet: Anon

Translated by A.K.Ramanujan

This poem is sung by the Talaivi . Initially, Panki(her friend) asks her why she is still sad even after her husband’s return. Panki points out that though Taliavan is back and making love to the Talaivi,Talaivi seems to be grieving much worse than the days when her Talaivan was away. Talaivi replies that she no more likes the embraces of her husband, since it is no more a special act which was indented only for her. Now Talaivan embraces many harlots and hence feeling of being Talaivans only love is being lost and hence she is starting to hate the physical embraces of her husband. Talaivi feels its meaningless to have sexual union with her husband when there is no love between them. The Talaivi here expresses that there is no difference between physical and emotional love. Love and making love are not two different acts to the Talaivi, rather she believes only if two souls are in emotional love with each other the physical love would make sense.

This poem has lot of embedded meaning to it,

‘From the long fronds of a deserted Talipot tree with clusters thick and hard like an old date- palm’s’

Talipot palm are the typical palm trees we witness in South India. They are not used for growing dates. Rather they are cultivated to produce Tody.(Another interesting fact is using leaves of this tree they made the palmleaf paper or ‘Aedu’).

Talipot Palm


The Date palm is a variety of palm which is used to produces edible dates.

date palm
date palm


The poet here says ‘ the talipot tree with clusters thick and hard like an old date- palm’s’, he means that harlot(talipot tree) looks the same as Talaivi(date palm) to the Talaivan. If we go deeper, this shows nature of the talaivan who has started showing preference to pleasure giving activities (toddy producing talipot tree – pleasure giving harlots) than true love (his wife).

When the poet says ‘a male bird calls to its mate, and the listening tiger roars in echo’ , he means that when Talaivan was trying to show her attention to Talaivi, the Harlot has roared like a tiger to break the intimate moment and stole Talaivan away from the Talaivi.

The brilliance of the Sangam poets was that they were able integrate the imageries they found in nature to the context of the love poems they wrote. Each description of the nature in the love poems had a hidden meaning to it and usually sums up the mood of the poem. This is very unique to sangam literature and one of the main reasons why sangam literature is hailed as a classical literature.



Narrinai commentry by Narayanaswami iyer.


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  1. her husbands chest which was once like a private home only she can rest has now become like public beach where every one can come and leave…. Tonti was a very famous sea port

  2. the only beach i have seen is the burning sands of Marina and elliots. but must be cold for some to brave the mid day heat and flock there in droves !!! is there a poem for that as well…if she is around all bodily functions stop including response to extreme heat !!

  3. Probably the best kavithai for the sake of marriage, a deeper delve would tell us , why the current marriage model is ridiculous without the connection of souls.

    Vairam, wish these were available a decade ago 🙂

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