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Home / Hinduism Perspective / Hymn VII Sivapuranam Thiruvempaavai The Maidens’ Song Of The Dawning Translation in English

Hymn VII Sivapuranam Thiruvempaavai The Maidens’ Song Of The Dawning Translation in English

The mystic ‘Song of the Maidens’ forms a pendant to the ‘Morning Hymn’ (XX). It has always been attributed to Manikka-vacagar without any hesitation, though in many respects it is certainly unlike most of his other lyrics. It is said to have been composed for the use of the women at Arunacalam, among whom it is, and was, the custom to celebrate with great demonstrations of joy a festival in honor of the god Civan and the goddess Catti in the month of Margazhi, which corresponds to the second half of December and the first half of January. At that time the females of the city of all ages for ten successive days rise before dawn, and perambulate the precincts, arousing their companions from house to house, and proceeding to bathe (in rigidly decorous manner) in the sacred tank. There are passages in this poem which I have been obliged somewhat to veil, and modify, carefully preserving, however, the full and exact meaning of the original, as I conceive it. There is, however, connected with the Caiva worship, it must be said, a series of rites which is sometimes called the tantric, and sometimes the Cakti system. No doubt, in connection with this, many unspeakable abominations have been, and are at times perpetrated; and every thoughtful Hindu is sincerely anxious that all trace of these corruptions should be swept away. In all nations Similar things have existed, and it would be quite superfluous to enumerate the ancient rites of a similar character that have been enthusiastically celebrated. From such things the Caiva system must sever itself absolutely, which it can the more decidedly do, because they have no real root in the Caiva Siddhanta philosophy itself.

In one edition of these poems there is the introduction to the ‘Maidens’ Reveille,’ which gives a mystic interpretation to a large portion of the lyric. According to this author, from the month of Adi to the month of Margazhi (i.e. from July 15th to January 15th) is the night season; the other half of the year being the daytime; the whole year forming a single day of the Gods. The former half of the year, in which there is rain with black clouds, is the representative of the secular period of involution or destruction, when all things have been re-involved in the ripple veils of darkness, which period precedes that of the recreation, or evolution. The other half of the year represents the period of creation, i.e. the time during which the phenomenal universe is re-evolved from its eternal elements as the sphere of the activities of all things that have life. The month of Margazhi is then the symbol of the awaking of the universe from its slumber of involution. It is the dawn of the new creation,Ñ of secular evolution. [NOTE XIII].

Now this creation is the work of Catti, the manifested energy of Civan:nhis wife, who is the author, not of life indeed, but of the whole phenomenal system in which and by which life exerts its energy, and achieves its destinies. Civan himself can come into no personal relation with matter and its veiling delusions and darkness. It is, therefore, Catti that accomplishes the work; she is an energy of activity, of knowledge, and of desire; and through her alone the Supreme evolves all things. But this tantric system, like the gnostic systems of old, does not permit Catti as the Partner of the Supreme, to accomplish directly the work of evolution. This would be far too simple and direct for Hindu philosophy. There is a long chain of feminine manifestations (aeons evolved in succession, each coming into a relation to the Supreme that constitutes a distinct stage in the process; and it is only at last that Brahma and Vishnu are evolved, to be respectively the fashioned and the maintainer of the cosmic world. The writer here enumerates nine of these Cattis amongst whom are numbered the chief female divinities that, under various names and epithets, are worshipped or propitiated in various parts of India. Among them is the dreaded Kali. No doubt there are hints of all this in this poem, but its plain and obvious interpretation is the only one known to the majority of those that use it, and I imagine the composer himself was innocent of anything like the gnosticism and mysticism that his interpreters have given him credit for. As the hymn stands it is a beautiful composition, but in some parts it will seem to be somewhat obscure. I have tried to give a version that still be as literal as possible, but only the Tamil reader can feel how great a poet its author was; and only the student of the South-Indian Caiva philosophy can expect to enter into its spirit.

Metre: ventanaiyanvanta iyarravinaik koccackalippa
1) The temple worship
|| The waits sing at the door ||
The Splendor rare and great, that knows nor first nor end,

we sing; Thou hear’st the song, yet still sleep’st on;
O lady of the large bright eye ! is thine ear dull

that it perceives not sound of praise that hails
The great God’s cinctured feet ?nshe hears the strain resound

through all the street, yet in forgetful sleep
On her flower-couch she muttering turns ! n
See, here she nothing noting lies ! Why thus, why thus ?

doth this our friend beseem ?-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 4 ||

2) Trifle not.
‘Hail to the heavenly Light,’ thou ever say’st, as we,

by night and day. Now of this flowery couch
Art thou enamourd, maid with faultless gems adorned ?

Shame I jeweled dames, are these things trifles too ?
To sport and jest is this the place, when He in grace

Hath come to give the foot-flower, shame fast angels praise ?
The Teacher, Lord of Civa-world, in Tillai’s porch He rules.

Who are His lovers all ?-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 8 ||

3)
O thou whose smile as pearl is bright, arise, present

thyself before the Sire, the blissful One, th’ Ambrosial,
And with o’erflowing sweetness speak ! Come, ope thy doors !-

[She joins them. They enter the temple porch]

‘Ye men devout, the Ruler’s ancient saints, ye reverend men,
Will’t be amiss if ye our weakness aid, us novices admit ?’

[in the temple]
No cheat is this know we not all Thy wondrous love ?
Who sing not what they beauty deem ? Our Civants form

ev’n so we yearn to see.-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 12 ||

4)
[ They all henceforth sing their morning song to the goddess,

imploring HER to arise in grace]
O thou of radiant pearl-like smile, is’t not now dawn ?

have not the sweet-voiced come, like parrots many-hued ?
Thus thinking, as is meet, we speak; meanwhile in sleep

close not Thine eye; let not thy time in vain be spent ! –
Sole Balm of heaven, the Veda’s precious Sense, the Dear

to eyes that see, we sing, our melting minds
In rapture all dissolved; nor deem thou should’st remain

for ever thus asleep !-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 16 ||

5) Say not, ‘Civan is unknowable!’
The ‘Mount’ that Mal knew not, and Ayan saw not,-we

can know; so Thou dost utter falsities,
O guileful one, whose mouth with milk and honey flows,

ope thy door! He Whom earth, heaven, and other realms know not,
In glory makes us His, cleanses our souls in grace.

His goodness sing ! ‘O Civan, Civan,’ hark ! they cry.
Thou understand-est not; thou understand-est not !-

So’s she with perfumed locks !-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 20 ||

6)
O fawn, but yesterday thou said’st, ‘At dawn I come

to rouse you up;’ but now, all unabashed
Tell us, what quarter didst thou seek ?-is’t not yet dawn ?

He Who is sky, and earth, and all things else, to men unknown:
Himself will come, will guard, and make us His; to us

who coming sing His-heavenly cincturd Foot, speak thou !
In rapture melt I The King of thee, of us extol;

of all the worlds ! -OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 24 ||

7)
Mother, are these too trifles? Many heavenly ones

know not, the One, the mighty glorious Lord.
Hearing His signals, ope thy mouth, and ‘Civan ‘ cry,

Cry Southern-One.’ Like was before the fire
Melting,-‘My own, my King, Ambrosia,’ we all

have sung! Hear thou ! apart from us yet dost thou sleep ?
Dost thou yet speechless lie, like the hard-hearted silly ones ?

What grace is in this sleep ?-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 28 ||

8)
While cocks are crowing, small birds chant on every side;

while trumpet sounds, sound out the conch-shells everywhere;
The heavenly Light without compare, the Grace without compare,-

the Being great without compare, we’ve sung; hear’st not ?
Bless thee, what slumber’s this ? Thou openest not thy mouth ?

is such the recompense for our King’s love we bring ?
Th’Eternal, First of Beings; Him Who’bides the Only-One;

the Lady s Partner sing we all !-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 32 ||

9)
Ancient of days, existing ere the ancient world!

Whose nature shares the newness of created things!
Thy worshippers devout, who’ve gained Thee for their Lord,

adore Thy servants’ feet.-to them give reverence due.—
And these alone shall be our wedded lords; joyous

ev’n as they bid, due service will we render meek.
Thus, if Thou grant to us this boon, our King, no lack

Thy handmaids e’er shall know!-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 36 ||

10)
Beneath the seven fold gulf, transcending speech, His foot-flower rests;

with flowers adorned His crown of all the universe is crown !
The Lady’s at His side !-His sacred form dwells not alone !

The Vedam, heavenly ones, and earth, praise Him; and yet
He’s our one Friend, Whose praise ne’er dies; within His saints He dwells;

pure He sustains the ‘clan ‘; ye temple-ladies, say
What is His Town ? His Name ? His kin ? and who His foes ?

And how sing we His praise?-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE! || 40 ||

11)
[In the temple tank]
Entering the broad, frequented tank with joyful cries,

and hands outstretched, we plunge and plunge, and sing Thy Foot
O Guru, see, Thy faithful worshippers are blest! As fire

Thy’hue is red; Thou wear’st white ashes; Blessed One!
Thou Bridegroom of the Lady lithe, with broad, black eyes !

O Guru, make us Thine in grace. In this our sport,
What those who would be saved perform, we’ve done, as they;

guard that we weary not!-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE! || 44 ||

12)
Lord of the sacred stream, where we, that thronging mortal woes

may cease, acclaiming bathe ! Dancer in Tillai’s sacred court
‘Midst waving fire ! This heaven, this flowery earth, us all,

in sport Thou guardest, formest, dost enshroud;-
Thou say’st the word !-Bracelets tinkling, jewels rattling

with a merry sound, tuneful beatles humming round our locks adorned,
Plunge in the tank, where flowers are glistening; praise the Masterts golden Foot,

and in the fountain bathe !-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 48 ||

13)
There burn dark crimson flowers of Kuvalai, here the red lotus blooms;

there the bright race of small birds utters songs;
Here those who wash away their sin are gathered round !

This swelling tank is Like our Queen and King!
We ent’ring plunge and plunge again, our shells resound;

our anklets tinkling sound; our bosoms throb with joy;
The wave we plunge in swells. Plunge in the lotus crowned flood

and joyful bathe!-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 52 ||

14)
While ear drops swing; while golden jewels wave;

while flow’ry locks are dancing; swarms of wing’d things flit;
Bathe in the cool flood, sing the sacred court!

sing the mystic Vedas; sing their inner sense!
Sing glory of the Light, sing Him the cassia-wreath Who wears !

Sing ye the power of Him, the First, sing Him the Last!
Sing ye the glory of Her Foot, Who armlets wears,

Whose guardian care we own !-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 56 ||

15) The Lady of Karai-kal.
Once on a time, ‘our Peruman,’ full oft cried she.

His glory any time to speak she ceased not
With gladsome mind, while tears in ceaseless stream flowed forth.

Once on a time, this woman came to earth, nor bowed
Before the heavenly ones,-by the great King with fretizy filled.

Who like to her ? Of this mysterious One,
O lovely damsels, sing the Foot, and bathing plunge

beneath the flowry flood !-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE! || 60 ||

The word ‘time’ is Kal, so there is a play on the word Karai-kal. It may be that the poet in another passage alludes to her beautiful prayer || XI, verse 8 ||
‘He gave me grace, tho’ I all else forget, ne’er to forget
His foot, whose mighty dance we sing!.’

The Mother of Karaikal :

Some of the legends in the Tamil periya PurAnam relate to the period between the first and second great revivals of Caivism, and a few are anterior to both. It seems pretty certain that, while the Jains and Buddhists were active and apparently triumphant everywhere, there were a great multitude of the faithful Caivites who, like the Covenanters in Scotland, were rendered more zealous by the persecutions to which they were exposed. Among these was the ‘Mother’ of KArai-kAl, who was a poetess, many of whose verses are still preserved. The legend gives a most interesting picture of some phases of South-Indian life a thousand years ago. The Mother ‘was the wife of a rich merchant of KArai-kAl’, whose name was, Paramadattan (‘Endowed with heavenly gifts’). Her own name was PunithavathiyAr (‘the pure’). She was very devout, and especially careful to entertain all Caiva devotees that came to her door. One day her husband received from some persons who had come to him on business a present of two mangoes, of a very superior kind, which he got home to his wife. Soon afterwards, a holy devotee arrived at the house as a mendicant guest but she had nothing ready to offer him except some boiled rice. This she set before him, and having no other condiment to present, gave him one of the aforesaid mangoes At noon her husband returned, and atter his meal ate the remaining mango, which pleased him so much that he said to his wife, ‘There were two; bring me the other.’ She went away in dismay; but remembering that the god to whose servant-because he was His servant she had given the fruit, never deserts those who serve Him, she offered a mental prayer, and straightaway found a mango in her hand, which she carried to her husband. Being A divine gift, it was of incomparable sweetness, and he said to her, ‘Where did you obtain this?’ She hesitated at first to reveal the wonder that had been wrought on her behalf, but reflected that she ought to have no concealments from her husband and so told him everything. He gave no credence to her words, but roughly replied, ‘If that is so, get me another like it.’ She went away, and said in her heart to the god, ‘If thou givest me not one more fruit, my word will be disbelieved’. Forthwith she formed another fruit still more lovely in her hand. When she carried this to her husband he took it in astonishment; but behold ! it forthwith vanished. Utterly confounded by these wonderful things, he came to the conclusion that his wife was a supernatural being, and resolved to separate at once from her. He revealed the matter, however, to no one, but quietly equipped a ship in which he embarked a great part of his wealth and then on a lucky day, worshipping the god of the sea, with sailon end a skillful captain, he act sail for another country, where he made merchandise, accumulated a fortune, and after some time re-embarking, came back to India to another city in the PAndiyan land, where he married a merchant’. daughter, and lived in great luxury. A daughter was born to him, to whom be gave the name of the wife with whom he had feared to remain, but for whom he retained exceeding reverence.

After awhile his return and prosperity became known to his friends In KArai-kAl, who resolved to compel him to receive again his first wife, their kinswoman, whom he had deserted. They accordingly proceeded to his new residence, carrying with them in a litter his saintly spouse, the ‘Mother’ of KArai-kAl. When he heard that she had arrived and was halting in a grove outside the town, he was seized with a great dread, and proceeded with his second wife and daughter to where the ‘Mother’ was encamped surrounded by her kindred. He at once prostrated himself with profoundest reverence before her, saying, ‘Your slave is happy here and prosperous thorough your benediction. To my daughter I have given your sacred name, and I constantly adore you as my tutelary goddess’. Poor PunithayathiyAr, utterly confounded by this salutation and worship, took refuge among her kinsfolk, who all cried out, ‘Why is the madman worshipping his own wife!’ To this Paramadattan replied, ‘I myself beheld her work as miracle, and I know that she is no daughter of the human race, but a supernatural being, and so I have separated myself from her, and I worship her as my tutelary divinity, and have dedicated this my daughter to her, and therefore have I worshipped her and call upon you to do the same.’ But PunithavnthiyAr pondered the matter and prayed within herself to Civan the Supreme, saying: ‘Lord, this is my husband’s persuasion. Take from me then the beauty that I have hitherto cherished for his sake alone. Remove from this burthen of the flesh, and give to me the form and features of one of the demon hosts who evermore attend on Thee, and praise Thee.’ That very instant, by the grace of the god, her flesh dried up, and she became a demoness, one of Civan’s hosts, whom the earthly worth and heavenly world hold in reverence. Then the gods poured down a rain of flowers, heaveny minstrelsy resounded, and her relative fearing, paid her adoration and departed. So she had now become a demoness, and her abode was the wild jungle of AlankAdu; but through the inspiration the god she sang several sacred poems, which are preserved. Afterwards there came upon her an irresistible desire to behold the Sacred Hill of KailACam, and with inconceivable speed she fled northwards till she arrived at the foot of the Mountain, and reflecting that it was not right with feet to tread the heavenly ascent, she threw herself down and measured the distance with her head. The goddess UmA, Civan’s bride, beheld her thus ascending, and said to her spouse, ‘Who is that in this strange fashion draws near, A gaunt fleshless skeleton, sustained only by the energy of love? To which Civan replied, ‘She that cometh is the “Mother” devoted to my praises, this mighty demon-form she has obtained by her prayers.’ When she drew near he addressed with words of love, calling her by the name of ‘Mother,’ which she for ever bears. As soon as heard the word she fell at his feet worshipping, and ejaculating ‘Father !’ Civan then said to her What boon dost thou ask of me?’ She worshipped and replied, ‘Loni, to me your slave give love which is undying, and infinite blessedness. I would fain be born on earth no more; but if I must so born, grant me at least that I may never, in any form, at any time, forget Thee, my God; when thou dost perform thy sacred mystic dance, beneath thy feet in rapture may I stand and sing thy praise’, To which the God replied, ‘In AlankAdu thou shall see my dance, and with rapture thou shalt sing.’ Then the sacred ‘Mother’ of KArai-kAl returned, measuring the distance still on head to holy AlankAdu, where she beheld the God’s sacred dance, and sang her renowned lyric his praise.

This legend illustrates a remarkable feature in the Caiva worship of the south, where devotees are not infrequently adored as having become demons. Doubtless, this is connected with pre-Aryan usages, and the poems attributed to the ‘Mother’ of Karaikaal present the most vivid picture demon worship with which I am acquainted. It is not difficult to imagine the source of tradition. We have the picture of a devout and enthusiastic worshipper of Civan, who sacrifices everything to the performance of her supposed duties to the god. She is misunderstood by inappreciative husband, who forsakes her, and finally, with scorn, repudiates her. She has herself a chapel in the jungle, where she spends her days and nights in prayers and austerities on her death is worshipped. The legends would soon accumulate, and the poems represent dramatic form the artistic view of all the circumstances.
———–

16) The Cloud*, an Allegory
Erewhile thou didst the sea diminish, rising like the Queen;

didst glisten like Her slender waist Who rules my soul;
Didst like the golden anklets sound that on Her sacred foot

in beauty gleam; didst bend like to Her sacred brow
The bow. As she, mindful of those who love our King,

who like herself, our Mistress, never quit His side;
Mindful of us too, as our Queen, pours forth sweet grace,

even so pour down, O CLOUD ! OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 64 ||


* Here there is a subtle comparison between Civan, Catti, and a cloud that in the monsoon season rises from the sea. The cloud drinks the waters of the sea, gleams in the sky with lightning fires, sends forth the voice of the thunder, is sometimes made beautiful with a rainbow, and then spreading itself over the heavens, pours down fertilizing showers on all the earth below. So Civan drank the poison of the sea; dances in Cithambaram while His golden anklets sound; wears a form of dazzling splendour; is renowned for the victories He gained with His bow; and pours forth blessings over all the earth. The comparison of Uma or Catti is obvious. This closely resembles III, 66-94

17)

The red-eyed one’, and He Whose face turns to each point’,

and gods in every heaven, taste no delight like ours.
Thou of the fragrant locks didst make our beings pure;

and here in grace didst rise in every home of ours;
The Warrior gave in grace His golden lotus feet;

the King of beauteous eye; Ambrosia rare to us His slaves;
Our PerumAn ! Singing His gift, plunge we and bathe

in the clear lotus-flood ! -OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 68 ||

18)

AnnAmalai His form, His lotus foot heaven’s host

adored, while lustre of their jewell’d crowns grew dim;
So when the bright eyed sun the darkness drives away,

the cool moon’s rays are paled, the stars themselves depart.
Thus stood He forth; was Female, Male, was Neither-one;

was Heaven with gleaming lights, was Earth, was all the rest.
Ambrosia manifest! Praising His jewell’d Foot, O Maid

plunge in this flowery stream !-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 72 ||

19) The Maidens’ Vow

‘The children of Thy hand are we; our Refuge Thou ;’-

thus that old word we say anew; in this our dread
Our Lord, to Thee one prayer we make; vouchsafe to hear

‘let none but Thine own lovers true our forms embrace;-
Our hands no service pay save to Thyself alone;-

our eyes,-by night, by day,-let them see nought but Thee”-
Our King, if here this boon Thou grant, to us the sun

in perfect beauty shines!-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE! || 76 ||

20)

Be gracious Thou ! to Thy foot’s flower be praise!

be gracious! To Thy rosy beauteous feet be praise!
The golden feet, the source of all that live, be praised!

The flow’ry feet, the bliss of every life, be praised!
The twain feet, Goal and End of every life, be praised!

The lotus-flower, unseen by MAl and the Four-faced, be praised !
The golden flowers, that saving made us His, be praised!

In Margazhi-month we bathing praise!-OUR LADY FAIR, ARISE ! || 80 ||

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