Food in Purananuru - Part II


June 24, 2016

Continuing from Purananuru Part I

Poets praising the strong and generous kings
"They cut the new millet that has grown well, without the top and base getting ruined, and then when the sesame seed blackens, it is time to reap the white pods of densely growing avarai beans, and in every settlement, in the huts roofed with grass, they share clarified toddy that has been buried and matured in liquor jars, and cook fragrant lentils in ghee with rice. Wide-shouldered women serve food in plates in the brave land ruled by a victorious king". 

" I have come to see you my lord, to drink again and again huge bowls of toddy, and eat large chunks of meats layered with fat that calms raging fires, looking like cotton thread spun by women! I have come to your happy place, oh strong man who ruins the strength of enemies! May the toddy you enjoy and drink become nectar to you, like hay to a strong ox that plows!".

"With clothes torn like the black feathers of an eagle in the wet cold season, I was resting against the roots of a jackfruit tree, tired of going from country to country. He saw my poverty and despair, a rich noble man who wore on his handsome feet anklets flecked with blood from slaughtering a herd of deer and on his head pretty gems with sparkling rays. I rose up and bowed to the hunter carrying a strong bow. He bade me to sit. Before his young men who were lost in the path could catch up with him, he kindled a fire where rapidly he roasted big pieces of fatty meat that looked like butter and gave it all to me, and said - eat this along with your large family. I heard from others in the path, that he was Nalli, the protector of the splinded, greatly famous Thotti Mountain, with soaring mountain summits from which sweet water flows down gleaming, like cut marble".

He'll place fatty meat cooked with spices and serve on small gold bowls marked by constant use, like stars that surround the moon, for our shrunken, striped intestines to be granted coolness, and bodies seeping sweat and famished, because no rice has entered them. Like raindrops that come with roaring thunder, as they eat the blazing rays of the fearsome sun and the dried out grass in the forest begins to flourish".

"Early mornings in the land of greatly famous Athi, where unlimited food is served in frond bowls made from large palmyra tress to those who come, white balls of rice is served with huge pieces of procupine meat brought by the hunters from the western land with dense forests, and in the fort where enemies cannot enter but any friend is allowed, protected by war equipment, they drink liquor desiring sour taste and eat kalam and elanthai fruits, and later tired of those, climb and pluck black naval plums from trees on the sand dunes along the river".

"There were sizzling sounds of goat meat meat cooking with ghee like the endelss sighing sounds of a rutting elephant, in the lovely, weathy palace of a king who protects this world".

"She catches loud forest fowls and quails that come to eat the dried food set on a deer hide, and cooks them on fragrant sandalwood. Of bard with large family, you should stay there, eat sweetly the big pieces of meat that she will cook for you with eel flavor, before going away".

"The women desires to share with bards and guests, the dish cooked with monitor lizard that the children of hunters caught on the pond shore only a short distance away, to which curds were added".

"This parched village in the wasteland does not yield rice; two kinds millets are the only ones here, and they have been given away to those who have come in need. Yet, it is good if you go to him, bard! He will give you toddy, as sour as kalavu fruits, after he gives you dry pieces of meat cooked together with grains plucked from spears, and curds poured into a milk pot with elanthai fruits, cooked with ghee, stirred with a ladle and served with white rice, and you are happy there".

"We will thow a big black male goat upon the red fire and we will have a feast, eating solid chunks of succulent meat rendered even richer by the spices and as our tounges reddened from drinking liquor move he meat around in our mouths, we will give away gifts to those in need who approach us". 

"We are the kinai drummers of Valliathan , lord of Ilangai, where the fields are thick with paddy, and the reapers who harvest it, when their sharp sickles become dull, look around for a stone because they want to keep cutting. They end up whetting the blades on humped backs of field tortoises lying around in the marshes. Our lord relieved our hunger daily, feeding us rice and fatty pieces of fine meat of short-legged boars with melted fragrant ghee".

"The warrior lord of the Chola country, who has gained tributes through his great efforts going into the ocean with his murderous army, is Nalankilli whose horses have pretty plumes that sway. We are his bards who love him, we do not want to sing to others for gifts. Go to him to end your hunger. He will give you dishes of rice with meat and ghee and other sweet foods".

"He gave us to eat, fried meat dripping with ghee as when drops of rain shower down on a pond brimming with water, and meat roasted on skewers. In our white bowls with meat, he poured cow's milk to the top. Other than the sweat from eating hot food, we knew nothing of the sweat of work. Our lord was generous so that he would thereby gain fame! His fields are full of flowers that bloom among the pathces of sugarcane that are fences for the paddy fields, and in his forests where cattle herds graze, there are fierce fortresses with bows. People stand in the seashore groves and count the ships brought by the wind. In the slat pans there are salt merchants who leave for fine countries with tall mountains, to shout out the prices for their white small grained salt".

"He urged me to drink, and poured aged toddy as strong as the sting of scorpion, in a dish as golden as the planets, gave me more food, one after the other, and more according to hospitable tradition, that great heir whose ancestor brought us sugarcane, precious to obtain like divine nectar, from the land beyond".

"In Pidavur, plowmen from agricultural land let oxen graze on forest land, and eat many dishes made with cooked pieces of small rabbits and long valai fish pieces, along with old rice, drink filtered liquor made from cooked rice, adorn themselves with thalavam flowers from bushes, and beat their parai drums sharply, chasing away the birds".

"Our king gives us cooked fatty meats, our king gives flower liquor. Our king gives fragrant rice with ghee and fatty pieces of rabbit meat. The food grannary is left open for us to take more food. And he gave much more. My sad large clan could eat in happiness and have food left over. There are no limits his generosities with those like me, he is my lord".

"He poured clear liquor which reflected the face, to the full, into a cup that was like a flame. To me and my family, he gave venison to eat along with elephant foot yam and rice as long as a crane's claw, the same food that he ate. To spread his fame, he gave me a pearl strand that resembled a snake, glowing with many gems that lay on his chest which was like a mountain. He gave me lovely clothing that was covering his body, the lord of the Payal Mountain where cascading waterfalls resound like drums".

"He heard the beats of kinai drum with clear sound and without reducing his kindness stripped me of my old torn clothes that covered my body, he gave me fine bright precious jewels and a silk garment, and liquor that was strained with fiber. Not only can he drive away enemies, he can also drive away that hunger enemy from those who come to him in need".

Resources:
Achaya, K.T. Indian Food: A Historical Companion. Oxford University Press 1994
Dikshitar, V.R. Ramachandra. Pre-Historic South India Cosmo Publications 1951
Hart, George L. and Hank Heifetz (trans. and ed.) Purananuru: The four Hundred Songs of War and Wisdom: An Anthology of Poems from classical Tamil. Columbia University Press 1999
Herbert, Vaidehi. Sangam Literature A Beginner’s Guide. Digital Maxim LLC. 2013
Herbert, Vaidehi. Purananuru. Digital Maxim LLC 2013
Iyengar, P.T. Srinivasa. History of the Tamils From the Earliest Times to 600 AD AES reprint 2001
Kanakasabhai, V. The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago. Higginbotham & Co. Madras 1904
Ramanujan, A.K. (trans. and ed.) Poems of Love and War: From the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil. Columbia University Press 1985 
Zvelebil, Kamil Veith. A History of Indian Literature Volume X Tamil Literature Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1974

Photo of forest - rights free image from Government of Kerala Tourism Department website.

AMMINI RAMACHANDRAN