And now, the Lord’s neck, higher up, tells its tale of superiority. Superiority apart, how charming it is, like the attractive neck of the tender arecanut tree, with three lovely streaks running around ! This does not, however, mean glossing over the greatness and grandeur of the Lord’s chest, just below. Of course, the Lord’s winsome chest is the seat of Mother’s residence, decorating it much more than the jewels. But then, how can the necklace etc. stay there without the support of the neck from which they are hanging ? Again, Mahalaksmi, poised on the chest, as well as His other consorts, throw their forearms around the Lord’s neck only, while embracing Him, as could be inferred from the imprints of their bangles on the Lord’s neck. When the King of the swollen oceans (Pralayadevata) wanted to gobble up, during the Great Deluge (Mahapralaya), the entire Universe and its enormous contents, the Lord, the King of kings, forestalled the former and preserved all beings and the worlds, containing them inside His belly. Otherwise, they would have all been swept off by the swirling waters of the surging oceans, in dreadful fury and dismembered. This, at once, brings into focus His extra-ordinary prowess, His unrivalled supremacy over the rest. Side by side, His Grace galore is revealed in that He rescued the vast wealth of the Universe, things and beings of enormous dimensions and kept them in the ‘safe deposit vault’ inside His belly for the duration of the Deluge; He did this, unasked and unsolicited by the subjects, one and all, the four-faced Brahma downwards. The Lord’s neck is the gateway through which all these entered.
Further, the neck tells us its tale of amazing simplicity, as well; figuratively, it still reminds one of the folded errand – scroll, tied on to it by the Pandavas to carry their message to King Dhrtarastra and his diabolic son, Duryodhana. In the olden days, messages used to be put across from one place to another through trained dogs and pigeons with the cudjon leaf on which they were inscribed, folded and tied around the necks of the couriers. They would reach the destination and effect the delivery, all right. Yes, the manner in which the Commentator has put it only reminds the reader of the role of an errand boy, played by Lord Krsna.
During the Deluge, the Lord’s neck played its part in rescuing all things and beings from the onrush of oceanic waters. Yet, it does not rest on its oars. Now, in the Lord’s iconic manifestation as Ranganatha, it continues to play its due part in rescuing us all from the ocean of ‘Samsara’ (earthly bondage), the very purpose for which the Lord, in His easily worshippable (iconic) form, is staying on, in the holy island.
In the preceding song, the Alvar claimed that his massive, age-long accumulation of sins got wiped off, at one stroke, by the Lord as soon as the Divine Mother, poised on His chest, put in a word to Him, pleading his (Alvar’s) case. But then, this might not be readily swallowed by the speculative philosophers and theoretical theologians. They would, in their very nature, certainly point to sastraik pronouncement that the sins committed by the individual in a trice, cannot be wiped off even through the resultant punishments, undergone over aeons of time. These skeptics, the superficial critics, the academicians, are, however, silenced by the Alvar in this song. The song begins with the episode of Lord Siva’s wandering along, begging alms, to get rid of his father’s (Brahma’s) skull which had stuck fast to the palm. It was only when, at long last, he approached Lord Badrinath in the Himalayas, and begged alms to fill the begging bowl (the skull, which did not look like filling up, in spite of the long term of his mendicancy), filled up fell off the palm. Yes, it was Divine Mother beside Lord Badrinath who pleaded for mercy, on behalf of the supplicant, and that very moment (tat ksanadeva) the skull got filled up and fell off, granting Siva instant relief from his long sufferings. See notes below, for further details.
Tuntavenpiraiyan tuyartirttavan anciraiya
Vantu valporilcul Aranganagar meya appan
Antaranta bakirantattu orumanilam elu malvarai murrum
Unta kantam kantir atiyenai uyyakkontate ||6||
‘Tis our Sire, resting in the city of Arangam,
Amid orchards where abound bees with lovely wings,
Who the distress dispelled of Siva, sporting the Cresent Moon
On matted locks; but look, ’tis His neck superfine,
Which did the cosmic eggs and the worlds beyond gorge
With all their contents, terrains vast and mountains huge,
Which took this vassal on and granted him refuge’ ||
Tunda ven piriyan tuyar tirttavan: Lord Ranganatha, who dispelled the (dire) distress of Siva, who sports on his matted locks the cresent Moon (just 2 days old in its waxing period of a fortnight). The episode runs as follows : In a fit of rage, born of jealousy, Rudra (Siva) cut off one of the five heads of his father (Brahma). The latter could have no doubt retaliated, there and then and either cut off a head of Siva or slain him altogether. But he did not do either, as the fatherhood in him gained the upperhand; he simply cursed Rudra, ‘Kapali tvam bhavisyasi’. That is, Siva was to undergo the torturing punishment of keeping the skull of the severed head stuck to his palm (with all its stench of flesh and blood) until such time that he got it filled with blood, seeking alms, employing the skull as the begging bowl. Alas ! all the wanderings of the mendicant for getting the bowl filled were of no avail and the skull did not look like filling up, at all. At long last, he went to Badrinath in the Himalayas and begged alms from Lord Narayana. Laksmi, the Divine Mother, seated by His side, also pleaded on behalf of the supplicant, to ensure the instant influx of the Lord’s mercy. As usual, She succeeded; the Lord shook off the sweat on His forehead into the skull, uttering the word, ‘aksayam’ (ever full, with no depletion) and lo! it got filled up and fell off.
Siva, the supplicant, felt greatly relieved; he could not believe his eyes, whether he was awake or just dreaming, as he himself confessed to Parvati Devi, later on. The full text of his statement runs: “Tatra Narayanah Sriman maya bhiksam prayacitah Visnuprasadat susroni kapalam tat sahasrada sphutitam bahudayatam svapnalabdha dhanam yada”.
What Siva had committed was ‘Brahma hatya’, the cruelest of sins. Our Acaryas, unreservedly, place the following categories of men, in our midst, on par with those committing ‘Brahma hatya’:
- Those, blest by God with the human body, with all the faculties, in tact, and still fail to make use of such a simple recipe as ‘namasankirtana’ (recitial of Lord Visnu’s auspicious names, spelling out His great glory) and ford across the ocean of samsara (see also Slokas 37 and 38 of Kulasekharalvar’s ‘Mukundamala’ where he laments, ‘What a pity ! The worldings can but do not utter the holy names of the Lord, and court instead, endless miseries’), and
- Those who foolishly believe that they are their own masters and not the Supreme Lord’s, the rightful owner to whom all things and beings, all over, belong; these folks virtually rob Him of His valued possession, the Jivatma (atmapaharanam), theft of a severe magnitude, on par with ‘Brahmahatya’.
Arangangar meya Appan: The eternal Father of one and all, all over (in all climes) and at all times (in all ages), the Supreme Lord has graciously taken up His abode in Srirangam, in an exhilarating setting between two rivers, amid cool orchards, bright and gay, so as to redeem us over here, prone to commit sins, such as those mentioned above.
And now, the last two lines of this Song (as per original text) depict an altogether different posture of the Lord, different from the one, set out in the opening line of this Song. There, mention was made of His ridding Lord Siva of his traumatic sufferings, at the latter’s request (entreaty). But the lines, now taken up, describe the episode of the Lord’s succour of all things and beings along with the worlds, containing them, from the devastating waters of the ‘Mahapralaya’ (the great Deluge) by sheltering them all inside His bowels, unasked and unsolicited by the latter – The Lord’s neck, by itself cannot obviously play an independent role, in this regard. And yet it is a pleasant (harmless) piece of poetic imagery, attributing the benefaction to the neck. As a matter of fact, the gate of entry is the mouth and the gulping is done by the throat (implanted in the neck), a feature, noticeable from Song One. Well, the Alvar Saints send their minds, quite often, as their messengers to the Supreme Lord as if the mind is a separate entity, functioning by itself. In Tiruvaymoli (III-8) the Alvar’s limbs and senses are portrayed as vying with each other in lauding the Lord’s multifaceted glory, with competitive exuberance.