Volume 4 Chapter 4: Navukkarasar

 

That day, the Saivite monastery located in the vicinity of Ekambareshwarar’s sanctum was also buzzing with activity. Thirunavukkarasar Peruman had graced that monastery with his presence for a few days. Disciples were singing the hymns he had composed. Navukkarasar was listening to the songs, his eyes brimming with tears of joy. The sculptor, Aayanar, who was seated beside him, also shed tears. The bell at the Ekambareshwarar Temple rang, signifying that the noon-time prayer service was underway. The students stopped singing the pathigams and left to partake lunch.

Only Navukkarasar and Aayanar remained. “Respected sculptor! Ten years ago, your daughter had performed abhinayams at this very place. I still remember seeing her perform. I was reminded of your daughter when the students sang “Munnam avanadhu naamam kettal” sometime ago. I involuntarily shed tears,” said Navukkarasar. “Adigal! I too was reminded of that performance. What you had cautioned me about that day came true.” “Yes, Aayanar! I remember that incident. I was concerned that your daughter, who was endowed with such divine beauty, should not face hardship in her worldly life. I shared my concern with you.”

“Swami, the concerns your holiness expressed came true! Sivakami had to face no mean ordeal. I too have experienced unimaginably agonizing torment. Her mother had left her in my care and had passed away when she was still an infant. From then till she was eighteen years old, I looked after her like the apple of my eye. We were not away from each other even for a single day. I have been separated from my child, whom I so dotingly brought up, for the last nine years. Adigal! Why is the Compassionate Lord testing us, who have committed no sin? What sacrilege did we commit?” When Aayanar spoke thus, copious tears flowed down his cheeks.

“Aayanar! Don’t despair. Humans find it difficult to comprehend the divine design. Even I have willfully committed no sin in this world. Yet my mortal body has experienced countless trials and tribulations. Respected sculptor! Let me share with you the truth I have observed. What we perceive as sorrow is not so in reality! What we perceive as happiness is also not happiness! It is human bonds that give rise to feelings of happiness and sorrow. Elders have described human bonds as illusory. When we are free from illusion, we realize that neither happiness nor sorrow exists. We will then understand that only the joy bestowed by the Almighty prevails.”

“Swami! I understand the truth in your nectar-like words. Nevertheless, I am unable to free myself from human bonds. What can I do?” “The way to liberate oneself from human attachment is to beseech the Lord!” said Navukkarasar. “Haven’t I beseeched the Lord? I do ceaselessly implore him. Still I am not free from my affection for my daughter! Every time I think of praying, I am reminded of my daughter who is imprisoned in the enemy’s fort in a far-away country. I feel like asking God only the following boon. “God! Please protect my daughter. Please shower you mercy so that I can see Sivakami just once before I die! What can I do?” asked Aayanar and sobbed.

“No, Aayanar! Don’t grieve!” consoled the virtuous soul who wielded the hoe. He further said, “Isn’t your wish about to be fulfilled? I heard that Mamallar has mobilized a gigantic army to invade Vatapi. By God’s grace, you daughter will return. Don’t worry. Till then, why don’t you reside with me in this monastery? Why do you have to stay in solitude at your forest residence?”

When Aayanar said, “Adigal! Please forgive me. I am accompanying the Pallava army to Vatapi…” Vageechar was taken aback. “What is this, Aayanar? Are you desirous of witnessing the atrocities perpetrated on a battlefield? Are you eager to witness humans shedding blood that will flow like a river? Are you desirous of seeing grievously injured and mutilated corpses?” asked the great soul. An embarrassed Aayanar responded, “No, Adigal! Those are not the reasons for my travelling. I am desirous of meeting my daughter and escorting her back”.

At this point of time, a few men and women were entering the monastery. Commander Paranjyothi, his wife Umayal, Namasivaya Vaidhyar and his sister came in and prostrated before Navukkarasar. After everyone was seated, Namasivaya Vaidhyar said, “Swami! I came to take leave of you”. “Ah! Are you returning home? I too am desirous of obtaining darisanam of the Lord of Thiruvengadu. When I come again to Chola Nadu on a pilgrimage, I will visit Thiruvengadu,” said Vageechar.

“No. Adigal! I am not going to Thiruvengadu. I am headed northwards to Vatapi.” “What is this? It seems that not a soul will stay behind at Kanchi. Aayanar is going to bring back his daughter. Why are you going, vaidhyar?” “I am going to treat the injured. Swami, a large contingent of vaidhyars is accompanying the army. I am leading that contingent. The Chalukyas are not bound by principles when they wage war. They wield poisoned swords and spears. Aren’t you aware that Mahendra Chakravarthy was stabbed by a poisoned dagger? When I was treating the Chakravarthy, I discovered the cure for that poison. So the Pallava Commander has ordered that I too come to the battlefield!” So saying, Namasivaya Vaidhyar shot a proud glance at Commander Paranjyothi.

“Ah! Is this youth the famed Commander of the Pallava army?” said Thirunavukkarasar and looked at Paranjyothi intently. “His face exudes serenity. It appears that he will be the heir to the Saivite bhakti movement. Why is he engaged in this murderous profession?” he asked. Hearing this, Namasivaya Vaidhyar and his sister exchanged smiles. Umayal too shyly looked at her husband and smiled slightly. Once cannot be certain that no smile appeared on Paranjyothi’s face.

“Swami! We sent him to Kanchi twelve years ago to enroll at your monastery and to learn Tamil. Fate intervened to bring him to this position. Fate is also drawing me to the battlefield along with him,” said Namasivaya Vaidhyar. Navukkarasar looked at Paranjyothi intently once again and said, “You say that Fate is leading him. But his physiognomy indicates that he is endowed with the resolve to change Fate”. At that instant, Commander Paranjyothi prostrated before Thirunavukkarasar and said, “Gurudeva! I consider your words as benediction!”

Paranjyothi’s mother stood up and said with devotion, “Swami! She prostrated before you when you had previously visited Thiruvengadu. You had blessed her saying, ‘May you be married soon’. Her marriage was soon solemnized, as you had said”. She then paused. Vageecha Peruman said, “I am happy that my words came true, amma!” “That which Your Holiness utters will always come true. Please bless them saying that they will bear a child,” said that elderly woman. Thirunavukkarasar smilingly looked at Paranjyothi and Umayal. He blessed them saying, “A son who will be exemplified in epics and folklore will be born to them!”

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