By: Kumar Punithavel
The poet, who composed the poem # 204 of Purananooru (புறநானூறு), was Kazhaithin Yaanaiar (கழைதின் யானையார்), which literarily translates in Tamil, as munching elephant. This poem is believed to be his second on this genre, hence he was given this pseudo name, Kazhaithin Yaanaiar, it is told. However, this poem , along with thousands of Sangam literature, believed to have been lost with time.
During the Sangam era, which dates between 600 BCE and 200 CE, there lived seven benevolent royals called Kadaiyezhu Vallalkal (கடையெழு வள்ளல்கள்). As the name implies, these were the last remaining philanthropists of the Sangam era, before it disappeared from the face of the earth. Before them, there was another set of seven philanthropists called Thalaiyezhu Vallalkal (தலையெழு வள்ளல்கள்). The seven Kadaiyezhu Vallalkal were: Kaari (காரி), Ori (ஓரி), Paekan (பேகன்), Aay (ஆய்), Nalli (நல்லி), Paari (பாரி) and Athikan (அதிகன்), not necessarily in that order. Ori, also called Valvil Ori (வல்வில் ஓரி), is believed to be the last of the seven.
There were many interesting folklores on King Ori, one is worth a mention here. Once, when Valvil Ori was out hunting in the wilderness, in a place called Rasapuram (presently called Rasipuram), where he shot a hog with his arrow. The wounded animal had disappeared into the bush leaving a trail of blood. Looking for the animal, the King followed the trail only to find a bleeding deity, Lord Siva instead, in the form of Sivalingam (சிவலிங்கம்). Surprised and dismayed of his action, the King thought that Lord Siva was testing him for his faith, built a temple on this spot and named as Kailaasanaathar Temple. This temple, is in existence even today, and the said incident was sculptured at the bottom of the flagstaff depicting the swine in the bush and a king by its side with his sword and shield.
Hearing about King Valvil Ori and his benevolence, one day Kazhaithin Yaanaiyaar set out to see the King in the hope of getting some rewards for rendering poetic praises on his prowess, which was widely practised in those days by poets and musicians alike. Unfortunately, to the bard’s dismay, the king had not given audience to the poet on that day, an act the poet believed was deliberate. Having known the benevolent nature of the king, the poet moved on without having any ill will. “The royal highness must have had a reason for ignoring me” he thought and thus penned a poem, expounding the circumstances.
Begging has always been looked down by many cultures, and the Tamilian race was not any different either. The great Saint Thiruvalluvar too, mentions in his couplet #222 thus, to beg is evil but gifting will always lead the path to the heaven.
Though men declare it heavenward path, yet to receive is ill;
Though upper heaven were not, to give is virtue still.
நல்லா றெனினுங் கொளல்தீது மேலுலகம்
இல்லெனினும் ஈதலே நன்று
Below is Kazhaithin Yaanaiyaar‘s response to the king’s behaviour:
புறநானூறு 204, பாடியவர்: கழைதின் யானையார், பாடப்பட்டோன்: வல்வில் ஓரி, திணை: பாடாண், துறை: பரிசில்
ஈ என இரத்தல் இழிந்தன்று, அதன் எதிர்
ஈயேன் என்றல் அதனினும் இழிந்தன்று,
கொள் எனக் கொடுத்தல் உயர்ந்தன்று, அதன் எதிர்
கொள்ளேன் என்றல் அதனினும் உயர்ந்தன்று,
தெண்ணீர்ப் பரப்பின் இமிழ் திரைப் பெருங்கடல் 5
உண்ணார் ஆகுப நீர் வேட்டோரே,
ஆவும் மாவும் சென்று உணக் கலங்கிச்
சேறோடு பட்ட சிறுமைத்து ஆயினும்,
உண்ணீர் மருங்கின் அதர் பல ஆகும்
புள்ளும் பொழுதும் பழித்தல் அல்லதை 10
உள்ளிச் சென்றோர் பழியலர், அதனால்
புலவேன், வாழியர் ஓரி, விசும்பின்
கருவி வானம் போல
வரையாது சுரக்கும் வள்ளியோய் நின்னே.
It is shameful to ask for alms, whilst
It is more shameful to refuse alms.
It is worthy to offer alms, on the other hand,
It is worthier to refuse what was offered.
A roaring ocean nearby may have plenty of clear water;
But it won’t help to quench one’s thirst
People would rather flock to the water that was
Muddied by cows and horses, though dirty
There will be many tracks towards it to drink
Oh long live your highness Ori,
The king who never stops giving,
Like the sky that pour without a break,
It must be the time or a bad omen
That I was the one to be spared.
This article first appeared in the October 2021 print issue Monsoon Journal.