Esoteric poetry is fascinating – the true message is not what first meets the eye! The true message is only discernible to a select few who look beyond the surface. Two beautiful compositions come to mind when I think ‘esoteric’ – The first one is ‘Dikku Teriyaada Kaattil’ by my favourite poet Bharathi, the second one is a beautiful Thevaram composed by Thirunaavukkarasar.
This Thevaram ‘Munnam Avanudaya Naamam Kettal’ was popularised by Kalki Krishnamurthy in his immortal epic Sivakaamiyin Sabadam. In this novel, Kalki uses this song to depict Sivakaami’s mental state given her passionate and unrequited love for Narasimha Pallava (Maamallan). In the novel, she dances to this Thevaram in the court of Mahendra Pallava and Thirunavukkarasar, the composer himself and faints at the end of the song given the intensity of emotion she feels for her lover. For those who have read the book, you’ll know what I mean when I say, the whole scene in the book is so beautifully described that you can almost see it in your mind’s eye.
The superficial message itself is pretty powerful but I was completely enthralled by the deeper message imparted in this Thevaram.
The lyrics of the Thevaram are:
முன்னம் அவனுடய நாமம் கேட்டாள்
மூர்த்தி அவன் இருக்கும் வண்ணம் கேட்டாள்
பின்னை அவனுடைய ஆரூர் கேட்டாள்
பெயர்த்தும் அவனுக்கே பிச்சியானாள்
அன்னையும் அத்தனையும் அன்றே நீத்தாள்
அகன்றாள் அகலிடத்தார் ஆசாரத்தை
தன்னை மறந்தாள் தன் நாமம் கெட்டாள்
தலைப்பட்டாள் நங்கை தலைவன் தாளே
Roughly it translates to:
First, she heard his name!
Later curious about his appearance and demeanour she asked – who is he? What does he look like?
She was fascinated by what she heard and asked for his whereabouts – where does he live, where can I find him?
When she did set eyes on him she was transfixed, fell in love and she lost herself to him totally!
She abandoned her mother, her father and all ties!
She left the confines and luxuries of her home!
She immersed herself so totally in her thoughts that she forgot herself and lost her sense of identity
Her sole purpose in life became ‘achieving him’!
While on the surface it seems may appear like the stages of infatuation and love between two mortals, a closer look will indicate that Naavukkarasar really talks about the different stages of Bhakthi or devotion. I have read that Bhagavan Sri Ramana once stated that this Thevaaram sums up his life story. I am using my creative liberty to complete his story in my own words!!
When I was a child, I heard the name of Arunachaleshwara
I was curious, I wanted to find out what physical shape and form he manifested
I was fascinated, I wanted to find him and asked how I could reach him
When I set eyes on him, I knew he was my destiny
I gave up worldly ties
I gave up material possessions and became an ascetic
The thoughts of my lord became my life and I slowly forgot myself and my ego. I surrendered myself to him totally and unconditionally
And my sole purpose in life is to attain him.
Thirunaavukkarasar, through this beautiful Thevaram has gently prodded us to aspire to higher goals in life . We can only try!