If it were true there exists a God who is the embodiment of mercy, why did he create so much sorrow in this world? Why does human kind have to experience so much sorrow? These questions have been asked since days of yore. Enlightened souls have also responded to these questions. What humans regard as sorrow is not sorrow in reality. Ignorance clouds our intellect like clouds which obscure the sun. So we perceive certain things as sorrowful. In truth, sorrow is a kind of happiness. Recently, Shri Subramania Bharathiar[i] sang in praise of Parasakthi[ii] as follows.
Love itself She is;
Yet Miseries She inflicts
To make and break is Her play
In Her is happiness boundless.
But why does Jaganmatha[iii] Parasakthi, who is love personified and is the fount of joy, accord so much sorrow and difficulties to her children? What we regard as sorrow and difficulty is not actually so. When we examine issues with a clear perspective, what we regard as sorrow is joy and what we regard as difficulty is pleasure. But it is not easy to believe in this philosophy. People will disbelievingly ask, “How can there be joy in sorrow and pleasure in difficulty?” But if we examine our life experiences, we will understand that there is truth in this philosophy.
We read sorrowful stories and epics. We watch sad plays. We sing and listen to plaintive melodies. Don’t we seek and experience melancholy in this manner? Why? Because joy is inherent in all sorrow. We undergo several difficulties during our lifetime. We believe that these difficulties are unbearable and life is not worth living. But we somehow endure all difficulties. When we look back at the times of excruciating distress after a few years, we feel a strange joy. We feel happy recollecting and talking about the difficulties we have experienced.
Sita Devi experienced untold sorrow when in forest on exile. No woman would have experienced as much sorrow as she did. When she was living at the palace in Ayodhya as Shri Ramabiran’s consort and was pregnant, Rama asked her, “What do you desire?” She responded, “I want to return to the forest and visit all the places where I had experienced difficulty!” Doesn’t Sita’s desire prove the philosophy that what we perceive as sorrow is not truly so. It is our ignorance which prompts us to think in this manner. There is joy inherent in sorrow.
It is not right to philosophize when Sivakami is in a difficult situation at the street junction. The discussion at the beginning of the chapter was to understand Sivakami’s behaviour. Commander Virupakshan had asked her to dance at the street junction to stop the men and women of Tamizhagam from being whipped. Sivakami initially thought that acting in that manner would be demeaning to the divine art of Bharathanatyam and refused.
But when the whipping commenced on Virupakshan’s command, Sivakami’s resolve vanished. The very next instant Sivakami Devi started dancing at the Vatapi street junction; her performance was superb. She danced blissfully as if to prove the philosophy that happiness is inherent in sorrow. While dancing, she lost all consciousness of herself, the outside world, time and location. The sight of Sivakami dancing was akin to the Goddess of Beauty dancing in an ecstatic rage.
When Sivakami was dancing at the Vatapi street junction, it seemed as though the earth and the sky had come to a standstill. The womenfolk of Vatapi who were walking down that street stood still and watched appreciatively. The imprisoned men and women from Tamizhagam watched motionless. The demons who held whips stood speechless. Their commander Virupakshan also stood still. All of them stood like statues. They stood mesmerized oblivious of time slipping by.
The sun had set; the fort gates were shut and trumpets were blown to announce the sunset. But this did not disturb Sivakami’s ecstatic dancing. Sivakami finally stopped dancing and stood. She looked around like someone who was travelling all this time through a joyous world and had just returned to earth. She realized that she had been dancing at the street junction. Amidst the unbearable shame and sorrow, she also felt happiness and pride. The chained Pallava Nadu men and women looked towards Sivakami. She observed the gratitude in their eyes. She walked to the palanquin and sat in it without speaking a word to anyone; the palanquin reached the palace.