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L.Srikumar Pai
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Jnana Pana By Poonthanam.

( Translated to English verse, By P.R.Ramachander )

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Translated to English verse, By P.R.Ramachander: Introduction:  Poonthanam was born about four hundred years ago in a village called Angadippuram in Kerala. Near by is the Thirumandan Kunnu Bagavathy temple which is the family goddess of the Zamorins who ruled over a part of Kerala now called Malabar.

Poonthanam is not his name but the name of the Namboodiri family he belonged to..His name seems to have been forgotten in antiquity. At a very young age Poonthanam started visiting the temple at Guruvayoor and became a staunch devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan-the presiding deity. He got married and had a son. On the child’s first birthday when a great feast was being arranged the child fell in the boiling rice and died. From then on Poontanam became a perennial visitor of Guruvayur. Poonthanam did not know Sanskrit and so decided to express his innate feelings in chaste Malayalam. One of the greatest poets of the time was Melpattur Narayanan Bhattathippad who later wrote one of the greatest books of that era named ”Narayaneeyam” Melpattur was also a great devotee of Guruvayurappan. It is told that initially when Poontanam requested help in editing his poetic work “ Sri Krishna Karnamrutham” from Melpattur he refused saying that he never read works in Malayalam. Melpathur started suffering from rheumatism immediately and that night the Lord appeared in his dream and told how the lowly Malayalam works of Poonthanam were more dear to him than the Sanskrit works of Melpathur. There are several tales of Poontanam the great devotee and his Lord Guruvayrappan.

Poonthanam was possibly one of the greatest fore runners of Bhakthi cult in Kerala and his greatest work was Jnana Pana, Loosely it can be translated as “Pot of Knowledge”. But “pana” here is not pot but a style of folk poem. This is written in a common man’s language and in a common man’s verse. It preaches the greatness of repetition (singing) of the Holy God’s names. In between Poonthanam wrote about the world he saw and the world he wanted to see. Some people term it as the “Bhagavad Geetha of Malayalam”

Though written in a simple language , there are many complex statements which are obtrusive. The only interpretation available is . the “Tatwa deepika”  which is written by Sri.K.R.Neelakandan Nambeesan.I have followed his interpretation in translating the Jnana  Pana  in to English.I also have given English transliteration before the translation as well as a brief commentary for each verse after the translation...I dedicate this translation  to Lord Guruvayurappan and request his devotees to pardon any lapses that have occurred in my part.



Guru Nathan thuna cheiga sanththam,

Thiru namangal navin mel eppozhum,

Piriyathe irikkanam nammude,

Nara janmam saphala makkeduvan.


Request I, for the grace from my Guru without fail,

So that Lord’s holy names are always on my tongue,                                      

And continue to be there forever without change,

So that this our,  human birth becomes most fruitful.                                      1


         Comment:All great Indian religious work either start with salutations to the teacher or to the God.



Innale yolam enthannu arinjeela,

Ini naleyum enthannu atrinjeela,

Ini kanda thadikku vinasamum,

Inna nearm enatharenjeela.


Till yesterday we did not know it,

Even tomorrow, we may not know it,                                                       

The death to this trunk which is the body that we see today,

Know we not when it is .                     .                                                           2


(We do not know what we were in the last birth,

We do not know what we will be in the next birth,

Even in this birth in this human body,

Know we not when all this  is going to end.)*


        Comment:The poet brings out the ignorance filled life of the so called intelligent human being in this verse.


Kandu kandangirikkum janangale,

Kandilennu varuthunnathum Bhavan


Randu nalu dinam kodangoruthane,

Thandilethi naduthannathum bhavan


Malika mugalileriya mannante,

Tholil marappu kethunnathum Bhavan


The people who is seen by all of us  now ,.

You  are the one who makes them

 Not to be seen in this world.


In a matter of  day or two                                

You are He, who makes them ride on the  royal chair.


On the shoulder of the king who climbs to the top of palace.

You are He , who places the tattered heap.                                                          3


      Comment: The poet brings out how our life is “God controlled” and how temporary are the happiness and sorrow that we go through.



Kandal ottariyunnathu chilar,

Athu kandalum thiriya chilarkethume,

Kandathu onnume satyamallennathu,

Mumbe kandariyunnathu chilar.


Some people are able to know when they see,

But others do not know even if they see it.                                                             

Some people know that all what we see is  not the truth,

For they have seen it earlier and experienced.                                                       4


  Comment:The poet tells us that in our capacity to understand  the real truth about God and salvation we are very much different among our selves.


Manu jathiyil thanne pala vidham,

Manasinnu visesha mundennu orkenam


Even in these assembly  of man,

Remember there are many  special kinds of minds.                                                 5  


   Comment: He further says that though all human beings are rational, there is difference among themselves.      


Palarkku mariyenam ennitallo,

Pala jathi parayunnu sastrangal


With an aim that lot many a people should realize,

Our  religious science has made many  paths to follow                                             6


     Comment: It is with view to make the various types of people understand that our religion tells us about varying paths.  


Karmathil adhikari janangalkku,

Karma sasthrangal undu pala vidham,

Sankhya sasthrangal yogangal enniva,

Sankhyallathu nilakatte sarvavum.


For those who can choose the path,

Many a paths of action exist,

Like those that make one realize the veil covering the  truth,

Or the methods  of yoga depending on ones own limits,

But  of limited use  they are all because they are  intricate...                                       7   


      Comment: But most of these methods are difficult and obtrusive except for the very intelligent human beings.


Chuzhaneedunna samsara chakrathil,

Uzhaneedum namakku aringheeduvan,

Arivulla mahathukal undoru,

Paramarthangal chey thirikkunnu,

Eluthayittu mukthi labhippanai,

Chevi thannethu kelpin ellavarum.


In this rotating wheel of  life of births  an rebirths,

To teach us   who get caught and toil in this wheel,                                                       

Those great ones who have realized,

Have showered on us many a truth with grace,                                                                       

To attain  salvation with ease,

And so all of you please listen with care                                                              8  


       Comment:The poet tells us that easy methods to attain salvation has also been given by our sages.


Namme okkeyum bandhicha sadhanam,

Karmam ennu ariyunnathu mumbinal.


Please know first that the thing which ties us all,

Is the Karma  that we have done earlier. 


       Comment:The poet introduces the theory of past birth’s Karma that results in our present day actions.  


Munnamikkanda viswa maseshavum,

Onnayulloru jyothi swaroopamai.

Onnum chennangu thannodu pathathe,

Onnilum chennu  thanum valayathe,

Onno nnai ninakkum janangalkku,

Onnu kondariyavunna vasthuvai,

Onnilu murakatha janangalkku,

Onnu kondum thiriyatha vasthuvai,

Onnu pole onnillathe yullathee,

Onnayulloru jeeva swaroopamai,

Ninnavan thanna viswam chamachu pol,

Moonum onnil adangunnu pinneyum.                                                         


Each part of all this  world  that we knew  earlier,

Became only one  form of  an  ethereal light during deluge,.                                                               

With nothing attaching to it,

With it not attaching to anything,.                                                      

And for those seekers who search minutely  one by one,

It becomes the one thing through which every thing is known.                                

And for those whose mind flits and wanders,

It becomes something, which is the great unknown.                                            

Similar but dissimilar to each other,

But  all together  the spirit  of the soul. 

And  it seems was made by God, 

Again  with all the three worlds as its parts.                                                           9


                   Comment:The concept of Brhmam-the eternal truth is introduced. It is one thing for those who realized it and another for who are not able to know it.


Onnu kondu chamachoru viswathil,

Moonayitulla karmangal okkeyum,

Punya karmangal papa karmangalum,

Punya papangal misramam karmavum,

Moonu jathi nirupichu kanumbol,

Moonu kondum thalakkunnu jeevane.


This world which is made by  one veil of ignorance,

Has three differing types of actions,

Sins, good deeds and mixture of these,

Which when we think deep,

Ties  the soul firmly to this world.                                                                         10


      Comment:The Concept of Maya, the eternal veil of Hinduism is introduced.How by Maya we are tied to this world is mentioned.


Ponnin changala  onnee paranjadhil,

Onnil irumbu kondathre bedangal,

Randinalu meduthu pani cheythu,

Changala yallo mishramum karmavum.


Chain of gold* we think we are tied,

But it is no different from an iron chain**,

And this chain of Karma that ties us to this world,

Is no different but a mixture of these two.                                                                11


      Comment:How rewards , recognition , punishment etc are only illusions has been brought out by the poet.     


Brahma vadiyayi chayirumbolum,

Karmabadhanmar ennatharinjalum,

Bhuvanangale srishtikka ennathu,

Bhuvananda pralayam kazhivolam,

Karma pasathe langikkunnathu,

Brahmavinnum eluthalla nirnayam,

Dik palakan marum avvannam orororo,

Dikku thorum thalachu kidakkunnu.             


Though taking the side of eternal truth,

All are bound to this world by Karma.                                                                 

For the worlds would continue to be made,

Till the end marked by the deluge.                                                                                   

And to go against these ties of Karma,

Is definitely not easy even for Brahma.                                                                       

And even those divine eight, who guard the directions,

Are  chained strongly in their respective places.                                                           13   


           Comment: The chain of illusion ties us to this world and the poet tells us that it is difficult to break it even  for Gods and demi Gods,


Alpa karmikalaya namellam,

Alpa kalam kondu ororo janthukkal,

Garbha pathrathil pukkum purapettum,

Karmam kondu kalikkunathengine.



We who have done but little Karma,

In a small span of time,

Enter and leave the wombs of different animals,

And play thus with the karma that we have earned.                                                      14


   Comment: The theory of Karma and the cycle of births and rebirths is introduced by the poet


Narakangalil kidakkunna jeevan poyi,

Durithangal odungi manassinde,

Paripakavum vannu kramathale,

Nara jathiyil vannu pirannittu,

Sukrutham cheythu mel pottu poyavar,

Swargathil irunnu sukhicheedunnu


Those souls who lie in the hell,

After suffering all  the punishments there,

And after getting a reformed  mind over time,                                                                             

Are  born as Men,                                                                        

If good deeds are done, they  go above,

And  enjoy their life in heaven.                                                     


       Comment: The concept of Karma, the concept of punishment in hell and concept of reward in heavens and the consequent theory of births and rebirths is introduced by the poet.


Sukrithangal  okke yodungumbol.

Paripakavam ellola millavar,

Parichodangu irunnittu bhoomiyil,

Jatharayi duritham cheythu chatthavar,

Vannora durithathin phalamayi,

Pinne poyi narakangalil veezhunnu.


When all the rewards for  good deeds done end,

Those who do not have an iota of  reformed mind,

After some time are born in the earth,

And then those dying after doing bad deeds,

Due to the result of them ,

Do go and fall in different hells.                                                                                        16


         Comment: The impermanence of rewards for good deeds is brought out by the poet.


Sura lokathil ninnoru jeevan poyi,

Nara Loke Mahi suranakunnu,

Chanda karmangal cheythavar  chakumbol,

Chandala kulathil pirakkunnu,

Asuranmar suranmarayidunnu,

Amaranmar marangalayidunnu,

Ajam chatthu gajamayi pirakkunnu,

Gajam chatthu ajamayeedunnu,

Nari chatthu naranayi pirakkunnu,

Nari chatthu noriyayi pokunnu,

Krupa koodathe  peedippichudunna,

Nrupan chathu krumiyayi pirakkunnu,

Echa chatthu poochayayidunnu,

Easwarande vilasangal angine.



A soul from the land of Gods,

Is born as man in this earth,

People who do cruel acts in this birth,

Are born as outcastes in this earth,

The Anti gods are born as demigods,

The deathless ones are born as trees,

The goat dies and is born as elephant,

The elephant becomes a goat  after death,

The tiger dies and is born as a man,

A lady dies and is born as a fox,

The king who troubles without mercy,

After death is born as a worm,

The fly dies and becomes a cat,

And all these are but the divine sport.                                                                        17


           Comment: The concept of rebirth according to rewards earned and punishment given for bad deeds as different type of  beings is brought out by the poet.


Keezhmelangine mandunna jeevanmar,

Bhoomiyeenathre nedunnu karmangal,

Seemayillatholam pala karmangal,

Bhoomiyinnathre nedunnu jeevanmar,

Angine cheydu  nedi marichudan,

Anya logangal oronnil oronnil,

Chennirunnu bujikkunnu jeevanmar,

Odungeedum adhu ottu nal chellumbol,

Udane vannu nedunnu pinneyum,

Thande thande gruhathingal ninnudan,

Kondu poonna dhanam kondu namellam,

Mathenganum oridathu irunnittu,

Vithu  unennu prarayum kanakkine,


These souls who run between the top and the bottom,

It seems do get the Karmas done only in this earth,

And without limits  these different Karmas,

Are done by the souls only in this earth,

After doing which  after  their death,

They go to various worlds of heaven and hell,

And enjoy the rewards for these Karmas,

And those rewards would end before long,

And they come again here and start earning Karmas,

Which is like  taking money from ones own house,

And using it in some other place,

Selling what we have till it lasts.                                                                               18


   Comment: The poet tells here that  action can be done only in earth and rewards and punishments for these actions can be had in other worlds.He  tells that this is true even for beings living in other worlds.. Thus the wealth is here and to get it for spending you have to come here.


Karmangalkku vibhuvayitolloru ,

Janama desamee bhoomi yennarinjalum,

Karma nasam varuthenam engilum,

Chemme mattengum sadhiya nirnayam.


Please know that this our motherland,

Is the land to do Karmas,

And it is definitely impossible,

To destroy the residual karmas any where else.                                                        19


             Comment : The poet tells us that though the rewards for the Karma done here is elsewhere, Those Karmas which do not merit us heaven and do not merit punishment in hell are to be only spent here,


Bakthanmarkkum mumukshu janagalkkum,

Saktharaya vishayee jangalkkum,

Ichicheedunnathokke kodutheedum,

Viswa mathavu bhoomi siva! Siva!


To the devotees great,

To those who seek salvation,

And to those who pine for ordinary things,

This mother land of ours,

Would grant whatever they want, God, Oh God.                                                       20


          Comment: The poet tells here that in no other world can Karmas be done and an ordinary man can transform himself in to great souls.


Viswanathante moola prakrithi than,

Prathyakshena vilangunnu bhoomiyayi,


The innate qualities of our Lord of the world,

Obviously thrives as this world.                                                                                   21


        Comment: In this the poet feels that this our earth is God Himself.


Avani thala paalanithinallo ,

Avatharangalim palathorkkumbol,

Athu kondu viseshichum Bhoolokam,

Pathinallilum uthamam ennallo,

Veda vadhikalaya munikalum,

Vedavum bahumamichhu chollunnu.


To save and upkeep this earth of ours,

Incarnations took place it seems,

And because of this the earth specially,

Is greatest among the fourteen worlds,

So tell those who are experts in Vedas,

And so praise the Vedas about this earth.                                                                  22

      Comment: Since all incarnations are for protection of this our earth, The poet says that  it is the greatest among fourteen worlds.


Lavanambhdhi madhye vilangunna,

Jabhu dweeporu yojana lakshavum,

Saptha dweepukal adhil undethrayum,

Uttamamennu vazhthunnu pinneyum.


In the huge sea of salt,

Exists the Jambu islands,

Ten lakh miles long,

Within it are the seven islands,

Praised by scriptures as most holy.                                                                             23


       Comment: From this verse the poet describes the earth.It is supposed to be divided in to seven islands and our country is in an island called Jambu Island,


Bhoo padmathinnu karnigayayittu,

Bhoo darendran adil allo nilkunnu,

Idhil ombadhu gandangal undallo,

Adil uttamam bharatha bhoo thalam.


In the peak and center of the lotus of this earth,

Stands the mountain of Maha Meru,

And  there are nine  major parts of this earth,

And the most sacred is the Bharatha country.                                                            24


        Comment: This island has in its center the Maha Meru mountain and has 9 countries including our mother land, the Bharatha country.


Sammatharaya mamunigal,

Karma kshetramennallo parayunnu.


The great recognized sages,

Tell this as the temple of sacred duty.                                                                         25


         Comment: The poet says that the sages call  our motherland as Karma Bhumi.


Karma bheejam adeennu mulakkendu,

Brhama lokathil irikkunnavargalkkum,

Karma bheejam varatti kalanjudan,

Janma nasam varuthanamengilum,

Bharathamaya ganda mozhinjhulla,

Parillengum eluthala nirnayam.


The source of all Karma is this land,

Even for those great souls  in Brahma Loka,

And it is here only that Karma is destroyed.

If one desires salvation,

And though it is for sure that these can’t easily  be done,

Anywhere  else other  than in Bharatha Ganda.                                                         26


             Comment: The poet talks about the superiority of our land.



Athra mukhya mayulloru Bharatha

Mi pradesamennu orkkanam,

Yugam nalilum nalla kali yugam,

Sugame thane mukthi varuthuvan.


Please do remember that this land of Bharatha,

Is the most sacred land known,

And in the vast time periods this Kali time period,

Leads to salvation most easily.                                                                                   27


     Comment: From the creation of earth to the grand deluge, the Hindus  have divided the time in to four large time periods(Yugas). The last of these is Kali. Though more suffering is there in this time period , just by repeating the name of the Lord  it is possible to attain salvation only in this time period.And so it is great.


Krishna , Krishna, Mukunda, Janardhana,

Krishna ,Govinda , Rama ennin gene,

Thiru nama sankeerthanam enniye,

Mattedumilla yathnam ennaarinjalum.


Please know that there is no effort,

Except singing for  the holy names,

Krishna, Krishna, Mukunda Janardhana,

Krishna, Govinda and Rama.                                                                                      28


       Comment:The poet tells that no other effort is needed during this kali  time than calling holy names of our Lord.


Athu chindhichu mattulla lokangal,

Pathi moonnilumulla janagalum,

Mattu dweepugal aaril ullorum,

Mattu gandangal ettil ullorum,

Mattu moonu yugangalil ullorum,

Mukthi thangalkku sadhyam allaygayal,

Kali kalathe ,Bharatha Gandathe,

Kalithadaram kai vanangeedunnu.


Thinking about this,

Those living in the other thirteen worlds,

Those living in the six other islands,

Those living in the other eight countries,

And those living in the other three time periods,

Realizing that they would not get salvation easily.

With folded hands do salutations,

To the Country of Bhratha and the time period of Kali.                                            29  


         Comment: Because of this all other beings who do not live in Kali time period in our country, salute the beings who live here in this time period.


Athil vannoru pullayittengilum,

Ithu kalam janichu kondeeduvan,

Yogyatha varutheeduvan thakkoru,

Bagyam porathe poyallo deyvame,

Bharatha gandathil pironnuru,

Manusharkkum kalikkum namaskaram.


To be  at least a grass in that country,

And be born  now in this time period ,

We were not lucky enough oh,God,

And so our salutations  to the men,

Of Bharatha country and Kali time period.                                                                30


        Comment: They repent that they are not lucky enough to be born at least as a grass here in this time period so that eventually they can very easily attain salvation.



Ennellam pukazhtheedunnu mattullor,

Ennathu endinnu nam paranjeedunnu?

Kalaminnu kali yuga malayo,

Bharatha mi pradeshavum allayo,

Nammalellam naranmarum allayo?

Chemme nannayi nirupippin ellorum,

Hari namangal illathe pogayo,

Narakangalil pedi kuragayo,

Navu koodahe janama mathagayo,

Kashtam! Kashtam! Niroopanam koodathe,

Chuttu thinnunnu janmam pazhuthe nam.



Why do we tell that,

All those who are not here, sing our praise thus?

Is not this the time period Kali,

Are we not living in the country of Bharatha,

And are we not born as human beings?

All of you please think about this,

Should we go without the names of Hari,

Should we be less afraid of going to hell,

Should we live without a tongue?

Alas! Alas ! without proper thought,

We destroy our lives in vain.                                                                                     31


         Comment: The poet laments that we who are men born in the Bharatha country in the age of Kali are wasting our lives.


Ethra janama prayasa pettittu ikkala,

Mathra vannu pirannu sukruthathal,

Ethra janama malathil kazhinjadum,

Ethra janmama jalathil kazhijadum,

Ethra janama mannil kazhinjadum,

Ethra janmam  marangalayi ninnadum,

Ethra janamam marichu nadannathum,

Ethra janmam parannu nadannathum,

Ethra janama mrigangal pasukkalayi,

Marthya janmathil mumbe kazhichu nam.


What an effort we put to be born now,

Because of the good deeds that we did?

Many lives have we spent  in shit,

Many lives have we spent in water,

Many lives have we spend in mud,

Many lives have we spent as trees,

Many lives have we moved around afraid of death,

Many lives have we spent as birds,

And many lives have we spent as beasts and cow,

Before we were born as men.                                                                                    32


      Comment: To get this reward we all must have spent lots of time as other beings.


Ethrayum pani pettu ingu maathavin ,

Garbha pathrathil veenathu arinjalum,

Pathu masam vayattil kazhinju poyi,

Patthu pantherandu unni yayittum poyi,

Thanne than abhimanichu pinnedam,

Thanne than ariyathe kazhiyunnu.


Please know that it is with lots of effort,

That we fall in the womb of our mother,

Spend we ten months in her stomach.

Ten to twelve years  we spend as playfull kids,

And after this, thinking that we only do everything,

We spend our time without knowing ourselves.                                                       33


         Comment: Most part of the initial life is wasted in the womb and as children. And it is crime to waste it further.


Ithra kalam irikkum mini yennum,

Sathyamo namakkedu millallo.


There is nothing truthfully known,

As to how long we will live.                                                                                      34


        Comment: The poet tells us how unsure we are about our span of life.


Neerpole pole yulloru dehathil,

Veerpu mathramundingane kannunu,

Orthariyathe padu padunneram,

Nerthu pokum athenne parayavu,

Athramathra mirikunna nerathu,

Keerthicheedunnilla thiru namam.


In the body which is like a water bubble,

We see it filled up always,

And when we put efforts without thought,

We can tell that this bubble  will only burst.

In this very limited time,

We do not sing the holy names.                                                                                 35


      Comment: He is sad that we waste this temporary , unsure life of ours without singing the holy names of God.


Sthana manangal  cholli kalahichu,

Nanam kettu nadakunnithu  chilar,

Madha matsaram chindichu chindhichu,

Mathi kettu nadakunnathu chilar,

Chanchalakshi mar veedugalil pukku,

Kunchi ramanayidunnathu chilar,

Kolakangalil sevakarayittu,

Kolam ketti jeliyunnathu chilar,

Santhi cheyhtu pularthuvanayittu,

Sandhyayolam nadakunnithu chilar,

Ammakkum punarachannum baryakkum,

Unman kodukkunnilla chilar,

Agni sakshiniya yoru pathniye,

Swapanthil polum kanunilla chilar,

Sathukkal kandu sikshichu chollumbol,

Shathruve pole krudhikkunathu chilar,

Vandhithanmare  kanunna nerathu,

Nindi chatre parayunnathu chilar,

Kaanga nammude samsaram kondathre,

Viswam evannam nilpu vennum chilar,

Brahmanyam kondu kudhichu kundhichu,

Brahmavum enikku ovva yennum chilar,

Artha aasakku viruthu vilipippan,

Agni hothardhi cheyunnathu chilar,

Swarnam nava rathangale kondu,

Ennam koodathe  vilkkunithu chilar.


Boasting about their positions and posts,

Some people  walk in the world ever ashamed,


Thinking about their abilities and disabilities of others,

Some people walk in  the world with a diseased brain,


Entering the houses of pretty  damsels with flitting eyes.,

Some people walk in the world like  the circus monkey,


Employed by the king and the government,

Some people walk in the world heavily made up,


Employed for worshipping Gods,

Some people walk in the world with thoughts of their time after dusk,


For mother and  for father and wives,

There are some who do not care to look after,


The wife married with fire as witness,

Is not even seen in dream by some,


When good people think and advise,

There are some who look them as enemies,


When people worthy of salutations are seen,

There are some who berate and curse them,


This world stands thus,

Boast some people because of their talk


Raising and raising by the acts of Brahmana,

Some people claim they are better than Lord Brahma,


To earn money and get titles,

Some people do yagas in the fire,


And some people sell gold and jewels .

To earn money without limit.                                                                                     36


      Comment: The poet details how we are wasting the God given gift by not doing what we should do.


( About Author: P.R. Ramachander  is from Chelakkara, Kerala. He specialized as a biometical statistician as well as an applied geneticist and served as Head of Division of four different ICAR research Institutes in India as Head of division of Statistics. After 36 years of service during which he wrote 150 research papers, and three books he retired in the year 2000. Read more... )

Articles: Religious talks