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periya tirumozhi (9:4) ~~ "puLLANi emperumAn"
Date: Sat Jul 01 2000 - 12:26:19 PDT

Subject: Re: Periya Thirumozhi 9.4- "PullaaNi Emperumaan..."
Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 12:25:39 GMT
From: "Madhavakkannan V" <>

Sri Madhavakkannan's intention to disseminate periya-tiru-mozhi (p.t.)
is highly commendable.   tiru-mangai-AzhvAr 'aruLi-c-cheyal'
offers the most pleasurable experience in life to think of, given that 
'kaliyan' is a sensuous poet and his diction the classical precedent 
for the great kamban.  

Translation is a creative exercise of literary devotion, but always 
remains a hazard which doubles when the beneficiary is outside of 
the linguistic family of the source language. In this case, p.t. is being
offered in English.  Add to this that the basic work is scripture, 
the spirit mystical and the language sensuous drawing upon a 
staggering tropical flora and fauna of the poet's actual geographical-
and unencompassable mental landscape.   

Some specifics, some cautions ?

The classical 'vyAkhyAnam' of periya-vAcchAn-piLLai and the 
'divyArtha-deepikai' commentary of kAnchi PB aNNangarAchArya
svAmi on p.t. highly commended for personal enjoyment of this great 
book of the 'aruLi-c-cheyal' scripture, but these should be the 
required reading for one who sets out to expound it.  As for rendering 
the scripture into the language of Shakespeare and Milton, one is awed 
even to retrospect an inventory of required reading in that language.
This would give an idea of the language training and intellectual
nourishment one should have had in approaching anything so precious 
as p.t. , and to render p.t. in the English  language.    

Having proposed what tools to acquire in order to discover and
disseminate and translate p.t., and risking the blame of pedantry, 
I concede there is a need

(1) yes, to emote on the sensuousness of the poetry;
(2) yes, too, to reach it to the non-Tamil students (which should 
     also stand for persons of Tamil SrivaishNava birth but raised
     in other language climes);   and
(3) oh yes, and most certainly, to put it all in popular language.

Only, let emotions steer clear of mushiness and the awfully
touchy-feeley treacle of, say, the eminently popular swamiji-cola
promoters of the Tamil weekly of Kilpauk suburb of Chennai
that was Madras.   (Any reader is free to opt out of my own
instant cocktail of mixed metaphors here.)

Well, what do have we here ?  
"pAvAi, idu namak-k-Or pAnmAi-yE AkAdE!" 
(="This, dear, would do no good to us !"), 
has been rendered as:
"paavaay! idhu namakkOr paanmaiyE agaadhE!- Oh my dear friend! 
This husky voice of these cute birds (anRil) residing in this dense garden, 
torments me more than that of the sharp spear on the wounds, that has 
already been caused by manmathan's arrow."    
Also, it is in vain one searches the original on the unwarranted charge, 
"wounds, that has already been caused by manmathan's arrow."
And, time to profit by bhakti-list roman spelling of Tamil / Sanskrit
words.   "agaadhE !" (= down the bottomless) "AkAdE !" (= won't do). 

In verse 2, "mAl-Aki-p-pon-payandEn!" (="His spell, this pallor of mine!") 
is offered in  maudlin and berserk sensationalism, 
"simply flabbergasted and haunted by His such wonderful acts. He has 
driven me completely crazee. I am suffering from "pasalai" disease (the 
pangs of separation)."   
This to be read with what there is on verse 5,
"Okay. I will now listen to you."    
Even with the combined and desirable objectives of popularising p.t. 
among non-Tamils, this hurts, driving one crazy over "crazee" which is not 
"Okay" at all.   The best of intentions cannot sacrifice scriptural dignity 
and lyrical elegance at any time.  Can someone please appeal against slang 
usage 'on' our scripture, and banish slang to the dear TV sit-coms where
it belongs?

[[ **The tiru-p-pullANi decad (9:4) is a remarkable shovel-ful from 
kaliyan's gem-pit.  For those who like to have basic information about the 
'divya-dESam', tiru-p-pullANi, it is about 60 km to the west of 
Rameshwaram at the southern tip (kOTi-k-karai) of India, identified as
the spot where Sri-rAma raised the bridge across the sea to Sri Lanka.  
The temple is quite sprawling in extent.   The presiding deity is 
Adi-jagan-nAtha-p-perumAL flanked by Sri-dEvi and bhU-dEvi.   
The perumAL is manifest in the same seated posture as kooDal-azhakar 
in Madurai, deiva-nAyakan in vAna-mA-malai, vaikunTha-nAthan in 
Kanchipuram etc.

[[**There are two other perumaL sub-shrines here  ~~ Sri-rAma
with his bow kOdanDam, and ananta-SAyee (the couch being wrongly 
described as rush-mattress, darbha-Sayanam,  merely to link it with the 
word  pul-aNai).   The name given in the present p.t. decad, namely, 
deiva-c-chilaiyAr is assigned to Adi-jagan-nAtha but, speaking for
myself, it seems more appropriate to Sri-rAma here.   Incidentally, 
deiva-c-chilaiyAr was the name of a celebrated later-day commentator 
on the Tamil grammar classic tol-kAppiam.]]

The above two-para insert leads us to Verse 3 which is a plea to report 
the sweet-heart's ailment to "MOST CHARMING Emperumaan 
who has the Divine Bow in his resplendent Hand".  This rush of 
epithets is rather a rash  charge on the beautiful name "deiva-c-chilaiyAr" 
(= sudhanvA, the one with the divine bow), a name which is kaliyan's 
offering to the Lord, as ' vAna-mA-malai ' is of nam-m-AzhvAr and 
'SrinivAsa' of rAmAnuja to tiru-vEnkaTam-uDaiyAn.

'deiva-c-chilaiyAr' is, accordingly, a proper noun (' rooDhee-nAmam ')
in the 'sampradAyam', like nArAyaNa.   The name should be retained 
as such in a translation, even though the etymology and / or meaning of 
a proper name may be given in a note.   

Anyone who has run and read the sikh scripture, Adi-granth-sAhib,
(also known as hari-mandir-sAhib) would know that sikh-ism is a 
vaishNav religion.   This sacred book has been translated faithfully 
into English by Metcaulfe, but a recent (1960's ?) and much-publicised 
'English' translation by Gopal Singh uses the word 'God' all the way 
through the exciting spectrum of names (like hari, rAm, gOvind, 
nArAyaN, vAs-dEv, purakh (= purush), Sripati, padmA-pati, 
kEsO, mAdhO etc) which occur every now and then as one reads this
scripture.   The substitution of ' God ' is not only bland and wrong by
scripture-translation etiquette, but effectively suppresses the vaishNava
character of the religion itself.   We have before us the splendid example 
of the English translation of the Bible (A.V.) which retains the Hebraic 
and Aramaic and Greek names as such.    

I reiterate my respect for  Sri Madhavakkannan's desire to propagate
periya-tirumozhi scripture, and these remarks are offered only as a plea 
for care in any exercise of writing on or translating scripture.

~~ aDiyEn rAmAnuja-dAsan, tirumanjanam Sundara Rajan.

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