உயிரின் உயிரே

This is the main song from the film Kaaka Kaaka — a film that I haven’t seen (just not into Tamil/Bollywood films).

I am told this is sung by the hero for his girl. But why not go for yet another kind of passionate love, the desire for God? This song can be treated as about one’s longing for God. In particular it reminds me of the Bengali saint, Ram Prasad’s mystical poetry – his longing and crying out to Kali. You just need to consider the singer of this poem, as singing out to Kali (or whatever your Ishta Devata is). Hence I’m capitalizing the word Girl in the translation below.

For those who haven’t read Ram Prasad’s bhakti poetry on Kali (or for that matter any bhakti poetry) here is an excerpt (from Lex Hixon’s translation, The Mother of the Universe), slightly paraphrased:

Mother of the Universe, you captivate the world by your mystic black radiance!
Your long hair streams as waves of cosmic energy.
Union with your transcendent blackness is sought by your lovers.
As naked truth, you dance on the battlefield of relativity,
Wielding the sword of knowledge, that cuts through all notions of objectivity and subjectivity.
Oh Wisdom Woman! I bow down to thee.

I think what makes this film song easily interpretable as a bhakti song is that it has depth and substance, like some of the main elements of bhakti: maya (illusion), disillusion, what is real, the fleeting of time, the longing for God. The music (as much as I can’t stand fusion, this isn’t too fusionistic) together with the bhakti meaning of this poem, makes it all the more mystical.

So, from bhakti perspective, I imagine this as a poet who sings this song laying half-dead on a shallow river-bed (I imagine half is face under water), imagining his death, after the cremation flames have died down, he still remains, hovering in the dry hot air above, asking Kali in the form of the morning mist to whisk him away. Time flows, eons/yugas roll by. Life ebbing away, memories fading, blanketed by maya (illusion), not knowing what is maya and what is Real. Stretching out his hands reaching for Kali, to awaken him from the maya, the jiva-atman longing to meet the Atman, who but Her, to guide him, lest he be lost.

Note: as I am not an expert in Tamil, there maybe mistakes in the translation. Please do let me know if you see any mistakes.

You can listen to the actual song: raaga.com or youtube.


உயிரின் உயிரே
uyirin uyire

உயிரின் உயிரே, உயிரின் உயிரே
நதியின் மடியில் காத்துக் கிடைக்கின்றேன்
ஈர அலைகல் நீரை வாரி முகத்தில் இறைத்தும்
முழுதும் வேர்க்கின்றேன் [1]

The life-essence of life, the life-essence of life,
In the river’s lap, I lay there awaiting,
rows of cool waves, parting its way through the water, splashing my face,
completely perspiring.

The title of this poem “uyirin uyirae” is in itself difficult to translate. Literally it would mean “life’s life”, but the actual Tamil meaning is closer to something like “the life-essence of life” (the thing which is the cause of life, and sustains life). The poet considers Kali as the life breath of life itself.

Note the symbolism of awaiting in the rivers lap. The often used illustration is that the world is like the turbulent ocean of samsara, where the soul is tossed and turned, until, finally exhausted or fed up, it wants to escape from the cycle; through yoga, in this case the yoga of despondency/disillusion (vishad yoga) – and hence the questioning of what is Real.


நகரும் நெருப்பாய் கொழுந்து விட்டெரிந்தேன்
அணைந்த பின்பும், அனலின் மேலிருந்தேன்
காலைப் பனியாக என்னை வாரிகொண்டாய் [2]

By blades of flame, set ablaze and cast away [the body],
After [the flames] have died out, I hover on top of the hot air
In the form of the morning mist, You whisked/swept me away.

I believe the poet here is imagining his cremation. After the flames die out [in the morning mist], he remains hovering (on top of) the hot air. In the form of the morning mist You [Kali] whisk me away.


நேரம் கூட எதிரி ஆகிவிட,
யுகங்களாக வேதம் [வேடம்] மாறிவிட,
அணைத்து கொன்டாயே, பின்பு ஏனோ சென்றாய் [3]

Time passes by, flowing against me
yugas pass by, the Vedas change
Took hold of me, only to later abandoned me, for whatever reason.

The poet talks of eons passing by, reflected by the change in Vedas. In Satya Yuga when people where highly evolved the Vedas were one, then the Vedas become four in the Treta Yuga, then they become many in the Dvapara Yuga. That is, to convey the same Truth it takes many lines as man is no longer as evolved or connected with the Truth/Self. In the Kali Yuga the Vedas/Knowledge is spread across innumerable books – and there is confusion on what is true and not true.


சுவாசம் இன்றி தவக்கிறேனே,
உனது மூச்சில் பிழைக்கிறேனே
இதழ்களை இதழ்களால் நிரப்பிட வா பெண்ணே [4]

I quiver/struggle as the prana ebbs away
Only by your breath I survive/sustain
Your lips fill my lips, come Girl!

The author feels his life force (svAsam) ebb away, and calls out to Kali that only through Her breath (mUchu) he is sustained, wishing Her lips (idhaL) to fill his lips. idhaL also means flower petals. This sort of symbolism is used profusely in Tamil love poetry and bhakti poetry.


நினைவு எங்கோ நீந்திச் செல்ல
கனவு வந்து கண்ணைக் கிள்ள
நிழல் எது? நிஜம் எது? குழம்பினேன் வா பெண்ணே [5]

Memories going away, fading/swimming out of me,
[Wake me] out of my dream, pinch my cheek.
What is shadow? what is real? I am confused, come Girl!

At the time of death our prana and our memories leave. Our entire personality is built upon the collection of all our memories (including learned responses, short/long-term memory). Our memories is what gives us an identity. Once our memories leave, our personality ceases (it doesn’t have a foundation to build an identity upon). The poet feels his life force and memories fade away. He calls on Kali to pinch him, wake him from this reverie/maya. What is maya (shadow/illusion)? what is Real (real/truth)?


காற்றில் எந்தன் கைகள் இரண்டும்
உன்னை அன்றி யாரைத் தேடும்
விலகிப் போகாதே, தொலைந்து போவேனே,
நான்…நான்…நான் [6]

In the wind my two hands [reach out]
who else besides you it looks for [to behold]?
Don’t pass by without noticing me! I will be lost!
thyself… thyself… thyself…

The poet reaches out his hand, asking who else but Kali to come get him, his only Guide, to take him out of the ocean of samsara, lest he be lost in it.


இரவின் போர்வை என்னை சூழ்ந்து
மெல்ல மெல்ல மூடும் தாழ்ந்து
விடியலைத் தேடினேன் உன்னிடம் வா பெண்ணே [7]

The blanket of night surrounds (covers) me,
little by little closes in low [on me]
In the dark I searched, come Girl!

The veil of maya (illusion) blankets him. The attachment to maya hides him from his True nature as the unchanging, infinite, and transcendent reality, the Atman. In this darkness he searches, calls out to Her…


பாதம் எங்கும் சாவின் ரணங்கள்
நரகம் ஆகும் காதல் கணங்கள்
ஒருமுறை மடியிலே உறங்குவேன் வா பெண்ணே [8]

Footprints everywhere of Death {Death’s wounds}
Into ash/hell, the harbingers/demons of desire
Just once let me sleep in your lap, come Girl!

The poet implies destroying delusion. Also, what is the final resting place of the soul (after it gets frustrated, fed up, tired with rebirth after another; that is, when one breaks through the thicket of delusion)? In one such meme, it is in the lap of Narayana (ref. Thiruppaavai).


தாமதிக்கும் ஒவொரு கணமும்
தவணை முறையில் மரணம் நிகழும்
அருகில் வாராயோ விரல்கள் தாரயோ [9]

I envision (acknowledge/respect) you in every second/instance
in that way death closes in {?}
Won’t you come close, won’t you give your hand/fingers?

The poet says She is there in every instance, and as death approaches, he asks Her to be there to give him Her hand (the beauty is when Death itself reveals itself to be Her only in disguise, knowable only to those who truly love Her!)

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5 thoughts on “உயிரின் உயிரே

  1. Simply superb..!!!Much better than the originalGreat imagination. Hats Off!!

  2. cool!!!!nice job done….

  3. thanks for the translation and esp the lyrics in tamil!! THANKS ALOT.

  4. thx for the translation. added depth and replay value to a song i dont understand literally.

  5. what a lovely post,
    I just found it.
    brilliant stuff man. :-) :-)

    iravin poarvai yeNNai suzhundhu…
    mella mella moodum thazhndhu
    vidiyalai thaedinean
    uNNidam vaa peNNae

    The blanket of night surrounds (covers) me,
    little by little closes in low [on me]
    In the dark I searched, come Girl!

    here alone, my suggestion is that it could be

    In the dark I searched for dawn, come Girl!

    window siller :-)

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