Kural's E-Pilgrimage

Ep:1 - Kāṇa Vēṇḍāmō?

Aarthi P.B.

Cidambaram pōgāmal iru̱ppēṉō nāṉ, jeṉmattai vīṉākki keḍu̱ppēṉō? How true are these words of Gōpālakṛṣṇa Bhārati! Cidambaram and the ānanda tāṇḍavam of Naṭarāja, the main deity of this temple have been extolled by many composers such as Mānikkavācakar, Appar, etc.up to the 20th century composer Pāpanāsam Śivan. Cidambaram is also popularly known as Tillaivaṉam or Tillaistalam, as there was a prevalence of Tillai trees (mangroves) across this geographical spread.


Of course, one cannot afford to miss Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣita’s magnum opus in the rāga, Kēdāram: ānanda naṭana prakāśam, one of the five compositions of the Pañcabhūta Sthala Kṛti-s. This kṛti represents Ākāśa (space).


The pallavi clearly denotes Naṭarāja, referring to his ānanda naṭanam (dance of joy) and extolls him as the Īśa (Lord) of the citsabha and the consort of Śivakāmavalli.


In the Anupallavi, the line bhukti mukti prada daharākāśam, clearly indicates the fact that Tillaināthan who embodies space within (in the heart), bestows bhukti (material wealth) and mukti (liberation) to his devotees.


As legend goes, it was in Tillaivanam that the sages, Patañjali and Vyāghrapāda engaged in penance seeking the grace of Naṭarāja and praying to witness his ānanda tāṇḍavam. Eventually they were granted this boon by the Lord. This has been illustrated in the madhyamakāla sāhitya, divya patañjali vyāghrapāda darśita kuñcitābja caraṇam.


In the lines, śrī kēdārādi kṣētrādhāram in the caraṇa, Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣita, beautifully incorporates the word Kēdāram, as a Rāga mudra, as well as to refer to the Lord of Kēdārnāth. Śārdūla carmāmbaram (He who is clad in tiger’s skin) is immediately followed by the word Cid-ambaram. This of course, points to the kṣētra. But it could also be a play on the multiple meanings of the word Ambaram, meaning,  the Lord who is the reflection of ākāśa. Another interesting reference that can be found in this composition is tri-sahasra munīśvaram, meaning the Lord of 3000 sages. Āḍikoṇḍār anda, a composition of Śrī Muttutāṇḍavar also refers to 3000 sages thus: pēraṇi vēdiyar tillai mū-āyiram pērgaḷum pūjittu̱ koṇḍu̱ niṉṟāḍa. Why 3000? Why not some other number?


Legend has it that long ago, there were 3000 sages who walked their way from Kailāśa to Cidambaram to consecrate Naṭarāja Mūrti, who is worshiped today. Upon reaching Cidambaram, they realized that there were only 2999 of them and that one of them was missing. It is believed that the Lord Śiva appeared in front of them and said that he was 3000th person and that they had missed to count him in. The descendants of these sages are believed to be the podu dīkṣitar-s of today, a micro community who have dedicated themselves to running the Cidambaram temple and worshiping of the Lord. The Cidambaranāthan or Sabhānāyakar as He is known, performs vinōda tāṇḍavam (various dances) to saṅgīta vādya (musical instruments). This embodiment of advaita can be understood only by diving deep into the vēda-s (vēdavēdyam). 


To emphasize that the composition is on Naṭarāja Mūrti, the lord of dance, it is notable that the composition has a beautiful passage with a combination of jati-s and svara-s, which is an integral part of dance. Having said all these, kāṇa vēṇḍāmō? Iru̱ kaṇ iru̱kkumbōdē, viṇṇuyar gōpuram, kāṇa vēṇḍāmō?