Sangam Lit

Sangam Lit

Puranaanooru 233 – Wishing it were a lie

September 27, 2023

In this episode, we listen to the fervent wish of a poet in the midst of distressing news, as portrayed in Sangam Literary work, Puranaanooru 233, penned about the Velir King Vel Evvi by the poet Vellerukkilaiyaar. Set in the category of ‘Pothuviyal Thinai’ or ‘Common Themes’, the verse talks about the king’s valour and generosity.

பொய்யாகியரோ! பொய்யாகியரோ!
பா அடி யானை பரிசிலர்க்கு அருகாச்
சீர் கெழு நோன் தாள் அகுதைகண் தோன்றிய
பொன் புனை திகிரியின் பொய்யாகியரோ!
‘இரும் பாண் ஒக்கல் தலைவன், பெரும் பூண்,
போர் அடு தானை எவ்வி மார்பின்
எஃகுறு விழுப்புண் பல’ என
வைகுறு விடியல் இயம்பிய குரலே.

Another short song about King Evvi, said to be the forefather of the famous King Paari. The poet’s words can be translated as follows:

“Let it turn out to be a lie! Let it turn out to be a lie! Akin to how the belief that a golden discus killed Aguthai, known for his determined efforts in the battlefield and for rendering wide-footed elephants to bards, turned out to be false, let this too turn out to be false. I speak about the voice that echoed at dawn saying, ‘The chest of King Evvi, the leader of bards with huge families of kith and kin; the one, wearing great jewels, and having battle-ready armies, is streaked with wounds inflicted by piercing spears’!”

Time to explore the details. The poet starts by wishing out aloud that what he’s hearing should be a lie. To explain how, the poet brings forth a simile from a historical incident. There was a king named Aguthai, who was known to render elephants to bards and always be successful in battle. Then news spread all around the land that he was dead because of a golden discus thrown by an enemy king. Later they found out that this was not true. Just like that, what he was hearing about King Evvi, that the king was ridden with spear wounds, should turn out to be a lie too, the poet wishes.

The poem brings to fore the prevalence of rumours and fake news even in Sangam times. Initially King Aguthai was thought to be dead but later they found out that it was not true. Similarly, the poet wishes the same fate for this news he had heard that morning. Through this poem, the poet from two thousand years ago acutely highlights what modern psychologists would agree about, and that is, the first stage in processing grief in the loss of a beloved is denial!