Sunday, November 12, 2006

Importance of a Guru (Teacher)

We all know the four important beings that shape our life, Maatha, Pitha, Guru and Dheivam that is Mother, Father, Teacher and God. The teacher plays an important role in shaping up who we are. But most of us neglect such great beings that helped us to grow what we are now. Teacher, being the eliminator of our oblivion and darkness in our mind, showers light and knowledge; and shows us the world. So what is his importance and what would happen if one misses a good teacher in his life. Luckily by God's grace I got one good teacher whom I consider my Guru. He is Mr. B. Anandakumar, who taught me Mathematics when I was doing my High School. For without him I would not have been the one I am now. I owe him lots of gratitude. Well, lets not get into my personal history. We will get back to what happens if one does not have a good teacher in his life. As usual let's resort to Tamil Literature! Thirumoolar gives an excellent explanation for the importance of a guru and the answer to our question. The song goes like this

"Kuruttinai Neekkum Guruvinai Kollaar
Kuruttinai Neekkaa Guruvinai Kolvaar

Kurudum Kurudum Kurudaatam Aadi

Kurudum Kurudum Kuzhi Vizhumaarae"

- Thirumoolar

meaning, The ones who don't have a Guru who can eliminate their ignorance are blind. The ones who have a person as a Guru, who is not capable of removing the ignorance of their minds, are blind. Both these blind people live their life as the real blind people play a blindfolded game. Both these blind persons, fall into a quagmire where they cannot be recovered, as would the real blind people who would fall into a deep pit.

Kurudu - Blindness, Ignorance

Neekkum - Remove, Eliminate
Guru - Teacher

Kollaar - People not having something

Neekkaa - Negation of Neekkum

Kurudaatam - Blindfolded game

Aadi - play

Kuzhi - Pit
Vizhum - Fall

As Thirumoolar explains, without a Guru, we would not be able to get across the ocean of ignorance. So how do we need to treat such a noble person. This song also states that a Guru has to have qualities of removing a person's ignorance. So we should hold such a person in great respects in our hearts. There is a legend from the Ramayana that states how one should respect a Guru.

Lord Rama defeated Ravana and Ravana was in his deathbed breathing the last few breaths of his life. At that time Lakshmana felt happy that a cruel and bad person was defeated atlast. Then Lord Rama told Lakshmana, "Don't underestimate or consider Ravana badly. He is a great person. A learned man, a great ruler and a great warrior. He knows what is just and what is unjust. The greatness of such a person went down just because he was uxorious. Other than that there is no learned man as Ravana is"

Lakshmana got a bit surprised when his brother had a very good respect in his heart for Ravana. In fact, there are only two persons who are adorned with the sacred name Eashwaran (Lord Shiva). One is Saneeshwaran (Saturn, for his unbiased testing of human endurance and truth) and the other Elangeshwaran (King of Lanka - Ravana). So this itself shows how great should Ravana have been to attain such an adornment to his name.

Lord Rama, now told Lakshmana, "If you still have doubts about Ravana's learnedness, go ask him about the protocol to wage a war?"

In those days, there was a protocol to wage a war. The war would be waged in a separate area of the country normally the boundaries, without disturbing the civil life and only the people in the army would fight. The civilians will be unharmed. Also prior information would be given to the parties involved in the war.

So Lakshmana honouring his brother's order, went straight to Ravana who was in his deathbed and stood near his head and told, "My brother told me to ask you about the protocol to wage a war"

Ravana calmy replied, "Haven't your learned in your Gurukulam about how you should ask a question to a Guru?"

Lakshman was confused when Ravana asked this question. Ravana continued, "You have asked me a question and am going to answer it. So I am in the position of a Guru and you are in the position of a student. So, now stand near my feet and ask your question"

Lakshmana was shocked at this reply, he felt bad that he forgot the basic qualities of a good student. And Ravana's reply really pricked his conscience. He went to Ravana's feet and got the answer from him. Then he realised that what Lord Rama said was absolutely true.

So this legend is an example of how a Guru should be given respect. But, nowadays...! Even, if we don't follow such protocols, we can at least have it at heart. So we shall put a thought about it and remember our Gurus, the ladders of our life. As a final note,


More to come, until then...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Exquisite Chithira Thaer

One of the most fascinating and exquisite works in Tamil Literature, that I had been searching for long and found in my recent trip to Kumbakonam is the Chithira Thaer, meaning Artistic Car/Chariot. The literary eloquence really is awe-inspiring and is in a different dimension, that I have not seen/heard such a work in any other language. I found the Chithira Thaer at two places in Kumbakonam, one at the Saarangapani Temple (in praise of Lord Rama) and the other at the Kumbeshwarar Temple (in praise of Lord Shiva). The Chithira Thaer at Saarangapani Temple is a work by Thirumangai Azhwar, and this form of poetry is called the Thiru Ezhu Kootru Arikkai. The Chithira Thaer at Kumbeshwarar Temple is by Thiru Gnana Sambandhar.

The Chithira Thaer consists of many boxes in the form of a Chariot and each box containing a short verse. The speciality is that you can read the contents from the boxes from any line but in order, will give you a meaningful verse. For e.g. take the content from box 1 in line 1 and then box 2 in line 3 and then box 3 in line 2 and so on - will give you a complete meaning. So the order of reading should be of the form.


Only the numbers need to be in that order, the content can be from any row. It is such a literary beauty that has to be treasured and to be felt proud of.

Take a look at the wonderful masterpiece.

Chithira Thaer at The Saarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam

A high resolution picture is available here

More to come, until then...