art misc tamil

The Pallipadai meeting

It was the night after Amavasya. The night was dark. The stars did not even blink. The fireflies flitted around the bushes. At a distance, a wolf howled. Vandhiyadeevan shivered, not because of the cold, but because of the eeriness. It seemed, even the wind feared coming into that thick forest.

The manthravaadi and his motley gang sat around a circle. They had put out all the lamps except one. The pallipadai temple ruin looked even more eery in this situation. One of the gang brought out an old throne from inside, and made the small child, whom they addressed as Chakravarthy, sit on it.

“Where is the Rani? She is not here yet?”

“She will be here very soon. Let us spend the time singing one of our old folks songs”, said the leader.

Idumbankaari lifted his udukkai and started a low rhythmic rumbling beat. Devaraalan started singing in a low haunting voice. Vandhiyadevan was listening to all this from a distance. It seemed like a haunting sad song. The rhythm from the udukkai matched the sadness. Only some words reached Vandhiyadevan’s ears.

It seemed to be a song talking about the fierce battle between Varaguna Paandiyan and Aparajita Pallavan. The 3 day fierce battle. Gangamannan had come to fight with the Pallava king. During this fierce battle, the Gangamannan fell. This temple where they were standing on, was built as a memorial to those who fell in that battle. After the Gangamannan’s fall, the Pallava forces started fleeing in despair. The victory of the Pandiya king was almost eminent.

At this crucial moment, the Chozha army came to the rescue of the Pallava king. Leading the army was none other than the great VIjayalaya Chozhan, the great one, who had 97 war wounds on his body. The great one, who had lost 2 of his legs in battle. The great one was being carried by 4 people. Two hands circling 2 sharp swords, he entered against the Pandiya army head on. The demoralized Pallava army saw this and got enthused and started to fight back.

17000 swords came rushing at the Pandiyaa army, glinting in the sunlight.  15000 spears came with the great clanging sounds. The swords and the spears clashed. 14000 heads rolled. The horses fell down neighing. The elephants came down next trumpeting and screeching. Rivers of blood where animal flesh and human flesh were indistinguishable. 20000 eagles and vultures were circling the area for the war to finish, so that they could start their feast. 30000 wolves came circling around the battle ground, to compete with the eagles to get their share of the feast. 50000 anguished souls cried out “ayyoooo”. “Dont leave them, cut them, slash them, kill them”, cried the attackers. 20000 victory conches blew.

“Hahahaa” laughed 60000 ghosts. That is when Vandhiyadevan awoke. He was still leaning against the outer wall of the Pallipadai temple. He had probably fallen asleep. Was that a dream? Or perhaps he had gone into a trance.  Devaraalan’s song with the rhythmic beat of the udukkai had gotten him in to a trance. He was still singing about the Pandiya war. It was the gang’s hysterical laughter, which had woken him up. It was not the ghosts. It was the Manthraavadis gang.

The song abruptly stopped. From a distance, he could see a torch fire. The light came closer and closer. The 4 men and the palanquin they were carrying came close and stopped. The palanquin was lowered. The screens parted. From inside, a lady stepped out. Yes, it was the Pazhuvoor Rani – Nandini Devi.


My attempt at translation from the epic Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki. As I typed this, I find myself no comparison to the original author. Such beautiful writing. Such a super plot. Such descriptions. 

mythology theology

Who was Vidhura ~ Part 3 ~

This is part 2 of a three part series on Who was Vidhura.

Part 1 is here Part 2 is here.

In which Vidhura is born

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Hastinapura, Bheeshma had taken an oath of celibacy and to ensure the succession of the empire in able hands. He had ensured a good marriage to Amba and Ambalika and was eagerly awaiting that they give birth to good sons, who can rule the kingdom justly.

As fate would have it, both Amba and Ambalika lost their husbands in quick succession right after their marriages concluded. It was a practice in those days, that in, exceptional circumstances (like this), they could bring in a surrogate father (or a sperm donor as it is called in these days) to bring in to this world successors to royal kingdoms.

Bheeshma had requested the great sage Vyasa to be the donor. High quality sperm was the need of the day then as well. Vyasa was well versed in warcraft and very learned in the Vedas, and in general a person with great wisdom. A good choice. But then, artificial insemination was not quite present at those times, and hence natural copulation was the only way. Both Amba and Ambalika balked at the thought of having to spend the night with the old wizened sage.

Amba had closed her eyes the entire time, she was with Vyasa, and hence bore the child who was Drithrashtra (who was born blind). Ambalika’s skin turned white in shock and horror at the thought of Sage Vyasa, and hence bore the son who was Pandu (extremely pale white skin).

In those days, there were 14 lakshanas (a check list of qualities) that need to be fulfilled if you were to be crowned king. Both Pandu and Drithrashtra did not qualify because of their congentical disabilities.

Now Bheeshma, in a fix, pleaded with Vyasa to give it one more shot with Ambalika. Sage Vyasa, after a lot of persuasion agreed. On the appointed night, when darkness had fallen, and at the time chosen, Ambalika, who could still not convince herself to mate with the old sage, pushed in one of her royal maidens into the chamber.

The son born out of the royal maiden was Vidhura. And Lord Yama’s curse had happened. Vidhura. the half brother of Dhritrashtra advised him on a variety of matters, and was considered the expert in Dharma in the Kaurava side.

Acknowledgement: I am recounting this from a lecture recording called Vidhura Needhi by Shri R.B.V.S.Manian,  The lecture was hosted in Kumbakonam a few years back.


mythology theology

Who was Vidhura ~ Part 2 ~

This is part 2 of a three part series on Vidhura. You can read Part 1 here.

In which Mandavya Maharishi questions Yama

Several days passed. Mandavya Maharishi had gone back to his ashram. Life was beginning to roll back to normalcy, when one day, he thought – “Why me?”. Yes, Sages were human after all. Like all human beings, he thought – “Why me?”.

The sage had been meditating on the Lord. He had committed no crime, atleast not in this janma. Why had he been punished so harshly? The king had done his duty. So he forgave the king. But there must be a reason.

With all his powers, he summoned Lord Yama, the lord of death. And the dark one appeared. On his buffalo. And his long black whip coiled and in his hand. He got down from the buffalo and prostrated before the Rishi.

“Oh wise one, for what reason did you summon me? Please let me serve you by fulfiling your wish.”

The sage was upset, he could tell.

“I need a reason why I had to go through such a harsh punishment. I did not commit any heinous crime, atleast in this janma. And I would like to know from your records, if I did anything in my previous janma, and if it was my prarabda karma. ”

The Lord of death summoned Chitragupta,the official karma recorder, and asked him to provide the required details. Chitragupta went through the records, and said that the Muni had indeed committed a wrong by playing with a spider when he was young, and tormenting it by pulling off his legs. This event had occured when he was 12 years old.

The sage was furious. In his mind, the child of 12 does not know reason. He has not matured. He roared at Yama asking him to mend his laws, that – “No act of a child less than 14 years of age, would be recorded and evaluated in the karma register.” It was not Dharma that someone be punished because of an act committed by a doer, who does not realize it was a mistake.

It is worthy of note here, that, even to this date, the Human Rights world considers 14 as the age boundary for determining child labour laws.

Lord Yama saw reason in the Sage’s amendment, and made the appropriate changes immediately. The sages’ anger had not subsided still. He cursed the God of death to be born in the earth as a lowly mortal who would be born in the palace, but not to the royal family, but to an attendant of the royal family.

Acknowledgement: I am recounting this from a lecture recording called Vidhura Needhi by Shri R.B.V.S.Manian,  The lecture was hosted in Kumbakonam a few years back.

misc tamil theology

Who was Vidhura ? ~ Part 1 ~

In which Mandavya Maharishi gets spiked

It was a cloudy day, and the sage sat in a meditative trance outside his hermitage. He is in a yogic trance, meditating on the blue necked one. So deep that, he was on earth only physically. His eyes were half open, but did not see. His ears were wide open, but did not hear. And what could be the spate of the spoken word. Ofcourse it was silent. The mind was elsewhere.

The three thieves who had just robbed the Royal treasury were hiding behind the low wall of the hermitage. One of them went and scouted the area for a hiding place. And one went to check on the yogi, while the third guarded the loot.

“The backyard has a store room. We can hide there safely.”, said the one who had gone to scout the hermitage. “The yogi is so deep in trance, that he did not even notice me”, said the other. The three of them hustled the loot into the back room, and waited for the night to arrive.

The royal guards had been following unknown to three plunderers, and had seen them running in the direction of the hermitage. Half of a dozen of them now were in front of the hermitage. The leader of the group stepped up to the Rishi, and asked politely – “Did you see a band of robbers running by this direction, O Kind Sir?”. The Rishi of course did not respond, since it was just his body there. His senses were not in function. The squad leader ordered his men to search the hermitage. And they caught the thieves red-handed.

The guards went back to the king and narrated the tale. The only mistake, and a grave mistake at that, was the fact that, they said, the thieves were hiding in the hermitage of an old man, and the old man did not speak a word. The king did not investigate who the old man was. Whether he was Rishi. Whether he was a learned one. The King ordered the sage to be hoisted on the spike. This was the punishment of earlier times, reserved for grievous crimes such as loss of trust, colluding with thieves, thievery, murder etc. This was Impalement. Spikes driven into your body and through a wooden log and hoisted high into the sky.

And so the guards brought back the Rishi, who was still in Yoga Nidhra did not notice a thing. He was cruficied. Nails driven through him. He did not flinch a bit. He was hoisted. He did not notice that either. Three days later, they brought him down, and he was still living and in perfect condition. What can pain do to a body, when the soul is so deep in meditation. Meditating on the Mighty one, at that.

The king came running, when he heard of this. He had realized that, it was some great person to whom he had mistakenly given this punishment. They brought the sage down. The royal doctors painstakingly pulled out each spike carefully. And they did successfully, all but one in the nape of the neck. If they removed that, it could be death for the rishi. Too close to the jugular they said.

The Rishi chose this moment to come back to consciousness. The king fell at his feet, seeking forgiveness. Sages were wise ones. They had a huge heart. He pardoned the king.

It was then he realized the single remaining spike on his back. He smiled and said, “Oh, there is one remaining. Never mind, it will help me carry my flower basket, when i go to gather flowers for the Lord.”

This is how the great Mandavya Maharishi became to be called Aani Mandavaya Maharishi.

Aani in Sanskrit (and in a few Dravidian languages such as Tamil as well) means “Nail/Spike”.

Acknowledgement: I am recounting this from a lecture recording called Vidhura Needhi by Shri R.B.V.S.Manian,  The lecture was hosted in Kumbakonam a few years back.

history misc tamil theology


In TamilNadu, poochaandi is a word that is typically used to scare children, to make sure they sleep early, or to get them to eat properly. You will often hear mothers saying – “Poochandi varan. He will take you away.” He is given descriptions of someone who will come and take away misbehaving children. Of looking ferocious and scary etc.

More recently, while listening to a lecture by R.B.V.S.Manian, I came to know of the actual meaning of the word. I obviously googled right after, and just could not find this gem of an information anywhere. So I thought, let me do the honors.

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th century in the history of Tamil Nadu was called the dark ages. This was right after the Sangam period. This was an age when there was quite a bit of Hindu suppression that happened in this area. Buddhism and Jainism were fast gaining popularity in other parts of south India, particularly in the Mysore State (what is now Karnataka). This was a time, when it is believed that, large portions of Tamil Nadu were taken over by the Mysore rulers. It is believed that there was significant religious suppression that happened during this period. The Buddhist and Jain rulers tried in as much to convert the Shaivites and Vaishnavites to their religion.

During this period, there was a ban on anyone applying the sacred ash (vibhuthi) on their forehead (or anywhere on the body). It was also called Kandu-muttu-ketu-muttu – literally translated prohibition to see and prohibition to hear. In other words, anyone who saw someone who had applied vibhuthi would be punished. Anybody who heard about someone similar would be punished. This practice carried on even after the fifth century, when some of the tamil kings who ruled Tamil Nadu were Jains/Buddhist themselves. One of the famous kings under whom there is record of this practice happening is King Koon Pandiyan, who ruled Madurai.

Around this time, there were a group of extreme Caivites (worshippers of Lord Shiva) who used to roam around in only their langote/komanam (single strip underwear). Their principle was that, they have renounced everything to God except that single strip underwear. They were also called “aandi” – crudely translated to “naked”.

The “Aandis” wanted to rebel the prohibition on vibhuthi and smeared their entire body with vibhuthi. Poochu in tamil means “to smear”, “to splatter”. Hence these people were called “Poochandi” — “Poochu”+”Aandi”.

Now why were these people feared. Quite obviously by the dictum of the king, if someone saw these people or heard about these people, they would get punished severely. Hence folks would get very scared and run into their homes and lock themselves up.

This fearful term has come handed down generations down, and even now, mothers quiet their little children saying “Poochandi Varaan” {Poochandi is coming}.


misc Opinion

Nanban (Tamil) Review – 2012

  • Overall good remake of 3 Idiots
  • Nothing to comment on the story or picturization – exact ditto.
  • Casting comments:
    • Not a big Vijay fan. He did a decent job, but the role of Aamir, needed some one more bubbly. Not thoongu moonji (sleepy) type like Vijay. Someone like Arya, or Karthi, or even (God Forbid – why am I saying this!) Dhanush.
    • I personally did not like Satyaraj as the principal. It needed someone more commanding, not vazha-vazha-kozha-kozha (no translation for this – closest approximation is wishy-washy). Or maybe it was Boman Irani who makes me biased.
    • I am going to write this one in BOLD. Intentionally. Who, in Gods Name, chose Ileana for the Karisma’s role. Could you not find anyone who knew tamil ? Could you not have atleast done a better dub.  All over the film, the locations are in Tamil Nadu. The professor (Sathyaraj) Is Tamil, yet he has a daughter who speaks in Seth-Tamil ? Really ? Shankar ? Why ?
    • Sathyan – beautiful choice for the ‘padips’ role.
    • Loved Srikanth and Jeeva. Beautiful picks. And beautiful execution. Totally loved the scene where Jeeva wakes up drunk in the middle of a lecture. And Srikanth’s look, when Vijay messes up the answer scripts order after they turn in their papers late. I loved this scene in the original 3 Idiots. It was Madhavan who had that look – quizzical look turning to amazement to overjoyed.

Dasavatharam trailer

The much awaited movie Dasavatharam from the ultimate actor, Padmashree Kamal Hassan. He has done 10 different roles in one film. Amazing. Here is what the Big B has to say about it:

Its Kamal Hassan’s film ‘Dasavataram’ and its music release and he has asked me over to attend the function to commemorate the occasion. There’s Jackie Chan, and the Chief Minister of TamilNadu and several colleagues of Kamal. Its a warm friendly event. The few minutes of the promo seen looks awesome. He has played 10 different roles in the film, and all seem so difficult t identify !! Marvelous !!

And here is the trailer for your viewing pleasure 🙂