Adhyayanotsavam Day 6: Tirukkurungudi

Adhyayanotsavam Day 6 (Dec 24)
Text: Periya Tirumoli (1 and 2)
Alankara: Gajendra Moksam and Kamsa Vadam

As many of you who follow me on FB know, I have a great love for Tirumankai Alvar. I think of him as *my* alvar, and *my* kind of guy. That the 6th day of the Adhyayanotsavam begins the recitation of his magnificent, towering, moving, utterly human Periya Tirumoli made me fairly buzz with excitement. Here in Tirukkurungudi, on this 6th day. he’s brought out to stand before Vishnu, a supplicant. The Araiyar Talam is struck as the Jiyar recites the opening verse of the Periya Tirumoli, Vatinen Vati Varundinen. The whole scene, Vishnu mounted on Garuda, his arm holding the Sudarasana Cakra high above, Garuda gaze locked upwards, the goddesses flanking him, Tirumankai before him–seemed to, in that moment, encapsulate for me, what is so powerful about the Adhyayanotsavam. In effect, the scene recreated the moment of Tirumankai’s initiation, when he became a poet. It was like being present at the very instant of composition, when words suddenly, and apparently miraculously, arrange themselves into some kind of sublimity, some kind of magic, where it condenses, distills, expands, imbues the whole vastness of experience into the single pointedness of sound.

In the evening, it was Kamsa Vadam. The hand that held the cakra just hours ago, wields a merciless flashing sword. An alvar, conscripted to serve as Kamsa for the moment, is in Krishna’s grasp, death at hand. The alvar looks pleased about this fate. Krishna looks ruthless. The giving of grace is never a bloodless affair, but one is grateful for it just the same.

I struggled to take photographs yesterday. The alankara was so so beautiful, it was as though my eyes behind the lens were blind. I could only see the image imprinted in my mind–a hyper imaginative reality–and what existed in this material world was distant, intangible and un-recordable. I tried though, valiantly. These photographs simply don’t do justice to the finesse and imagination that bring gods alive and make them live and walk and feel among us. Poetry will have to suffice, then. Who can say it better than my dear, dear, dearest heart, Tirumankai?

I withered. My mind withered, I despaired
Born into this world of pain and suffering
Wedded to the seductions of young women
I pursued them. And then, even as I ran
That singular one turned my mind
to the singular goal
I sought, in seeking found
Nārāyaṇa’s name

Tirumankai. Periya Tirumoli I.1.1