Sangam Lit

Sangam Lit

Puranaanooru 88 – Judge not without seeing

January 24, 2023

In this episode, we listen to a glowing depiction of a king, as portrayed in Sangam Literary work, Puranaanooru 88, penned on the Velir king Athiyamaan Nedumaan Anji by the poet Avvaiyaar. The verse is set in the category of ‘Thumbai Thinai’ or ‘Battle of two kings’ and renders a message of warning to enemy kings.

யாவிர் ஆயினும், ‘கூழை தார் கொண்டு
யாம் பொருதும்’ என்றல் ஓம்புமின் ஓங்கு திறல்
ஒளிறு இலங்கு நெடு வேல் மழவர் பெருமகன்,
கதிர் விடு நுண் பூண் அம் பகட்டு மார்பின்
விழவு மேம்பட்ட நல் போர்
முழவுத் தோள் என்னையைக் காணா ஊங்கே.

Poet Avvaiyaar continues with another song depicting the beauty and courage of King Athiyamaan. The poet’s words can be translated as follows:

“Whoever you might be, avoid saying, ‘With our vanguard of warriors, we can easily attack him’. With his soaring valour and shining, long spears, stands the chief of young soldiers, wearing glowing, finely etched ornaments on his handsome, wide chest, and having a drum-like shoulder that conducts wars, which are sure to conclude with festivals. When you have not seen who my lord is, avoid saying those words!”

Let’s explore the nuances herein. The poet starts with a sharp message to someone asking them not to say something. That something is what they have been boasting about that they could easily conquer King Athiyamaan with their strong army. Then, she goes on to paint a radiant sketch of this king as he stands there with his courage shining in the form of tall spears. She calls him the head of ‘Mazhavars’, or young men from different clans who aspire to be warriors. Focusing on the intricately etched ornaments on his wide chest and his shoulders, akin to a drum, the poet says any war that the king takes part in, will end up in him conducting festivals. And finally, the poet turns to those enemy kings we met in the beginning and says, “When you don’t know who he is or what he can do, dare not speak the words you just did”!

The significance of the king finishing his wars by conducting festivals implies that victory was always on his side. Such an indefeasible warrior with so much to his credit that you must not be dismissing him in that frivolous way, the poet seems to say. A meaningful takeaway from this verse is to never take for granted our victory without fully appreciating what stands before us!