Adhyayanotsavam Day 15/Ira Pattu Day 5

Adhyayanotsavam Day 15: Jan 2
Ira Pattu Day 5
Tiruvaymoli Fifth Hundred

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Yesterday was a special day for Tirukkurungudi in the Adhyayanotsavam cycle. It’s the 15th day of the festival and the fifth day of Ira Pattu. Right smack in the middle of this cycle of hundred (V.5), lie ten verses in praise of the wily, gorgeous, haunting, mysterious Nambi of Tirukkurungudi. Before any decad of significance, the recitation stops, and an elaborate aarathi (tiruvaradhanai) is performed. On cue, the drums and instruments go off. The women leave the walls and migrate to the pillars, to which they cling, peaking around the corners, their bodies curving and softening into the contours of the cold, sharp granite. Their eyes are fixed on the far away point that is Nambi, glistening and glimmering, an almost unreachable star. As each successive lamp is waved, they watch transfixed as though to drink him into their bodies through their eyes. That gaze is broken, when the curtain is drawn so that Nambi can be offered delicate, delicious naivediyam (talikai). Later at night’s end, we will all partake of this food, ghee dripping from our fingers, eating grace.

Yesterday, as the Tirukkurungudi pasurams were recited, the women were visibly moved. Nammalvar’s words seemed to be their own. If not that, his words simply made alive the icon–the lotus-bright eyes, the coral-red lips, storm dark body, such loveliness that is too much for the eye to see that it can only drip out of your body as tears: women dabbed at their eyes with the edges of the saris. I watched the women yesterday, transfixed by this deep, deep anubhava, as the men recited, clear-eyed and clear-voiced, verses of such longing and despair. No wonder, men had to become women, I thought, to speak such truth.

I thought a lot of illumination yesterday. This was partly because of the garland of golden campaka flowers that adorned Nambi. So many women were dressed in yellow of all shades–sitting in circles, they looked themselves like garlands of champaka flowers. It seemed to me the whole of yesterday was like watching the proceedings from inside a campaka flower–everything glowed orange and gold. Only this verse from the Tiruvaymoli came to mind, from the end of the fifth hundred:

Brilliant flame within deep darkness, truth within untruth,
these are the ways you come before me, dissolve me
I lose myself thinking of this
my dark jewel let my eyes gaze at your lovely form
for just a single day.

Nammalvar. Tiruvaymoli. V.10.7