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THE HINDU articles on Thiruppaavai (part 2 of 4)

From: Venkatesh Elayavalli/DCOM (
Date: Thu Jan 11 1996 - 12:42:39 PST


Tiruppaavai-songs of devotional ecstasy

Date: 17-12-1995 :: Pg: 38 :: Col: a

Cl: Religion

        The  Paavai Nonbu (the rites performed by  young  maidens
during the month of Maargazhi, corresponding to December-January)
is  a unique cultural tradition in Tamil Nadu, going back to  the
ninth century. The personal aspiration of young maidens to secure
worthy  spouses was very much behind the  religious  austerities.
Even  more  important  in the rituals was  the  pragmatic  social
concern  for  timely  onset of rains and for  good  harvests  and
plentiful supply of milk.

        AndaalUs  devotional  outpourings in the form  of  thirty
hymns,   collectively  called  Tiruppaavai  are   an   incredible
synthesis of literary brilliance, lyrical elegance, philosophical
intuition and anecdotal richness.

        Hymns  7-12 which are covered in this part are  evocative
of  idyllic  pastoral scenes of rare charm.  Birds  shrieking  at
dawn, women doing the morning chore of churning curds,  buffaloes
in their leisurely moves towards the dew-covered meadows and  the
front  passages of houses filled with slush and slime with  young
buffaloes  rushing to feed their calves P all these  are  vividly
brought  to  mind through phrases which are the very  grammar  of
compressed verse.

        Girls calling their friends to awake from their sleep and
join  the  procession to the river for the Paavai  Nonbu,  use  a
variety   of  verbal  tactics.  Friendly  persuasion,   cajoling,
admonition,  sarcasm  and  remonstration are all  part  of  their


        Keechu keechu enru engum aanaichaathan kalandhu
        Pesina Pecharavam kettilayo peyppennay!
        Kaasum pirappum kalakalappa-k-kai perthu
        Vaasanarumkuzhal aaichiar maththinaal
        Osaipadutha thayir aravam kettilayo?
        Nayaka-p-penn pillai! Naarayanan moorthy
        Kesavanai-p-paadavum nee kette kidaththiyo!
        Thesamudayai! Thiravel or empaavai!

        You, deluded girl! Don't you hear the screeching  chatter
of  the  king-crows? And the sound of the cowherd  women  wearing
fragrant flowers in their locks of hair churning the curd in  the
urns,  using  both their hands, with their  bracelets  and  other
ornaments  clashing  against  one  another  and  producing   that
jingling  sound?  Oh,  prominent  damsel! How  can  you  keep  on
sleeping  even  after  you have heard our  singing  of  our  Lord
Naarayana  (who is also called Kesava for having slain the  demon
Kesi  in  his incarnation as Sri Krishna)? Dear girl  of  radiant  p73
presence! Come on, open the door!


        Keezh vaanam vellendru! erumai siru veedu
        Meyvaan paranthana kaan! mikkulla pillaikalum
        Poovan pokinraarai-p-pokaamal kaathu unnai-k
        Koovuvaan vandhu ninrom! kothu kalamudaya
        Paavaai! ezhunthiraai! paadi-p-parai kondu
        Maavai-p-pilanthaanai, mallarai maatiya
        Devaathi dhevanai chenrunaam sevithal
        Aa Aaa enru aaraindhu arul-el-or empaavaai.

        Wake  up, you vivacious young girl! The Eastern  sky  has
already  brightened. The buffaloes have already set out  to  feed
themselves  on the dewy grass. We have even kept the other  girls
from  moving  ahead,  for  your sake and here  we  are,  at  your
doorstep.  Come, let us march singing the praise of our  Lord  of
Lords who killed the demon Kesi who came in the guise of a  horse
by cleaving his mouth and who slew the wrestlers sent by  Kamsaa.
Our   Lord  will  surely  bestow  His  grace  on  us  after   due
consideration for our devotion.


        Thoomani maadathu sutrum vilakkeriya
        Dhoopam kamazha thuyil anai mel kann balarum
        Maamaan magale! mani-k-kadavam thaalthiravaai!
        Maameer! Avalai ezhuppeero! Un magal thaan
        Oomayo? anri-ch-chevido? ananthalo?
        Ema-p-perum thuyil manthira-p-pattalo?
        Maa maayan, Maadhavan, Vaikuntan, enrenru
        Naamam palavum navinru el or empaavaai.

        Dear maternal cousin! How long are you going to be asleep
on  your luxurious bed in the gem-studded mansion, surrounded  by
lights  all around and bathed in the fragrance of  incense?  Open
the  lever lock of that ornamental door (After a pause).   Aunty!
Won't  you  wake her up, please? What is wrong with her?  Is  she
gone  dumb  or deaf or is she just exhausted? Or has  she  fallen
into a deep trance as a result of some magical incantation? Shall
we chant the thousand and odd names of our Lord-God of the  great
mystic power, the spouse of Goddess Mahalakshmi, the supreme Lord
of Vaikunda and so on and on and get her to wake up?


        Notru Suvargam pugugima ammanai!
        Maatramum thaaraaro vaasal thiravaadaar
        Naatrathuzhaai mudi Naraayanan; nammaal
        Potra-p-parai tharum punniyanaal pandorunaal
        Kootrathin Vaai veezhnda Kumbakarananum
        Thotrum unakke perum thuyilthan thandehaano
        Aatra ananthal udayaai! arumkalame
        Thetramaai vandhu thira el or empaavai p73

        Oh dear! You? Striving to enter heaven through practising
austerities?  If  you  can't open the door, can't  you  at  least
respond to our call? Have you, by any chance, taken on the  habit
of  Kumbakarna, of virtually interminable slumber, the  Raakshasa
who  was felled by Naarayanaa (in the incarnation of  Sri  Rama),
our Lord, the protector and the benefactor of all living  beings,
who is bedecked with fragrant tulasi leaves on His head? Come on,
our  precious gem! Shake off your inertia and come with  a  clear
head! Do open the door!


        Katru-k-karavai kanangal pala karandhu
        Setrar thiral azhiya-ch-chenru seru-ch-cheyyum
        Kutram onrilladha kovalar tham porkodiye!
        Putraravu algul punamayile! podharaai!
        Sutrathu thozhimaar ellarum vandu nin
        Mutram pugundhu mugil vannan perpaada
        Sitraadhe pesaade selva-p-pendaatti nee
        Etrukku urangum porul? el or empaavai.

        Oh, beautiful damsel, the pride of the guileless  cowherd
community!  Our  menfolk are justly famed for  their  energy  for
milking ever so many milch cows at a stretch and for their valour
in going all out to destroy powerful foes. You, charming peacock-
like darling with your waist resembling the hood of the snake! Is
it  proper for you to lie motionless and without response  to  so
many  of us, your relations and friends who have gathered in  the
court-yard  of  your house, when we sing the praise of  our  Lord
Naaraayana in chorus?


        Kanaithu ilam katrerumai kanrukku irangi
        Ninaithu mulai vazhiye ninru paal sora
        Nanaithu illam seraakkum narchelvan thangaai!
        Paniththalai veezha nin vaasal kadai-patri
        Sinathinaal then Ilangai-k-komaanai-ch-chetra
        Manaththukkiniyaanai paadavum nee vaaithiravaai!
        Iniththaan ezhundiraai, eethenna perurakkam!
        Anaithu illaththaarum arindhu el or empaavaai.

        Oh, younger sister of the prosperous cowherd! The mansion
is  filled  with mud and slush with the buffaloes  pouring  forth
milk  from  their udder in their yearning to suckle  their  young
calves. Here we are at your threshold unmindful of dew falling on
our  head,  singing  the glory of our beloved  Lord  (Rama),  who
destroyed, out of righteous indignation the King of Lanka, in the
South.  What about you? Not a word in response to our  call!  All
the residents are awake and about. What is all this deep slumber?
At least now, get up and get going!

        In  the first part of the series on TIRUPPAVAI which  was
published  on  December 10, the transliteration of  Hymn  3,  was
inadvertently  left  incomplete. The last line  "Neengada  selvam
niraindu  el  or  empaavai"  was left out.  In  Hymn  2,  in  the
transliteration,  it should have read Rmalar ittu  naam  mudiyomS
and  not as published. In the English translation of Hymn 4,  the
reference  is  to  the  conch  called  Panchajanya  and  not   as
published.  The  transliteration of the hymn 4 should  have  read
"ninru  adhirndu" in the fifth line. The word "empaavai"  at  the
end was omitted by mistake.


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