When Satheesh told me that he was planning to go to Darasuram, I immediately asked him to take some pictures of the amazing pillar sculptures in the pillared hall. He obliged with some delightful pictures. They depict some lovely scenes from the birth of Lord Murugan. Though the Sanskrit work of Kalidasa ( Kumarsambhava) deals with this in epic proportions we searched for an authentic south Indian version. With help from Vairam (who runs the popular Karka nirka blog) we chanced on the rare work of Kachchiyappa Sivaachaaryar in Project Madurai Archives - Kandhapuranam.
The background is thus - We have earlier seen the stories of Dhaksha - wherein disgusted with the insults heaped on her beloved by her own father Dhaksha, Dhakshayini the consort of Shiva - jumps into the sacrificial fire to rid herself of all ties with Dhaksha. Stricken with grief, Shiva leads the life of an hermit. The demon Surapadhman meantime uses this opportunity to occupy the three worlds and causes innumerable hardship to all - he too is aided by a boon of Brahma - wherein he seeks his end only from an offspring of Shiva -cunningly sought knowing the demise of Shiva’s consort and his life of penance. The Devas use this loophole and to get Shiva interested in the reborn Parvathi - get Kama to shoot his love arrow ( we saw this sculpture as well in Tanjore Big temple) - he being burnt in the process.
The scene now shifts to Parvathi who is reborn as the daughter to the Mountain Himavan and his wife Menaa.
( since we cover the verses in tamil in the tamil version of this post - am giving the sanskrit references here)
*****Not able to display the sanskrit font right now - am working on it *******
1-21. atha= then; dakShasya kanyaa= Daksha’s, daughter; bhava puurva patnii= Bhava’s [Shiva's,] former, wife; satii= husband devout wife; satii= Sati Devi named; pituH avamaanena prayuktaa= by father’s, dishonouring, incited; yoga visR^iShTa dehaa= through yoga, discarded, body; janmane= to birth - to take rebirth; taam shaila vadhuum prapede= her, mountain’s, wife, reached.
Then Shiva’s former wife and Daksha Prajaapati’s daughter Sati Devi, being a husband devout wife but incited at her father’s dishonouring discarded her body through yoga, and to take a rebirth she made her appearance before Mena Devi, the wife of the king of mountains. [1-21]
From a very young age she realises her mission and her only goal is to marry Shiva. She undergoes severe penance to attain her goal , the intensity of her penance amazes all the people around, to the extent that they pray to her to stop her penance - which is too strenuous for a 6 year old!!
Finally her penance gets the attention of Shiva, who as is his style, decides to test her resolve. As the tamil text mentioned above, he mockingly comes dressed as a old ascetic and advises Parvathi against such a penance. He ridicules her effort, saying will such acts get her shiva.
But Parvathi stays steadfast in her resolve.
Lets now look at the sculpture. A lovely intricate pillar sculpture from Darasuram. The panel probably read from bottom up - The last two rows, we see all people being amazed at Parvathi’s resolve. Next shows her deep in devotion to Shiva - depicted in Linga form -with three of her friends, with raised hands - maybe praying to her to stop.
The top most shows her - deep in penance, standing on one leg - fire raging both sides. What happened next ..well the rains came and ….to be continued.