Sri Gurubhyo Namaha
Of the earliest divine influences in my life was the Thiruppugazh (divine songs on Lord Muruga written by sage Arunagirinaathar) classes that my mother attended even as I was a tottering child. My mother recalls taking me to these classes along with me on her lap; I used to dream away on the Ramayana (the series used to run on TV then) while listening to the Thiruppugazh classes held by “Bhajanai Mama” (Mani maama) of Thiruppugazh Anbargal group. The group was started by Sri A.S. Raghavan (referred to respectfully as Guruji) and has been doing marathon work for the last several decades in the spreading of these divine songs. Because of the musical quality of the Thiruppugazh and repeated listening to it, I had managed a few half-songs as a child (we even have a few recordings lying around somewhere 😀 ).
As I grew up, my mother regularly sang Thiruppugazh though she stopped attending classes. Few of my relatives too learnt it. However I never took the time to learn it formally. My “initiation” as it were started in Bangalore, as I pursued my PhD (and had time on my hands). I would not consider myself a deep spiritual person then, though I was inclined towards spiritual life; I was just plodding around, through some books and teachers.
I stumbled upon the Thiruppugazh songs sung by Guruji online (http://kaumaram.com/audio_k/graudio.html). Perhaps due to the vaasanas in me, I took to repeatedly listening to the songs I liked (having remembered my mother singing) the most, either for the lyrics or for the bhaava (divine emotions in the music) involved or both.
I keenly followed the meaning of the lyrics to these Thiruppugazh songs from kaumaram.com and made a self-made notebook out of these songs, the lyrics and the meanings (all in English-Transliterated Tamil, as I could not read Tamil fast especially in such songs). I slowly started to sing the songs from this book that I had made, following the tunes set by Guruji.
Arunagirinaathar’s Thiruppugazh set in Guruji’s music had a profound effect on me. They are filled with Bhakti, laced with Vedanta, and at the same time carried the Pauranic descriptions of various exploits of the Lord in various forms, ultimately linking all to Murugan. I sang my heart out in the evenings for several months at a stretch, and every one of those evening trysts with Thiruppugazh brought the Lord in front of my mind. Unspeakable joy and deep desire to see the Lord would come to my mind purely due to the words and the music of Thiruppugazh. These emotions would carry on through the nights on some occasions. Because of the Lord’s grace, I could perceive the beauty and grandness of spiritual life; at the same time, the rather heart-wrenching words written by Arunagirinaadhar on how the saadhaka deeply desires to be one with the Lord hit me within like a ton of bricks, and produced similar feelings in me.
It is my thorough belief that Vedanta came to me as a result of these desperate attempts to somehow catch the Lord in my heart through Thiruppugazh. I had the opportunity to go through a Vedantic course taught by my Acharya, that brought me lot of peace of mind and made me understood the purpose of human life and the wonderful life of a saadhaka. I am still a saadhaka, though Vedanta has made me miss the Lord a little less. Nevertheless, the Thiruppugazh brings me joy and intensifies my desire to know the Divine as ever before. The reason for this is the satsanga I have had, starting from my family to my Acharyas and Guru and to my wife as well, till present date they swarm my psyche bestowing the sweet honey of devotion and purity.
I was and am hesitant to share this chapter, as it is somewhat close to me. Still I do so, with the hope that the Lord will not see me claiming any special merit of any sort, that He will know I write because of joy more than pride, expecting that someone would find this inspiring in their own spiritual journey. Nevertheless, it is a matter of fact that I do feel specially blessed, given all that transpired. I shall leave the reader with this moving Thiruppugazh on the Lord of Swamimalai, sung by Guruji A. S Raghavan and his team. The song conveys how the earnest seeker of peace and happiness struggles to find it in all the worldly places, and having found zilch, he beseeches the Lord as the final resort, and ultimately finds his mind at joyful peace in the presence of the Lord in serene, sacred, Swamimalai.
May the Lord be resplendent in the minds of all,
kadhiravan ezhundhu ulAvu thisai aLavu kaNdu mOthu kadal aLavu kaNdu mAya maruLAlE: I went searching, walking all the way up to the boundary of the rising sun’s path, to the edge of the vast sea with splashing waves,
kaNa paNa puyanga rAjan mudi aLavu kaNdu thALkaL kavin aRa nadanthu thEyum vakaiyE pOy: and to the frontier of the great serpent-king, AdhisEshan, having a bunch of hoods; my feet wore down due to excessive wandering everywhere and my looks deteriorated;
itham itham enRu nALu(m) maruka arukirunthu kUdum idam idam ithu enRu sOrvu padaiyAthE:thinking that this would be the nice place, I approached the homes of misers hoping, with a sinking heart, that this would be the ideal destination;
isaiyodu pukazhntha pOthu nazhuviya prasaNdar vAsal iravu pagal senRu vAdi uzhalvEnO: when I stood there praising them with musical poems and felicitations, those big shots used to slip away quietly; is it fair that I have to knock about their doors, day and night, and droop down after all that roaming about?
mathukara midainthu vEri tharu naRavam uNdu pUka malar vaLa niRaintha pALai malarUdE: The beetles in this place gather together to imbibe fragrant honey and settle down in the rich pALai flowers of the betelnut trees;
vakai vakai ezhuntha sAma athi maRai viyanthu pAda: and then they sing, in well-formed groups, the SAma VEdA in a wonderful chorus!
mathi nizhal idum suvAmi malai vAzhvE: The moon beams its cool rays on Mount SwAmimalai (ThiruvEragam), and You are its Treasure!
athira varu saNda vAyu ena varu karum kalApa aNi mayil virumpi ERum iLaiyOnE: It marches like the typhoon that shakes the entire world; it has dark blue plumes; and You mount that beautiful peacock with relish, Oh Young One!
adaivodu ulakangaL yAvum uthavi nilai kaNda pAvai aruL puthalva aNda rAjar perumALE.: You are the son of DEvi PArvathi who has created the entire universe in an orderly way and ensures its stability! You are the Lord of all celestials, Oh Great One!