It's pretty common in Kerala for people of different religions to adopt each other's traditions, but a few days ago, I remembered an old Malayalam movie song that combines a reference to a very well-known and ancient set of folktales (associated to some extent with Hinduism due to their antiquity) with references to Christianity that seem relatively obscure. It's basically a woman singing about her love for a man but disguising it as a children's folktale:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNmXX0zP3EU
There are a number of things in this song that I find linguistically interesting. One is this part from 1:21 to 1:29:
[oːˈɾoː kiˈnaːʋilum maːˈlaːkʰəmaːr ʋən̪ˈn̪u
[maːˈlaːkʰa] is a loanword from Syriac IIRC and means 'angel'; [maːˈlaːkʰəmaːr] means 'angels'. [ˈɕoːɕənnəpuʃpəŋəɭ] is a tricky word. [puʃˈpəŋəɭ] is the easy part; it's a formal word for 'flowers'. (It's actually a Sanskrit loanword, though interestingly, this tentatively suggests that it might be a Dravidian loanword into Sanskrit. I've always had similar doubts about this word).
[ˈɕoːɕənna], however, is not a common noun at all but rather a name for Christian (and perhaps Jewish and maybe even Muslim?) women: Susan. So these lines mean:
Angels came into each of her dreams
And put Susan flowers
in her hair.
But what on Earth are "Susan flowers"? Well, Susan
(and, of course, [ˈɕoːɕənna]) comes from the Hebrew word שושנה shoshana
meaning a 'lily' (though apparently, it's since been generalized to mean 'rose' as well). So I think maybe "Susan flowers" are supposed to be lilies.
Then there's this part I've never really managed to figure out from 2:12 to 2:30:
[əˈgəle məˈɳəlpurət̪ əˈʋɛn ˈpaːɖi].
[əˈʋəɭʊɖe ˈməwnəm əˈd̪eːtɯ ˈpaːɖi],
[oˈɾu d̪iˈʋja ˈgaːnət̪il ənuɾəkt̪eˈjaːj ˈt̪iːrn̪a
This has got to be the hardest part of the whole song to translate into English, but my attempt to do that is:
He sang on a sandy island far away,
And, like a daughter of Jerusalem
(literally 'Jerusalem daughter')
Who ended up falling in love with a divine song,
Her silence registered that and sang.
There must be some sort of Biblical reference I'm missing here because I have no idea what any part of this has to do with a "daughter of Jerusalem." To make things even more complicated, I'm not entirely sure who or what is being compared to said daughter anyway. I wonder: Is it her silence, as my translation would seem to suggest? Is it her? Could it even be him
Here's my attempt at a translation of the whole song: