The divine music composer Nadajyoti Muthuswami Dikshitar has visited many holy places all over the country, and it has been our endeavour at Veenavaadhini to follow his footsteps to the same places and sing the Kritis he has composed at each shrine. Towards this end, we made a recent trip
to Chidambaram and some places around it.
The first town we went to was Tiruvenkadu. A vast and beautiful temple, venerated as Adi
Chidambaram, and adored by many saints, this temple has become of great pilgrim interest in recent
times, due to its place as the Budhan (Mercury) shrine among the Navagraha temples around
Kumbhakonam. Budhan has an exclusive sanctum and looks extremely charming (is he not “Roopena Apratimam” – unparalleled in beauty according to Vyasa?) in his green garment etc. But we are going ahead of the order. The lord of the Kshetra is Shiva, Shvetaranyeshwara, who seems happy to leave the crowds and fuss to Budhan, and is enshrined in blissful quiet , in the company of goddess Brahmavidyambika, she of the unique name, giver of divine wisdom. Another remarkable feature in this temple is the shrine of Aghora murthy, a valorous form taken by Shiva, identified with Veerabhadra created by him, to destroy Daksha and his sacrifice. His striking pose, standing with a Trishulam across two of his many hands, is awe-inspiring. In these four shrines , we sang the following Kritis composed by Diskhitar here :
1. Shwetaranyeshwaram – Arabhi – Adi
2. Brahmavidyambike – Kalyani – Adi
3. Rudrakopa-jata-virabhadram – Rudrapriya – Rupakam
4. Budham Ashrayami – Natakurinji – Mishra Jhampa
Chidambaram is one of the most revered and beloved temples of Shiva in the country. Its importance in the Saiva tradition is immeasurable. It is the foremost among the Pancha Bhuta Kshetras, being the
subtlest of elements – ether. This is the “Hridaya” (heart) sthanam of the universe, and the great dance that the gods and sages watched awestruck, is the heartbeat of the universe. Little wonder that his form as the cosmic dancer enthralls people all over the world.
The large temple precincts, with the Sivaganga tank, a separate temple for goddess Shivakamasundari, and many Sabhas, need several hours to see fully. The gold-thatched Sabha, where the lord provides us a glimpse of his wondrous dance, is right next to the sanctum of Govindaraja, blissfully reclining on Adisesha, enjoying the dance. The feeling of seeing the two great gods in cordial association is indescribable. That is of course, only for us mere mortals. Dikshitar captures is beautifully , when he describes Govindaraja as “Deva-kanaka-sabhesha-hitaya”. That phrase sums up the essence of Surati, as well as of Chidambaram, which is one of the Thevara Sthalams, as well as the 108 Divyadesams. We sang the following compositions here:
1. Shivakameshwarim – Kalyani – Adi
2. Chidambara Natarajam – Kedaram – Adi
3. Chintayeham Sada Chitsabhanayakam – Nottuswaram
4. Govindarajaya Namaste – Surati –Rupakam
5. Santatam Govindarajam – Nottuswaram
The following day, we visited Vaideeswaran Koil. This temple is intimately connected with the
birth of our beloved Dikshitar, for it was here that his parents, who were yearning for progeny,
were blessed by a vision of the goddess, Balambika, in their dreams, and were promised a
divine child. The lord is worshipped as the master physician (Vaidya-natha) and the sacred tank
here , Siddhamrita Teertham, is believed to have special healing properties. Subrahmanya,
affectionately known as Muthayya or Selva-muthu-kumara-swamy ( after whom his parents
named Muthuswami Dikshitar ) is the object of many Kritis, padams, javalis and literary works of
several poets and saints. Balambika is lovingly called Thaiyalnayaki, Thaiyal being theTamil word
for a lovely young girl – Bala. Thus every sanctum here is unique.
As the lord is the great physician, the refuge of all those seeking good health, it was natural
that we had to wait patiently for our appointment with him. We sang these Kritis here :
1. Sri Vaidyanatham – Athana - Adi
2. Bhajare Re Chittha Balambikam – Kalyani – Mishra Chapu
3. Kumara Swaminam - Asaveri – Adi
4. Angarakam Ashrayami – Surati - Rupakam
On our way back to Chennai , we visited the sprawling and serene temple at Sirkazhi, talking about the life of the Saint Gnanasambandar , who was born here and seeing the temple tank on whose banks he was fed the milk of wisdom by Parvati and Shiva. We climbed up to visit the unique shrines of Uma Maheswara and Sattanathaswami, wondering if Muthuswami Dikshitar had not visited this lovely and important Kshetra, and if those Kritis were lost to us.
We came back, with memories of charming temples and melodious Kritis, grateful for our good fortune.
REPORT BY RAJANI ARJUN SHANKAR