Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pattinathaar: The tycoon turned sanyasi - Part 3

Pattinathaar made his decision to become a sanyasi and expressed his decision to his wife Sivakalai. She cried like anything on her husband leaving her alone and becoming a sanyasi. But later she consoled herself and she too decided that she will live the life of a sanyasi by being at home. Then Pattinathaar got from Sivakalai, a box that had the dress of his ancestor, who became a sanyasi. Pattinathaar's family had been worshipping that box considering that dress to be divine.

Pattinathaar first renounced his wife and then renounced his chariot, so he walked across the streets to meet his mother. When he informed his decision about becoming a sanyasi to his mother. His mother said that she was not surprised, but she expected this. Pattinathaar said to his mother that he is going to wear the saffron cloth of his ancestor. His mother insisted that he opens up that box and sees that.

When Pattinathaar opened the box, all he found was six loin cloths. Now, Pattinathaar's mother told that this was the property of her father-in-law and that he would say that full clothing is itself a big burden for a sanyasi. Pattinathaar went inside one of the rooms in the house and came out dressed in the loin cloth. Then his mother instructed that he should get the blessings and word from the guru from whom his grandfather got sanyasam. Before he left, his mother tied some small cloth packet to his hip and told that he should meet her if the pack unties, because that will happen when it is the end of her life.

Pattinathaar went to the Gurukulam for the first time in his life, though it was the Gurukulam started off by one of his ancestors and their family were the patrons of that Gurukulam, yet Pattinathaar never ventured into the Gurukulam before. He went in and got the blessings and word from the Guru. When he came out of the Gurukulam, he was given the beggar's shell (Thiruvodu). He got the thiruvodu. As sanyasi's are expected to beg and eat their daily meal as they have renounced everything in life and nothing belongs to them. Hence even the food for their living has to be given by others, symbolising that everything in this world, including one's soul is the alms given by God.

Pattinathaar, with his Thiruvodu, went to meet his mother as the first alms for a sanyasi should be from his mother. That's when he thought

வீடிருக்க தாயிருக்க வேண்டுமனை யாளிருக்க
பீடிருக்க ஊணிருக்க பிள்ளைகளுந் தாமிருக்க
மாடிருக்க கன்றிருக்க வைத்த பொருளிருக்க
கூடிருக்க நீ போன கோலமென்ன கோலமே

Veedirukka Thaayirukka Vendu Manayaal Irukka
Peedu Irukka Oon Irukka Pillaigalum Thaanirukka
Maadirukka Kandrirukka Vaitha Porulirukka
Koodirukka Nee Pona Kolamenna Kolamae

meaning Pattinathaar thinks to himself "You have your home, You have your mother, You have a wife. You have the fame, You have good healthy body, You even have children. You have the cow, And the cow has its calf, you even have the wealth for generations. While body is still alive, look what you have been - a Sanyasi"

Then he walks straight to his home to get the first alms from his mother. He called his mother from the gates. His mother came out with an empty hand and asked "My dear son, are you still rich?". Pattinathaar was puzzled at his mother's question. He thought he had renounced everything and is begging for alms before his mother and his mother is asking such a question. He asked his mother in a puzzled tone "Why do you ask that way mother?". His mother replied

"வீடு உனக்கு அந்நியம் ஆகிவிட்டது ஆனால் ஓடு உனக்கு சொந்தம் ஆகிவிட்டதே அப்பா"

meaning "The home is now alien to you, but now you own a thiruvodu that makes you richer than other sanyasis".

Pattinathaar had a much better realisation now, he was about to throw away his thiruvodu, but his mother stopped him and said. "Use it my son, but if you lose it don't search as if you have lost your property". Then she gave the first alms to Pattinathaar, he moved on. Then he came across his elder sister's house, she saw him and invited him into her home and provided him a feast. When Pattinathaar obliged and sat for the meal, his sister asked about transferring the right to Pattinathaar's property in writing. Pattinathaar immediately left the house without eating and made up his mind never to come to that house.

But his sister went behind him always, she sent spies to look where he was going. Finally one day, she sent her children to meet their maternal uncle. She asked the children to give their uncle the Appam (pancake) she had prepared. The children sprang up in love on Pattinathaar when they saw him. He had a lot of affection for those kids, so he picked them up in his arms and talked to them. They gave him the Appam that their mother had asked to give it to him and they left. When Pattinathaar was about to eat to he saw that the appam had some phosphoric poison in it. He realised that it was his sister who tried to kill him. He went straight to his sister's house and threw the appam on roof top and went away singing these two lines

தன் வினை தன்னை சுடும்
ஓட்டப்பம் வீட்டை சுடும்

meaning, like one's sins burns them up, the appam in the roof top will burn the house. The next day the entire house was engulfed in flames.

From then on Pattinathaar went on to the temples in the nearby towns and sang in praise of Lord Shiva in those temples. One day when he was in Thiruvidaimarudhur, the small pack that his mother tied to his hips untied itself indicating the his mother was her deathbed. He rushed to see his mother and as he was praying while he rushed, his mother held her life in her hands until Pattinathaar reached. Then his mother passed away in his hands. Pattinathaar wept like anything remembering how his mother had brought him up from a baby to a man. And after that, the in the funeral he set fire to his mother's body. He then sang the following song

முன்னை யிட்டதீ முப்பு ரத்திலே
பின்னை யிட்டதீ தென்னி லங்கையிலே
அன்னை யிட்டதீ அடிவ யிற்றிலே
யானு மிட்டதீ மூள்க மூள்கவே

Munnai Itta Thee Muppurathilae
Pinnai Itta Thee Then Ilangaiyilae
Annai Itta Thee Adi Vayitrilae
Yaanum Itta Thee Moolga Moolgavae

meaning that the Fire in the front from the third eye of Lord Shiva, charred the country of Thirupura Asuras. The fire that was behind in the tail of Lord Hanuman set fire to Srilanka. The fire that the mother holds is the womb. And let the fire that I hold shall grow and grow to char the mother's body"

Then he thought that being born is a big sin and that is what puts everybody in the inescapable loop of affection and bonding. So he sang an another song after that realising that he grew tired going from one womb to another in every birth.

மாதா வுடல் சலித்தால் வல்வினையேன் கால்சலித்தேன்
வேதாவும் கைசலித்து விட்டானே நாதா
இருப்பையூர் வாழ்சிவனே இன்னுமோ ரன்னை
கருப்பையூர் வாராமல் கா

Maadha Udal Salithaal, Vall Vinaiyaen Kaal Salithaen
Vedhavum Kaisalithu Vittaanae Naadha
Iruppaiyur Vaazh Sivanae Innumore Annai
Karuppaiyur Vaaramal Kaa

meaning, Mother got tired by giving birth in every life taken, My legs grew tired by going from one womb to another in every birth. Lord Bramha's hands got tired by creating life again and again. Oh! Lord Shiva of Iruppaiyur, bless me that I shall not go into the womb of another mother"

Then he wandered in the same place for sometime, when again his sister started to give troubles in connection with the property. Pattinathaar transferred all the rights to the property to the temple. And he decided to go to Ujjain to worship the Goddess Kali and left his hometown for good.

To be continued in the next part...

More to come, until then...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Pattinathaar: The tycoon turned sanyasi - Part 2

Marudhavanan grew like a prince and enjoyed his life like a calf capering in the lush green fields. As Pattinathaar, Marudhavanan did not show interest in his studies. Pattinathaar was worried that education is his lineage seems to be a curse. As far as he can remember, nobody fared well in education in his ancestral lineage. however, he consoled that his son will get to learn the nuances of the business and will learn to manage the property over time, as he gets older. Time went on, and one day Marudhavanan expressed his interest to set sails across the oceans to where Pattinathaar's business ships travelled.

Pattinathaar got excited that Marudhavanan is growing up to become a tycoon like him. And that, he can slowly educate him on the nuances of the trade, made preparations for his travel. He gave instructions to the sailors of the boat that Marudhavanan went aboard. And Marudhavanan set sails on the ocean to far off countries where his father had business contacts. Before leaving he promised his father that he will bring the most valuable wealth that his father has ever seen. In all the places Marudhavanan went, he was invited with a lot of respect and grandeur.

Days went on and one fine day, the ship that Marudhavanan went, returned back to Kaveripoompattinam. Pattinathaar was excited to hear the news that his son is back. He went to receive his son back home. Marudhavanan hugged Pattinathaar and happily exclaimed that he has brought all the treasures he promised. He asked his father to order the workers to unload the treasures he brought with him and ran out saying that he is going to meet Grandmother. Pattinathaar ordered his men to unload the treasure. The men unloaded many sacks that arised a doubt in Pattinathaar mind, because, usually precious gems and gold will never be tied up in sacks rather they will be safely kept in boxes. Then, he opened one of the sacks and all he found was dried cow dung and husks.

Pattinathaar grew furious and asked one of his men to carry a sack, went home angrily and shouted where Marudhavanan was. His mother came out and was surprised to see her son angry, asked why he was angry. Pattinathaar told irritatedly "See what you grandson has got?" and kicked the sack down. The sack fell open and to his surprise the dried cow dung shattered into precious gems and the husk was nothing but golden husk. Pattinathaar's joy knew no bounds and was very happy that a his son Marudhavanan has brought in an enormous amount of wealth.

By then, his mother came near him, gave him a box and told that Marudhavanan asked her to give Pattinathaar this box. She also told Marudhavanan is a very playful kid that he gave this box and ran away saying not to search for him. Pattinathaar opened the box and found an eyeless needle and a small palm leaf with something written on it. It read,

"காதற்ற ஊசியும்  வாராது  காண்  கடைவழிக்கே"

"Kaadhatra Oosiyum Vaaraadhu Kaan Kadaivazhikkae"

meaning, This eyeless needle is useless and will not go to the market. And, even this useless needle will never accompany you in your final destiny (after death).

Pattinathaar felt dizzy and the world going around him. He found everything to be an illusion before him. He realised that he went in search of wealth that is unstable in life. His mother appeared to him as Goddess Shakti (Lord Shiva's consort) and Marudhavanan as Lord Kandhan (Lord Murugan). He realised that everything in life is just a hoax or an illusion and that we all are trapped in such an inescapable illusion. Now, he had his first wisdom realised.

நாபிளக்க  பொய்யுரைத்து  நவநிதியம்  தேடி
நலனொன்றும்  அறியாத  நாரியரைக்   கூடி
பூப்பிளக்க  வருகின்ற  புற்றீசல்  போல
புலபுலென  கலகலெனப்    புதல்வர்களை  பெறுவீர்
காப்பதற்கும்   வகையறியீர்  கைவிடவு  மாட்டீர் 
கவர்பிளந்த  மரத்துளையிற்  கால்நுழைத்துக்  கொண்டே
ஆப்பதனை   அசைத்துவிட்ட  குரங்கதனை  போல
அகப்பட்டீரே  கிடந்துழல அகப்பட்டீரே

Naapilakka Poiuraiththu Navanidhiyam Thaedi
Nalanondrum Ariyadha Naariyarai Koodi
Poopilakka Varugindra Puttreesal Pola
Pulapulena Kalakalavena Pudhalvargalai Peruveer
Kaapadharkkum Vagai Ariyeer Kaividavum Maateer
Kavarpilandha Maraththulaiyil Kaalnuzhaithu Kondae
Aapadhanai Asaithuvitta Kurangadhanai Pola
Agappatteerae Kidanthuzhala Agapatteerae

meaning, You gather all the nine kinds of wealth by uttering lies until your tongue gets split. You get together with women who don't even know what is good and what is bad. And like the termites that fly out cracking up the earth, you beget a lot of children. You don't know how to save them, you won't leave them and go away. This act is like the monkey that inserts its leg in the gap of a tree branch split up by a wedge and trying to shake that wedge.

Pattinathaar sang the above song, as he realised that he too was in the same position, got caught in the whirl of bonding and affection. There he decided to become a sanyasi

To be continued in the next post.

More to come, until then...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pattinathar: The tycoon turned sanyasi - Part 1

Tamil Nadu has a lot of poets, siddhars, sages and many wise men who have left behind their experiences as the great wealth that future generations to learn and follow. However, Pattinathar is unique to list of great people that Tamil has as its pride. It would be surprising that Pattinathar was a tycoon who has business all over the world. He was born in an affluent family and yet he turned to be a Sanyasi. Thiruvenkadar, was his name when he became a Sanyasi. This post and the subsequent posts narrate the life of Pattinathar and the incidents that lead him to become a Sanyasi. Pattinathar has given us his experience and wisdom in the form of songs that we will see in these posts. His works include Koyinaan Manimaalai, Thirukazhumala Mummanikkovai, Thiruvidai Marudhur Mummanikkovai, Thiruvegambamudaiyar Thiruvandhaadhi, Thiruvottriyur Orupa Orupadhu. Now let us see how a legendary tycoon of Kaveripoompattinam (Poompuhar) turned into Sanyasi.

Pattinathar, also called Pattinathu Chetty, was born in an affluent tycoon family. His parents were Sivanesan Chettiar and Gnanakalai Aachi. They were so affluent, that in those days it was a customary that kings of the various dynasties and empires who rose to the throne will be crowned by the wealthiest in the country. And for three generations or more, Pattinathar's ancestors have crowned the kings in the Chera, Chola, Pandya and the Pallava Kingdoms. That would give us an understanding of how wealthy their family should have been. They had a lot of ships that sailed across to various countries in the globe for trade purposes. Pattinathar was born and he was named Swetharanyan. He had an elder sister.

Swetharanyan grew up as kid with lots of love, affection and lenience. He spent most of his time playing and studies was a far distant thing to him. Pattinathar's father was worried that his son does not study well, but his mother convinced him that they had wealth that would feed more than 10 generations, so why worry about their son not studying. A few years later, Pattinathar's father died and his mother had to take care of business. Though she was able to manage that, her brother - Pattinathar's maternal uncle - gave her a helping hand and looked after the business.

Swetharanyan, born in the lineage of traders, instinctively had the skills for trade. He picked up the nuances quickly and wanted to venture into the seas to get more hands-on experience about trade across the oceans. He became well-versed and later he was married to a girl named Sivakalai at the age of 16. In those days, marrying at a young age was practised. Over the years, he grew to be a man who can handle businesses himself and became the wealthiest trader in Kaveripoompattinam. Thereafter he was referred to as Pattinathu Chetty or Pattinathar.

For a long time, the couple did not have a child as the heir to their wealth. They went to a lot of temples but still God did not bles them with a child. They were worried, and Pattinathar's mother even suggested that he married another girl. In those days, men used to have more than one wife. However, People in those days had a very high respect for their mothers, that they would not rebuke anything against their mother's words, Pattinathar was not in a position  to show his refusal to his mother's suggestion, however he expressed clearly his unwillingness and made it clear that he was not willing to think of any other girl as his wife. His mother, honoured his wish and did not talk about that later.

Pattinathar had a dream one night. In the dream, he saw an elderly couple near Thiruvidai Marudhur, who had a young infant and were worried as they were not able to feed for themselves, and feeding and bringing up that infant was worrying them more. Pattinathar heard a divine voice asking him to travel to Thiruvidai Marudhur. He woke up from his dream and the next day Pattinathar and Sivakalai headed to Thiruvidai Marudhur. And when he reached Thiruvidai Marudhur, he saw the same elderly couple that he saw his in dreams. He enquired about them, and they said that they were poor and the child was born at a very later age, and now they are weak to feed for themselves. So they both decided to go and meet Pattinathu Chetty and ask him to adopt the child for which, the elderly couple told, that Pattinathar would give them gold equal to the weight of the infant with which they could manage the rest of their life. Pattinathar and Sivakalai eyes were in tears and they thought that Lord Shiva and Parvathi themselves came as the elderly couple and blessed them with the child.

Then Pattinathar and Sivakalai, took the elderly couple to Kaveripoompattinam and said that they will adopt the child and gave the elderly couple a good amount of wealth for them to survive through their age. Then they planned for the adoption ceremony of the child. Now, Pattinathar's sister, who thought that the wealth of Pattinathar will automatically be for her family as Pattinathar had no heir, had her dreams shattered by the adoption of this child. She argued and quarrelled with his brother. But Pattinathar made a firm decision that he is going to adopt that child and that child will be his heir. The adoption ceremony went very well in all its grandeur and they name the baby boy - Marudhavanan. They considered Marudhavanan as their own child and showed him a great love and affection.

To be continued in the next post.

More to come, until then...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brave Warrior Bhima

After a long time, I thought I should post about the less known legends about a mighty warrior. The warrior is none other than Bhima. The second of the Pandavas, he is known for his power and might in the warfront. Bhima is said to be a relentless warrior when it comes to the battlefield. He is said to have possessed the power of a ten thousand elephants. This mighty warrior, in reality, was such a soft-natured, honest, unswerving towards faith and justice and at times humorous too. Here are the less known legends that depict these characterisitics.

The first one goes like this. During his exile, Bhima was wandering in the forests and there he met with a rhinoceros. The rhino got agitated by a human presence and went raging towards Bhima. The rhinoceros then shouted at Bhima saying that Bhima was his slave as he has ventured into its territory. Bhima identified himself as one of the Pandavas and he is the mightiest in the world, in spite of that he also explained that he did not want any confrontation as they both have no enemity. He also said that he was willing to leave the territory at once. However, the raging rhino wanted a confrontation eventually leading to a fight. Bhima refused for a physical battle and said he will leave at once. The rhino not convinced wanted to somehow to enslave Bhima and threw a challenge before him. The challenge was that Bhima has to run ahead and the rhino will chase him. If the rhino catches before his territory ends, Bhima will be its slave, however if Bhima goes past its territory, he is free to go.

Bhima agreed to the challenge and started his run furiously, the rhino chasing him equally furious. The chase went on for sometime, and even at times, the rhino nearly caught Bhima. And when Bhima neared the end of the rhino's territory, he jumped to the free himself from the clutches of the rhino. While half of his body cross the border, unfortunately, the rhino caught hold of Bhima's legs just within the end of its territory. Now Bhima exclaimed that he has reached the end of the rhino's territory and hence he was free. The rhino argued that it caught Bhima right within its territory and that it did not venture out of its territory to catch Bhima and hence Bhima was its slave. Bhima though he said that he has crossed the border, could not deny the rhino's claims. So, he suggested that they call his brother Dharmar (Yudishtra) to arbitrate on this controversy. The rhino agreed, as Dharmar is known for his unswerving attitude towards justice.

Dharmar came to arbitrate on this issue and heard to the arguments of the both the parties. It was indeed a tough decision to make as his brother Bhima made it to be out of the territory, however, the rhino's claim that it caught Bhima's legs from within its territory was quite valid. Then Dharmar came to a decision and told the rhino to take that half of the Bhima's body that the rhino caught within its territory and to leave the rest of the body free. That could not happen without killing Bhima. The rhino was moved by this verdict, in spite of Bhima being his brother, Dharmar gave a verdict that was just and fair. So, the rhino blessed him and left Bhima free and gave Bhima a wish that half of Bhima's body will be bestowed with the powers of the Rhino. From then on, half of Bhima's body looked armoured like that of a rhino. Though Bhima was powerful enough to fight a rhino, he did not blindly make use of his powers to fight the rhino that he never knew before. This stands as a proof that Bhima used his physical prowess wisely and only in times of need.

The second one is about faith, though it might look a bit mythical, the message this one conveys is very good and important too. Arjuna was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, he used to perform a lot of poojas during the day with lots of flowers offered to Lord Krishna. But Bhima would loiter aimlessly in the garden, plucking flowers and closing his eyes, smelling the fragrance of the flowers and they throwing them away. He used to do this, sometimes, for the whole day. This made Arjuna proud that he is offering more prayers and flowers to Lord Krishna than Bhima does and hence is a much better devotee of Lord Krishna. That night, Arjuna had a strange dream. He was walking along the country, where he saw loads and loads of bullock carts, fully loaded with flowers walking their way across the country and towards the skies. He was puzzled about how bullock carts were making their way to the skies. He enquired one of the persons who was riding the cart, the rider answered that the carts were carrying flowers offered by devotees to Lord Krishna and they were en route to the heavenly abode. Arjuna was surprised and asked the rider who the devotee was. The rider uttered the name Bhima. Arjuna was surprised, he then started asking the names of the devotees to each rider thereafter, all of them answered it was Bhima except the last one who answered that it was Arjuna. Arjuna was totally puzzled, how come Bhima who just wanders along the gardens, plucking flowers, smelling them and throwing them away could have offered so many flowers while Arjuna performing poojas throughout the day offered only one load full. He was puzzled and woke up to realise that he got the message in the dream. The next day morning, he found Bhima as usual in the gardens doing the same thing, he went to Bhima and asked why he was plucking flowers, smelling the fragrance the throwing them away. Bhima responded saying that when he plucks the flowers he closes his eyes, prays to Lord Krishna that the flower in his hand is for the lotus feet of Lord Krishna; then smells the fragrance and throws them away. He considers this to be an offering to Lord Krishna and he has been performing this all through the day. Arjuna realised that true faith is not just by lavish offerings but through immersing the soul and thought in the pure faith in Lord Krishna, and fell at Bhima's feet for teaching him the lesson.

The third one is a bit humorous but does conveys a very deep meaning that for doing good deeds there is no good time or bad time. It has to be performed immediately then and there. One evening when Dharmar was in the palace, a poor man came for alms. In those days and even today, it is a practice that if the lights are lit in the homes in the evening, people don't give away money, gold or loan of items (esp. money, if not others). That day the palace was lit for the evening and as it was a customary not to give away money/gold, he asked the poor man to come the next day, as the palace has been lit. Suddenly, Bhima went shouting all over the palace that his brother has transcended "time" and has become immortal. He bounced like anything in joy and was shouting like the merriest person in the whole world. Dharmar could not understand, he was smiling at the unusual act of Bhima however Dharmar was a bit annoyed thinking that Bhima was making fun at him. He stopped Bhima and asked him why he behaved like that. Bhima politely answered - "Brother, time is indeterminate and unpredictable. Everything around us is an illusion, the one who lives today thinking that he will live for long vanishes tomorrow". Bhima continues "I am not sure you will live tomorrow, or I will live tomorrow and such is the nature of our lives. When you said for sure that you will give alms to that poor man the next day. It seemed to me that the only possibility to say those words was only if you were immortal. And, so, I jumped out in joy". Dharmar realised that Bhima was right and good deeds have no excuses to be postponed and he immediately gave the alms to the poor man and sent him. Dharmar was proud of his brother and thanked him.

Bhima has stood the test of time for being the most mightiest man on earth. The legends too will stand the test of time. Though Hercules, Bhima's western counterpart, is remembered more in the west. The analogy for power and might in India is Bhima, let us remember Bhima not only for his might, but also for his witty characteristics that these legends say.

More to come, until then..

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Austere Aasaarakkovai

After quite a long time, a post about one of the ancient treasures in Tamil Literature is in order. These days, we hear a lot of people talking about environment safety, etiquettes etc, but it is quite amazing to know that our ancestors had this consciousness thousands of years ago. Such a fabulous thought process has been rendered as a treatise that defines the rules of life and etiquette that has to be followed to lead a disciplined and a happy life.

The treatise is "Aasarakkovai" by Peruvayin Mulliyanar which is one of the Pathinen Keezhkanaakku Group of literary works in tamil literature. Written about 1500 to 2000 years ago, by around (100CE-500CE) consists of 100 stanzas, in which the author defines that rules governing food, dress code, decorum with kings and elders, conserving and non-pollution of natural resources, eschewing evil habits and bad company.

It is quite intriguing and amazing to see that Peruvayin Mulliyanar had envisioned about a lot of aspects that are applied even today. The name aacharam itself means discipline, etiquette, decorum etc. Kovai means collection, aggregation. Let's see a few stanzas. The first one enlists the characteristics of discipline

நன்றி அறிதல் பொறை உடைமை இன்சொல்லோடு
இன்னாத எவ்வுயிர்க்கும் செய்யாமை கல்வியோடு
ஒப்புரவு ஆற்ற அறிதல் அறிவுடைமை
நல்லினதாரோடு நட்டல் இவை எட்டும்
சொல்லிய ஆசார வித்து

Nandri Aridhal Porai Udaimai Innsollodu
Innadha Evvuyirkkum Seyyaamai Kalviyodu
Oppuravu Aatra Aridhal Arivudaimai
Nallinathaarodu Nattal Ivai Ettum
Solliya Aasaara Viththu

meaning The eight traits of good decorum are Gratitude, Patience, Pleasantness in speech, Refraining Non-harming attitude towards other beings, Being Educated and Learned, Concordance with people, Understanding things thoroughly, Being Knowledgeable, Association with good people define aacharam (disciplined way of life).

To maintaining these traits one has to be very disciplined otherwise the traits cannot be achieved, this itself defines the remaining 99 stanzas. However the poet goes into defining who an educated person is, who is a respectable person etc. Let us see a few songs and their meaning to unravel what the poet has actually got for us.

அரசன் உவாதியாயன் தாய் தந்தை தம்முன்
நிகரில் குறவர் இவரை
தேவரை போல தொழுது எழுக என்பதே
யாவரும் கண்ட நெறி

Arasan Uvvathiyaayan Thaai Thandhai thammun
Nigaril Kuravar Ivarai
Devarai pola thozhudhu ezhugha enbadhae
yaavarum kanda neri

meaning The King, the Teacher, the Father, the Mother and Elder Siblings are respectable people in one's life, so they should be treated and respected like the Gods and that is the etiquette which our ancestors found out

The next stanza is the basic etiquette about serving food or table manners

விருந்தினர் மூத்தோர் பசு சிறை பிள்ளை
இவர்க்கு ஊன் கொடுத்தல்லால் உண்ணாரே என்றும்
ஒழுக்கம் பிழையார்

Virundhinar Moothor Pasu Sirai Pillai
Ivarkku Oon Koduthallal Unnare Endrum
Ozhukkam Pizhaiyar

meaning, The disciplined, while eating, will serve the food for the guests, elderly people, the cow, the birds and the children before they even take their food. This is what is considered as table manners

Even today, many people serve food for the birds before they eat their meal during the day. It is even considered, that the ancestors eat the food in the form of birds. Such an act of providing food to the cattle and the birds is to some extent a conservation of the ecological system.

The next is about keeping the environment clean and pollution-free, which is the buzzword that every person or organisation is talking about these days, but the same thought have been introduced thousands of years back

புல் பைங்கூழ் ஆப்பி சுடலை வழிதீர்த்தம்
தேவகுலம் நிழல் ஆனிலை வெண்பலி என்று
ஈரைந்தின் கண்ணும் உமிழ்வோடு இருபுலனும்
சேரார் உணர்வுடையோர்

Pul Painkoozh Aapi Sudalai Vazhitheertham

Deva Kulam Nizhal Aanilai Vennpali Endru
Eeraindhin Kannum Umizhvodu Irupulanum
Saeraar Unarvudaiyor

meaning, Grasslands, Agricultural lands, Cow dung (the dried form of cow dung is used to burn alongwith wood while cooking and during pujas), Graveyard, Waterbodies like ponds, lakes etc, Temples and places of sanctity, Shades under trees etc where people rest, Stable where cows are tied and Ash that is obtain by burning wood etc - are the 10 places where disciplined people would not pollute by spitting, passing excrements or otherwise

This environmental consciousness is the paramount statement of today's environmentalists, but this consciousness was widespread with our ancestors even in those days.

The next song is about strict discipline and self control

பிறர்மனை கள் களவு சூது கொலையோடு
அறனரிந்தார் இவ்வைந்தும் நோக்கார் திறனிலர் என்று
எல்லபடுவதும் அன்றி நிரயத்து
செல்வழி உய்திடுதலால்

Pirarmanai Kall Kalavu Soodhu Kolaiyodu

Aranarindhaar Ivvaindhum Nokkaar Thiranilar Endru
Ellapaduvadhum Andri Nirayaththu
Sellvazhi Uithiduthalaal

meaning Uxoriousness over other's wives, Booze, Larceny, Gambling and Murder are the five things that learned and disciplined people would never dare to commit because it not only brings blame and bad name but also paves the way to hell

The next stanza details about how one should conduct his life

நந்தெறும்பு தூக்கணம் புள் காக்கை என்று இவைபோல்
தம் கருமம் நல்ல கடை பிடித்து தம் கருமம்
அப்பெற்றியாக முயல்பவர்க்கு ஆசாரம்
எப்பற்றியாயினும் படும்

Nandherumbu Thookanam Pull Kaakai Endru Ivaipol
Tham Karumam Nalla Kadai Pidithu Tham Karumam
Appettriyaga Muyalbavarkku Aasaram
Eppatriyaayinum Padum

meaning, The one who is hardworking like an ant, protective like the weaver bird, Active like a bird, Social like the crow and does his duties correctly, then discipline will automatically attribute to him.

It is quite amazing about how the poet can bring about all these nuances of discipline. The problem is that how is could be followed by everyone equally, so considering that, the poet has also given exceptions to people who might not be able to follow the rules of discipline or etiquettes or in other words, it describes the people who are exempted from these rules. The following stanza enlists those poeple

அறியாத தேயத்தான் ஆதுலன் மூத்தான்
இளையான் உயிர் இழந்தான் அஞ்சினான் உண்பான்
அரசர் தொழில் தலைவைத்தான் மணாளன் என்று
ஒன்பதின்மர் கண்டீர் உரைக்குங்கால் மெய்யான
ஆசாரம் வீடு பெற்றார்

Ariyadha Theyatthan Aadhulan Moothaan
Ilayaan Uyir Ilandhan Anjinaan Unbaan
Arasar Tholizh Thalaivaithaan Manaalan Endru
Onbadhinmar Kandeer Uraikkunkaal Meiyaana
Aasaram Veedu Pettrar

meaning, the people who are exempt from following the rules described are Foreigner, Beggar, Aged people, Kids, Dead person, Frightened/Panicked person, Persons on deputation of King's or Governmental order, Persons about to get married are the nine people enlised to be exempt from maintaining the aasaram.

Though some of the stanzas might not be relevant to this day or cannot be followed as mentioned. Some stanzas might even appear to be discriminating, but if we construe it in the right sense, the point of discrimination disappears. But, we have to appreciate the knowledge and the awareness we had, even before the western world knew that there are such principles to govern discipline for a citizen and for a society as a whole.

Assarakkovai in pdf format can be downloaded here

More to come, until then....

PS: From this post onwards, I am planning to write the tamil script using Google's Transliterate service, rather than posting them as images. Post your comments if there are any problems viewing the content

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sacred Anuvavi Subramaniyar Temple

The Western Ghats hosts a lot of serene beauty of Nature; as result it also has been the dwelling of many deities along its longer stretch, Marudhamalai, Vellingiri are quite popular. Another popular with a Sanctum abode is the Anuvavi Subramaniyar Temple. The pristine beauty of Nature really makes us worship it, in addition to the deity here. The prime deity here is Lord Subramaniyar (Lord Murugan) along with Lord Hanuman, Lord Ganesh, Lord Shiva, Idumban and the Navagrahas. The speciality about this temple is that it is very old and has a legend associated with it that dates back to the period of Ramayana. One more unique aspect of this temple is that one does not find Lord Hanuman in temples where Lord Murugan is a prime deity but Anuvavi has Lord Hanuman as one of the deities. There is a legend that explain why Hanuman is one of the deities in Anuvavi.

When Lord Hanuman was on his way back bringing the Sanjeevi Parvatham as instructed by Jamabavan to cure Lakshmana who fell unconscious in the battle. He felt very thirsty and could not find any water source nearby and that was when Lord Subramaniyar appeared and pierced the mountain with his weapon The Vel (spear) and a spring came gushing out with water that helped Lord Hanuman quench his thirst. After quenching His thirst, Lord Hanuman continued on his way to Srilanka and hence there arose a temple for Lord Murugan carrying the name of Lord Hanuman to remind of this legend. The spring that quenched Lord Hanuman's thirst still flows in hills and is being used by the people for drinking. The name Anuvavi in Tamil means Anu (Hanuman) + Vavi (Spring, Waterhole or Pond) and reminds us of the legend.

The temple is located 18 kms from Coimbatore city via Kanuvai en route to Anaikatti. A lot of buses ply to the temple foothills. The days in which the Krithigai star falls is auspicious and celebrated along with the other days that are auspicious for Lord Murugan.Here are a few photos of the beautiful temple.

The entrance arch to the temple

The mandapam of the the Lord Vinayaga Temple

The steps to the Anuvavi Subramaniyar Temple

The view of the temple and the stairs and the natural beauty of the mountains

The guys who made it possible - Kannadhasan, Pradeep, Ravi, Suresh Raja, Sathiyaraj

The mandapam for people to take some rest while they climb up or down

The mandapam near the Idumban Shrine

The flowers blooming en route to the temple with the following pictures showing the scenic serenity of nature

View of the Western Ghats at the top after reaching the main shrine

Another view of the western ghats from the top

The Anuvavi Subramaniyar Shrine (Vimanam)

Lord Vinayaga Shrine

Another view of the main shrine

The Lord Hanuman Shrine

The Hanuman Theertham (the spring that quenched Hanuman's thirst)

Another view of the Hanuman Theertham

View of the Main shrine from near the Lord Shiva shrine above

Another view from the top

View from near the Lord Shiva Shrine

The zealous guys near the Lord Shiva Shrine

A few pictures of the natural beauty of the temple

The mandapam before the Lord Vinayaga shrine during the descent

We have to climb around 500 steps to reach the main shrine. However, the effort rewards us not only with the blessings of Lord Subramaniyar, Lord Hanuman and the other deities but also the blessings of Mother Nature.

More to come, until then...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kali Yugam - The Yugam with an infamous spell

Kali Yugam, the last of the four Yugams in the Hindu Cosmology. It is a dreaded yugam where things will be a haywire, where virtues (dharmam) are ignored and neglected. The Kali Yugam lasts for 4,32,000 years according to the Hindu Cosmology and once Kali Yugam ends, the cycle of the other Yugams - Satya or Krita (17,28,000 years), Treta (12,96,000 years), Dwapar (8,64,000 years) - take over. More details about these calculations and other information about these yugams in the upcoming posts. Don't hasten yet about Kaliyugam's end because we are just in the beginning, only about 5110 years have passed we still have a lot to go. Kaliyugam is dreaded because, legend says people live a short life unlike the people in the other yugams; in Krita yugam, people have life until their bones exist; in Treta, until their flesh lasts; in Dwapar, until the last drop of blood - remember Bhishma; and in Kali Yugam, people live until they eat food, once the food reserves in the body are gone, they die. That is the reason saints and mahans profess people to donate food which is a good deed in the Kali Yugam.

I have already posted about the happenings in the Kali Yugam in one of the earlier posts, Kumaresa Sadhagam. However, there is an interesting legend, an upakadhai of the Mahabharatha, that illustrates the effects on the onset of the Kaliyugam. Mahabharata and the Kurukshetra War happened at the end of the Dwapar Yugam. The story beautifully explains the infamous nature of the Kali Yugam. In fact, I plan to start of another blog, writing these stories, in Tamil, that I heard from my parents, grandparents and read from sources that I don't remember now, but these legends have stayed evergreen in my memory.

Now, the legend. The Kurukshetra War was over, the Pandavas won the battle. Dharmaraja (Yudhistra) also called Dharmar, is known for holding the values of Truth (Satya) and Righteousness (Dharma) and hence the name Dharmar. He ascended the throne after the Kurukshetra War and his subjects lived peacefully and happily in his righteous reign. Then came this strange but interesting case.

Dharmar was in his court, along with his brothers and Lord Krishna. Two farmers came to him for deciding on a certain case. Of the two farmers, one sold his land to the other, lets call them the buyer farmer and the seller farmer. The deal was done and the seller received his payment from the buyer. The buyer after a few days of buying that land from the seller, starting ploughing and digging that land, and he struck some priceless treasure of rare gems and gold. The buyer was honest enough, so he took that treasure and went to the seller saying that he had paid only for the land and not for the treasure in it and the rightful owner of the treasure is the seller. The seller being equally honest told that the sale of the land has been done and anything from the land does not belong to him anymore and he said that the rightful owner was the buyer.

Both did not come to an agreement and thats when the dispute started (Strange isn't it, but remember that was in the Dwapar Yugam :)) and finally they decided to have it settled at Dharmar's court. The next day they went to Dharmar's court and explained the situation. Dharmar was really happy to see his subjects so righteous and he said that he felt really proud of both of them because of their righteousness. And Dharmar told that he does not want to give a verdict that will cause other to feel bad and asked them to both make a decision in his court. The farmers decided unanimously that the treasure be in possession of Dharmar until they come up with a decision and once they have decided who is to have the treasure, they will get it from Dharmar. Dharmar felt that it sounded like a plan and gave a nod. The farmers went for the moment leaving the treasure in Dharmar's possession. Dharmar felt really proud of the farmers' act.

Time passed by and things went on fine, until the same farmers who came to Dharmar's court came again with a different view of the earlier case. The buyer farmer now claimed that the treasure is his as he has paid the seller for the land and whatever he gets, either crops or whatever, is his. The seller farmer's argument was that he sold only the land and not the treasure, if he had known about that treasure, he would have either took it himself before the sale or would have charged the amount in the sale price. The farmers were arguing with the points reversed from their stand in the case when came earlier to Dharmar. Lord Krishna who watched all this smiled at Dharmar, who was confused a lot about this case. It was a case where the plaintiff and defendant had self-contradictory views over a period of time. He thought for a moment and gave the verdict that the treasure belongs to the government giving his explanation as follows.

The land of the buyer, which was previously with the seller before that sale, falls into his Empire. So all the thiings belong to his Empire unless it was a reward for some effort made towards a claim. In addition, the treasure was not the benefit of any effort made by either of them and hence the King (himself) vests all the right to property and possession of the treasure. The treasure shall be used for the benefit of the people of his Kingdom. The farmers were disappointed, but they could not fight the King and went back.

Now Lord Krishna rose to the fore and told Yudhistra that the time has come for them to leave this planet as He has seen the indications that Kali Yugam has started. And once Kali Yugam starts, they had no business there. Dharmar asked how Lord Krishna told that there are indications of Kali Yugam. Lord Krishna replied, that Dharmar who had the held the values of Truth and Righteousness, has slipped in the above case. Lord Krishna proceeded saying that though Dharmar had mentioned that the treasure will be used for the benefit of the people of his Kingdom, he had no right on the treasure and yet he found out justifications in the name of righteousness. And that, is the indication of Kali Yugam's arrival, even the most righteous will fall victims to circumstances and try to plunder and covet other's property. Dharmar realised his mistake and did as Lord Krishna suggested and the left Earth in a vimanam for good.

The aforesaid story clearly explains the spell Kali Yugam has even on the people who are determined. Think about the common man like you and me, unless the person has a great grit and determination to stand for the good, circumstances will lead him to unrighteous and immoral paths very easily, thereby taking them spiritually away from the path of Salvation. Of course, we can realise that with the events happening around us today, Kali yugam has a bad spell on everything that is on the planet, but this is just the beginning and there is a long way to go. Imagine the plight and sorrow people will have at the end. Legend says that at the end of the Kali yugam, human race will get to be contained within a feet or so. The mention about human race getting contained within a feet or so is unclear whether humans will grow only a feet or so tall, or will be contained within something that is a feet or so high, however a movie that has brought this legend to visual interpretation is "The Matrix" and the avatar, Kalki, will incarnate to rescue the people from their sorrows and plight. Nobody knows how the Kalki Avatar will be, but it is mentioned as the most modern of Avatars. Time has the answer, we will have to wait for nearly 4,27,000 years to see that...

More to come, until then...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sanctum Abode - Vellingiri

After a very long time, back to blogging with a post about the mystique and the divine - The Vellingiri Hills. The Vellingiri hills, considered the Southern Kailash, is one of the important and sacred pilgrimage destinations in the country. The Vellingiri Hills, a part of the Western Ghats, is about 30 kms from Coimbatore city. There are a lot of public transport facilities available to Vellingiri foothills. The prime deity is Lord Shiva in the name, Velliangiri Andavar, meaning Lord of the Silver mountains. The Vellingiri hills is a serene and a beautiful place where nature could be seen at its best. Along withe beauty a lot of legends are associated with the Vellingiri hills, one such is from the Mahabharatha.

The pilgrimage starts during the full moon in the months of April/May, that is, the Chitra Pournami - full moon in the Tamil month of Chithirai. Chithirai being the first month of the Tamil year and the full moon in this month is exceptionally bright, people start on a pilgrimage trip abode the Vellingiri hills to worship Lord Shiva. It comprises of seven hills, and the seventh hill being the place where Lord Shiva is abode.

The Vellingiri Hills is full of serenity and divinity spread across the seven hills. One can feel the finesse of the tranquility of the Vellingiri Hills, only by being there. The hills host a lot of springs that are freezing chill even on the hot summers day. There are springs with names that are quite intriguing and interesting. The Kai Thatti Sunai (The Clapping Spring) has an interesting belief behind it, the force of the water increases if one claps near it, though I have not felt personally when I tried. And there is the Aandi Sunai at the end of the sixth hill which is a bigger one.

The Vellingiri hills has many legends associated with it, especially from the Mahabharatha. Not only is the hills, but also the places nearby Coimbatore.
There are places in the hills called the Draupadi Palam (Draupadi Bridge), Bheeman Kali Urundai (Bheema's handful of found in the shape of a ball), Andi Sunai (Andi Spring - the place at the end of the 6th hill were Arjuna conducted his penance).

One interesting story is that, when the Pandavas were in exile into the forests, they ventured out into the country in disguise. They were travelling near the place called Dharapuram, and one of the Dhuryodhana's men identified the Pandavas and went on to inform Dhuryodhana. The place where the Pandavas is called Kandidam [Kanda (Found) + Idam (Place)], which later got transformed and now called as Kundadam. When the Pandavas came to know that they were identified by Dhuryodhana's men, the retreated back into the Vellingiri forest. The place where they turned back and retreated is called Tiruppur [Thiruppu - (turn back) + Oor - (Place)], this name still exists.

Now lets view some of the serene and beautiful pictures of the Velligiri Hills

The mist covered serene Vellingiri Hills

Another view of the mist covered serene Vellingiri Hills

Nature at its best

Ravichandran on his ascent to worship Lord Vellingirinathar

Sathiyaraj, Kannadhasan, Satish on their ascent (The bamboo sticks are used for balance while climbing the steep hills and rough surfaces)

Kannadhasan, Sathiyaraj, Satish, Ravichandran on the divine expedition

The arduous climb, but still, people are quite determined

In the hands of Mother Nature

Illustration of the need for the bamboo stick

At some places, step are carved out of large rocks.

The Kai Thatti Sunai (The Clapping Spring)

Kannadhasan testing the Kai Thatti Sunai and quenching his thirst

Satish and Ravi lifting the Bheeman Kali Urundai (Lifting is a hoax though :) )

Guys pointing our destiny of the mission, the seventh hilltop

Another view of the Seventh Hill

The rugged terrain

Gunasekaran at the end of the Sixth Hill

Kannadhasan and Ravi near the Aandi Sunai (The place Arjuna conducted his penance)

Sathiyaraj, after courageously immersing himself in freezing waters of the Aandi Sunai

View of the Siruvani Dam, claimed to have the world's second tastiest water

Another view of the Siruvani Dam from atop the Seventh Hill

The Crescent shaped moon, we made this expedition when it was nearing New moon

Pradeep and Gopinath taking a short rest at the top of the Seventh Hill

Pradeep and others have a small break at the top of the Seventh Hill

So does Sathiyaraj at the top of the Seventh Hill

Watching the beauty of sunrise from above the hills, another reason to reach the hilltop early at dawn

Another view of the sunrise

Valiant and happy after climbing to the destiny

The rejuvenated team after worshipping Lord Vellingirinathar

The first climb for us (Pradeep, my brother, and myself)

Preparing for the descent

The descent, notice the view of the beautiful view of the hills at the background

Tired and exhausted at the end of the journey

The divine place that made it happen
The more we go to Vellingiri Hills, the more we explore the mystique and the serene beauty of the hills along with its divinity. Lets explore this divine place and worship Lord Shiva in the Kailash of the South.

More to come, until then...