THE very essence of existence lies in magic, in miracle. Surrounded by big blocks of old stone, pilgrims stand in a long line, waiting for a glimpse of God, an affirmation of life itself. It is early evening in Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, and the gate to the main sanctum of Ranganatha—Lord Vishnu—at the Srirangam temple is about to open. Through a maze leading to the deity, the queue moves slowly. It is quite warm inside and the slowness of movement makes the pilgrims restless. They have come from all over, from India’s numerous towns and villages and cities, for a darshanof a deity they can worship anywhere. But, here he is in his swayamvyakta kshetra, self-expressing abode, where he has chosen to be on his own accord and not because a devotee or sage asked him to.
As I stand in the line between the very young and the very old, I imagine the poet Tiruppan Alvar being carried by a Brahmin priest on his back to the sanctorum, climbing the steps I can now see from a little afar. Since he was considered ‘untouchable’, Tiruppan was not allowed inside the temple; so he would sing outside, on the bank of the Kaveri. One day, a Brahmin priest got so enraged at the sight of him that he hurled a stone at him, leading to an injury. When the priest returned to the sanctum, he was shocked to see the idol bleeding from exactly the same spot where he had hit Tiruppan. The priest was then directed by the deity to get the poet inside so that he could listen to his songs....Read more
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