It is thought to be the greatest poem of the Chola era poet Auvaiyar, written shortly before her death. The Chola dynasty, which emerged around the ninth century, went on to rule most of South India for the next four hundred years. The Cholas presided over an important renaissance in Tamil literature, art and architecture, particularly temple construction. The name Auvaiyar has been given to a number of important female poets, of whom three in particular stand out as literary giants. Auviayar II gained recognition in her life time as a court poet of the Chola monarch and as sometimes a peace envoy between warring states.
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It is thought to be the greatest poem of the Chola era poet Auvaiyar, written shortly before her death. The Chola dynasty, which emerged around the ninth century, went on to rule most of South India for the next four hundred years. The Cholas presided over an important renaissance in Tamil literature, art and architecture, particularly temple construction. The name Auvaiyar has been given to a number of important female poets, of whom three in particular stand out as literary giants.
Auviayar II gained recognition in her life time as a court poet of the Chola monarch and as sometimes a peace envoy between warring states. Nevertheless, it is her less widely taught ode to Vinayaga , that stands out as one of the most important poems of classical Tamil.
The Vinayakar Agaval remains one of the simplest and most accessible sacred poems in the vast collection of ancient Tamil literature and is hence chosen for our introduction to this subject. It begins with contemplation of the external form of the God and continues as an exposition of ancient Hindu spiritual belief and practice. By contrast, the Vaishnavite tradition, following Vishnu and his incarnations as Krishna, Rama etc are popular in Northern India.
There are also some sects that follow principally Durga the mother. And so, in keeping with traditions of Saivite sacred poetry the Vinayagar Agaval begins with contemplation of the jewelled feet of the god:. The feet are a symbol of grace.
One may see this poetic tradition of praising the feet also with the 7th century Sivapuranam, which emphasises throughout that the presence of the God is felt on earth through the imprints of his feet. Without beginning with the earthly shadow or foot print of the God one may not aspire to understand his totality.
Vinayagar is considered to sit at the gate of the Earth Muladhara Chakra, protecting us from the lower worlds beneath, represented by the lower chakras, the Hindu equivalent of hell. The Vinayagar Agaval swiftly moves beyond contemplation of the feet to adoration of the face and body of the God. It is so well known that we have omitted it here. The elephant symbolises strength and intelligence, the white elephant being a symbol of purity and luck. The birth of a white elephant was said to bring a period of plenitude and abundance for a whole nation.
But the images of the gods are constructed upon deeper symbolic significance. The God Ganesha Vinayagar is considered the personification of the material universe, which is contained in his belly. And we will see later in the poem a play upon the material universe as the womb of the God.
Wish-yielding elephant, born of the Master of Mystery in Mount Kailasa,. Vinayaka is customarily invoked at the beginning of new enterprise and for guidance in wordly matters.
Mount Kailasa is of course the home of Siva, refered to here, as the master of mystery. But Auvaiyar now moves away from contemplation of external form and the material universe into her metaphysical journey. In Hindu theology as in Buddhism, the goal of the sequence of birth and deaths is to merge with God. And so above, Ganesha who holds the universe in his womb, cuts the umbilical cord that binds the soul of the poetess to the material world, and frees her up to gain union with him.
It is worth noting that the Hindu Gods do not strictly have gender, encompassing both the male and female principles. You have come and entered my heart, imprinting clear the five prime letters, set foot in the world in the form of a guru, declared the final truth is this, gladly, graciously shown the way of life unfading. Auvaiyar restates the general belief in Saivite Hinduism, that Vinayagar, the God of wisdom and all beginnings is also the foremost teacher on the spiritual path.
The glance of the God is also called Darshan or grace. In the bhakti tradition there is much emphasis on physical sight: the presence of a sacred person or idol is considered to be purifying. So Auvaiyar says that the mere glance of Vinayaka purifies her of sin. Auvaiyar describes the process of meditation as the shutting of the five senses, and the awakening of the chakras. The nine door temple is the human body, which is considered to have nine apertures eyes, ears etc.
The four states are waking, sleep, dream and turiya or pure consciousness gained in meditation. It is the wheel of Karma which ties Auvaiyar to this world and this is now snapped, freeing her. The two fold Karma refers to the classification of Karma in Hindu scripture as on the one hand Karma of all the accumulated past, and on the other the Karma that is manufactured instantaneously in the process of living, and which will manifest as future lives.
Alternatively the Karmas are classified as those which are begun or undertaken arabdha and those which are latent, in seed form to appear later anarabdha. The six yogic centres are the Chakras, there being six which are above the Muladhara, which represent the higher states of consciousness, the Muladhara or abode of Vinayaga being the dividing point between the higher and lower worlds. In Hindu mysticism, heaven and hell are hence states of consciousness.
To the tongue of the serpent that sinks and soars you have brought the force sustaining the three bright spheres of sun, moon and fire -- the mantra unspoken asleep in the snake -- and explicitly uttered it; imparted the skill of raising by breath the raging flame of muladhara;. In the stanza above the poetess explains further her experience of the physical yoga tradition, which is first mentioned in the circa year old Rig Veda texts.
Pranayama is complementary to the much more commonly practiced physical yoga of Asanas or postures. Again, Pranayama is considered to be an important technique for awakening the Kundalini.
The lines above reiterate concepts from previous verses, but include references from earlier and older works from the Tantra and Saiva Siddhanta.
Hence the eight modes are thought to be the eight Siddhis or miraculous powers gained through the awakening of the Kundalini as described in the Tirumantiram text dated circa AD. See also Mystical concepts in the Agaval. And so the poem continues: Boundless beatitude you have given me, ended all affliction, shown the way of grace: Siva eternal at the core of sound, Siva linga within the heart, atom within atom, vast beyond all vastness, sweetness hid in the hardened node.
You have steadied me clear in human form all besmeared with holy ashes; added me to the congregation of your servants true and trusty; made me experience in my heart the inmost meaning of the five letters; restored my real state to me; and rule me now, O Master of Wisdom, Vinayaka.
Your feet alone, O Master of Wisdom, Vinayaka, your feet alone, are my sole refuge. Like all great poems, the Agaval speaks to us on many levels. Simultaneously it celebrates a new birth, her emergence from the womb of the God who holds the material universe in his belly. She speaks explicitly of her new immortality, of her experience of her real state, of Siva within the eternal sound, of bliss at the boundary of darkness and light. Although the individual may die, the soul having merged with the cosmos does not.
Interleaved within the poem is the presence of Vinayaka, the breath taking God of new beginnings. Unlike the ancient greek gods of Homer, the Tamil gods never act wilfully or arbitrarily, nor have they human failings.
They are instead embodiments of their divine principles. Ganesha is hence the embodiment of wisdom, the foremost teacher on the path of life. It is inconceivable that he acts in any other way than this mandate, because he is not separate from it. The Vinayagar Agaval stands comparison with the best traditions of sacred poetry anywhere. Yet it is quintessentially Tamil. There is no concept of guilt or retribution or of the power imbalance between man and God.
Skip to main content. Your Name. Article Author:. Culture Editor. And so, in keeping with traditions of Saivite sacred poetry the Vinayagar Agaval begins with contemplation of the jewelled feet of the god: Cool, fragrant lotus feet with anklets tinkling sweet, The feet are a symbol of grace. With that unfailing weapon, your glance, you have put an end to my heinous sins, The glance of the God is also called Darshan or grace.
To the tongue of the serpent that sinks and soars you have brought the force sustaining the three bright spheres of sun, moon and fire -- the mantra unspoken asleep in the snake -- and explicitly uttered it; imparted the skill of raising by breath the raging flame of muladhara; In the stanza above the poetess explains further her experience of the physical yoga tradition, which is first mentioned in the circa year old Rig Veda texts.
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Vinayagar Agaval is a devotional poetic hymn to the Hindu deity Ganesh. It was written in the 10th century during the Chola dynasty by the Tamil poet Avaiyar , shortly before her death. Vinayagar Agaval defines a religious path, part of the Tamil devotional tradition of Bhakti , within the Hindu philosophy of the Shaivite sect. Its application as a spiritual tool begins during concentration on a physical image of Ganesh and continues with the use of the Agaval's description of Hindu spiritual belief and practice, and aspects of the teachings on human life attributed to the deity. According to Hindu tradition a person reciting the Vinayagar Agaval every day will realize his true potential.