Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Vaigai - the Thilak of Lakshmi

The next poem that I am taking up is the 9th poem in the compilation of Paripaadal Thirattu . (பரிபாடல் திரட்டு )
This is not exactly about Vishnu.
But there is a comparison with Lakshmi in this poem.
In the previous post we saw how Madurai was personified as the lotus that sprang from Thirumaal's navel.
In this poem, Lakshmi is compared to the river Vaigai and is personified as the Thilak on the face of Madurai.

"செய்யாட் கிழைத்த திலகம்போல் சீர்க்கொப்ப
வையம் விளங்கிப் புகழ் பூத்தல் அல்லது
பொய்யாதலுண்டோ மதுரை புனைதேரான்
வையை உண்டாகும் அளவு. "

(திருமகளுக்கு இட்ட திலகம் போல, ஒப்பனை செய்யப்பட்ட பாண்டியனது வையை ஆறு மதுரை மாநகரத்துக்கு இட்ட திலகம் போன்றது. அந்த ஆறு உள்ள வரையிலும் மதுரை மாநகர் சீர் பெற்று புகழ் பரப்பி விளங்கும் என்பது பொய்யாகுமோ? )

The prosperity blessed by Goddess Lakshmi is realized through the bountiful nature of the river Vaigai.
Without this river, Madurai can not flourish nor can it survive. This is made out in this poem by comparing the river not just to Lakshmi but to the Thilak she sports on her forehead.
This is a curious information as it stresses the importance to the Thilak of Lakshmi.

Elsewhere in Silappadhikaaram, we find mention of Thilak stamped by the 3 Tamil kings on the 'forehead' of the Himalayas. Such an expression is used to show the victory or supremacy of the Kings or to show that they have conquered the inconquerable.

In this verse, the Thilak is used to denote supremacy - not by conquest - by the Thilak itself standing for conquest over others and the city of Madurai. Without the river Vaigai, Madurai would look meaningless or obscure.

Expanding this theme as to why such an expression had Lakshmi in comparison instead of just saying Thilak, it seems that though the Thilak is the mark of supremacy - (for being placed on top of the head), the Thilak of Lakshmi is something more supreme and unparalleled. Lakshmi Herself is an embodiment of whatever that is Supreme and prosperous, the thilak on her forehead expresses the pinnacle of all prosperity.

From this we can understand why the Thilak has been given so much importance in our society for women.
This also implies that thilak is part of 'lakshmeekaram' ('லக்ஷ்மீகரம்)

The planting of Thilak on someone’s forehead at the start of a venture is to ensure prosperity, victory and supremacy.

Lakshmi Herself is personified as the Thilak in Sri Vaishnavism.

With this poem, we are completing the references to Vishnu found in Paripaadal thirattu. From the next post onwards, we will be discussing the poems from the main body of Paripaadal.

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