There are many kinds of ஈங்கை – Some are small plants. Some are bushes and some are trees. Also, the flowers, though similar looking, come in different colors – pink, white and yellow. Touch-me-not plants (Mimosa Rubicaulus is one) are eengai.
1. Mimosa rubicaulis according to the University of Madras lexicon – தொட்டால் சுருங்கி, touch me not plant flower. This is a low spreading creeper. However, it can also climb on fences and bushes. Kurunthokai 110 describes the buds as being red, and the plants as having fine thorns – ‘நுண்முள் ஈங்கைச் செ அரும்பு’, and it has fine thorns all along the stems and slightly larger thorns in between. Natrinai 193 has the description அட்டரக்கு உருவின் வட்டு முகை ஈங்கைத் துய்த் தலைப் புது மலர் – which means, ‘buds that are round and color (red) like sealing wax, and flowers that are soft like cotton’. See the buds on the picture on the right. In Natrinai 181, the poet describes the baby sparrows as looking like eengai flowers since they have fuzzy feathers. Look at the photo of the baby sparrows.
2. There is also a large eengai shrub – Acacia caesia, also in the Mimosa family and called Mimosa Torta, in some of the Sangam poems. Eengai belongs to the pea family, which has both plants and trees. Natrinai 79 might be describing a climing shrub.
Thoto for Mimosa Torte or Acacia caesia – with white flowers:
Please go to my site http://www.sangamtranslationsbyvaidehi.com to see translations of all the poems with eengai flowers – Vaidehi
List of poems with eengai flowers:
அகநானூறு – 75, 125, 206, 243, 252, 294, 306, 357
ஐங்குறுநூறு – 456
கலித்தொகை – 31
குறிஞ்சிப்பாட்டு – 86
குறுந்தொகை – 110, 380
நற்றிணை – 2, 79, 86, 124, 181, 193, 205, 312