1) Objections to ‘ashes,’ the snake, and the mystery of His teaching.
Obj. What He smears is ‘white ash’; what He wears is an angry snake;
What He speaks with His lips divine is the mystic word, it seems; MY DEAR!
Ans. What He smears, what He says, what He wears are the means by which He,
As my Lord, rules me; and of all that hath life the Essence is He! CARALO! || 4 ||
These are the words used by Dakshan to his daughter Umai in the Kaci Khandam,:-
His body he smears with ashes; a serpent he wears as adornment;
Poison from the sea he eats; a skull he carries
He rides a white bull that rages with anger. Such an one,
O damsel, is he fit to come to our sacrifice?’
The ashes, the serpent, the poison, the skull, and the bull are matters of praise in all Caiva poems.
2) Objections to His mendicant gruise.
Obj. ‘My Father, Embiran, to all indeed is Ruler Supreme;
Yet He wears a clouted kovanam;’ and why should this be so, MY DEAR?
Ans. The Vedas four, the meaning with which all lore is fraught, as the great thread
Himself alone as kovanam He spreads; behold, CARALO! || 8 ||
An ascetic mendicant wears a very scanty cloth, suspended by a string round the waist; but why should He, who often appears in such stately majesty, wear this unseemly pretence of decent clothing! The answer is ambiguous in the original, but seems to say: ‘All mysteries are contained and hidden in Him, and the Vedic revelation is the link between Him and the souls of men.’ Strange symbolism!
Kaman, the ‘Bodiless.” – The story of the destruction of Kaman || or the god of Love || by Civan is very curious, and should be read by the Tamil scholar in the Kamba-Ramayanam. It seems that Civan resolved to enter on a course of very strict devotion || Yogam || with the intention of increasing his powers! The lesser divinities fearing this, instigated Kaman to endeavour to distract the mind of the devotee. Accordingly the archer sallied forth with his arrows composed of the nine most fragrant flowers, and having fitted one on to the string, took aim at Civan’s sacred breast. But the god suddenly opened his third eye in the centre of his brow, from which he darted a wrathful flame that instantly reduced Kaman to ashes. At the intercession of all orders of creation Kaman was restored to life, but not to a visible substantial form, and he still pervades the world riding on the chariot of the soft south-wind, working his mischief unseen. Ancient European mythology made him blind: he is here ‘bodiless.’ The legend may remind us of the story of Echo. The allusions to this myth in these lyrics are endless – and wearisome.
3) The objection that Civan is a homeless ascetic.
Obj. His shrine’s the burning ground; fierce tiger skin His goodly garb;
All motherless and fatherless is He; all lonely dwelleth; see, MY DEAR!
Ans.Motherless is He and fatherless; dwelleth all aone; but though’tis thus,
If He be wroth, the worlds to powder crumble all; behold, CARALO! || 12 ||
4) The punitive indications of Bhairavan.
Obj. Ayan, the ‘Bodiless,’ with Anthagan, and Canthiran,
In divers ways He wounded sore, yet slew not; see, MY DEAR!
Ans. He Whose eyes are three, the Ruler great, if He shall punish,
Is’t not a triumph to the heav’nly ones, O thou with flowing locks? CARALO! || 16 ||
5) Dakshan’s sacrifice.
Obj. Of Dakshan He smote off the head, off Eccan too; the hosts of gods
That flocking came He sent to nothingness; why this, MY DEAR?
Ans. Them who thronging came to nothingness He sent; ’twas grace!
In grace to Eccan too He gave one head the more; see CARALO! || 20 ||
Obj. Him the flow’ry god and Mal knew not; in fiery form He came
From earth that stretch’d to lower worlds; wherefore was this, MY DEAR?
Ans. From earth to realms beneath had He not reach’d, they twain
The insolence of self-esteem had not cast off; behold, CARALO! || 24 ||
7) Parvathi lives in His side, Ganga on His crest.
Obj.Soon as the mountain maid as part of Him He placed, another dame
In watery form upon His braided locks poured down! Why this, MY DEAR?
Ans. Upon His braided locks in watery form had she not leaped, the world
To cavernous destruction rushing ruined must have lain! CARALO! || 28 ||
8) The poison.
Obj. He ate halalam from the sounding sea, that day arisen
With mighty din; what means this wondrous act, MY DEAR?
Ans. Had He not eaten on that day the posion fierce, Ayan and Mal
And all the other gods of upper heaven had died; behold, CARALO! || 32 ||
The Hala-hala Poison, the churning of the sea, the blackness of Civan’s Throat, and the epithet ‘Ambrosia.’-
Among other things in these lyrics that require explanation to the English reader, the subjects referred to in the above title are of the most frequent recurrence, and are apt to weary and even disgust.
It is most necessary however to understand once for all how essential they are to the South-Indian concept of Civan, as the great and beneficient Being Who is to be approached in prayer and gratefully adored. It will hardly be possible for the reader to do anything like justice to the Poet and religious Teacher, unless he deem it worth while to make the attempt to view these things candidly and dispassionately in the light in which they are viewed by the more devout and intelligent of the Caiva community.
The legend is simply this: the lesser deities were in sore affliction and came to Civan for help. He accordingly came forth from Kailaca, and using Mount Mandara as His churning-stick, with Vasu-deva as the rope which caused it to revolve, proceeded to churn the sea of milk. The result was the appearance of the Ambrosia or food of immortal gladness. But before this a stream of fiery poison black and deadly, the Hala-hala poison, rushed forth. This the deity himself drank up, and hence his throat is for ever black, a glorious memorial of his voluntary sufferings. The cup of ambrosia He gave to the grateful gods. Another version of this story may be read in Wilson’s Vishnu Puranam. It is also to be found in various form in Tamil verse, but is essentially a Sanskrit and northern myth. The question occurs, was this regarded as literal fact, or was it put forth as a parable? It may be said that three classes of Hindus are to be met with in the South: those to whom this and similar histories are wonderful stories and nothing more. They take no more interest in them than we should in the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.
A second class believe the legends devoutly, and regard them as capable of a mystic interpretation to which however they do not attach any surpassing importance, nor are they at all agreed as to its details. The third class think that under the veil of such legends ancient sages concealed mysterious teachings which they were unwilling to expose to the vulgar gaze. And they say that they alone possess the secret of the esoteric meaning of the myths, which they themselves regard as more or less antiquated and uncouth.
Whether the Upanishads and Sanskrit literature in general lend any countenance to this last idea is exceedingly doubtful. I incline to think that these mystic interpretations are only to be found in later, and chiefly in South-Indian, authors. It is very ceratin that the Caiva Siddhanta philosophers have made it their especial business to give to all such legends a more elevating, and at the same time distinctly Caivite, interpretation. The south of India has from the earliest time been more open than the rest of the east to western influences and teaching, and I feel convinced that this is one of the results. Whether in any way the chasm between western and eastern ideas can be bridged over by any such explanations is of course a most interesting question.
It is quite permitted us to say that, the truth supposed to be concealed || rather too carefully! || under these symbols is that, the Supreme Being has condescended to come to earth to taste the bitter cup of suffering, retaining ever the glorious signs of that agony, while to men He presents the draught of immortal blessedness. However this may be, the epithets of ‘Black-throated’ and ‘Ambrosia’ as applied to Civan need not be, must not be, simply grotesque, but associated with the pathos of sufferring and the tenderness of unselfish love.
The idea of this is expressed in the first poem of the Purra-Nannurru, which is by Perundevanar, the translator of the Bharatam:-
‘He wears th’adornment of a throat with poison black; that stain
The chaunters of the mystic scrolls are wont to praise.’
Of course there are many things which are said and sung by the devout of all systems in all lands that require to be explained, and it will generally be found that a mystic meaning is at the root of the uncouth phrase. This has been more or less lost sight of: the symbol is apt to supersede the real thought.
Obj. The Lord of Tillai’s court, Who in the southern land delights, and dances there,
A mighty maniac, delighted in the female form, behold, MY DEAR!
Ans. had He not delighted in the female form, all in the wide world
Would have obtained heaven’s bliss and earth had failed; behold, CARALO! || 36 ||
Obj. He is the endless One; and me, a dog, who came to Him,
He plunged in tide of rapturous bliss unending; behold, MY DEAR!
Ans. The sacred Feet that plunged me in rapture’s flowing tide
are treasure rich to gods in upper heaven that dwell; behold, CARALO! || 40 ||
Obj. Lady! what’s this ascetic rite? Sinews and bone He wears,
A bony circlet on His arm He loves to bear; behold, MY DEAR!
Ans. The way of the bony circlet hear! In the end of the age
When the two had reached their fated hour, He put it on; hehold, CARALO! || 44 ||
Obj. His garb is the skin of the forest tiger; He eats from a skull;
The wild is His city; to Him here who will service pay? MY DEAR!
Ans. Yet, hear thou! Ayan and sacred Mal, and the King
Of them of the heavenly land, are His humble and faithful ones; CARALO! || 48 ||
13) His marriage.
Obj. The mountain monarch’s golden Daughter bright of brow, the Lady blest,
He wedded with the fire as all the world doth know; what’s that? say, MY DEAR!
Ans. Had He not wedded Her for all the world to know, the world entire
Had in confusion lost the import true of every lore; behold, CARALO! || 52 ||
14) The dance.
Obj. The Lord of Tillai’s court, by cool palms girt, whence honey drips,
There entering does a mystic dance perform; what’s that, MY DEAR?
Ans. Had He not enter’d there, all the wide earth had quick become
Abode of demons armed with flesh-transfixing appears; CARALO! || 56 ||
15) The bull.
Obj. On stately elephant, swift stead, or car it pleased Him not to ride;
A bull He pleased to mount! Explain me this that I may know, MY DEAR!
Ans. The day He burnt with fire the triple mighty walls,
Mal divine a bull became to bear Him up; behold, CARALO! || 60 ||
16) Civan a guru and an avenger too.
Obj. Well to the four, the fourfold mystic scrolls’ deep sense,
That day, beneath the banyan tree, and virtue He reveal’d; behold, MY DEAR!
Ans.That day, beneath the banyan tree, though virtue He revealed,
He utterly destroyed the cities three; begold, CARALO! || 64 ||
17) A mendicant.
Obj. In the sacred hall He dances, and wanders abroad to beg for alms;
This homeless mendicant shall we approach as god? How so, MY DEAR?
Ans. Hear thou the nature of this sacred mendicant! Him Vedas four know not;
But they’ve invok’d Him Lord and Ican, praising loud; behold, CARALO! || 68 ||
18) The disc.
Obj. When He smote down Jalandharan, the monster of the sea, that disc
To Naranan, the good, in grace He gave; how’s that, MY DEAR?
Ans. Since Naranan, the good, dug out an eye, and laid at Aran’s foot,
As flower, to him in grace the disc He gave; behold, CARALO! || 72 ||
Obj. His garment is the spotted hide; His food the fiery poison dark.
Is this our Peruman’s great skill? Expound that I may know, MY DEAR!
Ans. Our Peruman,- whatever He wore there,- whate’er He ate,-
The greatness of His Nature none can know; behold, CARALO! || 76 ||
20) Virtue and true philosophy must be divinely taught.
Obj. To saints of goodness rare, beneath the Al, virtue and all the Four He taught;
Explain to me the grace He showed, seated with them, MY DEAR!
Ans. Had He not taught that day in grace, the worthy saints virtue and all the Four,
To noble souls this world’s nature had ne’er been known! Behold, CARALO! || 80 ||