Prithvi Sukta

George Hart glhart at BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Jun 22 16:52:14 UTC 2008

One of the most intriguing poems written to the Earth is Purananuru  
365 from the great Tamil Sangam anthology of that name.  In it, the  
poet MaarkaNTeeyanaar addresses the Earth Goddess who, like a  
courtesan (parattai, devadasi) has many lovers (kings) and is a  
nityasumangali, never inauspicious even after they die.  The poem  
probably dates to the first 3 centuries CE.  It may also hint at  
suttee, which was practiced (though not commonly) by the Tamils of  
that age.  This is from the translation made by Hank Heifetz and  
myself.  Kaanci is a tuRai (conventional category, also a raaga,  
called paN in Tamil) of works about the evanescence of things.  I'd be  
interested to know if anyone has encountered this idea (earth=whore  
because she outlives her consorts) elsewhere.  The meaning of niittam  
(here translated as "ocean") is problematic -- the modern commentator,  
Duraisamy Pillai, says this refers to ether, the fifth element.   
George Hart

Her face is like the sky marked with the immense confusion
of a storm and her eyes are like the two huge moving spheres,
as the Earth Goddess weeps, she who is so virtuous, crying out,
“I do not pass away as former kings have done, their power
so immense they found no new enemies, as they rolled their chariot  
that are beautiful, of gold, with sapphire spokes and hubs of diamond
over the ocean so difficult to cross, where even the shifting
wind does not go!  No, I remain here like a whore,
while many who praise me wish that I may long endure!”
The Kaanci odes of grief and mourning
have even reached that far those say who know these things!

On Jun 22, 2008, at 5:50 AM, Dipak Bhattacharya wrote:

> Atharvaveda (;Saunakiiya)12.1.1 without accent marks
> satya.m brhad .rtam ugra.m diik.saa    tapo yaj;na.h p.rthivii.m  
> dhaarayanti/
> saa no bhuutasya bhavyasya patny     uru.m loka.m p.rthivii na.h  
> k.r.notu//
> DBhattacharya
> --- On Sun, 22/6/08, Harsha Dehejia <harshadehejia at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
> From: Harsha Dehejia <harshadehejia at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Prithvi Sukta
> Date: Sunday, 22 June, 2008, 5:40 PM
> Friends:
> I have to do a lecture next week and am looking for a line or two  
> from the
> Prithvi Sukta where the earth is being eulogised.
> Any help would be greatly appreciated.
> Please send it to me in Romanised Sanskrit.
> Many thanks.
> Harsha V. Dehejia
> Ottawa, ON., Canada.
>      Did you know? You can CHAT without downloading messenger. Go to

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