Avvaiyar — The Diplomat

When Clinton visited India as First Lady, a college student gave her a poem about women all over the world suffering in silence. I wish someone had been given this poem by Avvaiyar who, 800 years ago, had pretty much functioned like a Secretary of State/Diplomat — just as Clinton would later.

Avvaiyar II, a poet and friend of King  Adhiyaman, is supposed to have helped avoid war between two kingdom states.  King Thondaiman, ruler of Kanchipuram, had him a note declaring his intention to attack. Adhiyaman requested Avvaiyar to visit Thondaiman and let him that this war would bring him nothing. The poet did this, in style, using beautiful verse.

Avvaiyar sang this to make Thondaiman understand  how unprepared he was for the war and its consequences.

இவ்வே, பீலி அணிந்து, மாலை சூட்டிக்
கண்திரள் நோன்காழ் திருத்தி, நெய் அணிந்து,
கடியுடை வியன்நக ரவ்வே : அவ்வே,
பகைவர்க் குத்திக், கோடுநுதி சிதைந்து,
கொல்துறைக் குற்றில மாதோ ; என்றும்
உண் டாயின் பதம் கொடுத்து,
இல் லாயின் உடன் உண்ணும்,
இல்லோர் ஒக்கல் தலைவன்,
அண்ணல்எம் கோமான், வைந் நுதி வேலே

She was using a nice bit of psychology here. She says “Oh Thondiaman, how different indeed are your clean and shiny weapons from those of Adiyaman, always stained with blood and under repair.” Thondaiman had far less experience in war and was unlikely to win — she was making this clear under the guise of praise.

She was actually advising the young king to avoid a needless war in which he was bound to lose. The song follows the grammar of Tamil called as “Vanja Pugazhchi Ani” (வஞ்சப் புகழ்ச்சி அணி) means, treachery/falsity hidden under praise.