Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Austere Avvaiyar - Part 7

From the previous posts, it is clear about the influence of Avvaiyar's works even to the common man. Her songs are lucid, simple and convey a great meaning that still progresses even to this day in the form of sayings and quotes. 

The following verses are examples of her works that have permeated to all generations of people. Being used commonly to portray moral values.

சொல்லாம லேபெரியர் சொல்லிச் செய்வர்சிரியர்
சொல்லியுஞ் செய்யார் கயவரே நல்ல
குலமாலை வேற்கண்ணாய் கூறுவமை நாடில்
பலாமாவைப் பாதிரியைப் பார்

Sollamalae Periyar Solli Seivar Siriyar
Solliyum Seiyyaar Kayavarae Nalla
Kulamaalai Vel Kannaai Kooruvamai Naadil
Palaa Maavai Paadhiriyai Paar

meaning, people who help without being asked for are noble and generous. The ones who help after being asked are mingy or mean. Those who don't help even after asking are crooks. They are comparable to the Jackfruit, Mango tree and the Paadhiri tree. Jackfruit, gives benefit without indication like flowering that it is going to bear a fruit. The mango flowers announcing bearing the fruit, whereas the Paadhiri tree just flowers but does not bear any fruit.

The next song is about a miserly businessman who is very fond of praises but never gives even the least valued copper coin to those who praise him. The businessman's name was Koraikkal Azhwan. He was very wealthy that was an attraction, which sometimes made poets to think that he would provide money if they sang songs in praise of him. So, poets would go to him sing praises about him, Azhwan would enjoy such praises, but would say some reasons and ask them to come the next day. So, most poets would walk to him for a few days and then give up. 

Avvaiyar knew about this and wanted to teach him a lesson, so she went to him and praised him about the wealth he had. Azhwan was happy and told Avvaiyar that he would provide her wealth and send her along with an elephant the next day. Avvaiyar went to him the next day, Azhwan said that elephant would be of no use to Avvaiyar, also that she is old, she would not be able to maintain and elephant, so he promised that he would give her a horse, with which she can travel. 

Avvaiyar nodded and went to him the next day expecting a horse. But again, Azhwan said that a buffalo might be more useful for her as she can get milk from a buffalo and asked her to come the next day.

Avvaiyar patiently went the next day, this time Azhwan said that he will give her an Ox instead of a buffalo. Avvaiyar spoke no word and went the next day, again he said that he would give her a saree the next day. 

Avvaiyar knew this would happen and spoke to him that the saree would wear out in to useless threads and sang the following song which severly condemned Azhwan's behaviour. From then on, Azhwan stopped the practice of making people walk for the prize he is not willing to give and also stopped hearing praises from poets.

கரியாய்ப் பரியாகிக் காரெருமை தானாய்
எருதாய் முழப்புடவை யாகிக் திரிதிரியாய்த் 
தேரைக்கால் பெற்றுமிகத் தேய்ந்துகால் ஓய்ந்ததே 
கோரைக்கால் ஆழ்வான் கொடை

Kariyaai Pariyaagi Kaarerumai Thaanaai
Erudhaai Muzhappudavai Yaagi Thirithiriyaaith
Theraikkaal Pettrumiga Theynthukaal Ointhathae
Koraikkaal Azhwaan Kodai

meaning, First an elephant, then a horse and then a buffalo. Next day an Ox, and finally a saree which in turn would go into useless threads. I (Avvaiyar) walked in vain just to get my feet worn out and get flat as a toad's webbed feet. All because of the generosity of Koraikkal Azhwan.

The next verse is so popular that it has been used almost everywhere. It is so ubiquitous, that everyone agrees to it without question. It is "Kattradhu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallaadhadhu Ulagalavu..." meaning, what we have learnt is like a handful of sand, but what we haven't learnt is like this whole world. This same line in the verse has been cited by NASA too. That makes us proud that we professed the quality of humility to the world well before anyone did. 

There is an interesting legend about this verse. Once, a poet wanted to insult Avvaiyar, when she arrived at the King's court, he just showed a handful of sand, indicating that she and her works was nothing more than the worthless handful of sand. Avvaiyar immediately sang this verse which expressed the need for humility and that one should not take pride that he has learned everything.

கற்றதுகைம் மண்ணளவு கல்லா துலகளவென் 
றுற்ற கலைமடந்தை ஓதுகிறாள் மெத்த 
வெறும்பந் தயங்கூற வேண்டாம் புலவீர்
எறும்புந்தன் கையாலெண் சாண்

Kattradhu Kai Mann Alavu Kallaadhadhu Ulagalavu
Endruttra Kalaimadandhai Odhukiraal Meththa
Verum Pandhayam Koora Vendam Pulaveer
Erumbum Thann Kaiyaal Enn Saan

meaning, Even the Goddess of Knowledge, Goddess Saraswathi, meditates and learns everyday, knowing the fact that what we have learnt is like a handful of sand and what we haven't learned is like this whole world. So, don't challenge someone without knowing about them. Even the ant measures, 8 spans of its own hand, but it cannot compare itself to a human who is many times bigger.

The last line made the poet realise his mistake, Avvaiyar comparing him to an ant, made him feel that he has done a mistake and apologized to Avvaiyar.

The next verse is also very popular though people use only the first line quite often "Madhiyaadhar Vaasal Midhiyadhae..." meaning, don't step into the house of those who don't respect you. There is an interesting legend associated with this verse too.

There was once a man who was miserly, but proclaimed that he was generous and gave away a lot of money to those who won his challenge. Likewise, he would provide a challenge often. He would pose false arguments to those who actually win his challenge and would send them away. Avvaiyar who coincidentally travelled to his place when he announced that he would provide 1000 gold coins to whoever sings "4 crore" songs.

Avvaiyar took the challange and the crowd gathered with the judges to adjudge the results. The man was confident that noone could sing so many songs and they would not win the challenge. Avvaiyar sang the song with 4 crores appearing in it, though he argued that this cannot be 4 crore songs, the judges adjudged that it is valid as the song contained 4 crores. Avvaiyar won the prize money. 

Here is the song

மதியாதார் முற்றம் மதித்தொருகாற் சென்று
மிதியாமை கோடி பெறும்
உண்ணீர்உண் ணீரென் றுபசரியார் தம்மனையில் 
உண்ணாமை கோடி பெறும் 
கோடி கொடுத்ததும் குடிப்பிறந்தார் தம்மொடு  
கூடுவதே கோடி பெறும்
கோடானுகோடி கொடுப்பினும் தன்னுடைநாக் 
கோடாமை கோடி பெறும்

Madhiyadhaar Muttram Madhithuorukaal Sendru
Midhiyaamai Kodi Perum
Unneer Unneer Endru Ubasariyaar Thammanaiyil
Unnaamai Kodi Perum
Kodi Koduthum Kudipirandhaar Thammodu
Kooduvadhae Kodi Perum
Kodaanu Kodi Kodupinum Thannudai Naa
Kodaamai Kodi Perum

meaning, Don't step into the house of those who don't show respect. That is like getting a crore of wealth. Don't eat at the home of someone who don't show good hospitality, that is like getting a crore of wealth. Even if you spend a crore to get the relationship of noble people, it is like getting a crore of wealth. Finally, even if you get crores and crores of wealth, keeping up the promise is like getting a crore of wealth.

The song above, illustrates the Avvaiyar's presence of mind and her interesting use of vocabulary to win the situation. 

The last song of this post, is quite heavy in its meaning and stresses the importance of family and relations. One has to take care of these relationships in order to lead a better life.

தாயொடு அருசுவைபோம் தந்தையொடு கல்விபோம் 
சேயொடு தான்பெற்ற செல்வம்போம் மாயவாழ்வு 
உற்றாருடன்போம் உடன்பிறப்பால் தோள் வலிபோம் 
பொற்றாலி யோடெவையும் போம்

Thaaiyodu Arusuvaipom Thandhaiyodu Kalvipom
Seiyodu Thaan Pettra Selvampom Maayavaazhvu
Uttraarudanpom Udanpirappaal Thol Valipom
Pottraaliyodu Yevaiyum Pom

meaning, With the mother, goes tasty food. With the father, goes knowledge and learning. With the children, goes away all the wealth. With the relatives, goes away the illusionary happy living. With the sibling, goes away the strength. With the spouse, goes away everything.

These days people go to separate classes to learn about the importance of family. Avvaiyar has given us this treasure centuries back, when people would have never imagined that there would be a time when people would forget about their family and relations and would chase money and live a meaningless life. Just following Avvaiyar's sayings would help a man lead a peaceful life.

More to come, until then...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kandadevi - The Forgotten Heritage

There are a lot of places in Tamil Nadu associated with the Ramayana. One such forgotten place in the Kandadevi. Kandadevi marks an important event in Ramayana - the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana.

Ravana kidnapped Sita and went on his way to Srilanka. Sita cried in distress for help but in vain. Jatayu saw Sita being kidnapped by Ravana and in distress. Jatayu ventured into the skies to save Sita and fought against Ravana, but during the fight Ravana cut its wings. Jatayu fell to the ground after valiantly fighting against Ravana. Jatayu was holding its life hoping Lord Rama would follow to get back Sita from Ravana. As Jatayu hoped, Lord Rama found Jatayu hurt fatally. Lord Rama knew that Jatayu was his father's long time friend and shed tears on finding Jatayu in its deathbed. 

Lord Rama narrated the incidents that happened and died in Lord Rama's hands. Lord Rama considered Jatayu as his father and performed the final rites for the dead Jatayu. Lord Rama in remembrance of Jatayu installed a shiva lingam and named it as Lord Siragilinathar, meaning the lord without feathers.

The place where Jatayu saw Sita being abducted is Kandadevi, actually Kandaen Devi, meaning the Seeing Sita. Kandaen Devi later got transformed to Kandadevi. There is a place nearby called Iragusari (meaning place where wings fell - Iragu: Wings, feather, Sari - Fall) where Jatayu fought and had his wings cut. Iragusari has now been transformed as Iravuseri.

The temple is now called Lord Swarnamoortheeshwarar Temple. The Goddess is Periyanayagi. The original name of the deity is Lord Siragilinathar, however there are some interesting legends that explain why the name got changed to Lord Swarnamoortheeshwarar.

First one is very interesting. The King who ruled that region wanted to renovate the temple, but his kingdom did not have enough money or gold to renovate the temple. So, he took two businessmen, who were brothers, with him to get enough money from acquaintances. When they were walking near this temple, all three of them stumbled and fell on the ground. The King immediately found it to be strange that all three have falled and ordered his men to dig the place where they fell. There he found lots of gold and precious gems. He realised it as a blessing of Lord Siragilinathar. With the treasure temple the King renovated this temple and named the deity as Lord Swarnamoortheeshwarar as the he was bestowed with gold treasure.

The next - Once there was a severe drought and no rains. All the people in the nearby village suffered and went on without food for many days. They prayed to this Lord to save their lives and it rained gold in that village. The village is named after this incident as Semponmaari - meaning (rain of gold). As a result the Lord who bestowed them prosperity was named Swarnamoorthy

The last one is, The Lord's name in Sanskrit was called as Swarnabarneshwarar (Swarna (Gold) + Barna (Wings, Feather) meaning the Lord with the golden feather, later got transformed as Swarnamoorthy.

Behind the temple, is a big tank called the Jatayu Theertham. The tank is so huge and covers a large area. It is said that the temple tank has never dried up even during drought or intense summer seasons.

Now let us view the pictures of the temple

The Rajagopuram to Lord Siragilinathar Temple, Kandadevi

The temple Mandapam

The Rajagopuram from within the temple

The temple mandapam

The temple mandapam of Annamalaiyar Shrine, Vinayagar Shrine.

The pillar in the mandapam carved out of a single stone

Sculpture in the pillar, so intricate and artistic

The 12 zodiac signs sculpted on the ceiling of the temple mandapam

Lord Dakshinamoorthy carved in one of the pillars

The intricate sculptures in one of the shrines in the temple

At the backside of the temple Prakaram

Temple Vimanam

The temple Prakaram

Lord Subramaniyar Shrine from behind

Temple Prakaram the northern side

Lord Subramaniyar Shrine

The Nagalingam Tree

Lord Karuppar statue carved in the temple walls

Lord Bhairavar Shrine, behind it is the shrine of Periyanayaki Amman

The temple prakaram and the Lord Subramaniyar Shrine

Intricate carvings in the walls of the Periyanayagi Amman Shrine

Close-up picture of the carvings

Much closer look at the carvings

Sculpture of a Peacock holding a snake in its beak

The temple entrance from inside the mandapam (Baby Priyanka and My Father in the picture)

Intricate art of sculpture in the temple entrance

Sculpture masterpiece at the temple entrance. Notice the small shaft connecting the two pillars

The shaft that connects the two pillars, the shaft and the stone it appears attached to is made out of a single stone!

The entrance to the temple that we visited

The temple Rajagopuram, another view

The outer walls of the temple

The temple car (Thaer - தேர்), which is at least a few hundred years old

Intricate carvings in the temple car

Another picture of the beautiful carvings in the temple car

The following pictures show the Jatayu Theertham, the temple's tank

Aerial view of the temple and Jatayu Theertham, just look at the scale of the tank. (Courtesy:

Kandadevi is 2 km Devakottai. Devakottai is a town in Sivagangai district and is one of the oldest municipalities of Tamil Nadu. Renovation is being done in the temple, for further details about the temple timings etc., please contact Karthik Gurukkal - +91 94439 56357

Having so much of heritage to it, Kandadevi is really a forgotten place that needs to be revived and heralded of its glory it once had.

More to come, until then...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Venerated Villeeshwarar

Let's digress from Avvaiyar to visit the long forgotten Villeeshwarar Temple. The great kings and emperors who ruled the southern region of India built a lot of temples that were a hive of a lot of activities. They were such great visionaries to build some of the magnificent structures on earth. One such great emperor was Karikaala Peruvalathaan (Karikaalan). He was the one who built the Kallanai which is the oldest surviving dam in the world.

He has built a lot of temples across South India. More surprising information is that he has built 36 big temples in Kongu region (Coimbatore and the surrounding places) and 360 smaller temples. The famous Patteeshwarar temple at Perur was built by him.

One temple that was almost forgotten and nearly lost is the Villeeshwarar Temple at Idikarai. Idikarai is a small village near Coimbatore about 10 km towards Mettupalayam. This temple can be reached by via Thudiyalur, Sengalipalayam route towards Idikarai.

This temple is 29th of those 36 temples Karikaalan built. The temple was built by Karikaalan and later renovated by Vikrama Cholan during the 13th century. The sanctum sanctorum is Lord Shiva, the name Villeeshwarar is because this was once a land full of Vilvam trees. Even the temple's sacred tree is the Vilvam tree. The name Vilveshwarar got transformed to Villeeshwarar, likewise there is another story associated with the name for Lord Villeeshwarar. The tribe that used bows (Vill) worshipped this Lord and so the name Villeeshwarar stuck.  The main deity in the temple is Lord Villeeshwarar, the Goddess is Vedhanayagi, along with Lord Subramaniyar.

The Idikarai village has also such interesting legends about its name. People say that the name of the village is Irukarai meaning two banks of the river. There are small hills nearby call the Kurudimalai, Paalamalai, Ponn-oothu malai and water from these hills flow down as a small tributary of Noyyal that flowed in between this place forming two banks resulting in its name Irukarai, later transformed into Idikarai. There is even a song that describes this place 

குருடிமலை மிசை மீதிலே
பெருகியே வரும் பருகமா நதிக்கரையதனில்
வீற்றிருக்கும் இருகரை எனும்
துறையூர்ப் பெருமானே

Kurudimalai Misai Meedhilae
Perugiyae Varum Parugamaa Nadhikaraiyadhanil
Veetrirukkum Irukarai Enum
Thuraiyur Perumaanae


meaning, the Lord Shiva who resides in the Irukarai place that has a river that flows from the mountains of kurudimalai.

Now let's look at the pictures of this temple

The Lord Villeeshwarar Shrine

View of the temple corridor from near the Lord Villeshwarar Shrine

Exit to the corridor from  Lord Villeshwarar Shrine

The place where Lord Dakshinamoorthi's statue will be place

Lord Villeshwarar Shrine's Vimanam

These walls contain inscriptions

Another view of  the Lord Villeshwarar Shrine Vimanam

Shrine for Lord Vinayagar, yet to be completed

The Lord Villeshwarar Shrine Vimanam different views in the following pictures

Goddess Vedhanayagi Shrine

Goddess Vedhanayagi Shrine and Lord Subramaniyar Shrine

The Vilvam tree inside the temple

Temple Walls

Carvings at the entrance of Goddess Vedhanayagi Shrine

The Kodimaram made out of a single stone

Lord Vinayagar sculpture in the Kodimaram

Kodimaram - another view

Once upon a time, this place was a hive of activity. But later, it became a long forgotten place and the temple that Karikalan was left to ruins. Fortunately, the good hearts of people in an around this place contributed to the renovation of this temple. However, the renovation is still incomplete and requires a lot of help. This renovation effort is being headed by Mr. Rajagopalan, a retired manager from LMW. People who are interested in contributing to the renovation, may contact him directly on his phone number - +91 98942 43633

More to come, until then...