As someone who has delved a bit into various Indian languages, I am of the firm conviction that language is not just a few words of expression, but are a true reflection of the culture of the people.
A perfect example is the Tamil word பயிர்ப்பு (Payirppu) . This word, from a classical Tamil perspective, happens to be the fourth in a series of qualities that are unique to a woman- அச்சம் மடம் நாணம் பயிர்ப்பு ( fear, feigning ignorance even when in the know of things, blushing/ shyness and the fourth, PAYIRPPU, which, to me, is a word unique to Tamil, and which I do not know exists in any other language).
Payirppu பயிர்ப்பு denotes the instinctive ability of a woman to distinguish between the physical touch or intimacy of her husband, and that of any man other than her own. Classical Tamil holds that the nature has bestowed this unique ability to feel that difference, and resist that unwanted touch. I am not getting into a debate of whether these four qualities are relevant, in today's "modern world". I will reserve that for another day. I am just interested in what the language offers, and how this has driven a poet's imagination, and how the poet has dared to interpret an event in the Ramayanam, very differently from the original author, based on the uniqueness of the culture, and the associated language, and with special reference to the word பயிர்ப்பு. Yes, the poet in question is the immortal Kamban. The sub-story in reference is that of Ahalya, the virtuous one, in Ramayanam. Before I jump into the topic, as a snippet, the word Halya in Sanskrit means " one without beauty" , so "A-halya" means connotes two negatives in one go, indicating that she was extremely beautiful.
Valmiki and Kamban have approached the same episode, from entirely different perspectives. In the Valmiki Ramayanam, Valmiki straightaway says, without any fear or favour, that Ahalya knew very well that Indra was desirous of her, and that she was excited to be enticed by him to bed, without her husband knowing. For someone who is considered to be one amongst the five most " virtuous women ever" in Indian Puranas and Ithihasas, this may come as a shocker. But then Valmiki is someone, who calls a spade a spade. And this is exactly how he does it, and I quote , verbatim, from Balakaandam of Srimad Ramayanam.
अथ अब्रवीत् सुरश्रेष्ठम् कृतार्थेन अंतरात्मना |
कृतार्था अस्मि सुरश्रेष्ठ गच्छ शीघ्रम् इतः प्रभो ||
आत्मानम् माम् च देवेश सर्वदा रक्ष गौतमात् |
"She felt fulfilled in her heart of hearts and then she said this to that best god Indra, 'I am gratified in complying with your wish, oh, best of gods, get going oh, lord, from here quickly, oh, ruler of gods, always safeguard yourself and me from Sage Gautama.' Thus, Ahalya said to Indra. [1-48-20, 21a]
इन्द्रः तु प्रहसन् वाक्यम् अहल्याम् इदम् अब्रवीत् || १-४८-२१
सुश्रोणि परितुष्टो अस्मि गमिष्यामि यथा आगतम् |
"Indra on his part smilingly said this word to Ahalya, 'oh, well-hipped lady, I am quite delighted, here I go as I have came.' [1-48-21b, 22a]
In short, according to Valmiki, the steamy affair was nothing lesser than that between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten!! And that, Ahalya indulged in it, knowing that it was Indra, and not her husband. And paid the price for it.
Kamban, on the other hand, approaches it from the பயிர்ப்பு (Payirppu) angle, totally different from Valmiki's.
I quote பால காண்டம்/அகலிகைப் படலம் verbatim, here, again.
'தையலாள் நயன வேலும், மன்மதன் சரமும், பாய,
உய்யலாம் உறுதி நாடி உழல்பவன், ஒரு நாள் உற்ற
மையலால் அறிவு நீங்கி, மா முனிக்கு அற்றம் செய்து,
பொய் இலா உள்ளத்தான் தன் உருவமே கொண்டு புக்கான். 18
'புக்கு, அவளோடும், காமப் புது மண மதுவின் தேறல்
ஒக்க உண்டு இருத்தலோடும், உணர்ந்தனள்; உணர்ந்த பின்னும்,
'தக்கது அன்று' என்ன ஓராள்; தாழ்ந்தனள் இருப்ப, தாழா
முக்கணான் அனைய ஆற்றல் முனிவனும், முடுகி வந்தான். 19
Kamban's version is that Ahalya did not "welcomed" "him" when "Gautama" returned to the hut. She simply agreed to copulate with him, not suspecting anything unusual. But பயிர்ப்பு (Payirppu) made her realize, when he touched her, that he might not be her husband, but she was disinclined to protest, fearing that she might be considered as "moving away from the conjugal duties of a wife" and therefore it might not be right for her to reject his advances (" 'தக்கது அன்று' என்ன ஓராள்"). In other words, Kamban deftly uses the பயிர்ப்பு (Payirppu) concept that Ahalya was indeed innocent, and therefore deserved to belong to the elite five. Kamban goes on to explain that Ahalya was made to pay the price for a sin that she did not knowingly commit.
In this example, one can see how a single Tamil word is used as a prop, to differentiate approaches to the same story. கம்ப நயம் என்றால் இதுதான்!!
Pic Courtesy: the Internet