Great Tamil Poetess -Nappasalai (Post No.7330)


Date: 11 DECEMBER 2019

 Time in London – 19-29

Post No. 7330

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Tamil laymen knew about great Tamil poetesses Avvaiyar, Andal and Karaikkal Ammaiyar. But many people do not know about Sangam age women poets.

Nappashalai was one of the Sangam Age (Sangam age – first three centuries of modern era) Tamil poetesses. Her seven verses are in Purananuru of Sangam Age.

She was a native of Marokkam in south Pandya country.  Her odes were admired by all the kings f the day. There is much art in the following ode praising Killi Valavan’s generosity justice and might; she mentions the Sibi Chakravarthy Story from the Puranas. Several poets have pointed out that Cholas belong to Solar Race and  Sibi, Mandhata and others of Surya Kula are their forefathers. Here is her poem:-

Descendant of him who to save a dove from grief entered the balance… giving in grace was born with you, and is not your peculiar praise!

And when one ponders how your forefathers of ancient days destroyed the mighty fort suspended in the sky which foes dreaded to approach – to slay your foes is not your peculiar praise!

And since the council of Uraiyur , impregnable city of the valiant Cholas is the home of equity; Justice is not your peculiar praise!

Oh Valavan! Swift horsemen , whose stout arms are like fortress bars , whose wreaths attract every eye, how then shall I sing your praise?”

— Purananuru verse 39


Napashalai’s ode on the death of Killi is marked by a quaintness of conceit in her address to Death:-

If in his mind against you he were  wroth

Or if in outward act he showed his rage,

Or if he touched you with afflictive hand ,

You could not have escaped, O Death!

You took great Valavan, entreating him,

Like minstrels, bowing low, with suppliant hand

Praising you did bear off his life,

Leader of hosts that crowd the glorious field,

Crowned with gold wreath, Lord of the mighty car.

Purananuru verse 226


There is another lyric where she expresses pathos. She expressed grief at the destruction of the fair city of Karur by the impetuous  Chola king Killi Valavan.

You scion of the Chola Lord who saved

The dove from woe- chief of the wrathful hosts

Armed with gleaming darts that work havoc

As when a fiery dragon , angry, fierce,

Bearing five heads, with gleaming poisonous tooth,

Has entered the vast mountainous cavern, where

The golden creepers twine, and from the sky

Fire issues forth and loudest thunderbolt

You saw the lordly city old, whose king

Was circled round by girdled elephants

There in deep dark moat alligators congregate

In the wide waters of guarded lake

Are crocodiles that fierce in fight

Dart forth to catch the shadows cast

By gleam of watchman’s torch at midnight hour.

Its walls like burnished copper shone.

This seemed not fair to your eyes; for you did

Work destruction mightily, glorious king!-

Purananuru verse 37

Translations of odes by  P T S Aiyangar, G U Pope and Kanakasabhai