For the past few days, I have been trying to recall a poem I read ten years ago (in my 9th standard Tamil textbook). It was one of my favorite poems, but I had trouble recollecting it. I don’t even know why I was thinking about it. Yesterday, though, I was able to recall it, while brushing my teeth (yes, I do that too!). I guess Mrs. Rajalakshmi, who was my Tamil teacher back then, would be proud if she comes to know I still am able recall this and quite a few other poems she taught us.
Here is the poem in question. I ask the reader to excuse spelling mistakes and adi pizhaigal, if any. I have also offered an explanation of the poem.
மைப்படிந்த கண்ணாளும் தானும்
கச்சி மயானத்தான் வார்சடையான்
ஒருவனல்லன் ஓரூரனல்லன் ஓருவமனில்லி
அப்படியும் அந்நிறமும் அவ்வண்ணமும்
அவனருளே கண்ணாகக் காணினல்லால்
இப்படியன் இந்நிறத்தன் இவ்வண்ணத்தன்
This poem was written by Saint Thirunaavukkarasar (also known as Appar), one of the celebrated four out of the 63 naayanmaargal. The context is as follows. Someone asks Appar to describe the physical attributes of Lord Shiva, because he has heard that Appar had seen Lord Shiva.
Appar responds to this query, in the poem, by saying that Lord Shiva and His consort, Parvati (who is described with an excellent choice of words, maip padindha kaNNaaL) reside in Kanchipuram. Shiva has long hair. He is incomparable; He takes many forms; He is omnipresent; He cannot be described by mere words and allusions (Or uvaman illi; uvamai = simile).
He then says that instead of focusing on the details of Lord Shiva’s physical features, men should meditate on His infinite grace. It is simply a waste of time to for him, Appar, to describe that Lord Shiva is in this form, is of this colour and has these physical characteristics.
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