Some Comments on The Purananuru

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on December 2, 2017

1. On Amazon.in, the cheapest copy of the best English translation of The Purananuru (Trans. George L Hart and Hank Heifetz. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) available is at Rs. 1670 (last time I checked). I got my as-good-as-new copy at a second hand book store in the UK for 2.50 £, roughly Rs. 220. Lucky me!

2. This work of poetry is also a passageway into the world of the ancient Tamils, a people who celebrated war, love, meat-eating, wine, knowledge, and generosity. And the poems indicate a strong sense of ‘Tamilness’ in terms of a people and a geography.

3. Martial ferocity is praised. So is compassion, charity & righteousness. The strong and wealthy are urged to provide for the weak and needy.

4. Providing for agrarian prosperity, building dams, protecting order in trade and society and curtailing banditry are considered desirable qualities of kings. And the Sovereign is considered ‘the life of the world’.

5. The poems are thoroughly secular in nature, though there are occasional references to gods, including Brahminical ones like Rama – Ravanan is referred to as an ‘arakkan’, translated as ‘demon’. The first poem is an ode to Shiva. Murugan is the most referenced god in the poems.

6. There is clear reference to Brahmins who are learned in the Vedas, who are considered as holy as cows, and who are deserving of protection and gifts. Likewise, there are also vague references to the ‘low born’. (But a Tamil scholar recently told me that the system of caste in the Tamil land as we know it today originated only after the fall of Cholas.)

7. Chastity and purity of ‘women of the house’ is glorified. At least one poem attests to the practice of Sati.

8. Though it appears that war and wealth are praised, a closer reading also suggests a stoic asceticism of the poets.

9. The most celebrated animal in these poems is the Tiger. No wonder…



Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on August 20, 2014

Some wars are more brutal
Some pains more poignant
Some tears more salty
Some screams more loud
Some children more innocent
Some genocides more terrible
Some oppressors more horrible
Some pictures more aesthetic
More newsworthy
More solidarityworthy
More worthy, always more worthy
Sometimes 1000 is a world tragedy
Sometimes 150000 is just a local statistic

Tagged with:


Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on August 15, 2014



We have counted
Every bomb
Every bullet
Every shrapnel
Every death
Every torture
Every widow
Every orphan

We are weakened
but not weak

We are scarred
but not crippled

We are without power
but not without strength

And we have counted

So that
we can repay with interest

Tagged with:

11 Questions

Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on August 11, 2014

How do you unlisten a song?
How do you kill an unwanted memory?
How do you help a blind butterfly?
How do you paint loss?
How do you read poetry to a tomato?
How do you convince a sheep that it is black?
How do you bridge mind and soul?
How do you psychoanalyze a mighty tree?
How do you reconcile deer with tigers?
How do you respect the feelings of boiled potatoes?
How do you continue dying while living?

Tagged with:

The Vision

Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on January 23, 2014

Somnambulist zombie, she
had “a dream
within a dream”
(Though I would prefer
to dub it a prophecy)
a floating ghost she
flew over the swarna dvipa
and saw the End of strife

but a terrible end t’was

Colombo’s fate
made the spirits of Sodom and Gomorrah
sigh in relief
to have been spared such horror

The skies of Anuradhapura
were charcoal
painted by the flames
that feasted on the fertile town

Polonaruwa was dust
and nothing more can be said

Galle was a festival
of rotting corpses
ravaged souls
cripples, orphans and widows

his third-eye open
on the ashes of
Dalada Maligawa
No sanctuary
Nothing sacred
left undefiled

The fury of a thousand
visited the south
scorching all in its path.

And no brutality endured
by Troy
held compare to
the anguish of
the mothers
and daughters
of the extinct lion warriors

There was peace.

And She awoke with blood
on her hands and teeth.


Tagged with:

A Hero’s Appeal

Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on October 14, 2012

Dont just tell the world
how we fell
Tell the world
how we stood

Dont just tell the world
how we suffered
Tell the world
how we endured

Dont just tell the world
how we broke
Tell the world
how we struck

Dont just tell the world
of our fate
Tell the world
of our destiny

Dont just tell the world
of our sorrow
Tell the world
of our hope

Dont just tell the world
of our pain
Tell the world
of our power

Never surrender. Never capitulate.

Dont just tell the world
of our deaths
Tell the world
of our life eternal
of our sacrifice unparalleled
of our love supreme
of our struggle sublime

Tell the world
Tell your children
Tell yourself


For we wait
We listen

Tagged with: , ,

Enge Sakthi?

Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on July 5, 2012

of thousand eyes,
several arms,
the first great power,
who feeds on the blood
of demons
a mute spectator
as the infidel
defiles your sanctuary
murders your devotees
and mocks you
in your face.
Enge Sakthi?
When will the faithful
bear witness
to your unforgiving
roudra thandavam
on the bodies
of the sinners?
When will your divine terror
be unleashed
on the fiends
that roam our land?
When will your fire
cleanse our home
of the filth
that has occupied it?
Answer me!

Written after I read this report of a priest of an Aathiparasakthi Temple being assaulted by the occupying Sinhala-Buddhist army in Valvettithurai inside the Temple’s premises.

Tagged with: ,

Tamil Sovereignty

Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on March 11, 2012

Definition of Tamil Sovereignty

an identity
in uniform
our self

an aim
never missing
its target

a soul
that throbs
for all that
it sees and hears

a human shield
for the wretched
the poor
the orphaned

a life
from the land
it gave birth to

a mystery
to comrade
and enemy

in a million

a friend
a philosopher
a guide

friends admire
fiends despise

prophet to some
messiah to some

ruler? servant?
messenger? message?

some say ‘leader’
some say ‘god’

but dont ask me
about him

i have searched
for words
in all languages
to describe
this phenomenon

i have failed

but ask me
‘what is
Tamil Sovereingty?’

look at this image
fellow national!

this is
Tamil Sovereingty!


Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on January 28, 2012

We are not cattle
wandering alien lands
in search of greener pastures
Nor are we migratory birds
that change homes
as the season changes
No! All the world
is not our home!
Our home is worth
all the world and beyond!
Neither are all men
our relatives
Our kin are there.
Our kin, who beckon us
from their thuyilum illams
to join them in struggle
in this life and after…
We may traverse
woods, jungles, deserts, seas,
immigration, security
We may endure
hunger, starvation, suffering,
betrayal, scorn
We may stray alone
as a people in a hostile world
But tragedy, our tragedy,
makes us unique
if we grasp its depth
its meaning
and learn to emerge from it
a being fierce
a being free
And the dispersed souls
shall unite as a single mind
And the dismembered bodies
shall meld into an entity
And you will feel
what I feel
And I will see
what you see
And they will fall
when we rise
And the unceasing waves
of our life shall reach
the shores of our destiny
And… and… and…
And the first rays of the sun
will scatter our darkness
And the Karthigai poo
will find its roots
in the promised land
where it shall blossom for us
in all seasons.

Tagged with: , ,

A Letter to a Sinhala Woman

Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on January 21, 2012

I write to you today
as a woman.
A woman
who is now asked
to reconcile
with the occupier of my home
the assassin of my lover
the violator of my body
the murderer of my innocence…
No, I will not ask you
‘what should I do?’
for I already know
the solution

But let me ask you
what did YOU do?
Did you hear the grenade
exploding in Koneswary’s abdomen?
Did your lips utter the screams
of Tharshini?
Did your face feel the warmth
of Krishanti’s tears?
Or did the hands that silenced Isaipriya
silence your conscience?


You poured kiribath
in the mouths of men
who poured their hatred
on our bodies in Vanni.
Your children burst crackers
in Colombo, in Kandy
even as shells and clusters
burst on the heads of ours
in Nandhikadal, in Puthukudiyiruppu.
Your daughters danced
for your victorious sons
even as they danced around
our mutilated bodies.

No! I reject the notion
that I lost my ‘karpu’!
No! I do not want to curse
god, or fate,
or some unseeable force!
But a curse on the womb
that gave birth to death.
A curse on the breast
that fed a child-rapist.
A curse on the arms
that cradled executioners.
A curse on you,
even as you, ‘sister’,
are a curse on all feminity.
For it was you
who lost your ‘karpu’
through your silence
making you an accomplice
in the crimes of your sons.

Tears? Yes!
But the blood of my children!
But the despair of my love!
But the anger of my heart!

But the truth too!
I have realized
through a six-decade old lesson
that at the end of the day
you are Sinhalese
I am Eelam Tamil
and that, and that alone
defines our separate womanhoods
our separate homes
our separate futures.
And it is only in this separation
will there ever be
no more tears

Tagged with: ,