FRIDAY REVIEW

Poonthanam in Tamil

Laudable effort: Giridharan

Laudable effort: Giridharan  

S. SIVAKUMAR

Dr. Giridharan’s Gnana Virutham has the fervour of the Malayalam original.

Bhakta Kavi Poonthanam Namboodiri, who lived nearly four centuries ago, belonged to Angadippuram, a village in north Kerala. He was the contemporary and peer of Melputhur Bhattatrippadi, author of Narayaneeyam.

Poonthanam (that happens to be his house-name), whose real name is unknown, poured out in verse form, the “Gnana Paanai” in Malayalam, with naamasmaranam being singled out as the unfailing route to salvation.

The fervour contained in the original is present in the Tamil translation, titled Gnana Viruththam. This “capture of the original” has been done by Dr. U.R. Giridharan, who possesses a deep understanding of the cultures of the Tamil, Malayalam and English languages enabling him to do his work with effortless ease.

(Professor Dr. N. Subramaniam, in his scholarly preface, mentions this aspect significantly and also elevates the Tamil poetic style (nadai) above the prevalent forms of worship of the Almighty).

Dr. Prema Nandakumar, in her remarks, traces the saintly ambience of Poonthanam, whose poetry she says is characterised by the use of simple phrases, has philosophical strength, shows his deep bhakti and has in it immense literary quality.

Dr. Nandakumar compliments Dr. Giridharan, whose natural abilities in the art of “Sandhakkavi” has made him adopt this as his paradigm. Each one of these verses carries valuable footnote references from Thiruvaaai Mozhi indicating the continuity of thought that has been in existence over the centuries.

Immediate agenda

Dr. Giridharan is a spontaneous translator whose works include Tamil versions of Hanuman Chalisa and Lalitha Sahasranamam and another entitled “Singavele! Pirane!” a 12-metre-styled-poem (Panniruseer Aasiriaviruththam) requiring extraordinary mastery of Tamil grammar.

Vishnu Sahasranamam is also on his immediate agenda.

Dr. Giridharan narrated a few instances he could gather from the life of Poonthanam to show how he was an ascetic and his aim was to enlighten the common man and to liberate him from his daily humdrum existence and distinguish the real from the unreal.



Chinmaya Sisters, Uma and Radhika, have themselves set to tune and sung this flowing poetry in choice Carnatic ragas such as Nattai, Panthuvarali, Ranjani, Dhanyasi and Madhyamavathi.

An audio CD has been made out with the typical Kerala music as background score. The composer is Mohandas. The CD released by Devadatham Music has the verses in song and virutham format and is marked by an unmistakable and sensitive diction and bhava-laden rendition. Dr. Giridharan recalls with warmth the “commitment and painstaking orientation towards perfection” the sisters exhibited during the recording sessions.

An illustrative excerpt from “Gnana Virutham” goes thus:

Hari Naamam Ullavarai Endha Naalum Sarivenbadhillai — Ariveer,

Ariya Vedhadhi Noolgalum, Geethaiyum Pugazhum Adhanai…Undu Maghizhveer…

(Realise that Harinamam, the prescription of the Gita and other scriptures will never bring you down and it is for you to savour this HariNamam). And this, says it all.



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