Curd, Kuzhambu and a Minute Smile – Kurunthokai 167

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After involving my self in some research work for some time, I am back to blogging again. I found this sweet poem and decided to blog it immediately.
The situation is like this, the Thalaivan and Thalaivi have fallen in love and without parents conset they have eloped and married. So after few days the gals parents miss her and send the foster mother to check out if the girl is doing well. The foster mother goes to Thalaivi’s place and observes her and reports back to their parents. So this situation usually results in poem of how the young girl has taken up responsibility of running the family and how she does really well even though she is young and used to luxurious conditions in her parents home. Here is one poem  where the foster mother recounts her observations to Thalaivi’s mother.
Kurunthokai 167
முளி தயிர் பிசைந்த காந்தள் மெல் விரல்,
கழுவுறு கலிங்கம், கழாஅது, உடீஇ,
குவளை உண்கண் குய்ப்புகை கழுமத்
தான் துழந்து அட்ட தீம் புளிப் பாகர்
‘இனிது’ எனக் கணவன் உண்டலின்,
நுண்ணிதின் மகிழ்ந்தன்று ஒண்ணுதல் முகனே.
கடிநகர்ச் சென்ற செவிலித்தாய் நற்றாய்க்கு உரைத்தது-கூடலூர் கிழார்
What the foster mother said to the mother of the girl:
She kneaded the mature curd with her
kanthal like soft fingers
and wiped it in her garment,
she whose kuvalai like
eyes with lower lids painted black
was filled with smoke from seasoning,
wore the same garment without washing,
and served the sweet sour liquid (kuzhambu),
she stirred and cooked.
Her husband said, ‘sweet’ and ate the food,
her face with bright fore head  gave
subtle smile.
Poet:Koodalur Kizhar
Translation by me
It surely should be interesting to know people ate curd and Rasam/puli kozhambu even 2000 years ago.When I read this poem, i just felt this kind of emotion is still present in lot of us. The approval is so common theme that it finds place in lot of movies even today. SO I thought I would post a small video from movie with similar situation.
And before that pictures of Kuvalai and Kanthal!
முளி தயிர் பிசைந்த காந்தள் மெல் விரல்,
curdled- curd- knead- glorisa superba- soft – fingers
கழுவுறு கலிங்கம், கழாஅது, உடீஇ,
குவளை உண்கண் குய்ப்புகை கழுமத்
lotus-black shaded eye- spice seasoning-smoke-abundant
தான் துழந்து அட்ட தீம் புளிப் பாகர்
she-stirred – discharged(cooked)- sweet-sour-liquid food(kulambu)
இனிது’ எனக் கணவன் உண்டலின்,
‘sweet’- said- husband- eat
நுண்ணிதின் மகிழ்ந்தன்று ஒண்ணுதல் முகனே.
minute-smile -bright forehead -face
Kurnthokai urai by U.V Swaminathan Iyer
Kurunthokai : An anthology of Tamil classical poetry by M.Shanmugam Pillay and David Ludden
Tamil Lexicon – University of Madras
Please Post your comments!

Red Earth and Pouring Rain – Kurunthokai 40


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This is one of my old Blogs. I have added new video clipping. Thanks to Mr.Vijayakumar for letting me know about the song.

I have posted video compilation of 5 Tamil songs(Thanks to readers) which have some similarities in the lyrics, please have a look

The first songs is ‘Narumugaye’ from Iruvar.
The second song is ‘ Sollai Povil’ from Vellai Roja
Third song is  ‘Pattam poochi’ from Chittiram Pesuthadi.
Fourth song is ‘Munbe Vaa’ from Sillunu oru Kadal.
Fifth song is ‘Oru Thanga rathathil’ from Dharma Yudham.

All the five song clearly have same thought process of some rainwater mixing with red soil. Where is this inspiration from ? Answer to this question leads us to one of the most loved poems of Tamil Literature.

This poem is from Sangam anthology Kurunthokai.I have posted two translations here. The first translation is very poetic(A.K.Ramanujan), where as Hart’s translation tries to provide the poetic structure employed by the original poet.

40. குறிஞ்சி

யாயும் ஞாயும் யார் ஆகியரோ?

எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம் முறைக் கேளிர்?

யானும் நீயும் எவ் வழி அறிதும்?

செம் புலப் பெயல் நீர் போல

அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாம் கலந்தனவே.

– செம்புலப்பெயனீரார்


Kurunthokai 40 – What He said

What could be my mother be

to yours?what kin is my father

to yours anyway?And how

did you and I meet ever?

But in love our hearts are as red

earth and pouring rain:


beyond parting.

Translated by A.K.Ramanujan


My mother and yours,

what were they to each other?

My father and yours ,

how were they kin?

I and you ,

how do we know each other?

and yet

like water that has rained on red fields,

our hearts in their love

have mixed together.

Translated by Gorge L. Hart

Poet:Sembula Peyaneerar

(The poet name means “he of water that has rained on red fields.”)

This poem and its english translation are popular around the world and are displayed in the London Tube.

The London Tube, as the underground metro train service is known, was started in 1863 and now covers 408 km. It is the lifeline of the city. When the transport authorities began paying attention to the interior of the coaches, they instituted prizes for the best advertisement posters. In 1986, encouraged by the Poetry Society, short poems of five or six lines were displayed in a special show. It proved so popular that poetry display has since become a permanent feature in the trains. (Source:HINDU article)

This poem is one of the most loved Tamil poems.And it also has a very important information few so called Tamil society protectors should take a note of.

This poem beautifully describes love as feeling which comes out naturally. One of the most important feature of this poem is that this poem stands in as typical example for ‘Iyarkai Punarchi’ poems. What does Iyarkai Punarchi mean? Iyarkai punarchi when translated to English would give you a meaning Natural Copulation.

Iyarkai Punarchi has been explained by different school of thoughts. One being a very conservative school of thought. Many Scholars like U.V.Swaminathan Iyer describe Iyarkai Punarchi has natural love making process but add an element of super natural to it by saying because they were lovers in previous birth. This school of thought accepts there is pre martial sex in this life but that because of the love the couple had as husband and wife in previous birth.

The other school of thought simply accepts Iyarkai Punarchi as Pre Martial sex when two lovers fall in love.

In this poem we clearly see two strangers who don’t know any thing about each other’s family falling in love. This shows clearly that 2000 years ago there were enough love marriages. Two strangers irrespective of their community status could fall in love and get married.  Often we also see parents opposing these marriages and the lovers elope to get married and live the life of their own. More often than not we see the family gets reunited after the couple have a baby.

We see a beautiful simile of Red earth and rain. The rain which has no relation with red soil , falls from the sky and slowly but steadily mingles with the red soil and becomes a part of it. The rain makes the dry sand into a fertile land suitable for cultivation. This is probably the greatest example in nature to explain mingling of two completely different substance to become more productive and useful product. The poet employs this simile to say that the Thalaivan was a complete stranger in the life of the Thalaivi. Yet he suddenly appeared one day and their heart mingled slowly steadily to become one soul. This process of love reaches its climax with the love making or punarchi, hence making the thalaivi fertile.


If you wondered why I have posted two translations , here is the poetic structure of original Tamil poem, it starts with ‘My’ and ‘yours’ and progresses to ‘I and you’ and ends with ‘Together’. This aspect is brilliantly brought out by George L.Hart.

என் தாய் உன் தாயை எவ்வாறு அறிவாள்?
என் தந்தைக்கும் உன் தந்தைக்கும் என்ன உறவோ ?
நானும் நீயும் ஒருவரை ஒருவர் எவ்வாறு அறிந்துகொண்டோம் ?
இருந்தும் மழை நீர் செம்மையான நிலத்துடன் கலப்பது போல
கலந்து விட்டன அன்பு கொண்ட நம் நெஞ்சங்கள்

இந்த பாடலின் சிறப்பு , என் உன் என்று தொடங்கி , நான் நீ என்று பயணித்து , நாம் என்று முடிகின்றது .


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