Adhyayanotsavam Day 8: Tirukkurungudi

Adhyayanotsavam Day 8 (Dec 26)
Texts: Periya Tirumoli 5,6 and 7th hundreds
Tirukkolam: Vamana and Trivikrama

The Adhyayanotsavam is about stamina. At some point, you feel like you simply can’t go on–it’s too much for the senses. The recitations, the drums, the alankaras, the growing crowds. Every evening, you approach the precipice and think that you’re about to tumble over into some unknowable unknown. And invariably you come back from that place, although, the point *is* to go over the edge.

Yesterday, the gosti recited 300 verses of the Periya Tirumoli, almost continuously–there were three short 1 minute breaks–while the offerings were made. So, essentially, the gosti sat for 3 hours at a stretch, and recited a long, complex text without pause, without drinking a drop of water. The mendacious, avaricious mosquitoes did not deter them, and the recitation proceeded at a brisk pace, but in a manner that you could still each and every word. This is one of the things I’ve really grown to appreciate about Tirukkurungudi. Even though the gosti is small, the recitation is done precisely and with a great sonorous beauty. There is patience taken and time to enunciate the words, instead of just running them all together in some mystifying garbled jumble. I sit in a corner in the mandapam, reading the text silently along with them–occasionally, I transgress and recite the text, quietly and under my breath. You feel the resonance very intimately in your body, and in my fanciful moments, I imagine that the stone pillars vibrate with the sound.

Ever since my conversation two days ago that brought up hierarchies of sight and seeing, I’ve been troubled and a little bit out of sorts. My appreciation of the alankaras is now colored by that conversation, and I keep hearing their voices in my head. I usually chat with some of the women while we’re waiting, but found I simply couldn’t bring myself to talk yesterday, wanting to do nothing more than withdraw into quiet, when there was sound everywhere.

Yesterday’s alankaras linked–first of Vamana (he was so sweet) with his tiny little feet! The second was Trivikrama. How they made him grow to such proportions, I cannot know, but it was astonishingly, terrifyingly beautiful. It was as though the emotional richness of an alvar poem had been poured into bronze and brought alive. I heard echoes of words and then there was only utter silence.

The photos are not as good as I would like–my body was in tremendous pain yesterday: my shoulder and arm especially from holding up the camera almost continuously, from contorting myself to fit into corners and tiny spaces, not to mention the million crimson mosquito bites that now cover my entire body.