I really love the Perumal Tirumoli–it’s such a different text, and Kulasekara Alvar’s anubhava is so unusual. Devaki’s lament juxtaposed with Kausalya singing a lullaby to Rama, juxtaposed to Dasaratha grieving Rama’s loss. The poetry is heartbreaking and painful, terrible grief as terrible beauty.
In keeping with the ongoing dialogue between word and image, both alankaras were of Rama.
The first was Nambi as Rama with his four goddesses. But I couldn’t help but imagine the scene as Rama surrounded by his three mothers and Sita.
The second alankara was of the killing of Marica–Rama was transformed from prince into ascetic, with a towering jata. He wielded a delicate, lethal bow and arrow. His arrow pointed outward–not at the sweet little golden deer at his feet–so it could find its mark and embed itself in the hearts of his devotees.
Come. Go. Come. Come, see me just once more
You snapped Siva’s bow, made that woman with slender shoulders yours
What wretched fate that you should enter the dense, thick forest
Where wild elephants roam
My son, son who melts my heart
Must you go?
You leave and my heart splits in two
Don’t go. Stay.
Adhyayanotsavam Day 3. Dec 21. Texts of the Day: Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli.
Today, Beautiful Nambi became both bride and groom–Andal and then himself, Rangamannar/Rajagopalan. As I sat listening to the recitation of the Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli in the afternoon–it was a kind of resonant, languorous performance, with such care given to the long vowels–especially a and e–I found myself tumbling into the text in a kind of interstellar like moment. It was an odd, odd experience, characterized by a certain viscosity of feeling that suddenly gave way to clarity, as though infused by a shot of cool water. That viscosity was diluted, but not as a lessening of intensity, but as the freeing of emotion–a river undammed, I suppose. My least favorite section of the Nacciyar Tirumoli has always been Varanam Ayiram, (NT 6), the dream wedding, but yesterday as the gosti recited the line “tirukaiyal taal parri”–he cradled my foot in his beautiful hand–I just couldn’t hold back the tears.
The first alankara was Andal, and Nambi’s goddesses looked to me like Andal’s gopis.
The second alankara of the day was Rangamannar/Rajagopalan. As Tirunarayanaswami explained, Andal sang that they glimpsed him in Vrindavan (vrdinavanathe kandome), hence this alankara.
The festival layers complexity upon complexity–recitation, alankara, prasada–each sense engaged, heightened, polished. Complete, total immersion.
Adhyayanotsavam Day 2 (Dec 20):
The recitation of the 3rd and 4th Pattu of Periyalvar Tirumoli, and Periyalvar Carrumurai.
Naturally, the alankaras (tirukkolam) for the evening were Krishna, Krishna, Krishna. Alankara 1 during gosti, tiruvaradhanai, tirta viniyokam was Kalinga Krishna. Alankara 2, for Sertti Purappadu a bloodless killing of Bakasura–anticipating Andal: Pulinvay kindanai.
Vishnu here in Tirukkurungudi is called Alakiya Nambi, the beautiful prince and Sundara Paripurnan–entirely, completely, wholly, fully beautiful. Who can dispute this?
Mattalam kotta vari cankam ninra uta….Kotai describes her dream wedding in these words. But it’s what ran through my mind in a loop as the first day of the Adhyayanotsavam came to a close at Tirukkurungudi. This festival, which I’ve now seen at several temples, is intense (as all festivals are) and emotionally demanding. I often wonder on Day 1 if I can survive to the end, to Alvar Moksam. Between the deep resonant recitation of the day’s Prabandham, to the astonishing alankaras, to the music and percussion bouncing off the walls, anubhava flowing in all directions in an almost visible electric current, your body feels completely possessed and taken over. Even though this festival is called the Adhyayanotsavam–The Festival of Recitation–it’s the visual spectacle that dominates the arangam. To anyone who has encountered alvar poetry, this is not at all unexpected. But it does give you kind of intimate insight into how the poems work and why they work the way do. It’s how poetry makes not just worlds, but gods too…enough with words. What can be said about such beauty?
Adhyayanotsavam Pakal Pattu begins–Nambi makes his way from the sannidhi to the pakal pattu mandapam. Recitation of Periyalvar Tirumoli begins at 3 PM this afternoon. The alvar and acarya in attendance….
Awaiting the gods. The Kaisaka Mantapam/Pakal Pattu Mantapam, Tirukkurungudi, stands ready. The day before the Adhyayanotsavam. Dec 18, 2017. 5 PM