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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The philosophy of love marriage – Kurunthokai 115


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The blog has been recently updated after one my friends Mr.Anand Raman contribute few pictures he took while he had a Nilgiri trip. The Phtos are very invaluable and would help you to understand the poem better. Incidentally wrote this blog lat year on Pongal and updating it on a Pongal day year later.

Happy Pongal to all the readers. I was so guilty of not writing for so long that I have decided to write on this day special to Tamilians all around the world. Few months ago I came across this poem in a book ‘Sips from the Sangam cup’. This song really shows the wisdom of the Tamil people 2000 years ago. This poem answers on basic doubt most youngsters have these days. So without giving much more buildup like Tamil action heroes I will proceed to the poem.
115. குறிஞ்சி
பெரு நன்று ஆற்றின், பேணாரும் உளரே?
ஒரு நன்று உடையள் ஆயினும், புரி மாண்டு,
புலவி தீர அளிமதி-இலை கவர்பு,
ஆடு அமை ஒழுகிய தண் நறுஞ் சாரல்,
மென்நடை மரையா துஞ்சும்
நன் மலை நாட!-நின் அலது இலளே.
உடன்போக்கு ஒருப்படுத்து மீளும் தோழி தலைமகற்குக் கூறியது. – கபிலர்
115. kuRijci
peru n’anRu ARRin, pENArum uLarE?
oru n’anRu uTaiyaL Ayinum, puri mANTu,
pulavi tIra aLimati-ilai kavarpu,
ATu amai ozukiya taN n’aRuj cAral,
menn’aTai maraiyA tujcum
n’an malai n’ATa!-n’in alatu ilaLE.
uTanpOkku oruppaTuttu mILum tOzi talaimakaRkuk kURiyatu. – kapilar

Kurunthokai 115
When a person does a great good,
would there be any one who wouldn’t praise it?
Though she has little goodness ,
let your desire for her attain greatness,
put an end to your love quarrel
and protect her esteem.
You are the resident of the mountain,
where wild cows with its slow steps
eat leaves from other trees
and sleep in the slopes of the mountain
under the cool excellent shade
spread out by the swaying mature bamboos.
She doesn’t have anyone other than you!

What her friend said to the Hero after urging him to elope with her in time.
Poet: Kapilar
Translated by me.



Thalivan and Thalaivi have met , fallen in love and had natural sexual union . The people from girls side doubt girls action, so they keep her guarded. Thalaivan and Thalaivi can no more bare the feeling of being separated , hence the Panki(Thalaivi’s friend ) arranges their elopement and utters the following advice to the Thalaivan before he leaves with the Thalaivi.

Meaning :

The outer layer:

Panki tells Thalaivan that the girl is young and has only few good habits with her, so it was the duty of him to take care of her by always loving her and stop having any fights and sulking with her. She reminds him that Thalaivi now has no one to support her except Thalaivan as she is running away from her family and she no more has a family of her own.


Thalaivan come from a hill country where

மரையா marai-y-ā

Wild cow. See கவயம்¹. மரையா மரல்கவர (கலித். 6).

கவயம்¹ kavayam

, n. < gavaya. Bison, wild cow, Bos gaurus; காட்டுப்பசு. (திவா.)

File:Indian Bison.jpg
Wild cows steal leaves from the trees and eat them . When they get tired they sleep in the mountain slope under the shadow of the well-grown bamboo trees.
Reading this line would make readers wonder what is the connection between a wild cow sleeping under bamboo trees and hero eloping with heroine ? here is the answer:
The wild cows love to eat leaves from the bamboo trees when  the tree was tender and young.
The wild cows graze the trees and shrubs in their reach. When the bamboo tree is tender its leaves are in level where the cows can reach and eat them.
But as the bamboo trees became mature and grew big in size, it had no leaves which are within the reach of the wild cows. Hence the wild cows eat leaves from other trees but since the bamboo trees was once provider of the food they loved the most, the cows out of gratitude would go and sleep under the shade of the bamboo trees.
Similarly the Thalaivi now young and in prime of her youth would have the beauty and can offer sexual pleasure that the Thalaivan needs like the bamboo offering the leaves to the cows. But as age increases she would lose her physical beauty and vitality of her youth. At that time Thalaivan shouldn’t desert her , instead like the cows which sit under shade of the bamboo tree out of gratitude and indebtedness, Thalivan should think of the sacrifices and offerings the Thalaivi has given to Thalaivan so that he can attain the pleasure he desired in his youth. Thalaivi has sacrified her whole family just to be with Thalaivan . Thalaivan should remember this and stop all love quarrels with Thalaivi and keep her happy by always loving her. The poet has employed this line “When a person does a great good,would there be any one who wouldn’t praise it?” to say that when she is young and beautiful you will treat her very nicely, but it takes a real man to show the same love when she loses her physical beauty.
Word play:
There is actually two opinions on this imagery. U.V.Swaminathan Iyer gives the explanation I have given above, but Shanmugam Pillay and David Ludden contend that the leaves are of Bamboo leaves and not from other trees.
This confusion is due to interpretation of this word கவர்பு
Swaminathan Iyer takes the following meaning,
கவர்பு kavarpu

, n. < கவர்²-. Differing; வேறு படுகை. கவர்பு முண்டோ கற்றோய் (ஞானா. 66, 13).

Whereas Shanmugam Pillay and David Ludden take the following meaning,

கவர்¹-தல் kavar-, 4 v. tr. [K. M. kavar.] 1. To seize, grasp, catch, capture, take by force, steal; அகப்படுத்துதல். மூங்கிற் கவர்கிளை போல (பதிற்றுப். 84, 12). 2. To rob, plunder, pillage; கொள்ளையிடுதல். வீடறக் கவர்ந்த வினைமொ ழிந்தன்று (பு. வெ. 3, 15, கொளு). 3. To get control of, charm, captivate; வசப்படுத்துதல். உள்ளங்கவர் கள்வன் (தேவா. 61, 1). 4. To desire; விரும்புதல். (திவா.) 5. To receive; பெற்றுக் கொள்ளுதல். வறியோர்கவர . . . எறிந்து (தஞ்சைவா. 26). 6. To experience, enjoy; நுகர்தல். கனி யிருப்பக் காய்கவர்ந் தற்று (குறள், 100). 7. To have sexual connection with; முயங்குதல். கவர் கணைச் சாமனார் தம்முன் (கலித். 94, 33). 8. To churn, reduce by trituration or attrition; கடை தல். (திவா.) 9. To call, summon; அழைத்தல். கானக்கோழிக் கவர்குரற் சேவல் (மலைபடு. 510).

So if we go by Shanmugam Pillay and David Ludden would the meaning of the poem change? actually not!

The meaning now would be the wild cows stole the leaves from bamboo and settled below the bamboo tree in its shadow.

Now refer to meaning 6,7 of the word கவர்¹-தல். The word means steal and also means enjoy experience – to have sexual connection. Now this way it means Thalaivan has had sexual union with Thalaivi and hence he should always be under her shade and not stray away as she gets old.


Either way the philosophy of love marriage is :

Beauty and sexual pleasure which satisfies your physical needs only last for while but for the rest of your life you have be grateful to your wife and keep her happy by showing her unconditional love for what she has given you.

Hence you can infer all love starts with attraction and physical beauty, but it should move past the lust and remain life long as pure affection!

ஒரு பெரிய நன்மையை செய்தல் , பாராட்டாதவர்கள்   யாரும்  உண்டோ ?

நீ வாழும் மலை பகுதியில் , காட்டுப்பசுக்கள் பல மரத்தில் உள்ள இலையை உண்டு விட்டு உயர்ந்து வளர்ந்த மூங்கிலின் நிழல் படியும் மலைச் சரிவில் உறங்கும் .
அப்பசுக்கள் ஒரு காலத்தில் விரும்பி உண்ட இலைகளை கொடுத்தவை அந்த மூங்கில் மரங்கள் , தற்போது வளர்ந்த விட்ட நிலையில் பசுக்களுக்கு எட்டாத உயரத்தில் இலைகள் இருந்தாலும் அந்த பசுக்கள் அந்த மூங்கில் மரத்திற்கு நன்றி செலுத்தும் மன உணர்வுடன் அந்த மூங்கில் மரத்தின் கீழ் படுத்து உறங்கும் .
அதே போல் உன் மனைவியாகப் போகும் இவள் இளையவள் , சில நல்ல குணங்கள் மட்டுமே கொண்டவள் .
இந்த இளமை பருவத்தில் அழகும் , உன் ஆசைகளை பூர்த்தி செய்யும் குணமும் இருக்கும் . அனால் வயதாகிய பின்னர் அவள் அழகையும் , இளமையையும் இழந்து விடுவாள். அன்று அவள் உன் மோகத்துக்கு விருந்தாக இருக்க முடியாது , அப்படி பட்ட காலத்திலும் அவள் உன் மேல் கொண்ட காதலை எண்ணி , ஊடல்களை விட்டு , அளவில்லா அன்பைப் பொழிந்து அவளை போற்றிப் பாதுகாப்பாயாக!
அவளுக்கு உன்னைவிட்டல வேறு யாரும் இல்லை ! அவள் குடும்பத்தை உதறிவிட்டு உன்னுடன் இப்பொழுது புறப்பட்டு விட்டால் !


Sips from Sangam Cup by A.V.Subramanian

Kurunthokai – translation by Shanmugam Pillay and David Ludden

Kurunthokai urai by U.V.Swaminathan Iyer

Tamil Lexicon

Kalithokai – Translation – Dr.V.Murugan

401 Kathal Kavithaikal by  Sujatha


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