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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram & Poetic Advice from an old MGR movie

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram &
Poetic Advice from an old MGR movie

15 May 1992 (Revised)
[see also பட்டுக்கோட்டை கல்யாணசுந்தரம்
Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram: 1930 - 1959

Most of us know that quite a number of Tamil movie lyrics are just of ephemeral value. A small percentage however lives in the minds forever for sentimental reasons. Some exceptional ones do appreciate in value with time.

One such song appeared in one of MGR�s hit movies Chakravarthy Thirumagal, 45 years ago. It was composed by poet Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram (1930-1959), who thrilled the Tamil fans like a comet, before meeting an untimely death at the tender age of 29 years. In this particular song, the Pattukottai poet illustrated the goliardic tradition among the Tamil poets by composing the song as a �question and answer duel� between two goliards. Kalaivanar N.S.Krishnan and Sirkazhi Govindarajan rendered this song with exceptional gusto. In the movie, Sirkazhi offers his voice to the character played by MGR, while Krishnan plays the role of MGR�s competitor.

Let me reminisce this particular song in original, and I provide English translations at appropriate locations. The initial statements are self introductions of the two who pit their wits. While the first one pompously recites his �glories and successes� and issues the challenge to respond to his questions in �one word answers� (orezhuthu pathil), the second one promptly introduce himself with repartee.


Sangathu pulavar palar thanga thoda por pathakkam
Vangathu ponnaadai parisallithaar � enakk
Kingkillai eedenachch cholli kalithaar � intha
Singathukku munne oodi pangappaddavar aneham
Seereduththu paadi vaare nere � atharkum
Orezhuthu pathil solli paaren.

[Many poets of Sangam have presented me golden ear studs, medals and Bengal shawl; and had praised me as an incomparable talent. Many have lost their wits in front of this lion, and if you dare, can you give one word answers to my questions?]


Yaanaiyai pidithu oru paanaikul adaithu (in video)
Aathirap padupavar polallava � umathu
Arampak kavi solluthe pulavaa � veeddu
Pooonai kuddi kaaddilodi puliyai piddithu thinna
Purappadda kathai polallava � thar
Pukazhiyodu paadukiraye pulava!

[Your intro verse sounds similar to those who believe that they can capture an elephant and push it into a pot; your boasting is akin to the story of the house kitten which ran into the forest to maul a tiger!]

Then the verbal duel between the two goliards begins. The first question and answer is a play on the word �thaanam� (gift). While one asks what is the best gift one can possess, the other one responds by retorting that nithaanam (diligence) is the best of all gifts.


Poothaanam kannithaanam sornathaanam annathaanam
Kothaanam undu parpala thaanangal � itharku
Melaana thaanam irunthaal solungal.

[There is virtue in gifting land, virgin, gold, food and cow. Can you tell me �what is the best endowment above all these gifts�?]


Eththanai thaanam thanthaalum entha lokam pugazhnthaalum
Thaanathil chiranthathu nithaanam thaan;
Nithaanathai izhanthavarku eenam thaan.

[Whatever one may donate as gifts and whatever the world may applaud, nothing can equal the gift of diligence; those who lose diligence receive only ridicule.]


Kovilai kaddi vaippathu ethanaale?
[Why have temples been built?]


Chirpa velaikku perumai undu athanaale
[To appreciate the talent of sculpting.]


Anna saththiram irupathu ethanaale?
[Why there are soup-kitchens?]


Pala thinnai thoongi pasankal iruppathaale
[Because there are many idling fellows.]


Parathesiyath thirivathu ethanaale?
[Why does one wander without a home?]


Avan pathhu veedu chorru rusi kandathaale
[Because he relishes the taste of rice in tens of houses]


Karrirul soozhuvathu evvidathile?
[Where does complete darkness fall?]


Karru arivillatha moodar nenjakathile
[In the minds of learned fools.]


Puhaiyum neruppillamal erivathethu?
[What can burn without smoke and fire?]


Pasithu vaadum makkal vayiru athu.
[The stomach of the hungry peasants]


Ulagathile payankaramaana aayutham ethu?
[What is the most dangerous weapon in the world?]


Nilai keddu pona nayavanjakanin naaku thaan athu.
[The tongue of the traitor who had lost his balance.]

Many words and phrases of this beautiful song are so pregnant with appropriate thoughts for the Eelam Tamils now. For example, look at what the poet described as, �Veeddu poonaikuddi kaaddilodi puliyai pidithhu thinnap purappadda kathai polallava�. Isn�t it similar to the silly sentiments raised in some quarters, clamoring for a change in leadership among the Eelam Tamils? Can any house kitten run into a forest and devour a tiger? It is just a fantasy, as the poet aptly notes.

The Paddukottai poet also makes a distinction between the two types of fools; one, the learned fool (karru arivillatha moodar) and the other, illiterate fool (karrarivu illatha moodar). In the answer to the question, �Where does complete darkness fall?�, the poet points out to the �mind of the learned fool�. He emphasizes that even educated persons can behave like fools and their minds are full of gloom and doom.

The poet also asks the question, �What is the most dangerous weapon in the world?�. Instead of replying �sword or gun or atom bomb�, the poet answers the question with wit and says �the tongue of the traitor who has lost his balance� [Nilai keddu pona nayavanjakanin naaku thaan athu]. Did Paddukottai Kalyanasundaram have a premonition about the fools whose tongues are now given for hire, after losing their �original objectives�?


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