We have seen quite a few sculptural panels from Darasuram depicting the lives of the Shaivite Nayanaar stories. Today we are going to see one more, but in slightly more detail. For, presenting the story as it is, could lead a some misunderstandings, initially when i read it, it gave me a portrayal of brutal, cruel or even barbaric nature of not one but two exalted souls – two Nayanars who were made so in a single act. However, on reading the deeper left me with a better understanding. Inorder to compare and contrast the true meaning / lesson of this story, we are going to see two not dissimilar acts which ended up diametrically extreme outcomes.
Lets take the first case in question. Sculpture first. Another Periapuranam Panel from Darasuram.
At first sight its quite gruesome. It shows a King ( the impressive crown) is shown raising his sword to chop off a lady ( queens) arms from the elbow onwards. To make it worse he almost has a smile on his face, while the queen’s nose seems to be disfigured ( was it on purpose?)
Yes, this is the story of Kazharsinga Nayanar: Kazharsingar belonged to Pallava royalty. He was a sincere devotee of Shiva. Once he went on a pilgrimage and after worshipping at several shrines, he came to Tiruvarur. While he was worshiping the Lord, his queen Sangaa ( daughter of Rastrakutha King Amoga Varsha Nirupathungan and could be of the Jaina faith – source – Pallava History) walked around the temple watching the preparations for worship. Then she found herself in the corner where garlands of fresh flowers were being made ready for decorating the presiding deity.
Attracted by the variety of colours and scents, she drew near and picked up a flower that had fallen on the floor.
The queen who in her mien was very like a peafowl,
Came round the temple, beheld each one of its glories,
Moved on and came near the mantapam where soft flowers
Were woven into wreaths; there she picked up a fresh flower
That had just then fallen, and inhaled its fragrance.
Translation: T.N. Ramachandran
When she began smelling it, Cheruthunai, an intense devotee of Shiva, happened to pass by. He was angry that she had desecrated flowers meant for Shiva’s worship and cut off her nose.( he was made a Nayanar for this as well – we will see his in later posts)
As she was so inhaling, the holy servitor Serutthunai
Thought thus: “Ha, she has inhaled a flower
Taking it from the mantapam (where garlands
Are being woven).” He ran in all haste, secured a weapon
Pulled the nose of the Lakshmi-like one who smelt
The honey-laden flower, and cut it away.
Translation: T.N. Ramachandran
On hearing the queen’s distressed cry, Kazharsingar hastened to her. “Who did this?” he thundered. Cheruthunai came forward and confessed of the horrible mutilation. But the king went one step further. He said, the first error was committed by the hand – for it had helped the act of desecration by picking the flower from the ground. So he drew out his sword cut off the queen’s hands as well.
This Said, he unleashed his sword from its scabbard
With which his waist was girt, and saying:
“It is but proper that the hand which first
Touched the fragrant flower and picked it up
Should be first chopped,” cut off with bangles and all,
The roseate hand of his queen-consort
Of fragrant locks, his own beloved wife.
Translation: T.N. Ramachandran
Watching this scene of zealous Shiva-consciousness, the immortals rained flowers on them.
Before we go into the analysis of this episode, lets cross over to the more famous Kothai / Andaal amd compare Sangaa’s deeds with those of Andaal.
( thanks to Ashok for this splendid photo from Chettipuniyam Deva Narayana Perumal temple )
For the uninitiated ( thanks to wiki) – rest can skip the first para.
Aandaal is believed to have been discovered under a Tulsi(Basil) plant in the temple garden of Srivilliputtur, by a person named Vishnucitta who later became one of the most revered saints in Hinduism, Periyalvar. The child was named Kodhai (meaning, a beautiful garland, in Tamil) and she was raised by Vishnucitta. Kodhai grew up in an atmosphere of love and devotion. Vishnucitta doted on her in every respect, singing songs to her about Lord Krishna; teaching her all the stories and philosophy he knew; and sharing with her his love for Tamil poetry. As Kothai grew into a beautiful maiden, her love and devotion for the Lord grew to the extent that she decided to marry none but the Lord Himself. As days progressed, her resolve strengthened and she started to live in a dream world with her beloved Lord and was constantly fantasizing about marrying Him.
Vishnucitta had the responsibility of delivering flower garlands to the Lord’s temple, everyday. Goda made these garlands and sent it to her beloved Lord through her father. Eventually she started acting unusual by wearing the flower garland which was meant to be offered to the Lord. This is generally considered sacrilege in Hinduism because the scriptures teach the devotees not to offer to the Lord, a thing that has already been used by a human being. However, Kothai felt she should test to see how the garland suited her and only if it did, she should offer it to the Lord. One day, she was caught red-handed by her father in this strange act, and as an orthodox devotee he was extremely upset. He rebuked her and told her not to repeat the sacrilegious act in the future. A new garland was then offered to the Lord that day. Legend says that that very night the Lord appeared to Vishnucitta in his dream and asked him why he had discarded Kothai’s garland instead of offering it to Him. The Lord is believed to have told Vishnucitta that He had whole-heartedly accepted Kothai’s offering all this time. This moved Vishnucitta so much even as he started to realize the Divine Love that existed between the Lord and his daughter. From this day on, Kothai is respected by the devotees and came to be known as “Aandaal”, the girl who “ruled” over the Lord. She is also known by a phrase “Soodi kodutha Sudarkodi” which means “The bright creeper-like woman who gave her garlands after wearing them”.
Now that we have heard both, how was one different from the other. The difference between one being punished and the other being elevated to Godly status lies in the intent. While Sangaa smelt the garland / flower for herself, Kothai thought it fit to try on the garland to see if it suited her Lord, ie was the garland worthy of beautifying her beloved. It was her devotion and love for the Lord that made the difference. While the two Naynaars, one who did not hesitate even when facing the Land’s Queen with the entire might of the King’s retinue looking on, and the other – a mighty King, upholding the law, even if it meant striking down his favorite queen, and a beautiful one at that. Such was their devotion.