The breast have dried up; the nerves are bulging;
Sunk are the eyes and hollow is the maw;
Ruddy are the gums in the two rows of teeth;
Two white teeth are jutting out; long are
The raised ankles: thus, even thus is she—a ghost!
In the withered wood she abides screaming.
In that wilderness of a forest, with His flowing
Matted hair wafting in all the eight directions
He—our Father--, dances carrying in His
Cool body, the fire. Behold Tiruaalangkaadu! 1
A she-ghoul stretches her leg into a cleft of cactus;
It draws from the funeral pyre a burning brand,
Grinds it into khol and paints her eye-lids therewith;
It then cachinnates and (anon) gets alarmed.
Beholding the approaching beasts, it jumps
And gets burnt by the fire of the funeral pyre;
Totally resenting this, it puts out the fire by heaping
Dust thereon. It is in such a crematory
Our Father dances. Behold Tiruaalangkaadu! 2
The white and ripe nuts of vaakai are rattling;
It is dead of night—densely dark and bewildering;
Now do barn-owl and aantalai begin to sing;
The horned owl jumps on a branch, its wings aflutter.
It is a crematory where pyres are arranged
Under the shade of cactus entwined with indai creepers
It is here our Father who with His cooled body
Dances in the fire! Behold Tiruaalangkaadu!
vaakai : Sirissa (Albizzia lebbek)
aantalai : A bird with a man’s face
indai : Eight-pinnate soap-pod (Acacia intsia caesia)
Retrieving the cooked rice thrown into the homa-pit
A fox eats it. “Alas, why did we not eye the food
Ere the fox beheld it?” So cry the ghouls in wrath
And run about in the crematory clapping hands.
This crematory is indeed my Lord’s theatre
Where He dances the ullaalam-dance forming
A mandala; then our Father stands erect,
His uplifted foot grazing the heavens,
And dances! Behold Tiruaalangkaadu!
Ullaalam : The details of this dance are not known.
Mandala : A circle.
A ghoul devoured oily fat and decked herself
Fittingly with a garland of white skulls.
That ghoul christened her child as Kaali
And reared it in splendour; she wiped out the dust
From the person of her child and suckled it.
This done, away she went but id not return in time;
At this her child cries and cries and falls asleep.
Such is the crematory where our Father
Dances! Behold Tiruaalangkaadu! 5
The ghouls of flat, cloven feet and long nails
Deliver their young; kestrels, barn-owls, partridges
And horned owls lay their eggs; ghouls, barn owls,
Foxes and other birds and beasts turn fully
The corpses left there all abandoned
In the dreadful crematory where our Father
So leaps and dances in all the eight directions
That His heels hit His fundament!
Behold Tiruaalangaadu! 6
The fire-breathing ghouls whose rolling eyes spit fire
Foregather and enact the dance of tunangkai;
They run hither and thither, pull out the burning corpses
From the pyre and eat the flesh thereof.
Such is the fearful crematory where to the sounding
Of the anklets and the heroic anklet, our Father
Dances His vatianai in the crematory whilst His
Fulgurant strands of matted hair sway and sputter.
tunangkai : The details of this dance are not known.
vattanai : Dancing in circles; a spiraling dance.
Lo, he is dead who willingly wandered through
Country and city to gain the goodly way;
All shrouded, he is now laid beside the corps
Of an aged person; such is the crematory
Where the Lord whose jewels are snakes,
Surrounded by the gathering hordes of ghouls,
Holding the fire in His palm, so dances
That woodland and ocean, mountain and earth
Spin and whirl! Behold our Father’s Tiruaalangkaadu!
Our Lord sings so tunefully that tuttham,
Kaikkilai, vilari, taaram, uzhai and yili
Mesh in harmony; sacchari, kokkarai, takkai,
Takunitham, karatikai, vankai, menthol,
Tamarukam, kutamuzha and monthai accompany
His singing in admirable unison.
Our Father dances to the orchestral polyphony!
Behold His place—Tiruaalangkaadu!
Note : Tuttham etc., are the seven basic notes of Indian Music.
Takkai, takunitham : Percussion instruments
Takunitham is also known as takuniccham.
Tuntupi : A celestial instrument.
Karatikai : A drum.
Vankai, Menthol : Instruments made of hide.
Tamarukam : A little drum shaped like an hour-glass.
Kutamuzha : The pancha – mukha vaadya (the five-faced drum).
With befuddled intellect and bewildered manam,
They place the corpse at the junction of the roads,
Perform the obsequies and then take it to the crematory.
The red fire set to the pyre by the one entitled,
Glows like lamp; such is the place where during twilight hour
Our Father enacts the great dance whilst His anklets
Sound, and the drum-beats of the celestials pervade
All the directions. Behold Tiruaalangkaadu! 10
The ghouls of Him who is beyond compare, foregather,
Pat each other in glee, make dinsome riot
And sprea as in a dance; the singing of partridges
Is accompanied as though on yaazh by the foxes
That stand close by; such is the beauteous Tiruaalangkaadu
Of our Father! They that are versed in this decad
Of chasts Tamil sung on Him by Kaaraikkaal Pey
Of bushy and spreading hair, will surely
Come by Siva’s way and bliss eternal. 11
Sincere thanks to Sri. T N Ramachandran of thanjavur, who has translated this holy composition to English, for permitting English translation of Thiruvalangattu Moodhtha Thiruppadhikam (part-1) be published here.