The Divine Manuscripts

As dusk approached, the marketplace surrounding the Chidambaram Nataraja temple bustled with activity. “The discourse will start promptly after sunset… hurry up!” urged Alli, tugging at her 10-year-old son, Muthu. His mind wandered to his playmates who were perhaps enjoying a lively game of “sadugudu” along the banks of the Vellaru river. Sensing his longing, Alli reassured him, “Tomorrow you can join your friends. Today, I want you to listen and absorb the words of Vaadhavooraar.” Muthu nodded in agreement, knowing fully well that his mother always had his best interests at heart, insisting on providing him with the finest education.

The temple was as usual crowded. The pilgrims were locals as well as outsiders. Instead of moving straight to the Nataraja sannidhi the boy and his mother walked towards the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam where the people had already gathered. Alli hurriedly chose a comfortable spot which was available, sat cross legged on the stone floor, leaning against the beautifully carved stone pillar, smiling at the elderly couple sitting close by. Muthu had spotted a friend from his Paadashaala and both were engaged in an animated conversation. The elderly couple were regulars for the discourse and were becoming very popular. Alli remarked to the woman “Today we are a little late. I had so much work to do at home as some guests from Kumbakonam are arriving tomorrow. But did not want to miss Vaadhavooraar’s discourse today”

The elderly lady with kind eyes and a huge vermillion Bindi on her forehead took a little cotton bag opened the draw string and took a string of jasmine flowers and handed it over to Alli. “Yes. Today there is quite a crowd. All are eagerly waiting to listen. Here you are. Let me adorn your hair with flowers. The fragrance is just exquisite” Her nose ring shimmered in the evening light.

She and her husband had come from the holy town of Thiruvarur. The elderly man with the permission of Vaadhavooraar had started documenting the songs on palm leaves. He sat nearby looking at the palm leaves. The man was wearing a pure white Veshti, he was bare-chested, with a anga vastram and had Vibuthi lines on his chest, arms, and his forehead.

Set in the 9th century, the story unfolds in Chidambaram also known as Thenpuliyur. The town then, was a flourishing centre of religion, art and culture. So was Kanchipuram and Thanjavur.

A hushed murmur of voices, followed by the resonant chant of “Om Nama Shivaya” in unison, captured everyone’s attention and drew their focus to the front of the mandapam. In walked Saint Vaadhavooraar, accompanied by his disciples. The saint was of medium stature, draped in a Veshti that gracefully descended to just below his knees. The slender frame exuded a delicate fragility,  strings of Rudraksha beads gracefully adorning the neck as well as his head. His bare torso was marked with Vibuthi and so also his forehead. His eyes were sparkling with kindness and warmth. The entire congregation rose in reverence as the saint gracefully took his seat on a specially arranged pedestal. With a gentle gesture, he invited the people to sit, and the discourse commenced in its familiar rhythm with the recitation of the Sivapuranam.

Namasivaya vaazhga, Nadan thal vazzhga,

Imai podum  yennenjil  neengaadhan thal vazhga.

Kokazhi aanda guru manithan thaal vaazhga,

Agamam aagi nindru annippan vaazhga,

Yekan anegan iraivan adi Vaazhga …

As the words filled the air, a sense of familiarity enveloped the audience, prompting some to sing along with Vaadhavooraar. But most were mesmerized with the words and gazed at the Saint transported to a divine land.

No one knew the Saint’s real name. He was called Vaadhavooraar as he originally hailed from Vaadhavoor a town near Madurai.  He had earlier worked as the Prime Minister for the Pandya King Arimardhana Pandyan and the king had conferred the title Thennavan Brahmaraayan on him. Vaadhavooraar met his Guru, Lord Shiva himself, at Thiruperunthurai where he had gone to buy horses for the Pandya Kingdom.  The  Deeksha which he received from his Guru changed his life. He gave up his worldly life and he began singing Lord Shiva’s praise in the form of exquisite hymns.

Embarking on a spiritual odyssey prompted by a divine calling, Vaadhavooraar visited several places singing praises of Lord Shiva. Chidambaram was his final spiritual haven. Here, every day he enthralled the temple goers with his tapestry of songs in chaste tamil.

Today too, Vaadhavooraar just completed singing Thiruvempaavai. The elderly man said, “Ayya, You have sung Paavai, how about singing a Kovai too..”

Paavai is a form of literature. Young girls decorate a doll made of mud as their God and sing praises by dancing around the doll. Thiruvempaavai collection of 20 songs end with Em Paavai.

Kovai is also a literary form. In this form, girls channel their admiration into song, extolling the virtues of a chosen hero through melodious verses.

Next Vaadhavooraar sang the 400 songs called Thirukovaiyar. Those too got documented on the palm leaves by the elderly man.

The next day, the crowd gathered and all the people waited eagerly for that day’s discourse. It began as usual just after sunset but the elderly couple was missing. Alli and Muthu along with others looked for them everywhere, but they were not to be found.

“Oh, Hope they have not fallen sick.”

“We never asked them where their house is located…how to go find out?”

“Maybe they will come tomorrow…but we will miss their presence. ..something divine about both of them”

“There is something mesmerizing with their kind eyes…Always full of warmth”

“Maybe they went back to Thiruvarur…”

Muthu came running from the Nataraja sannidhi carrying a collection of palm leaf manuscripts.

“Look, what I found. The old man’s  Palm leaves! It was on the 5th step of the Panchakshara step.”  The Panchakshara steps are 5 in number Na, Ma, Shi, Va, Ya denoting the 5 steps which lead to the Ultimate Paramatma.

Muthu ran to Vaadhavooraar and handed the manuscripts over to him. Vaadhavooraar glanced through them and realized that all his songs were indeed documented. The last manuscript had this line, “While Maanikavasagar dictated, Me, Chitrambalam wrote this”

The people in the mandapam were amazed.

“Chitrambalam himself has written this!?”

“That Mighty God of Chidambaram Amabalavanan has written this..!”

“The elderly couple were none other than Lord Shiva and Parvathi”

“If the Lord Himself sat here and wrote these songs, then the verses must be really important”

“Lord Shiva has named Vaadhavooraar as Maanikavasagar..isn’t that apt?”

“Indeed, it’s the best name given for a person whose speech are like gems”

The people spoke animatedly amongst themselves.

“If the lord has written this and left the palm leaves for us, then there must be a lot of inner meaning..”

All of them went up to the newly christened Maanikavasagar and asked him to relate the meaning of all the songs he had been singing all these days.

Maanikkavasagar exclaimed, “You want to know the meaning….Come with me…”

He walked towards the Nataraja Sannidhi, stood in the praharam amongst all the people and pointed towards the south facing dancing Nataraja and remarked,

“There…Can you see Him? The meaning of all those songs is …HIM!”

Under the watchful eyes of the onlookers, Maanikkavasagar ascended the sacred Panchakshara steps, crossed the threshold into the sanctum sanctorum, and seamlessly merged with the Supreme. After that day none were able to see Vaadhavooraar or Maanikavasagar in his human form.

Several miracles have happened for Sivan Adiyaars. The people present were witness to another miracle. Maanikavasagar’s union with the Supreme in the holy town of Chidambaram has proved that a person who is constantly thinking of God (இமைப்பொழுதும் என் நெஞ்சில் நீங்காதான் தாள் வாழ்க) shall attain salvation. So also a person who chants these songs understanding the deep and profound meaning (சொல்லிய பாட்டின் பொருள் உணர்ந்து சொல்லுவார்) will attain Moksha and eternal bliss.

Most of the readers must be already aware that Maanikavasagar is one of the Nalvar (the four holy saints: Appar, Thirugnanasambadar, Sundarar and Maanikkavasagar). Maanikkavasagar is the author of Thiruvasagam and Thirukovaiyyar which forms the 8th Saiva Thirumurai.






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