mayaldi nochi_peacock foot comparison

Sleepless night ! – Kurunthokai 138



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This blog has been edited after a reader Mr.Ashraf pointed out a mistake in previous version. You can see his comment in the comment section. Thank you Mr. Ashraf.


Found another beautiful poem. Sangam literature is serving purpose of teaching me botany. By the time I finish reading Sangam literature I hope I can identify most of the plants and trees in Tamil Nadu. If you wondered why I am saying this , the poem below would give a perfect explanation.

Thalaivan has met Thalaivi and the are in love.  Thalaivan is from the neighboring village. The  love affair between Thalaivan and Thalaivi is a gossip in the town and the parents of Thalaivi come to know about it. Thalaivi is under strict supervision of her parents. Only time she can meet Thalaivan is in the midnight when her parents are asleep. Thalaivan comes through the forest in the dark and hides near the house of Thalaivi and makes some signals – mostly some kind of sound. Thalaivi understanding such signal would sneak out of the house and meet her lover. They would spend the whole night together.

In one such occasion , Thalaivan comes and hides and the Thalaivi didn’t get the signal and they couldn’t meet in the night. So next day when she and her friend(Panki- always accompanies her and more of companion) see Thalaivan , Panki  talks very loudly to Thalaivi so that Thalaivan can hear it and utters the poem below.

Kurunthokai 138
138. குறிஞ்சி

கொன் ஊர் துஞ்சினும், யாம் துஞ்சலமே-

எம் இல் அயலது ஏழில் உம்பர்,

மயில் அடி இலைய மாக் குரல் நொச்சி

அணி மிகு மென் கொம்பு ஊழ்த்த

மணி மருள் பூவின் பாடு நனி கேட்டே.

குறி பிழைத்த தலைமகன் பிற்றை ஞான்று இரவுக்குறி வந்துழி, தோழி சிறைப்புறமாகக் கூறியது; இரவுக்குறி நேர்ந்ததூஉம் ஆம். – கொல்லன் அழிசி

பரந்து விரிந்த்ருகும் இவ்வூர் தூங்கியது,

எங்கள் வீட்டின் அருகில் உள்ள ,

எழில் என்ற பெயர் கொண்ட மலையில்,

மயிலினது அடியைப் போல் இலைகளை கொண்ட

நொச்சி மரத்தின் மென்மையானக் கொம்புகளில்

அணி அணியாக தொங்கும் பெரிய பூங்கொத்துகள்,

உதிர்ந்து மணி போன்ற பூக்கள் விழும்

ஓசையை கேட்டுக்கொண்டே ,

நாங்கள் தூங்காமல் விழித்திருந்தோம் !

The vast city had slept, we did not.

We heard the sound

of clourful clusters of  aged flowers

which look  like sapphires,

decorated on the soft branches of

the nochhi tree, with leaves  like peacock feet,

falling down

on the Ezhil mountains closer to our house.

Poet:Kollan Azhici

Translated by Palaniappan Vairam

By uttering this poem the Panki says that they were very attentive to the extent they could hear flowers falling but they couldn’t hear any signal from Thalaivan. So if some is to be blamed for Thalaivan and Thalaivi not meeting previous day it must be the Thalaivan for not giving proper signal. She says this to make it clear that Thalaivi did not avoid Thalaivan , rather she was waiting to meet Thalaivan the previous night.
Ezhil here is the mountain in Kingdom of King Nannan.
Now it would be interesting to learn about the Nocchi tree.

நொச்சி nocci

n. 1. Five-leaved chaste tree. See வெண்ணொச்சி. நொச்சி மாமலர் நிறத்தன (சீவக. 2163). 2. Three-leaved chaste tree. See கருநொச்சி. 3. (Puṟap.) See நொச்சித்திணை. நொச்சிப்படலம். (பு. வெ. 5.) 4. (Puṟap.) A minor theme eulogising the nocci

But we should also look at this word
மயிலடி¹ mayil-aṭti
3. Tall chaste-tree. See காட்டுநொச்சி,
காட்டுநொச்சி kāṭṭttu-nocci
, n. < id. +. (L.) 1. Tall chaste tree, l. tr., Vitex altissima; நொச்சி மரவகை.
We see so many different varieties of Nocchi. But there is clue in poem “leaves  like peacock feet” so with this clue I search for the tree.

To understand the leaves we first need to know how a peacock feet would look like.

Peacock Feet
Peacock Foot

So it looks like the plant is going to have three leaves together like the peacock feet.

Lets see the leaves of this kaatu nochi

Mayiladi nocchi _ kaatu nochi

So lets have closer look at peacock feet once again.

Peacock foot

Peacock foot has 4 fingers and one at the back.

See the foot print of a peacock below.

peacock footprint

Lets check out the leaves once again now in comparison with peacock foot print.

mayaldi nochi_peacock foot comparison

Now you would understand why the leaves look like the peacock feet.
Now Lets see the flower

Mayaladi nocchi – Peacock Chaste Tree
Mayiladi nocchi- peacock chaste

Compare this with a Sapphire stone.

Sapphire uncut stone

More about the flower :

The poet compares the blue shades of the flower and the Sapphire stone as well as says the tree’s leaves are like peacock’s feet. The Sangam poets have always described nature as integral part of love poems to add to the emotions of the poem.
We also come to know that Noocchi flowers fall in the night!
Now you would understand that learning Sangam poem also gives you a big lesson in Botany!

peacock chaste tree_ mayiladi nocchi

After seeing this tree you should understand the underlying sarcasm of Panki. She mocks at the Thalaivan saying we could hear even leaves from the tree falling but not your signal!


Other Available translations:
What Her Friend Said:

Even though the whole
large town sleeps,
we do not sleep,
hearing distinctly the sound
of blue flowers
shaken off the beautiful , soft branches
of the nocci tree,with leaves
like peacock’s feet,
and dark flower bunches on Ezhil hill,
near my home.
Translated by Shanmugam Pillai and David Ludden

The great city fall asleep
but we did not sleep.
Clearly we heard,all night,
from the hillock next out house
the tender branches of the flower-clustered tree
with leaves like peacock-feet
let fall
their blue-sapphire flowers.
Translated by A.K.Ramanujan

Word by Word Translation:
கொன் ஊர் துஞ்சினும், யாம் துஞ்சலமே-
Vast – town – sleep- we- no sleep
எம் இல் அயலது ஏழில் உம்பர்,
our – house -near – Ezhil(mountain name)- mountain
மயில் அடி இலைய மாக் குரல் நொச்சி
peacock- feet- leaves – colourful- flower cluster- Nocchi
அணி மிகு மென் கொம்பு ஊழ்த்த
decoration- more – soft- branch- mature/aged
மணி மருள் பூவின் பாடு நனி கேட்டே.
sapphire- like – flower- sound – abundant – hear.

Palaniappan Vairam Sarathy
Fifteen poems from a classical Tamil anthology by A.K.Ramanujan.
Kurunthokai Translation by Shanmugam Pillai and David Ludden.
Kurunthokai Urai by U.V.Swaminathan Iyer.
Tamil Lexicon



  1. superb….hope thaliavan gets the message. They should think of better signal !!

    lovely vairam


  2. Amazing vairam.. looking forward for more like this.. all the best..
    karu nochchi rarer than the other one and has medicinal properties.

  3. Hi Vairam, I agree with you on that and also on the point that you do extensive research before posting. However, the poem you have posted doesn’t say if the poet referred to Karu Nocchi or Nir Nocchi. It plainly refers to Nocchi. To my bot…any trained eyes, I can see resemblance of peacock’s legs to Vitex Negundo rather than Vitex trifolia. 1. The Peacock’s leg shown in color photo shows how the four toes are spread out like leaves of Vitex negundo and not like the three-leaved Vitex trifolia.
    2. The leaf spread of Vitex negundo is close to the thin toes of peacock than the wider leaf of Vitex trifolia.
    In the same website when I searched for just “nocchi”, I get this result:

  4. Hi!! Very nice… Amazing to see the poet making beautiful comparisons… and you are doing a real great job by letting us also understand and enjoy the beauty of the sangam poems. Thanks a lot..


  5. That’s a great undertaking, identifying all plants of TN! I hope you’ll have Tamil name,Hindi name, Botanical Name & English name w photo of ea., preferably in flower. Bark photo is useful, of course, too for trees.
    There is another website beginning to do this but can’t find the reference quickly, you might google it.

  6. Hi Vairam,
    Thanks for an updated post on this. I still do not completely agree if Vitex trifolia is the one the poet talks about. Since Vitex negundo also has a variety with blue flowers. In any case…Let us agree to disagree on this.
    Keep posting more interesting stuff that tickles our gray matters…

  7. Vairam ,

    This post was one of the few i have read in your blog and have found something common with the other poems i read here. To clarify, I cannot read tamizh and so had to read the english translations. In each of the translations i read, even after reading the context of the poem, I could not make any sense at all of what the poet was trying to say. It was all a big mess of randomness. An animal pops out here, a tree pops out there and interspersed with flowers and spices and herbs and what not.
    And then after i read your annotations and explanations, saw your pictures and comparisons, it all made sense to me. Very cleverly done by the Poet.

    And so this brings up a question.

    Why is sangam poetry so complex? The first step to appreciating a work of art is understanding the emotions it evokes in the hearts of the viewer. In a form like sangam poetry, which relies so much on similies and metaphors, would not the beauty be more apparent if it is a little more straight forward? Is it because I am dumb to poetry and the people of those days were smart enough to interpret the poet’s views immediately without someone like you to explain it to them with pictures?

    If you say that the beauty of the poetry was in the complexity of the comparisons, do you think that the poems were to be looked upon as puzzles to be solved, the king would conduct a competition for the most complex poem and give away prizes to the interpreter like in Thiruvilayadal Movie?

  8. Hari,
    The problem lies in the translation and not in the poetry. Tamil is a language with no punctuations. It is a free flowing language with no starts and ends. So its a big problem when you translate. Translation doesn’t give you the whole sense. The word play the musical quality and structure are lost in translation.
    If you can understand the language and read the original text you will enjoy it much more. As regards to any art you need to know the background to appreciate any art. Most people dont know whats special about Modern or Abstract art. Unless some one explains or you are accustomed to art , you cant appreciate most arts. Same goes here with poetry. There are certain structures , certain literary norms and some formulas to be followed to write this poem. It just deals with just 5 topics. So with so many restriction the poet just give so much new emotion in every poem.
    Tamil Padam- the spoof… wont be interesting if you dont understand the back stories!
    Thanks for the 1000th comment!

  9. Vairam,

    “A Job well done” is not just a word to appreciate the work that you are doing here.. This effort makes the sangam poem looks easy as it is not in original. This is really really encouraging and a very good research of a time well spent… Good and keep going… 🙂

  10. Vaalthu gal. A very nice and novel attempt.Very Interesting.Please continue this

  11. Vairam, another gem of a post, thank you.
    As far as translations go, it is very difficult to appreciate translated poems (tamil has its specialities) but even then poetry can only be enjoyed fully in its own native, unless there is a huge amount of effort put into translation, as some american translators have done with Rumi and Hafiz. Maybe you will introduce sangam poetry to the western world as they have done 🙂

  12. The comparison of the palmlately compound leaf with the feet of the peacock is amazing to say the least. Being a wildlifer, I appreciate the discussions here. Would like to contribute my own way as well in future.

  13. Thank you very much Mr. Ashraf, collecting details on this variety and one more variety of Peacock chaste. Will update it by tonight and credit you in the post.
    Thank you very much for this input.



  15. Vairam,

    Couple of months back I purchased a book “தமிழரும் தாவரமும்” by K.V. Krishnamoorthy (a 2007 publication of Bharatidasan University). It is a comprehensive work, taking us through the ages of Tamil civilization. From pages 322 to 328, he provides the names of 207 plants mentioned in Sangam literature. I am sure the list would include these 99 as well. However, he has not provided the botanical names these plants, in spite of he being a botanist of the university.

    This work might be of use to you.

  16. Hi,

    I wanted to share something….

    உம்பர் – uyarntha
    மா – karumai enra porulum undu….
    குரல் – koththu(tamil aharathiyil eduthathu)
    மருள் – கள் (tamil aharathiyil eduthathu)

    So, “mayiladu kaal pondra ilaikalai udaya uyarntha nochi marathin azhahana menmayana kilayil vilangum kariya nochippoongoththu uthirkum mani pol minnum kal pol chuvaikkum pookkalin oasaiyai ketta vannam ipperoore urangungal naam urangadirunthom…… ” ipdi solla varar nu ninaikren…..

  17. அற்புதமான கட்டுரை. அவசியம், இத்தகைய தொகுப்பை, ஒரு புத்தகமாக வெளியிடுங்கள். சங்கப் பாடல்களைப் அனுபவிப்பதில் உள்ள பெரும்தடையை உங்கள் கட்டுரைகள் நீக்கும்.


  18. great job sir .I would like thanks you. Nocchi kulam is the village name still now used I think thirunelveli or thoothukudi dist. I have seen these leaf in the dist.

  19. dear Sundar, I am a late entrant to this blog.There is a free software NHRM website .it helps you to get Tamil words typed from Roman English,phonetically.
    The discussion about Nochi identification is rather pointless for the poetry enjoyment.what is important is that the tree(whatever be the botonical name!) sheds the flowers and the feeble noise keeps the girl awake.Enjoy the poem and forget research!
    regarding the comment,of Hariharan Narayanan, why Tamil poetry of Sangam period is difficult today for us(who are lazy to learn it well) is that Tamil has changed over centuries in script,language,and usage in spoken and written forms.Hence the difficulty.Imagine the effort of U.V..Swaminatha Iyer,Raghava Iyengar, Mr Pope.Mr.Hart and of course Vairam and NVK Ashraf(Sir,I presume you are a muslim with remarkable insight,knowledge and love for தமிழ்) ,in making these intelligible to us. They should be revered and appreciated. bala

  20. Dear tkb1936rlys,
    more kavithanubhavam comes when we try to research and attribute meanings in different perspectives in our way. If the poet wanted to keep it that simple, he would have had the poem in two lines. Might be the poet wanted to tell more things from the detailed description.

  21. Dear sir
    it’s my first visit to this site, i found what i search for a long time. We have a treasure (our literature) alas we lost of vision. let your work lighten all

  22. அருமையான பதிவு. இயற்கையும் செய்யுளும் எப்படி ஒத்துப் போகின்றன என்று எடுத்துக் காட்டியது மிக ருசிகரமாக இருந்தது.

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