Sunday, May 08, 2011

DEIVATHIN KURAL #187 (Vol #4) Dated 08 May 2011

DEIVATHIN KURAL #187 (Vol #4) Dated 08 May 2011

(These e-mails are translations of talks given by Periyaval of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are proceeding from the middle of page number 1,053 of Vol 4 of the Tamil original. The readers may note that herein 'man/he' includes 'woman/she' too mostly. These e-mails are all available at updated constantly)
(Note: We have reached almost the end of Volume 4 of Deivathin Kural. For the next 12 or 13 e-mails, we will be covering interesting issues under the general heading of ‘PaNpaadu’ that is Culture’. PaNpaadu in Tamil means ‘Culture’, that is the refined way of life, attitude and behaviour of Indians, especially South Indians and amongst them too, more especially the Tamilians. It is further interesting to note that the word ‘PaNpaadu’ itself is a combination of two words, ‘PaN and Paadu’. PaN in Tamil (with the N stressed) is a generic term for all poetry. Paadu means ‘to sing’. So, put together, they mean a refined way of expression, as poetry is more refined compared to spoken or written prose; as the sound of the cuckoo is over the barking of a dog or the braying of a donkey, ‘PaNpaadu’ means a Gentleman’s Way of Life!)

1. Avvai Patti has said, “Mannarkku tan Desam allaal sirappillai: kartravarku senra idam ellaam sirappu”, which means that, “The Kings command respect only in their own land; while the learned command respect wherever they go”! She had every right to say so as she had experienced such adulation and respect wherever she went and she did visit every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu including parts of the present Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala! Her flag was flying much above that of the Chera, Sozha and PaNdya Kings, who all deferred to her every wish and word! Her wishes were their commands!
2. Paari VaLLal (a benefactor and philanthropist) who took special care of poets had died. His two daughters Angavai and Sangavai had been orphaned. At that time it was Avvaiyaar who with an immense sense of gratitude searched for suitable eligible bachelors and got them married. At that time when they got the invitation to attend their marriage, all the three Kings of Chera, Sozha and Paandya Kingdoms had arrived to attend the marriage. Though they were normally at logger heads with each other, it was her invitation which had to be respected amicably. Seeing all three of them under one roof or Pandal, Avvaiyaar was thrilled to comment that, “In this one occasion, like the three ritual fires in the households of the twice – born Brahmins’ namely Garhapatyam, Aahavaneeyam and DakshiNaagni; you three are shimmering effulgently here”! This poem is there in ‘Pura Naanooru’ 367, I quote:-
“onru purindu adangiya iru pirappaaLar
muththee puraiyak kaaNdaga irunda
kortra veN kudaik kodith ther vendar”.
(Please note that the Brahmins used to be called the ‘twice – born’. That is, once at the time of their arrival biologically in this world and the second time when they are given the PooNool in the Upanayana Samskaara, from which time onwards they are considered to be crossing the threshold between childhood and Brhmacharya and entitled to do their duties of Learning and Teaching the Vedas; Conducting Yagnas for oneself and for others; Accepting and Giving Daanam that is Charity. The human teeth is also said to be ‘twice – born’, as the initial set falls off at the age of five or six and is born a second time!)
3. That woman Avvaiyaar, that too an old woman who used to live on alms earned through her singing, having no house or wealth or property, had that sort of a hold on all the three emperors of South India, those days of yore! Still they obeyed her promptly with extreme humility, because of her literacy, mastery over the language, fairness and firmness of diction, which they all respected! Those literarily accomplished poets known as Kavis and Paa VaaNargal were kept at a pedestal of genuine respect, much above even Royalty. They knew about their position in the social order and persevered to maintain their status through continued learning, courage of convictions and being fearless in making their views heard! With rightful pride in their learning, they called a spade, ‘a spade’ as evidenced by that old woman Avvaiyaar, who could say with conviction that, “Kings are respected in their own land while the learned are respected wherever they went”!
4. When you are a great devotee or Gnaani, you should not be nurturing pride and be quick to take offence. But these Poets cannot be bracketed with such devotees and or Gnaanis. These poets do stand apart from the common run of the mill lot! They are greater than people who may be having high status, power, assets and other possessions of grandeur. But they cannot be equated with the devotees and ascetics who have disassociated themselves from this worldly life.
5. When I am saying this, I am aware of the fact that, Gnaanis can be poets also and so can be devotees of God. Starting from the time of Rishis and Brhma Gnaanis, they have all been highly learned poets by their own rights. Starting from Vaalmeeki, Veda Vyaasa, to our AachaaryaaL, the 63 Nayanmaars, the 12 Aazhvaars, Vedanta Desikar, Gnaana Deva, Purandara Daasa to Pothana, people well advanced in the spiritual path and highly erudite scholars were all great poets also. There is a proverb to the effect that ‘unless he is a Rishi, he cannot be composing epic poems’. In Vedas the word ‘Kavi’ means a ‘Rishi’. While defining ‘Kavi’ it says that he is a “kraanta darshee”, meaning that he is ‘capable of discerning the truth’! So I am not talking about the Itihasa and Purana period of yore but later periods of recorded history.
6. In those days, the poet or ‘Kavi’ is the one who had made writing his profession as Sahitya Karta. Then the Kings were the patrons of arts and literature. So to get recognition in the King’s assembly used to be the ambition of every writer worth his name. They could hope to get honoured for their labour to the tune of ‘Akshara Laksham’, that is a Lac of rupees for every word of his work! In the bargain there were many who would praise their Kings to high heavens ‘at the drop of a hat’ so to say. But contrary to this, when it was found to be below their dignity, if the King was not intelligent enough to appreciate their work, there have been poets who could walk out of such company of a King and his coterie, despite years of acquaintance! In the life of the foremost poets of Sanskrit and Tamil, that is Kalidasa and Kambar respectively, such incidents have happened.
7. Greats Who Could Not Care Less for Kings! It is nothing surprising for a recluse Sanyaasi to be uncaring for the Royalty. But we have to appreciate the fact that there were some who did not fall for the attraction of pelf and prestige, despite living in utter penury! One of the three greats of Karnatic Classical Music Thyagaraja SwamigaL, when urged to go and sing in the presence of Saraboji Maharaj of Tanjavur, composed the poem with the question, “Is it the Kings ‘nidhi’ (award or bounty) the greater source of comfort or is it the ‘sannidhi’ (presence and proximity) of Sri Rama?”
8. Similarly there have been some great devotees who have clearly said, “appanai paadum vaayaal aandi suppanai paaduveno?” That means, ‘with this mouth that sings of the Father of the whole Universe, will I ever sing the praise of mere mortal leaders? No Never!’ Nammazhvaar says in the Ninth song of Ninth Thirumozhi, “vaay kondu maanidam paada vanda kaviyen allen”, to mean, ‘I have not come here as a poet to sing the praise of mere mortals’. Sundara Murthy SwamigaL addressing the poets of his time, “Why are you singing the eulogies of this and that man? If you have to sing, sing about our God Siva only,” in Thiruppugalur Tevaaram that starts with ‘Thammaiye pugazhndu ichchai pesinum”.
9. Appar SwamigaL who had studied earlier in Jain religious institutions and then returned back to Hinduism, was spreading the Saivam in a big way. When King Mahendra Pallava sent his emissaries to punish him, he sang the famous Thevaaram, “yaamaarkkum kudiyallom namanai anjom!” That is to say, “We are nobody’s subjects and we do not fear even Yama the God of Death!” There can no other more suitable example for our saints who were utterly fearless!
10. Like these examples of people far advanced in devotion, gnaanam and literary expertise, there have been many cases of those who having been the ‘Aasthaana Vidwaans’, (that is well established and recognised laureates), who have simply resigned from their well entrenched position, when their integrity was doubted. Neelakanta Deekshidar is one such example. He was not only the Poet Laureate but also the Mukhya Mantri in the Thirumalai Naickar’s cabinet. There was a time when his integrity was under a cloud. Later the King apologised for his having doubted Deekshidar’s veracity. Still Deekshidar had the courage of his convictions when he said, “Enough is enough to continued Governmental Service” and returned to his Brahmin’s way of life in a village. Then he instructed that no one from his family should ever opt for a life of public service, in the future too! Finally he took Sanyaasa.
(To be continued.)



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