(30) Siva prevented the Tamil poet-saint Sundaramurti from getting married by appearing on his wedding day in the form of a brahmin and producing a document, signed by Sundaramurti's grandfather, which stated that all subsequent generations of his family would be slaves of this man. The elders of the village, who knew the grandfather, attested the signature, and the marriage was cancelled.
(31) According to the Arunachala
Mahatmyam, Arunachala in four successive yugas is composed respectively of diamond, gold, silver and earth.
Yugas are major epochs of Hindu cosmology.
(32) At a time when the devas and the
asuras were having one of their many wars, the three cities of the
asuras were protected by a boon which specified that they could only be destroyed by one shot of a single arrow. When the
devas were on the point of finally losing, they appealed to Siva and he obliged them by destroying all the asura cities with a single shot.
The myth is pregnant with symbolic meaning. The
devas and the asuras represent the good and bad mental qualities which are constantly at war with each other over countless lifetimes. The
deva-asura war had in fact been going on interminably, consuming both sides for innumerable generations. Sometimes the
devas were on top and sometimes the asuras, but neither side had ever been able to achieve a definitive victory. It was only when the
devas were about to be finally defeated that they appealed to Siva and put their faith in his power and grace, rather than their own efforts. When their efforts stopped, Siva destroyed the three cities with a single arrow. The three cities in this parable can represent any or all of the following trinities: the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming; the three
gunas - rajas, tamas and sattva; the three karmas -
sanchita, prarabdha and agamya; the three times - past, present and future.
Two conclusions can be drawn from this interpretation: (1) effort aimed at destroying habits of the mind can never bring about peace, it can only prolong the warfare between competing and conflicting mental tendencies. (2) In a moment of absolute non-effort, a moment of true surrender to the Lord in which one is no longer trying to accomplish or attain anything, grace takes over and annihilates all the impediments which were previously obstructing an awareness of Siva, the abiding reality.
Manikkavachagar referred to this enlightening moment when he sang, 'Siva smiled at me, and through his smile he destroyed the three cities of the
(33) Pranava is the sound of
Om, the primordial sound out of which all creation manifests.
(34) Daksha was the father of Sati, who was the wife and consort of Siva in the birth before she became Parvati. In that birth she was also known as Uma. Brahma thought that the business of creation could not proceed properly unless Siva married, so he persuaded Daksha to have a daughter who would attract Siva by the power of her yogic
tapas. The mother-goddess of the universe took the form of Sati and promised that she would go through with this arrangement, but added that if Daksha ever showed her a lack of respect, she would abandon her side of the bargain.
Sati won Siva by the power of her love and asceticism and they were eventually married. Many years later Daksha organised a sacrifice to which he invited all the gods except Siva. Some versions of the story say that Siva did not show Daksha proper respect at an earlier sacrifice, so was not invited again. Another explanation was that Daksha disliked Siva for his wild lifestyle and for the fact that he had once severed one of Brahma's heads, and still carried the skull around with him. Brahma was Daksha's father.
Sati went alone to the sacrifice and discovered that no portion of the offerings had been allocated to Siva. Daksha treated her very disrespectfully, saying that she should not have come to the sacrifice at all. Sati reminded him of the condition of her incarnation - that she would end it if Daksha ever treated her badly. Sati then sat down and self-immolated, burning her body to ashes in a yogic fire that she manifested inside herself.
When Siva heard the news, he vowed revenge. He tore out a clump of his hair and threw it against a mountain, where it turned into Virabhadra and Mahakali. Virabhadra was ordered by Siva to go to the sacrifice and take revenge. He went there with a great army, killed Daksha and many others present, and evicted all the gods who had come to attend. Daksha's head was thrown in to the sacrificial fire.
Sati reincarnated as Parvati and eventually, after a period of extreme
tapas, married Siva again and became united with his physical form.
(35) Siva is always depicted with the Ganges emerging from his head. The Ganges is the embodiment of the goddess Ganga who agreed to flow on earth to wash away the sins of people who bathed in her. Starting in heaven, she flows down to earth, where the force of her waters is initially absorbed by Siva's head. It is said that the earth could not otherwise bear the full impact of the descent.
(36) On the north and north-east side of Arunachala the profile of the mountain appears to have four subsidiary peaks as well as the main one. This particular aspect of the mountain is known as the 'five faces'.
(37) Sanchita karma, the residue of
karmas left over from all previous lifetimes.
Robert Butler learned classical Tamil during a stay at Ramanasramam in the 1980s. He is currently
working on translations of Kuruntogai verses, Tamil love poetry written about 2,000 years ago. Samples of his work can be found at: