Lord Skanda-Murugan


Biography of Saint Arunagirinathar

By Swami Anvānanda
From: Saint Arunagirinatha, (Madras: Pongi Publications, 1975) pp. 31-36

If a correct assessment of Arunagirinatha's personality in his early years is made from his own compositions and from contemporary literature of other writers, the following facts emerge:

Arunagirinatha was a traditional type of devout Hindu. Lord Muruga was the family God whom his ancestors have been worshipping. In his Tiruppugazh, he prays: "Oh, Kanda! The glorious God of the hills! Pray bestow Thine blessings accepting the ardent worship of this humble son to You, my ancestral deity."[1]

His learning, especially of religious and spiritual literature must have been acquired in his early years and it was both vast and deep. In the Tamil language, he excelled in expression and learning. In his compositions, he exhibits familiarity with the Tamil Works such as: Tevaram, Tirukkural, Kārigai, Ula, Easal, Kalambakam, Kovai, Sindu, Madal and Mālai. He had also cultivated the art of writing eulogies of rich men to obtain presents of money from them.[2] His compositions abound in the use of Sanskrit words and they also show that he was familiar with the Itihasas, Puranas, the Gita, the Upanishads, Agamas, Mantra and Tantra Sastras, Yoga Sutras and Kama Sutra.

His archanaon Lord Muruga in two songs are mostly in Sanskrit.[3] One is therefore entitled to assume that his mastery of Sanskrit language was equal to that of Tamil and that he was quite capable of composing original work in Sanskrit. Unless he was born in a family whose traditions were such that every young male member from his early years received the highest cultural and religious education, prevailing in those days, it would not have been possible for Arunagirinatha to have ac­quired the vast learning that he has exhibited.

That he was leading a debaucherous life in his early years is admitted by him in his prayer to Lord Muruga, thus: "Will I ever get to know how to attain Your holy feet before becoming too old wasting my youth, as I am, by indulgence in sinful sexual pleasures?"[4] Here one must utter a word of warning that all references to a life of lust in many of his poems should not be taken literally -- that is to say, as confessions of his own guilt.[5]

But his life of debauchery could not have lasted very long. Perhaps, it proved to be a costly indulgence and he was soon reduced to a life of penury and became very dejected. In one of his songs, he says:[6]

"…To me, who seeks the company of prostitutes all the time, spending on them whatever little money I earn by bestowing lavish praises on men who lack wisdom, who never pray to Your holy feet, who are dunces, who indulge in devilish activities and who have no sense of gratitude; pray Muruga, grant me Moksha (from all this)".

In another song, he speaks with poignant emotion about his despicable state, thus: [7]

"…Ridiculed and jeered at by my wife, by the people of the town, by the women of the place, my father and my relations being disgusted in their minds by my conduct, everyone scolding me or indulging in loose talks about me and being treated as a despicable person by the very people whom I have loved, my mind became confused and full of gloom. I thought within myself, ‘Is it for this that I strove to obtain this human body which is a treasure, indeed?'…"
Arunagiri worships Lord Murugan who had just rescued him from certain death by suicide
Arunagiri worships Lord Murugan who had just rescued him from certain death by suicide. Painting from Tiru Avinankudi Tirukkovil, Palani.

The first sign of God's grace and compassion came to Aruna­girinatha after a Mahatma sought him and spoke to him in a sweet voice with love and affection. The Mahatma advised him "to meditate on the six-faced God Shanmukha".[8] But Arunagirinatha did not heed the advice for some time and people began to deride him for ignoring the advice of the Mahatma. A change soon came over him. He began to worry very much over his pitiable state. He thought of the advice of the Mahatma and attempted to spend some hours in meditation facing the image of Lord Muruga installed in the Gopuram. But his will, weakened by his immoral life, lacked the strength to persist in that attempt. The crisis in his life started mounting up. He decided to surrender, at the feet of Lord Muruga, the body that had failed to serve Him in any way, He decided upon suicide. At this moment, Lord Muruga appeared standing on a dancing peacock, halted him in the act and took possession of him.[9]

"Oh Gurunatha! You came along on the peacock holding the Vel that broke to pieces the Krauncha Mountain in Your hand and took possession of me in that the people of the world may admire Your grace."

"When I was about to shed life from my body, out of compassion for me and to elevate me to a better and praise-worthy status, You came upon the scene, dancing, accompanied by Your celestial devotees and showered grace on me."

One must assume that after this surrender to Lord Muruga that was accepted by Him, the lure of lust should have left Arunagirinatha. For, if surrender to the Lord does not relieve one instantaneously of all dross, then surrender will have no meaning. One may safely assert that after Arunagirinatha was taken possession of by the Lord, all prayers in his songs there­after seeking to be relieved from the attraction of lust are for the benefit of others and not for himself.

Here, one must pause for a moment. Was Arunagirinatha's decision to end his life born of mere disgust and frustration, a simple attempt at suicide, in order to put an end to suffering, which can no longer be endured? One must remember that God does not intervene in every instance of attempted suicide to save the person. The manifestation of Lord Muruga standing on his dancing peacock is not an every day occurrence. It is not vouchsafed even to His most sincere devotees. Yet Arunagirinatha the dissolute was rewarded with this supreme act of compassion.

In our sastras, it is said that the state of mind of a person at the last moment when life is about to leave the body, is very important from the point of view of his rebirth. If one were to utter the name of Narayana or Shiva and fix his mind on His form at the time of death, he is assured of moksha and release from rebirth. Arunagirinatha had realised with great poignancy that the body had failed to serve the purpose for which God had intended it. He had misused it for immoral purposes. What was there left for him to do except to surrender the mind and the body to the Lord? He sings thus:[10]

Oh mind of mine!
Trust not the body
That infernal machine
Turning out pleasure and pain.
Brahma who sits on the Lotus
Created it to bind the mind.

Oh mind of mine!
Free thyself from fear.
To seek Him, endeavour
Patiently and steadily.
Let us go to Him
Show our love and surrender.

Oh mind of mine!
It's good you decided to surrender.
See Him on His peacock Vahana
He has now taken charge of you.
Doubt not, there is no Greater State.
Dwell on His holy name
Always, ‘Mainda, Kumara'.

A kshatriya warrior of old, leaving his house, his wife and children and relatives and abandoning all his desires and possessions, goes to the battlefield with the assurance that if he should die there, he will attain Vira Svarga (Valhalla). Similarly, a great bhakta is always prepared to sacrifice a limb or an eye or even his life for the sake of God in the full belief that the Lord will accept the sacrifice and make him one of his possessions. Lord Muruga came to the rescue of His devotee who was preparing to shed his body and saved him not only from death, but accepted him as dear to Him and took possession of him. How beautifully Arunagirinatha has expressed it when Lord Muruga appeared before him!

Kinkini thith thimi, thith thith
The anklets on the dancing feet jingled,
A sound that to other sounds
Closed my hearing.

The Kadamba garland that He wore
Suffused me with its cloying fragrance,
And my breath was held.
His moon-like countenance and tender smile
Caused such cheer and ecstasy
That my mind was lost.

For a moment He looked at me,
A cool liquid light poured out
From His long lotus eyes.
It filled my heart tasting like nectar
And I was lost to Him forever.

End Notes

[1] Tiruppukazh: "kāthala mungkuRi…"

[2] Tiruppukazh: "irukanaka māmeru…" and "aRivillāp piththar…"

[3] Tiruppukazh: "nāthapinthuka lāthi namo nama"

[4] Tiruppukazh: "thāthala mungkuRi…"

[5] Swami Anvananda, Saint Arunagirinatha, (Madras: Pongi Publications, 1975) pp. 41-45 (Chapter V: ‘The Lure of Lust')

[6] Tiruppukazh: "arivillāp piththar…"

[7] Tiruppukazh: "manaiyavaL nakaikka…"

[8] Tiruppukazh: "kamala kumiLitha…"

[9] Tiruppukazh: "arivaiyar nenjuru…" and "kothi muDiththu…"

[10] Tiruppukazh: "antho manamey…"

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