Priya Sarukkai Chabria translates Aandaal

Aandaal, ஆண்டாள், an 8th century Tamil mystic poet followed the poetic conventions of her time by requesting monsoon clouds to act as messenger to her love, the God of the Universe. Besides the literal meaning, each verse embeds parallel and inset meanings that are left to the reader to discover. Simultaneous shifts in meaning dynamize each verse into a literary trompe l’oeil. The following are translations from Naachiar Tirumozhi, a poem of 143 verses that belongs to an erotic genre of spiritual verse, not favoured by conservative Tamil Vaishnavites.


from The Sacred Songs of the Lady 

Song 8: Dark Rain Clouds Be My Messengers


Dark cloud roof unfurling beneath
           the roof of the covering sky
Do you herald the coming of my lord Tirumal from high
                    Venkata hill where the bright waterfall plunge?
My tears, luminous, stream between the full
           hills of my breasts
I am not to weep; yet he makes me break my vow,
           how does this honour him?

Vast curly vault veiling
the sky’s   star drizzled dome

Does your darkness hide
his gleaming     darkness    from which shimmer

into my body’s wet valleys?

I weep, forsaking secrecy.
How could my coursing silver illumine his glory?

My love
vast   star-filled

in separation.
Still I flow
a stream lightening –struck

to  lustrate
see my glory


Monsoon clouds you spread across
           the sky, slash
it raining torrents, you shake the honey-heavy blossoms
           of Vengadam and scatter scented petals.
Go tell the dark lord who killed the demon Hiranya
           ripping him with paws of  fury
that he has robbed me of my bangles.
                     He must return them to me now!

Dark clouds you enlarge in anger, growl and roll
across the skies rending it open

with rain, lightning bolts; you tear
flowers, spill honey, petals clot like blood on earth.

Go to the fiercest lord who plunged his claws in Hiranya roaring,
mane tossing as his bloody paws ripped insides out

tell him: I’ve grown thin with longing, bangles slip from wrists!’
He must heal me with his touch


engorged with anger

nails extending you kill

plunging wrists in


these very hands I seek

to caress me

gather my swollen ripeness in



spilling nectar

my body’s blood flower bursts



In his avatar as Kurma, submerged tortoise, he supported
           the churning of the star –milk ocean awash
with gems; cosmic treasures bubbled out.  Descend
           clouds, down to the lotus feet of  Vengadam’s lord  and lay
there my surrender. Fragrant saffron paste covers
           my breasts — that must be wipe
on him; he must embrace
           me if only for a day or I waste away.

Splendid the Milky Way spreads
spinning constellations plucked from its depths shimmer

as the great churning begins — before
Time begins.  Lotus eyed Nayarana, the Eternal

One caused this to be. Dive deep clouds and lay
me at his crimsoned feet. Tell him of my

surrender; tell him to wash my body’s scarlet longing
for just today else I die.

Time’s great ocean, each second, each eternity

churn away my adornments
churn my body’s milk
churn me red

from my ocean
churn out my truest self.
Let me rise to you my love
or let me die

Priya Sarukkai Chabria is a poet, writer and translator. Her publications include Dialogues and Other Poems (2005) reprint (2006) and Not Springtime Yet (2008)

Sarukkai-Chabria edits the website Talking Poetry and edited the anthology 50 Poets 50 Poems. Recipient of Senior Fellowship to Outstanding Artists from the Indian government, she has worked with the Rasa Theory of Aesthetics, co-founded a film society Friends of the Archive and collaborated with classical dancer Malavika Sarukkai. She has been invited to The Writer’s Center, UK; ‘Alphabet City’, Canada; Frankfurt Book Fair etc. and many literary festivals in India.  Her work is published in numerous international journals and websites, and anthologized. She is translating works of eighth century Tamil mystic poet Aandaal; writing a travelogue and a story collection; all three books are to be published in 2011.