Today’s post is brief but I am so excited about it that I could not resist posting immediately. It has to do with Thiruvottriyur, one of my favourite haunts. Way back in the 1980s, when I was doing my summer internship at the Best & Crompton Dynamo and Starter factory in Tondiarpet, I used to make it a point to go off from there of an evening and visit this grand temple before returning home. I was too young to know of its historic past or its significance when it came to Tamil verse, hymns and Carnatic music. I have learnt something over the years and also taken people on a heritage tour of the place, which is of course nothing but shining a torchlight at the sun as far as this temple is concerned.
I wrote an article on the temple and its connection with music for Sruti magazine several years ago. But then you keep realising how little you know. It is only in this lockdown that I have caught up with reading the verses of Pattinathar who lies buried close by, Ramalinga Swamigal who was a resident of nearby Seven Wells area and also the Tevaram of Sundaramurthy who is associated with the shrine.
I discovered that all three have sung of the deities here using the imagery of sugarcane. I am sharing the verses below:
Sundarar was the first of the three of course, his time being the 8th century and in his verses on the shrine, he describes the Lord as –
கங்கை தங்கிய சடை உடை கரும்பே!
Sugarcane that is covered in matted locks that bear the Ganga!
Pattinathu Adigal, who lived in the 14th century and is among the patron saints of the Nagarathar community had this to say –
கண்டங் கரியதாம், கண்மூன் றுடையதாம்;
அண்டத்தைப் போல வழகியதாம்; தொண்டர்
உடலுருகத் தித்திக்கு மோங்குபுக ழொற்றிக்
கடலருகே நிற்குங் கரும்பு
Its stalk dark, with its three eyes
Beautiful like the skies
Possessing a sweetness that melts its devotees
This sugarcane stands by the sea at glorious Ottriyur
In the 19th century came Ramalinga Swamigal and his Vadivudai Manikkamalai on the Goddess here begins with
Ocean nectar! Tender Sugarcane!
The imagery of sugarcane was of course very dear to Ramalingar and he has used it repeatedly, for instance in praise of Masilamaniswarar at Tirumullaivayil and also Goddess Abhishekavalli at Thirukkannamangai.
With those sweet thoughts from these greats let me pray that we will soon be able to go back and worship at these shrines.