Translation by Chenthil Nathan
Illustrations by Somdutt Sarkar
One of the big questions about courtship is, how to make an overture? The answer, according to one old Tamil text, with vigour, humour and poetry!
Parani (பரணி) is a genre of short literary works in Tamil. It is sung in praise of the valor of a King or a warrior who slew 1000 elephants in the battlefield.
Interesting factoid: it is named after the vanquished and not the victor.
The Kalingathu Parani by the poet Jayakondar is the oldest is about vanquishing of Kalinga (modern day Orissa) by the Chola army led by Karunakara Tondaiman in 1110 AD in the rule of Kulothunga Chola I. It is the oldest extant Parani work available in Tamil literature. Like all successful popular works it has liberal quantities of sex and violence. The war is full of grisly scenes featuring broken limbs, river of blood, corpses strewn all around and so on.
Where there is war, love must follow, no?
Jayamkondar’s poetry was a departure from earlier Tamil poetry which skirted around the act of making love. He threw it open – and in fact the opening verses of the ballad are full of erotic zest and descriptions of women and lovemaking, asking women to open their doors!
The women are upset with their lovers who went to war and have been absent for long. All that war, means no sex and now the women say to returning warriors – get lost. Their doors are shut.The poet sings to them asking them to open their doors for the victorious warriors returning back.
The doors (and also the lotus buds) are metaphors. But these metaphors are not used because sex and the body are seen as dirty. They are used to express the beauty of the body, to describe the energies of sex. The women here are portrayed as equal partners, who enjoy and relish making love, who are full of passion and energy.
The poem is full of play and rhythm, teasing and flirting, tenderness and intimacy. There’s a lot we can learn from these ancient Agents of Ishq in how to make a sexy overture and celebrate the pleasures nature has given us. So open the doors of your hearts and minds and senses and enjoy this poem (and love! And life!).
To read more about the highs and lows of dating, sexting, netflex-and-chilling in Old Tamil Poetry go here.
Chenthil Nathan is a Truck Fleet owner who translates Old Tamil Poetry. His translations can be found at twitter.com/oldtamilpoetryoldtamilpoetry.wordpress.com. His interests include Poetry, Books and Single Malts.