Sangam Lit

Sangam Lit

Puranaanooru 86 – A mother on her son

January 18, 2023

In this episode, we perceive the bond of a mother with her son, as depicted in Sangam Literary work, Puranaanooru 86, penned by the poet, Kaavarpendu. The verse is situated in the category of ‘Vaagai Thinai’ or ‘Battle victory’ and renders the whereabouts of a person.

சிற்றில் நல் தூண் பற்றி, ‘நின் மகன்
யாண்டு உளனோ?’ என வினவுதி; என் மகன்
யாண்டு உளன்ஆயினும் அறியேன்; ஓரும்
புலி சேர்ந்து போகிய கல் அளை போல,
ஈன்ற வயிறோ இதுவே;
தோன்றுவன் மாதோ, போர்க்களத்தானே!

A unique one among Puram verses in that it does not reveal the protagonist’s real name but talks about him in an abstract fashion. This female poet’s words can be translated as follows:

“Holding the fine pillar of the little house, you ask me, ‘Where could your son be?’; I do not know where my son is. Akin to a mountain cave, wherein a tiger rested and deserted, the womb that gave birth to him is this; He can be found in all glory in the battlefield!”

Let’s explore the nuances herein. The poet seems to be replying to someone, who came by to her little house and asked her a question about where her son was. From the stance of leaning on the pillar, which the poet details, and the question about the young man, we can surmise that the person asking the question is a young girl. That’s interesting – a young woman inquiring about a man, her possible love interest, to his mother herself! However, let’s turn away from these projections about the side character and focus on the main speaker’s words. The answer to the girl’s question seems to be, ‘No, I do not know!’ Not stopping with that factual negative answer, the poet goes on to talk about a cave, high in the mountains, which a tiger used to reside in but has now left it to go hunt its prey. She connects that place to her womb. She finishes with the statement that the man being asked about would make his appearance on the battlefield.

The intriguing inference we can make from these words is about the relationship between this mother and her son. Apparently, the poet was someone born in a clan of warriors and married to, in a clan of warriors. She sees her son’s role and purpose in life to be a fighter, someone full of courage and vision like that tiger in the cave. You could sense her pride when she compares him to that striking animal and also her conclusion about the only place where he could be found. Another aspect here is how just like the tiger does not owe anything to the cave it lives in, she feels no obligation is needed on the part of her son towards her. And, this core of the verse makes me think of the poem ‘On Children’ by the 19th century poet Khalil Gibran, and specifically, the lines ‘They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.’