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Posts Tagged ‘Indra’

Did The Ramayana exist in Tamil land, much before the undisputed monarch of tamil poets - Kavichchakravarthy Kambar composed his Ramavatharam. Of course yes - for the sanskrit original of Valmiki must have been quite popular,but was there any references in Tamil and if so would there be any sculptures to support them ? We are going to analyse this a little further in today’s post.

Historians and linguists have been debating the time of the great poet Kamban, for all his 12000 verses, he overcame poetic tradition of those days, by failing to sing one on any major King or clan. He sings of a friend and patron - Sadaiyappa Vallal once every 1000 verses, but then there are no clear pointers to his period as well. So the date of Kambar varies from the 9th C CE to the 12th C CE, with more pointers to 12th C CE>

The work of Kambar, though, based on the original Sanskrit verson of Valmiki, its not a pure translation. The greatness in the man, not only showed in his masterly use of the power of the tamil language, he also used his poetic license to alter a few key scenes, maybe to suit the changed landscape - considering the time elapsed between the original Sanskrit version and also the regional variants and preferences. Today, we are going to see one such variant.

Thanks to Dhivakar sir, HariKrishnan sir, Shankar ( ps egroup), Anna Kannan and Geetha madam for their support / ideas / content. Thanks to Arvind for the photographs.

The Panel is from our favorite - Pullamanagai Brahmapureerswarar, the temple is dated stylistically to the early chola period and has inscriptions of Parantaka Chola I ( 907 to 953 CE).

pullamangai+panels
pullamangai+panels+ahalya+curse+redemption

Before, we go into the details of the panel, lets go to the story and the two versions. The story we are going to see today is that of Ahalya.

Ahalya - wiki

Crux of the plot :Brahma creates a beautiful woman. Indra lusts on her and wants to marry her, he doesn’t succeed and she ends up as the wife of a great sage - Gautama muni. But that doesn’t stop him from trying and finally, he tries deceit, by taking the form of her husband and tries to seduce her. The problem is, Ahalya did see through his disguise, but…

Let’s, see what the Sanskrit version of Valmiki got to say about this episode.

muni veSam sahasraakSam vij~naaya raghuna.ndana |
matim cakaara durmedhaa deva raaja kutuuhalaat

“Oh, Rama, the legatee of Raghu, though knowing him as the Thousand-eyed Indra in the guise of her husband Gautama, she is inclined to have intercourse ill-advisedly, only to satisfy the impassion of the King of Gods

Her thinking is: ‘This is none but Indra in the guise of my husband, for my husband never asks me like this nor he violates times… I heard that Indra is seeking me for a long time… and when King of Gods expresses such a desire, it cannot be refused… let him have it…

mama ruupam samaasthaaya kR^itavaan asi dur.hmate |
akartavyam idam yasmaat viphalaH tvam bhaviSyati ||

‘Oh, dirty-minded Indra, taking hold of my form you have effectuated this unacceptable deed, whereby you shall become infecund.’ Thus, Gautama cursed Indra

tathaa shaptvaa ca vai shakram bhaaryaam api ca shaptavaan |
iha varSa sahasraaNi bahuuni nivaSisyasi || 1-48-29
vaayu bhakSaa niraahaaraa tapyantii bhasma shaayinii |
adR^ishyaa sarva bhuutaanaam aashrame asmin vaSisyasi ||

On cursing Indra thus the sage cursed even his wife saying, ‘you shall tarry here for many thousands of years to come without food and consuming air alone, and unseen by all beings you shall live on in this hermitage while contritely recumbent in dust.

yadaa tu etat vanam ghoram raamo dasharatha aatmajaH |
aagamiSyati durdharSaH tadaa puutaa bhaviSyas

‘When that unassailable son of Dasharatha, namely Rama, arrives at this squalid forest, for it will be henceforth rendered so along with you, then you will be purified.


tasya aatithyena dur.hvR^itte lobha moha vivarjitaa |
mat sakaashe mudaa yuktaa svam vapuH dhaarayiSyasi

‘On your welcoming Rama, oh, ill-behaved woman, you will be divested of your greed and craze in which you lingered so far, and then you will assume your own body and then you can be in my proximity, rejoicingly.’ Thus, Sage Gautama cursed his wife Ahalya

The operative phrases which we need to see here is the actual curse : ‘unseen by all beings’ ,’contritely recumbent in dust’, you will assume your own body

No where is there any mention of her turning into stone !!

Now, lets see the tamil version of kamban, we have already seen the story enough,we go to the operative verses - the actual curse.

“vilai magal anaiya neeyum, kal iyal aathi” endraan. karungal aai, marunga veezhvaal.

Meaning, for your acts, you are condemned to become like a stone.

Great saints are blessed with infinite wisdom and love, and so he went on to tell her, when she will be relieved of her curse.

“pizhaithu porutthal endrum periyavar kadane, anbaal
azhaltharung kadavul annaai! mudivu itharkku aruluga!” enna
thazaithu vandu imirum thann thaath dasarathan enbaan,
kazal - thugal kathuva, intha kal uruvath tavirthi “

As Ahalya fell, she asks thus of her husband : its the duty of great souls, to forgive, you became like the lord who burnt with his third eye and by his smile ( reference to the tripurantaka panel !!), now do tell me how this curse will end. To which Gomathi rishi, says, you will stay thus till the one with the radiant garland comes, he Dasaratha Rama will resurrect you, when the dust of his blessed feet fall on you, your stone form will go, and you will become yourself again.

Was this Kamban’s extrapolation or was the legend prevalent much before? Thanks to Harikrishnan sir’s post ( please see the link below)

Rama - Sangam ref

We note a beautiful reference to the curse clearly mentioning that she was turned to stone from the Sangam work Paripadal. Regarding dates of the Sangam works see this link

Paripadal period

Verse 19 of paripAdal, by nappaNNanAr is on Lord Murugan and describes the pilgrimage of devotees from Madurai to that ancient shrine, Thirupparam-kundram. The poet goes on to describe the various activities of the devotees on the way to the temple. A few devotees get into an art gallery on the way and gather around different paintings displayed there and discuss spiritedly among themselves, about what is portrayed in the paintings. A particular painting has the image of a cat, a woman, a sage in rage and a rock. The devotees comment, ‘indhiran pUsai’ ;This cat is Indra. ‘ivaL agaligai,’ This is Ahalyä. ‘ivan sendra kavudhaman,’ This sage is Gautama, who was away (at that time). ‘sinan uRa, kal uru ondriya padi idhu,’ And this rock is (nothing but) Ahalyä transformed by the curse of the sage. This painting shows how she was transformed into a rock

pullamangai+panels+ahalya+curse+redemption

Now, back to our sculptural panel. Its another miniature master piece for Pullamangai, you can clearly see the three main players in the panel. From left to right ( of the panel) - Lakshmana, Rama and Ahalya.

ahalya+panel+pullamangai
ahalya+panel
rama+ahalya

Now comes the clincher - in the panel is Rama’s right foot and we are going to see it in mighty closeup after we read this superb composition from Kamban.
…..
mai vannathu arakki poril, mazhai vannathu annale! un
kai vannam anguk kanden, kaal vannam inguk kanden.”

oh, cloud colored one, i saw your hands work when you fought the black ( eye liner) colored demoness, but here i see you foot work !!

This is a clear pointer that Ahalya was resurrected when Rama’s toe hit the rock.

Lets get back to the panel.

rama+foot+hitting+stone

The Pullamangai sculpture is part of the base stones of the Vimana and the latest date for this Vimana is 953 CE, and the portrayal clearly show the curse of Ahalya to turn to stone had taken firm root by then. Was valmiki unclear in the actual wording of the curse, did he mean that she be turned to stone as well. But one thing is clear, that she was turned to stone was part of tamil folkore as early as in the late sangam period as evidenced by the Paripadal verse.

Before we end, the last verse of Kamban - talks of Rama’s hand work. What event does that depict and is there a sculpture for that in pullamangai as well? We should see shortly.

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Garuda and Hanuman were my favorite characters and i used to get drunk on Amar Chitra Katha books. They had some wonderfully illustrated color pages and text.

garuda cover.jpg

So today, i share one such story and support it with a sculpture from Tirukurungudi ( thanks to our latest contributor - Sri Giridharan - who has shared his vast collection of photos - we will feature more of his contributions in the coming weeks). Garuda is so well know not only in India but all over south East Asia - Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam….

angkor
angkor thom
angkor wat 2.jpg
cambodia
garuda danang musuem
nepal
prasatkravan

The story of Garuda’s birth and deeds is told in the first book of the great epic Mahabharata. Garuda’s father was the creator-rishi Kasyapa. His mother Vinata and her sister Kadru - both gave birth in a strange manner. Vinata laid two eggs and her sister a thousand. In due course the 1000 of Kadru hatched into snakes, anxious that her eggs had still not hatched, in her haste Vinata tried to open one of her eggs. Sadly, the baby was only partially formed - he advised his mother to be patient with the remaining egg, and flew off to be the charioter of the Sun - he is called Urud or Aruna. ( incidentally his sun is our famous Vulture Jataya who valiantly fought Ravana while he kidnapped her in his flying chariot).

The sibling rivalry between Vinata and Kadru was intense. One day both of them saw the divine white horse - Uccaihsravas, which is one of the precious items that emerged from the churning of the milk ocean ( along with Koustubam - the jewel that adornes the chest of Vishnu). Vinata was struck by its fabulous white mane, while the wicked Kadru was jealous of her and tricked her into a bet. She said the white horse had a brown tail, Vinata was sure that it was pure white - and so accepted the bet - if it were brown she and her sons would be enslaved to Kadru. Kadru now sought the help of her snakes sons - who quitely went and covered the tail of the horse - so that next day when both the sisters went to the garden they saw Uccaihsravas with a brown tail ! Vinata had lost the bet and her son was destined to be born into bondage.

Wisned by the experience Vinata waited patiently for her remaining offspring - Garuda first burst forth from his egg, he appeared as a raging inferno equal to the cosmic conflagration that consumes the world at the end of every age. Frightened, the gods begged him for mercy. Garuda, hearing their plea, reduced himself in size and energy.

Resolving to release his mother from this state of bondage, Garuda approached the serpents and asked them what it would take to purchase her freedom. Being mortally scared of Garuda and his powers, the snakes named their price - nothing less than the drink of immortality - elixr of Amrit. It was a superhuman task for the Gods guarded Amrit, since it was the source of their immortality. They had ringed the elixir with a massive fire that covered the sky. They had blocked the way to the elixir with a fierce mechanical contraption of sharp rotating blades. And finally, they had stationed two gigantic poisonous snakes next to the elixir as deadly guardians.
( There is another version of this legend which says the snakes wanted Garuda to bring them the moon whose spots were filled with Amrit)

Now, we take a detour to a offshoot and the sculpture part of this post, before returning to the main plot. As he had just hatched, Garuda was ravishingly hungry, and sought out his mother to feed him. The mother not used to feeding birds, advised him to go to the seashore and find beings to eat - but warned him not to harm any Brahmins and if he did so, he would have a terrible burning sensation in his stomach. Garuda went to the seashore and ingested a whole village of fisher folk - including their animals, houses and all. Suddenly he felt a burning sensation in his belly and realised his folly, he spat out the Brahmin, who requested him to spare his wife ( a fisherwomen!) - Garuda did as his command and went to meet his father Kasyapa for advise on feeding.

Kasyappa advised him to proceed to a lake where an Elephant and a Tortoise were fighting. The tortoise was said to be eighty miles long ! and the elephant one hundred and sixty !! Garuda swooped on them and caught them both in his claws and perched on a huge tree to devour them ( the tree was eight hundred miles high !! wow). However, the weight of all of them broke the branch and to his horror Garuda found many Rishis praying ( tied upside down) on the branch. Lest he harm them, he swiftly caught the branch in his beak, still holding the elephant and the tortoise in his claws, flew to a nearby mountain peak - there he let loose the rishis and finished his meal of the two foes!!!

Now, for the sculpture, adding the Amarchitra Katha shots as well.

Amarchitra katha 1
Amrchitra katha 2
Amarchitra Katha3

This lovely sculpture is from Tirukurngudi - watch the detailing of the strength of Garuda, the elephant and the tortoise and he branch in his beak with the upside down rishi’s. Amazing.

Garuda tirukurungudi 1
Garuda Tirukurungudi 2
Closeup Garuda tirukurungudi
Garuda thirukurungudi 3
Garuda tirukurungudi 4

The rest of the legend for those interested to now - Garuda hastened toward the abode of the gods intent on robbing them of their treasure. Knowing of his design, the gods met him in full battle-array. Garuda, however, defeated the entire host and scattered them in all directions. Taking the water of many rivers into his mouth, he extinguished the protective fire the gods had thrown up. Reducing his size, he crept past the rotating blades of their murderous machine. And finally, he mangled the two gigantic serpents they had posted as guards. Taking the pot of elixir, he launched again into the air and headed toward the eagerly waiting serpents.

Garuda_by_Hyougushi_in_Delhi
amrit garuda.jpg

En route, he encountered Vishnu. Rather than fight, the two exchanged promises. Vishnu promised Garuda the gift of immortality even without drinking from the elixir, and Garuda promised to become Vishnu’s mount.

thirukoilur.jpg
tirukovilur

Flying onward, he met Indra the god of the sky. Another exchange of promises occurred. Garuda promised that once he had delivered the elixir, thus fulfilling the request of the serpents, he would make it possible for Indra to regain possession of the elixir and to take it back to the gods. Indra in turn promised Garuda the serpents as food.

At long last, Garuda alighted in front of the waiting serpents. Placing the elixir on the grass, and thereby liberating his mother Vinata from her servitude, he urged the serpents to perform their religious ablutions before consuming it. As they hurried off to do so, Indra swooped in to make off with the elixir. From that day onward, Garuda was the ally of the gods and the trusty mount of Vishnu, as well as the implacable enemy of snakes, upon whom he preyed at every opportunity.

Thirukurungudi Photos: Mr. Ashok and Mr Giridharan
Tirukoilur Garudan pic: Mr. Sathiyan

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