Adhyayanotsavam Day 10: Tirukkurungudi

Adhyayanotsavam Day 10 (Dec 28)
Text: Periya Tirumoli 10th and 11th Hundreds; Carrumurai
Tirukkolam: Rajangam
Conclusion of Pakal Pattu Utsavam

This was the day that Pakal Pattu builds to–Tirumankai Alvar’s moksa. You live with his amazing Periya Tirumoli for four days–2 hours a day (one day, 3 full hours) hearing the recitation, hearing the words, that extraordinary poetic voice that was so uniquely his. He has such a penchant for the long poetic line–breath does not come easily when reciting his texts–that *is* the point. One stumbles, and while this might seem an error, to my ear, it always sounded consonant with the journey he describes. Language sometimes fail; indeed, often fails us at the critical juncture. It fails us when we have really important things to say. Despite the Tirumoli’s poetic virtuosity, it often contemplates what it means to hear, to speak, to sing, to say, and what those limits might be. The resonant recitation, with their occasional falters burnished my understanding of this poem as never before. Revealed to me parts I had not considered before–drew my attention to compositional structure, poetic voice, sensibility in new ways.

I cannot really fully describe the experience of how the moksa unfolded at Tirukkurungudi. With the drums beating and bells clanging, the last verses of the Tirumoli and Tirunetuntantakam being recited, Tirumankai, clothed in white, is carried to Nambi. He is laid prostrate at his feet, and simply covered in a mound of Tulasi by two priests. The mound reaches Nambi’s chest, and the fragrance of Tulasi engulfs us. Narra-t-tulaay Narayanan was everywhere, intangible, and unknowable. It was as though an alvar poem had just come alive, and we had all been dragged into it. My hands were shaking so badly, I couldn’t hold the camera. And I had started crying without even realizing it. I kept thinking that I couldn’t see through the camera viewer because of the smoke. I am shocked that I actually have photographs of this event.

It will take me days, possibly months, perhaps really years, to understand what unfolded yesterday. It was a profound, deeply moving experience. To think that this will all happen again, that the Parampada Vasal opens the following day (Dec 29) and we tumble head-first into the Tiruvaymoli–it seems almost past bearing. How can we live with this much feeling, this much emotion, this much intensity? But we will. We most certainly will, although we will likely not be the same on the other side of the door.