TOI regularly features articles from this place called “Speaking Tree”. This is one article which I enjoyed
Seer of Dravidian Vedas – Sangeeta Venkatesh
In a small, quiet village in Tamil Nadu called Alwaar Thirunagari, close to Tirunelveli, there is a beautiful Vishnu temple. The temple houses an ancient tamarind tree. Though the tree has gnarled branches, the leaves remain fresh and, surprisingly, they do not close at night. This special tamarind tree is connected closely with one of the greatest bhakti saints, Nammazhwar.
Nammazhwar’s birth was prophesied by Veda Vyasa in the Bhagvata Purana. It has been mentioned in the Bhavishyath Purana that a great saint would be born, at the advent of Kali Yuga, in Dravida land by the river Tamaraparani. As prophesied, when the divine baby was born, he neither cried, nor moved nor suckled milk, yet he continued to remain healthy and glowing. When a baby is born, it is believed that a ‘vital air’ or shata engulfs it, which prevents it from imbibing true knowledge. However, the shata did not affect this divine baby and hence Nammazhwar is also known as Shatagopan or the one who has conquered the shata.
Nammazhwar’s parents were so puzzled and worried that on the twelfth day after his birth, he was kept in a golden cradle and placed before the deity. He was given the name ‘Maaran,’ meaning one who is unique. The baby instantaneously crawled out of the cradle and took his position under the divine tamarind tree and assumed the Padmasana posture. Indeed, this tamarind tree is believed to be the incarnation of Adishesha, the divine serpent, whose role was to protect Nammazhwar who is believed to be an incarnation of Viswaksena, the commander of Vishnu’s army. He remained in this posture and meditated for 16 long years.
In Ayodhya, another saint called Madhura Kavi noticed a glowing light which did not recede – and he saw this night after night. Finally, Madhura Kavi followed it and walked for many days till it finally vanished in Thirunagari. Madhura Kavi knew that he had reached his destination and hurried towards this motionless figure under the tamarind tree. To attract Nammazhwar’s attention, Madhura Kavi dropped a huge stone. Lo and behold! Nammazhwar opened his eyes and smiled at Madhura Kavi.
To test whether the child could hear and speak, Madhura Kavi asked in Tamil, “If in the womb of what is dead, a subtle thing is born; what does it eat and where does it abide?” (Here the dead body meant the ‘achit’ or insentient matter and the subtle thing is the formless soul.)
To this cryptic question Nammazhwar replied in Tamil, “atthai tinru angey kidakkum” which means, “It will eat that and lie there”. This profound statement philosophically meant that the soul experiences the pleasures as well as pain of the body in which it stays. Alternatively, if the soul is fixed on serving God, it will experience divinity.
Madhura Kavi prostrated before Nammazhwar and requested that he accept him as his shishya or disciple. Nammazhwar is considered to be the foremost Alwaror seer of Dravidian Vedas and has composed four Prabandhams covering the essence of the four Vedas, namely, Thiruviruttham on the Rig Veda, Thiruvaashiriyam on the Yajur Veda, Peria Thiruvandadhi on the Atharva Veda and the magnum opus, Thiruvoimozi on the Sama Veda. This rich treasure expounding devotion continues to be taught in temples and religious institutions of south India.
I generally like folk lore and fairy tales and depending on how one views these stories, they do provide an entertainment cum enlightenment quotient.
One thing which attracts me to Tamil deeply (and also gives rise to the ever lasting regret that I cannot read/write Tamil to save my life) is the way with words this language has. Pure Tamil is a very metaphorical language, where everything is explained in terms of allegories and crypt-ism.
There is another famous story of the lady poet Avvaiyar. Apparently Avvaiyarbecame very arrogant as her popularity grew and Murugan decides to teach her a lesson. Wikipedia explains the story very well.
One day Avvaiyar became tired while travelling because of very hot summer and so came under the shadow of a fruit tree. She was very hungry and thirsty. At that time, a small boy who was sitting on the tree asked her whether she wanted fruits from the tree. Avvaiyar told that she wanted fruits. At that time the boy asked Avvaiyar whether she wanted roasted fruits or unroasted fruits.
Avvaiyar who was a famous Tamil poet, litterateur and having indepth knowledge in Tamil thought,”Is there any roasted fruit in the world?” and decided that the small boy didn’t have knowledge even about a fruit. But, as she was very tired, she didn’t want to argue with the small boy and asked him to pick roasted fruits for her.
The boy shook the tree and so fruits fell under the tree. The mud under the tree had stuck on the fruit. Avvaiyar took the fruits and blew on the fruit to remove the mud. It was observed that as the fruits were roasted and had become warm, Avvaiyar had blown the fruits to cool them. At that time, the small boy asked Avvaiyar whether the fruits were warm? Avvaiyar was astonished, “How had a small village cowboy played such an intelligent drama? She had thought that the small boy had no knowledge about fruits and how the fruits in the tree may become roasted fruits. But blowing the air on the fruit to remove the mud is like blowing air to reduce the heat as the fruit is roasted.
What a beautiful comparison. Such a beautiful comparison would not have risen in her mind even though she had gained rich knowledge in Tamil.” She asked the small boy, “Who are you actually?” At ,the small boy disappeared and in his place, Lord Muruga appeared. Now Avvaiyar realized that it was a play of God and she understood that there were more and more things that she had to learn. She bowed to Lord Muruga and requested him to bestow her with bountiful knowledge.
The experts do not say Tamil is one of the most beautiful language for nothing….