Translation Of Bharathidasan's Poem: 'Pulikku Nay Enta Mulai' (To The Tiger The Dog Knows No Safe Dwelling) By T. Wignesan - Poem by T Wignesan
Translation of Bharathidasan’s Poem: “Pulikku nay enta muulai” (To the Tiger, the Dog knows no safe dwelling!) by T. Wignesan
Bharathidasan (1891-1964) was a self-proclaimed disciple of the eminent Brahmin poet: Cuppiramania Bharathiyar (cf. two poems of his already posted) . Born in Pondicherry – a French enclave in Tamil Nadu - he solded a lasting friendship with Bharathiyar during the 1910s when the latter sought refuge there from the British Adminstration as a political agitator. For more details, check my article at
For Tamils, Tamil is their mother-tongue, we said
For Tamils, Tamilakam is their motherland, we said
In Tamil Nadu what might the stranger yet seek to wreak?
From the pouncing tiger where might the dog refuge seek?
Drowsily withering subjection Tamils have known - enmity
Won’t it be reduced to nought the day they wake up?
The ill-intentions of those in the North, their bones
Might crushed be given the might of the Tamil people.
Let each in his own land freely make his home - let
The coveting of another’s land be crushed with force!
Let a carefree existence the whole world envelope!
Raised hands should good works accomplish before rest!
There was a time the world cowed to the Tamil people - then
Did the Tamils think of setting up their own colonial rule?
Arrogate the right to property over other peoples’s goods
Were there those amongst us who wrought thus back then
Pulikku nAy enta mUlai!
tamilarkkut tamilE tAymoli enrOm
tamilakam tamilarkkut tayakam enrOm
tamil nAttil ayalark kini enna vElai?
tAvum pulikkoru nAy enta mUlai?
tUnkiya tuntu tamilarkal munpu - pakai
tulakum anrO elunta pinpu?
tinku purikinra vatakkarin enpu
sitaintitac ceytitum tamilarin vanpu
avanavan nAttil avanavan vAlka - mar
rayal nAttaic curantutal atiyOtu vilka!
tuvalata vAlkkai ulakellam sulka!
tUkkiya kaikal aramnokkit tAlka!
tamilanuk kulakam nAtunkiyatuntu - ankut
tannatci niruvita enniyatunta?
tamatE enru pirar porul kontu
tamvala enniyOr enkular pantu!
Some reflections on the above poem with respect to the Tamil classical literary corpus:
What the uninitiated have to bear in mind when reading Tamil poetry is the particular nature of very rigid and complex prosodical rules, together with the particular use of figurative language or its almost inflexible stylistic devices which come down to us from ancient times; in fact, some two millenia or more of continuous writing, though twentieth century Tamil literary expression has willingly sought to keep up with the times by an overt preference for prose-poems and free verse, and the choice of other genres: short stories, novellas, novels and plays, all more or less importations from other literatures. These newfound forms came into vogue only in the late nineteenth century. Until then, the entire corpus of Tamil literature had mainly been couched in the poetic medium, with certain exceptions like the epic Cilappatikaram which mixed both prose and poetical forms.
Classical Tamil literature of the Cankam period, around the 2nd to the 5th century A.D., and the post-Cankam epic and religious compositions up to about the 10th century or so is handed down to us in strict prosodical structures and clothed in literary conventions whose canon was already laid down in the ancient treatise on linguistics, prosody, and poetics: Tolkappiyam, according to conservative estimations, as early as the 3rd century B.C. The reason for this is evident. Until the printing press was implanted at Tranquebar, a little to the south of Pondicherry, when Father Beschi, an Italian Catholic missionary who wrote and translated from the Tamil into Latin, in the early 17th century, all of Tamil literature was written down and preserved in perishable palm-leaf manuscripts whose longevity was limited to between two to three hundred years, depending on the quality of their conservation. As such, almost all of pre-nineteenth century Tamil writing was committed to memory, and learning by rote constituted the essential mental exercise for the very young in age.
Having said this, and without having to explain or list all the intervening rules and conventions of the Tamil canon in a short introductory paper, which the reader may sample by consulting the texts given in the references, we might attempt to gauge part of the complexity of this little-known literature through an examination of the above-translated poem.
From a thematic point of view, the poem explicitly encompasses almost all the principal « axes to grind » the poet has owned up in his lifetime. The first two rhymed couplets disclose his inalienable loyalty to his mother-tongue and to his motherland as renascent flags of Tamil patriotism or the distinctness of ethnic identity, while at the same time manifesting his refusal to let any other race or language supplant them in his country.
The colonial European “enemy” of the past set aside, he then takes on, in the following quatrain, the indigenous northern Indian Aryan as the “enemy” who may be construed as forming part of the Brahmin minority - though infinitely powerful caste - in Tamil Nadu.
Then comes the self-excusatory proclamation of wishing for universal peace and brotherhood among the races, a somewhat naive view of the world in which various advanced racially homogeneous nations have always sought through violence and subterfuge to subjugate and enslave one another and the whole world at large, a world which is not likely to stop doing so just for the sake of satisfying peace-loving poets.
The final quatrain then holds up the Tamil glorious mediaeval past as an example of conquerors who were unwilling to play the colonial master. Paratitasan, of course, is here refering to the great Tamil Cola kings: Rajaraja I (985-v.1014) and his son, Rajendra I (1012 - 1044) , and Rajendra Kulottunga Cola I (v.1070-1120) , whose army and naval forces conquered Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and the lands leading up to the Ganges River at Benares from the Southern Peninsula and the Deccan, after having defeated the Calukyas of the northwestern Deccan with their army of nine-hundred thousand soldiers and followers.[Sastri: 1984,140- 341]
The general critical remarks on Tamil poetry may not be found to be appropriate in the case of poems selected for translation and study, though this poem is an exception. Even the title image or metaphor is couched in the fourth line of verse. It is both a startling and daring choice of image, if not a bit brunt and brash, giving offence to the non-Tamil foreigner to whom it is bluntly directed: the Tamilian is the tiger, the foreigner, the dog! Paratitasan is known for his brashness and even rudeness. His plays, according to Léonce Cadelis, were difficult to stage for the plethora of invectives found in them. In spite of his vibrant talents, Paratitasan’s plays were not successful.
He conceived his theatre as a weapon of combat. The invectives he used against all that didn’t conform to his ideal were of such a degree of violence that his plays could not be staged. Paratitasan did not bother much about this. He wrote without restriction for a public of readers.1 [Cadelis: ? , xii]
Let us next look at the prosodic organization of the poem. At first glance, the rhyme scheme: end-rhymes or iyaipu, is as follows: aa bb cddd efff ghii. If we put aside the taniccol or separate word common in Tamil prosody in c, e, and g, there is only h which detracts from the almost perfect scheme of rhymes. But then, in actual fact, barring the taniccol, all the end rhymes are perfect: aa bb cccc dddd eeee (cf. the transliteration) . The only ending, in the fourteenth line, which appears to deviate from the norm is actually made up of tuntu and a, the latter being an interrogative particle. Further, excluding the first couplet which is a mere statement of fact preceding the body of the poem, somewhat like an epigrammatic quotation, the three quatrains with the second couplet placed at the end could make for a Shakespearean sonnet.
Tamil poetry still places much store by alliteration or monai, a poetical device which enjoyed much appreciation in all forms of mediaeval poetry. The first three words of the first two lines, the first two of the fifth, the first and third of the ninth - are all appropriate examples.
Another basic requirement of Tamil prosody is the initial rhyme or etukai which falls on the second syllable of the first word, repeated in successive words or lines. The first couplet is a perfect example of initial rhymes. Others may be found in the last two lines, and so forth.
There are other more complicated prosodic uses that we shall not go into in a short essay, but the main purpose of this exercise is to show that Paratitasan was an adept at using the classical Tamil prosodical rules, seeking as it were, on the one hand, confirmation of his talents while, on the other, proclaiming his legitimacy in the Tamil canon and classical tradition. It is, therefore, not without reason that he has been hailed the spokesman of the Tamils of the twentieth century, for his work embodies some of the best qualities of the ancient Tamil literary tradition in as much as he, himself, incarnates the ideals of his generation.
The above excerpts are taken from a chapter in my book on Tamils and their literary achievements. T. Wignesan. Rama and Ravana at the Altar of Hanuman: on Tamils, Tamil Literature and Tamil Culture. Chennai: Institute of Asian Studies,2006 & Allahabad: Cyberwit.net,2008,750p..
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