The term Avatāra (अवतार) in Sanskrit means 1) Descent, alighting; descending or going down into; 2) Form, manifestation; 3) Descent of a deity upon earth, incarnation in general.
The Vedas, the Puranas, the Epics and the Bhagavadgita acknowledge the incarnations of Vishnu as an essential and important function of creation to ensure the order and regularity of the worlds and keep the chaos and demonic forces under control.
An incarnation of God is also different in many respects from a manifestation (vibhuti) or an aspect (amsa) of God. Practically, everything is a manifestation of God. A manifestation may or may not be aware of its divine nature. Its purpose may be limited in scope and influence, and it may represent only some qualities or aspects of God such as his knowledge, intelligence, power, wealth, beauty, aura, grace, etc. Secondly, a manifestation of God may happen with or without a form, not necessarily upon earth, whereas an incarnation always happens upon earth and in corporeal form only.
Technically, all living beings are incarnations of God only, since the soul or the Self is an aspect of Brahman and identical to him in all aspects. However, there is a fundamental difference. The incarnations of God are full-fledged. He manifests all his power and knows inherently his divine purpose upon earth. In contrast, the living beings are subject to the impurities of egoism, delusion and attachments.
With the above introduction, let us now study a wonderful Sloka which depicts the qualities of Lord Rama, the seventh Avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Pl. Listen to a wonderful recitation of the Sloka by the young Carnatic Musician Sri. Ashwath Narayanan in Ragamalika as a Virutham (approx 9 mts).
O Lord! Bestow on me just that much of health necessary to worship Thee. Then I shall practice the eight-limbed yoga (Ashtanga Yoga) and earn Thy grace.
Meaning of the Sanskrit Words
कल्यतां – health; मम – for me; कुरुष्व – kindly bestow; तावतीं – (at least) that much; कल्यते – (by which) I can perform; भवत्-उपासनं – worship of Thee; यया – by which; स्पष्टम्- definitely; अष्ट-विध-योग-चर्यया – by practicing the eight limbed yoga (Ashtanga Yoga); पुष्टय-आशु – (I will) be nourished soon; तव तुष्टिम् – (with) Thy grace; आप्नुयाम् – I will attain i
YO Lord! What is the use of my mere prattling? O Bestower of boons! I have resolved that till Thy Grace descends on me, giving up all my lamentations, I shall do prostration at Thy holy feet which are in front of me, sing Thy glories and do service to Thee as best as I can. Thus worship Thee !
bhavatsnehii sO(a)haM subahu paritapye cha kimidam |
akiirtiste maa bhuudvarada gadabhaaraM prashamayan
bhavadbhaktOttamsaM jhaTiti kuru maaM kamsadamana ||
மருத்₃கே₃ஹாதீ₄ஶ த்வயி க₂லு பராஞ்சோ(அ)பி ஸுகி₂நோ
ப₄வத்ஸ்நேஹீ ஸோ(அ)ஹம் ஸுப₃ஹு பரிதப்யே ச கிமித₃ம் |
அகீர்திஸ்தே மா பூ₄த்₃வரத₃ க₃த₃பா₄ரம் ப்ரஶமயந்
ப₄வத் ப₄க்தோத்தம்ஸம் ஜ₂டிதி குரு மாம் கம்ஸத₃மந || 9||
Meaning in English
O Lord of Guruvaayur! I find that even those who are indifferent to Thee are leading a happy life. O Bestower of boons! Even though I am an ardent devotee of Thine, I am undergoing various sufferings. Why is this so? O Lord! Will this not bring disrepute to Thee? Hence, O slayer of Kamsa! Kindly eradicate my diseases and soon make me one of your foremost devotees
O Lord! In my mind, which is now very agitated due to mental and physical afflictions, may Thy beautiful form manifest, which is of the nature of Knowledge-Bliss absolute. This will excite me with supreme devotion causing horripilation all over the body and tears flowing in ecstasy and in such a thrill, my endless sorrows will melt into insignificance.
The festival of Meenakshi Thirukalyanam celebrates the divine wedding of Meenakshi Amman with Lord Shiva. This grand celebration is held in Madurai, the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu and is one of the biggest events here.
This annual event takes place in the famous ‘Meenakshi Amman Temple’ at Madurai and devotees from all corners of the world come to witness this magnificent event. A part of the renowned Chithirai festival, Meenakshi Thirukalyanam is held on the 10th day. On this auspicious day thousands of devotees from Madurai and adjoining areas come to the ‘Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple’ to observe the celestial wedding of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Meenakshi (Goddess Parvati). Devotees throng the temples in large numbers to seek the divine blessings from their lords.
Legend has it that the emperor Kulasekhara Pandyan was the founder of the ancient city of Madurai. He was succeeded by Malayadwaja Pandyan. Malayadwaja Pandyan and his consort Kanchanamala who did not have any children of their own, worshipped with the desire of obtaining progeny. During the course of their ceremonial prayer, a baby girl appeared in the sacrificial altar miraculously.
The Royalcouple brought up this child as their own and named her Tataatakai. An odd feature about the baby was that it had three breasts instead of two, and that a divine prophecy decreed that the third one would miraculously disappear, at the princess’s sight of her consort to be.
Tataatakai grew up to be a valorous queen; she was also known as Meenakshi, the one endowed with fish like eyes. Tataatakai embarked upon a DigVijaya or a tour of victory, across the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. In the course of her travels she came to Mount Kailash where she encountered Shiva; upon standing in front of Shiva her third breast disappeared and a valorous warrior princess transformed into a blushing bride.
Lord Siva directed Meenakshi to return to Madurai and promised her that he would join her in eight days as her groom. Accordingly Meenakshi returned to Madurai, and at the appointed time, the divine wedding was celebrated with pomp and splendour. Maha Vishnu, believed to be the brother of Meenakshi is said to have given the bride away.
The legend of Meenakshi Kalyanam brings together four of the six main streams in popular Hinduismi.e. the Saiva, Shakta, Vaishnava and Skanda faiths – and this grand culmination of faiths is still celebrated in great splendour today, in an enactment of Meenakshi Kalyanam each year, when images of Skanda and Vishnu are brought to the Madurai Meenakshi temple from Tirupparankundram nearby. Also of significance is the grand procession of Kallazhagar towards Madurai from the AlagarKoyil temple in the outskirts of the city.
How fortunate I am to attempt to translate the Meenakshi Pancharathnamala, a garland of 5 exotic flowers filled to the brim with bhakti by Adi Sankara. Indeed I am very lucky.
vidhuuya kleshaanme kuru charaNayugmaM dhR^itarasaM
bhavatkshetrapraaptau karamapi cha te puujanavidhau |
bhavanmuurtyaalOke nayanamatha te paadatulasiiparighraaNe
ghraaNaM shravaNamapi te chaarucharite ||
விதூ₄ய க்லேஶாந்மே குரு சரணயுக்₃மம் த்₄ருதரஸம்
ப₄வத்க்ஷேத்ரப்ராப்தௌ கரமபி ச தே பூஜநவிதௌ₄ |
ப₄வந்மூர்த்யாலோகே நயநமத₂ தே பாத₃துலஸீ-
பரிக்₄ராணே க்₄ராணம் ஶ்ரவணமபி தே சாருசரிதே || 7||
Meaning in English
O Lord! Be graceful to remove all my afflictions so that my two feet will take delight in reaching Thy temple, my hands in performing worship to Thee,my eyes in seeing Thy enchanting form, my nose in enjoying the fragrance of the Tulsi leaves offered at Thy feet and my ears in hearing the stories of Thy glories and great deeds
“The magic of music can bring about that experience of contention-free connectedness to the whole …
I see music as a blessing of Ishvara for the self-conscious, self-judgmental human to survive and experience, for the time being, the reality of the oneness with the total, the Lord, without any qualifications for it.”
Swami Dayanananda Saraswati, the composer thus spoke about music. His compositions have simple, yet soul stirring verses.
Here is one on Lord Rama. My understanding of the composition and translation in Tamil is presented here for the Rama Navami Festival.
சிறந்த யோகிகள், முனிவர்கள் போன்றவர்களின் இதயத்தில் என்றும் வசிப்பவளும், வேண்டும் அனைத்துப் பொருட்களையும் தருபவளும், எல்லாவிதமான பூக்களாலும் அழகு பெற்ற திருவடிகளை உடையவளும், நாராயணனாலும் அருச்சிக்கப்பட்டவளும், நாதபிரம்ம உருவானவளும், உயர்ந்ததிலும் உயர்வானவளும், அனைத்துப் பொருட்களிலும் உள்நின்று இயக்குபவளும், கருணைக்கடல் ஆனவளும், பெரும் செல்வம் ஆனவளும் ஆன மீனாட்சியை அடியேன் எப்பொழுதும் வணங்குகிறேன்.
Meaning in English
5.1: Residing within the hearts of various great Yogis and Munis, She bestows various Siddhis (spiritual accomplishments),
5.2: Her Lotus Feet adorned with various Flowers (of Devotion of Devotees) is adored by Narayana Himself (Who is fond of Pure Devotion),
5.3: She is the embodiment of Nada Brahman, beyond all Existences, pervading everything as their innermost Soul (i.e. innermost Essence),
5.4: (Meditating on Her within the heart) I Bow down again and again to Devi Meenakshi, Who is an Ocean of Compassion.
O Lord! devotion to Thee is sweet right from the beginning because of Thy glorious attributes. When such devotion becomes intense, it removes all sorrows of the devotee. At the final stage of devotion, the devotee experiences pure absolute Bliss coupled with knowledge of the Self. What more is there for one to seek !