Saturday, 2 July 2011

Panchalinga Sthala Kritis - Dikshitar’s Tribute to Lord Shiva

1. Prithvi Linga

Kshetra - Kanchipuram Kriti – Chintayama kanda Raga - BhairaviKanchipuram in North Tamil Nadu is a great seat of religion, culture and education. It ishailed as “Nagareshu Kanchi”, the best among cities. The principal deity ofKanchipuram is Kamakshi and the deities of all the shrines in Kanchipuram face hertemple. The Linga which is believed to be made of sand by Goddess Parvathi herself is the prithvi linga – that is the central deity of Ekamreshwara temple here. Ekamreshwarameans Lord of the solitary mango, which is the sthala vruksha.Dikshitar was invited to Kanchipuram by a great yogi, Sri Upanishad Brahmam, andstayed with him for a few years studying Vedanta. This was when he composed thebeautiful bhairvi kriti ‘Chintayama kanda mulakandam’ as a tribute to the prithvi linga.

Special references to earth: The opening line of the kriti has the word kanda twice (kanda mulakandam). ‘Kanda’means root, which grows inside the soil and penetrates the earth. Similarly, theanupallavi has the line ‘samrajyaprada’-bestowing empires. The term samrajya orempire is temporal and of the earth. But, when a spiritually evolved person like Dikshitaruses the word samrajya, he most probably means moksha samrajya, the kingdom ofliberation, which is the true kingdom to be gained. Nevertheless, the innate ignorance,the sadhana for its elimination and the consequent liberation i.e., moksha is forinhabitants of the earth. Therefore, Dikshitar’s usage of samrajyaprada in the kritidedicated to the earth element is quite appropriate. Later, the Lord is described as theslayer of death (antaka sudana). Death again is for the inhabitants of the earth. The lastline of the charanam refers to the prithvi linga

2. Ap Linga Kshetra – Tiruvanaikkaval Kriti – Jambupathe Raga – Yamuna KalyaniTiruchirappali or Trichy, as it is called now, is at the geographical centre of the state ofTamilnadu and is a great pilgrim centre. Here is situated the temple dedicated to LordJambukeshwara and Goddess Akhilandeshwari. A forest of Jambu trees existed near atank here and Lord Shiva is said to have manifested under one of the trees as a Linga.The sthala vruksha is the jambu tree and hence the name Jambukeshvaram for theplace itself. The Puranas say that Goddess Parvati made a linga out of water particlesand worshipped it here. Water is always present in the inner shrine of LordJambukeshwara even during peak summer testifying to the nature of the element theLord represents here.Dikshitar often visited his daughter’s house in Trichy. He composed the ap linga kriti‘Jambupathe’ in the raga Yamuna Kalyani. The music world is grateful to Dikshitar forgiving unto it such a sublime, soulful work, a work of such exquisite aesthetic beautythat it is impossible not to be moved by it. And the way he has utilised a North Indianraga for a major kriti defies description.

Special references to water:

The pallavi of the kriti asks the Lord to give the devotee the nectar of true bliss(nijanandamruta bodham). Amruta or nectar is a fluid. The anupallavi begins with areference to Brahma, seated on a lotus that is born out of water (ambujasanadi). Later,the anupallavi says that the Lord quenches the fires that rage in the heart(hrudayatapopashamana), which is an indirect reference to water, for it is only waterthat can douse fire. The next line says that the deity is the Lord of the sea and of therivers Ganga, Kaveri, Yamuna. Dikshitar further says that Shiva is the Lord of GoddessAkhilandeshwari whose throat is akin to conch. (kambu kanti akhilandeshwari ramana).Conch is born out of water. The charana refers to the Lord as ap linga, as an ocean ofnectar of compassion (karunasudhasindho) and as one bearing the Ganga in his locks(nityamauli vidhruta gangendo). The raga name itself has an association with rivers.This composition has the maximum number of references to the element in concernamong the five and is noted for its alliterative beauty especially in the charanam. Theending words, vibho, prabho, shambho, swayambho, sindho, bandho, bindho,gangendo, etc., testify to Dikshitar’s command of the language as well as his poeticgenius.

3. Tejo LingaKshetra – Tiruvannamalai Kriti – Arunachalanatham Raga - Saranga

Arunachala is one of the oldest and most sacred of India’s holy places. Bhagavan SriRamana Maharshi, the Sage of Arunachala, declared it to be the heart of the earth, thespiritual centre of the world. Arunachala is called Tiruvannamalai, the hill which cannotbe reached, in Tamil. The Shiva linga here is a manifestation of fire. Linga worship issupposed to have begun here. The temple is one of the largest in India. Thepradakshina of circumambulation of the hill is considered the most important form ofworship to the Lord.

Muthuswami Dikshitar visited Tiruvannamalai of such glory on his way fromKanchipuram to Tiruvarur. ‘Arunachalanatham’ is one of his most important songs andcelebrates the Tejolinga.

Special references to fire:

The opening line refers to the Lord as ‘Arunachalanatham’. ‘Aruna’ is associated withthe light of the morning sun. The anupallavi says that the Lord is like a million suns atthe dawn (tarunadityakoti). The charanam says the deity is a radiant linga(tejomayalingam). It goes on to say that in his effulgent locks (swapradeepamauli) heholds Ganga and that his brightness excels that of the sun, the moon and fire(swaprakashajita somagnipatangam). Also, among the many meanings of the word ‘Saranga’, are two that are relevant to the kriti – camphor (easily inflammable) and light.Interestingly, the letter ‘ra’ refers to agni and there is a lot of usage of ‘ra’ throughout thesong.

4. Vayu Linga

Kshetra – Kalahasti Kriti – Sri Kalahastisha Raga - Huseni

This is the only panchabhoota kshetra outside Tamil Nadu state. Situate in AndhraPradesh near Tirupati, Kalahasti is one of the most sacred Shaivite shrines. The vayulinga is housed in a vast temple that abounds in sculptural wealth adjacent to the hill onthe banks of the river Swarnamukhi. In the inner sanctum, there is a lamp which keepsflickering signifying the air element.

Dikshitar visited Kalahasti during the time he lived at Manali near Madras andcomposed ‘Sri Kalahastisha’. For this kriti again, Dikshitar has utilized a raga that doesnot offer much scope. Nevertheless, the genius that he was, Dikshitar has coaxed themaximum melody from Huseni.

Special references to air:

In the pallavi, the Lord is described as a zephyr for those seeking refuge in him(shritajanavanasameerakara). The anupallavi further describes the Lord as the lifebreath of Indra, Brahma and Vishnu (pakarividhiharipranamayakosha) and as radiatingthrough the five elements (anila akasha bhumi salila agni prakasha).

5. Akasha Linga
Kshetra – Chidambaram Kriti – Ananda Natana prakasham Raga - Kedara

The confluence of great art, vibrant religion and esoteric philosophy; the meeting pointof great artists, poets, sages and the Gods; Chidambaram is the only place on earththat can boast of all this and more. It is one of the very rare shrines where Shiva can beworshipped in human form in the inner sanctum itself and where the moola moorti itselfis the utsava moorti too. In all other shrines, Shiva is represented only by the Linga.

The panchaloha idol of Lord Nataraja is a beautifully sculpted piece and is the zenith ofart. It reveals the power of the Lord as marvelously as it projects His joyous AnandaTandava. The symmetry of the arms, legs and body, dancing with perfect rhythm,coupled with the expression of joy, confidence, valour, peace, sublimity and infinitecompassion on the face, present a picture of the Greatest Artist and the Supreme Dancer. The Chitsabha which is graced by the dancing Nataraja idol is the inmostsanctum of the temple and the Kanakasabha is a mantapa situated just in front of theChitsabha.

Dikshitar came to Chidambaram on his way from Tiruvannamlai to Tiruvarur and stayedthere for a few days. Of the several kritis he composed here, the most important is theone, which specifically refers to the akasha tatva and describes the esoteric significanceof the place and the dancing Lord – ‘Ananda Natana prakasham’.

Special references to Akasha:

The element here is space or ether which signifies Consciousness, which encompassesall other elements and is the most difficult to comprehend due to its formlessness. Thecomposer treats the subject accordingly. The deity here is the Lord of the Cosmic hall(chitsabhesham). He is dazzling like a million suns (bhanukotisankasham), the sunbeing a celestial object in space. The Lord is Cosmic Consciousness who grants wellbeingand salvation (bhuktimuktiprada daharaakasham). The charanam begins with twocelestials who occupy the Lord’s matted locks, the moon which is high up in the sky andGanga who descended from the heavens (sheetamshugangadharam). His whole beingis Consciousness (Chidambaram). The entire creation emanated from Consciousnessor space and space existed before all creation. The Lord is appropriately described so(vishveshvaram, adyam). Consciousness is ever present (aprameyam) and this purespace is the import of advaitic philosophy (advaita pratipadyam). Space stimulates theremaining elements thereby causing creation (bahutarabhedachodyam).

Conclusion:It is the one and only Lord Shiva who manifests as all the five elements in order toemphasise the ultimate truth that he is the Self in all. Different manifestations are onlyrequired to cater to the different perceptions of bhaktas. In this way, Dikshitar, a trulyenlightened being and a realised soul, brings out the inherent relationship betweenAdvaita philosophy and polytheistic worship. It is beyond doubt that his PanchalingaSthala kritis underlie the fact that the essence in all is the same and all are butmanifestations of the Supreme Being.

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