Saturday, July 29, 2006

Connoisseur Kambar - Part 1

Kambar, the greatest poet of all times that Tamil Literature has seen, is a remarkable person and the only one to be crowned with the title Kavi Chakravarthi (Emperor of poets). Many people have written a lot about Kambar and his achievements, but we will see a few interesting bits in his life. His greatest work was Ramayana in Tamil called "Kamba Ramayanam" after his name and publishing such a great work earned him the name Kavi Chakravarthi. It is one of the best unparalleled literary work of all times. No one ever has created such a great work. His work consists of more than 10,500 verses depicting the story of Lord Rama. And hence the name Kavi Chakravarthi is crowned to him. He is the one and only Kavi Chakravarthi.

Kambar was born in a place called Therazhundhur, near the famous Thanjavur District. The place comes under reign of the Chola Kingdom. Kambar grew up and did his literary work in the Chola Kingdom but spent the rest of his life, after becoming the Kavi Chakravarthi, in a place called Naatarasan Kotai in the Pandya Kingdom. There is an interesting legend behind the switching of kingdom by Kambar.

Kambar published his great work at SriRangam Ranganathar Temple, a place near Thiruchirapalli (Trichy). The mandapam (corridor) where Kambar made the rendition still exists in the temple and is called the Kambar Mandapam. A few years later after being crowned the Kavi Chakravarthi, Kambar took pride and wanted to show his poetic talent at the Tamil Sangam at Madurai. So he went on his way to Madurai to meet the Pandya King and proclaim his achievement at the Madurai Tamil Sangam. He was in Naatarasan Kotai a place near Madurai and that is where the interesing event happened. Kambar wanted to know the way to Madurai in order to meet the King. So he saw a young boy herding cattle and asked him the way to Madurai. They boy asked Kambar, who he was and why he is going to Madurai. Kambar with pride told that he is Kavi Chakravarthi and he wants to meet the king to proclaim his achievement. The boy did not understand what is meant by Kavi Chakravarthi and asked Kambar what it meant? Kambar's pride grew no bounds told that it means the one who has learnt everything and he is one such person. This intrigued the boy and he asked Kambar if he could tell the letter (alphabet) that he writes on the sand; if Kambar was truly such a learned person. Kambar took it lightly, smiled at the chap and told to write the letter thinking what strange letter or unknown alphabet the boy could write in front of the great Kavi Chakravarthi. To his surprise, the boy drew a wavy line from top to bottom like that of a snake and asked Kambar what that letter was. Kambar got totally confused as there is not such alphabet and letter that he has seen in all the literature that he studied. He laughed at the boy telling that there is no such alphabet. The boy replied instantaneously

"Idhu thaan Ayya Vandi Maatin Neer Ezhuthu"

meaning, this is the letter that is drawn by the urine of an ox that pulls the cart. The observation is that when the ox urinates while pulling the cart and walking its way, the urine is in such a wavy formation. Kambar realised that it is a lesson to his lavish pride he had in himself. There he realised that the boy is not an ordinary boy and fell at his feet realising his mistake that no one could learn everything and sang a song. I dont remember the exact song, but it goes something like this

"Karungaali Kattaikku Vaai Naana Kodari
Elam Vaazhai Thandirkku Vaai Naanitru
Kaatil Erumai Meikkum Siruvan Yemai Vendramayal
Naatarasan Kotaiyae Namakku Sondham"

meaning, the axe that did not give up even for the hardest Karungaali (a tree) wood, gave up for a tender plantain (banana tree) stem. Here he compares himself as the axe that won all the great poets (Karungaali Trees) but fell for a boy (The plaintain stem). The boy, who herds cattle in the pastures, won me. So henceforth, my place is Naatarasan Kotai. And this is the story behind why Kambar switched kingdoms.

Legend says that the boy is either Lord Shiva/Lord Muruga incarnate. However, to keep up his promise, he spent the rest of his life at Naatarasan Kotai considering it as his native. Even today there is his tomb at Naatarasan Kotai. There is another interesting fact too. There is a big pond near his tomb. But that pond was not dug when Kambar was buried, but after his burial people would visit his tomb and take some of the sand from near his tomb. They mix a few pinches of the sand in the milk and give it to their children. People still believe that mixing the sand in milk and giving it to their children will make them knowledgeable persons as Kambar. As the famous quote says

"Kamban Veetu Kattu Thariyum Kavi Paadum"

meaning, "Even an inanimate loom in Kambar's home will pen a poem"

So people want their children to be knowledgeable and popular as Kambar. So they people in that region practise this. The people who came here have taken so much sand from near his tomb that over the centuries it has become a big pond.

The pitiable thing is that, nowadays, statues and tombs are being erected and maintained for people whose eternity in the Tamil world is questionable. But the tomb of the man, who has transcended the barriers of time and has an eternity in Tamil world, is in a dilapidated state. If possible, we should do something to make this honourable person known to the world and maintain his tomb in gratitude for the great work he has done

More to come, until then...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sagely Sivavaakiyar!

Sivavaakiyar, is a great poet who lived around the 10th Century AD and is considered one of the siddhars. Some legends say that he was the first of siddhars who lived in the ancient times. He got the name Sivavaakiyar because he uttered the word "Shiva" when he was born. His works are extraordinary masterpieces that could be done only by a person who has transcended the materialistic aspects of the world and attained the connection with the ethereal bliss. His views might sound atheistic but what he professes is beyond what normal minds can be inculcated. For this reason of atheistic tinge in his songs, his works does not have prominence in the Shaiva Literature, however many people have realised the correctness of what he says. He greatly opposed idol worship and the practices that were followed with to idol worship; basically seeking the Almighty in a stone or a statue, confining the omnipresent in a small stone and considering the stone as GOD, etc. One of his songs adorns my blog as a header. Lets see some of his songs, including the one in the header

"Nattakallai Dheivamendru Naalupushpam Saathiyae
Sutrivandhu MonaMonavendru Sollumandhiram Yaedhada
Nattakallum Pesumo Naadhan Ullirukayil
SuttaSatti Sattuvam Karichuvai Ariyumo"

meaning, "You consider an erected stone as GOD and you adorn that stone with flowers, go around it chanting and muttering some mantras! how is that possible? Will that erected stone talk you when the the Almighty (Lord Shiva) is within you. Will the utensils used to cook the food realise that taste of its contents?".

Nattakallai - Natta (Erected, planted) + Kallai - possesive case of Kall (stone)
Dheivamendru - Dheivam (GOD) + Yendru - like, consider
Naalu - Four
Pushpam - flower
Saathiyae - Adorn
Sutrivandhu - Sutri (Going around, revolve, rotate) + Vandhu - Come
MonaMona - An interjection to denote murmuring and muttering
SolluMandhiram - Sollum (Utter, tell) + Mandhiram - Mantra
Pesumo - Interrogative of Pesum (Talk)
Naadhan - Lord Shiva (the Almighty)
Ullirukayil - Ull (Within, inside) + Irukayil (Staying, residing)
SuttaSatti - Sutta (Heated) + Satti (Pot, vessel)
Sattuvam - Spoon
Karichuvai - Kari (Vegetable cooked) + Chuvai (Taste)
Ariyumo - Interrogative of Ariyum (Knowing, being aware)

What he says is that the act of being in an oblivion without realising the supreme within oneself and searching elsewhere is like the utensils that do not realise the taste of food, that is within them, being cooked. Understand the Almighty within yourself. Now lets see the song in the header of this blog.

"Ninaipathondru Kandilaen Neeyaladhu Verilai
Ninapumaai Marappumai Nindra Maayai Maayaiyo
Anaithumai Agandamai Anaadhimun Anaadhiyaai
YenakkulNee UnakkulNaan Ninaikumaaru Yenganae"

This song is rather song to GOD Almighty himself, his humility, simplicity and divine faith is at its zenith. Lets see the meaning, "I have never known anything other than YOU(GOD) to think. Is the illusion of my consciousness and oblivion actually an illusion or is it you? YOU (GOD) have been everything and nothingness, a being without beginning of all the beings without beginning. When will be the day when I could think that you are within me and I am within you?"

Ninaipathondru - Ninaipathu (Thinking, Imagining) + Ondru (Thing,One)
Kandilaen - Kandu (See, Imagine, Being Aware) + Ilaen - Negation
Neeyaladhu - Nee (You [GOD in this context]) + Aladhu - a variation if Illadhu indicating negation
Verilai - Veru (Other) + Illai - Negation
Ninapumaai - Ninaipu (Thought, Consciousness)
Marappumai - Marappu (Forgetting, Oblivion)
Nindra - Stand, Stay
Maayai - Illusion
Anaithumai - Everything
Agandamai - Nothing
Anaadhi - Thing without a beginning or origin
YenakkulNee - Yenakkul (Within me) + Nee
UnakkulNaan - Unakkul (Within you) + Naan (Me)
Ninaikumaaru - Thinking so
Yenganae - When, how

The next one for the common man rather atheists,

"IllaiIllai Illaiyendru Eyambukindra Yezhaikaal
Illaiyendru Nindrathondrai Illaiyennal Aagumo
Illaiyendrum UnduEndrum ErandumOndri Nindradhai
YellaiKandu Kondapaer Inipirapadhu Illayae"
- Sivavaakiyar

meaning, "You poor people claiming that GOD does not exist, GOD does not exist! Will it be true that a Being existing as non-existent (not able to see physically) to actually not exist? Those who realise the bounds of that Being that is existing as non-existent and existent will never be reborn to undergo the trials and tribulations of birth"

Illai - Negation, not existing
Eyambu - Claim, express
Yezhai - Poor
Nindra - Exist, Stand
Undu - Affirmative, Existing
ErandumOndri - Erandum (Both) + Ondri (Merge, Dependent)
Yellai - Bound, confines
Kandukonda - Found, obtain usually after searching
IniPirappadhu - Ini (Hereafter) + Pirappadhu (Being born)

Sivavaakiyar has transcended the boundaries of materialistic world as the above and other songs illustrate. He professes what the Brahmasutra (The origin of the Universe, The Composition of what is called Brahmam - not Brahma (The GOD of Creation)) says, "All of you and everything around you is Brahmam". In simple physics terms, all objects are manifestations of matter and so is all things in the entire Universe and the Universe itself is the manifestation of Brahmam. You have to realise the Brahmam with you first, don't try to give it a shape or visualise it as something or confine it to some object is what Sivavaakiyar says, a great sagely thought indeed. Lets try to think from his perspective and realise the Brahmam

More to come, until then...