The Unexplored world of Surasundaris, their Personality, their Potential

She twirls around the branch of a tree
As she pull a thorn off her delicate feet
Her graceful curves entwine a branch 
As she holds onto it like a fragile creeper
She calls the green parrot, plays with its red beak
The sign of sensuality, the pleasures of love
She gently smells the fragrance of the lotus
As she tucks it into her thick plaits of hair
Tying the anklets in her feet
She plays the rhythm of her heart with the drum 
She dances her love dance with grace
Twisting the chauri along her naked back
She holds the mirror to her face
Completes the shringar with a dash of red
She lazily picks up the Ketaki flower
Delicate fingers imbibe its scent
This sensuous being is out to seek
Make no mistake with what you see
The partial nudity, the full breasts unique
She is not to be amorously felt
She is the power, splendid and divine
She is the connect to the supreme above. 

Surasundaris have been misunderstood to be just sensuous beings. Studies indicate that they adorn the walls of sacred temples and took to being more popular during the rise of the tantrik cults. But to ascertain that they were only sensuous beings to attract men into the walls of the sacred shrine for a tantrik ritual with no other objective to their existence would be foolhardy of us. Apsaras, Kanyas, yakshis are other names that these celestial beings have been identified as… but somehow … my belief is that they were way more superior than what they have been documented to being. 

My journey to understand these mystical women starts from the temple walls. On one side they ooze sensuality, on the other they appear extremely shy. They may be great exponents of kamasutra and yet they have the anxiety of union with the one of their choice, with whom they will lose their “virginity”. The signs of the thorn, the pose of the creeper, the sensuous conversation with the parrot are indicators of sensuality. They are also great dancers and they dedicate their existence to the lord himself. They are knowledgable and their wisdom shines through their Tejas. They are the epitome of beauty, but they are also mysterious celestials who can transcend the planes of existence, move from one to the other with ease. They cannot be owned, they cannot be touched until they want to, and they do fall in love against all rules, with gods, with devas, with men. And yet they roam all the worlds, on celestial missions, the knowledge of which only they have. They can come to us, if we call them through intense sadhana, they can help us or destroy us, they are powerful beings that we wouldn’t like to mess with…

And yet they are mysteriously more talented than mortals, their capabilities shine beyond human potential. When a Surasundari dances or sings we stay mesmerised, its like a spell they cast on us, a spell hard to get out of. They can hold a conversation with you, keep your grey cells churning, speak on the making of the universe, excite the nerves out of you and yet, we will not be able to tell whether this happened for real. They touch an intense world within us, they touch the psychological weakness we hardly knew we had. They transform the way we see the world, make us question exactly who we are and why are we going through this state of mind. 

The laws of Indian sculpture and their presence on architecture has tried to its limits capacity to bring the heavens down on earth. The temple being the centre of existence depicts the universe, the stages of divine evolution, from animals to daily life, to court scenes, to mystical celestial being flying across the sky, which could include ganas or gandharvas, kinnaras and the sacred tree of life. But as we progress above, reach the zone of the Gods, we find Surasundaris amongst them. They occupy a position of importance on temple walls, next to the gods, closer to the ceiling, be it the outer wall, a pillar or inner door jamb. Surasundharis have a presence of importance, which has not been explored in entirety. They occupy a space that is above human life, but below the shikara. They are the door to the heavens, but don’t really get there (within the limitations of the stone temple … who knows where this silent world leads… )

Indian art depicts mythology, the culmination of an act, of a great exploit of a God to depict their capability. They alternatively depict the nature of a being, in this case Surasundaris, explicitly depicting their sensuality. What they don’t depict is the capability of these beings, their potential which can be accessed only through ritual, sacred sadhana which is performed within the temple. The walls depict who they are, but the sacred ritual within the walls gives the way to find out what they are capable of, why they are there and where they can take us. 

Indian ritual worship is far more superior to modern science, and cannot be measured by that yardstick. They are so different that it would foolhardy to ask for proof for the limitations of our mind. So if we dismiss this sacred science, and measure it against the plague that has set in from the west, we do it at our own peril of losing sacred wisdom, that once was truly our very own. 

This elixir of divinity is hard to come by, and when it does, it even harder to brush away. Lets set our egos aside (move the focal point of existence away from ourselves) and ask the question - Are we blessed enough to receive it? 

* * * 

Indian lifestyle on the other hand created a role for them among women. They were married to the deity within the shrine but with time, they were exclusively called Devadasis, but yet again, the perversion of educated men (both ancient sciences and modern) reduced them to prostitution and the same men now look down upon them... How fair is the mind of mortal men, how biased are they that they give the position of honour and they reduce it to dishonour by their own lack of self restraint?! And therefore I ask, are they seriously capable of higher wisdom?


An Ode to Bhasavanna

At these troubled times, when politics decides to divide a society and rule them, where selfishness takes over principles of good governance, I am wondering how Bhasavanna would have reacted to this madness. Is this what he had envisioned when he founded the sacred extension of Shaivism in Veera Shaivism bringing about the Lingayat community? Today, these two brothers stand split up, when their very existence was originally based on the single belief system of internalising Lord Shiva, as an individual form of worship. 

Standing at the confluence of 2 sacred rivers, when I look at the sheet of purity that spans the expanse of the horizon glistening in the morning sun as it rises, another day is born but with a different ideology. Bhasavanna, stays silent in his watery samadhi and yet I wonder whether all that is taking place now actually makes any sense. 

Kudalsangam... The silent world of Bhasavana's Samadhi

In the depth of sacred water
A silent enigmatic world
Does my heart beat
A rhythm to your dance
I seek the mind of that Bhasavanna
The quiet one
Who holds the sacred emblem 
The Linga divine
Within the psychic world
Of his heart
The ash that remains
After his earthly destruction
Holds testimony
This sacred beat in his heart
Merged with the silent ripples
Of the Krishna
Still pulsating in my being
Long after his body
Flowed away with the stream


The Strange Joy within Sakhya Bhava


I had a wall between mortals and Gods, and mortals in my mind are defined as those inadequate, incapable and ignorant. There are within this spectrum of people, those who challenged themselves and went beyond their boundaries, exploring their true potential. I have great respect for them... but for the rest of the world... there was a differentiating wall. 

I was mistaken, for my yardstick of measurement didn’t account for everything. This lesson came home through none other than Lord Vittal himself, the Lord of Pandharpur. I have a secret pact with the Gods, that of "easy access" to their homes. I don’t go to living temples as easily. And I have a deep wish to meet them without hassles and up close at their home, and call it fate or divine intervention, they ensure I get to meet them without much trouble.

Pandharpur - a land I have known about for a while has appeared distant and inaccessible - had more surprises in store for me. The plan was to have an evening darshan, but it hardly crossed my mind that it would be the evening of Ekadasi, the most crowded day of the month in the Vaishnava calendar. I had mixed feelings within my head, I didn't relate to the Lord of Pandharpur yet, and he had called. I was finding my way there, stepping out of comfort zone, going to an unknown place with a child in hand. There was a slight uneasiness but that doubt was killed fast. He sent me one of his own, a good friend who ensured my experience was way beyond smooth.           

It didn't strike me yet, for the access was so easy that there was a good chance to take it for granted. The first darshan was beautiful, I absorbed the Lord, in his physical presence. I absorbed all that my eyes to feed on, my senses could take in. It was indeed a different world of Vaishnava flavor and yet starkly different from Jagannath of Puri. I opened up all my faculties not knowing what to expect. Just took it all in. My friend didn’t accompany me, I went in with another who was assigned to lead me to him. It was according to plan, executed perfectly without errors. 

It was by the end of my journey on New Year’s Eve, that the heart yearned for another visit, to see the Lord once again, before I moved on. I placed my request rather impulsively, to my friend, one of Vittala's own, and he accepted most willingly, without any sense of hesitation. The request was placed 3 hours before the temple closed for the night - it was now or maybe, I don't know when. The arrangements were in order within an hour, the paper work in place from what I understood was a VIP entrance. We were headed back to town, still somewhere on the highway. It was the smooth silent operation that baffled me, the darshan was scheduled. The impossibility of it hit the mind and yet it was so easily possible to go to Vittala's own home, and be greeted as if I had always belonged there, any time I wanted…. With one of his own to accompany me.  There was a strange joy in that, it was impulsive, exciting and mystical.

You know, it’s a baffling experience when one walks into a land where they have never lived, not known anyone for "as long", and yet the warmth engulfs you and gives a sense of such love... that I felt I had left this home in some other birth and I was coming home now, in this birth. It’s not goodness, it’s not social network, it’s not the power of money. It’s a miracle that shouts back loud in my head.... who or what do I define as my real "family" - who are my own, defined by spiritual relationships in a mortal world?

I had set foot in Pandharpur for the first time, and yet it didn’t feel like that. I understand small town hospitality (we go way out of our way to make people feel special), but this was way beyond the social goodness. Lord Vittal had sent one of his own trusted men, to take me through this journey. It’s not just about being hosted, it’s not just about spending few days on a holiday with help at hand... it was way more deep than that packed into a mystical experience of what I call - the Secret of Sakhya Bhava.
I had spent this vacation with a mixture of people in terms of human relationship - family, friends (with whom I had lived, spending my 24/7) and friends whom I knew but I was yet to build a "face to face" relationship. It turned out, that the one I understood least in this reality was by far the closest to my heart. I left Pandharpur with an experience sprinkled with divinity, not just in a darshan, but in the experience of a friendship of a different kind. A relationship that I am unable to define in human terms, but the flavor of it remains rich in my mind and the heart yearns to go back there again, my home... defined by the mysticism of past births, by the miracle of karma, fate had brought me back here... to witness another world... one that has manifested in my head as pure Sakhya Bhava towards one of Lord Vittala's own.


The Magnificent World of Elephanta

Elephanta is a silent world just off a busy coastline of Mumbai. In contrast to the modernity of the Mumbai shores, Elephanta speaks loads of the fantastic past of Classical India. 

This is not just a gateway to a rock cut world of the Kalachuri dynasty that stood up to it's rival in Buddhism, but a much more silent world of divine shaivism practised on earth. This rock cut cave is the only one of its kind, during the period 6th century AD. There are none other for the next visible iconographic structure comes up about 2 centuries later at Ellora - Kailashnath temple. 

The beauty of Elephanta is not in the extravaganza of the rich iconography of Shiva, it's a far deeper world into it's living presence during that period, and these are it's salient features that I read, beyond what the books and the guides say. 

1) This is the first of it's kind defining Hinduism, but it visibly takes cues from it's counterpart, a much stronger and prominent Buddhism. It is an amalgamation of Chaityas and Viharas. It seems to have both temple - place of worship, and place of residence. 

2) Elephanta's main cave is much larger than any of the other Buddhist caves ( that I have seen so far). The images are larger than life, breathing in vibrance into the Saiva way of living. (Left me absolutely miffed with the Portuguese for destroying this sacred works, as they were narrow minded believers of the Christian faith, couldn't stand any of the others).

3) The shaiva way of life is in seclusion much like Buddhism, hence the choice of an island away from regular life seemed to be the perfect choice. 

4) Shaivas lived a ritualistic lifestyle, hence the dominance of yagnas seems apparent here. The presence of a central court used for potential rituals is possible, as the ground has been raised to a slight platform just outside the main cave. 

5) A central garbha griha hosting the Shiva Linga, which is the most important aspect of Shaiva worship. This is 

Elephanta expresses a certain mysticism around itself, through it's ruins and larger than life iconography. Mahadeva in the central panel exhibits a certain calmness of higher yogic practice. The presence of Yogishwara Shiva dominates 2 panels, bringing home the point, that of the life of an ascetic, a secluded existence for higher consciousness. The realm of Kailasa is richly depicted, the presence of Shiva's exploits are elaborately carved. 

Mahadeva - 4 Headed Shiva
Isana, Tatpurusha, Vamadeva, Aghora

The intensity of Shiva worship was experienced here. Imagine a day here, ritualistic worship offered to the sacred fire of enlightenment. The yagna holds the sacred verses that emphasize the various forms of Shiva, which are depicted on the walls. As the Rudram rolls, and all the shaiva monks sing in the silence of the cave, the rumbling sound of the damaru can be heard, emphasizing the primordial sound of OM, reverberating through the ancient rocky walls. 

The central shrine depicts Mahadeva, the 4 faces of the Lord - Isana (The angry face to the left) Vamadeva (the benign feminine form to the right), Sadashiva Mahadeva to the center and possibly Aghora behind which is not visible but conceptually there. There is a fifth face, that is Sadyojata which is part of the original Sadashiva form, also not visible here. As is popularly believed, this idol should not represent the trinity as much as it should represent Sadashiva, the highest form of Rudra Shiva, with 5 heads, 2 of which are not visible but conceptually there. 

This is a wonderful world of Shaiva orthodoxy that possibly was, with a different way of living, completed with the Abhishekam of the linga at the central shine, within the sanctum guarded by the dwarapalas of Kailasa. The imagination coupled with the actual ritual on a remote inland was thought out and designed under the ruling patronage, to take shaiva aspirants closer to their one and only deity - Lord Shiva. 


Journey to Find My Constant

The true nature of Shiva and Shakthi is not a heavenly couple with human attributes. Their nature is not a human family with children. The mythological story is not wrong, but it is a metaphor for a far deeper and subtle concept that needs to be understood.

When we look at Kali and Parvati, they are representations of "Shakthi". What exactly would that mean? Shiva and Parvati – Ardhanarishwara is complete consciousness. What does this mean?
Here is an attempt to explain a very subtle but simple point which appears complex because of our nature of understanding. We simply don’t understand simple things :).

Am talking about a "constant" and its apparent nature through its manifestation. Shiva represents the unchanging nature, Shakthi represents the changing nature. We relate to the Shakthi part because it communicates with us, through action/thought/senses all of which are manifestations, making it appear as if that defines our nature when the real truth is that the unchanging nature inside is the true nature we possess, also known as Shiva.

In terms of Kundalini, there are states of Shiva at each chakra but what really matters is the Shiva at the Sahasrara Chakra. Kundalini rises, Shiva doesn't move. Kundalini manifests in change of nature during the ascent, while Shiva is the constant at the pinnacle.

I have an even simpler, easily comprehendible, more relatable version to explain this concept.

Lets look at a Circle. Its nature is defined by πr2 where π is the constant and r2 is the variable. Let's examine this point.

In the equation that defines the physical attributes of an entity we call a circle, A=πr2
Let’s break this down to its various pieces.


Circle - I define this as consciousness in abstraction
A - I define this as the consciousness now manifested in a form with a physical presence - Area.
π - I take this as the constant which has always been there and will continue to be there and that makes a circle manifest in the form that it took up. It is beyond the realm of time and space.
r2 - I take this as the ever changing nature of the circle where r is the variable. This is needed for π to manifest itself.

A combination of these concepts gives the circle its living presence in our manifested world.

In human terms I am defining myself as A - which is my manifested form in this world with a name that you identify with. While you associate with A, you discover r2 - which is my ever changing nature that defines my outward character which is temperamental and is not the real thing. But you don’t know my truth which is the same as yours and that is π, which is the subtle constant, our individual consciousness. But in all abstraction, my consciousness and yours is the circle that we never realized is our actual truth.

The sacred scriptures seem to reiterate the same concept. It is the "Shakthi" within us that makes us manifest in different forms as different people but the core truth is that you and I are actually Shiva, we are the same in abstraction and it’s in our inherent nature after being born human to find it and identify with it. 


Sacred Ritualism - The True Path of Devotion

Its been a while since I took to serious worship, and when I say serious worship I mean a certain level of orthodoxy being practiced in my daily lifestyle. What started out as a need of the hour activity in my spiritual realm has now culminated into a deep, well nourished experience in sync with divinity. Have I felt the Gods yet, weirdly yes, but I can't explain it. 

I took to Tantra, to deep worship of the great Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati, who in my mind occupy more forms than one. I worship potent powers following rules of orthodoxy as prescribed during initiation. I have lived this way for a while and it has transformed me into a far better individual than I could have become, left to myself. 

I watched several friends follow their paths, we exchange notes but no one had the drive to go through with it in the purist way. There is a strong connect with materialism and a fear of the unknown that clouds their worship and I do not understand, why they would harbor such a fear. They are men, strong well placed, well initiated, luckier men who have had certain privileges that I have been denied, thanks to my gender and despite our education they seem to belong to an archaic world where women are forbidden to do most things. 

Yes I became a rebel, not just to defy these kind of men who believe they are the keepers of spiritual faith, but to find out just what about it prohibits me from doing what they do. I have had several people tell me I am not entitled to worship the Lord,  but here I am, a far more purposeful devotee more by denial. Somewhere along the way the focus moved away from rebellion to a deep rooted search, a thirst for the Lord and I find my kind of nature map towards one other person - Karakkal Ammaiyar. She is my guardian angel, she is my Guru, she is my Ammaiyar. 

I want to redefine Puja, in the method of Bhakti. Devotional love which I can churn up in plenty, has been carefully tuned to the service of the Gods. For me the Lord is real, not a figment of my imagination, he is for real. My day is not complete if I don't spend time with him, my hunger waits till he has been fed, my karmic duties pause till he blesses my day and my actions are but offerings for him. It has changed my outlook to life, well almost changed (I have a couple of thoughts to iron out and I will be good). People don't bother me, they are not the most important for their place has been taken by the Gods. 

For me, worship is not a wish fulfilling tree that grants me prosperity when ever I ask for it. For me, worship is a discipline, with a set of practices which enable me to focus more on the Lord. I am a ritualistic person by choice and I champion these practices in my own little way. I am not here to prove to anyone that it works, it works for me and that is enough. 

My world is best described by a few insightful thoughts that redefine worship in Karaikkal Ammaiyar's world:

Professor Elaine Craddock from the Department of Religion and Philosophy writes:

"Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s transformation from ideal wife to ideal demon devotee is particularly transgressive and serves to highlight the rupture between the domestic world of ordinary rituals and a life lived entirely as a ritual offering to Shiva. Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s renunciation of domestic life to live in the cremation ground praising Shiva is an example of "ritualization,” a term used by several theorists, and defined by Catherine Bell as ritual as lived practice, as a way of acting that uses diverse strategies to differentiate meaningful, powerful or sacred action from ordinary behavior."

The true definition of ritualism has been captured so beautifully. I can through my ordinary behavior, transform my own quality of existence by taking a little more trouble with a discipline that prescribes a method towards better effective living enhancing my spiritual growth. 

But the best is yet to come :-

"Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s poetry dismantles the paradigm of human order and duty rooted in the household not by focusing on gender roles, but by extolling devotion to Shiva in a community of devotees in which gender is irrelevant."

Karaikkal Ammaiyar's life is not just an example of exiting the social realm in order to seek pure love with the Lord, she signifies the departure of a woman from "household duties" thrust upon her by the social order of the time. Her transformation from a beautiful wife to a demon devotee shows just how much she defied society and chose to live in the silence of the cremation ground after sacrificing her youth. 

Her permanent home, is at the feet of Lord Shiva, where restrictions don't matter. When the heart is in the right place and the mind is in sync, there is nothing to stop it from achieving its goal. 

As the great Ammaiyar quotes in her poetry:

A female ghoul with withered breasts, bulging veins, hollow eyes,
white teeth and two fangs,
shriveled stomach, red hair, bony ankles, and elongated shins,
Stays in this cemetery, howling angrily.
This place where my Lord dances in the fire with a cool body,
his streaming hair flying in the eight directions,
is Tiruvalankatu. 

(Tiruvalankattu mutta tirupatikam 1.1)10


The Hare and the Tortoise

It was a realization this morning that the story of the hare and the tortoise can be interpreted in more ways than one. While the common sought after and understood symbolism tickles our aspirations for success and ambition, there is a completely different revelation that invokes our spiritual side. It made me dwell deeper into the possible nature of both these creatures and it was extremely insightful. 

Before I move on to the actual story, lets just skim through their respective natures. 

Hares are short lived with a life span of a maximum of 12 years, they are extremely fast and sure footed and it is their defense mechanism when they sense danger. Now, hares run super fast, but not necessarily in a straight line, not necessarily on a given path, there is no logic to their running, except to run fast and hide. Hares are restless creatures, and far from calm. This very simple description of the hare makes me wonder - are we not all hares? 

In our mundane world, we are restless and distracted and surely far from calm. Our consciousness is limited to what attracts our senses immediately and we take the beaten track based on what we have been taught as the essence of living. And like a hare, we don't sit and think hard enough. 

Lets look at the tortoise. Calm, purposeful, slow but focused and they are there to stay. Tortoise have the longest life span, and they are resilient by nature as well as self sufficient. Give the tortoise a path and it will keep walking, not looking anywhere with no distractions. There is nothing in the way of the tortoise and they are extremely focused in their approach, they therefore tend to last longer and sustain themselves. 

Now when we look at the story, I see the attitude of the hare being my current lifestyle. Distracted, moody, agile, fast paced, restless and aimless. My only purpose is to run and run fast so as to out do the next hare. Is that all my purpose is? I would never win the race because I am just running with no sign of the goal. I am running in defense with no focus on the long term goal am trying to achieve. How, with this nature, do I even believe I am going to be successful and calm at the same time?! And then we have the desires, symbolized by the deep sleep that the hare has. Temptations that are scattered all over our path, and a hare stops to experience all of them. 

The nature of the tortoise is to be slow but it knows where it is headed and it is in no rush to get there and there are little temptations to fall for. The tortoise doesn't fall for desire, it just moves on purposefully. The tortoise is therefore calmer, silent, resilient, and strong. Its the focus of the tortoise that really intrigues me, the lack of distraction, the single point consciousness and the vigor to go through with it slowly despite all the noise around it. And when the din gets too loud, it just needs to go under its shell and block the noise out. A tortoise moves without a sense of doubt, it may be slow but that's OK, it is super purposeful and it knows, when it gets there, it has certainly arrived. 

Hare: "I Run and therefore I Am"
Tortoise: "I Am and soon I Am Not".

I need to move away from being a hare and I need to move towards wanting to be a tortoise. Slow, deep longer breaths, slower heart beats, fewer desires, and focus, single point consciousness towards reaching my goal. 

Because when I arrive, I know, there is no going back. Its the state of complete consciousness and there are no more races to run. 


The Shiva Path

The Shiva Path is a state of mind that raises me from the dead...

||Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya||

To live the state of Shiva
Is to give up the luxury of life
Is to dive deep into the basics of my existence
Is to dive into the reason for living
Is to dive deep away from this maya
From this noise

To live the state of Shiva
Is to question every rule in the rule book
Is to discover myself
Not as an extension of society 
But as the defiant one
Who has the vigor to look the truth in the face

To live the state of Shiva
Is to give up all attachment, 
And accept my inherent nature
Not as "I am"
But to get beyond it 
Focus on the "I will be"

To live the state of Shiva
Is to seek the grace of the supreme Lord
Divine grace, that which keeps me alive
Divine grace, that will guide me out of this maya
Teaches me mystical secrets
Awaken this inner soul

To live the state of Shiva,
One can't be frivolous
One can't be weak
One can't seek convenience
One can't let go of austerity
One expresses self restraint. 

To live the state of Shiva
Is to take life seriously
Is to evolve to silence
Is to evolve to single pointedness
Is to let go
Is to leave

To live the state of Shiva
Is to live Ekaggata
One pointedness
The Single focus on Om Shivam

I am a piece of log burnt to ashes 
Lifeless and reduced to dust. 
Seeking a drop of divine ambrosia 
Like sacred ghee 
To revive the sacred fires of grace
Of enlightenment within me.

||Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya|| 


A Spark of Potent Divine Love

I have been spending a good amount of mind time trying to understand what led up to the transformation of Karaikkal Ammaiyar - from a devoted house wife to a demon devotee.

This is not just a social transformation, this is a transformation at many levels which simply baffles me ... on what really happened. The recorded story and its dilutions just talks about her ability to muster up the power to acquire a mango from the Lord himself, (which is a super wow factor) but in reality it would have been quite something else to witness it.

We are talking about the period of 6th Century AD, a time when the Pallavas were the rising rulers in the South, and invasion from the Chalukyas was a regular feature. We are also talking about a period when Tantricism was on the rise, more as a chosen spiritual path than a ground for black magic (you have got to view this differently). Added to this is the social structure of not allowing the woman too much liberty. Belonging to a merchant class she was a devoted house wife and recorded history doesn’t talk about her being blessed with children. This is her broad external landscape.

Her internal landscape talks a completely different tale. An ardent devotee of Shiva, so powerful that she could request for anything and He would bless her with it. She clearly didn’t wish for much, had no inclination to wealth or materialism and from what circumstances have in store for her, her husband clearly didn’t match up. It is evident from recorded history that he left her and went, not because he fell for someone else but more because he got spooked out when she gave him a mango, out of nowhere. She couldn't help herself. He ruled the house and she was the obedient wife; he asked for a mango and she produced one out of nowhere. It triggered the start of change in her life as a house holder. It would have taken the next 5-7 years for her to realize that he had left her for good as we get to know he went to another town, got married and had a kid. And she waited this whole time, still devoted, hoping he would come back. The turmoil in her mind is unthinkable, given the simplicity of her life, sprinkled with spiritual overtones.

When she found him at last, she was in for one of the rudest shocks of her life. He didn't just cheat her, he was in a marriage with a child to boot. To see one's husband, whom she loved a lot (we assume), with another woman and a child still is a great shock to most people (time doesn’t count here, its emotion). What would she have gone through?

There were only two in her reality who received her devoted love - Her husband and Lord Shiva. Her world was complete between them when the jolt of letting go one of them came up. The most powerful abilities of a woman is to unconditionally and intensely love someone and endure any amount of pain for them. But that intense devotion also comes with a caveat. Should a woman be wronged, she gets what she wishes for and that can be a life changer, not just for her but for everyone around her. We see the most bewildering transformation in her case.

In her anger or her disappointment, or her sheer superior maturity and wisdom, she gave up what she held on to all her life. She had remained sensuously dress for the period her husband left her and she gave it up, probably in sheer disgust. The beaten track of marriage was taken away from her, not by the Lord but by the man who married her. He simply acknowledged he was not good enough for her and beat a hasty retreat. In sheer determination she gave up Grihasta, family, society, order, materialism, beauty, sensuousness - the world we call "normal living" - and opted for everything outside of it. The familiar world had no meaning left in her life.

Karaikkal Ammaiyar, transformed into an emaciated demon and inhabited the cremation ground. She chose a world where no human would bother her easily and devoted her world to Lord Shiva, the only one who really really stood by her. Devotion has a different meaning here, far more potent, far more intense and Karaikkal Ammaiyar proves to us that we can reach that pinnacle of love. Here is the twist in her story though. Her poetry describes her love for her Lord, love even among ghosts and ghouls. Love that is as intense and doesn't have to be sensuous alone. Love that knows no relationship, love that works magic.

She describes a cremation ground where creatures roam, creatures who have demonic attributes, feed on melting brains from bodies burning in the pyre... yes she is very graphic. She writes about a world that you and I don't have the courage to see. She talks about another realm, a parallel universe in the same relative space and time where other beings also inhabit the same planet we live in. What power did she possess that made her live with as much ease in a deadly dark world of ghosts as she lived in a marriage? Karaikkal Ammaiyar went through a transformation neither you nor I can stomach. It was her sheer determination that either transported her to that world, or transformed her while blessing her with the divine vision (divya dristi) to sit in a regular cremation ground and still view all the different realms at play at the same time.

Temple walls depict her playing the cymbals as Ma Kali dances with Lord Shiva Nataraja in Urdhva Nataraja pose. Karaikkal Ammaiyar's poetry talks extensively about the world of ghosts in the middle of whom the great Lord dances. And yet, our version of Karaikkal  Ammaiyar's life appears so simple and naive! Why did recorded history not give us the actual facts, explicitly for us to realize that Karaikkal Ammaiyar's life speaks of human transformation, and the sheer ability of a woman to do so?

Why are we so incapable that we cannot look through all this to understand that spiritualism works best outside of social order? Why are we so scared that we cannot take a step away from safe haven? Why are we so useless that we happily settle for a million lives of suffering than take up one life to have the determination to look at the truth in the face and transform. She did it, we can! We just don't want to! Seriously, we need to get those grey cells working.

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