Pieta Carnatic

In Arts, Music, Music, Poem, Religion, Women on March 30, 2013 at 6:42 am

A Good Friday reflection, set to the Carnatic raaga, Jounpuri. Aadi taalam
Mahakavi Bharathiyar, wrote this poem when he had misplaced a photograph of his mother. He pines to see her face again. I have set this poem and it’s lyrics to the sorrow of a mother who has just lost her son.
The Shroud of Turin, was made public after 40 years. It is assumed to be an image of Jesus. Mostly wrapped in controversy and mystery! Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, signed it’s public viewing, beginning Good Friday 29th March, 2013. The need to see a picture of the divine christ, bears an uncanny but easy human parallel to the poet’s intense need to recover his mother’s picture. It is this intense need that keeps the Shroud of Turin very real for many believers of the faith, irrespective of what science confirms as true or untrue.
Good Friday commemorates the death of Jesus. Pieta is a marble statue of Michaelangelo that depicts a limp and dead son in his mother’s arms. I wonder if these words of the Mahakavi, did not pass through a grieving mother’s mind?

Aasaimugam marantho pochey,

Alas, I have forgotten love’s very face,

idhai yaaridam solven adi thozhi;

My grief is unbearable, my friend;

Nesam marakavillai nenjam,

My heart remembers the tender affections,

enil Ninaivu mugam marakalaamo;

Memory cannot fail me now;

Kannil theriyuthoru thotram,

I perceive him in my mind’s eye,

athil Kannan azhagu muzhuthillai

But I fail to capture his beauty in full;

Nannu mugavadivu kaanil, andha

and I find his eyes,

Nallavalla sirippai kaanom;

Wanting of his winsome smile;

Oivu mozhithalum illamal

And without any respite, my heart beats

Avan uravai ninaithirukkum ullam

Only to remind me of him;

vayum uraipathundu kandai

You would assume that,

Andha maayan pughazhinai eppodum

I enjoy illusion’s cruel tricks;

Kangal purinthuvitta paavam

As my eyes have understood a deception,

uyir Kannan urumarakkalachu

That has caused him to disappear;

pengalinidathil idu pole

Have you noticed such folly

oru pedamai munbu kandathundo?

In other women, my friend?

Thenai maranthirukkum vandum

Does a bee forsake honey?

oli sirappai maranthuvitta poovum

A flower shirk sunlight?

vaanai maranthirukkum payirum

A crop ignore rain,

Indha vaiyam muzhuthumillai thozhi

Any place else in this world?

Kannan mugam maranthuponal,

If I forget love’s very face,

intha Kangal irunthu payan undo;

Would I have further use of my eyes?

Vanna padamumillai kandai,

Alas! I do not have a picture of him to remind me,

inni Vaazhum vazhi ennadi thozhi;

Where will life’s path lead me next, my friend?

Chinnaswami Subramanya Bharathi (Tamil: சின்னசுவாமி சுப்பிரமணிய பாரதி) (December 11, 1882 – September 11, 1921) was a Tamil writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist and social reformer from Tamil Nadu, India. Popularly known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar (Tamil: மகாகவி பாரதியார்), he is a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry.

Born in Ettayapuram in 1882, Subramanya Bharathi studied in Tinnevely and worked as a journalist with many newspapers, notable among them being the Swadesamitran and India. Bharathi was also an active member of the Indian National Congress. In 1908, an arrest warrant was issued against Bharathi by the government of British India for his revolutionary activities forcing him to flee to Pondicherry where he lived until 1918.

Bharathi is considered to be one of the greatest Tamil poets of the modern era. Most of his works were on religious, political and social themes. Songs penned by Bharathi have been widely used in Tamil films and Carnatic Music concert platforms.

– wikipedia

  1. I made minor changes to the English translation to this Tamil poem, to keep the essence alive. These may not be exact word-to-word translations.
  2. Asaimugham probably does not have a proper English translation. Desire-face comes close. I initially translated it to my love’s face, but later did away with the possessive adjective my. That put’s the focus back on the all-consuming love that the poet has for his mother and it diminishes his self.



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