Endless Song came into this world at the start of the global pandemic. How can one concentrate on a book, promoting it, or talking about it, in the midst of so much misery, uncertainty, and difficulty? I was occupied trying to shepherd my department through the challenges of teaching and working during the pandemic, while also trying to learn how to teach effectively on Zoom. The last thing on my mind was this book. So it is especially meaningful to have this book, which took so many years to come into life, to receive not one, but two major prizes.
I am thrilled that my translation of the Tiruvāymoḻi, Endless Song, has won the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize from The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). This is the first Tamil work and the first from any South Asian language to be recognized with this honor. I am shocked, elated, humbled, and honored by this recognition. It took a very long time to birth this book, to find an English to match the soaring heights of Nammāḻvār’s Tamil. I did not choose this poem to translate, daunted by its length and the rich tradition of commentary that accompanies it. But, it chose me through some mixture of providence and serendipity, and good fortune. Now it is out there in the world to live its own life.
It is a great day for Tamil and I so hope that the visibility generated by the prize will draw more people into the rich, wonderous world of Tamil literature (and South Asian literature too).
My translation of the Tiruvaymoli is finally out. It has a physical form, and I suppose that means it is real and it exists.
It can be purchased in the US via Amazon
It can be purchased in India via Penguin’s page
I do not know if it is physically in any bookstore in India or across the pond. It would be lovely if it is.
It’s only taken 12 years to get this done. In the midst of it, the project seemed interminable. Now that it is done, it is rather unbelievable that it took only 12 years.
This marvelous poem is making the rounds in the wake of the protests sweeping across India. Its powerful, evocative words speak across time and cultures as a clarion call to resist oppression, and that the power to rise up to fight, to persist, and to resist oppressive systems lies within all of us.
There are lots of translations of Hum Dekhenge, but I like this one best:
I was looking through old photographs today and found this pic from 2007. In 2005, the Araiyars at Alvar Tirunagari entrusted me with the manuscript that recorded the Araiyar Sevai. They requested my help in cleaning, restoring, digitizing and printing the text for them. With the help of the French Institute of Pondicherry, I finally accomplished this in 2008 and returned the manuscript to them. This photo captures the terror that I felt at the responsibility.
So much has happened in the intervening 15 years…but 2005 marked my first full immersion in the Adhyayanotsavam.
On Vaikuntha Ekadasi, the eleventh day of the Adhyayanotsavam and the first day of the Tiruvaymoli Festival, it is an honor and privilege to share my collaborative project with Sikkil Gurucharan. We have worked together to set verses from the Tiruvaymoli to music. This set is from the First Hundred, and over the next ten months, we will release verses from each Hundred of the Tiruvaymoli.
While there is the Koyil Tiruvaymoli, a set of 143 verses, curated by the acaryas of the Srivaishnava tradition, in this project, we have chosen verses that spoke to us, that were unusual, or those that would be best suited for a musical interpretation. There is obviously some overlap with the Koyil Tiruvaymoli, our project is distinct from those verses.
The cover of the Tiruvaymoli translation arrived this morning in my Inbox. My breath seized in delight and joy. I am honored that one of Olivia Dalrymple‘s haunting, evocative paintings once again graces the cover of one of my books. What fortune this is, that the yellow-gold lotuses that bloomed on the cover of the Tiruviruttam, glow this time, against an ink-dark body, blossoming and closing, on the cover of the Tiruvaymoli. If ever there was a painting to capture the mood, spirit and feel of the Tiruvaymoli, a garland of lotuses, an ornament to a jewel, this is surely it. Thank you, Richa, for making this happen, and thank you Olivia, for granting Penguin the necessary permissions.
A body of lotuses
from your navel, a lotus, emerged three vast worlds
your feet, lotuses, measured the three worlds
your eyes are lotuses, your hands too
Padmanābha, my ruler, I am alone
when will I reach you?