Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Paramacharya's Exposition on Dikshitar Kriti - Part II

“Shri Subrahmanyaya Namaste Namaste”

Obeisance to Lord Subrahmanya - every one knows. Starts auspiciously with Shri and has a double namasthE. If you say something more than once, you have said it infinite number of times.We have seen 'pOttri pOttri' and 'Jaya Jaya Sankara', and BrahmasUtram's every phrase ends with twice-repeated words. 'namasthE namasthE'. 'thE' - to you; 'nama:' - obeisance. 'nama:thE' becomes 'namasthE'. The whole kriti goes in the fourth person(?)(nAlam vEtrumai). Obeisances to you, SubrahmanyA, infinite number of obeisances. Who is Subrahmanya? True, learned Brahmanya. We generally take 'brahmA' to mean the true, absolute form of the Lord (paramAtma svarUpam), but there is another meaning - Vedas. That is why, Upanayanam, the ceremony to begin Veda lessons to a child, is called 'BrahmOpadEsam'; by learning Vedas, the child becomes 'BrahmachAri'. Likewise 'Brahmayagnam'. Brahmins are a set that recite the Vedas. Subrahmanya is the symbol of the Divine, the end point, the God of Vedas, and the special God of the Brahmins.



What is the special feature of Veda recitals? Worship of agni, fire. And Subrahmanya is the God who is in 'agni swarUp'. He was created by the six sparks of fire (nEtragni) from the (third) eye of Shiva. Hence He is the Deva of Vedas, and the God of Brahmins, whose sole duty is to recite and teach Vedas. Adisankara in his 'Subrahmanya Bhujangam' says 'mahIdEva dEvam, mahAvEda bhAvam, mahAdEvabAlam'. 'mahIdEva' are Brahmins; 'mahIdEva dEvam' is God of Brahmins. In Thirumurugattruppadai, one of the oldest Tamil scriptures, this point is underlined. Nakkeerar, the author, stating that each of the six faces of Shanmukha grants devotees' wishes in one different way, says 'oru mugam manthra vidhiyin marapuli vazhA anthanar vELviyOrkkummE'.

And when describing Thiruveragam (Swamimalai), he says learned and pious Brahmins perform rituals with fire towards Subrahmanya. Brahmins who participate in 'yagna karmA' are called 'rithvik'. Of the sixteen types of rithviks, one is named 'Subrahmanya'. From all these, it is evident that Subrahmanya is the God of Vedas. Muthuswami Dikshitar has much connection with Subrahmanya. He has been to, and sung in praise of, many kshetras and Gods, just as Adisankara has. But in his devotion (upAsanA), he has been known to be a 'dEvi upAsakA' - he even breathed his last singing 'mIna lOchani pAcha mOchani' on Meenakshi. But his birth, beginning of his composing career, were are all associated with Subrahmanya.



His very name, Muthuswami, is that of Muthukumaraswami, the deity at Vaidheeswaran koil. His father, Ramaswami Dikshitar - scholar, musician and Srividya devotee - was without an issue till he was forty. He visited Vaidheeswaran koil with his wife and fasted for 45 days (one mandalam). His wife then had a dream as if someone was tying coconut, fruits and other 'mangalavastu' on her womb. And soon she became pregnant. The couple understood that Subrahmanya had granted their wish and that the dream meant this. And a boy was born on 'krithikai' day in the month of Phalguni or Panguni. That boy was Muthuswami. He grew up, had his musical training, Srividya Abhyasam (training in the worship of Devi) and gurukula vAsam at Kashi (Benares). His guru at Kashi, before dying, told Muthuswami, "Go back to the south. First visit Tiruttani. Subrahmanya will show you the way to your life's purpose". So Muthuswami went to Tiruttani. He had his bath in the temple tank and was climbing the hillock, when an elderly Brahmin gentleman called him by name, and told him to open his mouth. When Muthuswami did so, he dropped a piece of sugar candy (karkandu) in his mouth and disappeared. Muthuswami understood who it was that came, and his life's mission began that moment - his musical creativity had been woken up.

On the spot, he sang eight kritis.(in eight different 'vEttrumai's). Also note that his 'mudra' is 'guruguhA', a name of Subrahmanya. Guha resides deep inside a cave - guhai; and guruguha resides in the deep cave of the human heart of Muthuswami Dikshitar. Dikshitar's life on earth ended on a Deepavali day. The sixth day from Deepavali is 'skanda shashti'. Some people fast these six days, beginning on Deepavali day and ending it on the shashti day. So in his death too we see the Subrahmanya association. Dikshitar went from place to place and sung in praise of the God there, be it Ganesha, Vishnu, Devi, Shiva. And in each kriti, there would be some internal evidence about the place where it was composed - the name of the God, some historical fact, or manthra rahasyam. Our 'ShrI SubrahmanyAya namasthE' has no such internal evidence - we do not know where it was composed. May be he unified the deities of all Subrahmanya temples in this one kriti, so sparkling is it.So he has started with innumerable obeisances;

“Manasija Koti Koti Lavanyaya”

Like two 'namasthE's, two koti's. koti-koti is koti (one crore) multiplied by crore. manasija koti koti - crore*crore manmadhA's. manasijan=manmadhan; he is born out of mind - manas. Love - kAmA - comes from the mind, right? There is a puranic story too - Manmadhan is the son of Mahavishnu. But very strangely, he was not born to Mahalakshmi out of Vishnu's love, but from Vishnu's mind directly - the moment Vishnu thought of him! And Vishnu's other son, Brahma, was born directly too, from Vishnu's navel (nAbhi). See, Vishnu has this funny habit of doing strange things always! Manmadhan is famous for his good looks. So 'manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya' is some one who is crore*crore times as beautiful as Manmadha. But is this not funny?! I mean, Subrahmanya being 'manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya'. Who is Subrahmanya? He is the son of Shiva, who reduced Manmadha to ashes with a fire of fury from His eye. And from that same nEtragni, is born Subrahmanya! But He was
born to gnAna (wisdom), not kAma.



'Kumar' is a special name for Him. Just as in the South 'pillai' (son) means pillaiyar (Ganesha), Kumar in the North refers to the younger son, Subrahmanya. In the South also, we say 'kumaran' or 'kumAraswAmy'. Nowadays, half of the boys are named 'Kumar'! The term 'Kumar' is particularly applied to Subrahmanya. In Valmiki Ramayana, Vishwamitra tells the story of Subrahmanya to Rama and Lakshmana and calls it 'KumAra Sambhavam'. And Kalidasa has named his own epic after this phrase used by the great sage Valmiki. Another interpretation for the word 'Kumar'. Manmadhan is also called 'mAran'; and 'kumAran' some one who puts mAra to shame - is more beautiful than him. 'kutsitha-mara:' - 'kumAra:'. So 'kumAra' by itself means 'manasija kOti kOti lAvanyAya'! The Tamil people just love Him. They have given Him a beautiful name - 'Murugan' - Murugu=beauty. After kAmA was burnt to ashes, Devi took over his role, donning his sugarcane bow and floral arrows - 'kamEshwari' - this led to the birth of Subrahmanya. And how else would be but 'lavaNyA'? - Devi Herself is called 'sundari - thripurasundari'.





“Dhina Sharanyaya”

Is mere beauty enough? What we want is 'aruL' - grace. Subrahmanya is the refuge of we, the sufferers. 'dhIna' - those that are poor, humble, suffering, scared. 'dhIna sharaNyAya - lAvaNyAya - SubrahmaNyAya' - similar sounding – edhugai or mOnai or something in Tamil - it is edhugai only but edhugai on the ending of the words rather than on the beginning. 'yAya' - andhya prAsam - 'to Him' (fourth vEttrumai). It is usual to go back to the first line with a fast 'manasija kOti kOti', after beginning in slow tempo - chowkha kAlam or vilamba kAlam. Vilambham - a nice Sanskrit word. I prefer this word to 'chowkam'. Slow tempo, giving scope to the musician to explore the raga's various nuances, is a hallmark of Dikshitar's kritis. And the majestic Sanskrit language helps too, creating the impression of a grand elephant procession. But aren't we all always in a hurry? By the mind and by the body? So we find such slow tempo boring after some time. And for this, Dikshitar provides relief with some fast movements at the end of most phrases. Madhyama kAlam comes as a relief to chowkha kAlam, as a piece of clove in a sweet-sweet laddu! In this kriti, both the pallavi and charanam have madhyama kAla endings. But in his most other kritis, we find madhya kAla phrases only at the end of anupallavi and charanam. Why? Subrahmanya is a vibrant young man (endrum iLaiyAi), so wants to go running right from the word 'go'!

“Bhusuradhi samastha jana pujitabja caranaya”

One whose lotus feet are worshipped by Brahmins and other people (add namasthE of the pallavi to this) 'bhUsurAdhi' - Brahmins and ...others. 'bhUsurA' - Brahmins. 'bhU' is earth,surA are devAs. And Brahmins are the 'earthly DevAs' as they, by their chanting and rituals, bring the blessings of the Devas to earth. We have already seen that Subrahmanya is the God of Brahmins (mahIdeEva is same as bhUsura). But is He the God of Brahmins only? Not so; He is the God of all people. Of his two wives, one is the daughter of Indra, the king of Devas, and the other, daughter of a tribal chieftain (suramagal and kuramagal). Some might say, He is a Tamil God (Dravidaswamy), and others that He is the God of Brahmins only - His name itself is testimony. But the truth is otherwise. There is no doubt that He is the God of all people. And Dikshitar takes this line only. We should all unite in the name of God, not fight one another. 'pUjithAbja sharaNAya' - to the worshipped Lotus Feet. Abja is lotus; 'Ab' is water and that which grows in water is abjam. We also call it jalajam, ambujam, sarojam, neerajam (jala, ambu... are all other names for water). Also vanajam - vana is forest. But does lotus grow in forest? But vana has another meaning - water. 'Kam' is also water - kamjam is lotus (eg. kamjalOchanE, kamjadhalAya dAkshi). vArijam, too, is lotus. OK, all I have tried to say is 'abjam' is lotus!




“Vasuki thakshadi sarpa svarupa dharanaya”

One who takes the form of snakes like Vasuki and Thaksha. Literally 'sarpa' means 'kundalini' - the Energy of Life. Snake has a wriggled, spiral-like form, so does our kundalini, in normal circumstances. But if we perform concentrated penance, it wakes up in full glory, and then merges with the Ultimate. Subrahmanya's weapon is the spear - 'vEl', also known as Shakti Ayudham. No other deity's weapon is as much identified with that deity, as vEl is with Subrahmanya. And His connection with snakes is apparent in more instances - if we see a snake in our dreams, elders tell us to perform Subrahmanya pooja for preethi. And Shashti Pooja to Subrahmanya is also done some times as Nagarjuna Pooja, in particular for Puthrabhagyam. Subrahmanya was born at the request of Devas who wanted a powerful commander-in-chief; and we pray to Him for puthrabhagyam! In Andhra and Karnataka, they do not have Subrahmanya idols in temples; rather, He is worshipped in snake form. You know a place called Subrahmanya in Karnataka - there also it is this way. Telugus fondly say 'subbarAyudu' meaning Subrahmanya as well as snake.

Let us see if Adisankara has brought out this Subrahmanya-snake connection. (laughs) The title itself is 'Bhujangam'! Snake does not have legs, and uses its whole body as hands - bhujam, and moves about in a wavy rhythm. The 'chandas' similar to a snake's movement is called 'bhujanga prayAdham'. Acharya has sung bhujangams on many Gods, but when we simply think of bhujangam, what comes to our mind immediately is 'Subrahmanya Bhujangam'. On other Gods, He has also composed ashtakam, pancharatnam etc, but on Subrahmanya, only this Subrahmanya Bhujangam - may be to prove that Subrahmanya is Himself the bhujangam. Dikshitar mentions the famous snakes Vasuki and Taksha. Shashti Pooja is performed by worshipping seven great snakes.

Vasuki is the snake who adorns the role of Nagaraja in Nagalokam. And when the Sea of Milk (pArkadal) was churned with Manthragiri, this Vasuki snake was used to tie that hillock. Funny, isn't it, a poisonous snake helping to extract nectar! Again, what is Subrahmanya's vehicle (vAhanA)? peacock, dire enemy of the snakes! Goes to show that, in His presence, all enmity vanishes. So too, elephants are mortally scared of lions - a 'simha swapna' terrorizes an elephant. But we have an elephant sitting on a lion! Heramba, one of the many forms of Ganesha, has a lion as His vAhanA. Or take Vishnu - His bed is a snake (Adishesha) and his vAhanA, Garuda, enemy of snakes! We are told the story that a snake eats the moon during lunar eclipse, but we have a snake and a moon adorning Shiva's head! Strange, again, are the Parvati-Shiva couple. Will a lion leave a bull go? But we have Shiva on the Rishaba (bull) and Devi on Simha (lion)! The philosophy behind all these is, all beings lose their tendency to hate (dwEsha bhAvam) at the Lord's sannidhi. OK, let us continue our 'vAsuki takshakAdhi' - some say Vasuki is the same as Adishesha; some disagree. Anyhow, Adishesha and Subrahmanya are definitely connected. Venkataramanaswamy at Tirupati has much connection with Subrahmanya. The hillock Tirupati-Tirumala is also called Seshagiri, Seshachalam, Seshasailam. 'sarpa swarUpa dhara' Subrahmanya is Himself is the Tirupati hill. Or take Ardhanarishwara at Tiruchengode. Subrahmanya is also worshipped here, as He made the (united) couple into a trio - Somaskanda. This Tiruchengode is also called Nagachalam and Nagagiri, meaning the same as Seshachalam.

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