I am sweating – Kurunthokai 84


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Happy new year to every one. Wanted to start the New year with a nice poem. For a change I decided to take a poem with out visual imagery and one which just rides on simple emotion of love.

Most of the times when you retrospect how situations have gone out of control ,you realize that there were always signs of doom showing up , only you weren’t sharp enough to catch it.  Here a mother looks back at an event which happened previous night. What looked like an innocent action back then makes sense to her while she retrospects.

Thalaivan and Thalaivi are in love. And one fine day they decide to elope. Thalaivi has to come out of her house during the midnight and elope with Thalaivan waiting outside. The foster mother of the girl always sleeps with this girl and embraces her closely during sleep. The next day when she sees that the girl is gone missing , she utters this poem.

84. பாலை
பெயர்த்தனென் முயங்க, ‘யான் வியர்த்தனென்’ என்றனள்;
இனி அறிந்தேன், அது துனி ஆகுதலே-
கழல்தொடி ஆஅய் மழை தவழ் பொதியில்
வேங்கையும் காந்தளும் நாறி,
ஆம்பல் மலரினும் தான் தண்ணியளே.
மகள்போக்கிய செவிலித்தாய் சொல்லியது. – மோசிகீரன்
Kurunthokai 84
Reacting to my embrace,
The girl
who had the coolness of ambal
and the fragrance of vengai and kanthal
from the cloud covered pothyil mountain of
Aay, who wore the curved warrior anklet,
said ‘ I am sweating’ ,
only now
I understand her displeasure.
Poet : Mocikiran
Translated by me.

The mother is trying to hug and keep her daughter close to her while she slept, which was probably her habit. But on previous night the daughter resists her and says that she was sweating. The mother leaves her alone. This made it easy for the girl to sneak out and elope with her lover.
Now we should understand the importance of the lines ” coolness of ambal and the fragrance of vengai and kanthal” for a casual reader this might just look like unwanted description and probably to embed some nature into the poem. But if you read carefully the two qualities talked about here are fragrance and coolness. When the girl says she is sweating the mother avoids hugging her. The two probable reasons would being so close to person to a person who is already sweating would increase the sweating and other being to avoid the bad odor of the sweating.
When the mother thinks about the previous night it strikes to her that her daughter’s was always cool like the water lily ambal (meaning she doesn’t sweat usually) and had the fragrance of flowers like vengai and kanthal. Now the mother feels so stupid to believe her daughters lie and understand why her daughter had such a displeasure when she tried to hug her. She understood that the girl had already decided to elope with her lover.
Her daughter was no more a kid who would prefer to embrace her mother instead she had become a young women who preferred her lovers embrace.
If you wondered why the name Aay is figuring in this poem, He was chieftain of area surrounding Potyil mountains and one of the seven great valals.  The poets were usually court poets and have patronage of the king. So it was tradition to include the name of the patron in the poems the poets write.
வேங்கை vēṅkai
East Indian kino tree, l. tr., Pterocarpus marsupium; நீண்ட மரவகை. சந்தனமும் வேங்கையும் வேமே (நாலடி, 180)
காந்தள் kāntaḷ
, n. prob. காந்து-. [M. kāntal.] 1. Malabar glory lily, red or white species, m. cl., Gloriosa superba;kāntaḷkāntaḷ, the flower sacred to Skanda; முருகக்கடவுளுக்குரிய காந்தளைச் சிறப்பித்துக் கூறும் புறத்து
காந்தள்- kaanthal
ஆம்பல் āmpal
, n. 1. [K. ābal, M. Tu. ām- bal.] Water-lily, nymphaea lotus; அல்லி.
பெயர்த்தனென் முயங்க, ‘யான் வியர்த்தனென்’ என்றனள்;
react- embrace,’ I (am) sweating’ she said;
இனி அறிந்தேன், அது துனி ஆகுதலே
now – understand, that- displeasure-  happened
warrior anklet- curve- Aay- cloud- float- Pothiyil
east kinko tree flower- malabar glory lily- fragrance
ஆம்பல் மலரினும் தான் தண்ணியளே.
water lilly- flower- who has- fragrance
Available resources on the poem:
The girl has the fragrance
of venkai and kantal flowers
from loose- braceletted Aay’s
cloud covered Potiyil hill;
and she herself is cool as a lily
After a time,
when I embraced her, again,
she complained she was sweating.
Now I under stand
her revulsion.
Shanmugam Pillay and David Ludden
The foster- mother on her discivery that her daughter has eloped the previous night
Last night after a bout of sleep
I found my girl had rolled away
and wishing to fold her in my embrace
I tried to move to where she lay.
But she said she perspired and seemed inclined
To stay away from the edge of the bed
I no knoe why my holding her
IN tight embrace was distasteful-
My little girl whose body smell
Is nicer far than the full blown blossom
of Vengai and kantal on the cloud-topped hill
Ruled by Ay- my girl whose touch
Is cooler far than the ambal bloom
I realise now why she waved away
My advanced to hold her tight.
A.V.Subramanian – Love lyrics long ago
The foster mother of a girl was so affectionate that she would always sleep with her hand clasped round her body. The girl had fallen in love with mountain chieftain, and their affection had grown into an overwhelming passion which would not brook any delay. Hence the lovers decide to elope and a night was duly fixed for the act. That night naturally kept the girl awake, but how could she escape, with the foster- mother sleeping in the same bed, locked with her close embrace? By means of signal previously arranged, the chieftain communicated to her the fact of his arrival in the backyard. The girl was in dire predicament. She decided to stake all her future happiness on a risky stratagem. She put her foster mother’s hand away very carefuly. But the foster mother was half awakened and she demanded sleepily,” Why do you roll away from me?” The girl replied soothingly, ” The night is sticky and I perpired profusely. That was why I moved away”. The girl waited to go to sleep again and getting up, she tiptoed out into the back yard. the next morning when the girl was missed and the fact of elopmenet was deduced, the foster mother admiringly recounted the incident of the previous night. ” She moved away because the night was sticky; and the fool that I was, I believed in her implicity.”
A.V.Subramanian – Sips from Sangam Cup
Please post your comments.

Save me from my love sickness – Narrinai 63

I came across this beautiful poem. When I was reading the commentary I understood the brilliant structure of this poem. So put in some effort to give the essence of the poem with a neat word to word translation.

63. நெய்தல்
உரவுக் கடல் உழந்த பெரு வலைப்பரதவர்
மிகு மீன் உணக்கிய புது மணல் ஆங்கண்,
கல்லென் சேரிப் புலவற் புன்னை
விழவு நாறு விளங்கு இணர் அவிழ்ந்து உடன் கமழும்
அழுங்கல் ஊரோ அறன் இன்று; அதனால்,
அறன் இல் அன்னை அருங் கடிப் படுப்ப,
பசலை ஆகி விளிவதுகொல்லோ-
புள் உற ஒசிந்த பூ மயங்கு அள்ளல்
கழிச் சுரம் நிவக்கும் இருஞ் சிறை இவுளி
திரை தரு புணரியின் கழூஉம்
மலி திரைச் சேர்ப்பனொடு அமைந்த நம் தொடர்பே?

அலர் அச்சத்தால்தோழி சிறைப்புறமாகச் செறிப்பு அறிவுறீஇயது.-உலோச்சனார்

What her girl friend said,
the lover within earshot,behind a fence

On the new sand
where fishermen,
their big nets
ripped apart by an angry sea,
dry their great hauls of fish
in a humming neighborhood
of meat smells,
a laurel tree blossoms
all at once in bright clusters
fragrant as a festival,
but this unfair town
is noisy with gossip.
And what with an unfair Mother too
keep strict watch over us,
will our love just perish here
in sallow patches,
this love for our man
of the seashore
where petals
loosened by the traffic of birds
mix with the mud of the backwaters,
where the big-maned chariot horses galloping there
are washed clean
by the waves of the sea?

Translated by A.K.Ramanujan


Thalaivan and Thalaivi have met each other , fallen in love. The have made secret night meetings(most probably made love). Then the girl is struck by love sickness. The mother of the girl notices it and keeps her in a house arrest(gossips are . This makes it difficult for the Thalaivan to meet Thalaivi.  Thalaivi here urges the Thalaivan who is hiding behind trees to be bold and come forward and marry her .

To understand the structure of the poem , I felt that it is necessary to understand the whole poem line by line. So I have broken my head for a week(surely an exaggeration) and given here a word by word translation

1.உரவுக் -கடல்- உழந்த- பெரு -வலைப்பரதவர்
In constant motion-sea-(caused)suffer-(to the)big-net-(using)parathavar(resident of mullai tract )

2.மிகு -மீன் -உணக்கிய -புது -மணல் -ஆங்கண்,
huge quantity(of) – fish-(being)dried-(in)new- sands – there(that place),

3.கல்லென் சேரிப் புலவற் புன்னை
sound of excitement-(in the)coastal village- (with) smell of fish -(where) punnai tree

4.விழவு நாறு விளங்கு இணர் அவிழ்ந்து உடன் கமழும்
(with)festival(like)-fragrance- renowned-cluster of flowers- opens(blossoms)- emits fragrance

5.அழுங்கல் ஊரோ அறன் இன்று; அதனால்,
loud noisy – village – (which is)virtue – no (virtue less);that’s why,

6.அறன் இல் அன்னை அருங் கடிப் படுப்ப,
virtue-less-mother(‘s)-(has set)fear(ful)-trap

7.பசலை ஆகி விளிவதுகொல்லோ
paleness(love sickness)-become-extinct-will it (would the love(of chieftain of the sea) get extinct in love sickness)

8.புள் உற ஒசிந்த பூ மயங்கு அள்ளல்
birds-with force(sit and)-bend (the branches)under weight-flower-(is)tossed-(into)mud(dy)

9.கழிச் சுரம் நிவக்கும் இருஞ் சிறை இவுளி
marsh/backwater-salt (salty backwater)-remain-(on)tight bond- horse (muddy marsh on horse  bound to the chariot)

10.திரை தரு புணரியின் கழூஉம்
waves-cause(by)-sea-cleanse(mud on the horse) by wash

11.மலி திரைச் சேர்ப்பனொடு அமைந்த நம் தொடர்பே?
abundance-sea-chieftain of the sea-happened-our -relationship(love).(should come as continuation of the line with paleness)

Now check the first line,

The sea which is in constant motion causes big suffering to the Parathavars who use big fishing nets.

Emotion of the line: Suffering

Now the second line,

Huge quantity of fishes dried in the new sands of their village

Emotion of the line : Happiness – though they suffered in the sea , their hard work is payed off with huge quantity of the catch they have brought home. A enduring a suffering has resulted in great pleasure.

Third line,

The village buzzing with excitement is filled with smell of the fish

Smell: Stinking fish smell

Fourth Line,

Festival like fragrance emitted by the blossomed clusters of the punnai flowers

Smell: Fragrance – The stinking smell of the fish is offset by the festival like fragrance of the punnai flowers.

Sultan Champa


Now lets jump to line 9,

The muddy backwater stays on the horse bound to the chariot

Appearance: Dirtiness – horse with mud all over it.

Line 10,

is washed  away by the waves caused by the sea

Appearance: Cleanliness. The mud in the body of the horse while walking in the muddy swarms is cleansed by the waves of the sea.

Now lets come to other part,

Line 5,

The virtue less village is noisy with gossips.

cause: Gossips about the girl in the village.

Line 6,

The unfair mother keeping her in strict watch(fearful trap)

Effect: Girl being house arrested.

Now the finishing effect:

Line 7,

will the love with the chieftain die with the paleness of her body

Explanation: due to love sickness the women’s skin has become pale. Like the skin getting lighter day by day would her love also gets faded every day?

Line 8,

The birds by their force bend the branch and make the flowers fall down in the muddy backwaters

Explanation: Compare this to line 5 and 6. The villagers (birds) by their gossips(force) make mother house arrest the girl(bend the branch) and make the girl fall into love sickness(flowers falling down into the muddy back waters)

Now let me  assemble different parts of the puzzle in the right place:

The suffering of fishermen are eased by their catch(huge quantity of fish).

The stinking smell of the fishes are nullified by the fragrance of the punnai flowers.

The dirtiness of the horse washed clean by the waves of the sea.

All these three lines suggest that any suffering can be eased out by certain other actions.

So comes the last line,

Love with the Chieftain of the land abundant with sea shores.

So if the Chieftain becomes bold enough (to ask for marriage to her parents or to elope) and raise like a wave of the sea he could wash away the,

flowers from the muddy backwater(i.e put end to all gossips in the village)

and hence

the paleness(love sickness) of his lover.

By uttering this poem she urges the Thalaivan to come and meet her or to take a bold step in consideration with their future.

This poem has beautiful structure which flows naturally and at the same time conveying the inner tension and emotion without any hindrance. I hope by this step by step approach I have able to clearly make you readers understand the importance of each line in the beautifully structured poem.



Literary conventions of akam poetry by Kamil Zvelebil

Narrinai commentary by Narayanaswami iyer

Poems on Love and war – A.K.Ramanujan

Tamil Lexicon



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