Re: [INDOLOGY] Cart-shaped, śakaṭākāra

George Hart glhart at
Fri Apr 6 15:52:48 UTC 2018

Akanāṉūṟu 301 (100-300 CE?) has the following:

nīr vāḻ mutalai āvittaṉṉa	6
ārai vēynta aṟai vāy cakaṭattu	7
ūr iḥtu eṉṉāar tītu il vāḻkkai	8

Here is the whole poem, which is memorable. Note that śakaṭam is probably from Dravidian (cakaṭam in this poem). It is conceivable that it is the sound of the crocodiles rather than the shape of the opening that is meant — anyone in Florida knows the alligators make a kind of rattling sound to attract a mate, though their sound is made only once every two or three minutes and is quite short. The Tamil word here is āvittu, "to open the mouth so as to express loudly 2 to sigh, as expressing grief 3 to gape, yawn” (Lexicon). It seems to me that it is almost certainly the shape that is meant because the openings of the cart do not make noise.

301. Pālai
301. Pālai

The friend, who has changed (grown thin and pale) in separation (from the hero) speaks to the friend who is consoling her.

You tell me, friend, that for a short while

I should simply stop thinking and worrying about the man 

who left me to wither in pain like a field in drought.

Performers live eating their scant food as soon as others give it,

saving nothing.  They go in noisy wagons whose openings,	5

covered by mats, look like the gaping mouths of crocodiles.

Their lives are free of trouble, they never have to say

a village is their home.  In the wasteland,

they leave their troubles beneath the trees.

Their clear, sweet-sounding kiṇai drums sound,	10

and as they dance, they wear on their heads fetching garlands

of dense clusters of round erukku flowers.

On the lovely breasts of their women,

garlands of bright āvirai flowers from the forest sway

in the light of the roaring flames burning on their firewood.	15

Their horns, large and small, sound like the trumpeting

of an elephant and his mate who walks with measured steps,

as the muḻavu drum sounds along with them

and the rhythm is beaten out like the croaking of frogs

over the water when clouds roar in the monsoon.	20

With their many small instruments sounding in short bursts,

they go to towns, dancing, and then move on quickly,

tying their bags on their heads so they sway as they walk.

When those performers, with their large retinue,

leave a place and when people of an old town	25

see the empty performing field, they feel sad.

That is how I feel in the evening, and so how could I forget

the love my man showed, since it will not go away.

Atiyaṉ Viṇṇattaṉār

This fine poem is the first of the third part of the Akanāṉūṟu, entitled Nittilakkōvai.  

2. “Stop thinking and worrying” is paṭar mika ciṟu naṉi āṉṟikam, “as pain grows, become wellsettled a little.”

5. This might also mean that the noise of the wagons sounds like the cry of crocodiles.

9. Literally, “at the bases of trees.”

15. In Tamil, this line is muḷarit tīyiṉ muḻaṅku aḻal viḷakkattu and it could also mean, “In the flight of the roaring flames of forest fires.”  Muḷari can mean “jungle” or “firewood,” and it is not clear here whether the fires meant are wild forest fires or fires made by the performers with firewood.

21. “Short bursts” translates cil ari.  The meaning of ari is not certain, but one of its meanings is “interval.”

22. “Move on” is added.

23. This line is talai puṇarttu acaitta pal tokai kalappaiyar.  K. says this means that they tie up in bags many instruments together with the heads (of the instruments?), while K2 says it means they put many instruments in bags and fasten the flaps (talai) of the bags.  Both puṇar and acai can mean “tie, fasten,” but acai can also mean “make shake or move.”  V. S. Rajam suggested to me that the poet may mean the bags are tied to the heads of the musicians—people in India often carry things on their heads.  It was my suggestion that acai may mean that the bags shake as the performers travel carrying them on their heads.

27. Evening is often thought to be empty.

28. “Since it will not go away” is based on K2’s interpretation of nīṭu iṉṟu.   UVS interprets this as “without delay” and says it means viraintu: “(how could I forget) without delay (i.e. quickly).”  Much better is the sense of “except that it lasts long (i.e. it will last long and), I cannot forget it.”

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