I finished the Tiruvaymoli some time ago, and thought I would take a break, recharge the brain, and then turn to the next big translation project–the Sundara Kandam of Kamban’s Ramayana. But then, a couple of mornings ago, I woke up itching to do more Nammalvar. Why? I don’t know. He composed four works, and I’ve completed two. I suppose, given my obsession about finishing things, I want to finish the set. Thankfully, they are small works. The Tiruvaciriyam (named after the meter) is just 7 verses, while the Periya Tiruvantati (The Big Antati) is 87. So, both texts almost certainly incomplete. They are attributed to Nammalvar, but there’s no concluding phala sruti, so it’s possible someone else composed them. Hard to say. But the opening of the Tiruvasiriyam is strikingly similar to the opening (thematically speaking) of the Ciriya Tirumatal, which is attributed to Tirumankai. Again, no phala sruti, so it may be Tirumankai, it could be another alvar poet, it could be someone unknown to us. Anyway, we go by what the tradition has bequeathed to us.
So, here is the opening verse of the Tiruvaciriyam. It’s quite beautiful.
Draped in crimson clouds
limned by the flaming sun
the cool glowing moon and countless stars
your jewels, your lips red coral,
your body a mountain of luminous emerald
this is how you lie in the arms
of the king of the sea:
a flame of yellow silk and shining gems
lips and eyes glittering against your leaf-dark skin
a lotus rising from your navel,
asleep on a poison-spitting serpent
in the midst of the ocean
with its crashing roaring waves
Śivaṉ Ayaṉ Indraṉ and every other god
bow before you
before your petal-soft feet
that took the three worlds.