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medley of madals

From: Vasudha Narayanan (
Date: Thu Mar 28 1996 - 05:50:36 PST

I have really enjoyed the conversations and have learned so much from them.
I would only like to add that there is a marvellous example of maDal in
KuruntOkai 17 -- the following is a translation by A.K. Ramanujan:

When love is ripe beyond bearing
and goes to seed,
men will ride even palmyra stems 
like horses; will wear on their heads the reeking cones of the erukkam bud
like flowers; will draw to themslves
the gossip of the streets;

and will do worse.

There are some beautiful verses on madal in Tiruvaymoli (5.3.9 and 5.3.10).
A very loose (partial) translation follows:

Overwhelming my modesty, my chastity,
stealing my heart,
the Lord of the divine ones is in the high heavens.
My friend, this I swear:
I shall shock all earth,
I shall do weird (kONaikaL) deeds,
and ride the palmyra stem [like a horse].
With no sense of shame, I shall ride
that palmyra stem through every street in town
And I shall get from my Lord,
        who holds the discus in his splendid hand,
a cool blossom from the tuzhai plant
and adorn myself with it....

The alvars do recognize that while it is not gender-correct (according to
traditional Tamil culture) for them to adopt a madal and be vociferous about
their divine passion for Visnu, there are other examples of women from
northern India who were very articulate in expressing their love.  These
women -- Vasavadatta, Sita, Vegaathi, Usha and Uma-- become the role models
for the alvar (Periya Tirumadal, lines 39-70 something?).  It is my
understanding that the madal was an extreme step and generally even
threatening it brought about results-- the town people would prevail upon
the girl's family to allow the marriage to take place.  
Thanking you once again for your discussions, 
Vasudha Narayanan