Sunday, 31 May 2015

Thirumangai Alwar

Highway robber turned Ananya Bhaktha

பெற்ற தாயினும் ஆயின செய்யும்
நலம் தரும் சொல்லை நான் கண்டு கொண்டேன்

நாராயணாவென்னும் நாமம்
Petra Thaayinum Aayina Seyyum
 Nalam Tharum Sollai Naan Kandukondaen 
Narayana Ennum Naamam"
I have discovered the name that bestows on one all good things and takes care of one even better than one’s mother and that is the name of “Sriman Narayana”.

The above is part of a pasuram in Peria Thirumozhi (பெரிய திருமொழி) sung by Thirumangai Alwar. This and two of his other five works Thiru kuruntaandagam (திரு குறுந்தாண்டகம்), Thiru neduntaandagam (திரு நெடுந்தாண்டகம்), together constitute the 1134 Pasurams of the entire Rendam Ayiram of Nalayira Divya Prabhandam.  The other three works Peria Tirumadal (பெரிய திருமடல்), Siriya Tirumadal  (சிறியதிருமடல்),  and Thiruvezhukkutrirukkai (திருவெழுக்கூற்றிருக்கை) form part of Munram Ayiram of Nalayira Divya Prabhandam.  Thirumangai Alwar had also widely travelled as he had visited 84 of the 108 Divyadesams, travelling from Badrinath in the north to Tirukkurungudi in the south.  The motivating force that propelled him to grow into an ananya bhaktha was his wife, which we shall see in his life-story.

Thirumangai Alwar was born in Thirukkuraiyaloor, a small village in Chola Kingdom. His father, who worked as an army commander in Chola army, named him as Neelan, which was also his name.  Neelan received a good education and was well versed in Tamil and Sanskrit.  He was also skilled in archery and in martial arts including sword-fighting.  When Neelan’s father died while he was young, the Chola king impressed by young Neelan’s intelligence and bravery gave him the post of his father in the army.  Later in recognition of his valour, he was conferred the title "Parakala" and rewarded with a small territory to govern called Ali Nadu. Its capital was Thirumangai.  This earned him the title "Thirumangai Mannan”, a name which later got transformed into Thirumangai Alwar, when he became an ananya bhaktha of Lord Vishnu.

As a young man he went after sensual pleasures and lived a worldly life.  This changed when he met the local medicine man’s adopted daughter, Kumudavalli.  He was captivated by her beauty and wanted to marry her.  Kumudavalli agreed to marry only on two conditions. The first was that he should become a true Vaishnava, by undergoing Pancha Samskaras and the second was that he should do the kainkaryam of feeding 1000 Vaishnavas every day for a year. Neelan agreed and accordingly went to a place called Tirunaraiyur and underwent Pancha Samskaras ritual and married Kumudavalli. Then he started fulfilling the second condition, namely the kainkaryam of feeding 1000 Vaishnavas daily.

As days passed, his wealth decreased, as feeding 1000 Vaishnavas daily needed a lot of money and he defaulted in payment of tax to the Chola king. The king sent his men to collect the money to no avail.  He then sent the army but Neelan with his army of soldiers defeated them.  The king himself marched against him with his army. Though Neelan’s army was small they fought valiantly and defeated the King’s army.   In the hour of victory Neelan took his horse near the king’s and told him that he had not wantonly defaulted and explained about his running out of funds doing the kainkaryam of feeding 1000 Vaishnavas daily.  Though the king did not pursue the matter further, Neelan was stung by the king’s remark that he had been ungrateful for all the good done to him including making him a king.  So he went and shut himself up in the Lord’s temple and prayed for help.  In the night Lord appeared in his dream and told him that he could find a treasure of gold coins on the banks of the Vedavathy River near Kanchi, which he could use to clear his name. When he found the treasure and paid it to the king himself, the king realised how great a bhaktha  Neelan was.  He returned all the money to Neelan and asked him to continue his good work without bothering about taxes.

Neelan came back to continue his kainkaryam, but again before long he ran out of funds.  So to continue the promised kainkaryam, that he himself had come to love, he resorted to highway robbery. He robbed the rich parties and with the loot continued the kainkaryam. One day his scouts told him that a rich bejewelled young people were travelling on the highway. He immediately went with his men to intercept them and demanded that they surrender all their cash and jewels, if they valued their lives.  They meekly surrendered all their gold and jewels which they placed on a piece of cloth spread on the floor.  As he bundled them up and tried to lift he could not.  Not even with his men he could lift it.  He got very angry that the young man had cast a spell and threatened to kill him if he did not undo the spell.  The young man replied that he would rather reveal the Mantra to him.  Then he beckoned Neelan to come closer and whispered in his ear the Ashtaksharam “ஓம் நமோ நாராயணா” (Om namo narayana) and disappeared along with his consort. A thrill ran down Neelan's spine and he felt electrified hearing the whispered words and that instant the highway robber got transformed into an ananya bhaktha of Lord Sriman Narayana.  He realised it was only Lord and Devi who had come as a young couple to make him change his ways and be their ardent devotee.  He felt moved by Lord’s Grace and kindness and burst into the first ten pasurams of Peria Thirumozhi, crying his heart out in repentance, starting with:
வாடினேன் வாடி வருந்தினேன்  மனத்தால்பெருந்துயர் இடும்பையில் பிறந்து,
கூடினேன் கூடி இளையவர் தம்மோடு அவர்தரும் கலவியே கருதி,
ஓடினேன் ஓடி உய்வதோர் பொருளால் உணர்வெனும் பெரும்பதந்தெரிந்து,
நாடினேன் நாடி நான் கண்டுகொண்டேன் நாராயணா என்னும் நாமம்.”
Vadinen vadi varundhinen manatthal   perun thuyaridum idumbaiyil pirandu
Koodinen koodi ilaiyavar thammodu   avar tharum kalaviye karudhi
odinen odi uyvadhor porulal  unarvenum perumpadhantherindhu
nadinen nadi nan kandukonden  Narayanavennum namam.  
Having been born into this body, a receptacle of immense sorrow, and pining and crying, I am overwhelmed with self-pity. I have let myself run after beautiful women, seeking the sensual pleasures from their union.  Through the grace of our Lord I have now realised that there is a greater goal that will yield me eternal happiness Then I searched all around and now I have found that state in the name of Sriman NARAYANA.

All these ten pasurams of Peria Thirumozhi  end with the words “நாராயணா என்னும் நாமம்  We can say that the one who led him to this goal was undoubtedly his wife, Kumudavalli, with  her two promises for marrying him.  After this initiation by Lord, there was no turning back for him.   In fact he now channelled his natural aggression in the propagation of Vaishnavism and in overcoming the Buddhist and Jain philosophers.  He preached against penance and advocated Bhakthi as the way to attain liberation.  His pasurams are said to have an unsurpassed beauty about them and all his six works together are regarded as the six Tamil   Vedangas or Angas of the 4 works of Nammalvar which are revered as the four Vedas.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mira Bai

Ananya Bhakthai – Madhurya Bhava

Speaking of Mira Bai, Swami Sivananda states “ She was an embodiment of love and innocence. Her heart was the temple of devotion. Her face was the lotus-flower of Prem. There was kindness in her look, love in her talk, joy in her discourses, power in her speech and fervour in her songs.”  She was born in an aristocratic family, married into a princely family but she gave up all the comforts and the pleasures of a palace for leading a beggar’s life in Brindavan, a revolutionary step for a woman of royal family at that time.  She has written about 1300 songs in the form of Bhajans which are very popular in North India today.  Her love was only for Lord Krishna, as she imagined herself as a Gopi in Bridavan in her previous birth, which she herself mentions in one of her Bhajans; 
"I myself in a previous birth
 was a cowherding girl at Gokul “
For that love she was willing to undergo any suffering. 

Mira Bai was born in in the Chaukari village in Merta,Rajasthan, her father, Ratan Singh, being a descendent of Rao Rathor, the founder of Jodhpur.  When Mirabai was about  three years of age, a wandering Sadhu came to her home and gave a doll of Sri Krishna to her. This doll became her constant companion from then on and she became a devotee of Lord Krishna.  Then another incident happened which added a new dimension to her devotion. When she was witnessing a marriage procession with her mother, she asked her mother in all innocence as to whom she will marry. Her mother replied in jest that it would be her Krishna only.  From that day she considered herself as the spouse of the Lord and from this resolve she did not waver even in all her trials and tribulations of married life.  

She was married at an early age to Prince Bhoj Raj of Chittore. She was not happy with her marriage as she considered herself already married to Lord Krishna.  Anyway she obeyed her husband’s commands implicitly, but after her household duties were over, she would disappear into the temple of Lord Krishna, worshipping, singing and dancing before the Lord daily.  She refused to worship their family deity, Devi Tulja Bhavani, with the plea that she was already committed to Lord Krishna and she cannot even think of any other God. She revered sadhus and was often in their company.  Sometimes carried away by the ecstasy of devotion she will be in the street singing and dancing.   All these were not to the liking of palace ladies and they started poisoning the mind of her husband against her.  At one time hearing noises of talking from her room he rushed in with sword in hand, only to find her playing with her doll and talking to it.

But the matters came to a head when Mughal emperor, Akbar, and Tansen paid a visit to hear her songs, disguising themselves as sadhus.  Without knowing their identity she entertained them.  Akbar was so moved by her soul-stirring songs that he placed an emerald necklace at the feet of her idol before he left.   The news somehow reached her husband and he became furious as the kingdom of Mewar was at war with the Mughal Empire.  He told Mira Bai that she had brought disgrace to the family and ordered that she should end her life by drowning as an act of atonement.   As she was entering into the water, Lord Krishna appeared before her and asked her to come to Brindavan where she could worship Him in peace.

She came out of water and went on foot to Brindavan and there she stayed getting her food as Bhiksha and singing and praying.  People even from Chittore came to see her.  Her husband also came in disguise to see and hear her and then feeling repentant that he had wronged her, he revealed himself and begged her to come back.  When she came to know who he was, she prostrated before him and returned with him to Chittore, but her attitude  remained unchanged:  
Some revile me, others applaud,
I simply follow my incomprehensible road
A razor thin path but you meet some good people,
A terrible path but you hear a true word”  she sang in one of her Bhajans. 

Not only her attitude but even that of her in-laws did not change. So when her husband died before long, fighting the Mughals, they saw an easy way to get rid of her by asking her to join her husband’s body in Sati.   But she refused stating that her real husband, Giridhar Gopal is not dead and that she will not ascend the mortal husband’s funeral pyre.  This infuriated them.  Her brother-in-law Vikramaditya tried a few tricks to get rid of her by indirect means.  He mixed poison in the prasad and gave her but it had no effect.  He put a snake in the basket and sent it to her as a garland for the Lord.  When she opened she found only a nice garland for the Lord. Then he sent her a bed of nails, fully covering the nails, for her to sleep on. When she lay down on it, it became a bed of roses.  As in the case of Prahlad, her Lord saved her every time they tried to trick her to death.  She left for Merat, where also she was not accepted as they felt she was not conforming to the code for Rajput widows.  So she went back to Brindavan to which place He had beckoned her earlier.

In Brindavan, Mirabai spent her time singing Bhajans and in ecstatic communion with her Lord, Sri Krishna, loving Him with all her heart as an ananya bhaktai, without any hindrance. She lapsed into Mahabhava frequently imagining herself as a Gopi and going mad in pure love for her beloved Lord which she expressed in Bhajan as:
In pain I wander from door to door,
But could not find a doctor.
Says Mira: Harken, my Master,
Mira’s pain will subside
When Shyam comes as the doctor. 

In Brindavan she wanted to meet and pay her respects to Rupa Goswami, head of the Vaishnavite mutt in Brindavan.  But he declined to see her as he was not allowing any woman in his presence.  She shot back in reply that it was strange that there was a male other than Giridhar Gopal in Brindavan as they were all only Gopis in His presence.  Rupa Goswami realised his mistake and the greatness of Mira Bai and himself went and paid his respects to her. After some time she went on a pilgrimage singing and dancing her way and ended up in Dwaraka where she merged into the Murthy of Lord Krisna there.

She describes herself  as Sri Hari’s slave in her Bhajan as follows:  
Mira's lord is Hari, the indestructible.
My lord, I have taken refuge with you, Thy slave.
Like her Lord, her name is also indestructible through her Bhajans and boundless love for the Lord.  The spiritual teacher Sri. Chinmoy sums it up as, “Mirabai was a devotee of the high, higher, highest order. Among the saints of India, she is absolutely unparalleled. She composed many, many Bhajans, which are prayerful songs to God. Each song Mirabai wrote expressed her inspiration, aspiration and sleepless self-giving”

Monday, 18 May 2015

Thondaradipodi Alwar

Prodigal Ananya Bhaktha

பச்சை மாமலைபோல் மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச்செங்கண்
அச்சுதா ! அமரர் ஏறே ! ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே ! என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான்போய் இந்திரலோகம் ஆளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமாநகர் உளானே !
Pacchai mamalaipol meni, pavalavay kamalachengkan,
Achchutha! amarar ere! aayar tham kozhunthe! ennum,
 Icchuvai thavira yan poy inthira lokam aalum,
Achchuvai perinum venden, Arangama nagar ulane!  
O Lord of SriRangam. When I have the soul-filling experience of calling you by your your holy names like, “O Achuta, the one with the body like the great green mountain,  the one with lotus eyes and coral coloured lips; O Lord of the divines and the leader of the cowherd race” I don’t desire even the overlordship of even Indra Loka if offered to me.

The above song forms part of Thirumaalai, sung by Thondaradipodi Alwar, one of the twelve Alwars, the haloed group of ananya bhakthas of Lord Vishnu.  Thirumaalai contains forty-five pasurams and is acclaimed with a pun on the word “Thirumaal” as “திருமாலை அறியாதார், திருமாலை அறியாதார்(One who has not learnt Thirumalai does not know Thirumal)The background events leading to this composition is the reason he is named a prodigal ananya bhaktha.

Alwar’s original name was Vipranarayanan.  He had a beautiful flower garden in Srirangam, where he used to grow flowers which he gathered with care, and wove into garlands for Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam.  He was a bachelor and he stayed in a little hut in the garden. He was an ananya bhaktha of the Lord and had no interest in other people or their affairs. One day two sisters, both of them temple dancers were passing by the side of the flower garden, when the younger of the two, by name Devadevi, stopped by to admire the well-kept beautiful garden. As she was going through the garden, she saw Vipranarayanan working in the garden blissfully oblivious of the surrounding.  Even when she paused before him deliberately, he did not take notice of her. As a woman who takes pride in her beauty, she is not used to such indifference from young men.

She asked her sister about him and learnt he was Vipranarayanan who had eyes only for the Lord and no woman held any attraction for him. Then she took it as a challenge to make him not only notice her but also to make him her dasa as well, which she conveyed to her sister, who tried to dissuade her. But she failed and left.  Devadevi dressed in a simple plain sari and wearing only a Tulasi mala, approached him and told him that she wanted to help him in pushpa kaingaryam and she would do it without in anyway disturbing him. An unsuspecting Vipranarayanan, taken in by her appearance and approach, gladly agreed.  She also played her part truly, staying in the background and singing songs on Lord as she went about her work of tending the garden, picking the flowers and weaving the garland.

 One day it rained heavily and she stood outside his hut without entering.  Vipranarayanan who was doing Puja finished it and came out.  He saw Devadevi standing outside the hut, completely drenched.  When asked why she did not enter inside, she replied that she did not want to disturb his Puja.  This impressed him all the more and he invited her inside the hut and gave his upper cloth for changing into. Changing into the ill-fitting attire, she turned on her full charm, which bowled him over completely. From then on Lord was forgotten and he became Devadevi dasa. Once Devadevi knew he had been hooked she left him stating she wanted to be with her mother.  Unable to bear the pangs of separation from her, he followed her to her  place.

Once he became attached to her, Devadevi lost interest in him as she had won the challenge.  Her mother who was interested in his money only, allowed him to stay with them until he exhausted all his money and then turned him out. Vipranarayanan came to his hut heart-broken and still pining for Devadevi.  That night a handsome young man knocked at the door of Devadevi’s house and introducing himself as Vipranarayanan’s disciple, he presented a golden vessel as sent by Vipranarayanan who would be calling on them later in the morning.  Devadevi’s mother received it and looking forward to extract more such treasures from him, went to bed.

The next morning when the priests opened the temple doors they found a golden vessel used for Puja missing. They reported it to the king who sent his soldiers looking for it in all the houses. They found it in Devadevi’s house.  It was the same vessel delivered by Vipranarayanan’s messenger to their house. When the soldiers learnt about it they went to Vipranarayanan’s place and arrested him.  His pleas that he had no disciple and he knew nothing about the vessel went in vain and they put him in prison and reported to the king.  The king who had known about Vipranarayanan’s devotion to Lord Ranganatha, was confused and postponed trying him to next day.

That night Lord appeared in King’s dream and told him that Vipranarayanan was innocent and that He only delivered the vessel to Devadevi’s house to help his devotee who was pining for her. Next morning the king himself went to the prison and released Vipranarayanan telling him about the dream and apologizing for suspecting such a great devotee of Lord.  Vipranarayanan was deeply moved that Lord had not forgotten him while he has forgotten him totally in his infatuation for Devadevi.  He went and prostrated before Lord Ranganatha and cried seeking forgiveness.  It is then he sung the 45 pasurams of Thirumaalai in a mood of  penitence. This and his only other composition, Thiruppalliezhuchchi figure in the first one thousand of Nalayira Divya Prabhandam, revered as Tamil Veda by Tengalai Vishnavites.

After this incident he returned to the fold of ananya bhakthas of the Lord never to stray again. As he worshipped all the bhaktas of Sri Vishnu and put the dust of their feet on his forehead, he was revered as Thondaradipodi Alwar. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Apputhi Adigal

Ananya Bhagavatha Bhaktha

Bhagavatha means a devotee of Bhagawan and we have instances in our scriptures to show that Bhagavatha Bhakthi is as effective as Bhagavat Bhakthi as Bhagawan holds in high esteem His ananya Bhaktha.  In Ramayana we find that while Sri Rama had to build a bridge to cross the sea to reach Lanka, Sri Rama’s ardent devotee Sri Hanuman crossed the sea jumping over it chanting Sri Rama’s name.  In Bhagavatha Purana, we have the instance of Sage Durvasa trying to destroy King Ambarisha, Lord Vishnu’s ananya bhaktha, in a temper, and thereby incurring the wrath of Sudarsan Chakra, which was guarding the king.  Sudarsan Chakra not only killed the demon created by sage Durvasa for destroying the king but also started chasing the sage himself after destroying the demon.  Finding no refuge anywhere in the three worlds he surrendered to Lord Vishnu to save himself.  Lord Vishnu also pleaded his helplessness to recall the Sudarsan chakra as He was “Bhaktha Paradeena” and was completely bound by His devotee’s ananya bhakthi for Him.  Lord Vishnu told Durvasa that only King Ambarisha can save Durvasa from the powerful Sudarshana chakra and asked him to seek forgiveness of the king to save himself.  Accordingly a chastened Durvasa ran to the king and fell at his feet seeking his forgiveness and saved himself from the wrath of Sudarsan Chakra. 

Here we have  the instance of Apputhi Adigal, an ananya bhaktha of Thirunavukkarasar, who is an ananya bhaktha of Lord Siva, getting Moksha through the Grace of Lord.  Appudhi Adigal who lived in a holy place called Thingalur was a devotee of Lord Siva and he became an ananya bhaktha of Thirunavukkarasar from the time he heard about the trials and ordeals of Thirunavukkarasar at the hands of the Pallava king and the Jain priests and how he successfully overcame them by the Grace of Lord Siva. From that time he started worshipping Tirunavukkarasar as his Guru even without seeing him.  He started chanting "Thirunavukkarasu" only all the time.  He named his two sons after him only, as Mootha Thirunavukkarasu and Ilaiya Thirunavukkarasu i.e. senior Thirunavukkarasu and junior Thirunavukkarasu.  And also the cows, the cooking vessels and all other things in his house were named after Thirunavukkarasu so that it can help him chant the name all the time.  All the charities, he organized like water tents, inns and ponds bore the name of Thirunavukkarasu only and nowhere his name appeared. 

Once Thirunavukkarasar was travelling through Thingalur in the course of his visits to various temples.  Feeling thirsty, he went into a water tent in Thingalur and had a glass of “Neer More” i.e. spiced up watery buttermilk, there.   As he was taking it he noticed the tent bore his name.  Wondering who might be doing this, he made enquiries and learnt that the tent was only one of the many charities bearing his name, being run by Apputhi Adigal.  Getting directions to his house he went there and halted at the doorsteps.  As Adigal came out, seeing a devotee of Lord Siva at his doorsteps, and not recognizing him as the person he worshipped, Adigal was about to prostrate before him as a mark of respect. But Thirunavukkarasar beat him in the act and prostrated before Adigal could. Then he commended Adigal for all the acts of   charities he was doing, and then asked why Adigal named them all after somebody else, without giving them his name.

Adigal became very angry to hear his heart’s idol being casually referred to as somebody else.  He replied angrily “ Don’t you know the greatness of Thirunavukkarasu?” and started narrating how he got his name from the Lord and how Lord blessed him to triumph over Jains’ subterfuges and finally remarked “ Bearing the signs of Lord’s devotee, you speak about him as somebody.  Who are you?”  Then also Thirunavukkarasar did not reveal directly his identity but only said “ I am the foolish one who strayed from Lord’s fold to Jains’ company and came back to Lord’s lotus feet, when afflicted with burning pains in the stomach”.   Then only it dawned upon Adigal that the person to whom he had been speaking in anger was none other than his Guru whose name he had ben chanting all day.  Overcome by shame that he did not recognize him coupled with the guilt that he had lost temper with him, he prostrated once again seeking his forgiveness.  He brought out his entire family and again with all of them prostrated once again before him.

He led his Guru into the house.  After seating his Guru, he washed his Guru’s feet and sprinkled the washed water on his own head and on the heads of his family members. Then he prayed that Thirunavukkarasar should take food in their house. Thirunavukkarasar agreed and promising to come back for food, went out.   Adigal’s wife was ecstatic with joy and prepared an elaborate feast for the honoured guest. When the cooking was over she asked her elder son to get a plantain leaf from their garden.  As fate would have it a serpent bid him in his hand as he was cutting the leaf from the tree. He hurriedly cut the leaf, took it to his mother and handed over the leaf and collapsed saying that a snake had bitten him.  Adigal tried to revive him but failed.  The grief that their valued guest might not take food in their house weighed more heavily in their minds than the grief of loss of their son. 

So they rolled the lifeless body of their son in a mat, hid it in another room and suppressing the sorrow got ready to receive their guest.  Thirunavukkarasar arrived shortly and spreading the leaf before a seat, they invited him to take food.  Before he took food, he wanted to bless them all giving holy ash.  As they assembled, he noticed that elder son was missing and so he asked them to call him also.  Now Adigal was in a fix and he tried to pass over saying he would not be of use to them then.  Thirunavukkarasar guessed from their cheerless faces and strange reply that something had gone wrong and so wanted to know what had happened.  Unable to hide the fact any longer Adigal narrated what had happened.  Thirunavukkarasar asked them to take him to where they had hid their son.  Seeing his lifeless body and overcome with sympathy for him as well as the hosts, he prayed to Lord singing the padhikam starting with  “Onru kolaam”  (ஒன்று கொலாம்) 

The boy got up as if woken up from sleep and seeing Thirunavukkarasar, prostrated before him.  Others also joined him, the entire family feeling grateful for Thirunavukkarasar’s  kindness in invoking Lord’s Grace to get back Mootha Thirunavukkarasu from the jaws of death. After giving holy ash to them he asked Adigal and his sons to join him in taking food. He stayed with them for a few days and then went on his travels to other holy places.  Adigal lived for a few more years, chanting his Guru's name and continuing his good works in Guru's name only, before attaining liberation through Lord’s Grace.  Apputhi Adigal's ananya bhakthi for Thirunavukkarasar had elevated him to the revered ranks of  Nayanmars, to be counted as one of the holy 63, in the haloed company of his revered Guru.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Karaikkal Ammaiyar

Ananya Bhakthi with unusual prayer

“----- பேயார்க்கும் அடியேன்” (Paiyarkkum adiyen) With these words Sundaramurthy Nayanar paid homage to Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Thiruthondathogai.  Why he referred to her as “Paiyar” we shall see briefly in this blog.  In fact she herself had signed in some of her songs as “ghost of Karaikkal” as can be seen in the following song in Thiru Alangattu Mootha Thiruppathikam.
ஒப்பினை இல்லவன் பேய்கள்கூடி 
                ஒன்றினை ஒன்றடித் தொக்கலித்துப்
பப்பினை யிட்டுப் பகண்டை யாடப் 
                பாடிருந் தந்நரி யாழ்அமைப்ப
அப்பனை அணிதிரு ஆலங்காட்டுள் 
                அடிகளைச் செடிதலைக் காரைக்காற்பேய்
செப்பிய செந்தமிழ் பத்தும்வல்லார் 
                சிவகதி சேர்ந்தின்பம் எய்துவாரே. 
oppinai illavan paiygal koodi
  onrinai onru adiththu okkaliththup
pappinaiyittup pagandai paadap
  paadi irundhan  nari yaazh amaippa
appanai ani thiru aalankaattul
  adikalaich chedithalaik Kaaraikkal Paiy
ceppiya centhamizh paththum vallar
  Sivagadhi cerndhu inbam eydhuvarye 
To the unequalled gruesome ghosts beating one another and shouting together, the birds (in the cremation ground) singing, fox making the sound of the string instrument, yazh, the Lord dances at Thiru Aalankadu. On that Lord, whoever sings these ten songs said by the ghost of Karaikkal, they would get Sivagathi and enjoy the bliss.

Karaikal Ammaiyar is one of three women among 63 Nayanmars, the other two being Mangayarkarasiyar and Isai jnaniyar.  Her original name is Punithavathy and she was born in Karaikal in a rich business family. Even from childhood she was greatly devoted to worship of Lord Siva and attended to devotees of Lord Siva, reverentially.  As she grew to a marriageable age she was married to the son of a rich merchant in Nagapattinam, named Paramadattan.  Her father settled them in Karaikal itself setting up a business for him and they prospered.  Punithavathy  while being a devoted wife, continued her devoted services to Lord through worship and service to devotees of Lord Siva, who came to her in need, with food, clothing and money, as per their needs.

One day some people, who came to Paramadattan, gave him two mangoes. After receiving it, he asked them to leave them in his house.  Punithavathy received them and kept them safely to serve Paramadattan in the meal-time.  At that time a devotee of Siva came seeking Bhiksha.  As she had nothing else to offer she gave him one of the mangoes as Bhiksha. When Paramadattan came for lunch, along with food she served him the other mango.  He found it delicious and asked for the other mango as well.  She went inside and prayed to Lord to save her from the predicament and as she prayed she found a mango in her open hand.  She knew immediately that only through Lord’s Grace, it had appeared in her hand.  Thanking the Lord profusely she took it to her husband.

When Paramadattan ate it he found it far more delicious than anything he had eaten at any time. He asked his wife whether it is the same mango he had sent home.  Now she could not tell him all that happened because he would not believe her and she could not also utter a falsehood. As she hesitated, he pressed again for an answer.  This time she told him what happened.  He could not accept that this mango had come through Lord’s Grace and asked her to validate her statement by getting another such mango from the Lord.  She went inside and pleaded to the Lord to convince her husband who did not believe her.  Then another mango same as the earlier one appeared in her hand.  When Paramadattan received it, he had a curious sensation in the hand and it disappeared.

Now he believed her and also feared her.  He knew that thereafter he could not look upon her as his wife, nor could he behave like her husband. So on the pretext of going abroad for trade, he left her never to return.  With the money amassed in the overseas trade he returned to a city in Pandya kingdom and settled there as a trader.  Soon after that he married again and got a daughter, whom he named after Punithavathy, whom he now deified as a goddess. The relatives of Punithavathy came to know about his new life in a city in Pandya Kingdom with a wife and a child.  They told her about it and wanted to take her to her husband.  She accompanied them to his place.  When he saw them, he prostrated before Punithavathy with his wife and daughter.  To her relatives who were looking at this with shock and surprise he explained that she was a divine in mortal form and that is why he has named his child after her and that he cannot look upon her now as his wife.

Punithavathy was shocked to hear his words for a moment and then saw in this an opportunity to insulate herself from contact with any person.  Such was the strength of her detachment that she prayed to Lord to take her beautiful body and grant her the body of a ghost which will scare other people from approaching her and leave her free to worship full time the Lord, without any hindrance or distraction. Such was the power of her prayer and worship that Lord readily acceded to her request.  Immediately her charming youthful body underwent transformation to an emaciated skeletal body, without any flesh that gives the body curves and defines the shape.  Her relatives were overawed at this change and they left calling her Ammaiyar after prostrating before her. She was referred to as Karaikal Ammaiyar from then onwards. 

She then thanked the Lord for transforming her like one of His Ganas and sang "Arpudha Thiruvandhaadhi" and "Thiru Irattai Mani Maalai".  She wanted to see Lord in Kailash and started her travel there.  When she reached the foot of Mt. Kailash she started walking on her hands.  Parvathy Devi seeing her walking this way, asked about the Ammaiyar. Lord Siva told Parvathy Devi that Ammaiyar is the "mother" who is taking care of them and transported her to their presence and called her ‘Ammaiye” (அம்மையே).  She called him “Appa” and fell at his feet.  Lord asked  her to name her wish and Ammaiyar replied that she wanted immortal blissful love for Him.  She also wanted that she should not be born again and even if she were to be born she should be His devotee only in all births.  She also requested that she should be standing at His feet and singing His praise, when He performs His dance. Lord granted her wish and asked her to join His dance at Thiru Alangadu.(now called Thiruvalangadu).  Ammaiyar again prostrated and left praising Him, the same way she came, walking on her hands. 

She found that in no time she has reached Thiru Alangadu due to Lord’s Grace and there she sang at His feet, witnessing His Urthva Thandavam, Thiru Alangattu Mootha Thiruppathikams,1 & 2, in which appears the song we saw earlier in the beginning.  This is called Mootha Thirupathikam, because she was a pioneer in singing Pathikams, which later Appar and others widely adopted.   Her unusual prayer seeking a ghost form is an index of her Vairagyam.  Her  Ananya Bhakthi to Lord even from childhood is expressed in simple words in the very first verse of Arputha Thiruvanthathi as:
பிறந்து மொழி பயின்ற பின்னெல்லாம் காதல்
சிறந்து நின் சேவடியே சேர்ந்தேன் 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Kannappa Nayanar & Saakiya Nayanar

Ananya Bhakthi with unconventional worship

Narada Bhakthi Sutras in Sutra 2 defines Ananya Bhakthi as one of Supreme love directed towards Lord.  In Sutra 81 it further explains that it can be expressed in one or more of the following 11 ways: 
1)    Through love for glorifying His qualities
2)    Through loving attachment to His Divine Form
3)    Through love of ritual worship
4)    Through love for constant remembrance of Him
5)    Through love of service to Him as a servant
6)    Through love of attachment as to a friend
7)    Through love as to one’s beloved
8)    Through love as to one’s own child/parent
9)    Through love for a total surrender of oneself
10)  Through love for complete absorption in Him
11)  Through love as expressed in pangs of separation for one’s beloved 

Kannappa Nayanar is an Ananya Bhaktha whose bhakthi cannot be categorised under any of these eleven.  Of him another Ananya Bhaktha, Manickavasagar, whose life was described in an earlier blog titled “Manickavasagar – Jijnasu Ananya Bhaktha” states:
கண்ணப்பன் ஒப்பதோர் அன்பு இன்மை கண்டபின்
என் அப்பன் என் ஒப்பு இல் என்னையும் ஆட்கொண்டருளி”    (திருக்கோத்தும்பி)
Even after seeing that I do not have Bhakthi comparable to that of Kannappar, my Father has graciously blessed me also.

Kannappar did not hesitate to give even his eyes to Lord seeking nothing in return and let us see his life and Love for Lord briefly in this blog.  Kannappar was not the name his parents gave him, which was Thinnan.  He was born in a hunting family in Uduppoor near Kalahasthi and his father was the chief of the hunting tribe.  Thinnan  was brought up like any other lad in the tribe. unlettered, with forest as the school and the hunting arts the only lessons.  When Thinnan grew up as a big lad his father asked him to lead the hunt and sent him with other hunters.  In the hunt chasing a wild boar he and his two friends, Kaadan and Naagan, got separated from the tribe.  Thinnan killed the boar only as they neared the base of the Kalaththi Mountain.  The mountain cast a spell on Thinnan and he wanted to explore it. His friend Naagan told him there was Kudumi Thevar there whom people worshipped. What Naagan referred to as Kudumi Thevar was only the holy Shiva Lingam

Leaving the hunted boar under the guard of Kaadan, he went up the hill to see Kudumi Thevar, led by Naagan.  The instant he saw the holy Lingam, his heart melted for the Lord who was there all alone by Himself, with no person to serve Him and with no weapons to defend Himself against wild animals. Then he noticed some flowers and food strewn there and wondered who would have done this.  Then Naagan explained to Thinnan that he had once seen in a hunting trip a Brahmin bathing him with water, putting the flowers murmuring something and placing the food there before leaving.  Now Thinnan decided to stay there guarding Him and to look after Him as Naagan told, bringing water, flowers and food.

 His friends’ protest did not shake him.  He told his friends to convey to his parents that he had decided to stay and look after Kudumi Thevar.  They left him with his new-found concern for Kudumi Thevar.  He plucked some wild flowers and decked himself with them. He chose choice pieces of meat of roasted boar after testing it through tasting. He then filled his mouth with water.  Then he took all the three to Shiva Lingam uphill.  He then poured the water from the mouth on the Lingam, adorned the Lingam with the flowers brought decked in his head and the meat which he had tested, before the Lingam and entreated the Lord to accept them, in his own way. Armed with his bow, he kept vigil there that night.

 The next morning he went for hunting to find food for the Lord.  The priest came as usual and finding meat at the site, hurriedly cleaned it thinking that some wild animal had come and had its kill there or some hunter had desecrated that place. After cleaning, he bathed again in the river, and then with fresh water and flowers went on with his routine worship and left.  Sometime after he left Thinnan came with water in the mouth, meat in hand and flowers on head. Cleaning the site of flowers the priest had used, he went on with his routine of spitting, adorning and offering and entreating, happy in his worship.

 The following morning when the priest saw the repeat of previous day he concluded somebody was desecrating the place and he made a prayer to Lord that this act of desecration be stopped.  This routine of priest and Thinnan alternating their worship in their own way, each cleaning the others’ and the priest lamenting over his inability to prevent the act of “desecration” continued for six days.  On the sixth day Lord appeared in the priest’s dream and told “What you consider desecration is an act of worship by my devotee who loves me dearly.  Tomorrow you watch, hiding yourself from his sight, and see for yourself how deep is his devotion for me”. 

Next day the priest finished his routine and hid behind a big tree to watch what was going on.  Thinnan came as usual, with meat in hand, water in mouth and flowers on head.  When he approached the Lingam, he saw blood oozing from its right eye.  He dropped everything on hand, went hither and thither in search of the miscreant who perpetrated this.  Finding none, he collected some medicinal leaves and squeezed the juice on the bleeding eye but blood did not stop.  As he was worrying about his inability to stop the bleeding, he remembered an old saying “Treat flesh with flesh”.  He unhesitatingly  plucked out his one eye using his arrow and pasted it on the bleeding eye and the bleeding stopped; maybe the first eye transplant operation.   When the bleeding stopped,  he danced in ecstasy that his treatment had worked and Kudumi Thevar was cured.

But this happiness was only short-lived as blood started oozing from the left eye.  This time he was not worried as he knew the cure and he had also one more eye to give.  But then a doubt came to him that if both eyes were not there how could he know where to paste?  Only for a moment he hesitated and then marking the spot on the Ligam by placing his foot there, he proceeded to pluck out his other eye. Then the Lord revealing His full form held his hand and said “Halt Kannappa, Halt” and Thinnan fell at Lord’s feet with awe and reverence.   His plucked out eye was now restored and his name too changed to Kannappar.  Both Kannappar and the priest, who was a witness to all this, were blessed with Moksha. 

His intense boundless selfless love for Lord is Ananya Bhakthi only, earning for him Lord’s vision and blessings of Moksha, however unconventional and outrageous be his mode of worship which the orthodox priest considered even revolting.  He is revered as one of the 63 Saivite saints called Nayanmars and called Kannappa Nayanar.  His worship and Bhakthi is portrayed in Sivananda Lahari by Sri Adi Sankara, without mentioning the name, as follows:
  मार्गावर्तितपादुका पशुपतेरंगस्यकूर्चायते
 गण्डूषांबुनिषेचनं पुररिपोर्दिव्याभिषेकायते
 किंचित्भक्षितमांसशेषकवलं नव्योपहारायते
 भक्तिः किं न करोत्यहो वनचरो भक्तावतंसायते ॥63॥
 Marga varthitha paduka pasupathe rangasya koorchayuthe,
Gandoo shampoo nishechanam pura ripo divyabhishekaa yathe,
Kinchid bhakshitha maams sesha kabalam navyopaharayathe,
Bhakthi kim karoth yaho vana charo bhaktha vatam sayathe.     
The footwear repeatedly used on the road and worn-out becomes adornment to the Lord,  water carried in the mouth and spouted becomes divine bathing, the remnants of a partly-eaten piece of meat becomes freshly prepared offering to the Lord and the tribal living in the forest becomes the crest-jewel of devotees of the Lord.  Wonder of wonders! What is there that devotion to the Lord cannot do?  

Another Ananya Bhaktha of similar unconventional worship is Sakhya Nayanar, whose mode of worship is mentioned in Sivananda Lahari in verse 89 in the following words.
धनुषा मुसलेन चाश्मभिर्वा
वद ते प्रीतिकरं तथा करोमि 
Dhanusha musalena chasmabhir vaa,
Vada they preethikaram thadha karomi.
Please tell me whether I should propitiate you by bow and pestle or by stones and I will do as you bid me.

Saakkiya Nayanar, whose original name is not known, was deeply interested in truth and in his quest for truth went to Kanchi to study various religions.  He was attracted to Buddhism and became a Buddhist monk.  But after a time he got disenchanted with the atheist philosophy of Buddhism, and decided that through the worship of Lord Siva only he can attain the goal of liberation.  He chose to worship Him as Lingam, the Rupa-Arupa manifestation of Lord Siva.  But he did not change his religion or his attire of a Buddhist Monk.  He became an ardent devotee of Lord Siva and he wanted to be initiated in the formal worship of the Lord as Lingam.  He was looking for a Guru, when he spotted an elderly ascetic doing pooja of a Lingam in an open place.  When he approached the ascetic for initiation, seeing his attire of a Buddhist Monk, the ascetic thought he was making fun of his pooja.  So to chase him away he threw a stone at him.  This act itself Saakiya Nayanar took as initiation and started throwing a stone daily at this Lingam as an act of worship with selfless devotion.  

Daily only after this ritual he will take food.  Other times he had no thought other than that of the Lord. One day he forgot this ritual and remembered this at the time of  taking food.  Immediately he got up without taking food and fasted the whole day.  Next day as first thing in the morning he went to that place and throwing a stone at the Lingam, he pleaded tearfully for forgiveness of the Lord for forgetting to offer worship to Him the previous day. His sincere supreme love for Lord moved the Lord, who appeared before Saakiya Nayanar and blessed him with Moksha.

Both above cases show that with Ananya Bhaktha , it is not only the fruit, flower, leaf or even water that Lord gladly accepts, as stated by Him in Gita 9-26, but even the stone and the meat;  for in Bhakthi, Bhava is more important than form.  Faith and sincerity in the worship and unconditional boundless reverential Love for Lord in whom total trust is placed, and from whom nothing for oneself is sought are the important criterions that distinguish the Ananya Bhakthi from ordinary Bhakthi. And this Kannappa Nayanar and Saakiya Nayanar demonstrated in their unconventional worship of the Lord and were blessed with Lord’s vision and Liberation by the Lord.