Natalie Savelyeva

Karaikkal Ammayar. Her Life, Poetry and Philosophy.

Upon one time, there lived

a dame who ever cried, ‘Our Lord, our Lord’.

His glorious name ne'er left her lips,

and in her heart was melting bliss,

whilst tears in endless streams coursed down,

as, prostrating once, she rose not from the ground.

To other Gods she gave no praise,

but only to our mighty King, like one possessed,

she homage paid. Where is her like?

To her wise Feet, O Maids with jewels

upon your full and shapely breasts,

we sing full voiced and plunging bathe

within this fair and flowering flood.

El Or Empaavaai!

(Manikkavacahar, Thiruvacaham, verse 15)

(translated by Robert Butler)

Devotional songs of the Nayanmars are classified into twelve Saiva Tirumurais. Three treatises of Karaikkal Ammayar are included into the eleventh among the twelve Tirumarais.

Poetry of Karaikkal Ammayar shows not only her highest devotion to God, but also reveals high level of her education. Her approach to God is philosophical and her way of worship implies strong component of Gnyana yoga. She lived in fifth century AD prior to any of later Saiva mistics, and was the first who composed patikams (decades) on Lord Siva (comprising altogether 143 verses).

Life of Karaikkal Ammayar is described in Periya Puranam of Cekkilar in detail.

Early life and path of service

Right from birth, learning to speak

Increasing in love for Thee, Thy feet I seek.

(Arputat Tiru Antati 1)

Punitavatiyar was born in prosperous town of Karaikkal, in family of Tanotattan, the leader of business community. She was the only child and hair. She got married to Paramatattan, son of the prominent businessmen from Nagapattinam.

As Punitavatiyar was the only daughter, her father insisted that the couple should stay in Karaikkal. Punitavatiyar was staunch devotee of God Siva and took utmost care of Saivite pilgrims and saints. She gave them food, cloths and took care of their needs.

Here, very important point is that she served devotees of God as mother serves her own kinds.

Mango Episode and Symbolism

Sculptures above the entrance to Sri Vadaraniswarar temple depicts the story of Punitavatiyar, her marriage, mango story, and her later life, when she walked on her hands in oreder not to step on sacred grounds of Kailas and Tiru Alankadu, where Siva Lingam was installed (that time there was only this Moolasthana Lingam, later on temple like constructions apppeared)

Once the husband begot two tasty mango fruits and sent them home, to his wife. She kept mangoes for him. One pilgrim came in and she, having nothing else to give him, served rice and one of the mangoes as side dish.

When husband came back home, she served him lunch and one of the mangoes. It was so tasty, that the husband demanded the second fruit as well. Punitavatiyar prayed to Lord Siva and magic mango appeared in her hand.

Stunned with extreme sweetness of this fruit, which taste was like Amritam, the husband asked Punitavatiyar where she got this fruit from. She explained. Then he demanded her to serve the fruit which he sent. Again she prayed to Lord Siva and one more mango appeared in her hand. When Paramatattan took this mango, the fruit disappeared from his hands.

Paramatattan got scared of his wife. He realized that his wife is not ordinary human being. He decided that he cannot live with such creature ordinary domestic life. He went to voyage abroad without telling anybody of his intention to leave her. He toured abroad and earned a lot of money there. He settled in a town in Pandya kingdom and married again a local lady. They got girl child and named her Punitavati.

Description of early life of Karaikkal Ammayar is quite traditional and there are only one miracle – magic appearance of mango fruit, which suggests her interaction with divine.

Fruit, especially mango, symbolizes result of long and hard work. It takes years and years to bring up mango tree, a lot of effort is required too – provide proper soil, water, shade, etc. Small sweet fruit is result of this work. The sweetness of the fruit is the essence of this long process.

Also, mango fruit (besides of its sweetness) contains the stone, from which new tree could be grown up. Thus, the fruit symbolizes the process of work, result of this work (essence) and quintessence (the stone, which will give life to new process, new tree, which in turn will bring new fruits).

The interesting detail is, that Cekkilar compares the bride to a peacock and a bride groom to a bull, i.e. the pair was ill-matched from beginning according to astrological canon.

The hint given by Cekkilar is that the husband and wife are different people. The difference is hidden inside existential attitudes. Husband gets fruit (result of work, knowledge, achievement) and secures it inside the family, only for himself (he asked wife to serve both mango to him, he does not want to share the fruits with her or with other relatives or people). This is customary attitude of «good burgee», who is living and doing work in order to accumulate wealth and provide prosperity for himself and his house.

Her attitude is different. She is in search of spiritual revelation. She welcomes pilgrims and saints, shares whatever she gets with them. She thus participates in their pilgrimage indirectly. Her point is to give out what is accumulated or acquired in order to get knowledge, to get in contact with other reality of spirit (where the Lord dwells).

The crush happened when she gave the fruit acquired from the God himself to the husband. Interesting thing is, that after eating the fruit he did not undergo any change, as usually expected when somebody consumes such supernatural fruit.

He enjoys taste, and realizes divine nature of the fruit. But this divine fruit is not the one he wants. He wants his «normal» mango and inquires what has happened with the fruits he has send home.

Another interesting thing is that the second fruit disappears from his hands. This means, that in his hands this gift is useless.

The conclusion of the husband is logical – their ways are definitely different and he follows his way and leaves his wife to follow her way.

Transformation and renouncement from the world.

Relatives at Karaikkal got news of Paramatattan’s new settlement and family. They decided to take Punitavati to her husband and make them live together. They reached the place and sent message to Paramatattan to come and meet Punitavatiyar. He came along with his new wife and child and fell at her feet. He said to her relatives that she is a goddess, that because of her blessings he got his fortune and gave her name to his child, that her relatives should worship her as the Goddess.

Punitavatiyar prayed to Siva to take away her physical frame, which was united in marriage to her husband, and give her new body of a ghost. In front of all relatives Siva gave her new form as a ghost. Relatives worshipped her and left the place immediately.

Punitavati said in joy, «I also became one of the ghosts worshipping even the lotus Feet of Lord Siva».

So saying, she sang her first poem, Arputat Tiru Antati.

Social obligations of the wife are annulated when the relatives take her to his new place of habitation and he publicly refuses to live with her. She addresses the God asking to release her from previous life, all social duties. The God gives her new form, which allows her to enter higher reality of divine – Kailas, abode of the God.

After such transformation and enlightenment, experience of close presence of the Lord, she formulates the purpose of her existence – release from this world, transportation into the reality of the God. She also requests the privilege to see his dance of creation. This is another important point of her life. She follows the way of spiritual knowledge. After beholding divine dance, she sings her poems and leaves those poetical gems as heritage and guiding lights for the future generations.

Thus, the mango symbol appears here again – after getting divine fruit (enlightenment) she accepts it and consumes it (she is transformed into another form and undertakes the journey to Kailas). The result of this consummation is her enlightenment. She herself becomes the tree, able to give new fruits. Thus, she asks for vision of divine dance and puts acquired knowledge into the form understandable for others – her poems.

She gets the fruit, the stone growths up in her. She becomes the tree herself and produces many new fruits.

Spiritual realization against knowledge gathered from experience: from Empirical to A Priory. Arputat Tiru Antati.

After getting spiritual knowledge Karaikkal Ammayar composed Arputat Tiru Antati. This work consists of 101 verses in Venpa meter and Antati style. Antam means end and Ati means beginning, so it connects the last word of one stanza and the first word of another.

Arputa implies knowledge of Siva. This poem Karaikkal Ammayar sang after attaining the knowledge of Siva, in the purest state, devoid of worldly passions and released from worldly body form. All verses are express wonder and marvelous qualities of Lord Siva.

This work describes the first stage of her long journey to Tiru Kailai. At this stage she is moving from empirical experience and knowledge towards mystic, spiritual awareness.

This long journey across the whole country symbolizes the long and difficult way of evolution her consciousness undergoes. Punitavati describes her strive to comprehend and realize the true nature of God as follows:

«My thoughts were many and things connected with these thoughts were also many. I changed this state of mind.

Though my thoughts are many, they now connect me with only one thing (onre ninaintirunten).

Next I slowly removed many thoughts one by one and clung to one though only and removed all other thoughts (onre tunintolinten).

I thought about one thing only firmly. Then I prevented that one though from leaving my mind by locking it up in my mind.

Only one thought I locked in my mind (onre en allatin allataitten).»

Thus, the sole ideal of her life is to become a slave of the God (ankaiyarkku alam atu).

«I thought of only One.

I was focused on only One.

I kept only One inside my heart.

Look at this One!

It is He who has Ganga on his head,

A moonbeam in his hair,

A radiant flame in his beautiful hand.

I have become his slave.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 11)

After realizing the nature of God’s grace, she formulates the goal of her life as follows:

«God’s grace only makes all beings live. If that grace can also remove rebirth, then I have the duty of knowing the true spiritual truth with the help of that grace. That grace will be everything for me forever.» (Arputat Tiru Antati, 9)

At this point of her journey to Kailai, Karaikkal Ammayar still follows the way of Gnyana yoga. For her the God is embodiment of knowledge. He is also the truth sought by knowledge.

«He knows and makes known

By him knowledge is shown

He is spiritual wisdom ever high

He is sun, land and sky.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 20)

(He is the one who knows, and the one who gives knowledge, he is the utmost spiritual knowledge himself, he is the universe which contains all worlds.)

«He indeed becomes the two lights, the fire and the ether too;

He, it is, who becomes earth, water and air; He indeed is

The soul and the Ashta Moorti; truly it is He

Who abides as the Lord of Gnosis.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 21)

«He is realized by devotees as the Great Consciousness.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 30)

Thus, once more it should be pointed out, she is acting as the one who seeks knowledge, who is walking the way of knowledge to approach the God, and who regards purpose of human life as follows: there is no use in seeking pleasures. No pleasure of this world could be compared with marvelous dance (mental vision, understanding) of God. No love could be compared with mercy of the God. Even karma (results of previous deeds) cannot affect the one who seeks the God and renounces from illusionary values of ordinary life.

«O ye that pursue the great path leading to the Lord’s darsha!

O ye that seek but His great grace! If you ask:

«Where may the Lord be?» I will say that He is poised in the chinta (mind)

Of devotee like me; it is easy to behold Him through love.»

(TA 46)

Interesting notice she makes regarding her way of searching the God. She directly speaks of empirical experience, which gives one chance to understand and step over the particular towards general and absolute.

«His going about begging for alms everywhere

And dancing in burning ghat nightmare

Let me do research on these acts

When I see him and know the facts.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 25)

Iravu (night) refers to time of destruction, Imam (burning ghat) – place of destruction, Atuvatu (dancing) means the dance for remaking the world, Kanalurra nanru (time I see him) refers to time of salvation, final bliss, Araytal (search) refers to finding out by experience.

After rejecting physical body and her previous life (i.e. wordly values), she makes the next step and gets rid of empirical knowledge for pure, irrational devotion based on love. She discards the mind for the heart and announces that God resides in her heart:

«Kept him as sweet reserve fund in my heart, God abides in everyone’s mind as perennial treasure. But some people not realizing this wander and say god Siva is there or here. But I know God is residing in my heart.» (Arputat Tiru Antati, 6)

She also notes that there are different ways to approach the God, as he appears to devotee in that form, which devotee is eager to see:

«He can be seen by the devotees in the form desired;

He can be seen by worshippers devotion inspired;

He can be seen as flame in mind to those with love of devotion

He, who to this ancient world stood as reason.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 17)

She makes clear, that only pure spirit, the one possessing ability of spiritual vision, ability to transcend the veil of maya, could behold the God in his universal form:

«Not knowing his glory, ignorant people scorn

White ash his flowery body does adorn

Such is the view of those with spiritual eyes

To whom even his ghosty form is nice.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 29)

Walking on her head: final turn to Irrational. Tiru Irattai Mani Malai.

Praising qualities of Lord Siva Karaikkal Ammayar composed her second poem, Tiru Irattai Mani Malai.

This poem includes twenty verses of Venpa and Kalitturai and composed according to the rules of antati. Venpa poem resembles diamonds and Kalitturai poem resembles emeralds. Thus, Irattai Mani Malai appears like a garland made of diamond and emerald stones alternately set (garland of doubles songs).

The general principle of Tiru Iraitai Mani Malai is, that if any devotee seeks union with God, meditates on God, he or she would get relief not only from miseries of this present life, but also would be saved from re-birth. The songs also describe the glories of God – removing sins, saving lives, eternal grace, granting salvation. The heart of devotee is abode of the God.

«My heart! Before past deeds overwhelm you,

without delay and without haste meditate on Lord Siva

who has Uma as half of his body, who killed Yama,

and who has smeared on him white ash.»

Here, the point is that past deeds (karma) affect human mind and behavior, distort vision of God. Thus, before Karma start working on, the devotee should commence meditating on God. Uma here is symbol of utmost mercy, killing Yama refers to great powers of Siva and white ash is symbol of eternity.

«My heart! It at any time effects of past deeds effect you,

when miseries assail you, do not get frightened,

continuing to lead a fatigued sorrowful wordly life.

Instead of this constantly meditate on Lord Siva

without getting tired and worship him who wears Ganges

flowing ceaselessly fast in flood,

the crescent moon and while madar flower.»

"When miseries of past deeds tightened,

Let not heart be fatigues and frightened

Flowering fast in flood Ganges, Crescent moon,

Madar flower – with these on head of Siva is seen.

(Irattai Mani Malai, 1)

Madar flowers refer to removal of sorrow.

Thinking of God saves the one from sorrow, depression, sense of unworthiness. This path saves the one from getting tied more and more in the web of Karma and thus, escaping from rebirth.

«Except Siva there is no God

To such thinking devotees He’ll nod

Such devotees who always worship

Won’t have re–birth, hardship»

(Irattai Mani Malai, 2)

«So my heart!

Even those who live with all riches in this world will one day die.

When they die, their relatives will put the bodies on piled dry wood and burn them.

Hence before reaching that state, you ask with desire and devotion for the grace of Lord Siva,

embodiment of all truth, Siva who drank sea-poison to save Devas.»

On the Summit of Tiru Kailai: Enlightenment

Karaikkal Ammayar sitting at feet of Lord Siva performing His cosmic dance, bas-relief on Garbha Griha of Gangaikonda Colapuram temple

She crossed the country and reached Kailas. Not willing to place her feet on the sacred place, she moved along on her head.

Here, the symbolism of turning things upside down appears – she turns her life upside down, and she turns her philosophy upside down as well. The result of long journey to Kailai is, that she rejects the way of empirical experience by leaving earthly body and life, then she rejects the way of mental comprehension of God. She puts her mind down and walks on her head, i.e. she makes the head (abode of intellect) the mere instrument, vehicle in her journey to the world of Siva. She puts the heart above the mind, i.e. what is given to us a priory (the God dwelling in heart), but not acquired via empirical experience and conceptual, intellectual understanding.

When she reached top of the mountain, Lord Siva called her «Ammai» (mother), and she called him «Appa» (father).

Two notes should be made here. First, Siva is the God of Gods, he has no parents, he is eternal and he is the reason of this world himself. By calling his devotee «Ammai» he praises her motherly attitude towards his devotees, pilgrims and saints, as it is believed that serving devotee, the one serves the God himself. This attitude of woman towards devotees, whom she handles as her own children, gives her right to be regarded as the mother of the God.

The second point is, at the same time Siva accepts her as his own daughter. She calls him «Appa» and he grants her wish to be seated and witness his dance up to the end of the time:

«Oh Lord I pray for constant devotion to you. I must not have birth again, and if I am to be born again, then I must be granted remembrance of you without lapse. I wish to stay at your feet always witnessing your cosmic dance.»

Lord Siva granted her wishes and said that in Tiru Alankadu she would see his dance and remain singing happily about him forever.

Tiru Alankadu: the Place, the Legends, the Temple

Satellite view of the temple and tank

Satellite view of the temple with its prakarams

Temple tank

Tiru Alankadu temple is dedicated to Sri Vadaaraniswarar and Vandar kuzhali Amman. This is one of the Padal Petra Sthalams mentioned by three major Nayanmars (Moovar), such as Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar. The temple was constructed in 12th century AD. Still, there are references (starting from 5th century AD) to some previous place of worship, which existed before construction of the existing temple (such as Tiruvalangadu copper plates excavated here, contain reference to grants of Panayur village located nearby by Rajendra Chola I). There is also a legend about ancient Lingam installed and worshiped her by Brata Muni himself. Thus, is could be concluded, that some Moolasthana (ancient stone or lingam) has been located at this place from ancient times. About 5-7 ctn AD the first constructions (temple) were built here, which were extended and renovated by Pallavas and Cholas, and so on.

The Rajagopuram, the towers and the walls surrounding the temple prakaras(courtyards) date back to the 12th and the 13th centuries.

Rajagopuram (from outside Prakaram of the temple)

Rajagopuram (bas-reliefs of the girl holding branch of a tree)

It is inferred from the inscriptions that an earlier Pallava temple was reconstructed and renovated during the Chola rule, and during the later Chola period beginning with the reign of Kulottunga Chola I, the temple campus was enlarged (1075 - 1120).

The Thiruvalangadu copperplates discovered in 1905 C.E. is one of the largest so far recovered and contains 31 copper sheets. The Thiruvalangadu plates contain text written in Sanskrit and Tamil. These two seem to have been written at least a decade apart. These plates record a grant made to the shrine of the goddess at Tiruvalangadu by Rajendra Chola I. The list of the legendary Chola kingsforms the preamble to the Sanskrit portion of these plates.

This is one of the pancha Sabhai of Shiva’s cosmic dance. It is the Rathna sabha (the hall of gems), where the Lord performs his Urdhva thandava (lifting of the left leg up). The other sabhai are Chidambaram (Swarna sabha or Golden hall), Madurai (Velliyai sabha or silver hall), Tiru Kutrallam (Chithra sabha or the hall decorated with paintings) and Tirunelvelli (Tamra sabha or copper hall).

First Prakaram and opened pillar pavillion

The first praharam entrance houses temples for Vallabha Vinayakar and Valli Devasena Murugan (two small shrines on both the sides of the gopuram). Vallabha Vinayagar is shown with his consort Vallabha seated on his lap. Lord Subramaniya is seen with his consorts, Valli and Deivayanai. The saint Arunagirinathar has sung four of the verses of Tirupugal here.

The Second praharam houses the Shrine of Vandar kuzhali amma. There are sculptural groups depicting life of Karaikal ammayar on the left and Meenakshi Kalyanam on the right, located above the entrance to the next Prakaram.

The main Praharam houses a huge Sivalingam in the garba griha (Papahareswarar). The Vimanam is of the gaja prushti type signifying swayambhu lingam ,pallava influence and great antiquity to about 1100 AD.

Legend has it that when the Lord was once entranced in a deep cosmic dance, the jewels from the Lord’s anklets fell onto the earth and scattered in 5 places, Tiru Alankadu being one of them. The site is one of the 275 celebrated Shaivaite sites of Tamil Nadu (Padal Petra Stalam).

Passage to Ratna Sabha

Entrance to Ratna Sabha.

View of Ratna Sabha (roof) from afar, back end of Prakaram

Copper roof of Ratna Sabha

Here, at Tiru Alankadu forest, Lord Siva defeated Kali in a fierce dance duel by lifting his foot up on the Urdhva tandavam posture. Kali is depicted in a dance posture as well here.

Another legend is, that Narada (son of Brahma and celestial sage) requested Lord Siva to save the earthly beings from the rage of Kali (as after killing powerful demons Sumban and Nisumban in the banyan forest in this region, she became furious and beyond control). Siva challenged her to perform a dance duel, and defeated Kali by raising his left foot (when his earring fell down, he picked it up by his toe and rised up, above his head; female cannot do such movement, even such furious as Kali was, thus she accepted defeat). So this place is associated with Urdha Tandava of Lord Siva.

This form of dance is also called Kali tandava, Canta tandava (terrific dance of fast movements), Arul Nattam or Anukkiraka tandava (dance for liberation of souls), Samhara tandava (dance of destruction or recreation of the world).

«This crematory is indeed my Lord’s theatre

Where He dances the ullaalam-dance forming

A mandala; then our Father stands erect,

His uplifted foot grazing the heavens,

And dances! Behold Tiruaalangkaadu!»

(Karaikkai Ammayar, Muttu Tiru Padikam 1-2)

Urdhva Tandava sannidhi of Ratna Sabha

Sculptures above entrance to Ratna Sabha

Urdha tandava of Siva (sculptures above entrance to Ratna Sabha)

Urdha tandava of Siva (fragment)

Main image of Siva installed in Ratna Sabha is Urdha tandava Murthi. Siva is seen here in Urdhva Tandava posture, with eight hands. His consort is Sivagami. Small Image of Kali is to his left, also with eight hands. There is also separate sannidhi fof Siva Nataraja in the Rathina sabha. This hall has a copper roof with five kalasams representing the five elements . In the Rathna Sabha, besides the Urthuva Thandava Maragatha Lingam and Spatika Lingam are installed.

Banyan tree is the Sthala Vriksha (sacred tree of the temple)

Tiru Alan Kadu literaly means Sacred forest of Banyan trees

Now a days, only one banya tree is left here - Sthala Vriksha of the temple

Neeli (Ghost) of Tiru Alankadu

The place of Tiru Alankadu is associated with death, cremation and ghosts not only from the side of Karaikkal Ammayar. There is one legend about Pazhayanur Neeli. Once upon a time, one man from this village went abroad and there married a girl. He took her back to his village. But after reaching the place, he changed his mind (he was married to village girl and somehow got scared of introducing new wife to community). He killed the brother in law (who accompanied his sister to her new settlement) and after that killed the girl as well (they both were drowned in pond). The girl came out as a ghost, took shape of his first wife and demanded him to spent night with her. The man was greatly scared, but village heads demanded him to do so. They gave oath that if something happened to him, they will jump into fire (all 63 of them). Nili killed the man, and next day the village heads had to fulfil the oath. The place of their death and the temple where the oath was taken, are still seen in this village. A memorial is built in the place where the village head men jumped to death.

The ghost is some intermediate creature. When somebody dies (i.e. physical body is destroyed), but spirit by some reason stays in this reality, without physical body, but possessing some finer kind of form, which could be seen and could influence physical objects, interact with them. Such creature can live both in physical reality and also enter finer (spiritual) reality (as Karaikkal Ammayar enters Kailas).

Two Worlds: Tiru Alankadu as a Point of Juncture

Thiru Alangadu thus, is very interesting place. In golden hall of Chidambaram Siva performs his dance for sages, but at Thiru Alankadu he dances with Kali, then with ghosts on cremation grounds, then performed his dance upon request of Karaikkal Ammayar, who is the ghost herself by that time. Image of God installed in Ratna Sabha of Tiru Alankadu temple is Siva in Urdha tandava posture, with eight shoulders. Small image of Kali with eight hands is installed nearby.

At Tiru Alankadu two parallel realities meet. The one reality is visible reality of physical world, which eyes can see. Another one is the world of Siva, which only spiritual vision could perceive. The point of juncture of these two realities is the place where the Lord performs its dance. At this place physical forms are dissolved into basic elements by natural forced (bhootas, ghosts). Mortal and temporal gives place for absolute and eternal.

Thus, this place could be called a juncture between two worlds, the world of human beings and the reality where the God dwells and «performs His dance», i.e. performs his activities. The doors to this world are guarded by bhootas and ghosts. This is not reality of Indra, i.e. reality of higher beings as devas and sages. This is not heaven, as Kailas is the abode of God and represents the point of juncture between the Earth and heaven. Here, at this juncture the God performs His cosmic dance, i.e. here he recreates the reality of physical world, drives on cosmic cycle of creation-preservation-destruction. This is the door to the source, the reality which gives birth to our world along with the other higher and lower worlds inhabited by gods and demons.

«Danced with Kali; danced in Kanakacalam

Dances with ghost; dances on Kuvalayam»

(Tirumantiram 9-98)

Kanakacalam refers to golden hall of Chidambaram, and Kuvalayam refers to the earth. Here it stands for Tiru Alankadu. Siva guided Karaikkal Ammayar in her ghost form to this place, where he dances with the ghosts.

«The place where our Lord raises his leg in the vattanai posture with the kalal jangling and the anklets tinkling, dancing so that the fire in his hand spreads everywhere and his hair whips around, Is Tiruvalankatu.»

(Mutta Tirup Patikam, 1.7)

Image of God installed in Ratna Sabha of Tiru Alankadu temple is Siva in Urdha tandava posture, with eight shoulders. Small image of Kali with eight hands is installed nearby.

The word «katu» means forest, jungle, or desert, and also - cremation or burial ground, and boundary or limit. Here, the God performs His dance and leads the devotee beyond the limits of ordinary awareness to a transcendent truth of God.

Mutta Tirup Patikam: Divine verses of Tiru Alankadu

After getting the boon from Siva, Karaikkal Ammayar reached Tiru Alankadu (banyan forest) walking on her head. When she reached the place, she saw dried forest, inhabited by all possible kinds of infernal creatures.

Here she composed two patikams describing cosmic dance of Lord Siva. Those two padikams are charged with strong feelings and dynamism. Those two patikams contain quintessence of Karaikkal Ammayar philosophy.

Each patikam consists of ten stanzas and one more little patikam is added to the group of ten songs. After Karaikkal Ammayar times, in Tevaram songs the same method is followed. Two Mutta patikams of Karaikkal Ammayar are set to tune called Naivalam (or Nattapadai and corresponds to Gambhira Nattai raga) and Iniyalam (corresponds to Mayamalavagowla raga, Pitai pirai soodi of Sundarar is also set in the same pann).

In the first verse she describes herself as Pey, ghost of Siva. Here, fire refers to destruction, and cooling body implies mercy and benevolence of God.

«Breast fallen, nerves bulging,

Eyes sunk, stomach hollow,

White teeth with two projecting,

Heels raised, ankles lengthening,

In dry forest she-ghost staying and screaming;

Hanging hair eight sides waving

Body cooling, holding fire on hand dancing

Our father in Tiru Alankadu abiding.»

(Mutta Tirup Patikam, 1-1)

She calls herself «Pey», as ancient Sangam Goddess Korravai who dances on battle field surrounded by demons.

After getting spiritual vision and spiritual maturity, she beholds the God surrounded by ghosts, dancing in tune with their singing and sounds of musical instruments. That is what she also seeks – live in tune with Lord’s dance and witness this dance only. She is the saint who wants to live her life according to the rhythm of dance of God, while others follow another rhythms and tunes of the visible world round.

«Ghosts with eyes like rotating fire

Burning mouth, circling, playing Tunankai there

Take out burning corpses, eating flesh fare

Ghosts dancing like those God stricken there.»

(Mutta Tirup Patikam, 1-7)

«Our Lord sings so tunefully that tuttham, Kaikkilai, vilari, taaram, uzhai and yili

Mesh in harmony; sacchari, kokkarai, takkai, Takunitham, karatikai, vankai, menthol,

Tamarukam, kutamuzha and monthai accompany His singing in admirable unison.

Our Father dances to the orchestral polyphony! Behold His place—Tiruaalangkaadu!»

(Mutta Tirup Patikam, 1-9)

Siva dances with white ash smeared all over his body, burning ground is his stage, ghost and goblins surround him and witness his dance. Goddess Uma is also watching his tandava.

«With ghosts surrounding, eating corpses,

In such a forest wonderful God dances

With daughter of king of mounts having fearing glances.»

(Mutta Tirup Patikam, 2-8)

Fruits of her Life

Three poems of Karaikkal Ammayar could be regarded not only as literary heritage, or treasury for historical research of Bhakti roots. Those works contain her philosophy, developed stage by stage, in tune with her life and experience. Evolution of her philosophical concepts is of utmost interest.

In Karaikkal Ammayar poetry, the two types of poetical beauty can be seen – terrific beauty and sublime beauty.

«Thorn trees burning, thorn plants burnt and charred,

With brain scattered from Corpses, cactus dried,

With wood-apple everywhere; forest heated.»

(Mutta Tirup Patikam, 2-5)

«Like morning sky his body is red;

Like noon, white ash on his body spread;

Like evening sky his head hair is red;

Like dark night his dark neck appeared.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 65)

Her poems are fruits of her life. From her early days she was like mango herself. She rejected sweet and soft pulp of her beauty and married life. She kept the stone; put it on altar of her Lord, cremation ground purified by fire. From this stone the new sprout came out – she begot spiritual vision and beheld cosmic dance of the Lord. The sprout became a tree and gave new fruits – her poems.

Purpose of Karaikkal Ammayar’s life is not just personal salvation. Her point is to find the way and to show the way to others. In the last stanza of the first Muthu Tiru Patikam, Karaikkal Ammayar notices that those who sing her verses will reach Lord Siva and enjoy eternal bliss:

«Ghosts of god without comparison meeting,

Beating each other and shouting with pakantai singing,

Foxes yal like howling,

Father who in Tiru Alankadu abiding,

Bushy haired Karaikkal-pey by grace

Sang verses, those who read these verses, to Siva and bliss lead.

(Mutta Tirup Patikam, 2-11)

«If, with wisdom,

And without ridiculing his body that is garlanded with bones,

They praise the one who wears a moon on his long matted hair, and

Who conquered the three great cities of the powerful asuras who did not respect him;

They will not be born here in this world in a body with bones.»

(Arputat Tiru Antati, 37)

References

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