Muruga Sadhana in Tirumurugarrupadai
by Ratna Navaratnam
from Karttikeya the Divine Child pp. 6-21
|Arunagiri worships Lord Murugan who had just rescued him from certain death by suicide. Painting from Tiru Avinankudi Tirukkovil, Palani.|
According to St. Arunagiri, the moment a devotee tasted the nectar of His grace, so kindled was he by Muruga's love, that sugarcane even had no sweetness for him and honey tasted sour. Immersed in the divine rapture of yogic meditation, the sages could live without food for long periods, and great were their powers of action.
In Tirucheeralavai and Tiruverakam, we get the concept of Muruga as the eternal Guru. One of His six faces is to dispel the ignorance and illuminate the mysterious chamber of truth that remains inexplicable to initial teachers. So, the Seers by their consistent discipline and self-control over their sensual attractions and instinctive cravings of the human body, make themselves the worthy votaries of Muruga by drawing inspiration from Him who is the eternal guru. Through this discipline of culture, the divine wisdom comes down to the mortals through a long geneology of saints and seers who are the transmitters of eternal wisdom from the eternal Guru Muruga, who is the source of all knowledge.
By constant meditation on the Absolute, the sages become spiritually mighty and capable of overcoming the forces of Karma and so they are called ‘Munivar'. In their constant meditation, they are spiritually charged from the eternal energy of the cosmic powerhouse which is Muruga. The cosmic life force is always running in their life-wires and so they are able to crush the forces of evil.
Along with the lines of Tirumular's hymn, the immortal Alankara of Saint Arunagiri proclaims the glory of Muruga as an eternal soucr of cosmic power that could be harnassed in human life to subdue the force of destiny (Kandar Alankaram 40). Saint Arunagirinathar, the monarch among the devotees of Muruga, majestically proclaims in his Kandar Alankaram:
“Letters written on my head by the hand of the god of fate were completely erased by the touch of the feet of Muruga instantaneously; at that moment I bowed down my head at his lotus-feet in total self-surrender".
From these references, it is to be concluded that Muruga is a divine Guru to those who are immersed in His grace by their inward meditation, and a disciplined life of austere vows and penances. The ancient abode of Tiruvavinankudi is otherwise known as Cittanvālvu. The name Palani is referred to as Potini in the Sangam poems. It is also called Cittanvālvu, because God Muruga manifested in the hill shrine of Palani in the form of a siddhar or a realised seer and as the Teacher of teachers. In this abode He is an example of an ascetic, teaching the mortals that real wisdom shines in him who is detached from all sensual cravings. Hence, the seers are given the first place in the line of devotees who proceed to invoke His grace at Tiruverakam.
Besides the priests and priestesses of the hill-land who invoke Muruga by their dances and musical invocation, kuliyars who are the minions or priests of Muruga also offer their worship. They entreat the grace of Muruga on behalf of the devotees who are found well-matured in their spiritual discipline. Here the importance of the Guru or the spiritual preceptor in the form of kuliyar is suggested by Nakkirar. The invocation of the devotee and the appearance of the kuliyars are dramatically synchronised by Nakkirar.
The kuliyars of Pazhamuthircholai are taken to mean the tender-hearted attendants and spiritual mediators in the temple of Muruga. In Nakkirar's Tirumurugarrupadai, the words of these kuliyars entreating Muruga on behalf of the devotees indicate their ripeness and spiritual attunement. The kuliyars say, “This minstrel desires thy grace; he is ripe in his spiritual knowledge; he has realised Thy immortal glory; and so his desire for the award of Thy grace is sincere" (T.M.G. 283-285).
The panoramic vista of Muruga dwindles in breadth from the aerial gods, titans, seers, demons, to the hill tribes and Kuravai maids and finally settles on the earnest seeker after Muruga. The dininuendo is a crescendo in the intensity of the approach to Muruga as we reach the climax of the whole poem, where the seeker (nayantōn) sees the gracious prescence of Muruga. He who is also known as Guha plays His drama in the cosmic stage, as well as in the inmost cave of the devotee's heart. Professor Carl A. Keller rightly alludes to this central pivot of the whole poem as the grand finale, when the seeker not only hears His redeeming voice, but also sees His universal Teacher, face to face. “His fiery form instantly He conceals to one of genial youth and utters words of love" (T.M.G. 290-291).
The poem is significantly a drama in that there is perpetual movement from the opening line to the closing line. The sun moves round the mount; the girls dance round the pole; the festive crowd moves on to Tirupparankunram; the demons leap in glee; the processional march glides through the heavens; Muruga rides on his swift elephant; the wavsh dash against the shore; Velan skips around with his lance holding a team of dancers; from abode to abode the nayantōn, or the pilgrim-seeker, moves from one abode to the other, till finally he comes to the festive sanctum where Muruga holds His court of revels. Here the vibration of music and dance halts for a still second when the kuliyars intercede on his behalf with their Master, and the gracious Muruga grants the peerless award—the paricil of His Gracious Feet (T.M.G. 295).
He grants His Visvarupa Darsham to his devotee after he has surrendered everything at His Feet. In the universe, good and evil are like light and darkness chasing each other in endless succession. Muruga also manifests His terrible and gentle aspects, His form of genial radiance and His form of fiery heroic valour, in alternating rhythm, and this in turn is reflected in the world of nature and man. Nakkirar's experience of crisis is reflected in the dance of the weird devils Peymakalim, and the deputation of the heavenly gods, only to be followed by the experience of fulfilment in the celestial dance of the kurava (nymphs) makalir, and the procession of seers or munivar and the incantation of the devoted aspirant or nayanton, all of whom capture His true glory.
The euphony and resonance of diction quicken the intensity of movement and enhance the splendour of Muruga, the young and yet so ancient God of dynamic valour, and God of love and beauty. All things great and small, all feelings and actions of the actors in this drama are intimately related to Muruga, who is the centrifugal point of radiation. We arise from a reading of the poem with the prayer to Muruga to make this world neither a blot nor blank; hut to make it mean intensely and mean well.