Around the Christmas period in the month Marghazhi (December 26th to be precise), we were travelling by road from Dindigul to Coimbatore via the holy place of Palani. We saw a continuous stream of people walking on barefoot all along the stretch of the highway that led to Palani. It was clearly an indication that the bhakti filled festival of Thaipoosam is not far away.
“Thaipoosam is an important festival observed by the Hindus of southern India during the Tamil month of Thai (January – February). Outside of India, it is celebrated mainly by the Tamil speaking community settled in Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and elsewhere around the world. Thaipusam is dedicated to the Hindu god Murugan, the son of Shiva and Parvati. Murugan is also known as Karttikeya, Subrahmanya, Sanmukha, Shadanana, Skanda and Guha. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Parvati presented a lance to Lord Murugan to vanquish the demon army of Tarakasura and combat their evil deeds. Therefore, Thaipusam is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. Thaipusam is celebrated during the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai and commemorates the birthday of the Hindu deity Murugan.”
All along the drive I was thinking if I could relate this bhakti oriented activity with the Advaita Vedantic mindset that I have been focusing on over the last couple of years and come out with some learning that will be immensely satisfying. In other words, I need to link Guha (Bhakti) with Sankara (Advaita); the Manifest with the Unmanifest; the Son with the Father. Looks simple; but impossible without a Guru.
That thinking took me to another Guruguha, one of the trinity in Carnatic music world. Yes, Muthuswamy Dikshithar provided me, the link for relating Bhakti with Vedanta.
Here is that link
Now let us study this Kriti (composition)
मानस गुरु गुह रूपं भजरे रे
माया-मय हृत्तापं त्यजरे रे
मानव जन्मनि संप्राप्ते सति
परमात्मनि निरतिशय सुखं व्रजरे रे
सत्व गुणोपाधि सहित सदाशिवं
स्वाविद्या समेत जीवोद्भवम्
तत्वं तामस युत विश्व वैभवं
तारकेश्वरं आनन्द भैरवम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
नत्वा श्री गुरु चरणं कृत्वा नाम स्मरणं
जित्वा मोहावरणं मत्वा त्वदेक शरणम्
mānasa guru guha rūpaṃ bhajarē rē
māyā-maya hṛttāpaṃ tyajarē rē
mānava janmani saṃprāptē sati
paramātmani niratiśaya sukhaṃ vrajarē rē
satva guṇōpādhi sahita sadāśivaṃ
svāvidyā samēta jīvōdbhavam
tatvaṃ tāmasa yuta viśva vaibhavaṃ
tārakēśvaraṃ ānanda bhairavam
(madhyama kāla sāhitya)
natvā śrī guru caraṇaṃ kṛtvā nāma smaraṇaṃ
jitvā mōhāvaraṇaṃ matvā tvadēka śaraṇam
Meaning in English
Oh mind, worship the form of Guruguhan. Give up the agony of the heart caused by illusion.When human birth has been obtained, attain the perfect unsurpassed bliss of the Supreme Being ( don’t waste the opportunity) He is SADASIVA, full of SATVAGUNA;All living beings are born out of Him as the result of the impact of AVIDYA. The universe with its TAMASIC qualities is again a manifestation of His greatness; He is TARAKESVARA and ANANDA BHAIRAVA. Prostrate on His feet ; Mediate on His name; Conquer the veil of illusion and Think of Him as your sole refuge.
Meaning in Tamil
போற்றிடுவாய் மனமே குருகுகன் வடிவம்தனையே
அகற்றிடுவாய் மாயைவிளை இதய நோவதனையே
அரிய மானிடப் பிறவியெடுத்த நீ,
அடைந்திடு நாடி இறையருட் பேரின்பம்தனை
நற்குணப்பண்பின் வடிவான சதாசிவன் அவன்
அகஇருள் விளை உயிரின உருவகமூலம் அவன்
இருள்நிறை இவ்வண்டம் கடந்த பேரொளி அவன்
காக்கும் கடவுளாம் ஆனந்த பைரவன் அவன்
மத்தியம கால சாகித்யம்
குருகுகனின் பாதம் பணிந்து நாமம் துதித்து
இருள் மாயத்திரையகற்றி அடைக்கலம் அவன்
ஒருவனே என நினைந்து ….போற்றிடுவாய் மனமே
Understanding the Kriti
Right at the beginning of the Kriti (Pallavi), Muthuswamy Dikshithar relates Jiva, Jagat and Isvara through their manifestations Mind, Maya and Guha. He “straight away instructs the mind to strive for higher goals – “Oh mind!!(“rE mAnasa”) meditate on (“bhajarE”) guha, the form of guru and abandon (“tyajarE”) the delusionary (“mAya-maya”) sorrows and afflictions of the heart/mind (“hRttApam”). He straightaway equates a guru as a form of the Lord Himself and commands the mind to worship him and meditate on him.”
Continuing, Dikshithar in the anupallavi, says “Having obtained the human birth form, go,take the path and try to attain the unsurpassed bliss associated with the supreme consciousness” – a reference to the Isavasya Upanishad Slokas which outline the paths that one can pursue for understanding the “Atma Svaroopam”.
In the caraNam, dIkshitar describes the Lord as ” The form of everlasting consciousness (“sadASivaM”), the one endowed with (“sahita”) with qualities of (“guNOpAdhi”) satva. The one from whom all the living beings (“jIva”) are born (“udbhavam”) as a result of their own ignorance (“sva avidya”). His greatness (“vaibhavaM”) symbolises the truth (“tatvam”) that lies beyond this world (“viSva”) filled with tamasic qualities (“tAmasa yuta”). He is tArakEswara, the Lord who helps cross this ocean of samsara. He is the form of Anandabhairava, radiating ever-lasting bliss”. Again I am reminded of the Shanthi Sloka and the first Sloka of Isavasya Upanishad – Isavasyam idham sarvam.
In the madhyamakAla sAhityam, Dikshithar says “Worship (“natvA”) the feet (“caraNam”) of the auspicious preceptor (“shrI guru”). Chant and meditate on his name (“nAmasmaraNam”). Conquer (“jitvA”) the sheath/veil (“AvaraNam”) of delusion/desire (“mOha”). Surrender to him as the sole (“twadEka”) refuge (“SaraNam”).” Pray, meditate, get mind control, come out of ignorance, surrender and reach Sat Cit Ananda – the very process that takes you to your SELF and reveals that “Tat Tvam Asi” which is the essence of Vedanta.