I have been reading Silapathikaram, the greatest tamil epic poetry. All tamil students know the outline of the epic as it is part of the school curriculum and common reference point whenever there is a discussion on Tamil Culture.
However, once you look beyond the fantastic story, the poetry of Ilango Adigal captivates you. Sadly, it took me 35 years to read the epic in full. The epic poetry with commentary written by Dr. Saravanan is published by Sandhya Publishers (044-24896979). He has put in years of efforts to read through the original and the various commentaries written so far. I will try to translate a few of the poems in this blog.
I knew much of what happens till Kannagi burns Madurai. I was only vaguely aware of what happens next - Cheran Senguttuvan conquered kings up north and made them carry stones from Himalayas to erect a statue of Kannagi. Vanji Kaandam details of his preparations to wage war and how he was like death personified for the opposing kings. I especially liked this poem. As Senguttuvan moves north, he first meets an emissary from an allied king. The emissary says
வட திசை மருங்கின் வானவன் பெயர்வது
கடவுள் எழுத ஓர் கற்கேஆயின்
ஓங்கிய இமையத்துக் கல் கால் கொண்டு
வீங்கு நீர்க் கங்கை நீர்ப்படை செய்து - ஆங்கு
யாம் தரும் ஆற்றலம்
"If the reason for your highness venturing north is to get a stone for your goddess, our king will be pleased to select the best of stones from the Himalayas and have it sanctified by washing it in Ganges and send it to you"
to which Senguttuvan replies
பாலகுமரன் மக்கள் மற்று அவர்
காவா நாவின் கனகனும் விசயனும்
விருந்தின் மன்னர் - தம்மொடும் கூடி
அருந்தமிழ் ஆற்றல் அறிந்திலர் - ஆங்கு என
கூற்றக் கொண்டிச் சேனை செல்வது
(This is my translation in current lingo. Traditionalists are welcome to take offence).
"That isn't the only reason. Up north, those amits (Kanagan & Vijayan), while boozing with their buddies, made fun of our tamil bravery. It is to put the fear of death in those loose tongued morons that I am waging war on them."
Somethings never change.