Image 01

Archive for the ‘Tamil’ Category

Sattimurram Pulavar’s poem

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Stork! Stork! Red-legged stork!

Red-legged stork with the coral beak that tapers

Like the cleft root of the fruitful palmyrah tree!

When you and your wife have bathed at the southern cape,

If you should return to the North,

Stop at the home of Sattimurram at our village,

And tell my wife, who must be intently watching 

The clicking lizard on the rain-wet wall,

That in the city of our king Maran,

without a garment, and shivering from the cold,

Covering my body with my hands,

Embracing my bosom with my legs,

And sighing like a snake within a case,

Me, you have seen here. 

 

Source: A history of Tamil literature, section 10, The people's poets, page 229. Translation by authors C Jesudasan and Hephzibah Jesudasan. About this poem and poet, the authors write: 

For the Tamils cherish the memory, not of these (sittar poets), as much as of those isolated wandering bards, who with simplicity and sincerity have touched on some of the tenderest chords of life. Many of these poets could not have even been recognized by the Sanskrit standards and several were downright beggars. Avvai had said 'When hunger comes, everything else takes wing'. Hunger had come to the people, yet poetry had not abandoned them. 

A humble poet, called Sattimurra-p-pulavar, has left a very beautiful poem supposed to be addressed by a wandering bard to a stork. It not only shows the sorrows of the Tamil bard at the time, but it is exquisite poetry, with the delicate aroma of Sangam literature on it, and as a sheer picture of poverty excelled only by Perumcittirnar's words to Kumanan. Though we cannot translate the diction, we shall render into English the idea of this poem, which is found today in most anthologies of miscellaneous Tamil verses. 

Siva-vakkiyar’s Padal

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

48

 

Why, honey is the bee's saliva;

the beetle's saliva is on the flower,

the cow's milk itself is mixed with the saliva of the calf!

why should there be so much fuss over it? 

 

36

 

 Milk does not return to the udder, nor butter to the butter-milk;

Nor the life within the sea-shell, if it breaks, to its body;

The blown flower, the fallen fruit, do not return to the tree;

The dead are not born, never, never, never, never! 

 

Sivavakkaiyar, known to laugh at those who bathe for cleanliness' sake and yet are unclean at heart, comments on pollution associated with human saliva. It is considered terribly unclean and forms a core ritual avoidance in brahmanism. Sivavakkiyar refuses to consider saliva unclean in itself in the above excerpt (48) from one of his padal (songs). In the next padal (36), Sivavakkiyar refutes another central tenet of brahmanism, the theory of transmigration. 

Source: A history of Tamil literature. C Jesudasan and Hephzibah Jesudasan.

Read Sivavakkiyar's anti-caste poem here

Sivavakkiyar the Siddha poet, belonged to the cult of Tamil Siddhas which dates back to the 8th century. The Siddha teachings are often excluded and made obscure as heresy. These poet saints were radicals.

Because Siddhas scoff at the Vedic sacrifices and rituals and all forms of worship of icons they were considered to be iconoclasts. They are constantly at war with the upholders of the caste system and violently oppose the practice of untouchability. A tamil Siddha scoffs at untouchability by raising a pertinent question whether the bones, flesh and skin of an upper caste woman (brahman) and a lower caste woman (paraiya) are distinguishable on the basis of caste. He asks: are they numbered on the basis of caste? 

The above reference is attributed to Sivavakkiyar. His heretical approach of opposing any kind of orthodoxy particularly that of the brahmanical order, caste system and idol worship, ensured the exclusion of his work from the Saiva canonical literature. Some of his poems though have survived. 

Source: a) Hindu Spirituality: Postclassical and modern. K.R. Sundarajan, Bithika Mukerji. b) The poets of the powers. Kamil Zvelebil.

An excerpt from Karukku

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Bama 

Nowadays, now that I have left the order, I am angry when I see priests and nuns. Until I actually entered the convent, I truly did not understand their approach nor any of their procedures. It was only after my sojourn with them that I understood the lack of humanity in their piety. They speak in an empty way of devotion, renunciation, the Holy Spirit, God's vocation, poverty, chastity and obedience; they lead lives which remind me only of Pharisees, Sadducees and High Priests who appear in the Bible. If Jesus were to appear today he would question them much more sharply and severely than he did before. And even if he were to do so, I am not sure whether they will understand. 

When I look at the Church today, it seems to be a Church made up of the priests and nuns and their kith and kin. And when you consider who they are, it is clear that they are all from upper castes. They are the ones who are in the positions of power. Yet when you consider the Christian people as a whole, most of them are lowly people, and Dalits. These few assume power, control the dispossessed and the poor by thrusting a blind belief and devotion upon them by turning them into slaves in the name of God, while they themselves live in comfort. […..]

What kind of piety can this be? They make themselves into gods so that they can exploit others. So where has God gone? The so-called gods walking about here are the priests and nuns and their relations; no other.

How long will they deceive us, as if we are innocent children, with their Pusai and their Holy Communion, their rosary and their novena? Children, growing up, will no longer listen to everything they are told, open mouthed, nodding their heads. Dalits have begun to realize the truth. [….]

Dalits have learnt that these others have never respected them as human beings, but bent the religion to their benefit, to maintain their own falsehoods. But Dalits have also understood that God is not like this, has not spoken like this. They have become aware that they too were created in the likeness of God. There is a new strength within them, urging them to reclaim that likeness which has been so far repressed, ruined, obliterated; and to begin to live again with honour, self-respect and with love towards all humankind. To my mind, this alone is true devotion. 

 

—-

Source: Karukku. Translated from the Tamil original by Lakshmi Holmstrom. Karukku is the autobiography of the Tamil writer, Bama.

Brotherhood of Man By Kapila

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Do wind and rain avoid

Some men among the rest

Because their caste is low?

When such men tread the earth

Does it quake with rage ?

Or does the brilliant sun

Refuse them its rays? 

 

Oh Brahmana, has our God

E'er bid the teeming fields

Bring forth fruits and flowers

For men of caste alone?

Or made the forest green

To gratify the eyes of

None but the Pariahs? 

 

Oh Brahmans, listen to me

In all this blessed land

There is but one great caste,

One tribe and brotherhood

One God doth dwell above,

And he hath made us one

In birth and frame and tongue. 

 

Kapila was a poet of the Sangam age; one of his compositions, the Kapilar Agaval, has remained popular among the Tamils since ancient times. Sangam poetry is a Dravidian, pre-Christian literary tradition of Southern India that carries no influence of Sanskrit. 

Source: Folk Songs of Southern India, Charles Grover.

Aadu Pambe

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

 

We'll set fire to the divisions of caste,

we'll debate philosophical questions in the market place,

we'll have dealings with despised households.

We'll go around in different paths –

Aadu pambe! aadu!

 

This verse is from a six hundred-line long Siddha poem, by Pambatti Cittar. 

The Tamil Siddha poems are a “grand remonstrance against almost everything that was held sacred” in their time. The Siddhas were “implacable opponents of the caste system and the gradations of orthodoxy and respectability it gave rise to”. The period of Siddha poetry stretches from 6th century onwards, with the major contribution peaking between 14 and 18th century. Pambatti Cittar's poetry has a characteristic refrain aadu pambe! aadu! (dance, snake! dance!), the snake as a metaphor for the soul seeking liberation.

 

Source: K, Kailaspathy in The Writings of the Tamil Siddhars. An essay in the book, The Saints, and from Dance, snake! dance!, a translation with comments of the song of Pampatti-Cittar by David C. Buck.

Goddess of Kollangottu

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

For the family
to gain religious merit
in the next life,
they fed the poor full of rice.
Then, when the girl from Kollathi
began to wash the dishes
in the back lot,
she was forced into intercourse.
After feeding on her
the Brahmin promised to come
in his next life, too.
She killed herself and
now comes
as the goddess of Kollangottu,
screaming for human sacrifice.
Lusting after women and gold,
he married the dancer with lies of love
then stoned her to death
amid the thorns
of the cactus fields.
You are my witnesses, she cried
to the cacti as she died.
The dark-blue goddess of the cactus fields
demands blood-filled rice,
transmogrifies into the midnight
goddess Isaki. 

 

Anushiya Sivanarayanan's translation of the poem by the Tamil Dalit poet N. D. Rajkumar (the poem does not carry a title in her essay: Translating Tamil Dalit Poetry). 

She writes of her interview with the poet:

 

Dalit women, who have all died violently, have been made into deities. "Our gods are jungle gods," Rajkumar argues.

   Their stories and even their statues are now being tamed to
   make them fit mainstream Hinduism, especially now, with
   the Hindutva movement aggressively taking over our local
   temples. These men find the statues of our gods too wild, in
   some elemental fashion, as if their very mode of address
   goes against the patriarchal bent of the Hindu scriptures. So
   our goddess statues, with their Kali-like, dark-stone images
   have been covered in sandalwood paste--as if by turning
   the black stone into yellow, the narratives could also be
   changed. The Hindu fundamentalists went so far as to even
   break off the tusklike teeth of one of the mother goddesses.
   There is nothing gentle or passive about our gods. Make no
   mistake, they are all ghosts.

Melt with the heart inside

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

In the Four Eternal Vedas,

In the study and reading of scripts,

In sacred ashes and in Holy Writs

And muttering of prayers

You will not find the Lord!

Melt with the Heart Inside

and proclaim the Truth.

Then you will join the Light-

Life without servitude.

 

By Sivavakkiyar

 

Sivavakkiyar the Siddha poet, belonged to the cult of Tamil Siddhas which dates back to the 8th century. The Siddha teachings are often excluded and made obscure as heresy. These poet saints were radicals.

Because Siddhas scoff at the Vedic sacrifices and rituals and all forms of worship of icons they were considered to be iconoclasts. They are constantly at war with the upholders of the caste system and violently oppose the practice of untouchability. A tamil Siddha scoffs at untouchability by raising a pertinent question whether the bones, flesh and skin of an upper caste woman (brahman) and a lower caste woman (paraiya) are distinguishable on the basis of caste. He asks: are they numbered on the basis of caste? 

The above reference is attributed to Sivavakkiyar. His heretical approach to opposing any kind of orthodoxy particularly that of the brahmanical order, caste system and idol worship, ensured the exclusion of his work from the Saiva canonical literature. Some of his poems though have survived. 

Source: a) Hindu Spirituality: Postclassical and modern. K.R. Sundarajan, Bithika Mukerji. b) The poets of the powers. Kamil Zvelebil.

Welcome The Shared Mirror

Log in

Lost your password?