Monday, May 16, 2011

Austere Avvaiyar - Part 5

Avvaiyar is known for her simplicity, but at times, there were situations where some poets, especially Kambar, confronted her and consequently tried provoking her. Even in such situations, Avvaiyar maintained her stance of simplicity, composure and righteousness. However her responses would be so sharp that the truth in them would make the opponents to put their heads down in shame or in acceptance of defeat.

One such situation was with Kambar. Kambar gained prominence and was a hailed for his great work Kamba Ramayanam. The King was praising Kambar more and seemed to neglect other poets who have equally contributed to literature. As a result, Kambar‘s pride knew no bounds, and he too neglected and treated other poets with disrespect. Even his attire was pompous and prideful. Seeing this, Avvaiyar sang the following

விரகர் இருவர் புகழ்ந்திட வேண்டும்
விரல்நிறைய மோதிரங்கள் வேண்டும் அரையதனில்
பஞ்சேனும் பட்டேனும் வேண்டும் அவர்கவிதை
நஞ்சேனும் வேம்பேனும் நன்று

Viragar Iruvar Pugazhdhida Vendum
Viral Niraya Modhirangal Vendum Araiyadhanil
Panjenum Pattenum Vendum Avarkavidhai
Nanjenum Vembenum Nandru

meaning, A poet has to have at least two cunning people beside him to praise him often; Rings in his fingers, dress that is made of silk or cotton. For such a pompous, gawdy poet, his poetry, even if rubbish or bitter in meaning, will be praised.

Viragar - Person cunning, shrewd or smart
Pugazh - Praise
Viral - Fingers
Niraya - Full
Modhiram - Ring
Arai Adhanil - Lower half of the body
Panju - Cotton
Pattu - Silk
Kavidhai - Poetry
Nanju - Poison
Vembu - Refers to the Neem tree which indicates bitterness
Nandru - Better

What Avvaiyar conveyed in her song was that even if a poet has achieved prominence out of his work, a poet has to have humility. Had not the message been so strong, it would not have reached.

On seeing Avvaiyar being provoked at Kambar’s actions, the King intervened to prevent things from going worse and also he has a very great respect for Kambar, hence he came to talk in favour of Kambar. The King said that Kambar is a great poet who has written an epic in Tamil literature which no other poet has done. There came the response from Avvaiyar, which was even more embarassing for Kambar

வான்குருவி யின்கூடு வல்லரக்குத் தொல்கறையான்
தேன்சிலம்பி யாவருக்குஞ் செய்யரிதால் யாம்பெரிதும்
வல்லோமே என்று வலிமைசொல வேண்டாங்காண்
எல்லார்க்கும் ஒவ்வொன் றெளிது

Vaankuruviyin Koodu Vallarakku Tholkaraiyaan
Thaen Silambi Yaavarukkum Seiyaridhaal Yaam Peridhum
Vallome Endru Valimai Solla Vendam Kaan
Ellaarkkum Ovondru Elidhu

meaning, building a complex and delicate nest like the weaver bird, a strong mound like the termite, gathering honey, the intricate spider web is not easily to be built by all. Likewise, never boast yourself by the works you have done. Because, each one has a task that he can do easily. Additionally, one can never claim superiority over the others by doing a task that is easy for them but difficult or impossible for the others. Like a weaver bird can build its intricate nest but cannot build a termite mound, hence cannot claim superiority by the task one does.

Vaankuruvi - The weaver bird in this context
Vallarakku - Termite mound
Karaiyaan - Termite
Thaen - Honey
Silambi - Spider web
Yaavarkkum - for everyone
Seiyaridhu - Rare/difficult to be done
Yaam - reflexive pronoun
Peridhum - Refers to enormous amount
Vallom - Able
Valimai - Strength, Power
Solla - Tell
Vendaam - Negation of an action
Ellarkkum - for everyone
Ovondru Elidhu - Somethings are easy

Still trying to save Kambar’s face in front of the other poets and people in his court, the King said that Kambar was a poet by birth. Without missing a beat, there came the following song from Avvaiyar

சித்திரமும் கைப்பழக்கம் செந்தமிழும் நாப்பழக்கம்
வைத்ததொரு கல்வி மனப்பழக்கம் நித்தம்
நடையும் நடைப்பழக்கம் நட்பும் தயையும்
கொடையும் பிறவிக் குணம்

Chithiramum Kai Pazhakkam Senthamizhum Naapazhakkam
Vaithadhor Kalviyum Manappazhakkam Niththam
Nadaiyum Nadaipazhakkam Natpum Dhayaiyum
Kodaiyum Piravi Gunam

meaning, The finest art is the practice of the hand; The eloquence in Tamil literature is the practice of the tongue; The greatness of knowledge is the practice of the mind; The nobility of behaviour is by the practice of being nobly behaved. The ones that come by birth are - friendly attitude, mercy and benevolence.

Chithiram - Art, Painting
Kai - Hand
Pazhakkam - Practice
Senthamizh - Classical Tamil
Naa - Tongue
Kalvi - Knowledge
Manam - mind
Nadai - Behaviour
Natpu - Friendship
Dhayai - Mercy
Kodai - Benevolence
Piravi - Birth
Gunam - Character

With this song, Avvaiyar remarked that except friendly attitude, mercy and benevolence, all other things are acquired by practice and even Kambar’s poetic skills are by practice and not by birth. This put Kambar in a very bad situation of being humiliated in front of the others.

The King could not tolerate Kambar being humiliated like this, but he cannot deny the truth attached to Avvaiyar’s song and Kambar’s behaviour at that instance. However, he did not want Kambar to feel bad about that and hence told that there is no one to win Kambar in his poetic eloquence. As usual, came a song from Avvaiyar

காணாமல் வேணதெல்லாம் கத்தலாம் கற்றோர்முன்
கோணாமல் வாய்திறக்கக் கூடாதே நாணாமல்
பேச்சுப்பேச் சென்னும் பெரும்பூனை வந்தக்கால்
கீச்சுக்கீச் சென்னும் கிளி

Kaanamal Venadhellam Kathalaam Katrormun
Konaamal Vaai Thirakka Koodathae Naanamal
Pechu Pechu Yenum Perumpoonai Vandhakkal
Keechu Keechu Yenum Kili

meaning, the people train the parrot to speak words. Once it has learnt to speak a few works, it will talk and gabble continuously. But when a cat enters the room, it will forget about speaking and start screeching. Likewise, once we learn or achieve something, we can talk about it among close circles. But when among learned people, they have to maintain the humility and keep quiet. Otherwise, they would be put to a situation like the parrot seeing a cat. The same was the situation for Kambar, unnecessary talk and pride had led him to a position that he had to be ashamed and keep quiet.

Kaanaamal - Without the presence or being seen
Venadhellam - Whatever wished
Kaththalaam - Shout
Katror - Learned
Mun - in front of
Konaamal Vaai Thirakka koodathae - Should never open the mouth
Pechu - Speech
Perum Poonai - Big cat
Vandhakkal - Arrive
Keechu - Screeching of a parrot
Kili - Parrot

In another instance, Kambar met Avvaiyar and remembering his past bitter experiences, wanted to humiliate Avvaiyar. So, pretending to ask a riddle he humiliated her by using the word ‘dee’ in his question. In Tamil, suffixing or using ‘dee’ when speaking to women is considered derogatory, humiliating and treat the women with utter disrepect. Likewise using ‘daa’ for men is derogatory.

So, Kambar asked the following riddle, where he indirectly referred to the “Aarai” plant and at the same time, humiliating Avvaiyar calling ‘dee’

ஒரு காலடீ நாலிலைப் பந்தலடீ

Oru kaaladi Naalilai Pandhaladi

meaning, What has one foot and four roofs. He referred to the “Aarai” keerai that grows in mud and near ponds. The vallarai keerai is a relative of this. He had used the word “dee” as a pun to also mean the foot and the thing underneath a roof or a tent

Avvaiyar knew Kambar’s intentions, grew angry and blasted him off with the answer at the last in the same style of pun. Kambar was paid back through the same coin.

எட்டேகால் லட்சணமே எமனே றும்பரியே
மட்டில் பெரியம்மை வாகனமே முட்டமேற்
கூரையில்லா வீடே குலராமன் தூதுவனே
ஆரையடா சொன்னா யடா?

Ettaekaal Latchanamae Yemenerum Pariyae
Mattil Periyammai Vaaganamae Mutta Mael
Koorai Illa Veedae Kula Raaman Thoodhuvanae
Aaraiyada Sonnai Ada

meaning, You disfigured beauty, You buffalo - the mount of Yemen (The Diety who is believed to take the lives when someone dies), You donkey - The mount of Moodhevi (The elder sister of Goddess Lakshmi who is believed to bring bad luck), a roofless wall/home (Kutti Suvar in Tamil), You monkey - the messenger for Lord Rama. How dare you address me like that?. The last line is interpreted as a pun. With the second meaning indicating the answer to Kambar’s question, “You mentioned the Aarai Keerai”.

Ettaekaal Latchanamae - Eight and a quarter beauty - In Tamil, 8 is written as and quarter as , put together it would be அவலட்சணமே, meaning ugliness or disfigured.
Yemen - The deity of death
Erum Pariyae - Buffalo, the mount of Yemen
Periyammai - Moodhevi, who is believed to bring bad luck is the elder sister of Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
Vaaganam - Mount of Moodhevi - The donkey
Koorai - Roof
Veedu - Home
Kula Raman Thoodhuvan - Hanuman, the monkey God, here refers Kambar as a monkey
Aarai - Refers to the pronoun “who” and the plant “Aarai”
Sonnai - Tell
Ada - Derogatory addressing of a man

Avvaiyar proved her eloquence at all times and never left anyone offend her even verbally. People who were kind to her got back the same kindness back. But when provoked they will face the brunt of her literary eloquence.

More to come, until then....


Hemapriya said...

Very good one Prabhu. Keep it up! Please write frequently.

R. Prabhu said...

Thanks Hemapriya! Had been busy these days with other stuff. Will try to write more in the coming days!

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for quite sometime and really loved it.

R. Prabhu said...

Thanks Bharathi! Nice to hear that!

Anonymous said...

indha thoguppai padiththup' pooriththup'ponen :) :)
Ungal rasiganum aanen !!!

R. Prabhu said...

Mikka Nandri Suresh!

Anudeepa Kadiresan said...

I love your blog and your Tamil...Thanks a lot for sharing lot of information ...

R. Prabhu said...

Thanks Anudeepa! Hoping to post more in the shortly..

Daivik Kumar said...

thanks i was looking around for this ettekaal last found in your blog, by fortunate it seems it is a very health blog, i remember
on my first day to college lost the route end up in mere full of white wise

R. Prabhu said...

Thanks Daivik Kumar, good to hear that you like the posts!

Anonymous said...

Please write more on this. இவை கிடைத்தற்கரிய பொக்கிஷங்கள்

srinivaas said...

Amazing chain of events, even better translation. Loved the word to word meaning part! I am bookmarking ur page, please continue the good work!

R. Prabhu said...

Thanks Srinivaas!

Venkat Ranganathan said...

Nice blog and well written. Enjoyed them. Thanks for taking the effort to write these. While the poems are great I would have to assume that the sequencing of various poems and the scenes are rich imaginations passed down to us and we even have debate on how many Avvaiyars were there!

R. Prabhu said...

Thank you Venkat Ranganathan. Yes that debate has already been researched. Abithana Chintamani states that there were 3 Avvaiyars, however recent search states that there were at least 7 of the poets with the name Avvaiyar.

Monica Ravi said...

sir,i ve been reading vinodha rasamanjari by veerasaamy chetiyaar....,it deals with the conversations between avvaiyar &kambar..i couldnt find the explanation for some of the poems in it..can you please direct me as to where i must look for it..?

R. Prabhu said...

Hi Monica Ravi,

I have heard a lot about Vinodha Rasamanjari, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Will search for the book and its explanation and will let you know when I come across the book

Anonymous said...

Pallandu,pallandu pallayirath aandu
Pala koti noor ayiram aandu thaangal tamizh sevai sezhika, yen vaazhthukal

R. Prabhu said...


sakthi murugan said...

Great work.Big salute to you.

R. Prabhu said...

Thank you Sakthi Murugan!

Kannan said...

I just came across your articles and like it very much. You are doing a great job for tamil and for people to learn ethics through tamil. Many many thanks and ungal pani sirakka Vaazha valamudan..

R. Prabhu said...

Thanks Kannan

Venkatesh Thennarasan said...


Sellavel Chem said...

from which book u have taken this poem,Sithiramum Kai palakkam

R. Prabhu said...

There is a collection called Avvaiyar Thanipaadalgal, that collection has this and other popular songs

Nakkeeran. T said...

பாடுபட்டு தேடிப் பணத்தை புதைத்து வைத்த
கேடுகெட்ட மானிடரே கேளுங்கள் கூடுவிட்டிங்கு
ஆவிதான் போயினபின் யாரே அனுபவிப்பார்
பாவிகள் அந்த பணம்
.... sir which poem the above line came. comments please...

Nakkeeran. T said...

anyone please send the answer for the above question

R. Prabhu said...

Please check Avvaiyar's Nallvazhi collection song 22 -

Sathya Srinivasan said...

Hi Prabhu,

Thanks for the inspiration. As mentioned in another comment, I have cited this blog in my latest post inspired by this post.

Wish you a happy new year!

R. Prabhu said...

Hi Sathya,

இனிய தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்!!!

Thanks once again for the citation, I am happy and honoured that this blog inspires people like you. Moreover, I read your post too, great command of both languages, keep up the good work!


Ambujam said...

Wonderful presentation on Ovaiyaar paadalhal.When I forgot the last two lines of one song of Ovaiyar paadal your article helped me to remember the paadal again.Thank you so much.Please write more and more articles like this.

R. Prabhu said...

Thanks Ambujam.