Its shiva not Varahi – feeding the piglets

An interesting discussion in Agathiar forum by Dr Jaybee set me up on this post. Thanks to his expert guidance we could understand this much misunderstood sculpture. He had mentioned about this sculpture of Shiva feeding piglets – an interesting episode from the 64 acts of Shiva, which was (is) wrongly depicted as Varahi ( one of the seven mothers in the saptha matrikas). So we had our antennas out for this sculpture in Madurai and Tirupparankundram. But we got a chance glimse of this episode,couple of days before we reached Madurai and tiruparankundram, n a relief panel in Chidambaram just as completed our darshan there.

The interesting part of this sculpture is the line of praying pigs to the left of the panel ( your right as you view it). We will see this as the post progresses.

Ok, the puranam aka story first.

There was once a farmer named Sugalan in a small village called Athimanimaadamuthoor near Madurai. He and his good natured wife were pious and led a astute life. In sharp contrast were their 12 sons. They did all sorts of irresponsible and bad stuff including neglecting their farming duties, teaming up with the hunters in the forest and hunting for sport. During the pursuit of one such hunting expedition, they came across a shrub in which a ascetic was doing penance. They disturbed him for fun, pelting him with stones and hitting him with their arrows. Enraged the ascetic cursed them to born as piglets and to loose their parents at a young age and lead a miserable life. Realising their folly, the misguided youth fell at the ascetic’s feet and begged for his forgiveness and a way out of their curse. Seeing them repenting, the ascetic relented and told them that Lord Shiva himself will redeem them from their curse.

In due course, they were born as piglets and the Pandyan king who had ventured into the forest felled their parents. The piglets were left at the mercy of the elements and devoid of even nursing at their mother’s breasts. Taking pity on them, the loving shiva in his infinite mercy, himself took the form of a pig, sprouted breasts and nursed them and redeemed them from their curse. .

So, armed with the knowledge, we set on our search to find this pillar. It was not inside the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple precincts ( remember this was after our sojourn with the Bronze gallery) – when we were directed to the Pudhu Mandabam. We were sufficiently warned that it was taken over by commercial establishments and spotting anything lest alone searching for a sculpture would be impossible, better to return early in the morning and request the watchman to open up !! But we stood our ground and went for a quick run, scouting for anything that resembled the legend. As luck could have it, we spotted it at exactly the opposite end of the Pudhu (new) mandabam. A few requests for the friendly shop keeper to resettle his wares and we could take our shots. ( we did return the next day for some more of the bottom panels )

Is it Shiva or Varahi?

Well its definitely shiva for you can clearly see the Axe blade being held in his right hand, the left hand has unfortunately broken off.

But some interesting panels in the foot of the pillar tell the full story

The hunter felling the mother pig.

There were piglets allover, clamoring to be fed. Its the same episode for sure

The clincher – our line of grown ups ( pardon the angle – the steel chairs didn’t make life easier for us!)

Armed with this knowledge, we headed to tiruparankundram and were pleasantly surprised to see an exact replica ( ok, some important differences at the base) – but the basic composition was the same, but sadly named as Vaarahi and anointed with turmeric allover !!!

Another angle showing the same styling of the sculpture as the one from Madurai

Including the line of impatient piglets

Again , is he Shiva? Can you spot his attributes.

I did mention a difference, didn’t I, the hunter is shown here shooting down the mother pig from the side of the panel and the carcass is shown inside the main sculpture.

By the way, did you notice the line of grown ups just coming into frame in the bottom of the last picture….a common factor in all three !!

Whats more interesting is a paired pillar to this – which contains an even more interesting aka rare depiction of Shiva from the Thiruvilaiyaadal Puranam. We shall see that is a subsequent post. But with all this clinching evidence, hopefully someone will restore the rightful name for this sculpture in Thiruparankundram.

Patanjali – the snake bodied saint

We have already seen the interesting post of the Tiger legged saint Vyagrapadhar. Today we are going to see his contemporary – The snake bodied saint – Patanjali. There are many versions and legends associated with this interesting person again liked to Chidambaram and the Dance of Shiva.
( Thanks to Mrs. Geetha Sambasivam for the excellent narration in tamil and Picasa contributor Ms. Komilla for the stunning pictures)

The dating of his time is difficult – some say its from time primordial. Legends associate him as an incarnation of Adhi Sesha, the mount of Vishnu with an interesting anecdote. Some say when Vishnu took the different incarnations, Adhi Sesha took to the earth as a Rishi- as he fell, he was found as though prostrating at the feet of a pious women and hence the name – Paadha – feet, anjali – oferring salutation. There is another interesting anecdoate – Once Vishnu was resting on Adhi sesha he was able to visualise the cosmic dance of Shiva in his dreams. As he smiled in his sleep, Adhi Sesha also realised the weight of the Lord increasing. When He asked the Lord for reasons for the same, Vishnu beautifully explained the delightful dance of Lord Shiva, hearing this Aadhi Sesha was filled with desire to personally witness the dance of Shiva, and hence Vishnu directed him to go to Chidambaram to wait to see the performance! I due course Adhi Seshan was born as the son of Rishi Athirki and Anusuya.

His contemporary is said to be Pusha Mitra ascertained to BC 3 rd C, so he is also dated to that period by some. Others ascertian him to be a contemporary of noted Siddhar Tirumoolar – one of the 18 Siddhars. Some others opine that Tirumoolar’s Tirumanthiram is the translation of the sanskrit work Maha Bhasyam of Patanjali. All these are theories and its very difficult to pass judgements on them. Lets see what Tirumoolar writes about him

Patanjali was born to Athiri maharishi and Anusuya. The Rishi had desired to have the three main gods of the Hindu trinity – and hence were born Thatatreyar, Durvasar and Patanjali. Also was born Arundathi who later married Vashistar. About 100 kms from Coimbatore is a place called tirumurthi hills, is ascertained as his birthplace ( in days of yore this area was referrred to as Southern Kailash). Athiri Rishi prayed to the Amanilingeshvaram shrine there and he counts Patanjali as one of the 18 Siddhars.

He also mentions that Patanjali along with his 7 friends learnt Yoga under the direct tutelage of Nandhi.

One of Siddhar, Bogar 7000 writes thus about Patanjali. In his quest for ultimate enlightenment through Yoga, he is led to the right part of Kundalini Yoga and asked to study the path set by Patanjali, Vyagrapadhar, sivayogi Munivar. There are many more references to patanjali in Bogar’s 7000.

The Patanajli who authored the dance scriptures and the one who authored Yoga scriptures along with the one who wrote the Maha Bhasyam – are they one and the same or different individuals. Is a questions that is difficult to answer.

It is said that since Patanjali’s very breath was toxic, he always tutored his pupils from behind a screen. However, one day, one of pupils had just left to answer natures call outside his class, when the rest got the best of human curiosity and lifted the veil – and were all destroyed. The only surviving pupil was the one who had gone out and he brought out the texts and since he missed part of the lecture there are missing infos!!

Here is an interesting anecdote on him: The very first people who witnessed the cosmic dance of Shiva are Patanjali , vyagrapathar but nandhi always claimed that he was the foremost to witness the divine spectacle. He had watched it standing by the side and it got to his head. Similarly Vyagrapahar also felt a bit heady that the feet of the tiger that the Lord gave him to fetch the fresh blooms even before the sun rose, made him resemble the lord who wore the Tiger skin as his garment. Further the tiger legs also gave him swifter speed to match the dancing steps of the Lord. So both of had great pride in themselves and looked down at Patanjali.

Further during the special days of Pradhosham, the Lord danced within the two horns of Nandhi – Nandhi visualised this eternally and even heard the ringing of his ankle bells and rhythmically shook his head often to keep the beat. Oneday, Shiva decided to introduce a new form of dance and there was a huge audience gathered comprising of Devas, Patanjali, Vyagrapadhar – Nandhi was standing with his Drum.

Nandhi started talking to Patanjali and Vyagrapadhar on he witnessing the Lord cosmic dance in Chidambaram. Vyagrapadhar sang the praise of his tiger legs and how with their benefit he too could match the Lord, and hence he is the one who enjoyed the dance more. And since he was watching, the Lord too showed his entrordinary prowess in dance on that day ! Hearing this Nandhi laughed, dismissing Vyagrapadhar claims, he talked of the special dance of shiva during Pradhosa days, for he dances specially for him. so saying both of them look down at Patanjali – belittling him, for he has no horns or tiger legs. Patanjali felt really sad and for once tought that maybe since he had a snakes body and a human head he could not fully appreciate the dance of Shiva.

Just at that time Shiva entered with tremendous fanfare, having known of the banter of Nandhi and Vyagrapadha, and wanting to teach them a lesson, he tells Patanjali – that he should set the rhythm and the song for his new dance. The specialty would be that there would be no horns or legs in the song ( pun – in tamil – the long vowels are written with additional marks – which are called horns and legs) – so Patanjali was filled with joy and gleefully composed a song without any long vowels. Thereby teaching both his learned friends a lesson in humility

We now see an interesting mural from Tanjore big temple corridor – The Lord of dance blissfully dancing away with Vyagrapadhar and Patanjali in rapt attention.

The saint with Tiger Paws

Today we are going to see a very special pillar from the tanjore big temple. Who is this man depicted? Do you notice anything unusual ? Well the topic of this post does give it away !!

Its special because it portrays a very special person, who was so great a devote that the most sacred of towns is named after him – yes, we are talking of Puli Kaal Muni in tamil – puli ( tiger), Kaal ( legs), Muni ( saint) or Vyagrapadhar in sanskrit.

He was one of the earliest devotees of Lord Shiva of Thillai ( Chidambaram) which was called from time immemorial as Puliyur or Perumpatrup puliyur ( perum – great, patru – devotion – puli – tiger, ur – city or town)

The legend goes that the great saint, would go early into the forest to collect the choicest of flowers to offer the Lord of Dance. But however early he went, the bees and ants would still get to the blossoms, so he went even earlier – even before the sun rose to find the flowers before the insects. This gave him problems as the dew drops wouldn’t have evaporated yet and he found the branches slippery.

So great was his devotion and his intent to get the best for his Lord, that he prayed to the Lord to endow him tiger paws, so that he could climb the trees effortless – and the Lord obliged. With great delight, he went on to collect the flowers before the first rays of dawn, beating the insects to the race to find the most beautiful and aromatic flowers, that so delighted his Lord. There are many references to him in literature ( pl see tamil portion of this post to read the references)

Now see him beautifully sculpted in the pillars of the big temple, down to the last detail imbibed into the pillar.