#ReadWomen: The Secret Garland by Andal

Classical Tamil poetry by Andal

Translated by Archana Venkatesan in the Harper Perennial Volume The Secret Garland, out now in a special Harper Perennial keepsake edition.

 

Ōki Ulakaanta

 

Singing the names

of the perfect one who

spanned worlds with his feet

and measured them

 

we bathe at dawn

proclaim:

 

If we undertake this vow

our land will be free from evil

rains will fall three times a month

fish will leap

amidst the thick tall red grain

the spotted bee will sleep

nestled in the dark blue lily

 

and when we clasp their heavy udders

the great generous cows

will fill our pots without cease

 

limitless wealth will abound

 

el or empavay

 

Āi Maai Kaṇṇā

 

Dear rain, withhold nothing from us.

 

You scoop up the ocean, rise up replete and full:

your body dark

as the primordial lord’s form

supreme in the final deluge.

 

Flash like the flaming disc

Resound like the Valampuri

held aloft in the hands of Padmanabha

his shoulders broad and beautiful.

 

Rain without delay

like a shower of arrows

released from his bow

 

Rain

so we may bathe in Margali

so we may live in this world

so we may rejoice

 

el or empavay

 

 

About the book:

Legend tells us of a young girl in the ninth century who swears to marry none but Vishnu. She appropriates a garland meant for him – a transgressive act, yet one of singular devotion. Born of her boundless, consuming love for Vishnu are the two exquisite Tamil poems, Tiruppaval and Nacciyar Tirumoli. These compositions, in which Vishnu is her awesome, mesmerizing and sometimes cruel lover, give expression to Kotai’s powerful experiences and her vibrant, bold sensuality.

About the author:

Archana Venkatesan is associate professor of comparative literature and religious studies at the University of California, Davis. She was selected as a UC Davis chancellor’s fellow in 2014. Archana has also received numerous grants, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Institute of Indian Studies and Fulbright. Her research interests are in the intersection of text and performance in south India, as well as in the translation of early and medieval Tamil poetry into English. She is the author of A Hundred Measures of Time (Penguin Classics, 2014), with Crispin Branfoot, the forthcoming In Andal’s Garden: Art, Ornament and Devotion in Srivilliputtur (Marg, 2015), and a version of The Secret Garland: Andal’s Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli was published by Oxford University Press in 2010. She is also collaborating with Francis Clooney of Harvard University on an English translation of Nammalvar’s Tiruvaymoli.

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