Towards Understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions (Part Sixteen)

(And God said, “Let there be light; and there was light” – The Holy Bible. Light has been the most fascinating element known to man for it not only destroys darkness it also imparts knowledge. The lighting of a lamp in Hindu traditions is symbolic of driving away the darkness and lighting the lamp of wisdom. In ancient times, the air currents of the world were affected by such massive lighting done in millions of homes across South India that preceded or set the pattern for the monsoon rains. But today, due to industrialization, Global warming and other factors, festivals like Karthigai Deepam may not have such an impact on weather patterns as it did in ancient times)The lesser known FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS other than Deepavali for which India is famous for, is Karthikai Deepam of South India. Aganaanooru a book of 400 poems dating back to the period between 300 BC to 200 BC refers to Karthigai Deepam as the “peruvizha” during the full moon period of the Tamil month of Karthigai. The Tamil savant Avvaiyar too refers to the festival in her poems.Thiru Karthikai Deepam is a regional festival of lights mostly observed by Hindus South India, especially Tamil Nadu. It falls in the tamil month of Kaarthikai and occurs on the day when the moon is in conjunction with the 6 star constellation of Karthigai (Pleiades in terms of Astronomy). In various places in India this is celebrated in various names such as Thirukarthika in Kerala ( where, interestingly, it is to welcome Goddess Sakthi ) and in places like Orissa and in parts of North India, it is celebrated as Karthik Poornima.Legend has it that it is the Birth of the celestial Lord Muruga who was formed from the six star constellation into six lotuses who conjoined to become the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati.The other more Popular legend is that on this day Lord Shiva stood as a pillar of fire without beginning or end (ஆதியும் அந்தமுமாய்) and Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar to search for the roots and Lord Brahma took the form of a bird to search the origin of the pillar of fire above. Both couldn’t find the beginning or end of the pillar of fire. But Brahma returned with a flower that fell from above, saying that he found the origin above. Lord Shiva is said to have cursed him saying that since he lied, people will no longer worship him.In his famous song called Potri Pathigam after which Lord Shiva gave him a vision of Kailash and took him to the other World, Appar alias Thirunavukarasar says,
அமையா அருநஞ்ச மார்ந்தாய் போற்றி
ஆதி புராணனாய் நின்றாய் போற்றி
கமையாகி நின்ற கனலே போற்றி
கயிலை மலையானே போற்றி போற்றி.Here Appar Refers to Lord Shiva as the Eternal Flame.The most famous light during the Karthikai Deepam Festival is that of Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, South India. The lamp is lit atop the Tiruvannamalai Hill and is seen for miles around.The festival is celebrated for three days. First day is celebrated as Karthigai Deepam or Shiva Deepam ( for Lord Shiva) second day is celebrated as Vishnu Deepam ( for Lord Vishnu) and third day is celebrated as Brahma Deepam (for Lord Brahma) in some parts of Tamil Nadu the third day is observed as “Kuppai Deepam”.The lamps used are usually clay lamps, called AGAL VILAKKU in Tamil.

Is it crime to be woman ?

Understanding Heritage – Legends reveal the etymology of certain places…..

Series – Three of 2019

(The Ranganatha Temple on top of a hillock in Thiruneermalai, situated near Chromepet in the suburb of Chennai, is rich in tradition and history with many inscriptions from ancient Chola and Pandya periods. It is mentioned in Brahmanda Purana, and is also connected with Thirumangai Azhwar and Bootha Alwar. In this temple, Lord Vishnu is seen in four poses – standing/sitting/Lying and Walking. It is said that after completing the epic Ramayana, the sage Valmiki was blessed by a vision of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharatha, Shatrugan and Hanuman at Thiruneermalai)

There are a number of places in Chennai that is connected with various legends. For Example, Mylapore was better known as “Mayil Aarpu Oor” meaning the place where the peacocks scream. The etymology of Mylapore can be traced to Puranaanooru, they say. The Shiva Temple in Mylapore is known as KAPALEESWARAR – the one with the skull (Kabalam in Tamil means Skull – Interestingly, Thiru Vodu also means skull – and some say that the name Tiruvottiyur comes from Thiru Vodu Oor – but more of Tiruvottiyur at the end of this blog post)

A road connecting Ayanavaram to Villivakkam is known as Konnur High Road. At present there is no place by the name Konnur. Then how did this name come into being? According to legend, two demons, ‘Ilvalan’ and ‘Vatapi’, born to Sage Dhurva and Aswamukhi, were tormenting the world with their wicked ways by killing people. Their modus operandi was unique – one of the demons would change into a fruit and the other would offer it to eat to people. Once consumed, the demon would come out by tearing the stomach of the person who ate the fruit. Once Sage Agasthya came to visit this place and the same trick was performed on him by the demons. Agastya put his hand on his stomach, and said, “Vatapi, Jeernabi” – thus killing the demon and later he killed the other demon too – the place where he killed the demons, was called as KONNUR….a name that exists till this day…

After killing the demons, Sage Agasthya planted a Vilvam tree (it is believed that the presence of Vilvam tree prevents demons to come in the vicinity) in the nearby Malligaichery Village (Malligaichery Village is the present Villivakkam) which is believed to be still existing in the Shiva Temple of Villivakkam….and hence the name, Villivakkam from the VILVAM Plant.

North East of Villivakkam lies Thiruvottiyur – one of the oldest places of Chennai City. The Thyagarajaswamy Shiva Temple in Tiruvottyur is one of the oldest temples in the city. Believed to be more than 2000 years old, the temple has many unique stone inscriptions detailing the history of the chola and pallava times. This temple was visited by many saints like Appar, Sundarar, Gnana Sambandhar, Thyagayyar, Vallalar, Valmiki, Kambar, Adi Shankara etc. It is widely believed that Kamba Ramayanam was composed here first before it was recited at Sri Rangam, Trichy.

The diety of the place is known as Adhi pureeswarar. It is believed that Lord Shiva blessed Lord Brahma here at the time of the dissolution of the Universe, (Pralaya) by making the waters evaporate ( Vatri – means drying in Tamil), hence this place is called Thiru Vatri Oor. It is believed that Lord Shiva dried up the waters by becoming a huge living fire and later stayed on as a Swayambu lingam. It is said that this is the first (Adhi in Tamil) Swayambu lingam that appeared in the earth after the Pralaya, hence the lord here is named “Adhipureeswarar”. (Adhi means first) Legend has it that a great Saint Pattinathar is believed to have lived here in Tiruvottiyur for long and attained Samadhi.

Time for the indelible ink….

Exchange of slurs
the politics of issues
mere personal slang matches
where issues are blurred
by hatred and venom…

and suddenly, personalities reign supreme.

Who has done what ?
Who is better suited
to rule in future?

Whom to trust ?
And whom to elect ?
Tough questions indeed
for the voter
with the difficult task
of weighing the merits
and demerits,
Right or wrong or left;

while straining to catch the beats
of campaign drums that match the mind of the confused
has to honourably erase
the slate clean
With his or her choice
On Election Day.

Speaking through
The Ballot Box,
Casting the vote
And saying it aloud
with his action : –
“As a voter,
my opinion, matters
The most….”

Atleast to me.
– D.Om Prakash Narayan

Understanding Heritage – RAYARPURAM

Understanding Heritage…

Series – Two of 2019


(** – Preface – in many of these initial railway lines, only the first commercial passenger runs are recorded, and that leaves out the initial trial runs of the train – so if any records give an earlier date, they are talking about the trial runs and not the first commercial run. Even for the famous Bombay – Thane run on 14,April 1853, there were a few trial runs earlier)

Various traditions and cultures have influenced the the origin of the name Royapuram. Originally it was Rayar puram – Now, the word Rayar has interesting connotations. Remember Krishna Deva Raya? Well, there was/is a community by that name – Rayar ( these days the only Rayars the average Madrasi will know is the famous Rayar mess in Mylapore) who hail basically from the Agriculture and Business community, who were landlords and Zamindars of the past, and who migrated to various parts. The most famous among the Rayar kings who ruled between 6th century AD to 9th Century AD was Muthuraiyar who is said to have ruled Trichy, Tanjore, and Pudukottai. Interestingly, there is also a Rayarpuram in Tuticorin.

Another more popular, and anglicised version of Rayarpuram comes from the fact that the initial Britishers and later, Anglo Indians who settled in the place were known as “Rayars” – the church of St Peter, dating back to the 18th century, is known as “Rayappar” church (meaning Peter in Tamil). Interestingly, a Bishop is known as “Aayar” ( ஆயர்) in Tamil and Arch Bishop is known as “Peraayar” (பேராயர் )

“Aayar” ( ஆயர் ) in pure Tamil means, “those who tend to cattle – cowherd” (Ah! The complexity and brevity of Tamil language!) denotes Cow – (which is why you have AAVINஆவின் – meaning from the cow – as the State run Milk federation organisation).

Anyway, Rayar puram later became a fashionable “ROYapuram” and it was here, that in 1853, that the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway started building the Royapuram Railway Station and the first train operations started sometime in June 1856 with the Royapuram – Walajah Road inaugural run** This beautiful structure remained the headquarters of Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway till 1922 and is still one of the oldest, undisturbed original structures ever on Indian Railway (thanks to the erstwhile MoS Railways Shri R.Velu who in 2005 did a restoration project for the station)

( Series to be continued)

Understanding Heritage…

Series – One of 2019

Let’s have a look at Chennai’s rich cultural heritage through its history. Starting with names of places. ( Am writing this in English more for my non Tamil friends – but in Tamil, the word பாரம்பரியம் has more relevance) Hailing from the village of Chennapattinam

 (called Chennapatna by the British) the village chieftain by name Maadarasan ( மாடரசன்) gifted some cattle to the visiting dorai ( Britishers were called Dorais by the Tamizh ) and look at the irony here – in a foreign land, occupying a foreign place by force or by design, Robert Clive (no offence meant to the great adventurer that he was and one can’t certainly judge a person after 300 years) declared that this place will be called, “Maadarasanpet” after the village chieftain, Maadarasan! That is how, Madras ( Maadarasanpet later became Madras) got its name!

( Series to be continued )

சூரியனுக்கு நன்றி !

உலகமெங்கும் உறைபனி நீங்கி
சூரிய வெப்ப கதிர்கள்
பூமியின் மடிமேல் பதிந்து
வருடாந்திர புதுமை
புரியும் சடங்கை,
போகி போய் பொங்கல் என்றும்
லொரி போய் சங்கராந்தி என்றும்
வெவேறு பெயர்களில் அழைத்தாலும்
செயற்கையாய் வாழ கற்று கொண்ட
நவீன மனிதன்
பூமியில் உயிரின வாழ்தலுக்கு
வழி வகுக்கும்
சூரியனுக்கு விசுவாச நன்றி
சொல்ல மட்டும்
இயற்கையாய் …..
மனித நேயம்
நிலைத்திருக்கட்டும்! Omsmusings

A Tribute to the People’s President….

அவர் இறந்து விட்டார்
என்று சொன்னவுடன்
கண்கள் நீரில் மிதக்கின்றன
உறவினர்க்கும் அழாதவள் இன்று
அப்துல் கலாமுக்காக அழுகிறாள்…
அப்படி என்ன அந்த மனிதரிடம்
என்று விணவாமல் புரிந்தது
எளிமையின் சிறப்பு.
இயல்பின் பதிப்பு.
எத்தனை எத்தனை இதயங்களில்
நண்பராக குடிகொண்டுள்ளார்
இந்த மாபெரும் மனிதர்?
நண்பராக மட்டும் இல்லாமல்
நம்பிக்கை ஒளியாய்….
இவர் இந்திய இளைஞர் களை நோக்கி
வெற்றிகரமாக விட்ட
உற்சாக ஏவுகணைகள்
குறி தப்பவில்லை…..
வருங்காலத்தில் அவர்களின் கடின உழைப்பு
இந்தியாவை அனல் பறக்கும் அக்னி இரக்கை கொண்டு
பறக்க செய்யும்….
வல்லரசு அந்தஸ்தை நோக்கி…..

omsmusings He was, first and foremost,
a dear friend to EVERY Indian……
An entire Nation shall carry
his dream,
his vision,
and his inspiration
in its hearts,
for a long long time,
An entire Nation’s Love
shall carry Dr.Kalam’s
Mortal remains to the
very elements that
we all belong.
From Every child,
From Every youth,
From Every citizen,
Of not only India,
But the world,
Rest in peace, Dr.Kalam….

Across Time….


Memories – Sweet and Strong

of better days

waft in by the dozen

as I look once more

at my old school;

The places where I cried

The places where I laughed

And the places where I hid

when I was a kid…..

Silent witnesses of

a complete generation,

the trees, the sand,

and the volleyball court

talk to me in a language

I do not understand –

Perhaps they tell me

of a secret truth,

hidden amidst the chaos

of a city life,

waiting to be discovered,

when I am alone –

in a village plain….

( Dedicated to all my school friends – esp late Shri Jesudasan whose six foot frame could send a service ball 30 feet up in the air……. and remembering Shri Loganathan of Lateri who taught me Volleyball)

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