Our poet-sage, like S. Anthony of Padua, and some other medieval saints, had a great sympathy with the irrational creation. This poem is addressed to the humming bee, or winged beetles, which abound in all the topes and glads of South India, and are especially numerous in the shady groves that surround the temples;; having a great preference for the fragrant and beautiful trees which are sacred to the Hindu deities. The insect, here called Gottumbi, is probably the dragon-fly Ruplea Spenders. Here the SOUL is really addressed and exhorted to seek Civa’s feet.
1) Mysteriously great.
The King that crowns the flower; Purandaran;
the Lady blest, in beauty clothed,
That sits on learned tongues; and Naranan;
the fourfold mystic Vedic Scroll,
The Splendors, Riders in majesty; – with all
the heavenly ones too, know Him not:-
Go to His roseate foot who mounts the Bull;
AND BREATH HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE ! || 4 ||
2) I am nought, yet made like to Him
Who am I? – Wisdom’s lessons what are they
that fill my mind? – and me who’d know
Had not the Lord of heaven made me His own?
He of the temple court, Who erst
A mendicant with mind distraught asked food,
in broken skull with flesh impure !
Haste to Him lotus-foot, as honey sweet;
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE ! || 8 ||
3) All sweetness is in Him.
Honey from any flower sip not, though small
as tiniest grain of millest seed !
Whene’ver we think of Him, whene’er we see,
whene’er of Him our lips converse,
Then sweetest rapture’s honey ever flows,
till all our frame in bliss dissolves !
To Him alone, the mystic Dancer, go;
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE ! || 12 ||
4) His love gives to loveless me.
There was no love in me like Kannappan’s;
when He, my Sire, saw this, me poor
Beyond compare, in grace He made His own;
He spake, and bade me come to Him.
With heavenly grace adorned He shines, and wears
white ashes, and the golden dust !
To Him, – of mercy infinite, – go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 16 ||
The Legend of Kannappa Nayanaar, or the ‘Eye-Devotee’.
The image of this renowned South Indian devotee stands in the temple at Kalahasti (Calastri) near the Pulicat Hills. He was a raja of Uduppur, and of the Shepherd caste (a vedan or Hill-men, perhaps a Kurumban). The story represents his ancient clan as possessing great wealth and authority in a wild hilly district, where their whole occupation was hunting. There is a Zamindar, who lives there now in feudal state. The old chieftain, the father of Kannappan, whose name was NAgan (the Dragon-man) is represented to us as moving about attended by fierce hunting dogs, armed with every kind of rustic weapon; a skillful archer, around whose mountain-dwelling innumerable forest animals of every kind had their home, and where the cries ‘shoot’ ‘hurl’ ‘strike’ were mingled from morning to night with the howling of wild beasts, the barking of dogs, and the sound of the horns and drums of the hunters. He had no son, and therefore he and his wife went to the temple of Subrahmanyan ( a son of Civan) – the favorite deity of mountaineers, and probably a pre-Aryan deity of the South, an object of worship, under many names and forms, in every Tamil hamlet. To him they offered cocks and peafowl, made good feasts with copious libations of strong drink, performed wild dances; and in fact, according to the legend, seem to have worshipped much after the rude fashion of the demon worshippers of the present day. The result was that by the favour of their tutelary deity a son was born to them, who from his early childhood shared in his father’s pursuits, being brought up, it is expressly said, like a tiger’s cub. The proud, happy father used to carry him about on his shoulder, but finding him one day too heavy to be thus borne, gave him the name of ‘Tinnan’ (‘the sturdy man’) which remained his pet household name. He was ere while to bear a more honorable and enduring title! Soon after this the old chief, finding himself unable any longer to conduct the hunting expeditions of the tribe, made over his authority to his son, with whom alone this history is concerned.
Henceforth our young hero is ever in the dense jungle with his veteran huntsmen. One day a wild boar, of gigantic size, that had been caught in their nets, escaped and made off with prodigious speed to the mountain side. Tinnan pursued it with two faithful attendants, but it let them a weary chase and did not stop till, exhausted with fatigue, it fell down in the shade of a tree on the slope of a distant hill. There Tinnan with his sword cut it in two. His attendants came up and were astonished and delighted at his success and said, ‘ We will roast the boar here, and refresh ourselves’. But there was no water at hand, so they took up the carcase of the boar and carried it some distance onward, till they came to sight of the sacred hill of ‘Kalahasti’.
At the view of the mountain one of the attendants cried out, that on that mountain summit there was an image of the ‘God with flowing hair’ (Civan). ‘If we go thither we may worship him’ added he. Hearing this the young giant Tinnan again shouldered the boar and strode on, exclaiming, ‘with every step that I advance towards the mountain the burden of the boar diminishes. There is some miraculous power here; I must find out what it is’. So saying he rushed on with great eagerness till he came to the bank of a river, where he deposited his burden, bade his companions make a fire and prepare the feast, while he himself hastened onward till he beheld on the slope of the hill, on the further bank of the stream, a stone lingam, the upper part of which was fashioned into a rude image of the head of the god. The moment he beheld it, as the magnet draws the iron, it drew his soul, which had been somehow prepared by the merit of good deeds and austerities performed in some former birth; and his whole nature was changed, every feeling being swallowed up the intense love for the god, whom for the first time he now beheld. As a mother, seeing her long lost son return, tarries not, but rushes to embrace him, as he threw himself upon the image, tenderly embraced it, and fervently kissed it. With tears of rapture, his soul dissolving like was n the sunshine, he cried out, ‘Ah, wondrous blessedness! to me a slave this divinity has been given! But how is that the god remains here alone in a wilderness where lions, elephants, tigers, bears, and other wild beasts dwell, as though he were some rude mountaineer like me?’.
Then, examining the image more closely, he saw that water had been recently poured upon it and green leaves strewn over it. ‘Who can have done this?’ said he. His attendant, who had in the meantime has come up, replied: ‘In the olden time, when I came here on a hunting expedition with your father, a Brahman, I remember came, poured water and placed leaves upon this image, repeating some mysterious words;- perhaps he is still here. So it dawned upon the mind of Tinnan that these and other services, which he himself could render, might be acceptable to the god. ‘But,’ said he, ‘there is no one here to supply him with food. He is alone, and I cannot leave him for an instant, yet I must perforce go and bring for him some of the boar’s flesh cooked for our feast’. So, after much hesitation and unwillingness to lose sight for a moment of his new found treasure he went back, crossed the stream, where he found the food already prepared and his servants wondering at the delay in his return. Tinnan regarding them not, took some of the boar’s flesh and cutting off the tenderest portions, roasted them on the point of an arrow; tasted them to ascertain that they were savoury; carefully selected the best, putting them into a cup of teak leaves which he had sewn together; and prepared to return to the woodland deity with his offering.
The servants seeing all this, very reasonably concluded that their master had suddenly gone mad, and hastened off home to take the news, and to ask the priestess of their tribe to return with them and exorcise the evil spirit that they supposed had taken possession of their lord. Tinnan unconscious of their departure, hastened back with the food in one hand, and his bow and arrow in the other. As he crossed the river, he filled his mouth with water, with which coming before the image he be sprinkled it. He then took the wild jungle flowers from his own hair, and put them over it, and presented the coarse boar’s flesh he had brought, saying: ‘My Lord, I have chosen for thee the daintiest portions, have carefully prepared them with fire, have tasted them, and softened them with my own teeth. I have sprinkled thee with water from the stream, and have put on thee flowers thou mayest love. Accept my gifts!’ [ This presentation of the food to the lingam and other images is often referred to in these stories, and the impression is given that the worshippers believed that the idol itself consumed the offering; but it is never expressly said that the food disappeared before the shrines, though this is sometimes implied.] Meanwhile the sun went down and during the whole night Tinnan with his arrow on the strung bow kept watch and ward around the god and at dawn went forth to the mountain to hunt, that he might provide for the daily wants of his new master.
While he was gone on this errand the Brahman in charge of the lingam, who was a learned ascetic of renowned virtue and holiness, Civagochariyar, came at daybreak, and having performed his own ablutions in the river, provided himself with a vessel of pure water for the purification of the divine image, and a basket of sacred flowers and fresh leaves for its adornment and uttering the mystic Five Syllables, devoutly drew near. A scene of unutterable pollution met his horrified gaze. Flesh and bones were strewed around, and the image itself had been defiled with filthy water and common wild flowers! With trembling horror he sprang aside, exclaiming, ‘Oh, god of gods!what an unhallowed impious hands of mountaineers have brought these pollutions here. How didst thou permit them thus to profane thy presence?’. So saying, he wept, fell down, and rolled in anguish before the god. But, reflecting that at any rate it was wrong to delay any longer the sacred service, he carefully removed the unhallowed things from the precincts, and proceeded to perform worship according to the Vedic rites: and having sung the appointed Hymn, and many times gone round the right image, and prostrated himself in adoration, departed to his hermitage.
Meanwhile the servants, having taken the news of Tinnan’s madness to old Nagan, his father returned with him and the priestess of their demon temple. They both attempted to reason with the young enthusiast, and to recall him tot he worship to which he had been accustomed; but its wild orgies delighted him no more. His whole affection was centered upon the new found Civan so they regarding him as hopelessly mad, returned sorrowing to their village.
[One object of this legend seems to be the reconciliation of the orthodox Civa worship and the ruder forms of demon worship then in use. The contrast is exceedingly striking when the refined and thoroughly instructed Brahman, with his scrupulous attention to all the minutiae of vedic worship, who regarded the slaying of animals as a crime, and the eating of their flesh as an unspeakable abomination, and considered that whatever had touched a man’s mouth was polluted and that the wild human inhabitants of the jungle were a lower order of creation is brought face to face with the youthful chieftain of an almost savage tribe, whose chief delight is how to hunt down, slay and devour the birds and beasts of the forest; who brings boar’s flesh for the unpolluted Civan to eat, and carries water in his mouth wherewith to besprinkle the image; who actually uses his leathern slippers to brush away the refuse leaves from the head of the god, who know no sacred texts; and who worships the same god, indeed, but has nothing to commend him save a rude uninstructed though zealous devotion.]
Meanwhile the mountaineer guards the god by night, returns at eventide to Offer his gifts and perform his rude service, and spends the day in providing flesh of beasts for the god’s repast.At dawn, when the young woodman has departed, duly comes the pure and exclusive Brahman having scrupulously made his own ablutions, cleanses the precincts, and performs his ceremonious worship. These men so different serve by turns before the same lingam, which they both regarded with equal reverence! But this cannot long continue so. The Brahman makes a passionate appeal to Civan to guard himself from these pollutions, the author of which he cannot trace. He then return to his hermitage sad and utterly perplexed. But in the night the god appears to him, and then addressed him: ‘ That which thou dost complain of is to me most dear and acceptable! Thy rival ministrant is a chieftain of the rude foresters. He is absolutely ignorant of the Vedas and the Caiva texts. He knows not the ordinances of worship. But regard not HIM, regard the spirit and motives of his acts. His rough and gigantic frame is instinct with love to me, his whole knowledge – in thine eyes craze ignorance – is summed up in the knowledge of Me! His every action is dear to me; the tough of his leathern slipper is pleasant to me as that of the tender hand of my son Skanda. The water with which he besprinkles me from his mouth is holy to me as the water of the Ganges. The food he offers me – to thee so abominable – is pure love. I regard not the externals of worship. He utterly loves me, even as thou dost; but come to-morrow when thou shalt see his worship, and I will give thee proof of his devotion to me’.
The Brahman slept no more that night, but at daybreak was put in hiding behind the lingam by the god himself. And now Civan, who knows the hearts of worshippers, in order that Tinnan’s truth might be manifest, caused blood to trickle down from the right eye of the image. The young worshipper drawing near beheld this, and exclaimed : ‘ Oh, my master, who hath wounded thee? What sacrilegious hand, evading my watchfulness, has wrought this evil?’ Then seizing his weapons he proceeded to scour the neighborhood to see if any mountaineer or wild animal could be detected as author of the mischief. Finding none, he threw himself on the ground in despair; but at length reflected that he had heard of remedies which would staunch the flow of blood. So he went and sought out in the jungle some herbs of virtue, and applied them; but the wound bled all the more copiously. Then a happy idea struck him; ‘ for a wounded eye the remedy is another eye applied,’ said he; and pausing not an instant, with his arrow he scooped out his own right eye, and applied it to the bleeding eye of the image, from which at once the blood ceased to flow! At this his rapture knew no bounds. He sang and danced, and poured forth uncouth expressions of ardent thanksgiving; but on looking at the image once more, alas! blood was seen issuing from the other eye. After a moment or two of bewildered sorrow, his countenance was lit up with a radiant light of gladness; for he has still one eye left, and the efficacy of the remedy has been tried already; so he raises himself up, puts his one foot close up to the image’s suffering eye, that he may be able to feel, when he no longer can see, where to apply the remedy; and proceeded to scoop the other eye. But this last sacrifice is too much for Civan to permit to be consummated; from out the lingam he puts forth a sacred hand, and grasps that of the youthful enthusiast, who still holds the arrow ready to accomplish his pious intention, and says: ‘Stay, Tinnan, stay thine hand, my loving son! Henceforth the place for ever shall be at my right hands, on my holy mount’. Civagochari had learnt the lesson that LOVE AND SELF-DEVOTION AND MORE THAN CEREMONIAL PURITY, and fell prostate; while the choirs of heaven chanted the beatification of the Saint, who is from age to age adored while his title of Kannappan – the devotee who gave his eyes for the service of his God.
5) The only god.
Those gods are gods indeed, – These others are
the Gods, men wrangling say, and thus
False gods they talk about, and rant and rave
upon this earthly stage. And I
No piety could boast; that earthly bonds
might cease to cling, to Him I clung !
To Him, the God of all true Gods, go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 20 ||
6) He elevates, calms and purifies the soul-
In this mad world, ‘mid stress and strife confused,
from birth and death, that ceaseless spring, –
Where hoarded treasure, women, offspring, tribe,
and learning’s store, men prize and seek; –
He calms the storm of mental changing states,
and clears from error’s mists the soul.
To mystic wisdom’s mighty God go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 24 ||
7) Nothing shall draw me from Him !
On Cankaran the soul’s embrosia, who thinks,
shall he fare ill? The sacred Foot
That aye endures shall I a prodigal forget?
But those who cleave not to that Foot,-
A sinful fellowship in worship vain,-
their very forms we will not know!
To Him, supremely Excellent, go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 28 ||
8) His grace to me and mine
Unique it spring, rose up, sent forth its boughs
that none can count, – a tree of grace !
Right well He cared for me, – a cur – and called,
and caused in state aloft to ride,
He is my Sire ! To sirs and house and race
the mighty PerumAn is He !
To Him, the Fount of bliss unfailing, go;
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE ! || 32 ||
9) His self-forgiving compassion.
His throat is black; His nature passes far
all powers of thought that men possess !
I went, drew near, took refuge at His feet;
and He, straightaway, delusions all
From changing deaths and births that ceaseless rise
within my being caused to cease.
To Him, Who is compassion’s sea, go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 36 ||
10) His tender love has followed me.
Pain I endured, – grew old, – again waxed like
a weaning calf, – in ceaseless change;
And here I dwelt, desiring evermore
enjoyments that a dog might share, –
In folly’s every guise. With mother-love,
He came in grace, and made me His !
To the rich Lord of mercy’s store go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 40 ||
11) He gave grace without upbraiding
Thou didst not call me ‘stony-heart,
‘deceiver’, ‘obstinate of mind;
But Thou didst cause my stony heart to melt,
and in compassion mad at me Thine;
Thou Lord of Tillai’s sacred temple-court,
in beauty rich, where swans disport !
Go, hasten to the golden beauteous Foot;
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE ! || 44 ||
12) The loving Lord, Who taught, wretch as I am,
my lip to sing. His jewell’d Feet;
The Teacher great, Who pardon’d all the faults
of me, a very fiend in sooth;
He still in grace accepts my services,
nor spurns my worthlessness !
To Ican go, as tender mother known,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE ! || 48 ||
13) His love demands my all
Devoid of love for Him in sooth was I.
I know it, and He knows it too !
And yet He made me His, this too all men
on earth shall surely see and know.
He there appeared, in all His grace revealed.
He only is my being’s King !
Come thou, and joyous join thyself with me
TO BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 52 ||
14) He came to me as my Guru
Germ of all being, far beyond this world, –
yet in this world too, seen;
With Her, whose flowery locks breathe sweet perfume,
in mercy manifest, He came;
A sacred Sage, versed in the mystic scroll,
He stood revealed, and made me His.
Go the God, in sacred form displayed,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE! || 56 ||
15) Only His mercy brought me near.
How far away had I and all my thought
from Him the loving Lord remained,
Had not the Wearer of the flowing lock,-
He with the Lady,- made me His !
The Lord, Who is the heaven, Who is each realm
of earth and of the mighty sea !
Go to the roseate Feet that sweets distil
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE ! || 60 ||
16) The thought of Him is joy.
Soon as I thought upon His sacred form
which every thought of man transcends,
The Lord of mercy’s flood of purest joys,
that ne’er delude, swept o’er my soul.
My Lord revealed Himself that He might make
me ever fully His alone.
To Him, the Lord of Lords Supreme, go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 64 ||
17) He saved me from senses’ bondage
In pleasures false I plunged, and sank deep down,-
each day of earthly prosperous joy,
I thought it true, and thus enslaved I lay;
in grace revealed, He made me His !
Call Him ‘my Teacher’ ‘precious Life’, ‘great Lord,
of Tillai’s sacred temple-court;
And seek those selfsame roseate flowery Feet,
TO BREATHE HIS PRAISE, THOU HUMMING-BEE ! || 68 ||
18) Civan as depicted in ancient myths.
The tiger’s skin, the robe, the pendants rare,
the ears’ round golden ornaments,
The ashes white as milk, the sandal paste
so cool and sweet, the parrot green,
The trident, and the armless linked: this pomp,
and ancient fair array He owns,
Regarding well, with joyous soul go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 72 ||
19) Visited me, nor despised my unworthiness
‘Deceiver’ ‘ sinner vile’ ‘rebellious one,’
all this to me He did not say;
The Generous One came oft to visit me,
nor took His Presence from my mind !
Of all the pains that fill’d my soul, no one
in any wise was left with me !
So to His gleaming jeweled Foot go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 76 ||
20) His grace to the lowly
Ayan, who crowns the lotus flower, and MAl
were grieved – for He was hard to reach !
But I, His lowly slave, all jubilant
fulfilled of exultation stood !
To me, mere cur, He gave a lofty seat,
endued right well with worthiness !
To Him, Whose form is fiery flame, go thou,
AND BREATHE HIS PRAISE, O HUMMING-BEE ! || 80 ||